Tuesday 1 June 2010

Mummy on the edge July/ August 2010

Angelina Melwani and Mini-Me float like butterflies around St Albans.  

10.30am on a Sunday in St Albans. Mini-Me, her schoolmate and the rest of their Karate class had just wowed the gathered parents with their collective ninja prowess at their Karate Grading - which is like an exam type thing where they perform routines in front of several Senseis (or teachers) in order to attain a higher level.

“Can we go now?” I asked Mini-Me when she had done her bit.

“No Mum, I want to watch everyone else and wait for the certificates and see if I got my orange belt!” Not only had I transported her there at an unholy hour on a Sunday morning, I now had to stay for the WHOLE THING just so that she could enjoy the satisfaction of her hard work and achievement.

Two and a half hours later, my eyes were wild with the desperate boredom that can only be brought on by the mandatory tedium of sitting through scores of kids and grownups –none of whom are your kid and none of whom bear even the slightest resemblance to Ralph Macchio - perform their repetitive Karate moves with home-counties-accented exclamations sounding more like polite waiters offering pizza to footballers. “Zidan Margeree?” The compulsion to leave that this instigated was paralleled only by a play I saw recently about a victim of terminal disease in South Africa. I’m sorry, but the only affinity I have with Karate involves deforesting my legs (wax on, wax off).  

Edna’s daddy (my friend’s husband) had brought along his new ipad, loaded with kids games and headphones to amuse their son, and even being allowed to stroking that while marvelling at its biscuit-like tactility didn’t cheer me up. It was only when said ipad started making involuntary noises after the audience had already had a dressing down from Sensei for creaking in their chairs too much, that I started shaking with hysterical laughter and had to go to the car to listen to Classic FM to calm down for a bit. Finally it was over. Mini-Me emerged beaming and victorious clutching her orange belt.

To celebrate (actually, because we were in St Albans anyway) we went to Butterfly World. We drove through the gates down a path flanked by grassy banks covered in  fairytale, meadowy annuals, looking much like a magical carpet of delicious sweeties in every clashing rainbow hue. A life-enriching sight to an adult let alone a dreamy child. Having glanced briefly at the website, we were all set to discover the huge, futuristic-looking Biome (“the largest walk-through butterfly experience in the world, with rope walkways, Maya caves and ruins to explore, streams and tropical rainstorms”) and instead we saw merely the site of the dome; it is - I mean, will be – huge and I can’t wait till it’s ready so we can go back and pretend we’ve gone on an eco holiday to some far-flung rainforest. But there is plenty more to do to while away a good two hours including a walk through a garden of giant flowerpots and gardening tools, that make you feel like an insect.

The current tropical butterfly house was a fraction of the size that the Biome will be but impressive enough. We tiptoed through it inch by inch, wondering at all the pretty petal-like butterflies, huge and small, floating around us. I tried sometimes to keep absolutely still so that one would land on me, and handed Mini-Me the camera so that she could capture the moment. She, however, was a whirlwind of subdued hysteria, which meant that no butterfly would land within a yard of me, let alone on me and if it did, she would have more likely screamed in terror than photographed it.  She yelped and dodged as though avoiding custard pies – nay bullets, and continued in this vein long after we had exited the butterfly house and left them inside. We looked around at the designer gardens and happened upon a wonderful quote that likened butterflies to children’s dreams un-tethered from sleep.

The next day we had to go back to Butterfly World to retrieve my glasses which some kind soul had handed in. This presented the perfect opportunity for me and Mini-Me to brunch at the Waffle House a short drive away, which I had wanted to do on Sunday (but couldn’t due to Karate torture). We shared a waffle breakfast and Mini-Me, though excited about yummy food and enjoying the scenery, set as it is in an old Mill by a river, was slightly disappointed that its cuisine was not based on Birds Eye potato waffles. As waffly versatile as they are, I’m not sure how great they would taste with maple syrup and cinnamon bananas!

This summer, as an example of positive parenting, I will be nurturing and encouraging Mini-Me’s Karate efforts by purchasing a dvd of the Karate Kid off Amazon and then letting her paint our garden fence and polish Chico, our grubby Honda Civic. Long live Mr Miyagi…

Info Box:
Butterfly World,
Miriam Lane
, Off
Noke Lane
, Chiswell Green, St Albans AL2 3NY. Adults £6, Children (3-16) £4, Under 3s FREE.
www.butterflyworldproject.com Opening hours until 31st August: 10am – 6 pm.
The Waffle House, Kingsbury Watermill, St Michael’s Street, St Albans, AL3 4SJ. Located within a working 16th century watermill overlooking the River Ver. Specialising in sweet and savoury Belgian waffles. www.wafflehouse.co.uk. Tel: 01727 853 502. Summer opening hours 10am - 6pm.