Episode 26: That Time I Went On A Holiday As A Nanny

365 Dates of Travel Podcast

Transcript for Episode 26: That Time I Went On A Holiday As A Nanny

Welcome to this week’s podcast, where we’re all about the stories from the August chapter of my book called 365 Dates of Travel: The SECOND Six Months, all about the background stories to the stories that are in the book. So extra little bits of information along the way to either make you want to read more or just give you some extra information about what you might have already read in the August chapter. 

I have stories from 1994, a trip to Italy as a nanny job, and also to Euro Disney in France. Well, I call it Euro Disney. A bit more about that later. Then there’s also a road trip in 2005 in Lottie. A few other days, bits and pieces here and there. But most of the month of August is about a 2019 trip where I am in America all the way from LA across to Rhode Island. There’ are a few dates from when I was in San Gimignano in Italy, and I was there because I was on holiday with the nanny family that I was working with at the time. 

Travelling with a nanny family

This is 1994 in my early days in England, in early days as a nanny, and this was my first trip as a nanny. A lot of people used to always say, “oh, it must be wonderful travelling the world”, and “you’re getting paid to travel the world while you’re a nanny.” And I was like, I hated travelling with the families. 

I never went for the jobs that actually advertised them as, “we need a nanny to come travelling with us” or “we’ll be going backwards and forwards from here, there and everywhere”, because it’s really not that fun. You’re not on holiday, you’re still working. You’re working 24 hours a day because you are sharing your bedroom with the children and you’re still trying to do your job, but without everything that you would normally need. So you haven’t got your full complement of toys and books and clothes, even just a kitchen. You haven’t even got a kitchen. You haven’t got a washing machine. If you’ve got a baby and you’re trying to make up formula or buy nappies, things like that. It’s not fun trying to do all of that when you’re in a foreign country. 

It’s not a holiday. You are working. You just happen to be doing it somewhere nice, but you might not actually get to see or experience much of it. I will admit I did get quite a lot out of this trip, as in, sightseeing wise, but that was because I put the time and the effort into it. 

I got to sit by the pool and swim in the pool and things like that, which I didn’t get to do back in London. But it definitely is not something that I ever did by choice. This was just a week in Italy. The family went for a holiday and, of course, I came.  

I only had one diary entry for the whole trip. I don’t have a lot of information. There is that one diary entry and I have three photos. 

Film cameras

1994 was back in the film camera days. So if your roll of film stuffed up, you had no photos, and you didn’t find out until it was too late. So that’s what happened to me. I clearly remember putting the film into the back of the camera and I definitely have a memory of thinking, “well, this sort of feels a bit weird” as I was advancing the film. And so I was advancing it on and it sort of didn’t really move the way it normally did, but I just kept going and thought it would be okay. And I had about two or three photos before it finally got to number one. And sometimes that’s what happened. And sometimes you got a little bit of extra at the end of the roll as well, depending on how you’d loaded it. 

I happily snapped away for our week away, got all the way through. It was a 36 roll of film. So I got through to the end of number 36 and then I took it home and it hadn’t loaded. I opened the backup, and the film hadn’t advanced at all. But bye bye film anyway, because now it’s been exposed, and it was all just like, never mind. 

Do photos effect memory

So I didn’t know at the time the photos weren’t coming out. I just kept taking them thinking, “I’m going to have these photos forever.” But I seem to remember a lot from this trip and I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t have photos. I don’t know. Could that possibly be a thing that your memory just kicks in because you know you have no other way of remembering, whereas if you’ve got a ton of photos, you’re like, “well, I don’t need to remember because I’ve got the photos.” 

Photos definitely bring back memories. I’ve learned that throughout the process of writing my books. But I do often wonder because I have such strong memories of this trip. And it was 30 years ago. You can’t always trust a memory. But I do feel like I have strong memories of this trip. 

Italian ice cream

There are snippets of the one diary entry quoted in the book, but I didn’t use all of it. So here’s a little extra diary snippet I didn’t include in the book. 

Has the best ice cream in the world here. The chocolate is heavenly, it’s indescribable, it just looks scrumptious. I’m hooked. Jo made Aaron buy us too yesterday. First time round Katie just had licks off ours but had her own a fruit one. The second time she had ice cream everywhere and absolutely loved it. Kept saying more, more. The first time she knocked my ice cream and I couldn’t get it back. I was quite annoyed, but I couldn’t really say anything about it. I feel guilty with them spending money for food, etc. When we were out but Jo told me not to ask every time I wanted something because she felt guilty. 

Nanny finances 

I thought that was interesting that the mother felt guilty every time I asked for something, but what am I supposed to do? And that’s another thing about travelling as a nanny, you don’t know who’s going to pay for what. I did learn as time went on. Like I said, this was my first time. So as time got on, I got a little bit better at asking and/or setting some rules and boundaries about how things work because otherwise I’m shocking. 

Like I’ve said, I’m a terrible guest. We’ve been through this. I like to be independent. I guess it’s not quite the right word I’m actually going for, but I like to know how things are going to work and know whether I pay for this, or you pay for that, and what should I do. “Oh, I don’t know where I’m supposed to go. Is it okay that I spend my own money?”  

Lucky I’ve been single, because I think joint finances would completely freak me out. I’ve never done joint finances, it has literally just been nanny relationship finances. But I don’t enjoy trying to work out who’s going to pay for what. It’s not fun. 

Capital N or not?

When I was editing, obviously I mentioned the word nanny a few times in this chapter and a few other times in the book. I’ve always written “Nanny” with a capital “N” because, as a nanny for over 15 years, I considered myself a career nanny. I wasn’t somebody who was just happened to be looking after children while they were studying or didn’t know what they wanted to do in their life. I was a proper career nanny.  

Many people don’t take it seriously as a career and so constantly I was having to explain myself that, “No, nanny is my job, and that’s what I’m continuing to do.”

“Oh, but what do you really want to do?”

“No, I want to be a nanny. This is my job.”

 And so writing nanny with a capital N was always my way of making it a real job. It’s serious. Take me seriously. It is a proper job. 

But I had to write what people expected me to write or follow the grammar rules, which are really annoying. Sometimes grammar rules are a pain in the ***. So I did Google it and technically I’m not supposed to write nanny with a capital N. It is supposed to be a lowercase n, which didn’t really make me feel very good. 

But a grammar article I found about when to capitalise and not capitalise with job titles, like the rules to follow. They suggested a test to work out whether you would capitalise or not. You replace whatever the job is with the word microbiologist. And if you didn’t feel like you should capitalise microbiologist, then you shouldn’t capitalise whatever the job title you were going. So every time I had the word nanny, I would read out the sentence saying,

“I was a nanny on holiday,” followed by,

“I was a microbiologist on holiday.”

And I’m like, well, no, I don’t feel the need to capitalise microbiologist. So I had to go through and search for everywhere I’d written the word nanny and turn the uppercase N into a lowercase n. 

I will admit I did not enjoy that. I took it a little bit personally, but that’s part of my history after being not taken seriously so many times throughout my nanny career. But the whole microbiologist angle was a little bit fun. Have you ever heard of a microbiologist family holiday? So it helped me smile through some of the editing process when I was getting over myself for being offended by not having a capital N. 

Euro Disney, 1994

The other story from the same year of 1994, is when a friend and I, who’s also a nanny, end up going on a long weekend to Paris. You leave on Friday morning and come back on Sunday evening. And there was a normal Paris version and there was a Euro Disney version and we chose the Euro Disney version.

 I’m sorry for calling it Euro Disney because it is not called that anymore. It’s actually called Disneyland Paris. But in 1994 it was called Euro Disney. It will always be Euro Disney to me. It changed after this first trip. But Euro Disney is just how it rolls off the tongue. Disneyland Paris does not quite roll off the tongue as easily. 

It’s a very fast weekend. It was very cheap. It’s just a bus tour, so you’re all crammed on the bus. It’s a long drive, and on the ferry across the Channel, from London to Paris. So you don’t arrive in Paris until late afternoon, early evening. 

We had a bus that broke down, so we did not arrive until late evening. And that whole first day put a dampener on the rest of the trip. My friend Kate and I still had a fantastic weekend, and we loved Euro Disney and had no problem at the end of the trip getting home. But when I was writing this, I found a letter that one of the girls who was also on the trip had written to us a month or so after we got back. And it contained a sample letter and all these points about how to put in a complaint in order to get a partial refund, seeing as we didn’t get everything we paid for. 

I believe she was a lawyer, so she obviously knew the wording. There was a whole group down the back of the bus. It was like high school. Down the back of the bus there was this big meeting with everybody trying to work out, “we need to complain about this”, “we need to complain about that”, blah, blah, blah. 

Obviously addresses back in the day, snail mail addresses were swapped and she’s like, “I’m a lawyer, I’ll do this, I know what to say, I’ll get back to you, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And she did send out this letter to I don’t know how many people, but definitely I was one of them. And I’ve still got it with me. I’ve still kept it. As you know, I keep everything. 

It was interesting because I’d completely forgotten about some of the issues that happened until I read that. I remember Disney; I remember missing the night tour after the dinner. I remember being disappointed by the dinner and things like that, but I’d completely forgotten how many other little things went wrong. And I think the people who didn’t go to Euro Disney, so their sort of day in Paris didn’t go to plan either. 

I think Kate and I were quite lucky that our whole experience wasn’t that bad compared to some of the others. But there was some issue about not ending up where we were supposed to be. They sort of dumped everybody and said, “Sorry, change of plans. You all have to get out here and find your own way home.” 

I don’t remember exactly what happened, but it obviously didn’t affect Kate and me. We were able to get home just as easily from wherever they dropped us off compared to where they should have dropped us off. But it made things difficult for people who might have been new in town, or just in Europe for two weeks. 

I never actually did anything with the information and I never got in contact with any of the other people, so I don’t know if they did anything about it either. But such is life. It was an extra little thing that sparked some memories that I had forgotten. So you never know what’s going to spark that little memory and bring back extra information. 

Glasgow, another nanny story

There’s a few little odd days here and there for bits of trips. And one of them rounds out another nanny story in 1998. It’s how the job with the family from the hitching story finished. There’s a lot more to this story. You see me being dumped in Glasgow after leaving the nanny job unexpectedly, as you sometimes did, particularly back in the early days. 

I have many nanny stories and that’s the whole point of what I’m about to get to is that people have been asking me to write my nanny stories my whole life. One day, I will put them all into a book. And so there is a lot more behind what you’ll read in my travel book about being dumped in Glasgow and how the job finished up. 

Amtrak 2019

But most of this chapter is actually about a trip in 2019 in America where I flew from Melbourne to LA and on the same night that I arrive in LA, so a very long day, I hopped on an Amtrak train and I literally well, I made a couple of stops along the way, but I caught the train all the way from Los Angeles to Rhode Island. So I had one train from Los Angeles to Chicago. I didn’t stop in Chicago; it was just a layover. Then I went via train from Chicago to Washington D.C., had four nights there, then caught the train to New York and I had four nights there. And then I caught the train up to Rhode Island, where the main reason for the trip started off with a work course that I attended in Providence, in Rhode Island. 

I thought, “well, I’m going to take the long way.” And I loved the long way. I think you all know by now that I like trains and so it was a wonderful train trip across the whole of America. I can highly recommend you do it. 

I do love Amtrak’s little roomettes. They’re made for two and I think two is probably a bit squishy, but for one, they’re absolutely perfect. I love having my own little cabin. And you’ve got the whole big window to yourself, and you’ve got two seats and you’ve got space for bags, only a few bags, a few small bags. Not massive luggage or anything, but you’ve got space for all the bits and pieces that you need. And particularly now, listen to audiobooks and just stare out the window and watch the whole of America go by. I mean, what more could you ask for? 

All your food’s included. You go to the dining car for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you don’t have to think about a thing that whole way. So it was a wonderful trip all the way across. 

Chicago

In Chicago I tried to see where I had my whole first issue in Chicago, where I learnt to sleep on the trains to save money and save having to work out where to go for accommodation and things like that, back in 1992. So that was a little bit of a trip down memory lane when I had a short stopover there. 

Washington D.C.

But the whole trip was just brilliant because even once I got off the train, I had a fantastic time in D.C. There’s just so much to see there and I needed even more time. And I’ve been there before, so it’s not like I haven’t ever been there before. And so some of the things, obviously I did again, like, you have to go see all the war memorials, all the monuments and things while you’re there. I have seen them. But there were many new ones since I was last there. So there’s always something new to see. 

And there’s so many museums and I’ve always wanted to go see the Library of Congress and it literally blew me away. I knew it was going to be amazing from photos, but actually being there, it is so intricate in all its little designs and sculptures and details. 

I was one of the first people to get there as well planned. I worked hard to get a really good itinerary, and the pre planning was absolutely spot on and made the world of difference because I got to go to the reading room, viewing room and had it all to myself. So I could act as goofily, happily excited as I wanted to and nobody was going to notice. And I could find the perfect spot and take photos from every angle and go all goo, goo, gaga over whatever I wanted without anyone even realising I was there. 

So go early if you want to see a really good view, because there’s also a tour that you sign up. It’s just a free tour. So I was on the first tour of the morning and about 45 minutes after I arrived, was the first tour. And on the tour you get taken back to the reading room, viewing room. But this time we were with the tour group and of course it’s later. And so other visitors and the group tour were in the reading room. And you could barely move. Like you could barely get to a spot at the window because it was three or four people deep. That is so not how you want to experience this room, because it is absolutely magical. 

Now, for all the Americans out there, you are so lucky because you can just get a library card, basically, and go in and physically be there. Now, us non-American people, we have to go through a little bit more of a process and obviously I didn’t do that at the time. Next time I go to Washington, I will absolutely make sure I get myself a reader’s ticket because I want to sit in that room. It’s amazing viewing it as a whole, but actually sitting in that room, and researching and writing, you’re going to do some amazing work if you’re surrounded by those sort of surroundings and you can’t see how everything works without being physically in the room. So I highly recommend look into getting yourself a ticket if you do like that sort of type of architecture and just those behind-the-scenes sort of things. 

My research was back in 2019, but it sounded like any American could go ask for a ticket. And you go in and there’s a much better entrance if you’re going directly into the reading room than if you’re going into the more touristy areas where security lines and things can be a lot longer. But as a non-American, I have to nominate a specific topic to research and sort of follow through on that. So definitely I will find a research topic for one of my future books that I can go and sit in there and just soak up the wonder that is the Library of Congress. 

This is August 2019, so the idea of actually starting to write didn’t happen until November 2019. So I had no idea when I was in Washington at the time or in New York at the time that I was going to end up being or finally get round to being a writer. 

While I was there, I also went to the Spy Museum. And that’s just given me so much fuel and information for future books. And so even though I had no idea I was planning on writing, I still was collecting information just because that’s what I did, just in case one day I started writing. And so I did a bit of research, even without knowing that I was actually going to use it one day. But the Spy Museum had so much fodder for future mystery books that I’m hoping to write.

 But I was disappointed because I’d spent ages on their website at the shop and all the products and things that were available and I wrote myself a shopping list. So I’d planned to go and spend money at the gift shop of the Spy Museum. Now, on the list I had a Gnome Spy, a Jefferson cipher, a pen camera and a book called The Moscow Rules Book. I didn’t even know what I was going to write at that stage, but that book would have been perfect for the original book that I started writing in 2020 or tried to start writing sort of after I’d made the decision to start writing, but I didn’t even know that at the time. It’s like, it’s amazing how your brain sort of works, but how could none of those things be available? 

Apparently, gnome spies are one of their best sellers, and I just think he’s so cute, and I would absolutely love to put him out in my garden. It actually made me want to start collecting gnomes after seeing this gnome spy. I don’t have any gnomes currently in my garden, but that one would have gone into my garden, but in my backyard because I wouldn’t want somebody to steal it. And I want to be able to see it. 

So, yes, I did try to buy souvenirs and all sorts of fun stuff to play with, but unfortunately, the shop was out of everything that I wanted to buy. Like, seriously, what are the odds of that?

New York

By the time I got to New York, it was pretty cool because it had only been about a year since I’d been there for the Bette Midler story, which is coming up. If you’re reading the book along with this, then you haven’t quite heard the Bette Midler story yet. So no spoiler alerts. 

It had only been a year since I’d been there, so it was a really nice, sort of easy, relaxed vibe of “I know how everything works, everything’s good”. 

I was very specific in a lot of my research and I was trying to work out if I should buy a ten ticket pass on the subways or just buy individual tickets. Like, how many times was I going to use the subway? I was trying to work that out before I actually got there, so I knew whether it was worth buying individual tickets or not. 

I call that extensive pre planning. But one of the reviews of The first six months book said that they were frustrated by my lack of planning. I mean, seriously, did you actually read the book? Maybe she gave up after the first stories in 1992. Yes, I did zero planning in 1992, and I admit that, but I also admit that I was young and dumb and I had no idea what I was doing about anything and everything. So of course I didn’t plan, but I plan every little thing now. So, yes, I don’t know if this reviewer actually read the whole book, but she said “I’m a planner, and I got really annoyed by how she didn’t plan very well.”

It’s like, really? That’s what annoyed you? So you can’t please everybody. I’ve learned that big time with writing my book. Reviewers can be quite funny, but luckily I don’t let it get to me because half the time I’m like, “did you actually read the book? Because based on what you’re talking about, I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.” So I sort of found that quite interesting because I do plan literally everything. And how could you not see that in the book? Has she not heard of my travel bible? It’s in the book. Okay, I shouldn’t go on about that, but yes, I was young and dumb in 1992 and I didn’t do planning, but definitely by 2019, that trip was planned within an inch of its life and I achieved more than I would have if I hadn’t planned. But it did take a few years to learn all that. But like I said, I was young and dumb. But you don’t stay young and dumb forever. Time passes and we all grow up and we move on and we learn along the way. So hopefully that girl will learn that I did learn how to plan my future trips. 

Buckingham Palace

So also in the August chapter, there was a sneaky little trip in 1993, which I didn’t mention earlier. It’s just a single day that I went to Buckingham Palace. And it was the first year, the first time Buckingham Palace had ever been open to the public. And so I thought it was like the biggest news, the most exciting thing ever. 

I had left my nanny job, like I said, as you do sometimes, unplanned and unexpectedly, whether or not you have any money. And so I was a poor, unemployed nanny at the time, in between jobs, when I was still finding my feet in the nanny world. But it was the perfect time then during a weekday to line up for Buckingham Palace, because again, this is the early 90s, so technology has changed. There were no online sales. You literally had to line up at the kiosk and buy your ticket and then everything was timed tickets, so you just got the next available time slot. So if you weren’t there, by a certain point of the day, the time slots were gone. 

We definitely got up early on a weekday after we’d already seen the weekend lines. They extended all the way down the Mall. Everybody thought it was a temporary thing. It was only meant to be open for long enough to pay back or cover the cost of repairing Windsor Castle after the fire. There was a big uproar. The public didn’t feel it was up to them, and I think quite rightly, to pay for the repairs on a royal castle or a castle that’s owned by the Queen. And so the Queen decided to open up Buckingham Palace, use that money to put into the renovations. And obviously it was such a moneymaking venture, why would you give it up? 

But in 1993, we thought we were exclusive. I was there the third week it was open, so it was very new, very exciting. I just thought, how lucky am I to be in London at the exact time that Buckingham Palace opens for the first time? So I just thought it was kismet. It was meant to be, but obviously now everyone who goes to London can go see it. But at the time, it felt extra special. 

You know, I said we were two nannies. We’d both left our not so nice families, but we had a bit of a reward in getting to not have to line up quite so long to get tickets to Buckingham Palace. 

Lottie

And then the August chapter ends with the start of a trip, so it will finish just into the first couple of dates of the September chapter. But it’s the further adventures of Lottie, the Arkana. Oh, I miss Lottie. She was such a great car, and she just gave you so many choices and opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t have had her. 

It’s take two of driving from Melbourne to Far North Queensland. So it’s just everything that’s happened along the way of that trip. So I hope you enjoyed the Lottie stories, because I really did like the Lottie stories quite a lot, but I’m not going to go into too much detail about that trip. It is one of the stories that I will be reading next week where I read three particular dates from the August chapter. So I will leave that trip until next week where you can have a listen to that and I’ll read out day two from that trip. There’s the full five days. They’re actually in the book spanning the end of August and the beginning of September. Lottie has a few little mishaps along the way. Five-day trip, five mishaps. So that’s how things go sometimes. But as usual, did I have any idea what I was doing? And the answer is probably not, but I think I’ll leave it there today. 

Wrap up

So there’s a little bit of extra stories for the August chapter, so don’t forget, if you haven’t bought the book yet, 365 Dates of Travel: The SECOND six months is the second instalment, which covers May to November and a story for every date that goes in between there. And obviously, if you haven’t read The first six months, that goes first, that starts off with November in 1992 when I was young and dumb and I didn’t know how to plan.

 We’re talking about The SECOND six months, but they’re both available now, so you can get the full 365 dates of travel. One story for every date of the year. It’s all out there now for everybody to read and there’s all sorts of extra information around. You can follow along in all the photos at the website at franheapwriter.com. There’s lots of things on there, including links to the podcast, transcripts of the podcast, photos of the trips, where to buy the books, and more about me and some funny photos of me, and just extra information if you are interested.  

I’d like to say thank you very much for listening today. Hopefully, I will talk to you again next week when I read you some stories. So until next week, I wish for you an interesting day.

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