I first tried my hand at freelance writing twenty or so years ago, when it was everyone’s ambition to be published in The Lady. My efforts to impress this illustrious weekly were rejected many times, but I finally cracked it in 1994 with this piece, accompanied by some black and white pics. I’m posting it because I think it’s a particularly good demonstration of how you can be successful in placing something if you aim at the publication’s target readers obvious from their adverts.
Be a nanny and go travelling
When my daughter, Julie, answered an advertisement in The Lady, and was offered her first overseas position as a nanny in Canada, I had very mixed feelings. I was, naturally, overjoyed that she had the opportunity, sad that she was going so far away, and anxious in case things went wrong while she was cut off from the support of her family.
The first few weeks were rather worrying, with tearful phone calls from a very homesick young girl. But she was enjoying her job looking after toddler Mark and Christopher, a young baby, while their parents, Bruce and Kelly, were at work. Julie soon discovered there were lots of other nannies in the area – indeed Unionville, the suburb of Toronto which was the family’s home, was nicknamed ‘Nannyville’.
It was not long before Julie became part of this circle of nannies, who used to visit each other’s homes with their charges and plan activities together. Julie was a great success and my fears for her were unfounded. The two years of NNEB training had paid off. The English qualification of the Nursery Nursing Education Board is highly regarded and opens up many worthwhile opportunities.
When Julie was in Canada I found there was something in it for me too! It is the norm for nannies’ mothers to come and visit, staying in the family home. When Julie broached the subject with Bruce and Kelly, they said, of course – it was only what they expected. The result for me was a wonderful holiday in Toronto, new friendships with the Canadian family and with the parents of another English nanny, as well as precious time with my daughter.
Like most of the families in Unionville, Bruce and Kelly had a nanny flat in the basement. Julie’s private area, which I shared while I was there, comprised a large bedroom with a television and video, plus her own bathroom with shower and toilet.
When I arrived it was mid-September and the family had taken a holiday to coincide with my first few days, giving Julie and me some time to ourselves. They had generously left us the car which Kelly normally shared with Julie, so we were able to go sightseeing and drive north of the city to experience the wonderful scenery and colours of the autumn.
On one of the most memorable mornings of my stay, another English nanny, also called Julie, joined us for a Western trail ride around a country estate. Our fascinating Indian guide showed us how to ride with long stirrups and only one hand on the reins. At the top of a steep hill, with a magnificent view over Lake Ontario, we stopped for a breather and he showed us some small red berries. If you don’t have any water, he explained, they will quench your thirst. When we tried them, they tasted like lemons.
Then the other Julie’s parents, Pam and Dick, arrived for a visit. We joined forces and had a great time exploring, and sampling the local delicacies. Unionville is proud of its picturesque main street, which boasts a ‘pub serving’ Youngers bitter and the best chicken wings I have ever tasted.
After the family arrived home, Julie was left in charge of the boys and the house. She introduced me to Canadian home cooking and many local ingredients. I also joined in, and enjoyed, various outings with the children. The night before I left, Bruce and Kelly arranged a babysitter so that Julie and I could take them out for dinner to say ‘thank you’ for making the holiday possible.
Unfortunately, the recession was hitting Canada, and when Kelly was made redundant, Julie’s contract came to an end. But the family still keep in touch and we hope to meet again in the future. Pam and Dick live only about 100 miles away form our home, and we meet from time to time.
After 18 months with a London family, Julie had itchy feet again. This time she has landed up in Holland and we have the best of both worlds: she is able to have regular holidays and weekends at home and I can easily visit. She has made friends there with an Australian nanny, and hopes to follow her home for her next assignment later this year.
So if you have an aspiring nanny in the family, show them your copy of The Lady and do be encouraging. It’s a worthwhile way to earn a living and can be a great way to see the world. And perhaps, like me, you might be offered a chance to spend Christmas in Australia.”