SO IF I’M NOT A NOTTING HILL MUM, WHO AM I?
Actually I confess, I am a Notting Hill mum; in that I do live in Notting Hill and, six years after the birth of my first child, I have finally acknowledged that when teachers and nurses address someone standing very, very, close to me as “mum” – they mean me!
AND WHO AM I NOT?
But if you say you live in Notting Hill people make certain assumptions. So when I say I am “Not a Notting Hill Mum”, I suppose I mean I don’t drive a four by four, I have never pushed a bugaboo, and my daughter doesn’t wear a straw boater as part of her uniform.
￼ I do not sit on Westbourne Grove after drop off, sipping a skinny latte and fiddling with my iphone, while chatting to a girlfriend, before popping in to Emma Hope, or Dinny Hall or Lulu Guinness, and then heading off to the gym. It’s not that I don’t like Westbourne Grove, or lattes, or iphones – as long as you don’t want to receive a phone call in a poor reception area, like my flat which is apparently on the wrong side of the hill. ( I admit I’m not keen on exercise – particularly the hamster-on-a-wheel variety.) But the combination of these habits, particularly when the impeccably-dressed proponents are accompanied by several Phil and Teds blocking the pavement, makes other people, like my normally easy-going friend Katy, feel a strong sense of antipathy towards them. ( Note to those who have never explored the option of double buggies – Phil and Teds are double-decker pushchairs, where the baby is slung a few inches above the ground, while their older sibling sits above. They are very popular in West London and Australia. Go to Holland Park to see the full range of colours.)
EVERY DAY LIFE
Admittedly Katy had an unfortunate experience on her way to grab a coffee-to-go…to work. A buggy (she doesn’t have kids so couldn’t name the exact model) was rammed into her ankle as she tried to dodge round a few mums, chatting on the pavement. It was 9.15am. Prime-time for post drop-off catch-up. What was she thinking?
She claimed they didn’t even notice, despite her yelps. “These bloody yummy mummies. They expect you to walk in the road while they blockade the pavement and if you ever make it past them and insi￼de a coffee shop, they’ve already bagged all the sofas so they can text or chat away oblivious, while their little darlings trash the place.” I couldn’t help feeling a little under attack. “I understand your pain,” I told her. “But I have been known to sit in a café with a friend myself,” ( I remember the last time – it was just before Easter) “and my children have not always behaved well. But if I reprimanded them every time they raised their voices, I would never get to the end of my sentence. So sometimes, after I’ve told them not to play Hide and Seek under that nice lady’s chair six or seven times, I forget, and they crawl back underneath. That doesn’t make me a self-obsessed person who thinks everyone should find my kids adorable, does it?” I reassured myself that in those kind of situations I hardly ever smile indulgently and take a quick photo of them on my phone to email to daddy. “Oh I don’t mean you,” she said crossly, “ You’re not a Notting Hill Yummy Mummy.” Which I think she meant kindly, although if Yummy means still vaguely attractive to the opposite sex, then I can’t help feeling a little disappointed that even my close friends think I’m past pulling. ￼
Realistically though, I suppose “Not being a Notting Hill Mum” really just means, I am not loaded and I live somewhere where a lot of people, (though far from the majority) are. Having been born to parents who couldn’t give me a trust fund, I stupidly failed to foresee the importance of studying economics or getting an MBA or turning my hand to anything where I might get a whacking great bonus or even just a decent salary. Instead I focussed on the arts. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Then I forgot to marry a banker or anyone who could afford to fund my habit. It’s my own fault, but I comfort myself with the idea that the world would be a poorer place without my boxes of news reports, unpublished sonnets, loft stacked with watercolours and half-written novel.
SO WHO IS THIS BLOG FOR?
I’m writing this for mums, and dads, everywhere – not just in West London. I pledge to keep ranting to a minimum and share any tips that I’ve picked up in my years of being a mother, which has left me with a six year old daughter and four year old son – Amelie and Alexander ( not their names but I liked the alliteration!) When I find places that really do welcome children, rather than just claiming to in Time Out, you will be the first to know. There may be a Notting Hill/ West London bias, as I spend most of my time here. But I hope this will be useful to visitors, as well as residents. And of course we do leave the area occasionally and I will always be on the look-out for good ( and bad ) experiences to share. I know I am far from alone in “Not being a Notting Hill Mum” – so I hope my thoughts will be helpful to those who stumble upon my blog whether looking for parental support – or even the Blue Door. Actually one of my first posts (It’s not blue, it’s black) includes directions to the doorway where Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts met the paparazzi, as it is still one of the questions I am most often asked when walking around the neighbourhood. There’s even a map!