‘They say you can never truly love a child that is not your own, but that goes against every instinct that runs through me. For I have loved children born to other women all my life and every child that I have ever cared for, I’ve adored with all my heart. Many I would have laid down my life for, in fact on some memorable occasions when I fled to air raid shelters clutching my charges to my chest, I very nearly did.
In 62 years of being a nanny I have lost count of the number of children I’ve cared for, but it must be approaching 100. Which means I am inordinately proud to say that despite never having actually given birth I have 100 children. How many women can say that?’ Brenda is 91 years old and spent 62 years working as a Norland Nanny. Just like a real-life Mary Poppins, Brenda devoted her life to giving children the best possible start in life.
Brenda began training at the Norland Institute in 1939 at the age of 18, shortly before war was declared. It was a time of great upheaval and uncertainty, particularly for children.
Even as a nervous young trainee, Brenda was determined to give the children in her care a wonderful childhood, regardless of the horrors that were unravelling on the continent, and when the blitz began, on their doorsteps.
Brenda worked poverty-stricken evacuees from the East End London, as well as in the nurseries of smart Kensington homes. She frequently put her life at risk, dashing to air raid shelters with her charges clutched to her chest.
This is a story from a time when nothing was taken for granted and life itself was in peril on a near-daily basis. But the war was also a time when people pulled together like never before or since, and it called upon Brenda to make sacrifices she’d never imagined having to make…
Warm, funny and incredibly moving, Brenda’s memoir brings to life the colourful world of wartime England.