Friday, May 16, 2008

Love thy neighbour

How very cunning is that beast called Blog. Pick a subject, post it, and the very next day, that very same subject posts itself back to you and nips you on the ankle, as if to say “you can’t just leave it at that, there’s MUCH more to THAT story.”

One day, I write about the British nanny next door, and the very next day, the British nanny next door calls me on the phone.

Everything I am about to describe really happened yesterday.

I couldn’t make it up if I tried.

The voice I hear over the phone is faint and desperate – “Eleanor? Is that you? I’m sorry...thank god...I need help...” terrifying sobs follow, and she continues, “it’s Nanny, from next door. I’ve fallen down the stairs, and it hurts, oh god it hurts...I did something to my ankle....I can’t get up...” And now I am standing at attention, all previous thoughts of lunch and chores forgotten.

I am very efficient and calm in emergency situations. I grab a box of arnica pills, an ice-pack and my house-keys, and rush next door. For five traumatic minutes I hold my mobile to my ear and listen to Nanny as she drags herself, slowly, painfully, towards the front door. As the door swings open I find myself kneeling down on the floor and lovingly embracing the British nanny next door.

She cries into my shoulder and tells me how she fell and how much it hurts, but in whispers, because Little Man and Missy Moo have just gone down for their nap. We both know that there’ll be hell to pay if they awaken prematurely, and we have more than enough to deal with at the present moment.

Nanny is soon settled on the guest bed, and we both assess the huge, swollen mass that once was her ankle.

Nanny calls R, R says she is immediately leaving work and will be there as soon as possible.

R is Nanny’s employer and My Beloved Neighbour.

R and her family moved in next door to me exactly a year ago, and I loved her at first sight. She is a Mumbai gal who speaks perfect English with a darling Marathi accent. She cooks a dal and idli dish which is so heavenly the gods themselves fight over it. She will happily drag you into her closet and show you her saris “these are my wedding saris – this one I wore when I left my house, this one I wore when I entered my in-laws’ house, this one I wore at the ceremony, these three I wore at the celebrations...” She is small and sparkly and super-bright and loves to chat with me – over the fence, in the driveway, beside the car, by sms or phone. She had two babies 15 months apart and immediately hired a full-time nanny.

Which brings me back to the story.

R works in the city, so I knew that I had about half an hour to kill with Nanny. I must admit, it was at this very moment that I began having Selfish Thoughts.

As Nanny closed her eyes and groaned in agony, and as I ran to fetch more ice and another pillow, I was, in fact, thinking “I can’t believe how fabulous this is, this will make a spectacular post. I MUST get Nanny to talk.”

And that, dear reader, is exactly what I did.

Nanny told me all about her babies, and all about how many of her babies are now grown-up and having babies of their own. She seems to have had many more girl babies, than boys, and the girls all had storybook names such as Alice, Tatiana, Camilla, Ellie and Jemima.

Nanny is the woman behind Women With Fabulous Jobs. She mentioned a famous film to me, and then said, very quietly, “I worked for the producer of that one. She went back to work when her bub was 4 weeks old...Timmy must be 15 or 16 years old by now.” I ask jokingly if they gave her a mention in the film’s credits, and we share a meaningful look.

She says she knows I’m Jewish and is curious which synagogue I attend. She worked for a Jewish family a few years ago and rather enjoyed going to synagogue. She says that this is her first Hindu family and she finds it very enjoyable. She tells me a story about Alice and Tatiana, Tatiana was adopted from China, the two girls were friends, and she was looking after them. They were drawing pictures of each other and she asked them to look carefully at each other and describe what made them different. The two girls took their time, staring at each other curiously, and finally agreed on an answer “is it that Alice is wearing a pink cardigan?” She could tell that I really liked that story.

I then asked for more details about Ellie “was her full name Eleanor? Yes.” Ellie loved fairies and Nanny would sit with her in the afternoons and make fairy cordial, and they’d leave the tiny cups out in the garden for the fairies. The next morning, Ellie would awaken to see a trail of rose-petals leading from her bed out to the cups in the garden – that was Nanny’s fairies’ way of saying thank you for the cordial. I just knew that Nanny’s fairies would be extraordinarily polite.

I soon found myself being slowly lulled to sleep by Nanny’s storytime. I yearned to have her tuck me in and kiss me and tell me to have a good nigh-nighs for Nanny. And I was waiting for her to hand me my Harry, because I can’t sleep without my Harry. I ask her why she calls it a Harry and she explains that there was a firm which made muslin wraps called “Harrington”, and that explanation is so perfect that I swoon with delight.

Then, everything clicks back into real focus. R arrives home in a flurry of concern, friendship and a fabulous dose of working-woman-from-city-office joie de vivre. I insist that R remain with the babies, who are now beginning to stir, and I take Nanny to the doctor. They discover that Nanny has a fractured ankle. I take her home, where she must rest.

Later that night, R calls for a chat. I can see her through her kitchen window, but she doesn’t know that. I’m a terribly nosy neighbour. R tells me that they must now search for a new, temporary nanny, while Nanny is on sick leave.

I advise her to call Anna from Sweden (and from my comment box) without delay.

But apparently I am 25 years too late with that advice.

If you accept the notion of parallel universes.

Which I do.


Duyvken said...

fabulous, Eleanor. I love the thought of you being able to see her through the window while you're talking, just divine! I hope Nanny is well soon and if you get to see the wedding saris again you must take photos for your devoted readers, they're such beautiful garments and I know you'd wrote about them delightfully!

blackbird said...

You are a PERFECT neighbor. I'm going to find out if the house on the other side of you is available.

(I had a gorgeous Mumbai gal living next door to me in the city - and she loved to chat and show me her saris. You've made me remember and miss her!)

blackbird said...

You are a fine blogger too - always with an ear open for a good post.

Anonymous said...


I'm addicted. I can't imagine my life without your blog to read.

Your posts are so captivating. It's like being there with you.

Such wonderful writing and style.

Oh! If only the world was smaller, and Australia was right next to Germany...I'd be your best friend and call you every day.

Dani said...

One post read, and I'm hooked. Consider yourself bookmarked!

(PS - I'm just a nosey.)

That One said...

What a fantastic neighbor (and blogger) you are!

I'm with duyvken...try to get some snaps of those saris. Eurolush can give you some "superior sneaky camera-skills" pointers.

Anonymous said...

Saris make me weak in the knees, they're so beautiful.

What fascinating neighbours you have, and how lucky for us that your voice is so clear.


ps-word verification is spatp
How charming!

Kris said...

It's so strange to read of an older Nanny. I thought they were all eighteen and kind of resentful at the amount of time kids can take up. Where did I get that idea from? No wonder your Nanny has a capital N.

Sömsmånen said...

One of the girls said I had call this morning, some foreigener, but didn't want to wake me... That's how I missed the opportunity to do the same kind of home chores (for big fat paycheck though) I do here, in a new exciting surrounding and with a most suspect neighbour. Oh, destiny...but maybe in another universe.
Next time you find someone interesting, don't wait till they hurt themselves, to get a good story, knock them out yourself and get the story as soon as they wake up!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous story and I loved that you knew it would be while it was happening. Clever you!

Anonymous said...

I did recognize the theme song from "Neighbours," by the way.

Oooh neighbours, should be there for one anooooother, that's when good neighbours become good friends.

(Or something like that...)

Maria said...

Thank you for your message to me in Anna's (The helylle-foträta...)blog!!
You are very welcome to visit my blog even if I don't write in english, but I have pictures every day. I have thinking about write in english but feel that it could be a little bit "swenglish" when I write.

alice said...

Delightful post. Simply delightful. And as for "I was, in fact, thinking “I can’t believe how fabulous this is, this will make a spectacular post." You could be me :)