Social Commentary, Uncategorized

‘The Country vs. The City’


Daylesford Organic Farm, Cotswolds, 2016. All Photos Copyright NHYM 2016.

The Cotswolds are like the new Hamptons’ – quote by Lakes by yoo owner John Hitchcox Feb 2016

The countryside is now firmly the cool, hip thing to do as evidenced by the recent opening of The Farmhouse (Soho Farmhouse in case you have been living in the middle ages for the past year), Kate Moss’ wedding (now ex-wedding), and all its other celebrity-followers – from Jade Jagger, Eddie Redmayne to Mark Ronson. Friends who attended the Farmhouse’s New Year’s party said it was ‘ridiculously cool’ and insane. And no, I am nowhere near cool enough to get an invite, otherwise you would have heard about it.


Cold Country Roads. NHYM 2016.

It must be something to do with my age, but lately, I have been surrounded by the ‘City vs. Country’ debate, although never really as a participant but rather an observer. You see, I love the country in a ‘I-love-the-country-it’s-so-beautiful-from-afar’ kind of way. The problem with me and the country is that I am always cold in the country-side. When people dream of having their dream ‘country home/mansion,’ I dream of being anywhere warm. It must be my Mediterranean blood or something, but whenever I end up in the country, a) it’s raining b) the heating in the stone mansion house has broken down c) I end up getting lost on a country walk with mud up to my knees. It must be my bad luck.


Mud up to my knees. NHYM 2016.

Going back to the ‘City vs Country’ debate, more and more people I encounter these days have houses in the ‘country’ from Wiltshire, to Oxfordshire, to Herefordshire, via Gloucestershire. The Sunday Times Style Magazine last Sunday had an article entitled ‘How Cool Is Your County?’ (Clearly, Oxfordshire and the Farmhouse win hands down). Even in my little neighbourhood, my neighbours on the right, behind and across from us all have country houses. I have noticed one wonderful benefit about going to the country on the weekend is the fact that they don’t have to make any weekend plans; no need to book restaurants months in advance to get a reservation, no need to figure out what to do with young children/toddlers on the weekend. Perhaps I will revisit my country opinions. Instead, they are off Friday evening with an instant schedule of country walks, pub lunches, and muddy boots, and only return on Sunday night.


Rolling hills of Oxfordshire. NHYM 2016.

Then there are those that decide to make the final move and decamp their whole families to the country. There are the commuters who stay in the city during the week in a pied-a-terre, and return to country for the weekends. From what I hear, this is not really ideal as husbands quickly take up a mistress and start their double lives. For those who go as a couple/family, they end up very bored and the rumours are true: they end a) on drugs b) alcoholics c) in swingers clubs because there is nothing to do in the country. Some of these latter quickly run back to the city after a year of country-trials.


Daylesford Organic Brunch reminds me of London. NHYM 2016.

So, when I went to the ‘country’ for a party the other weekend, I was pleasantly surprised that a) it didn’t rain b) there was heating in the house c) it wasn’t really very different from London: I ended up spending the day at Daylesford for brunch and a spa treatment. Quite blissful indeed, even if I saw half of London there. That night, I mingled with Londoners who were drinking like it was 1999 and overheard a few wife-and-husband-swapping-propositions. What I learned is that the country isn’t that different than London, just more stones than bricks, grass than cement and more sheep than cats.


Stone country house in the Cotswolds. NHYM 2016.

There are plentiful of options if you decide not to buy/share a country house but want to try it out, from old stone houses found on Rural Retreats  to futuristic, eco, glass houses at Lakes by yoo Have a look, you may just be tempted too.






Let’s Talk About Skin, Baby: Teresa Tarmey Facial


Teresa Tarmey NHYM 2016. All photos courtesy of NHYM apart from Kate Moss photo, courtesy of the internet. 

Teresa Tarmey

12 Needham Road

London W11 2RP


I don’t know how it’s been for you, but this winter has flashed by in a haze of viral and bacterial sniffly noses, coughs, fevers, shivers, and body aches. Of course, I never write about the ‘downs’ in my blog, because frankly, no one would really give a toss. But, after three months of mostly indoor-living, my skin has become clay-grey, thick, dull and very tired looking. So, when I was invited to the launch of Teresa Tarmey’s new salon in Notting Hill, I was only too pleased to check out her new salon. And then the inevitable hit; sore throat, headache, and chills took over, that sent me right back to bed.


Teresa Tarmey is known to be the fashionistas go-to for their beauty fixes and regimes; she ‘does’ Kate Moss, Suki Waterhouse and all the other models with alabaster,  flawless complexions. And she also happens to be friends with the Primrose Hill set.


Kate Moss, Sadie Frost, Teresa Tarmey on a trip to Turkey.

In any case, when I got over my sniffles and sneezes, I headed over to try the famous ‘Teresa Tarmey Facial.’ My skin needed a wake up call and this seemed like just the thing.


Her new salon is off Needham Road, a stone’s throw away from Bill Granger’s, strategically placed to be a pre- or -post lunch activity. There are no signs to indicate its existence which is very New York/East End cool. It just means she is so popular that she doesn’t even need to advertise and that her patients are so famous that they don’t want anyone to know where they are going. Am loving it so far. Inside, the decor is full of warm, gold lighting, with a taupe and black backdrop. It is very beautifully designed and decorated and it is not what you would expect from a typical sterile spa/salon.


There are also clothes to peruse while you wait for your appointment, which I believe are from the landlord’s collection.


I met Agatha, my beauty therapist, who took me to the treatment room, which felt more like a facial salon than anywhere else. She was very knowledgeable and soothing, exactly what you need before slumbering off to facial-land. The facial started off with lots of Skinceutical products, which I think are excellent, followed by a very light alpha hydroxy acid exfoliant/peel from Neostrata. Then came the extractions and a facial massage meant to revive your skin. It felt like a mini boxing match between my face and little rabbit paws. Oddly reviving and somewhat pleasurable. Then came the Vitamin C masque, full of nutritious benefits. But my favourite came at the end when she gave me 10 minutes of their LED phototherapy, which was so bright and warm, I felt like I was under the Maldivian sun again.


The Teresa Tarmey Facial is a great way to revive your skin after a long winter of obstacles. It felt like I gave my skin a holiday of its own and I came out of the spa glowing and warm. For the next few days, my skin felt great, I must say, and I would happily try one again.

Thank you Teresa Tarmey for the lovely facial!




Social Commentary

To Tutor Or Not to Tutor, That is the Question…


We’ve all been there: sitting at the dining room table trying to get our child to do their homework and secretly wanting to scream:’ FINISH YOUR DAMN HOMEWORK SO I CAN GET ON WITH MY LIFE!’ But instead, we smile at them, restraining ourselves, and quietly tell them they need to finish their homework and bribe them with a bit of TV… And then the day arrives when you throw in the towel and call in the professionals.

When I first heard about tutors for children as young as 6 I thought it was absolutely absurd! Of course, I now know that it happens even earlier, and that there is a lot of discussion about whether to get a tutor for your child or not. I never thought I would be one to encourage the use of tutors unless necessary but I’ve come to think of it as I do breastfeeding: If it works well for you to breastfeed (ie. your child is naturally clever and doesn’t need extra help), wonderful, lucky sod, but if it doesn’t work out for one reason or other, well I’m all for bottle-feeding and tutoring.

Now, there is a stigma around tutoring, and many mums hide that their children are getting tutored. More than once, I have had friends who have asked their children’s friends’ nannies for playdates, for the nanny to reply ‘sorry, so-and-so has tutoring that day’ even if the mother of the friend previously denied ever using a tutor. I also know that this tutoring phenomenon is not only prevalent in London, but is in New York (obviously) and is around in other places like Switzerland, Canada, and Monaco.

I think there is a definite place for tutors, especially when a child falls behind in class and needs extra help, then tutoring is absolutely warranted. The problem I find though is that in London everyone ends up being tutored and to keep up, you have to get your child tutored and it isn’t about choice or innate intelligence but how many hours of tutoring they have each week. I mean, I know a 4 year old who already has English tutoring on Mondays, French on Tuesdays, Maths on Thursdays and endless other activities to fill their week! How is anyone else supposed to keep up?

For now, I am holding off having the tutoring conversation with myself, but one day, I realise that I might have to address it. I have been approached by many tutors over the past few years and took the opportunity to ask one to answer a few questions about whether to get a tutor or not, for those who may be interested. It’s quite long and a lot of it you may feel you already know, so feel free to jump to the questions that interest you. More posts on education coming soon!

I have no personal experience with this tutor therefore cannot endorse them in any way. This is purely for informational purposes and to get a tutor’s perspective. 

Milestones Education: WHY GET A TUTOR? 

1. Why should we use tutors in the first place?                                                                                                                                                                                                    

There are so many reasons why tutors are valuable. It is not a one size fits all reason; every individual will have different reasons for getting a tutor. However, from my experience, I can tell you the common reasons people use us. The individual attention that the student gets with using a tutor is extremely valuable. It is something you cannot even get at the top independent schools.

  • Good tutors have the time to truly identify the student’s weaknesses and strengths and then correct them. In the traditional classroom, it is impossible for one teacher to meet all the needs of each student and ensure everyone is up to speed on a topic all the time.
  • If you have a good tutor, there will always be a much higher level of direct communication and feedback with not only the student, but the parent too. This is invaluable. When I train my team of tutors, I always work on ingraining those communication and feedback skills Learners cannot progress without understanding and reflecting on where they are at, where they need to be and how to get there.
  • If you do not believe your children are thriving or reaching their potential this would be another reason. Stagnancy in learning is just as dangerous as decline and strips the student of their confidence. A tutor can fix these problems in a way that often a school or parent cannot.
  • If you have important examinations or are trying to achieve particular goals and grades, you may not know how to get there or it may just be extremely difficult to do so without some help.
  • Most importantly, the proof is in the results. Students progress further and achieve more with tutors.

2. When is the right time to start using a tutor? 

  • When there is a need or a goal that needs to be achieved by a certain time. Also when a subject is causing the student to struggle, feel stressed or under-confident.
  • In general, tuition has greater effects in younger children. From my experience and through my study of cognitive science, I know that younger primary school children have a higher level of learning plasticity in their brains. That is, their learning capacity is much higher than at later stages in life; it is still within the exponential part of the learning curve. The key to giving children the best push ahead in education is to give them a solid foundation during the early stages. It is much harder to go back and fix problems than to build the learning bricks correctly in the first place.

3. How do you help a student who is falling behind?  

  • It also means formulating a robust plan that can be regularly reviewed and monitored for progress. It means setting targets, expectations and goals. It means having a competent teacher who can support the student and help the student learn in a way that is individualised. Students need guidance and direction but they also need praise and feedback.
  • In short, you must first identify the student’s starting points through thorough assessment. They must be able to understand where they are and where they are going.
  • Over the years I have been very passionate about addressing how to most effectively conquer this scenario. It actually lead me to formulate the Milestones Methodology with contributions from psychologists, scientists, and schools.

4. How do you make learning fun and interactive? 

  • This is so important, I am glad you asked. There needs to be a bond between tutor and child; there needs to be trust. At Milestones, the team is trained to use visual organisers, apps, videos, podcasts and a large variety of multi-sensory stimuli. Where appropriate we get our students to enter competitions, do reflective diary entries, create presentations and go out to utilise skills in a way that aligns with their interests. Active learning is the only way students truly commit content to memory. You cannot use tutors that will sit and talk at your student for two hours and then set homework. This is passive and the student’s progress will be minimal and slow. You have to engage in discussion and use reflexive questioning to get the student to think about answers or conclusions themselves.

5. What about students who use tutors to get into top schools like Westminster/St Paul’s but then can’t keep up? 

  • This should never really be the case. To me, that says you have had a poorly skilled tutor or the student should not be applying to such schools. This is one of the reasons why I must assess the student to determine their starting points and so I can give an honest indication to the parents of what can be accomplished. You should not be sending your child to a school where they will be continuously struggling. There is a big difference between challenge and struggle. On the other hand, a good tutor would prepare the student in a way that puts them ahead long term. I do not just equip students to pass exams; I equip them with the skillset and knowledge to enter a trajectory of excellence long term.

6. How do you help children handle the pressure of tutoring and school competition? 

  • Students should not be in a position where they dread tuition. A supportive system should be created where the tutor is easing the pressure not causing it.
  • At the same time, this is why I said communication is important; the student has to be on board and understand the purpose of tuition.
  • Again this is why emotional intelligence development is important to me; you want to instil the skills of time management, discipline and self-motivation to deal with any pressure and come out stronger.

7. What do you think of the concept of it being better to be at the top of a lesser school rather than at the bottom of a best school? 

  • How can a student be pushed further or challenged if they are comfortably sitting at the top already? This question assumes these positions are static. If the student is at the bottom of the best school, which means there is room for growth and a plan should be established to put that in motion. The key here is to remove the generalisation and comparison. The focus should be on finding a position in the school that is best for that individual. If a student is at what is generally considered the ‘best school’ but the student is unhappy, struggling and receiving inadequate support than clearly it is not the best school.

8. What advice do you have for children going through exams? 
One of my past students discusses how he dealt with the pressure and competition here>

9. What advice do you have for parents trying to give their kids the best education?

  • Ensure the choices you make are for the right reasons. Do not try and get your child into a school because everyone else is.
  • Get the child assessed; if not by an experienced tutor then get input from your child’s school. Your priority is to establish what is best for them and find the place that will best develop their unique potential.
  • Get involved with your child’s education. Understand what they are finding difficult and what they find easy. Get your child help when they need it- do not let them struggle alone.
  • Do not take schoolleague tables so literally. They are really quite misleading. The factors used to rank them cannot really be standardised and controlled for. There are also many things you need to take into consideration beyond grades in a school!

10. What’s the best advice you have on navigating the super competitive school process in the UK?

  • You need to understand what you are up against. The level of competence today is higher than ever. Even within our cohort of students there are an increasing number of truly brilliant international students well ahead of British education that are now taking top places. Therefore you need to be realistic about the level your child needs to get to and objectively decide whether it is right for them.
  • It is always good to talk to someone who understands the process well and has gone through it before; teachers, parents, students and tutors. The consultations I carry out with parents can be really eye opening and help you decide on next steps.

Anne-Marie Idowu. –Director & Head Tutor of Milestones.





Busy Mum’s Cookbook


I obviously chose the wrong blog – type to start: I should have started a recipe/food blog. Look at Deliciously Ella whose book shot up straight to the top of the Times Bestseller’s List and ‘Julie & Julia’ which was made into a film. And Jamie Oliver who is now richer than Gordon Ramsay and worth a quarter of a billion (£240 Million). Well, I missed my calling but truthfully, I am more of an ‘appreciator’ than a ‘creator’ when it comes to food. I know how to cook, but let’s face it, I’m no Masterchef.

Someone else who has made her career out of cookbooks is Annabel Karmel, whom I have interviewed in the past, and is out now with a new recipe book: Busy Mum’s Cookbook. It’s not ground-breaking, highly inventive recipes necessitating 300 ingredients, half you can’t pronounce, but it does offer quick and easy, healthy, tasty meals with ingredients you probably already have at home. One section has recipes requiring less than 6 ingredients and one section has 20 minute recipes. It’s all about keeping it simple. Which, as we know, is essential in a busy household.

Here are a few recipes I am keen to try:

Duck Stir Fry with Plum Sauce:

Prep: 8 mins

Cook: 12 minutes

-2 x 150 g skinless duck breasts, cut in strips
-4 tbsp plum sauce
-2 tbsp sunflower oil
-1 yellow pepper sliced
– 2 shallots sliced
-200 g button mushrooms
-250g snap peas
-2 bak choi
-2 tbsp soy sauce
-1 tsp grated fresh root ginger
– 1 tsp cornflour
– salt and pepper

Step One: Season the duck strips and coat them in 2 tablespoons of the plum sauce. Heat the sunflower oil in a wok or frying pan until hot and add the duck strips. Fry for 8-10 minutes until golden, then remove and set aside. Add the yellow pepper, shallot, mushrooms, sugar snap peas and pak choi leaves to the wok over a high heat and stir fry for a few minutes.

Step Two: Mix together the remaining plum sauce, soy sauce, ginger and cornflour. Pour the mixture in the wok and add the cooked duck. Toss over the heat for a minute or two until heated through and serve immediately.

Quinoa and Edamame Salad with Honey and Ginger Dressing

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 4 minutes


– 150 g quinoa
-1 caroot
-1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced
-4 tbsp canned or frozen corn
-100g shelled edamame beans, cooked and refreshed under cold water
salt and black pepper
-2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
– 4 tbsp olive oil
– tsp runny honey
-1/2 tsp grated fresh root ginger
Step One: Put the quinoa and 300 ml of water into a small saucepan. Cover, then bring to the boil. Stir and turn off the heat, then re-cover and set aside until all of the water has been absorbed. Season and leave to cool.
Step Two: Place the cooked quinoa in a large bowl with the grated carrot, spring onions, corn and edamame beans.
Step Three: Combine all the ingredients of the dressing in a small bowl, then add to the salad and mix well before serving.
Apricot, Pecan, Raisin and Chocolate Cookies
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 10-12 minutes
-100g unsalted butter
-100g light soft brown sugar
-1 large egg
-150g porridge oats
-75g self raising flour, sifted
-a pinch of salt
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-50g dried apricots
-50 g raisins
-25g pecans
-100g dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
Step One: Preheat the oven 180C degrees, line 2 large baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.
Step Two: Cream the butter with the sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy, then add the egg and beat again. Fold in the remaining ingredients until well incorporated.
Step Three: Shape the cookie dough into 20 balls. Place on the prepared baking sheets, well spaced apart, and press down slightly to flatten. Bake for 10 -12 minutes, until lightly golden but still slightly soft in the middle. Leave to cool on the sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.