*** DEBUG END ***

Parent substitute

29 July 2016


IT IS one of the details of a nanny’s life that they left out of Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee. If you want to keep your diary secret from the prying eyes of your employer, then invest in some invisible ink. That way, when the lady of the house is snooping around, she will find only blank pages.

There is enough dysfunction packaged up in this revelation from The Conversation (World Service, Monday of last week) to keep a Relate counsellor going for weeks. But such are the daily trials of the jobbing nanny, as experienced by Philippa Christian, a “nanny to the stars”; and Tatiane Dias de Oliveira, who campaigns on behalf of nannies for better working conditions.

They both work at the high end of the international market, but that is not to say that the indignities that they suffer are not recognisable in the wider world. Lack of privacy, lack of free time, arbitrary changes in contractual arrangements: these are ubiquitous, whomever your employer might be.

Then there are the attachment issues: a nanny might be the only constant in a child’s life; handing the child back can be agonising. What makes Ms Christian and Ms Dias de Oliveira such consummate professionals is their ability to dissemble. They will, for instance, never admit to having witnessed a child’s first word or step in advance of a parent; they know what guilt and envy can do to even the most reasonable of parents.

Yet spare a thought for the celebrities whose children these nannies take on. Being an actor requires the consumption of a fair share of humble pie. Philip McGinley, lately of Game of Thrones, was happy to admit on Breaking Bard (Radio 4, Thursday of last week) that, in his time, he had played to smaller audiences than were in the cast of his latest production. Then again, his latest production is the York Mystery Plays; and perhaps some of the humility of his character is rubbing off on him. He is playing Christ.

Breaking Bard offered us a backstage view of the rehearsal process, featuring actors, the director, and the writer; and I wondered why more programmes of this sort are not available.

Certainly with contributors as articulate and engaging as the director Phillip Breen and the writer Mike Poulton, we got some sense of the breadth of vision that is required to realise a theatrical history of the cosmos. On the one hand, there is the technical challenge of getting three grown men on to crosses; and, on the other, there is the rhetorical challenge of articulating the beats in a line.

Theatre rehearsal has always seemed to me to be, in terms of time-management, the most extravagantly wasteful form of artistic production; but, in this instance, at least one got a sense of where all that time was being expended.

A brief mention of infinity, as investigated in David Baddiel Tries to Understand (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week). In 15 minutes he does Pi, actual and potential infinities, and the “almost never” conundrum; and still has change left over for a chinwag with his precociously intelligent daughter. It might be knowledge the Twitter way, but it’s impressive, none the less.

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

8 September 2022
Church Times Cricket Cup: North v. South
Join us to watch the match at the Walker Cricket Ground, in Southgate, north London.

26 September 2022
What am I living for? God
Sam Wells and Lucy Winkett begin the St Martin-in-the-Fields autumn lecture series in partnership with Church Times.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)