On this day back in 1985 I was working as a nanny in Wellington, New Zealand.
My second nanny job was a total contrast. It was a long weekend with four teenagers, a combined family, all close in age, Susie, Mark, Sara and Nigel. They took themselves to activities over the weekend so we met up for meals, to watch a movie and we enjoyed discussions comparing UK to NZ, tv, pop music, radio, schooling, etc
We had a mini drama when we discovered there was no water in the house. But the eldest boy phoned a neighbour, then the water board and established that water was turned off for the whole street until the next morning due to a burst water main.
I wrote … “It’s very easy looking after teenagers”.
I had one day off before the next job – three weeks with three young kids.
Brooke aged four, Hamish aged two and ten month old Kendyl kept me busy. The younger two were in nappies, proper nappies that needed washing, not disposables. They started their day before six am! They were into everything. I wrote that I needed four pairs of eyes and as many pairs of hands.
The family car was an old 2.8 Jaguar that required a bit of encouragement to get going on the cold mornings.
The day to day details of looking after three kids under five – twenty odd nappies per day so constant washing, hanging out and folding nappies and clothes – getting the kids to eat vegetables – the routine of “kindy” and play dates – bed time stories and kids tv – it was exhausting!
Oh and they had a red setter dog named Cass. One evening I locked myself out of the house because of the dog. The kids were asleep inside with the dog and I was outside with no shoes.
I’d answered the front door. As the dog tried to get out, I stood in the porch and pulled the inside door closed. I heard the click as the latch locked. I wandered around the house in my socks, but all windows and back doors were closed. Fortunately the neighbours were wonderful and helped me break a small pane of glass in the back porch door.
When I’d finished this job I had a night out with friends in Wellington and saw 5.30am from the other end of the day. This was certainly the most memorable of my varied nanny jobs during 1985.
My next job had the most memorable location.
When I’d walked along the beach at Paekakariki a month ago, I had no idea that I’d actually live here for three weeks, whilst looking after three year old Romila and fourteen month old Alexander.
What a wonderful place. I arrived at the house after dark, when the wind was blowing off the sea, rattling the doors and windows and whistling around the wooden home. My room was in an annexe. When I woke the first morning I was amazed at the view I had of the sea and beach not just from my room, but from the bed.
The next night a southerly gale arrived with a magnificent thunder storm, lightening, heavy rain and winds that created wonderful sound effects in this beach house. The following day was clear and calm but still with a rough sea and incredibly huge waves. We could see the South Island and Mount Tapuaenuku. The day ended with a lovely sunset over the sea, directly facing the house.
The parents were around for this job, so I was only required to work on week days while they were out overseeing the building of a new house in Wellington. The family were vegetarian, very relaxed, untidy. Quite a different approach to previous families I’d worked with. I had to follow the family’s routine here, rather than find my own.
This nanny job was a time of contrasts. On one hand there was the wonderful location, walks on the beach with the kids, or alone in the evenings, the constant sound of the waves, beautiful sunsets. On the other hand I was looking after a stroppy three year old that had regular tantrums, played adults off against each other. I preferred jobs where parents were away and I had sole responsibility.
During my weekends off I explored more of Wellington, the houses stacked up on the hillsides, the Beehive parliament building, craft shops, art galleries.
When the job finished I took some time off before the next assignment. I headed back to my NZ home in Auckland with a twelve hour train journey.
Five months must be my natural tolerance for “doing nothing”, for living without any formal work commitments, without any structure to my time. I’ve got to the point where I need to “do something”.
I remember similar sentiments after five months of maternity leave, back in the day. I was then ready to get back to work. Now I am ready to do something useful and have some framework to my week. as we wait for our house sale to work out.
After a couple of useful and inspiring conversations, I chose a local hospice charity shop, completed a trial session, filled out forms, provided references and am now an approved volunteer.
It is a totally different environment to my working life. It involves sorting donations, clothes, household fabrics, toys, bric a brac, books, media. Items suitable for future window displays are put aside. Recent windows have related to Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day and now toys for half term week.
Clothes are organised onto hangers, with size tags, price tags are added with a cool little gun gadget. The manager actually prices items but we then place them on shop floor. Clothes racks constantly need tidying. As items are sold, shelves and displays need to be restocked. They’ve let me loose on the till, taking cash, processing credit card transactions.
Everything gets labelled with a week code and stock is rotated amongst other shops after two weeks to keep all stock fresh. Our smallish shop has sales targets of £500 pounds per day.
On my first morning shift, I arrived before the manager, so waited outside. A lady loitered and I started talking to her. She wanted to buy something from the window, but had a fixed appointment, so even before the shop had opened, I had taken £12 with a promise to put two items aside for her to collect later.
Standing up for hours on end is also a new experience for me. I have spent decades sitting at a desk. The standing plus a half hour walk each way has got to be good for me. I’m only working two shifts each week, three and half hours for each shift. Nothing too strenuous.
I’m enjoying it, I’m gaining new experiences, meeting new people and seeing a different side of life.
Credit to the multitude of volunteers who freely give their time and energy and contribute to our society.
It is real now. My last day at work was last Thursday. From the initial dialogue about redundancy on 29th April, the discussion phase, then three months formal notice, it is final. It is no longer a dream. It is my reality.
It has been an emotional week. I have known some colleagues for the fifteen years that I have worked at this company, some even longer as we knew each other in a previous employment. It is a sociable office environment. We have shared our lives outside of work. Colleagues became friends.
Colleagues have grown up, have married, have had children. Some have divorced, some have retired, had grandchildren. Some have gone forever, one particular team mate died of cancer in his early thirties.
Colleagues have come and gone to other organisations, to other professions, to other life choices. Some colleagues I have only known for a few years, but we have worked well together, worked towards shared objectives, experienced the ups and downs of the company and the industry.
It has been nostalgic, preparing to leave, clearing out old files, sharing coffees and lunches in these final weeks, sharing memories, remembering old colleagues. Even though it was my choice to leave, it has been hard to walk away.
It has been a fine balance of looking back and looking forward, an interesting experience.