Thursday 1 January 2009

Mummy on the Edge, Jan/ Feb 09

Mini-me goes historical while her mother is simply hysterical.

Mini-Me’s specialist subject may turn out to be History. Her class has been studying The Great Fire of London and she has, more than once, at various random times - but never when actually asked - recounted the whole story, from where and how it started, to its eventual containment. In her classroom, I read first-person imagined accounts of the Fire. I was not a little freaked out. All the “crackles” and “screams” and “smoke”. Can our little 7 year olds cope with all that? Evidently, yes. Can I? Nope.
Year 2 also went on an exciting expedition to the Florence Nightingale Museum, opposite the Houses of Parliament (- so far away from home!) where an actress playing the lady herself answered questions and brought the whole period to life. Mini-Me was ill at home the following week, so during one of her paracetamolic highs, I made her write a report (being evil Mummy on the edge) on her trip using a sunshine diagram. Looks more like a spider, with the main theme in the blobby middle bit, and any disparate details she could remember scrawled around it like legs. Genius idea, I have to say. Here is the resulting closing paragraph: “We saw pictures of soldiers being dragged to a hospital on a hill that was 3D. I loved it because we had fun!”

One recent TV news item featured the story of a woman who came to this country from Germany as child evacuee during World War 2 and it made me sob hysterically over my lunch as she described how she waved goodbye to her mother and father from the train alongside so many other little children, watching their parents getting smaller and smaller as they waved their handkerchiefs; not knowing then that she would never ever see them again. Even now, as I close my eyes and imagine living through the horror of that situation, it makes my stomach lurch and my heart hurt, and I feel like running upstairs and planting yet another goodnight kiss on Mini-me’s forehead while she sleeps. The subject of the interview never forgot how difficult it was growing up in an alien environment and her unique perspective has brought her to work with non-English speaking children of families who have sought asylum in Brent. That made me cry, even when I was telling Mini-Me about it.

TV’s “Evacuees Reunited”, all about the children evacuated from South East England (not really knowing why or what was going on) and the effect it had on their later lives, was also extremely moving and heart wrenching. I have saved it on my freeview box to watch with Mini-Me in the next few weeks. Hopefully, I won’t sob again having prepared myself. If you missed it, you can catch it online until the second week of January on It’s a source of first-hand accounts and feelings that brings this relatively recent history alive for our kids and somehow I think it will help Mini-Me when she comes to learn about this period at school.

This next couple of months we plan to explore the local museum scene. There is so much quality stuff a stone’s throw (or a 20 minute car ride) away. There are few sights as fascinating as looking at photograph of an area you know well taken decades and decades and even a century ago, but that simply scrapes the surface of what’s available to our info-hungry Minis.

Following our historical/ hysterical theme, the 1940’s house based in the Lincolnsfield Centre, in Bushey (, is our first stop. Not only is it perfectly furnished in painstaking period detail, but they also feature re-enactors to animate what life was really like at that time. We are looking forward to discovering 40s food, toys, and even the fearsome sound of air raid sirens! Check the website for details on The Forties Family Experience Weekend in April – it looks like good fun.
The RAF Museum in Colindale puts a spin on the usual smaltz we are bombarded with at Valentine’s Day by focusing on love letters sent between soldiers and their sweethearts during WW2. I’m expecting a mix of tragic and uplifting stories. There are make and do activities for kids to tie in with the exhibition.
Don’t worry, I’ll bring extra tissues.
Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at