Tuesday 12 November 2013


Today I invented #BadBraDay. It goes like this: We nominate a day where we:

1) all reach to the back of our drawers and grab a bra which we never wear,
2) wear it for the day to Sing and Sign Baby Signing Class in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Ricky ,
3) remember why we never wear it and then
4) take it to the Bra Bank to bless someone else in the world.

It may be a bad bra for us but to someone else it could be a SUPER BRA! Whaddya say?

Anyone from a lingerie company wish to help??

(Er... let's not do it on a day where we are singing Hop Little Bunnies, though. )

As with most of my best ideas it was borne of a night of little sleep, dreaming about taking photographs with a hairdryer. (Now THAT is a fantastic idea... in every picture, perfectly sexily windswept hair...) Lack of recent laundry action forced me to reach to the back of my lingerie drawer and grab the semi padded, tomato red J-Lo number bought several years ago from tk Maxx and hardly worn. And yes, ten minutes into the first class (of a morning of four classes) it was apparent to me (and my class) why it is hardly worn.

Mummy on the Edge November/ December 2013 (Families NW London Magazine)

So, here I sit, blanket around shoulders, shivering on the sofa, disgusted with myself for beginning a paragraph with “So”. I'd like to think that if she were awake, Mini-Me would tell me the correct name for that circular literary device I just produced. Lately, she comes home from school and imparts all sorts of wisdom; I never knew there was so much I didn't know. But she's asleep. These days she is comatose as soon as her head hits the pillow. We are permanently jet-lagged from waking up at 6.30am every morning to catch the early (which, in my opinion is TOO early) bus to get to secondary school. In the vain attempt to motivate her to get the later bus and therefore give her (and more importantly, me) an extra half hour in bed, we stayed up (I know...) to watch “Trust me I'm a doctor” with Michael Mosley who presented research that showed that an hour longer in bed can improve our health and function. Apparently, if you don't get enough sleep, your memories are not filed correctly and get lost forever, or something. Which is kind of a problem. Er, what was I saying?

It takes some getting used to, this high school business. Homework is time-consuming, bags are exceedingly heavy and days start early and finish late what with music activities topping and tailing most days. Not to mention lunch times filled with Badminton, Gymnastics and Football on days when she already has PE. This is what I term U.V.E. (Unnecessary Voluntary Exertion) and serves to remind me of the fact that half her genes are from someone else, (which I often forget due to OCAF syndrome - look it up on my blog.) In fact, that process is currently being explored in uncomfortable depth in Year 7 Biology.

Independent travel necessitated the procurement of a mobile telephone for Mini-Me's use. Well, for my use, to reach her. Use of the phrase “in my day” is almost as bad as starting a paragraph with “So,” but at risk of breaking all my own rules, here goes: In my day, we would walk to and from school, communicate with friends and remain in touch with music and popular culture without the use of one of these hand-held oracles. But these days it's different. I spoke to my nephew and nieces to get their opinion on what sort of phone to go for and they were firmly of the persuasion that something with whatsapp and the internet was necessary. Admittedly, I was confused. I didn't want to get her anything flashy that would attract attention on the street, (innit!) but I had heard that kids can be cruel and I didn't want to get something that would attract derision from her peers, either. I spent a ridiculous amount of time reading articles online and looking at phone tariffs until I understood less than when I started. I decided to yield to my own pressure and found a phone that I was sure had enough bells and whistles to look respectable to her mates but was too basic to be attractive to any thief. I was inwardly congratulating myself on being a “Cool Mum”. And then I spoke to a friend who's son was starting a different high school at the same time.

“I got him the cheapest, most basic phone I could find,” she said. Wasn't she worried about him being teased by other boys, I wondered. “No, I don't care. Let him get through his first year of secondary school. It will be hard enough without other distractions”. I realised she was right. So I got a similar phone, with a £10 pay as you go credit and now when Mini-Me texts me from the bus to say she's on her way home, it is wonderful because I have no worry about anyone seeing anything flash or about her dropping or losing it. Or my losing it when she drops or loses it. Hurrah! Of course that's not the end of it. I did tell her that I MIGHT upgrade at Christmas or on her birthday, when it becomes apparent that she is able to handle everything and keep up to date with homework and music practice and anything else I can think of chucking into the equation when the time comes. But I didn't say which Christmas or birthday. I'm going to stretch this one out...

Read more from Angelina Melwani at mynotesfromtheedge.blogspot.com. Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth. More info at www.singandsign.com.
Mummy on the Edge September 2013 - Families NW Magazine

If you have not yet experienced the emotion-fest that is Year 6 to Year 7 transition, allow me to break it down for you:
September is yuck because that's when your mini-you takes their 11 Plus or secondary entry exam. After that is the wait...
...For the results. Weeks spent in self-inflicted horror, studying the grim suburban myths about dodgy goings on outside the exam hall. "My daughter's friend's mother's friend's daughter saw the girl who had been sitting behind her in the school entry exam get into a car and drive away!" 
After agonizing for a few weeks, finally the results come. You don't feel like telling any other parents for one of two reasons: your child did less well than hoped and you don't want to compare results. Or your child did really well and you don't want to compare results - and cause reluctant reciprocal divulgment. So you shelve your disappointment or joy and save the energy for the anguished decision of school choice. Because even if your child did well, you can take NOTHING for granted. You sit back and wait...
...for the email telling you which traffic jam your child (and possibly you) is going to become intimately familiar with from September. You wait all day and all evening. You find an email from a long lost workmate upon checking the spam folder. Then, hours after everyone else has had their email, yours pops into your inbox.
The end of a journey? Nope.
You visit the school and come to the realisation that your mini-me is now a midi-me. You hear speeches about how independent your children are soon to become and detailing the amount of homework they are soon to be expected to manage and how many clubs they are expected to join and how perfectly presentable their uniform needs to be and how much money you are expected to contribute monthly to the school. And you start hyperventilating (in a secret, mental way that your midi-me can't notice- until she's read what you've written in a magazine).
You find you are lucky enough that your best friend's midi-me has been allocated the same school as your own. Together, you go on a reconnaissance mission to the school uniform shop and while looking at the official list of uniform, pe kit, and prices, and factoring all the wonderful, horizon-broadening school trips available, come to the realisation (and yes, there are a lot of those in this process) that you should have opened up an ISA when your mini-me was born, in order to pay for everything. 
In light of this latest realisation in the uniform shop, your midi-me must try on a blazer which is plainly too big. However, it is not "too big" enough. You have no idea how much your Midi will grow during these intense growth spurt years and, you figure if you go for the super big blazer that reaches her knees, it should only look really funny for about a year. After that it will just look funny. Your best friend is wetting herself in the corner of the shop laughing at your "logic". You leave the shop without having bought anything because you are going to wait until the last week in August to do so. (To allow for extra growing time)
At the induction day, you meet other parents and you feel a bit better. Some are just like you (maybe a bit less on the edge). Your midi-me goes off and meets her new teacher and classmates. There is a second hand uniform sale. You go with the intention of finding a blindingy bargainous blazer. You leave with a lab coat that is too big, even for yourself and a home-ec apron.

It ain't over yet; you still have all of the end of Year 6 shenanigans to cope with: concerts, plays, leaving discos, yearbooks. You hope you can deal with it. I will help you. Meet me on my blog at mynotesfromtheedge.blogspot.com.
Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth. More info at www.singandsign.com.
Mummy on the Edge July/ August 2013 (Families NW London Magazine)

“What's that, child? Monday is an inset day? Yes, of course I read the school newsletter...”

Discovering that it was the tail end of the Stratford Fringe Festival and the free 3-month Art Passes we got with the Daily Telegraph would get us into all of Shakespeare's houses for free (– and expire in July), I booked a hotel using my Avios, printed directions from Google and after my Saturday classes, Mini-Me and I set off on our latest adventure: Stratford-upon-Avon. It is remarkably easy and very pleasurable now to go on impromptu trips with Mini-Me, being that the small grumpy person who needs to be fed often and taken to the loo regularly is now me. A road trip as single mother of an only child means no bickering siblings and no arguing adults. Picture it: peace, happiness, nectarines, home-made chicken wraps, rolling hills, golden fields and Dermot O'Leary on Radio Two in the background. Ah... bliss.

After being informed by several different parties that no, it was definitely in no way suitable for children of 11, I gave up trying to convince Mini-Me that she would be fine on the Adult Candle Lit Ghost Tour. So we found an earlier, family-friendly version and John our (spirit) guide led us around the dimly lit Tudor World Museum which was now shut for the day, and therefore even more atmospheric. It had already been the setting for an episode of Most Haunted which thrilled me no end. He pointed out paving stones upon which Shakespeare would have actually trodden, since he used to drink there when it was a pub; explained the difference between ghosts and spirits; and highlighted sightings of tragic child figures who lived their lives and met their ends in ways that shouldn't really be written about in a family magazine. We were creeped out when we were told to edge away carefully from the doorway of a particular room where the evil ghost of murderous man who dislikes dark haired women is said to parade through, freaking people out. Shakespetrified? A bit. Fun? You bet!

It was 7pm when we found ourselves at the box office. It turned out we had actually missed most of the Stratford Fringe Festival and all that was available and kid friendly was the last night of a production of A midsummer Night's Dream at the Shakespeare Institute. Now, I freely admit that I feared this might be deadly boring, especially on an empty stomach at 7.30 in the evening (I like my dinner substantial and on time) but in actual fact, we had entirely by chance wandered into the best Shakespeare production I have ever seen. And yes, I have actually seen a few, highly acclaimed ones. This teeny tiny production however, was truly magical, even for Mini-Me whose shoulders could be seen bobbing about in genuine hilarity while Bottom delivered his over-the-top soliloquy directly at her. I fully expect to see him and the actress playing Puck becoming household names at some point in the future, they were THAT good. By the time the tears of laughter had dried from Mini-Me's eyes it was nearly 10 and it seemed nowhere was serving food. We went from restaurant to restaurant until finally we found one that would serve me and my poor hungry little girl. The waitress pointed to the programme that Tia was examining and asked "Is that what you have just seen? My boyfriend is in that! He plays Thisbe!" That's the kind of place Stratford-upon-Avon is...

A perfectly acceptable way to while away 40 minutes in the evening sunshine before an al fresco riverside supper of fish and chips is to hop on a boat and sail up part of the River Avon, staring longingly at the beautiful private houses and gardens that back on to moorings on the river, waving at people trying to relax on their private balconies, and shooing swarms of flies away from your daughter while she sits there with her hands clamped over her mouth hyperventilating through her nose. So peaceful...

For MORE on this trip including Shakespeare's Houses and a freaky deaky little Wizarding shop and museum that sells real wands (for when you are totally Shakespeared out – it WILL happen) visit: mynotesfromtheedge.blogspot.com.

Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth. More info at www.singandsign.com.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Mummy on the Edge

Families NW Mag MAY/ JUNE 2013

Having stayed abroad for five years in pursuit of permanent residency in his chosen country, Mini-Me's father was finally able to return to see her. The happy reunion was at our house and we also met Mini-Me's step-mother for the first time. It was very pleasant and we all went out for lunch together (as one does in that situation. Doesn't one?)

The choice of restaurant was Mini-Me's and she chose Jimmy's World Grill which has recently shared in the creation of Watford's pseudo-gentrified “Met Quarter” along with Carluccio's, Wagamama and a new Nandos. Jimmy's is a huge buffet restaurant that serves Italian, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Mexican, French and any other world cuisine you might care to mention. It's a bit pricey in the evenings and at weekends but during the week it's just £8 for adults and £4 for kids. They have a dosa station, a noodle station and a tandoor oven right there on the floor where they make the lightest, butteriest naan breads to order. (Seriously, it's like eating hot, fluffy clouds and I could just happily stand there eating them as they come out, one after another.)
It is all-you-can-eat, which is a dangerous proposition because people do, which I learned with disastrous consequences the first time I visited, when I stepped in a puddle of freshly prepared child-puke. I consider the fact that it was not so expediently dealt with almost reassuring – hopefully it was not a regular occurrence. The dessert station features a chocolate fountain and ice cream tepanyaki (where they adulterate a perfectly acceptable block of ice cream with unnecessary toppings -glacĂ© cherries and Murray mint anyone?-and bash it to infinity.) I've never been on a cruise but I'm guessing the Jimmy's World Grill experience is not unlike dinner on a cruise ship – minus the Noro Virus (um... hopefully). It's the perfect place to go if your friends all have different tastes in food; or if you happen to be going out with people that you don't really like; or if you are a misanthropic hermit for whom spending prolonged time with other people has proven painful in the past. You can use the pretext of getting more food to leave the table, see? Luckily I didn't need to in the end, but I can't say I wasn't glad to have the option. At the end of our momentous reunion meal, Mini-Me sweetly took her father's hand and mine and kissed them both in succession, saying, “My Daddy; my Mummy,” and, not wanting to leave anyone out, “My Stepmother!” The people on the next table looked amused.

So, overnight Mini-Me was converted from OCAF (only child with absent father) to OCTPFWITHOLO (only child with temporarily present father who is taking her on lots of outings). She had a whirlwind week of tourist activity with her dad and his wife including Madame Tussaud's, London Eye, London Aquarium, We Will Rock You, London Bus Tour, Potted Potter, London Bridge, Covent Garden and goodness knows what else.

While Mini-Me was away on her paternal tourist trail, I treated myself to a solo spa night away at Sopwell House Hotel in St Albans. For £135 it included a full 24 hour's use of the spa facilities, including fitness classes (pilates – stomach killing me now), two 25 minute treatments (mmm...) dinner, breakfast and lunch (totally yum actually). It was rather odd to be without kid, being that she's my best mate as well as my constant companion now (and is the only person that truly understands my lexicon of ding-dongs, doo daas and thingumybobs) but hey, I made it work. I dragged my heavy pool lounger round so that it was in the opposite direction to all the rest and the only one facing the external glass wall so that I could top up my vitamin D. At dinner I sat alone, consuming my delicious beetroot feta salad that I sent back first time because it had no beetroot in it, followed by chicken confit on a bed of hot, melty and delicious risotto. Helpfully, my table was located opposite a column upon which was fixed directly in my line of sight (and just where Mini-Me's fringe would bob) a fire alarm box that now and again flashed appreciatively, as if in response to my witty but tacit commentary.

I can do this, I thought, as I returned to Bushey relaxed and refreshed, ready to face the week ahead sans Mini-Me (sob!)

For more Life on the Edge with Angelina visit mynotesfromtheedge.blogspot.com. Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth. More info at www.singandsign.com.


Monday 18 March 2013

Mummy on the edge - Families Magazine March April 2013

Addiction to tablets (or a hard pill to swallow)

If I was going to give Mini-Me a tablet at Christmas, it would have been packaged in a blister pack and said “Calpol” on the box. The one she actually got (not from me but from her abroad-dwelling father who promised it to her way back in May) seems to precipitate headaches rather alleviate them.

Take the other day: Mini-Me was supposed to be getting ready for her Saturday morning activity while I was getting ready for work. Was she getting ready? Was she heck! She was on the tablet playing one of these games she had downloaded. I'm not sure if it was “Temple Run” (which involves following a desperate figure running around an ancient building seemingly looking for the loo) or “Subway Surfer” ( which worryingly involves graffiti and possibly trains). Either way, she knew it was an inappropriate time to be playing. This, as well as other infractions varying from not giving me school letters (causing my non-payment of school lunch money - quel embarrassment!) to READING when she was supposed to be HELPING caused this paragon of self-control and inner peace to blow her top.

“How are you going to manage at secondary school” I ranted, “if you cannot do what you are supposed to do without being reminded?” Maybe it was my fault for being too soft on her all these years. Historically, I have never been very good at punishment. This is partly down to being a sufferer of acute “OCAF” (only child absent father) guilt syndrome, and partly because her misdemeanours never seem grave enough to warrant it. (Can you really tell a child off for reading??) Which led me to my good cop bad cop dilemma (being the only cop in the house, it's sort of a dual role, actually). It was time for bad cop to pipe up.

“I'm taking your tablet away now because I need you to understand that when you don't do what you are supposed to do (i.e. listen to me), or when you do what you are not supposed to do (i.e. play games on the tablet at the wrong time), there is a consequence. I think I haven't done this before so it's about time I started.” This virtual admission on my part that her repeated transgressions were indirectly my fault, had a completely neutral effect: “I think that's a good idea, mummy, because I don't want to be the kind of person who gets addicted to games on the tablet. And anyway, I have managed perfectly well without it all these years.”

I thought telling her to use a book instead of the interweb for her science research homework would annoy her but no, not at all. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Punishment That's Not a Punishment At All.

So I have changed tack. Incentives are the way forward. On Mini-Me's birthday wishlist was a pack of 20 Staedler Triplus felt tips that lots of her friends have. They have a triangular barrel and don't dry out if you leave the top off but they are about 1000% more expensive than a pack from the poundshop. Did I get them for her? Yes! Have I given them to her? NO. As I write I am hatching a cunning plan: I'm going to give her the empty box as incentive to earn one to two pens a day (starting with black, then brown, then grey, beige...) IF she does everything she's supposed to WITHOUT me having to nag.

So at a rate of 1.5 pens a day, that gives me around 2 weeks turn her into a reformed Mini-Me who makes her bed, does all her homework on time, and practices her instruments every day as well as anything else I deem essential to her personal growth (par exemple: emptying the washing machine and hanging the clothes to dry). In the mean time, I'm going to do my own research into installing parental controls on the gadget to make it a bit harder for her to go google-eyed.

Assuming, of course, that I can remember where I hid it.

For more Life on the Edge with Angelina (including the results of her parental control - both human and gadget,) visit mynotesfromtheedge.blogspot.com. Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth. More info at www.singandsign.com.

Sunday 17 March 2013

This is my entry to win an online writing bootcamp from Urban Writers’ Retreat - http://tinyurl.com/bootcomp

I am a single mummy on the edge, running my own business teaching baby signing classes and writing a bi-monthly column called “Mummy on the Edge” (all about being a single mummy on the edge and running my own business teaching baby signing classes). Commencement Of The Oeuvre is blocked by Sole Responsibility For Everything. However, my daughter will be spending nearly three quarters of April away from me, which she has never done before. And (uniquely this spring) my teaching terms, like two halves of artisinal ciabatta, sandwich April! Making it a decadent, balsamic-roasted-vegetable-and-buffalo-mozzarella of a month: I will have the time and space to participate and therefore NO TIME OR SPACE FOR EXCUSES. I was led to your site by happy accident and I feel participation in your Boot Camp (and the ensuing scribing habit) may just lead me to accidental happiness.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Mummy on the Edge - Familes NW Jan/Feb 2013

I started writing Mummy on the Edge in 2006 when Mini-Me was 4. Over the past 7 years, I have borrowed (some might say, stolen) quite a selection of intimate vignettes from our upside down life to share within these pages. Some high points, some low points; some proud moments and very many embarrassing ones. When I wrote my first column, it was an experiment and I was not sure how it would be received. I was thankful when the then editor asked me to make it a regular thing. At that time, Mini-Me had just started learning to read. Admiring pictures of herself: that she could manage. However she had not yet discovered the thrill of deciphering the mad ramblings of her mother within the pages of a publicly available periodical. So, without an interested party to elicit guilt and thereby block my creative flow, everything was fair game. Never once did I consider that this would return to bite me in the bottom.

Fast forward 7 years and Mini-Me (whom I should actually call Midi-Me, she's nearly eleven!) is finding her own literary voice. And using it to plonk bits of our lives into her own stories. Nothing that bad has surfaced yet. Last week it was a story about a kid who had vomited on his mother's bed and been treated with love and care by his mother, instead of expected reprimand. So far, so complimentary. However I fear it's only a matter of time before I read something like: “Jimmy set up another game of chess to play with himself while his mother, wrapped in two layers of moth-eaten cashmere, wearing odd socks and surrounded by empty Ferrero Rocher wrappers sat motionless in front of another episode of Real Housewives of New York.”


This school year is Mini-Me's last at primary school. It's only a matter of time before I am reduced in her estimation from “Cool Mum - who runs her own business and writes for Families Magazine” to “Great Embarrassment - will you please stop writing about me, Mother”. So I figure I may as well go for broke here: The aforementioned puking incident occurred a couple of Saturdays ago while Northwest London was in the grip of a virulent puke-diarrhoea lurgy which had afflicted lots of people from school and caused several absences from my Sing and Sign classes. I was in abject fear of catching the lurgy for several reasons: 1) that my mum had had an operation and was in hospital with her defences particularly low; 2) that I would have to take time off from work which is difficult because I have no one that can teach my classes for me; 3) who would deal with Mini-me? 4) I just didn't want to catch the bug, okay?


I dropped Mini-Me off directly after her Saturday morning activity to the school fair, where her year were supposed to be running the games room. She was taking this responsibility quite seriously and had been going on about “My shift” for days. “I can't be late for my shift, Mum” and, “I'll be singing in the choir after my shift”. She was clearly quite anxious to be at her station at her allocated time so as not to let anyone down. Having taught my classes that morning, I was equally anxious to go home, put my feet up and eat lunch undisturbed in front of a recorded episode of Real Housewives of New York, Season 5, so I gave her some money and told her to buy herself something innocuous to eat, meaning chips or a sandwich or something, NOT as she chose, chicken curry and rice. I would be back by 2 to watch her in the choir and spend a silly amount of money on fruitless raffle tickets.

We came home in anticipation of a busy evening. Mini-Me had a sleepover to go to and I therefore, had arranged to go out for dinner with an old friend. And then it happened. All over my bed and duvet and suedette headboard and her fringe and eyebrows and self, generally. Terrified that it was The Lurgy, we battened down the hatches and I prepared for a further puke-storm. It turned out though, that it wasn't The Lurgy after all because she was totally fine after that. In any case, to her annoyance, I fed her very little rest of the weekend JUST IN CASE. I concluded that there must have been a secret ingredient in the school fair chicken curry that just hadn't agreed with her. Oh well, at least it provided inspiration for one of her scintillating and gripping compositions.

And that's what counts, right?

For more Life on the Edge with Angelina, visit mynotesfromtheedge.blogspot.com. Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth. More info at www.singandsign.com.