Reviews, Social Commentary

Serpentine Summer Party 2016 & Gomez – Gracia


Serpentine Summer Pavilion 2016. NHYM 

The Serpentine Summer Party is the one summer event not to miss – in my opinion. It’s the one time of year when I can pretend that I am still young/cool/fun and get a chance to dance under and with the stars. This year’s Pavilion was designed by Bjarke Ingels, a Danish architect, who has won numerous awards and designed the Pavilion to be a ‘solid wall that has been unzipped.’


As you know, the Serpentine is closely linked to fashion, with fashion models and designers all in attendance, and this year, designer-to-the-stars, Patricia Gomez – Gracia is ‘dressing me.’ Her dresses have been spotted on the likes of Carrie Underwood, Katie Holmes, Kristin Stewart, the Kardashians,  et al… So, when she contacted me for a collaboration, the Serpentine Summer Party was the ideal event.


I went to her studio and showroom in Notting Hill for a fitting and to choose a dress. I immediately fell in love with her ‘Fairytale’ dress. My choice wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll/hip/cool, it was purely instinctual; I chose it because it was the most beautiful dresses I saw.


At her studio, I saw the whole creative process and her work in progress, from sketches to mood boards and textures.


It was great seeing what happens behind closed doors of her design studio, to see the beginning to the end of a finished product. I had a lot of fun choosing and trying various dresses, leading up to the big night.


I was thrilled to wear my ‘Fairytale’ dress on the big night, it was fun, romantic, glamorous, beautiful and sexy all at the same time. As soon as I walked into the Pavilion, I was accosted by people complimenting the dress. ‘Stunning,’ ‘You are the best-dressed, hands down’ ‘Everyone else should just go home’ ‘We’ve been staring at you all evening, we love your dress’ and finally I even got a ‘Will you marry me?’ Literally, everyone was staring at me as I walked by, which was quite fun. Even the celebrities were coming up to me to tell me how much they loved my dress, from Cressida Bonas to Anna Friel  and Heather Kerzner. It was a show-stopper and it literally made me shine.


This year’s Pavilion is an amazing geometrical, square themed, structure that you can walk through and had lighting that literally and figuratively ‘lit up’ the space.


Square shaped structures. Fearne Cotton bottom right. 


Inside the Pavilion with Heather Kerzner


Sienna Miller and Jade Jagger NHYM 2016.

Of course, there were celebs galore as usual with the usual English celebs & models: Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Naomi Campbell, the Jaggers (Jade and Georgia May), Prince Harry’s exes (Cressida Bonas and Chelsy Davy, who is much taller than I expected), Tommy Hilfiger (hosting the party), etc. etc. etc. but the most exciting star spotting was Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones!

attends The Serpentine Summer Party Co-Hosted By Tommy Hilfiger at The Serpentine Gallery on July 6, 2016 in London, England.


Beautiful Gabriella Wilde checking me out while I was checking her out. Her friend came to tell me how much she loved my Gomez-Gracia dress. NHYM 2016


Sophie Dahl NHYM 2016


As the sun set and the night descended, the colours on the Pavilion became brighter and more colourful, turning into a surreal, fantasy.


Although this year the music was somewhat of a let down (there were no big performances, which is a shame after great ones in the past by Dizzie Rascal, Pharrell Williams and last year’s Mark Ronson), the Pavilion was stunning and one of our favourites so far. We still had a fun night of dancing, mingling, drinking, laughing and making new friends through the dress.


I may not have been the most famous person there last night, but my dress was certainly voted the most popular dress of the night. Photographs do not do it justice, you can ask anyone that was there, everyone loved it. For one night, I really was in a ‘fairytale’ thanks to Patricia Gomez Gracia!




Social Commentary

Sorry, I can’t meet up, I’m Suffering From Busyness-itis


The other day, I was sitting at Egg Break catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while when I answered the question ‘how are you?’ with the dreaded words, ‘I am soo busy,’ that vague, annoying, I’m-so-important, type of answer. Not really believing me, she asked me to go through my week, event by event. (I am guilty of overusing those words when I can’t formulate an interesting enough answer to that question in a concise manner). So, I went through my week, play by play, when she said, ‘Oh. Ok. Maybe you are busy.’

Most people look at me like I am humble-bragging when I use those words, I mean I’m just a jobless, stay at home mum with kids in school, but the truth is, it’s really how I feel. Like my life is slipping away out of my control and I go through the motions just to keep up. It’s this time of year, when schools, parents and PTAs go on overdrive and schedule 1 million things for your child/you to do and I have lots of loose ends to finish before summer starts. My children go to two different schools (let’s call them school A and School B), and I usually try to attend most of the events.

I am a ‘YES’ person, who feels obliged to say ‘yes’ whenever someone invites me, because I get really annoyed (as you know), when people come up with ‘veiled bullshit excuses.’ So I say yes. Yes to the parents’ dinner of school A, parents’ drinks of school B, mum’s dinner school A, mum’s lunch school B, mums coffee morning school A, class drinks school B, school drinks of schools A+B, sports day schools A+B, Parent-teacher conference school A+B, readings/assembly/open days/summer parties/birthday parties (oh the last minute cramming-of-birthday-parties-before-summer is an epidemic) etc… etc… etc… And now I know I have completely exhausted you by just reading this.

I haven’t even begun talking about time spent writing the blog/organising Summer 16 Winter 17 holidays/organising playdates and doctor’s appointments/window cleaning/fixing leaks/paying overdue electricity bills (Yes, I am different to the superrich). Everyone always asks me how much time I spend on the blog each week. The answer is a few hours twice or three times a week. I need time to think about the content, write the content, meet future collaborators and think of how we can work together. That last part I really love because I get to meet so many interesting entrepreneurs with a vision, which is one of the main reasons I keep on writing. I don’t make money out of this blog, but it takes up a bloody lot of my time.

Well, that is my constant state of being these days: exhausted. These are not ‘crucial’ life or death events that I need to attend, they are events that are made up by parents and people who try to make our lives more interesting/fun/social, and I respect that. Perhaps, I should learn to say ‘NO.’ (I look at those women who tell me they aren’t going to XYZ school event because they ‘can’t be bothered’ in complete awe. Wow, if I could only do that…) But that’s just not me, and I, for the most part, end up dutifully going to all the events but sometimes (many times) I would rather stay in bed because not only can I not bear to look at my same-old-clothes closet one more time to look for an appropriate outfit, it’s really because I can’t get out of bed from pure small-talk-exhaustion.

The point is that when I tell you I can’t schedule you in until next September (which I have been known to do), it’s not because I am so important, or that I am so popular, or that I-have-so-much-to-do-you’ll-get-FOMO, on the contrary, it’s because I am a YES person, and I always think about the effort people have put into organising school parties or events, and that if it were me, I would want a lot of YES people in my crowd. Is it the schools’ and parents’ fault for over-organising or my fault for saying yes to everyone? I’m not sure. But if you hear me say ‘I’m so busy,’ just know that I am not trying to humblebrag. Most likely, I’ll be sitting in Bramley’s for yet another soft play birthday party thinking that I’d rather be having a coffee with you.




Social Commentary

Brexit: 10 Reasons to Stay


Brexit is on everyone’s mind, from all the newspaper outlets, to economists and bloggers. To the point that even the yummy mummies have gone from talking about children/exercise/holidays to Brexit at their coffee mornings. So I thought I would give my two (10) cents about it:

10 Reasons to Stay:

  1. The Economy: We’ve just clawed our way out of a recession, and with the impending Brexit, the pound is down, the FTSE is down and the OECD predicts world economic gloom if Brexit happens. Is this really what we want post-crisis?! Even the Brexiters admit it. It is evident that we will be worse off after Brexit.
  2. Jobs: It’s not just the banks who are preparing to relocate 1000s of their staff to Frankfurt or elsewhere, other jobs will be lost along the way, which of course will affect point #1. There are 3 Million EU nationals working in the UK, many of them the top talents attracted to London for its opportunities. They’re not here for the weather are they?
  3. Housing market: The housing market is already in a precarious situation and is doomed to fall if Brexit happens. Already, we’ve been feeling the strain on the housing market with increased stamp duty and other George Osbourne obstacles. Isn’t that enough?
  4. Immigration: London is the most cosmopolitan, international city in the world. It embraces people from all the world and integrates them better than any other city, which is why there are so many expats here (uhm, France/Germany/Italy/US are not known to be the best integrators there are). And can you imagine what it would do to the visa process? Have you ever waited for your nanny/housekeeper’s visa to come through? The UK just wouldn’t be able to cope.
  5. Food: Twenty five years ago, I came to London, and all I remember was a drab, grey city with terrible food. But since then, French, Italian, Spanish and even German food has invaded ‘our’ city (I now do believe that London is ‘my’ city). This is a great thing. The restaurants in London have become so good, we don’t need to fly over to the continent for proper food. All the Europeans in the food industry will suffer. We don’t want London to go back to pre-historic, dark un-foodie ages.
  6. Travel: The open borders mean that travel between the UK and the continent is easy: we all hop on a plane (Easyjet) to fly to Greece/Sardinia/Ibiza/South of France. Being in the UK means that this is easy, fluid and open. Are we really going to need a visa to go to Space?
  7. Tech: If East London wants to contend with Silicon Valley, the UK needs to let the doors open to all the techie-talent coming from Europe. The Google Campus attracts all of these young, talented techies from all over Europe who come to London for its opportunities. Let’s not close down any of these opportunities.
  8. Education: 4 university leaders agree: they are voting to stay. Nobel Laureates also agree. They cite research, staff and funding all as reasons. Surely the most brilliant minds realise the benefits of staying, why can’t all of us?
  9. Research & Science: Brexiters are overlooking the fact that Britain would lose funding for vital research in the science and medical fields. Paediatric research is hugely funded by the EU. Go ask Great Ormond Street. Or other British universities. This threatens the UK as one of the top research nations in the world.
  10.  The Capital of the World: I consider London to be the Capital of the World: it is international, dynamic, you can easily travel to the 4 corners of the world from it, and it is tolerant. Closing down its barriers will make it a worse place. I am biased, but I hope you’ll join me to stay in the EU.




Social Commentary

Playdate Rage


The other day, I was taken over by what you could call ‘Playdate Rage.’

Firstly, I’d like to be clear that I do not enjoy organising playdates, with its 15 email trails/Whatsapp frenzy/ texting/organising/re-organising/re-scheduling because of sickness/family in town/unforeseen circumstances. As a matter of fact, in my ideal world, there would not be any playdates, we would just come home after school or go to the local park/playground and play with whoever is there. Even better, I grew up coming home and playing on the beach (yes, I know, what am I doing here in London!? 😉 ). So the whole ‘playdate’ thing is foreign to me. But, my children love playdates and they hear about their classmates’ playdates so I organise them for their happiness. And I do actually enjoy the actual playdates, it’s the organisational aspect that can get quite tedious.

One of my greatest pet peeves are cancellations at the last minute accompanied by silly excuses. It shows a lack of thought, respect and manners. So, when one of the mums cancelled my child’s playdate 2 hours before the playdate, I was sent into a ‘playdate rage.’ Let me elaborate: 1) my daughter had been begging for this playdate for months 2) this was the second time they cancelled at the last minute 3) the mother couldn’t be bothered calling me, it was the nanny who called with a veiled bullshit excuse. Not the day before, which could be acceptable, but two hours before so I couldn’t quickly organise a replacement playdate. The problem I now faced was a crying/tantruming toddler who didn’t understand why this child never wanted to do a playdate with her.

Playdate etiquette is that there is no etiquette and sometimes it’s a free for all, when some people forget their manners, respect and decency. Luckily, most people aren’t like this, but this model-gorgeous/celebrity/superrich mum has forgotten those somewhere along the way. I would like to tell her that ‘Yes, I know you may be too-busy-being-papped/have-a-complicated-glamorous-life/only-like-other-superrich, but frankly I don’t care, I care about my child and I’d like a bit more respect.’ But of course, this would be completely socially unacceptable and would send me straight into pariah territory. 12 hours later, I was over it, but it reminded me of all the stories I have heard over the years of ‘playdate rage’ (Just to be clear, not all Glamorous Supermums are like this, many are absolutely lovely, courteous, polite and actually speak to me).

Someone was telling me about a mum who invited her daughter’s 6 best friends to Eurodisney for the weekend. The whole weekend would be paid for, which was quite expensive, and it was planned months in advance. But towards the big weekend, the two girls didn’t seem as close as before, so the mum actually dis-invited the child (and probably invited someone else instead), who of course was absolutely devastated. It’s the type of rudeness I cannot tolerate.

Another friend had organised a playdate for her son and another boy in the class at the boy’s house. It turns out the other boy’s mother had invited another mother and son as well but hadn’t invited her, saying ‘just send the nanny.’ The nanny went along while the two other mums caught up, excluding my friend.

And then there are those who just don’t show up. Period. No excuses. No forewarning emails.

I know it’s not always straightforward and we all cancel or exclude by mistake sometimes. But there’s a proper way and an improper way of handling playdates. At the end of the day, all we want is for our children to be happy and it doesn’t matter who is at the other end of the playdate-organisation-phone. I also hope that I am teaching my children to be kind, thoughtful and considerate. So, in the long term, maybe it’s all for the better.

Let me know your worst playdate stories!






Reviews, Social Commentary

What’s New In Notting Hill…

One of the great things about London is that it is vibrant and dynamic; there are constantly new restaurants opening and closing, new business ideas cropping up everywhere I look, trends coming and going. And it has a great art scene, which as you know, I am a big fan of. So, when someone I know recently said that Notting Hill wasn’t ‘dynamic’ enough, I of course took offence and had to counter that argument. At the moment, Notting Hill is booming. It is showcasing some of the biggest trends in London at the moment:


Restaurants & Bars 

There’s a lot happening in the restaurant and bar scene around here, most recently with the opening of Farmacy on Westbourne Grove this past Monday. Farmacy is a plant based restaurant and bar, so essentially a vegan restaurant, opened by Camilla Al Fayed. I went opening day and it was packed, service was spotty (it was their first service after all), but the food was good. For vegan food. My only problem with it was that as I was eating my aubergine and pumpkin curry, I kept looking for the chicken. It is a beautiful, light, airy space, that it is going to be a sure hit around here: Nice restaurant + rabbit food= Happy Yummy Mummies.


On the heels of the Rum Kitchen’s success, a new Caribbean restaurant and bar is opening up on Notting Hill Gate today, Cotton’s Restaurant & Bar, which will boast 300 different rums on offer. I have been invited to try it out so will give you the scoop in a few weeks.

This leads me to think that Notting Hill Gate is upping its game, with Polpo, Cottons’s, and the total refurb of Itsu. Itsu’s new look is also being unveiled today (April 29th), and I will let you know what I think soon enough!

Speaking of Japanese, mysushishop is coming to Westbourne Grove very soon. For those who don’t know it, it’s a French-fast-food-fancy sushi (try saying that four times in a row). Or at least it claims to be. Its reviews are mixed here in London, although it has been a hit in France. Let’s see what happens.

On the Portobello/Kensington Park Road side of things, Tonkotsu has opened on Blenheim Crescent where the Bubble Tea Bar used to be and I’m keen try it out. Next to it a sweets shop, Ask Mummy and Daddy, has opened in place of the popcorn shop. Across from it, Sweet Things Cafe has been imported from the Primrose Hill and it is absolutely lovely.

Around the corner on Kensington Park Road, Peyotito, a Mexican restaurant and little sister to Peyote has taken over the space of Montgomery Bar, which I was quite sad to see go, as it was one of the only bars in the neighbourhood. Notting Hill is now becoming Mexican heaven with Crazy Homies, Santos, Taqueria, and let’s not forget Loco Mexicano.


Beauty & Wellness

Lots going on in this sector as well, with the brand spanking new Bodyism opening up right smack in the middle of Daylesford and Joseph. So, what you do is 1) eat your grains at Daylesford 2) work out at Bodyism 3) go to Joseph in your newly found Size 0. Of course, I don’t have £18,000 to spare for a membership, but if you do, I hear it’s a wonderful ‘lifestyle.’

Like I already mentioned, Teresa Tarmey has recently opened a spa/salon around the corner from Cult Granger (I still don’t understand the wait-in-the-rain-for-2-hours-granger-cult, it’s good, but it’s not THAT good). Margaret Dabbs has taken over the Spa NK spa area (not sure what happened and why it closed down), but it offers great medical pedicures for anyone whose feet need some professional help; they are podiatrists who can sort out your wonky feet in a jiffy.

Real Estate Etc…

On the Bayswater side of Westbourne Grove, so much is happening on the real estate front; four new ‘luxury’ residential buildings have been built/are being built, which is slowly changing the face of Bayswater. One houses the West London Buddhist Centre and another houses Heal’s on Queensway. I don’t think you can get more of an indication of gentrification than that. Can’t wait to see what they will do on Queensway…

So, if this isn’t ‘dynamic’ enough, I don’t know what is.

Let me know your thoughts or if you want any of the above reviews, I am happy to try them out for you 😉




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.





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.




Social Commentary

London: Love it or Leave It

Notting Hill Photo 2016 NHYM

I was reading the BA High Life Magazine on my British Airways flight over the Christmas holidays and noted that London has become the number 1 Global Powerhouse City in the Global City Index 2016 based on the findings from the Jones Lang Lasalle Cities Research Center flagship publication, Globalisation and Competition: The New World of Cities. It is interesting to note that in this Index, London has overtaken New York to the top spot. There has always been a New York vs. London competition, but it has become much fiercer in recent years, with New York previously being the clear leader in the 90s. So where does that leave us? Here is the list of cities it ranked:

‘The global powerhouses*

1.London Great Britain
‘In a neck-and-neck race with New York, London’s muscle as a financial centre, property market honeypot, education hub and cultural trendsetter just give it the edge as the ultimate global powerhouse.’

2. New York USA
‘With one of the world’s strongest city brands, New York has the highest city GDP per capita anywhere on the planet. Shaping the world from fashion to finance, New York’s dynamism creates an unbreakable centrifugal force that’s both economic and cultural.’

3. Tokyo Japan
‘Currently booming as a destination for Asian tourists, Japan’s capital has the largest city economy in the world. With a low crime rate and excellent transport boosting its ranking, efficient, well-managed Tokyo is also the world’s safest megacity.’

4. Paris France
‘The world’s most beautiful metropolis remains the most cosmopolitan of continental capitals. Paris dominates France’s economy, while its leading universities help attract a higher proportion of graduate migrants than any other world city.’

5. Hong Kong SAR China
‘Its journey from factory town to global financial pivot, travel gateway and trendsetter has been complete for some time now. Hong Kong’s density also makes it super-efficient, with shorter commutes than in any of the other global powerhouses.’

6. Singapore Republic of Singapore
‘Widely considered the most liveable city in the Big Six, business-friendly Singapore also leads the group for the quality of its transport, communication and energy infrastructure. The city’s initially slow growth as a cultural centre is speeding up.’

*For more city rankings and further information, read on:


‘Is It Really Worth It?’

I am fascinated by London and used to be one of its biggest advocates, lobbyists and promoters. ‘It’s a beautiful, liveable city with green parks and gardens, top restaurants, diverse cultural activities, full of vibrancy, interesting and inspiring people, and an international community like no other,’ used to be my daily mantra. But lately, that enthusiasm has slowly wavered and waned alongside the frantic pace of £20,000 birthday parties, our over scheduled activities/playdates/birthday parties, its competitive educational system and its parents, the FOMO, and actually seeing what life would be like living somewhere else i.e.: in the sun, with my sangria at hand, right before a siesta. So, is it really worth it?

We all have one of those friends that has been living in London for decades and has been threatening to leave it ever since he/she arrived. But just last September, one of those friends actually took the plunge and did it: He uprooted his family and moved them to sunnier climes, swapping rain for siestas in the sun and the tube for sangrias by the water in the Balearics. He became the number one propagandist of ‘Let’s Leave London’ and one of his devotees asked me ‘Do you seriously think raising a child in London is better than raising one here where the sun shines everyday?’ she asked incredulously, eyes-wide-open, and jaw-dropping, after I declined the invitation to move to the Balearics. After I got over the fact that it was a slightly in-your-face rude statement, it did get me thinking about my current existence in London.

Of course, not everyone has the choice to leave London, but more and more people are heading out of the city for a better lifestyle. London, at its best, offers a cosmopolitan city with diverse cultural, financial and educational opportunities not found in many places in the world. At its worst, it is eye-poppingly expensive (£145,000 for two private school educations + full time nanny before taxes per year then top that off with holidays, food, mortgages and the pull of Net-a-Porter), it rains 106 days a year (just look out of the window today, that’s almost one out of every three days), and the global Superrich are slowly pushing away the middling-rich out of our neighbourhoods.

On top of that, my friends are heading an exodus out of London. First came the friend who left in September. In February, another one leaves, and one of my closest friends already has an exit plan for September 2017. They are leaving for lifestyle reasons, job reasons, or realising that for a 150 sqm flat in London you can get 350 sqm on the continent. Another acquaintance is just tired of London and its hectic pace ‘I can’t remember the last time I had a free weekend spending time with my husband and my children. It’s usually one activity or birthday after another.’ She has decided to move back to her home town for three months for a breather while her husband stays on and visits on the weekend. Other friends have been living ‘double lives,’ where a husband works during the week in one city, and comes back to London on the weekends. Eventually, that arrangement usually has to end. And hopefully not in divorce. Soon, I will be left with a flight to catch every weekend to see those exiled friends.

In my daydreams, I realise that we could easily quit London and retire in a beach hut on an island in the Gulf of Thailand. But while my love affair with London and its pastel, Grade II listed houses, restaurant offerings and private gardens is not over, it has certainly hit a bumpy spot. Just like any relationship. It’s about time I recapture my love for it, or move on.

What are your thoughts on London? Are you a Lover or a Leaver? What are your favourite parts of London? 





Social Commentary

New Year, New Collaboration with Scott Dunn, luxury travel operator


Happy New Year 2016!

I hope everyone had resting, relaxing and peaceful holidays! As we all know, London can be overwhelming, exhausting and purely draining.

It’s a new year and I am ready for new beginnings. I have decided to change the direction of the blog and direct it towards a more travel and lifestyle blog, meaning more travel and restaurant reviews. This year will be all about travel. My children have reached a state of development called the I-PAD-Ready stage: they are able to sit in front of an I-PAD for hours on end without whining/crying/tantruming, which equals happy-long-haul-travelling.

So, it is with great pleasure that I am collaborating with Scott Dunn, a luxury travel operator, to look after my travel ‘needs.’

The kids may be I-PAD-Ready, but once we have overcome the flight-challenge, I need to make sure they are entertained while I get some rest from the London-treadmill and this is where Scott Dunn comes in. They originally started as a chalet operator in 1986, but soon grew to become luxury travel agents, creating worldwide tailor-made holidays and most recently have started running their own kids clubs. They assure me that their kids clubs are like no others, ensuring professional staff with age-sensitive activities in five star locations: basically, something to please the whole family.

After they approached me last year, I perused their website and saw that many of the hotels on their website were child-friendly ones that I had already been recommended by friends including Soneva Kiri in Thailand, Verdura Resort in Sicily, Carlisle Bay in Antigua and Anassa in Cyprus.

So, we are both delighted to start our collaboration next month, when they have organised our February half-term family holiday. I am really thrilled to be working with them and cannot wait for our first trip together to NIYAMA in the Maldives!




Scott Dunn is organising my trip to the Maldives in February, giving us a special offer on the hotel rooms. 

Social Commentary

Write Your Own Eulogy…


Photo courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2015. 

As always, it has been a hectic and busy time of year with Christmas do’s and end of year events, which is why it has been radio silence from my end! London, as much as it is a beautiful and vibrant city, becomes a mad rush of adrenaline, lists and things-to-do-before-you-go-away-to: Mauritius/Gstaad/Lech/Maldives/Thailand/Courchevel/Cotswolds etc… www. www.

But the end of the year is also a time to reflect on the past year, and to reflect on your future. I was catching up with a very dear friend the other day, and he told me about a Leadership course he had been on, which gave him the task of writing his own eulogy. It sounds very psychobabbly and slightly morose and scary, but it turned out to be a very cathartic and useful exercise, which is why I wanted to share this with you.

The point of writing your own eulogy is to take stock of your life, where it is today and where you would like it to be. It is a very simple way of looking at your life and seeing what things are working and what things aren’t. It also forces you to make sure that you are heading it in the right direction. For example, Christmas and New Year’s is always a time to look at that bad relationship you are in (partners or friendships), and forcing it to end, because somewhere deep down you know it’s not working and to open up to new ones. (Look out for D-day coming up in 2016 ). It also forces you to take a different perspective and try to see how people perceive you and what you can do to change that perspective, if it isn’t one you like very much.

So, as we near 2016 and say goodbye to -in my mind- a difficult year, try to sit down and write your eulogy and see what comes out of it. There is always room for improvement. Already, it makes me want to be a better person to myself and to others.

Happy Christmas and Happy New Year 2016!!