Published by: Doubleday Publication
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Number of Pages: 320
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Brenda Ashford is the quintessential British nanny. Prim and proper, gentle and kind, she seems to have stepped straight out of Mary Poppins. For more than six decades Nanny Brenda swaddled, diapered, dressed, played with, sang to, cooked for, and looked after more than one hundred children. From the pampered sons and daughters of lords ensconced in their grand estates to the children of tough war evacuees in London’s East End, Brenda has taught countless little ones to be happy, healthy, and thoroughly well bred. In this delightful memoir, Brenda shares her endearing, amusing, and sometimes downright bizarre experiences turning generations of children into successful adults.
From the moment Brenda first held her baby brother David she was hooked. She became a second mother to him, changing his nappies, reading him stories, and giving him all the love her warm heart contained. Knowing a career caring for children was her calling in life, Brenda attended London’s prestigious Norland College, famous for producing top-notch nannies. It was a sign of privilege and good taste for the children of the well-to-do to be seen being pushed in their Silver Cross prams by Norland nannies, who were recognizable by their crisp, starched black uniforms with white bib collars, and their flowing black capes lined with red silk. And what skills were these trainees tested on daily? Lullaby singing, storytelling, pram shining, bed making, all forms of sewing, cooking simple meals, and dispensing first aid—including knowing the best way to help the medicine go down.
In A Spoonful of Sugar, Brenda recalls her years at Norland and her experiences during the war (after all, even if bombs are dropping, there’s no reason to let standards slip), and recounts in lovely detail a life devoted to the care of other people’s children.
Sprinkled throughout with pearls of wisdom (you can never give children too much love, and you should learn how to sew a button, for goodness’ sake), this delightful memoir from Britain’s oldest living nanny is practically perfect in every way.
When you have trained in Britain’s oldest nanny school and by draconian matrons of 1930s hospital wards, Hitler and his army hold no fear.
A Spoonful of Sugar is a charming memoir, giving insight not only in the work of a Norland nanny – considered THE best – but also in the British culture as well as family life in Britain during the war years.
In her 92 years Brenda has lived through much and has many a story to tell. Seemingly stand-offish and sometimes archaic (which I loved!) – as Brits are prone to be – it is clear that Brenda has a heart for her charges, without putting up with any nonsense. She has a clear view on how to raise children, being very firm in her convictions, but her understanding of present day challenges shines through again and again.
Pearls of wisdom – even if mostly from a bygone era, nevertheless still ring true for today – are shattered throughout the book. Each chapter starts with the text of a nursery rhymes, which is sweet and her schedule at that time, showing a nanny is always on call.
Developments around the country / world are placed within the context of her life, think of the changes in child care and care of/for pregnant women, the forming of national health care, the appearance of the ultrasound and the pill.
What I loved most was the particular British English expressions.
…cheek by bowl…
… people rubbed along together nicely…
Tom had scuttled off.
oh, how marvelous!
…I don’t give two hoots…
… the loveliest thing I had ever clapped my eyes on…
… we had a whale of a time…
A lovely, delightful and marvelous read!
Brenda Ashford is a graduate of Norland College, a world-famous institute for British nannies. For sixty-two years, she cared for more than one hundred children, making her Britain’s longest-serving nanny. Now 92, Brenda came out of retirement at 80 years of age to take care of her 2 special ‘grand charges’. She lives presently outside London.
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