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The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land is available to Pre-Order on Amazon!

 

You can now pre-order my book, The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land on Amazon!

Pre-Order On Amazon

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My Book Cover Revealed!

It is a strange thing to come up with a book cover, given that I am not the one who actually drew those pictures or designed that cover, yet it is the one thing that is supposed to sell my book. I did give the designers some ideas of what I thought the cover should look like, but they are the ones who came up with it.

The book, which is really like a baby to me, was conceived by me from the first word to the last (well, with some editorial help!), so when I received the book cover, it was hard to feel like it was mine. But I am now thrilled with it, and can’t wait to see the physical copy in a few weeks! The official publication date is June 20th 2017!

And here is the back cover blurb:

When Sophie Bennett moves from a quiet, sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London, she doesn’t know where she has landed: Venus or Mars. Her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms, the most exclusive nursery in London, where Sophie finds herself adrift in a sea of Alpha mums. These mothers are glamorous, gorgeous, competitive and super rich, especially Kelly, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep.

Struggling to fit in and feeling increasingly isolated, Sophie starts The Beta Mum, an anonymous blog describing her struggles with the Alpha mums. But when her blog goes viral, she risks ruining everything for herself and her daughter. How long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive one of her follower’s advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha mums?

You will soon be able to purchase The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land locally on June 20th from The Notting Hill Bookshop or you can get it straight to your door with the ever so reliable Amazon from June 20th!

You can also enter the Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win a free copy on May 10th. The Goodreads Giveaway will run from May 10th to June 10th.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha-Land by Isabella Davidson

The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha-Land

by Isabella Davidson

Giveaway ends June 10, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Let me know what you think!

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Press

NHYM in Harper’s Bazaar July 2015

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I was interviewed by Rachel Johnson for an article she wrote about the Highs and Lows of Notting Hill for Harper’s Bazaar, to promote her new book, ‘Fresh Hell.’

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Ok, so my interview ended up being more just a one-liner quote in the article, but hey, I am still pleased to have made it in Harper’s Bazaar!

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xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Social Commentary

‘What Postcode are You?’ London’s Poshest Postcodes…

I used to be what you could call a ‘Chelsea Girl’ about 10 years ago, with my SW3 postcode, Saturday lunches at the Chelsea Farmer’s Market and drinks at Eclipse on Walton Street. Then, I moved up ‘North of the Park’ where I swapped King’s Road for Westbourne Grove, Eclipse for the Westbourne Pub, and Saturday lunches at CFM for Daylesford lunches and went from ‘Chelsea Girl’ to ‘NHYM’. As a Chelsea girl I remember thinking that Notting Hill was a) not as pretty b) a bit grungy/scary c) a little ‘too cool for school,’ but I followed my other half and 10 years later, all the remnants of ‘Chelsea Girl’ are well behind me and with two kids in tow, I have fully embraced the Notting Hill ‘cool.’

I recently wrote a short piece about London’s most expensive postcodes and the bankers who want to live there. http://news.efinancialcareers.com/uk-en/205575/6-london-postcodes-that-show-youve-made-it-in-banking-and-the-bankers-who-live-there/. It got me thinking about London postcodes and how we identify with them. So what does your postcode say about you?

Zoopla’s Rich List of the most expensive postcodes: http://www.zoopla.co.uk/property/richlist/uk/england/

Highest value areas
Area Zed-Index
1 W8 (Kensington) £2,707,386
2 SW7 (Knightsbridge) £2,493,204
3 SW3 (Chelsea) £2,324,889
4 SW10 (West Brompton) £1,857,677
5 W11 (Notting Hill)

Here is my guide to London’s Most Expensive & Poshest Postcodes:

18-Hyde Park

1. SW1X: Knightsbridge

Your neighbours: Sheiks & Oligarchs

Your Style Icon: Queen Rania of Jordan

Knightsbridge is Blingland. It is home to One Knightsbridge, one of the world’s priciest residences where Sultans, Sheiks and Oligarchs love to mingle with their own kind. For them, the postcode and address are clearly more important than cost per sqm. Their motto is ‘the more expensive, the better.’ Of course with Harvey Nics and Harrods at their doorstep, shopping is a vital past time for the SW1X residents. They love labels, flashy cars, yachts and PJs. Competition is rife amongst the SuperRich, and Knightsbridge is the perfect place for them to show off their latest bling.

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2. W8: Kensington

Your neighbours: Kate Middleton & Tamara Ecclestone

Your Style Icon: Kate Middleton

With Kensington Palace and Kensington Palace Gardens, W8 has won the trophy for the most expensive postcode in the UK. It is easy to see why the SuperRich drop £75 Million for a house on Billionaires Row, aka Kensington Palace Gardens, with Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens as their backyard. Then just a few streets away, Phillimore Gardens houses will keep you drooling, which is the best place for Halloween Trick or Treating, with a competition for the best, excessively decorated house on the street. Kensington divides the Chelsea set and the Notting Hill set who are constantly competing for ‘best postcode.’ Ideally located with Holland Park to the West, Hyde Park to the East, South Kensington to the South and Notting Hill to the North, no wonder it is considered the Billionaires Postcode.

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3. SW3: Chelsea 

Your neighbours: Charles Saatchi, Roman Abramovic, and Hugh Grant

Your Style Icon: Amal Alamuddin (Amal Alamuddin may appear straight out of Chelsea, but she is in fact a Notting Hill Girl). 

Chelsea used to be for Sloaney Poneys and the Posh British set, but times have changed. Even the ‘Made in Chelsea’ cast can’t afford to live in Chelsea anymore. Hugh Grant remains one of the last Chelsea Toffs that can be seen toffing around in Chelsea at Brinkley’s on Hollywood Road, right around the corner from his house (unless he moved since my last sighting). Nowadays, it is rich American Private Equity and Hedge Fund kings who sweep up many of the Chelsea Square mansions. The Chelsea set tend to be immaculately dressed and coiffed with head to toe Chanel or Ralph Lauren, thanks to the Chanel store on Brompton Cross or Ralph Lauren on Fulham Road. They do tend to think that ‘it’s Chelsea or nothing’. Chelsea is beautiful, immaculate and manicured, home to the Boltons, some of the most expensive London real estate. But let’s be real, Chelsea is like that really, really good looking guy, who knows it.

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4. SW7: South Kensington

Your Neighbours: Italian and French Aristocrats

Your Style Icon: Marion Cotillard, Clemence Poesy

South Kensington used to be ‘the’ place for all the Italian and French to decamp to from Paris, Rome or Milan, helping to make London France’s 6th biggest city with 400,000 French inhabitants. The French of course love it so much that it has the French consulate and the Lycée Francais within 2 blocks of each other. There is even a French street, Bute Street, with a French bookshop and delis filled with Lycée boys and girls. For the French who want a piece of France in London, South Kensington is the ideal place. Their Mediterranean neighbours, the Italians, equally love South Kensington, paying homage to it with the 2001 film with the same name, South Kensington. The Italian aristocrats can’t get enough of South Kensington, and you may just find yourself on one of their 42 m sailing yachts off the coast of Capri if you’re lucky enough.

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5. W11: Notting Hill 

Your Neighbours: Stella McCartney, Richard Curtis, Writers, Musicians and Fashionistas 

Your Style Icon: Stella McCartney and Kate Moss

It used to be that Notting Hill was the edgy, cool, hip Postcode, but with the 1999 Notting Hill movie and the Bankers and Funders entering the neighbourhood, Notting Hill has gentrified and become the home of the NHYMs and those artists that have ‘made it’. Some of the Modelistas, such as Elle McPherson and Claudia Schiffer have left, but the newer and younger ones like Arizona Muse have moved in, and Stella still remains. It is also popular with many musicians like Blur and Coldplay musicians and Adele reportedly bought her first house here in NH. Notting Hillers like to think themselves as cooler and hipper than their Chelsea counterparts, but the reality is that they both drive their Black Range Rovers, carry a Bottega Veneta handbag and shop at Net-a-Porter but with a rock chick look like Kate Moss. W11 though still prides itself of its multi-coloured homes and magnificent Private Gardens like Ladbroke Square that most can only dream of.

So what your thoughts on your Postcode?!

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

 

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Social Commentary

‘T.L.C.: Tinder-Loving-Care…’

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I was having dinner with a friend of mine, let’s call him Karl, at the Arts Club a few weeks ago when we came upon the subject of Tinder. You see, Karl is circling his 40s and is one of those eternally single guys who dated models in his 20s, a TV celebrity in his 30s – which was serious until it wasn’t – and is now pure and simple ‘single.’ We all have one of those friends, don’t we? Edging his 40s and still unable to settle down, roaming the streets of London entertaining his married friends with his Tinderadventures.

Tinder is a slight obsession of mine, since I am 10 years too late for this cyber-phenomenon (remember the days of Speed dating and Match.com? I even missed those days) and I have often wondered what Tinder-dating is actually like. Would I have been a Tinder-dater if I had been single during Tinder-Time? Would I have been mostly swiping Right or swiping Left? Is it just an instant hook up or relationship worthy material? Who are all these Tinderers? It is actually fascinating, considering Tinder started only just over 3 years ago.

So, Karl gave us a Tinder Tutorial and explained how it all worked for us Middle Aged Tinder Virgins. He showed us the profiles of some girls he had swiped Right for: there was everything between a 5 and a 10. Karl didn’t seem to know the difference between a 5 and a 10, I thought to myself. One woman had for a profile picture, a picture of her enormous double DD cleavage. Classy, I say. He laughs. Perhaps this was why he is still single, I tell him. Sometimes, for the fun of it, he swipes right 10 times in a row just to see what would happen, he explains.

He had also been ‘around the world in Tinder’ he tells me, using it even when he was in New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo on business. (Apparently Tinder New York is more about instant sex, whereas Tinder London has more ‘looking for a relationship’ members). This is truly a global app, I think to myself. The ‘Uber’ of dating. He even went places where he had no more swipes to do! He actually came to the end of Tinder, who knew you could actually get to the end of Tinder?

I ask him if Tinder actually works and he tells me that apart from one Tinder-relationship he had for two months, it is soul-destroying. He was having 15 simultaneous conversations with 15 different girls but was not planning on actually meeting any of them. He just wasn’t interested in any of them but wanted to stay ‘connected’ so that he had someone to talk to when he was lonely or bored, without having an actual, IRL, demanding relationship.

Another friend of mine also on Tinder told me about one Tinder relationship she had with a guy she had met once but he then never made an attempt to meet again but would send her photos of where he was traveling and send random texts to see how she was doing. I wondered what kind of need this was fulfilling in these people’s psyches, if it wasn’t even about sex.

I began to wonder what the point of Tinder was until my husband came home and told me about the actual magic of Tinder: his recently divorced friend came raving to him one night about the merits of Tinder. He had just gotten divorced and was needing some ‘loving’ from someone, anyone, to lift him out of the deep self-esteem-hole he had gotten PD (post-divorce). Enter Tinder-Loving-Care, when two swipes make a right, and rebound sex/attention is on tap. For a divorced, middle-aged father of 2, with a social life solely based on happily married couples from ‘couple dinners’ with his wife’s friends, Tinder was a godsend. Instant TLC at the swipe of a screen, nothing like it for morale and self-esteem boosting.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Social Commentary

The Pushy Mummy Brigade: Only the Best Schools Will Do. Even at 4 years old.

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Photo courtesy of the internet

In West London, where the motto of the pushy mummy brigade is ‘’Good is not Good enough, only Excellence will do,’ the quest for the perfect education is taken to extremes where only the fittest will survive. For many mothers, the choice of school at 4 years old is thought to determine the entire future of their children’s education, therefore is taken with the utmost seriousness and competitiveness. Friendships and pleasantries are put aside as mums compete for coveted spots at what are considered the ‘top schools’ in London. This causes an intense and fierce competition to gain entry into these schools that leaves some mums defeated by the system or anguished if their child still hasn’t been offered a ‘spot.’ There is now a collective social anxiety created by these mums, bordering on hysteria, which leads to all mothers feeling the pressure of getting their children in the right schools.

For the not-so-pushy-mothers, the question is do you join the ranks of the pushy mummy in order for your child to keep up with them, or do you stand up against the ideals of the Tiger Mother, which can rob childhoods away from children in order to push them in the ‘perfect school’ trajectory? But then how would you feel if your child was left behind as their children enter top schools and yours do not? Is this purely an obsession for anxiety filled mothers or is there any merit to this ultra competitiveness? When does it become more about the parents rather than the child and are we are really doing what is best for our children or are we missing out on what is really important? As a West London mother at the beginning of the school trajectory, I ask myself all of these questions and wonder what kind of parenting model I will subscribe to.

I was recently having dinner with a friend of mine, Sophie*, who was overly distressed because she hadn’t gotten her 3 year old son in what is considered the best pre-prep boys school in London, the infamous Wetherby School. Despite her husband hand delivering 6 applications at birth, he had only gotten into what is considered a ‘second tier’ school in the world of private, independent schools of West London. She had decided early on not to ‘play the game,’ which in West London parlance is being a pushy mum by pestering the registrar with phone calls, writing monthly letters and pulling in connections to call in a good word until you get a ‘spot.’.

It was as if she was describing that her son had only gotten into a ‘lesser’ Ivy League University, the equivalent of getting into Brown University instead of Harvard University which made me think: 1) but this is only pre-prep, he’s only 3 years old for god’s sake 2) all the private schools are very, very good, just be glad he’s gotten in somewhere 3) but finally concluded that she had been carried away by the social pressure that ‘only the best will do.’

I asked why the ‘second tier’ school wasn’t good enough, to which she responded ‘they hand out flyers, it can’t be that good if they are passing out flyers in the street’ and therefore could not be good enough for her son. I tried to re-assure her that his school was still a great school but even though she thought rationally that it was a good school, it was not the ‘best’ and wasn’t accepting the rejection very well. Like Groucho Marx once said, ‘I don’t ever want to belong to a club that I can get into.’

She finally admitted that the social pressure to get into the ‘right’ school had gotten to her and she was seemingly unable to be satisfied with the lesser school. She felt that this was a reflection of her as a mother: ‘I can’t even get him into the best school.’ I could see the little she-devil on her shoulder murmuring down at her as she opened the rejection letter. She had believed that she didn’t need to be a pushy mother to get her son into the ‘right’ school yet was devastated that she hadn’t gotten him in either. Instead of playing the game, she felt that she was the one who had been played, and was disturbed by how much she cared.

Not only that, but she hadn’t even been placed on the wait list, but received a flat rejection letter, while she saw other children born after son being put on the wait list for the small chance that they would get a spot. She described the headmistress of her nursery consoling her on not getting into Wetherby by telling her ‘Don’t worry, it’s for the best, you’re not really a ‘Wetherby Mum’ which could be interpreted in any number of ways but most likely meaning competitive, pushy, alpha mums that will do whatever it takes to get their precious son into the school. Still, there is some reverse snobbery in that comment that makes it all so uncomfortable for everyone involved.

Wetherby was first made world-famous by Princess Di dropping off little Prince William and Prince Harry at the doorsteps of this West London boys pre-prep school. Later, Claudia Schiffer, Elle McPherson and Stella McCartney all chose this school to educate their offspring, creating even more hype around this school and more recently the Beckhams. Even Britain’s favourite posh export, Hugh Grant, is an alumnus. Wetherby is generally considered the ‘gold standard’ where all mums would happily send their children and its new Prep school received the Best Prep School Award from Tatler’s School Guide a few years ago. As one mum says, ‘if you get offered a spot at Wetherby, you don’t think, you just take it.’

All mothers hope and want their children to be successful and since education is seen as one of the best predictors of success, it has turned us into a school-obsessed nation. West London mums take this obsession to another level, schooling being a constant subject of conversation, and when one meets another London mum, ‘How are you?’ could almost be replaced by ‘Where is he/she going to school?’ These West London mums are always a few steps ahead and have worked out the perfect educational trajectory for their children from birth to the end educational goal of Oxbridge or the Ivys for the Americans, which often rightfully, does predict a certain level of success. Take Hugh Grant as an example, he followed the trajectory of Wetherby, Upper Latymer and Oxford, which was an educational and financial success.

In this part of the world, there are only a few roads that lead to Oxbridge; Westminster School (52% go to Oxbridge) and St. Paul’s Boys school (60 Oxbridge offers last year) for the boys, and St. Paul’s Girls School (33% go to Oxbridge) and Wycombe Abbey (32% go to Oxbridge) for the girls. If you work it out backwards, for the boys school, Colet Court is the feeder school to St. Paul’s and Westminster Under is the feeder school to Westminster, and before that, Wetherby Pre-Prep is a great feeder school to both Colet Court and Westminster Under. For girls, Bute House is often quoted as the ‘golden ticket’ since one third of its pupils get places at St. Paul’s Girls School. Other prestigious 4yo+ girls schools include Pembridge Hall, Glendower, Falkner House and Kensington Prep, which are feeder schools for the top girls schools.

West London is an area that attracts overachieving, A type, competitive parents who procreate what they hope to be A-type, over-achieving offspring. This demographic is not your typical parent population, and to even have a chance of attending these schools, the game must be played. But these players are cutthroat, willing to do whatever it takes to win and their persistence is likely to be greater than yours. Like Gore Vidal once said, ‘It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.’ There are clusters of these ‘top tier’ 4 + entry schools in London that these mums have an eye on, with a strong concentration of them in Notting Hill and South Kensington, which include schools mentioned above and others like Notting Hill Prep, Chepstow House, Norland Place and Thomas’. Most of the Notting Hill schools operate on a first come first serve basis, whereas many South Kensington schools also have an assessment at 3 years old, which are even more competitive.

To get into these 4+ entry schools, there are sets of rules that one must learn and adhere to early on, to ‘play the game.’ The rules are taught either by a school consultant for foreigners or by a friend with older children who have already passed this rite of passage. One mother I met in a pregnancy class boasted that she had paid a school consultant £500 just to tell her which schools were ‘appropriate’ schools and which would fit her and her family. Another mother called me in a panic when her daughter was 9 months old because she had ‘slacked off’ and still hadn’t gotten her daughter into a school, asking for advice, from what to do, to what wear and what questions to ask on the school tour. I told her to relax, look presentable and follow the rules.

For first-come-first-serve schools such as Wetherby and Pembridge Hall, applications must be dropped off the day of the child’s birth for the best chances of getting in, which with luck, may happen. Only two children per month are offered a place and two more are put on the waiting list. If that isn’t enough, letters must be written on a monthly basis, extolling the school’s virtues and calls must be made convincing the registrar of your utmost desire to get into this school. Meetings with the headmaster/headmistress consist of telling them that their school is the only school for their child and a few names of friends whose children are attending said school are dropped casually. Friends can call on your behalf. If all else fails, cakes, cookies and cards can be sent in on a monthly basis to assist the odds of climbing the waiting list. Some schools apparently write down each every contact made by the parent to express their interest in the school. Persistence pays off.

I was lucky enough to have been prepped by a few mothers before I gave birth to my first child and chose a school based on 3 criteria: its 5 minute proximity to our house, its adorable school uniforms that really made me melt and thirdly all of my friends in the neighbourhood were all sending their children to this school. These criteria were not based on any kind of research, spreadsheets or enlightened thought, but at 8 months pregnant with more hormones than sense, these seemed as good enough as any. I followed the strict protocol and guidelines and sent my husband 12 hours after my child’s birth, application in hand and flirtatious smiles on standby, to this school and one month later we were luckily offered a spot. I dread to think of the anxiety and anguish I would be faced with had I not undertaken these carefully planned and executed steps as prescribed by the ‘elder’ mothers.

My ‘dejected and rejected’ friend Sophie had also registered her son at birth, but didn’t follow through with the above rules when he didn’t receive an immediate spot, and therefore didn’t stand a chance. She described how she met a mum who immediately boasted that her son had gotten spots to 4 different schools including Wetherby. When Sophie explained that she had only gotten her son into a ‘safety school’ the mother said, ‘Don’t worry, spaces always open up. I still have my spots to all 4 schools.’ She had paid 4 different deposits to retain those places, but was already sure she would be sending him to Wetherby (of course). This would be costing her around £13,500 worth of deposits (4 x £3,500 of deposits), just to retain optionality if something were to go wrong (like what? the school moving to an undesirable post-code?).

Other mums I know have secured places in schools in Notting Hill for their girls, which are first-come-first-serve such as Notting Hill Prep, Chepstow House and Pembridge Hall, only to put their daughters through the assessments at schools in South Kensington like Glendower and Falkner House even though they live much further from these schools. These are considered some of the best girls schools but the assessments are extremely competitive and can be a large source of stress for girls and their parents, who spend hours ‘prepping’ them for the assessment but particularly for the ones who are rejected from the assessment schools or for those who have no backup options.

One of my friends Sarah* went through the excruciating assessment process for her daughter at Falkner House, and despite having attended the nursery attached to the school, failed to get into the school or any of the schools that did assessments. She described the day the offers came out; ‘within a few hours, everyone knew who had gotten in, who had been wait-listed and who had gotten rejected. It was catty and divisive. You didn’t know who had done what to get their child in. Parents pull out all the stops to get in, they wrote letters to the school, found ‘cheerleaders’ within the school to support their child. There were different levels of bribery, from baking cookies to offering holidays on their yachts or in their second home. Even siblings are not guaranteed a spot, and those siblings who do get spots are ‘monitored’ to ensure they keep the standards of the school.’

When her daughter still had no offers or wait-lists, she had to listen to other mothers self-obsessively tell her how difficult it was to choose between different school offers, not realising that she had none, causing unintentional hurt and more stress. Eventually, after 3 rejection letters, she finally received an offer from a non-selective school but for the remainder of the year, she still had to endure the questions of schooling and the implication that her daughter had not gotten into the ‘best’ girls school. She is now very happy with the current school her daughter attends but in retrospect calls it a ‘terrible process that I guess is needed for these over-subscribed schools.’ She tells me that if she had to do it over again, she would have avoided the whole process.

I am glad that I never succumbed to putting my daughters through the assessments at 3 years old. I wouldn’t have handled rejection very well or felt it fair for my daughter to be judged by an arbitrary assessment which likely means nothing about her future cognitive capabilities. Children grow at different speeds and one can only deduce so much from a 3 year olds communication and social skills. At some point, shouldn’t we let our children be children and leave the competition for later?

Speaking to an English mother who has been through the British system and is an Oxford alumnus, she is sending her child to a ‘first come first serve’ school. She says ‘not only because it is closer to where I live, but also because it has great results even though it is a non-selective school. Despite having children that may not have passed the assessment system, they are still achieving excellent results. You could extrapolate that the teaching there is particularly good, since the results of this school is equal or above some of the selective, assessment based entry schools.’

For those without school spots the year prior to entry, the anguish and anxiety of getting into a school becomes almost an obsession, where anything goes to get their children spots involving using school consultants, recurrent meetings with nursery headmistresses to help them get spots, and sending letters and calling schools at regular intervals to move up the waiting list. Not only are there acceptance letters and rejection letters, but there are waiting lists.

Waiting lists are bittersweet, since they give the impression of hope but without a guarantee. The only leverage of a waiting list is that a parent can climb up a waiting list by calls, cards, presents, donations and pleading whereas a flat rejection letter means that all hope is lost. A mother I know was determined to send her child to a certain school, having decided that it was the best school for her son, but despite having gone to the attached nursery, couldn’t get a guaranteed spot. After numerous calls to the school, she found out that her son was 95 down on the waiting list and at that point realised that they had to look at other options, but luckily she has a family connection to another school that she could use.

One of the headmistresses at a leading Notting Hill nursery recently explained that more and more people were moving to Notting Hill for the quality of schools and that they were more over-subscribed than ever. Ten years ago, she could get generally get places for her students into great 4+ entry schools, but not anymore. ‘It is more and more difficult to gain entry into these schools because of the sheer amount of children competing for the coveted spots. These schools used to cater to locals in Notting Hill, but now people are driving their children half way across London so that their child can attend one of these prestigious school or living in Queen’s Park, where they can buy a bigger house, but still sending their children to what are considered some of the top schools in London’.

School choice is also a delicate art in decision-making, which for some parents becomes a form of social snobbery and an indication of social status. School snobbery is based on where your child goes to school and the social assumptions that are made depending on the school. As mentioned, Wetherby is accepted as the best pre-prep boy’s school in London and therefore one of the best in the world some would argue, but still as I mentioned before, there is a social term for ‘Wetherby Mums.’ Every school falls victim to some kind of derision and criticism at some point or other.

One school is considered the ‘airy fairy school for the artsy types without homework or testing’, but ‘forget getting into a proper school after.’ Another fairly new school in a less desirable location was described by a mother ‘where the rejects from Pembridge and Wetherby go to.’

My daughters’ school is known for being ‘blingtastic’ with mothers thinking they are at a ‘fashion show’, and has at the same time been called too competitive by one parent and not competitive enough by another, described as a school ‘for girls who learn how to sew.’ Then there is blatant snobbery I have overheard about a school: ‘Have you seen the parents there? They are not my type of people.’ These are all excellent schools yet these parents can’t help but judge them. It is as if we are back in the playground, but without a headmaster to keep us in line.

It is difficult not to be affected by the general chatter and comments about where our children go to school because school choice is important. As mothers, we want the best for our children. We don’t want our children to be bullied, we want them to be happy, well adjusted but we also want to give them the best opportunities we can give them. Malcolm Gladwell showed in his book ‘Outliers,’ that middle class parenting which encourages extra tutors and extra-curricular activities produces more successful children than lower class parenting which didn’t. He also showed that educational opportunities do help with success, just as Bill Gates had exceptional opportunities in his high school driven by involved mothers. The reality is that certain schools open doors and opportunities, so it easy to buy into the ‘perfect educational trajectory’. https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/08/29/everything-you-need-to-know-about-your-childs-education-success-by-malcolm-gladwell/

And early education has been proven time and time again to have a strong impact on our children’s future, as evidenced by numerous research papers and renowned academics such as James Heckman, a Nobel Laureate Professor researching the advantages of quality early education on future success. But when we are dealing with private schools in the UK, shouldn’t we be satisfied with any of them, which generally provide world-class education for 4 years old? Isn’t all a bit ridiculous?

Pushy mums, alpha mums, and tiger mums, whose numbers are much higher than average in London, set a precedent. They set a standard of tutoring, sports activities, Kumon lessons and music, and it creates pressure to keep up with these standards. What makes it hard to ignore, is that these children will have an advantage when applying to schools and universities. Our children have to compete with these alpha children who have a tutored advantage over ours and as much as we’d like to think our children to be naturally brilliant, the fact is that practice makes perfect, and the hours of extra help does make a difference. So do we join them to create an equal battleground, or do we stay strong and believe in our children, yet face the reality that our children may not get into the ‘top’ schools? The son of one of my friends who didn’t get into a ‘top’ prep school after the 7+ exams because he wasn’t tutored was left wondering why all his friends got in and he didn’t, which undermined his confidence.

I am not sure whether to praise the pushy parents who are advocates for their children and their ‘go-getter’ attitude or question whether this is creating too much competition and feel sorry for their children who will bear the weight of their mother’s intensity. In one respect, they are opening doors and opportunities for their children, but at the same time forcing others to join in on the competition, fuelling mostly unnecessary anxiety while placing unrealistic pressure on their children to succeed.

Tanith Carey, an ex-tiger mother, details her evolution from pushy- mummy to more-relaxed-mummy in her book Taming the Tiger Parent: How to Put Your Child’s Wellbeing First in a Competitive World, giving advice on how to provide a more nurturing home for happier and healthier children. Having been a Tiger Mum and having failed at it, she truly believes are children are better off in a less competitive environment. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Taming-Tiger-Parent-Tanith-Carey-ebook/dp/B00M0T03TC

It is can be easy to lose sight of what is important for our individual child when we are influenced by this greater social consciousness and conversation. It would be easy to dismiss it, but as a parent, who wouldn’t want to send their child to the ‘best’ school possible and give them the ‘best’ opportunities possible? But sometimes we have to be reminded that being at the ‘best’ school may not always be the right decision for the individual child and that competition is not always positive for our children.

One wise mother I know once told me, ‘I would rather my son was the top of his class in a lesser school than the last in the most competitive school. His confidence will grow much more in an environment where he is among the best than in an environment where he is among the worst.’ The parents’ attitude towards success and failure is also an important contributor towards a child’s overall success. Most child psychologists stress that failure is just as important as success to build character and emotional resilience, therefore opportunities for learning and growing are just as important in times of success as they are in times of failure.

At no other time in our lives do we feel more judged than when we become mothers, whether we decide by choice or not by choice, to breastfeed or not, whether we are ‘too posh to push’, or where we decide to send our children. All of sudden, motherhood is an open door for all to comment on. It is difficult not to think that these decisions are reflections of you as a parent, because in some ways they are. Our children are being shaped and encouraged by all those around them, including schools and their peers. These are questions many mothers today face on a daily basis, from our microcosm of West London, to middle class England, but I believe that we ultimately have the same goal in mind when we stop listening to the chatter; happiness for our children.

Perhaps we should take a step back and take a deep breath, relax and realise that the most important thing is our children’s wellbeing. Perhaps we should just let them be children and let them play, jump in muddy puddles, let them run freely in a garden and climb trees and forget about the stringent activities of ballet/tennis/swimming/music/2nd language/football on top of reading/writing/maths tutoring. And then, we can start being kinder to each other and to our children, since motherhood is already hard enough as it is. All we can do is the best we can, and that should be good enough. And let’s face it, most of us are just winging it after all.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

Let me know your thoughts and comments on competitive mothering!

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Reviews

Review: Wormwood Restaurant

‘…there’s a new Wormwood/In our hood/Gotta try its so good/Chef Rabah Ourrad/He’s a chef-rapper/Who loves his Lobster. 

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Wormwood Restaurant

16 All Saints Road

London W11 1HH

0207 854 1808

http://www.wormwoodrestaurant.com

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(All Photos courtesy of the internet for this post)

Food: 4 stars

Atmosphere: 4 stars

Service: 4.25 stars

Value/money: 3.75 stars

Design: 4 stars

Overall: 4 stars

The Restaurant

The latest foodie addition to Notting Hill is Wormwood, a Mediterranean restaurant in what some people call the dodgier part of NH/W11. I have been meaning to try this restaurant for quite some time now, having read very good reviews, the most recent from Giles Coren last Saturday, who highly rated the food, less so the concept of ‘sharing plates.’ All Saints Road is having somewhat of a revival, from the Rum Kitchen to the Wormwood Restaurant, and is becoming the Hollywood Road of the North; a quiet road with an international restaurant across from a rowdy, rustic Italian. ‘Wormwood’ really is a tragic name for a restaurant though, didn’t the owners know that Wormwood Scrubs is a prison just a few miles away? Or is it purposefully a commentary about the dream of two Algerians who now co-own their restaurant, proving that the underdogs can come out on top? (Chef Rabah Ourrad has an interesting background of a young Algerian-in-Paris-rapper-turned-chef with stints at Momo’s, Sketch and the Ledbury. I would like to sit in his kitchen while he raps ‘Le Micro Brise Le Silence’ over his truffle emulsion).

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In any case, it is a light and airy restaurant with colours of green, blues and white patterns with some olive trees in its terrace to keep it, well, very Mediterranean. The crowd is quite grown up looking for an exciting change from ‘Michelin star’ type restaurants, which do get repetitive after a while (I must admit that my experience of Marianne’s of Masterchef fame down the road was disappointingly underwhelming, hence why I have not reviewed it). The concept here  is keeping high standards of cooking techniques in a more relaxed ‘sharing plates’ style, ‘elegant yet relaxed,’ as it likes to be described. There is a lovely back area, which can be privatised, and also acts as an art gallery.

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(Smoked Aubergine)

The Food

Sharing plates is the hot trend of the moment for restaurants, and Notting Hill is no exception; Polpo, the Shed and Mazi are just a few of the recent openings in the past few years. Mazi, a nouveau-Greek, showed how simple Greek food can be elevated to sophisticated food, using ingredients like Rice Paper for the Souvlaki instead of your regular old Gyro bread. It is international cuisine with a twist. Wormwood to me is the Morrocan version of Mazi, trying to create nouveau Moroccan inspired dishes. If you like Mazi, you should try Wormwood. The lobster couscous with lobster bisque is delicious, the beetroot salad cleanses the palate and allows space for the foie gras which is another distinctive dish. There is pork belly tagine, sea bass dishes, and lots of aubergine. The cauliflower truffle combo is becoming my new craving, which I also found here at Wormwood, almost as good as the cauliflower and truffle mousse from Nuno Mendes’ Chiltern Firehouse. At some point though, it felt as if my palate wanted just two or three ingredients per course, rather than 6 ingredients per plate, with 10 plates for four (Example: Scallops ceviche with redcurrant dressing, coriander cress, and homemade limoncello gel. That means 60 different ingredients in one sitting).

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(Lobster Couscous)

The menu offers inventive and unique dishes blending Morrocan, French, Spanish and Lebanese influences, and bringing unusual ingredients together. But it all rather works. The dishes are quite sophisticated in their presentations and have more ingredients than necessary (he just couldn’t resist showing off his jellies and mousses) that they turn out quite foodie but difficult to share. The service was excellent and we were impressed by our waitress’ poetic memory of all the dishes and ingredients per plate. It felt as if the rapper Chef wanted to prove his fine dining skills and creativeness while ‘keeping it real,’ which suits All Saints Road perfectly.

The Verdict: The older, more sophisticated brother of Mazi restaurant for those who are tired of Michelin-star restaurants formality. Great for a grown-up dinner with ‘couple-friends’ who don’t know each other very well. If there’s a break in the conversation, the food is always a conversation starter.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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(Homemade Cocktails)
Wormwood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Social Commentary, Top 10, Travel

Review: The Splendido Hotel, Portofino, Italy

Quote of the Day: ‘Why Don’t I Have Prices on my Menu?’

Splendido Hotel

Salita Baratta 16, 16034 Portofino, Italy

+ 390185267801

http://www.belmond.com/hotel-splendido-portofino/

SplendidoViewNHYM

(All Photos Courtesy of NHYM Copyright 2014.)

Overall: 4.75 stars

The restaurant: 4.5 (5 stars for the Truffle Tagliatelle, 4 for the rest).

The Room: 4.75 stars (5 stars for the Balcony of Room 101, 4.5 stars for the room)

The view: 5 Stars

The Service: 4.5 Stars

The people-watching: 4.75 stars

The ‘most expensive hotel in Europe’

Portofino

When I told my Italian friend that I was going to Portofino and staying at the Splendido for a few nights, he smiled broadly and replied; ‘Ah, the most expensive hotel in Europe!’ I cringed. This was the most expensive hotel room I was ever paying for out of my own pocket (doesn’t count when work/business/clients take you somewhere, like the time I was taken to the Byblos in St. Tropez with similar prices for a Suite). It makes the Maldives look like a good deal in comparison. One night here was equivalent to one month’s pay check at my first job after grad school. There was no way it was going to be worth it. I could probably build a whole village in Africa for this kind of money. But, it was decided, we were going to go to the Splendido for a once-in-a-lifetime experience to celebrate our wedding anniversary and make up for the honeymoon we never really had.

Splendid Splendido

SplendidSplendidoNHYM

The Splendido was originally a Benedictine monastery where ascetic monks gave up all worldly desires in the name of God, until it was bought by a rich Italian family who carved its future in becoming the home of the Dolce Vita, the sweet pleasures of life. It then became a world famous hotel that welcomed the biggest stars in Hollywood; Clark Gable, Charlton Heston, Liza Minelli, and other international stars like Alain Delon, Maggie Smith and Michael Caine, all who have black and white photographs hung in the corridors of the hotel. The hotel is surrounded by a gorgeous garden of rows and rows of agapanthus, rows of hydrangeas, lemon trees, 100 year old olive trees, palm trees, cacti, bougainvillaea, daisies, jasmine and all the other flowers you could think of. It is a small garden of Eden in Italy.

Inside, the hotel is decorated in a kitschy way that only Italians can pull off, with painted frescoes on the walls, my grandmother’s curtains hanging from the windows, and gold framed paintings of flowers on the walls. The hotel could use a lift, but in some ways, you are living a part of history past. The paintings and black and white photographs on the walls are all crookedly hung, but no one has fixed almost intentionally. The view is to-die-for. Watching the view for a few hours is as good as meditating for the day. It quietens the soul and instantly lifts you up. The view is of the bay in front of Portofino, inhabited by Superyachts changing daily, Invictus, Lady Joy, Elisa and Virginian (all of which can be rented for 250-500,000 Euros per week), fuelling my FOMO despite being in one of the nicest hotel I have dreamt about.

The Restaurant

TruffleTagliatelleSplendidoNHYM

After check-in, we went straight to the hotel restaurant, La Terrazza, on a beautiful terrace with a picture perfect view of Portofino. We crossed paths with a short 65 year old man, smiling from ear to ear, accompanied by a young girl, 35 years younger and 35 cm taller. I did a double take. They looked familiar. Had I seen the same couple at the One & Only in the Maldives just a few years ago? Probably not, but it certainly set the scene of the hotel’s clientele.

Our lunch at the Terrazza was one of the best lunches we’d had in a while. It was also probably because it was 3pm and we were starving – everything tastes better when you are starving. We ordered the truffle tagliatelle, which was worthy of 5 stars. Mr. C then had the sesame crusted seared tuna, which was perfectly seared and seasoned. Next to us, we could hear an older American couple whom had probably been saving their whole life for this trip talking to another American couple. The woman asked: ‘Why don’t I have prices on my menu?’ Amateurs. (For those who don’t know, women’s menus don’t have prices in the South of France or in Italy, it is the land of machismo after all.) Two tables down, I saw Arun Nayer (50 y.o.), Elizabeth Hurley’s ex husband, with his new younger girlfriend, the model Kim Johnson (29 y.o.). This was starting to be a recurring theme.

SunsetLaTerrazzaSplendidoNHYM

The dinner we had on a Saturday night was good, but by all means not spectacular. The service was slow but the view and the people watching was stupendous. An older, seasoned American couple next to us discussed their love of Business Class Flying; ‘I could never imagine flying to Europe any other way.’

The Characters

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Watching the clientele of the hotel was a theatrical show of its own, showcasing the world’s current financial and social structural hierarchy. Next to us at the pool were four Russians who wouldn’t stop talking, not the bling and brash ones seen at Les Caves in St. Tropez or Courchevel, just wealthy, upper middle class Russians. The Americans were the really loud ones, whose conversations seemed to be projected over loudspeakers and followed us everywhere. There were London Hedge Funders also in the mix, one of them that sold his fund for a cool £100 (million that is), with his original wife that needed some style tips. There were a slew of younger, more beautiful women (often Eastern European/Russians) with Gerard Depardieu look-alike boyfriends/husbands. The women were clearly with them NFHL (not for his looks) and more FHM (for his money). Although, I have to say that these couples looked happy, these women were being given lavish lifestyles and never lacked anything, whereas these older men could feel young and studly with their beautiful younger girlfriends/wives. It was an economical transaction that benefited everyone. A Japanese couple sitting at lunch read their IPad/Iphone/Samsung the entire lunch without a word exchanged. Finally, there were a few Italian and French head of industries, welcoming each other: ‘Bienvenue a Portofino!’ The only ones missing were the Chinese.

The Wedding

RoomWithAView

We happened to be staying there the same weekend of a wedding. As we saw the guests fill up the terraces, I tried to guess what kind of wedding it was. I guessed ‘second wedding, older man with younger Eastern European/Russian wife’. There were Americans, English, and Russian guests in addition to the occasional Indian and Asian guest. I guessed they were from London, since there is no other city in the world that would mix these nationalities so easily, specifically Chelsea or Knightsbridge. They must be in finance with their Blackberrys ringing and potbellies bouncing. I saw three sexy Eastern European girls with fake boobs, frolicking around each other during cocktail hour, probably the only friends of the bride. (We happened to have the best terrace of the whole hotel, Room 101, which was front row seats to this spectacle). Later that night, all my guesses were confirmed, as I saw the 50 year old groom accompanying his 6 year old flower girl daughter from his first marriage back to her room, while his beautiful, billowy, blond, bride spoke Russian to her friends and I confirmed the London location as I saw Arun Nayer and his girlfriend leaving the wedding.

Room With A View

SuiteRoom101SplendidoNHYM

Can I just suggest Room 101 if at all possible? It is a corner Suite with the ‘best terrace in the hotel’, best to watch the sunrise, the sunset, the ‘flora and fauna’ of the hotel (and the flowers and gardens as well). There is a safe behind one the flower paintings hung on the wall, very Italian Job.

BathroomViewSplendidoNHYM

One of the nicest hotel bathroom views

The Verdict: So, is it worth it? 

TheGardensSplendidoNHYM

This hotel is a place where prices and currencies are best forgotten. The prices should stay off both the men and women’s menus to prevent spoiling the experience. The experience is priceless, indeed, and my expectations where thankfully met (the worse is when you spend a fortune on a hotel-letdown). This is a place to fall in love, to meditate, to forget yourself and who you are, and to be happy in. It has the best view of Portofino, even better than from the Virginian or Invictus yachts, proven by the yachties who come to the hotel for the food, the view and the atmosphere. The stunning scenery and hotel are enough to wash away any worries, even if momentarily for a few days. Places like this are what dreams are made of.

Other tips:

* There is a Kids Club! Really, an actual, real kids club below the pool. Pizza and Gelato making today!

* The pianist is world famous, dressed in a blue or green sequinned jacket, singing Sinatra and Italian songs and gets those old feet moving and stomping, from 18 to 88 year old.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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