Reviews and chat about Man at the Helm
My book Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life is the letters I wrote to my sister when I was a live-in nanny to two boys in the 1980s. The book focuses mainly on my relationship with the family I lived with and since publication it has been suggested (by some) that I wasn’t a very good nanny. And although I disagree with them (and would argue that I was perfect) I have to admit the evidence in the book for my not being good is quite compelling.
First published in Psychologies, January 2014
Until I had children of my own I almost always went home for Xmas to my mum and step-dad’s house in Leicestershire and so did my siblings, all 4 of them. So, right into our 20s and 30s there we’d all be. It should have been awful, sometimes it nearly was. Often I imagined I’d not go, but I almost always did and it always turned out great.
An edited version of this article was published in The Guardian, 10 November 2013
‘We’ll have to stop swearing soon’, I said to my friend a few years ago as we watched our small children playing together.
‘I’ve given up,’ said my friend, ‘I stopped last Monday and I haven’t sworn since.’
‘What?’ I said, ‘you stopped, just like that, no clever techniques or gradual weaning-off?’
I was pleased to read the nice things Alan Bennett wrote about my book in his diary in The London Review of Books (Vol.36 No.1. 9 January 2014) but he does himself a disservice when he writes that he wasn't a practical person in the 1980s. As my letters, and his own diaries from the same period, record (rather than 'misremember') he was, back then, always a dab hand with a puncture repair kit, among other things.