Friday, April 12, 2013 Posted by Dina N
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.
Pearls of Wisdom from Brenda Ashford
“I had puzzled many times over the ingredients for a perfect recipe for a happy home. Throw in some stability, a dash of routine and respect. Sprinkle some fun and imaginative games and stir well. But the most vital ingredient is the mother. The mother is truly the heart and soul of a family.”
“As for fussy eaters? I don’t stand for it. I have taken a hard line on this topic. This is a home, not a restaurant and you will jolly well try it before you turn your nose up at it.”
“If a child has sufficient breakfast, lunch and dinner they shouldn't need a snack. I don’t really like it today when I see children being wheeling along in a pram stuffing things in their mouth. ”
“Children cannot get up to your level, so you have to get down to theirs; try and understand how the world looks through their eyes.”
“If we respect little people then they in turn will grow up to respect others.”
“Put a book in a child’s hands or plant them in an empty field or park, and suddenly the world opens up and becomes a fantastical place of make believe and adventure.”
“Never let a house define you. You can make a home anywhere from an air raid shelter to a shed, if you have to. Riches and wealth don’t matter a jot.”
“I was always honest with my charges. In fact in every area of my life I have been most careful to never tell a lie. Why can’t everyone be more careful to tell the truth? At least we would all know where we stand in life.”
“Little folk deserve a childhood that’s full of fun. It’s the single most valuable lesson in my eyes. I have always encouraged children to have a giggle wherever and whenever they can.”
A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny's Story is the charming memoir of a woman who has dedicated six decades to caring for other people's children. Brenda Ashford's story begins in the 1930s when she first discovers her calling in life. She loves children with a passion, and feels strongly about the proper ways to care for them. Love, of course, is the proverbial spoonful of sugar. Ms. Ashford believes that children are like plants, needing care and attention to blossom into the adults they have the potential to become. She has certainly earned her right to offer advice through her decades of experience with children and their families. Her writing is warm, intelligent and full of good humor, and she sounds like a person who remains young at heart, even at the age of 92.
Despite some unnecessary repetitions, I greatly enjoyed Ms. Ashford's book. It's an interesting reminder of how child rearing has changed over the past century and how it has stayed the same, as well as a glimpse into the fascinating life story of one wise nanny.
One lucky U.S./CAN reader will win a copy of A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny's Story by Brenda Ashford.
This is a non-compensated post. Prize, review copy and information provided by sponsor. Opinions are my own.
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