Monday 1 December 2014

Theatre review: Behind The Beautiful Forevers

I'm sitting down to write this and the Bollywood song “Om Shanti Om” has just floated unbidden, into my head. I've only ever heard it at a couple of Indian weddings and in the play I'm about to write about. Amazing, the power of music and the way it worms its way into the brain and links itself with emotions, places, experiences (eeugh, I'm shuddering- that expression will never be the same since the story of the tapeworm in the brain came out last week).

So subject of the day. Slums. And the new play at the National Theatre, Behind the Beautiful Forevers on till April 12th starring some familiar TV faces (including Meera Syal and the guy that plays Sanjeev Bhaskar's dad in The Kumars). Which is about slums.

Mini-Me has always wanted to watch Slumdog Millionaire and I haven't let her, yet. As I remember, it depicts a dark and violent world that I felt I wanted to shelter her from in her childhood. Now she has grown up into Midi-Me however, I think it might be time.

A few years ago we watched a documentary series on TV on the slums of Mumbai. One of the episodes was about recycling and how they find a use for absolutely EVERYTHING. Indelibly etched in my memory are images of men, women and children, walking through streets, slum alleys, train stations and over vast mountains of noxious rubbish, salvaging any trace of material that could be collected and sold. Nothing goes to waste. From the tiniest bit of plastic on a piece of wire to the littlest sliver of foil from a chocolate wrapper. Everything is meticulously collected, separated, amassed into piles and broken down, melted or re-formed into usable elements. Even things which over here, in the UK are un-recyclable, they find a use for, over there. I think witnessing this, albeit on TV and not in real life, did something to my mind because I still think about it a lot and it made me more conscious of what I use, re-use and recycle.

One day, I had this brain wave and wondered why they don't mine old land-fill sites here for materials which have been thrown away for decades and which we now need – like copper. (Did you know there is a shortage of copper?) I Asked The Google and found out that, of course, they are already doing it. I also think they should bring some of those street experts over here to advise on what can be done with the vast amounts of “rubbish” we currently send to landfill every year. I'm not sure those are the highly-skilled migrants the government wants to encourage but they should be... Anyway, as usual I digress

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is set in the Annawadi slum of Mumbai. It's near the airport (depicted very well- I won't spoil it by saying how,) and populated by people from all over India; Hindu, Muslim and Christian living side by side. The play opens with the arresting scene of a trash-filled wasteland, quickly cleared, followed by one of these “sorters”, separating and weighing the day's collections. It is a respectable, lucrative job within the slum, one carried out with purpose and which supports an entire family, almost allowing them to advance one step closer to a “beautiful forever”. As the story unfolds, we meet people with other jobs and roles within the slum society and start to understand the hierarchy that exists, in terms of affluence and influence; both are inextricably linked. We come face to face with the outcomes, often shockingly tragic, that befall some of those who aspire to greater things. And we discover an achingly unfair, kafkaesque system – if you can call it a system – within-which justice is sought (often futilely) and thwarted (often successfully) by parties equally desperate.

And the above paragraph cannot do the play justice. I don't want to say too much because I don't want to spoil it for you if you are going to see it. I really found it was worth watching and there were so many more issues and intricacies that you are made to confront in doing so. What's more, it is based on real interviews with slum-dwellers. Everything that happens is something recounted to Katherine Boo, writer of the original book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Watch an interview with her here:

I think it is a great play to take your kids to (some disturbing and violent scenes notwithstanding,) if they are 11 years or over. Midi-me was moved by it and I think, for all the documentaries I make her sit and watch with me, it is another thing entirely for her - as a young person with so much to learn about the inequalities and painful need on the planet that we inhabit - to be entangled with the characters in this web-like world for three hours. I left the theatre paradoxically both depressed and uplifted with a renewed sense of gratefulness at my place in the world and a desire to use my relatively privileged life for something more meaningful than watching Real Housewives. And also with the Bollywood song “Om Shanti Om” wriggling through in my head.  

On till 12th April at The Olivier Theatre at the National Theatre, Southbank. 

Saturday 1 November 2014

Angelina and Midi-Me share their favourite fast, local eats.

Mummy on the Edge, Families NW Mag, November 2014

What's for dinner? 

This is a question that makes my blood curdle and contorts my face into the rictus of panic sported only by non-sensible people that do not shop and plan meals accordingly. So, when asked this question by the ever-cheerful Midi-Me as she clambers, damp-fringed into the car carrying her weighty bag, flute and any number of other scholastic accoutrements, I provide a one word answer, which is not “Nandos” as she hopes but “Worms”. She finds this “really annoying, Mummy!” (-and that makes me say it more, because in our house I not only vacillate between the roles of Mother and Father but also - to ensure she experiences family life in full - torturous sibling.) Or sometimes I scrunch up my eyes and attempt to conjure a quick mental inventory of the contents of the fridge. On occasion, this might summon an image of 3 packets of reduced-to-19p spring onions currently of indeterminate culinary viability that I picked up in little local Tesco whilst buying ingredients at 8pm the night before Midi-Me's home economics lesson (the previous week.) And it is on these occasions, especially at this time of the year when I am zig-zagging between three fairs and four concerts and five parties and two sponsored somethings and about twenty four classes when I can justify something that does not involve actual cooking by me. Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.

Turban Street Cafe in Streatfield Road, Kenton is currently my favourite stop off on a weekday evening on the way back from singing lessons serving fab, trad street food. We order a Kati Roll: a buttery, hankerchief-thin flatbread, cooked before your eyes, then stuffed with meat or veg or paneer and salad and sauces and rolled up for £4.95. If you are vegetarian, rest assured they have separate cooking surfaces. Sit, watch and... scoff. Mmm.

Hombres Mexican Kitchen  on Imperial Drive in Harrow serves the best sweet potato fries I have EVER HAD. Super crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and real tasty treat. They serve freshly prepared burritos and tacos. Not wanting to miss out on trying something weird, I ordered jackfruit as a vegetarian filling option (alongside pork and chicken, - I'm no longer a virtuous vegetarian). Surprisingly delicious! They also do a kids meal including drink for £3.45 and host themed kids parties.

Both Cafe and Kitchen are decorated in a cool, street-vibey way, play funky music and serve healthy, fun and fast street food. Therefore no need for me to deliver emergency CPR to spring onions. Yay! Merry Christmas to you.

Discover and share more yummy and cheap eats at

Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Angelina Melwani leads Midi-Me by example. Hear them roar.

Mummy on the Edge, Families NW Mag, October 2014

Angelina Melwani leads Midi-Me by example. Hear them roar.

We all know that women can do ANYTHING. This is a fact that I have attempted to impart to Midi-Me since before she left the womb. As single mother to an OCAF (Google “OCAF Angelina” and it will come up – after the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund and Oceanside Cultural Arts Foundation ) child for the past 9 years, I've always tried to demonstrate our innate capability. “I am woman” after all, goes the song that Helen Reddy released in the year that I was born.

Run a successful baby signing business and single handedly bring up a child? No problem! Get rid of huge spider in bathroom? Pass a teacup and the latest issue of Families NW Magazine. Get rid of dead fox in front of door? Phone a female friend who's a bit harder than me. No, that's not cheating. I show Midi Me that I can do it. So she can do it. This has worked for most things.

A few weeks ago we went out on her roller blades (bought for a £1 on Ebay!) She did well for her first time, but I thought she was exaggerating how difficult it was. Until I put the blades on myself. The last time I tried to roller blade was at Midi-Me's friend's house and it ended with everyone around me crying with laughter as they looked down on me. This time was marginally better and Midi-Me walked alongside, gamely unflinching when I reached out for her ponytail to stabilise me and offering words of encouragement in response to my own choice words... (you can imagine.)

In the past couple of years, Midi-Me had discovered on her school trips to residential activity type places that she had a phobia of heights. “No you haven't,” I insisted. “If you are afraid of heights THAT MUCH why did you ask for a window seat on the aeroplane?” Zip-wiring from one end to another was terrific fun she said, (I'm paraphrasing obviously) but she was still scared of heights.

On a recent trip to Canada, (without Midi-Me who was staying with her normally absent father at the time) I had discovered that I love zip-wiring too, when I tried it, high above the rainforest canopy and out of reach of the grizzly bears that were ready to lunch on my crumpled corpse. I wore a helmet and my harness was attached by proper, professional zip-wiring people who chucked me from the top of one mountain to the top of another. I yelled “I can do AAAAAAAAAGH-nything!! I am womAAAAAAAAAAAGHn!! ” several times all the way (– it was long-) before ending with a scary, ricocheting crash at the end. Cathartic.

So it was time to take Midi-Me's pseudo-phobia and stub it out under the ball of my womanly foot, like a filthy carcinogenic cigarette that you want never to smell ever again. Thus, we found ourselves with friends at Go Ape Treetop Adventures at Moors Valley, near the New Forest. Despite my positive experience in Canada, I experienced not a little trepidation among the comparatively stunted trees of Moors Valley, New Forest, mainly due to the fact that we would be responsible for our own attaching and detaching to the zip-wire and safety ding-dongs. (Clearly, the fact that I was referring to them as ding-dongs contributed in some way to my own trepidation). As responsible mother, I concentrated carefully and occasionally poked Midi-Me in the ribs to ensure she was paying attention when the leader demonstrated how to get ourselves from one platform to another, safely. Finally it was time to move. Onward and upward. Think positive. Feel the fear and do it anyway. I threw platitudes and self-help titles around liberally and we didn't fall. Well, she didn't fall.

It's the climbing up to reach the platform on the tree where you zip-wire from which is really difficult if you are as unfit and lacking in upper body strength as I am. I managed to get my foot caught, spinning upside down on the rope ladder half way up to reach the tallest platform. A bit like those performers on the red silk at Cirque du Soleil. Except unintentional.

Anyway, we got from A to B to Z and Midi-Me says that thanks to laughing at me, her fear is conquered. We are women. Hear us roar! Or go “Ooh ooh!” (Like apes).

More notes from the edge of the forest at

Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Angelina & Midi-Me go back... to the future

Families NW Sept 2014

After a VERY late lie-in caused by VERY late unsupervised tv watchage and probable extreme- loom-banding, it was difficult to scrape Midi-Me out of bed but eventually, she emerged, warm-faced and scribble-eyebrowed. I couldn't be too cross that she wouldn't get up because I had risen only an hour before that, thinking it was 8.30am and realising it was actually 12.30pm. Luckily it was Sunday. We were severely jet-lagged after our trip to Vancouver. The morning I had envisioned, therefore, padding around my bedroom in my Ragdale Hall Hotel slippers (I LOVE hotel slippers!) hair in curlers, idly perusing my closet for 50s friendly garb disintegrated before I could say “Great Scott!”

It was Secret Cinema day and even though we had been looking forward to it for a month, we had understandably not given much thought to what we would wear. Amongst the copious emails they sent in advance, there was one that stated prom-dresses were the order of the day but after the thunderous downpour that woke me up, I just couldn't countenance that idea. So I went as Bad Sandy from Grease instead. Midi-Me wanted to be Marty McFly himself and that would have been the sensible option, layering up jeans, denim jacket and bodywarmer, however I planted the idea of her spotty fifties dress that she'll soon grow out of, neck scarf, denim jacket and high pony tail. She looked cool! And I looked smokin' hot! Just the way it should be.

Secret Cinema, you see, is an event; they don't just show you the movie, they re-create it so that as soon as you arrive, you step into the scenes that unfold around you. This event's film was Back to the Future and they had transformed the Olympic park adjacent to Westfield shopping centre into the town square of Hill Valley, mid 20th Century America. (With a John Lewis staring down at you - but after a while it was okay – sort of took the place of the Sears store in the movie!)

So the whole point of the Secret Cinema lark is that as soon as you arrive, you are drawn into the scene with actors pacing around, involving you in what's happening. As we queued to enter, we were happily harassed by a well-built “Biff” (the bully) and we watched as “Marty” in his signature red body-warmer whizzed by with some friends on skateboards, stunt-jumping over a public bench. The attention to detail was really quite impressive; little houses belonging to families in the film had been mocked up, containing 50s style furniture and memorabilia; actors with dodgy American accents paraded around and interacted with everyone brilliantly, never losing character. There was a high-school dance with dancers hopping around, drawing us into the fun and of course Midi-Me and I (-never one to shy away from bad bopping and doing dodgy American accents-) got seriously involved.

At around 9pm, when it was much darker, special guest Bob Gale (co-writer and producer of the movie) came on to give a short, heart-warming speech and then he SAT RIGHT IN FRONT OF US on the damp green. It was mondo exciting and I couldn't help stealing a glance at the (very meta) sight of him, experiencing the audience watching his film, using his phone to film some of the more exciting theatrical bits where actors played out the scenes as they happened in the movie, right there before our eyes, even driving off in the famous Delorean car and zip-wiring from the re-created clock tower above the screen to the ground. Midi-Me was enthralled and actually so was I. The atmosphere was electric (which is an appalling cliché but it really was!) By the end of the night, our derrieres were very damp but it was nothing that a hairdryer and a hot chocolate couldn't fix. Since doing some digging, I've found out plans are afoot for a Back to the Future musical to coincide with the 30 year anniversary next year. Who knows; maybe in the future we've already gone back and seen it!

More notes from the edge at

Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth.

Monday 7 July 2014

Angelina Melwani on career changes, work/ belly balance and a plan for her dotage.

Mummy on the Edge
Families NW Mag 
July/August 2014

Angelina Melwani on career changes, work/ belly balance and a plan for her dotage.

In my previous life I worked in Marketing for Clarins. This was ideal for me because I really knew it was the best plant-based skincare on the market. I was very good at my job which consisted of copywriting (thinking up lesser-used synonyms for “radiant” and “flawless”); planning and buying national advertising (negotiating impossibly fantastic deals with magazines); print buying and proof-reading (I once pulped thousands of promotional invitations that I had signed off which stated “Receive a free lipstick lipstick…” whoops); ordering staff uniforms (producing a complex algorithm predicting backside-growth trends); overseeing the customer loyalty scheme (never once plugging my friends’ names and addresses into the database so that they received free products directly to their home) and other Really Important Stuff.

I gave up my job (causing much wailing from my sisters and mother) after I had Midi-Me because at that time there was no obligation on employers to provide a part-time work option. I freelanced for a bit and then decided to start teaching Sing and Sign because the video (TAPE back then!) had worked so well for us and I knew it would work for others. (See, there is a theme here: Successfully doing things that I believe in - it's why I never lasted selling advertising for Rectum Radio.) After I left my job, there began an official period of mourning. Dark times, dear reader. My beauty routine changed from Clarins: Gentle Foaming Cleanser, Yellow Toner for Normal to Dry Skin, followed by Multi-Active Day Cream and Night Cream to Pampers: Baby Wipes.

Having enjoyed a dramatic career change myself, I always find it fascinating nosing into the careers of the many parents that come to my classes. Most recently, I have met Deepa who holds down a high powered job in finance, whilst launching, whose most interesting products to me are these “Shrinkx” belt-things that mould you back into shape post-partum, when your bones are still malleable, your back in need of strong support, and your muscles in need of squashing back together. I have heard of cultures in South East Asia and South America using ancient-style wraps successfully for the same purpose.

Twelve and a half years ago, I had an emergency C-section and after perusing the Bloom and Beyond website I discovered that the name for the physiological legacy I am left with is “The C-shelf”. It is surely too late for me to invest in the “Shrinx Belly” or the “C-Panty”, and to be honest I just tuck my C-shelf into my high-waisted Agent Provocateurs and forget about it. But I have a plan for my future which happily lets Midi-Me off the hook, too. Y'know how wig-makers buy hair from long-tressed Indian ladies? I'm going to sell my C-Shelf to Donatella and she will use it to make a handbag that she will gift to Angelina Jolie (she would totally carry it - vials of blood hanging around her neck and all that) for PR purposes.

Picture it: Angelina wearing Angelina. In exchange, (and in order to avoid a huge inheritance tax bill for Maxi-Me,) Donatella will give me something money cannot buy (unless you are a Kardashian or Real Housewife of Beverly Hills or similar): a lifelong place in the world's first Versace Care Home (Weekly complimentary Rhassoul Mud treatments to combat saggy skin; A coupĂ© of franciacorta with your nightly Xanax; Adonis-like men serving Locatelli on Wheels; Swarovski-encrusted zimmer frame; gold logo-embossed loo-roll...) In 50 years, the popular sibilant tongue twister will thus become “She sells C-shelf on the C saw”

In the meantime though, I must take better care of myself. My beauty routine no longer includes baby wipes. And this week, while Midi-Me is off with her year group to Bude in Cornwall for a week (abseling, high-roping, swimming in a freezing sea pool, unable to contact me), will I be pining for her and wondering if she's alright? Erm... Yeah... A bit. But mostly I will be rocking with delight as I check in for an achingly glorious Special Offer Two (-TWO!) Night Taster Break, at Ragdale Hall Health Hydro and Thermal Spa, pinnacle of spa experience in the UK. A place I oft wrote about but never stayed at, in my Neolithic, pre-C-shelf period.

More from the edge of Ragdale Hall coming soon at Twitter @appleina
Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Review by a Monty Python Live (Mostly) Virgin

Review of Monty Python's live show by Angelina Melwani, a Monty Python virgin.

Yes. That's right. I am fourty-one years old and have never watched Monty Python. I always meant to. At some point in my life. And I realise that many bits of popular silliness have their roots in some Monty Python sketch or other. But I never got around to watching it. Until Imagine, on BBC2 late Sunday night, which I watched with genuine interest. Until I fell asleep (due to fatigue, not boredom). It was all about the task of reuniting the Pythons (does one call them that?) after all these years to execute the huge and hilarious spectacle that last night's show was meant to be (you get where this is going, right?)

You could argue that I've been living under a rock, because I have never visited the O2 either and leaving behind the beautiful sunshiney evening to walk through the tented pavilion that housed all these chain restaurants lit up like night time left me feeling like I was an extra in a dystopic movie set 20 years from now where the ozone layer has depleted and no one can go out in bare sunshine and independent restaurants have been outlawed by the government.

But that's beside the point.

I just did not enjoy the show. It was awful. There. I said it.

It wasn't that I didn't understand the humour. It just wasn't funny (to me). Was I the lone non-smiling face in the entire arena? Admittedly, this has happened before. When I went to see One Man Two Governors a few years ago when if first came out I just couldn't understand why the person I was watching it with was laughing loudly with thigh-slapping fervour and in fact, every one around me was laughing hysterically. Was this laughter by infection, or genuine laughter? It was beginning to annoy me. Mine was the lone poker face, until I noticed another non-guffawing figure sitting directly in front of me. It was Jo Brand, and she wasn't smiling either. Maybe we were the victim of some inadvertent humour-sucking feng-shui directed at our seats by a reflective door or something.

Anyway back to Monty Python. The idea of bringing it to the O2 and thinking nostalgia could be enough to fill such a huge venue was a terrible one. Surrounded as we were by people who knew all the dialogue, there was a certain amount of decisive joy filtering through the crowds which included a fair few who had dressed up for the occasion (“...We HAVE spent a bomb on these tickets, we DO love Monty Python, we WILL enjoy and talk about it for YEARS”), and it was this that managed to keep the show barely buoyant. When John Cleese seemingly forgot his line, or couldn't suppress a smile, the audience found this endearing and seemed to feel they were sharing an in-joke. To cynical little me, it felt a bit contrived.

There was padding from musical big numbers and dances from a troupe of dancers choreographed by Arlene Phillips (I know because I watched that bit on Imagine). These prevented me from falling asleep (due to boredom, not fatigue). And there was further padding from plenty of old sketches from the original TV show which also allowed for things to be wheeled off and on. It would have been hard to fill a few hours in a huge arena with just a bunch of old men. And hard for them, no doubt. At one point, Stephen Fry came on and didn't look happy to be there. This could have been because he had by then watched the first half of the show.

I can see how Monty Python was at the vanguard of comedy in its time and even how much of today's comedy can be seen as having derived from their surreal style. I really can. I understand how people love the old stuff, but transporting these old sketches to the fifteenth year of the 21st century just doesn't work. Much of it felt dated, sexist and gross-out as opposed to classic, funny and clever. The best bits felt like they could be the least funny sketches on a Saturday morning comedy slot on kids TV in the late eighties/ early nineties. Comedy has evolved so much.

And holding the Monty Python reunion in a big huge arena served only to remind that this was purely a money-making exercise. Not an ambiguous fact, which was further highlighted with “Merch-ometer” animations on either side of the stage. Which wasn't funny either. This was a TV special. On stage.

I'm not the target market for BIG shows. They make me feel like a sheep and I would rather watch them on TV where frankly, you are still watching the action on a screen but can put your feet up on the sofa, pause it to go to the loo or make a cup of tea. And switch channels when it's crap.

Angelina writes the Mummy on the Edge column for Families NW London Magazine and runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth.


Tuesday 27 May 2014

Going Boho in ShoHo...

Families NW Magazine
May/June 2014

Angelina Melwani and Mini-Me go boho in ShoHo (- and Brick Lane... but that don't rhyme, innit.)

It's not unusual to find me hopping up and down while teaching my Sing and Sign baby signing classes (in Harrow, Bushey, Ricky and Stanmore) pretending to be a rabbit or pretending to need the loo. But it is rare for me to do so AFTER I have actually finished teaching for the morning and while everyone is leaving the hall; and especially while grinning like an idiot, punching the air, shedding a tear and making whooping noises. Well. That would just seem rude.

On the one occasion when this did happen however, there was a HUGH (sic – you'll get it soon) reason for my vocal and physical display of joy. Prima Donna of Positivity, one of my best mates in the whole world, had just informed me via gadgetphone that her 11 year old son (I will call him Futurestar) had won a part in the upcoming Peter Pan movie with Hugh Jackman! It all started at school in the lunch queue for chicken pasta, a non-vegetarian dish that Futurestar would not normally eat but just fancied on the particular day when people casting for the film happened to be walking around the school. There followed auditions and screen tests. Prima Donna of Positivity and I had both decided that the best thing to do was to put it to the back of our minds and not obsess about red carpets and going on a date with Hugh Jackman, when out of the blue she received the call. It was Just Meant To Be.

Prima Donna of Positivity and I decided to take Futurestar and Mini-Me for a day out since we are both are the type to feel stifled if left to stew too long in the suburbs. Our destination was the Geffrye Museum and we hoped to catch Ceramic Painting, the free holiday activity for 11 – 16 year olds which was to start at 2.30 and go on for 2 hours (IF we turned up and queued from 1.30.) And no, in case you are wondering, we had no intention of using those two hours to wander the streets of ShoHo (Shoreditch/Hoxton) and locate a hip hang-out where we could consume a daytime cocktail and honour our inner lush. We would of course have come back after an hour and a half to cheer as our high-achievers finished their pieces of art.

“Would” being the operative word. Unfortunately, after half an hour of VERY fruity language that Mini-Me had previously never heard exit these angelic lips (-because she has never before seen me try to park someone else's big black tank in a tight spot between two vehicles on a side street near Canon's Park tube station-) it became apparent that the children were not going to do any Ceramic Painting. Because it was Not Meant To Be.

By the time we arrived at the Geffrye Museum, all the places had been filled so we ate lunch together and walked around looking at roomsets from various points of time, Futurestar making very loud and repetitive electronic noises with his mouth (a role in Star Trek surely beckons) and I gaining understanding of the true nature of the difference between having a son and a daughter. I spotted Edwardian chairs that I swear I've seen starting at 15 quid recently on Ebay and items I remembered from my childhood living room. Although perplexingly, the 70s roomset did not contain a feature-lamp depicting a semi-naked statue having a shower in a gazebo.

After all that we were not feeling enthusiastic about going home and fixing dinner so we hopped on a bus to Brick Lane where we mooched around kooky shops, looking at up-and-coming-designer dresses and vintage clothing. Feeling the hipster-happeningness of Prima Donna of Positivity permeating my pores by osmosis, I invested in two vintage Italian handbags that will one day be bequeathed to Mini-Me. Unable to avoid the subject of dinner, and consulting Tastecard we found Loco Mojito where we stuffed Futurestar and Mini-Me's faces with burrito and nachos at 50% off. What's more, Prima Donna of Positivity and I got our cocktail after all. We took pictures of the kids which were photobombed by a well-meaning guy having dinner with his misses behind us.

Poorly planned but perfectly executed; it was a wonderfully chilled day that was surely Meant To Be.

More from the edge at Twitter @appleina

Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth.


Monday 12 May 2014

In praise of Real Housewives. Wherever they are.

Bla. This is the first day of the rest of my life. Bla bla. Many drips will eventually fill a jug. Bla bla bla. Eckhart Tolle says stay in the present and all is well.

Insert any other platitude you have read on facebook lately, turn it upside down and you will come to my current way of thinking which is: Nope. I can't do anything. Nothing I can do is worth anything. I will never do anything. I will only talk about doing things. And I will talk about doing things AFTER I have spent half an hour reading The Guardian on my phone; BEFORE I send my emails that I'm supposed to send for Sing and Sign and AFTER I have streamed the latest episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Except not that. Because the season is over and I am somewhat bereft with the rude departure of Nene, Phaedra, Kenya, Cynthia, Kandi et al from my life. They had become part of my extended family and their weekly visits never failed to cheer me when I was having a Bla moment.

No longer do mine ears delight in their colourful Atlant(ic?) vernacular that paints my inner commentary with its myriad rainbow hues, and swear beeps. But the memory of these high achieving women lives on in my heart and in my mind. Just today I was reminiscing about last season's conflict between Phaedra (a well-known celebrity lawyer) and Kenya (former Miss America - or Maybe Miss USA I can't remember) and their competing bottom-shaping excercise dvds. Phaedra's was called "Donkey Bootie", whilst Kenya's was termed "Stallion Bootie". I called this "Star-arse Wars". Incidentally, I'm about to release my own excercise dvd, callled "Cow Bootie". It comes with a special bonus feature: "How to achieve an udderly beautiful bust" and a free packet of Hob Nobs.

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is also over. I realised that I was talking about it too much when Midi-Me made this Mothers Day card for me back in March, complete with pop-up bit on front:

All I have left is New York. That only started a month ago or so. I have a couple of months left of that at least. My favourite character in RHONY is Carole Radziwill. She seems to have her head half screwed on and is a journalist and writer (of course). After suffering a terrible loss, she wrote a book called What Remains which I have not read yet but will. Eventually.

Anyway, I don't watch Towie. I don't watch Made in Chelsea. But I do watch Real Housewives. It ACTUALLY brings me JOY. I'm 41. I don't care. I don't have to impress anyone. I love it. It is a form of meditation in that, for 45 minutes, it expels all worries associated with running my own business, looking after my 12 year old and not writing my novel (...although, if I'm ever at a loss for plotlines...)  In those brief and precious televisual moments, I focus purely on the present. 

Eckhart Tolle would surely approve.

Friday 25 April 2014

Mini-Me in Must Cook Will Cook.

 Mummy on the edge (Families Magazine March/ April 2014)

It was a lazy Sunday morning. I glided downstairs after arising late and writing in my journal and my nose was met by a pleasant waft of parfum de warm fluffy pancake, travelling in the opposite direction. Mini-Me was in the kitchen, pouring thick American pancake batter into the heart-shaped mould I had bought from Lidl a couple of weeks earlier. A stack of flattened, golden clouds lay on a plate that was teetering off the edge of the worktop.

“Mmm... those look yummy” I remarked appreciatively, shoving the plate back from the precipice and switching the kettle on. And they really did look delicious.

“Good morning Mummy! My pancakes have come out really well! Go on, have one!” Mini-me beamed. I picked one up, broke it into two and stuffed one half in my gob. It was the lightest, steamiest, cakey morceau. I had ever tasted. So soft, sweet and...

“Bleaurgh!! Um... did you use a teaspoon or a tablespoon for the salt?”

Crestfallen, she realised her mistake. “Never mind,” I assured her. “It's a learning experience. That won't happen again because you will make super special effort to read the recipe next time. Anyway, the texture is fantastic. And they are still quite nice really,” I said, stuffing the other half in my mouth and fearing the immediate onset of salt-induced hypertension.

Mini-Me is eager to widen her repertoire in the kitchen and it is of course up to me to help her do so. Finding the time is not easy when there is piano, flute, singing practice, electric guitar-jamming and homework to attend to; to be honest, it is just easier to get on with it and produce a miracle meal all by myself which, I know, is the wrong attitude. Sometimes I do delegate and she's quite a good sous chef, adept at chopping and preparing ingredients for me, washing rice and kneading dough for the dodgy chapatis I turn out. It is definitely time to let her get on with it. Aside from everything ending up on the floor (why is it kids always let things teeter off the edge) only good things will come of this, maybe even a Cordon Bleu standard dinner.

The bloke who launched Leon, the worthy food chain (upstairs in Brent Cross, it's quite nice) is responsible for, a campaign that aims to make sure that every 16 year old is equipped with 5 fail-safe recipes that they can cook, unaided. I'm sure Mini-Me will have no trouble with any of the recipes listed helpfully by age on the website because she has been been raised on a healthy, televisual diet of Come Dine with Me and we have recently graduated to The Taste. Yes, shockingly fruity language, but whatever. The combination of Nigella, the horribly arrogant Ludo and Ross's dad from Friends! (- seriously, just ask the google about Tony Bourdain and Elliot Gould-) makes for compulsive viewing.

Anyway, Cook5 run a monthly competition where your mini-you can upload pictures of what they've cooked and compete for cash prizes (ker-ching!) for their school and themselves. It says so on the website: “To celebrate your hard work, every person who cooks all five dishes will automatically be entered into a grand prize draw at the end of 2014, with one winner receiving £5,000 plus “ blah blah... not really interested in the rest. They had me at five grand. Mini-Me now knows what she will be doing to pass the time in the next set of school holidays because I have my eye on a Kitchen Aid 4 litre Artisan Food Mixer in Almond White which is currently listed on Selfridges' website at £389. She can think of it as an investment in her own future. After all, it will all be hers in the end...

Have I inspired you to nudge your own mini-you into the kitchen - metaphorically, of course? Why not try one of the below:

Sheetal Karia (one of my talented Sing and Sign mummies from years ago, in fact) runs Kiddi Cook classes in Stanmore, Radlett, Watford and surrounding areas for kids from 2 to 11 years old. Call 07821 920 166 or email

Cinnamon Square Bakery in Rickmansworth are finalists of The British Cookery School Awards 2013 and they run children's baking workshops from their 400 year old Grade II listed shop during school holidays. Visit or call 01923 778353 for details.

More from the edge at Follow on twitter @appleina.

Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth. You can also follow @AngeSingandSign on Twitter


Sunday 12 January 2014

Fire and Ice in Canary Wharf this weekend.

Looks like a beautiful day today so grab your coat (-and hat and gloves-) and get down to the London Ice Scultpting Festival at Canary Wharf for something a little bit magical that you won't see every day. (Nearest tube Canary Wharf.)

Witnessing a person with a chainsaw and a pick axe attack a gigantic block of ice, in the creative act of producing an object of beauty before your very eyes, simply does something for the soul. The precision and detail, sometimes with seemingly gravity-defying, intentional lop-sidedness arouses a sense of wonder in one who watches too much television and is normally stuck in the muddy mundaneness of life. We were there all afternoon and into the evening and I don't think I checked my phone once. Today is the final day so you will see the finished, competing, international entries.

Food? Yes, a wide array of cuisines including curried goat, hot chorizo sandwiches, Thai curries, Ethiopian stews and lots of vegetarian options in between, not to mention French patisserie.

Other Stuff? Yes, FlameOz fire show, a fun 15 minute show which does what it says on the tin.
Suitable for children? Yes. I took my 11 year old who loved it and saw lots of littler ones not looking miserable too.

Facilities? The cleanest, poshest portaloos I have ever visited in my life.

Free? Yes

Fab? Yes, again.

Tube? Canary Wharf. Check which lines are operating before you go. I had to take Bakerloo from South Kenton instead of normal Jubilee from Stanmore but it was worth it.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Mummy on the edge - FamilesNW London Mag Jan/Feb 2014

Jan Feb 2014
Angelina Melwani can't tell her app from her elbow.

For about a year, Mini-Me had been nagging to allow her to download a game on her tablet called Minecraft. Now, I'm not really a point blank kind of person. I tend to listen and look at things from the plaintiff's point of view and then offer reasons for my verdict, whether it's a “No” or a “Yes!” and especially when it's a “Maybe”. However in this case, my answer was always point blank “No”. It only recently became “Yes”, after I allowed Mini-Me to explain what Minecraft is. That is: a game based on building things out of blocks in a virtual world, a bit like online Lego or something (-yawn...) I realised that I had got Minecraft confused with World of Warcraft. I remembered once reading an article about how horrendously violent World of Warcraft was.

Now, doubting myself whilst writing this column (-it happens frequently,) I have just “asked the google” (as my parents refer to this procedure) about the suitability of World of Warcraft for kids and the google said that the minimum age to play it is 13. In light of this discovery, I must admit that it is entirely possible that I got World of Warcraft in turn, mixed up with Tour of Duty which is about war and is violent. Isn't it?? Okay, I just asked the google (because I couldn't help myself) who said Tour of Duty is a TV programme and Call of Duty is a game. I cannot spend any more time asking the google about these things because it will NEVER END. When I compile an anthology of all these columns one day, it will probably be called “Six degrees of confusion” because that is what it's like in this head but you need to double it because there's actually currently12 and it increases exponentially as Mini-Me gets older.

I know little about this weird, social media world that my child is growing up in. Worse, I actually thought I was fairly aware, being that I have a Sing and Sign page on Facebook and two weeks ago even created a Sing and Sign account on Twitter (@AngeSingandSign). At risk of sounding like Bridget Jones I currently have 56 followers on that and about 15 on @appleina (come and play with me!) I'm really good with Excel and Word and Publisher and Powerpoint, so Mini-Me always thought I was some kind of omniscient genius when it came to computers and I didn't try to counter this belief because I enjoy inspiring awe in my kid (even misplaced awe – it's still awe and clearly, it won't last...)

But now, with she at nearly 12 and me at (...mumbles incomprehensibly into coffee...) we are reaching a tipping point where she is overtaking me. It was inevitable. I know I need to stay on top of what's going on and be aware and in the know. It says so on the NSPCC Online Safety page that I saw on Twitter. However, although Mini-Me wants to sit and show me how Minecraft works, (“It's so wonderful; it really encourages my creativity! I'm mining for iron ore! I'm making wool for curtains from sheep!”) I keep putting it off because it sounds r-e-a-l-l-y … b-o-r-i-n-g (- sorry darling, I know you are reading this).

Now she wants instagram. Nope. Why? “Because I don't want you putting up pictures of yourself or me or the reconstituted leftovers I fixed for dinner last night.” And also snapchat. Nope. Why? “Because of a dizzying myriad of possible horrifications that could result.” Many of her friends have these apps on their gadget phones. But I don't care. I am smugly glad that she has a basic phone and am trying to stretch its use out for another year by which time I will be fully conversant in Minecraft, instagram and snapchat and related virtual activities, having created Sing and Sign accounts on all of them.

Y'know, I am a glass-half-full typa' person and there is an up side to this growing tech-saviness. Because now, when my mum phones to tell me she has lost all her emails (you haven't!), can't find the facebook shortcut on her tablet (it's THERE!) or wants to listen to obscure French radio but nothing is working (dunno!) I can pass her over to The New Tech Guy aka Mini-Me and if she doesn't know what to do, she can perfectly well ask the google!

More from the edge at Tweet @appleina.

Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth. You can also follow @AngeSingandSign on Twitter