The Male Nanny

Male nanny to the British upper-class

Max, Part II

I am putting the six-year-old to bed when we hear an almighty scream.

We rush downstairs and discover the twelve-year-old, in a state of distress.

“There’s a man in the tree-house”, she exclaims.

The mother emerges.

“Are you sure dear? I’ll go check.”

She grabs a cricket bat, heads into the garden, screams, returns and says: “Call the police, there’s a homeless man living in our tree-house.”

The six-year-old looks at me, wide-eyed.

“It’s Max!” she screams

“Shhh,” I plead.

“Who’s Max?” asks the mum.

“No-one,” I say.

“He’s our frien-”

“He’s no-one!” I snap.

The mother raises an eye-brow and begins dialling.

The six-year-old charges at her, head-butts her stomach, snatches the phone and flees.

The mother sighs, produces her iPhone calls the police.

The father emerges.

“What’s with all the screaming?” he asks.

The mother explains the situation. 

The father rolls his eyes, grabs a torch and heads into the garden.

There is no scream this time.

He returns stony-faced and barks:

“It’s a chair. It’s just a fucking chair. Cancel the police.”

The family look disappointed.

Sirens wail in the distance.

And it is then, through the window, that I see the six-year-old, pyjama-clad in the cold night air, hurriedly leading a dishevelled-looking Max across the garden, to the street, and to freedom.

The Male Nanny

Max

The six-year-old hands a Mars Bar to a homeless man outside the local newsagents.

“What’s your name?” she asks.

“Max,” he says.

Over the next couple of weeks, we see Max frequently and exchange pleasantries and food.

Then, as we pass him on the way to the park, the six-year-old asks if he’d like to play football with us. He says yes.

Thick heavy rain greases the grass and we slide around and tackle and shoot and laugh until we are soaked through and the sun sets.

“We need to go,” I say regretfully, picking up the ball.

“How is Max going to get dry?” asks the six-year-old.

“I’ll be fine,” says Max.

“Yeah, he’ll be fine. Come on.”

We say goodbye and squelch off in different directions.

The next day, we pass Max’s spot. But he isn’t there. Nor is he there the day after, or the day after that.

“We should have helped Max get dry. He was our friend,” says the six-year-old, dropping a Mars Bar on his patch, in remembrance or hope.

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Desolation Row

The six-year-old and I take a seat on the bus.

Beneath our feet is a discarded kebab box. The six-year-old sighs and kicks it into the next row.

“Who does that help?” I ask, disappointed.

“Whatever,” she says.

An old man takes a seat. He sighs and kicks the kebab box into the next row.

A young woman takes a seat. She sighs and kicks the kebab box into the next row.

A teenager takes a seat. He sighs and kicks the kebab box into the next row.

This pattern continues, until the kebab box has made its way to the front of the bus.

The six-year-old and I disembark.

As the bus pulls away, the kebab box zings through the air and lands at the six-year-old’s feet.

She stands in shock, her kebab juice glazed pumps sparkling in the sun.

“Whatever,” I say.

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Becoming

The six-year-old and her friend stand in a vast dressing-up closet.

“What shall we be?” they ask in unison, marvelling at their options.

I am witnessing the very earliest indulgence of the soul’s favourite pastime: that of seeking an alternative reality.

Most of the things we do are an attempt to escape ourselves.

We watch films and become their characters. We take drugs and become a product of their chemicals. We wear make-up, seduced by the transformative power of powder. We tell lies to shape a tailored version of our being. We go to the gym to sculpt a body removed from our natural state. We shop to escape the reality of the exploitation of our labour, because within the realm of retail there is the illusion of parity of exchange.

We indulge in activities that offer us but a sniff of alternative reality: we gamble, with the hope of escape through wealth. We fly to other countries to suspend our humdrum with a dose of the unfamiliar. We cling to the notion of God, who promises us a last-ditch golden escape via His gates.

The six-year-old’s friend becomes Micky Mouse, Spiderman and Cinderella, before settling with being a spaceman.

The six-year-old herself peruses, but doesn’t try anything on.

“What are you going to be?” I ask her.

“Nothing,” she replies with a contented smile, “just… Me.”

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Sin, agog

The six-year-old and I arrive at the synagogue, engulfed by morning fog.

“Please leave any mobile phones with me and collect them upon exiting,” says a man at the door.

“I don’t have a phone,” I say, as we pass through.

We take a seat in God’s cold gold home.

Halfway through the service, I notice the six-year-old staring at my thigh, open-mouthed.

A quick glance down reveals the source of her shock: the outline of my phone is visible through my trousers.

I hold an index finger to my lips.

She surveys the room.

I shake my head.

She smiles.

I brace myself.

She screams:

“PHONE!”

And I am escorted from the synagogue, back into the fog, where I stand alone; a blushing blue-eyed beacon of blasphemy.

The Male Nanny

Nothing

I am making tea when the Jeremy Kyle theme tune suddenly permeates the mansion.

I march to the TV room, where I find the six-year-old sitting suspiciously in front of a blank screen.

“What were you watching?” I ask.

“Nothing,” she replies, nervously.

Later, she reclines on the chaise lounge, engrossed in the iPad.

“What are you watching?” I ask.

“Nothing,” she replies, nervously.

Bedtime comes. I am halfway through a story when the six-year-old interrupts:

“Do you love your girlfriend?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want to marry her?”

“No.”

“You lack commitment. Get off my stage.”

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Goatcha!

The six-year-old scales the stairs of the mansion. She is wearing army fatigues, a pair of oversized sunglasses, a woolly hat and a comically large back-pack.

“Let’s go,” she says, nonchalantly.

We board a bus bound for the zoo.

We see snakes and elephants and lions and gorillas. But the six-year-old doesn’t appear to enjoy them. She is on edge and refuses to remove or explain her attire.

“I want to see the pygmy-goats,” she suddenly declares.

The pygmy-goats are located in an open farm area, where visitors are free to roam.

The six-year-old waits patiently until the farm is free of people, then leaps into action.

She slams her bag to the floor and unzips it. She removes from the bag a carrot, which is attached to a piece of string. She holds the string and chucks the carrot. When one of the the pygmy-goats attempts to bite the carrot, she tugs the string toward her and the goat faithfully follows. She repeats this process three or four times, until the pygmy-goat is a yard from the back-pack.

Then she makes her move.

She throws the bag over the pygmy-goat’s head and grabs its legs. A scuffle ensues.

All I can do is watch, paralysed by intrigue.

The goat is nimble and strong and manages to escape, kicking mud in the six-year-old’s face as it flees.

The six-year-old throws her hat in the air and punches the ground in frustration.

“Can I try again with a Cheestring?” she asks, as she dusts herself down.

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Winds of Change

The six-year-old sits atop a glacier of gifts.

She asks for silence, ensures all eyes are on her, and begins the ritual of unwrapping.

She smiles dutifully and gives thanks until the glacier has melted into a sea of toys and the audience have dispersed.

“Can we take my new remote-controlled car to the park?” she asks.

“Sure, birthday girl,” I smile.

She drives her car around the park merrily, until she sees a boy with a remote-controlled helicopter.

She looks longingly at the helicopter, then scornfully at her car.

And I am crushed.

Because in this moment she becomes what we all become: a consumer.

And I know she will never be content.

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Hunted

The rain relentlessly strikes the window as the five-year-old and I begin our fifth game of snap.

“I want to go out,” she sighs, looking scathingly to the grey heavens.

“Me too,” I say, slamming down a card.

“Let’s make a shelter,” she suggests, stuffing the cards back into their box.

We throw on rain coats and run into the garden, sliding on the grass and splashing in the watery earth. We collect sticks and sharpen them and chop them and plunge them into the ground and they are the walls. We get branches and leaves and grass and craft a roof. We strip bark and scatter it on the floor of the shelter and we have a carpet. From cardboard we fashion a door and on that door we place a number that is equal to our combined ages. We make a sign for the structure that reads HOME and we place it outside, proudly. We scatter a little gravel around the entrance to create a path.

We sit in the home away from home and watch and listen as the rain falls harder and our effort almost keeps us dry. We tell stories and jokes and laugh and smile until we get a knock on the door and we excitedly open it, ready to welcome our first guest.

We are greeted by a pair of pristine wool-lined Hunter wellington boots and the owner of the feet that deign to occupy them says:

“I don’t want holes in the lawn, take it down.”

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Dig

Someone has purchased the five-year-old a metal detector.

“Let’s find some treasure,” she says, marching out of the door.

We scan every inch of the local park, to no avail.

“Stupid park,” she says, as we head home.

Later, she suggests we try the garden. We begin scanning.

Suddenly, the device beeps and we gasp and ready our spades.

Our activity represents a wider truth: we scan our worlds, looking for something to validate us, whether it be a person, or a job, or a calling. And, when we think we’ve located this source of validation, we dig and sweat and toil, desperately trying to seize and protect our treasure.

Sensing something special beneath the soil, I begin digging fervently, until:

“Stop digging!” screams the five-year-old.

My hands release the spade and my aching arms are thankful as I stand back, panting, trembling with adrenaline.

The five-year-old cautiously dips her fingers into the hole and, with her thumb and forefinger, produces a mucky square, raising it victoriously to the sun.

“What is it?” I ask, enthralled.

“Your wallet,” she answers, “finders keepers.”

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Dream

The 5-year-old is fascinated by The Ocado Man.

When he arrives, she hides behind the pillar in the kitchen and watches, in awe, as he places the shopping bags on the counter.

When he leaves, she asks questions:

“Where does he get his uniform?”

“Where does he live?”

“How did he get that job?”

I tell her I don’t know.

“I want to be The Ocado Man,” she says, dreamily. 

An endorsement of the illusion of status is a rejection of humanity. The 5-year-old’s refusal to be deceived by this destructive social construct fills me with faith.

Her dream is unaffected, pure - a real dream.  

The doorbell rings. The 5-year-old takes up her position behind the pillar. I open the door.

The Ocado Man wipes his feet and brings the shopping through.

I look to the 5-year-old and gesture with my head, encouraging her to emerge and talk with him.

She cautiously reveals herself, approaches The Ocado Man, and says:

“Excuse me, how do you be The Ocado Man?”

The Ocado Man, sharp as a tack, replies:

“Fail your GCSEs.”

I snigger, he smiles, the 5-year-old flees.

I find her sitting on her bed, pensive.

“Are you okay?” I ask her.

“How do I fail a GSE?” She replies.

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Disciple

“I can rap,” says the five-year-old.

“Go on then.”

“I’ll put your face in your lap / Niggers try to be the king but the ace is back.”

In my sternest tone, I explain to her what ‘nigger’ means. She vows never to use the word again.

Later, as we play Buckaroo, the 13-year-old strolls past, rapping:

“I’ll put your face in your lap / Niggers try to be the king but the ace is back…”

I chase him and scold him.

I return to Buckaroo. The mule has bucked.

“I took your go,” says the five-year-old, “you lost.”


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Dillon

The fourteen-year-old is crying. She is lying face down on her bed, as her sharp shoulder-blades judder to the rhythm of her wails.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” I ask.

She picks her head up to look at me. Tears and snot have merged on her face to form a shiny mask of misery.

“Dillon dumped me,” she sobs.

“I’m sorry.”

“It hurts.”

“You’ve just got to ride it out.”

“But Dillon’s my soul mate.”

“Time heals everything.”

“It can’t heal this” she screams, becoming hysterical. “This”, she repeats, jabbing at her heart.

I place myself on the edge of her bed and say:

“Your life is a painting. Right now, you might feel like Dillon’s the easel, but he isn’t. He’s barely a brushstroke.”

“How do you know?” she asks, her query muffled by feathers and cloth.

“I’ve been there.”

“You’ve felt like this? Like… an actual pain all over your body, not just an emotional thing?”

“Yes, like your body is rejecting the news because it’s so horrible, trying to sick it all up.”

She looks suddenly hopeful.

“Well, when will I feel better?”

“Soon, I promise. One day, you’ll barely remember Dillon.”

“Who’s Dillon?” she chuckles, wiping away a tear.

“That’s the spirit”, I smile, “I’ll make some hot chocolate.”

As I rise from the bed, the thirteen-year-old bursts into the room.

"Why are you crying?" he asks, "is Dildo dead?”

And the wailing recommences.


The Male Nanny

Absolved

The mixed changing room is closed.

“Will you be okay on your own in the ladies?” I ask the five-year-old.

“Yeah.”

“Cool. Shout if you need me.”

She ambles in.

She shouts my name.

“What?” I shout back.

“There’s a fire extinguisher in here.”

Do not touch the fire extinguisher.”

“Okay.”

“Is there anyone else in there?”

Silence.

“Is there anyone else in there?!”

I hear the sound of a fire extinguisher being discharged, and a hollow thud as it strikes the floor.

“Yes”, comes the reply, “she just set off the fire extinguisher.”

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Gamble

I am in the newsagents with the five-year-old, who is perusing the sweet shelf for her post-swim treat.

She is suddenly distracted by something in the corner of the shop.

“What’s that?” she asks, pointing at the source of her intrigue.

“The lottery,” I inform her.

“What’s the lottery?”

I explain the Lottery.

“Can I choose the lottery instead of a Kinder Egg?”

“Sure,” I say, “choose your numbers.”

“29 28 27 26 25 24 and 23. When do we know who’s won?”

“Later. You’ll be asleep.”

“Can I get a Kinder Egg too?”                            

“No.”

At half-past-nine, as I sit in the pub watching the football, I receive a phone call from the mansion.

“Hello?” I answer, tentatively.

No response. Just quick, heavy breathing.

“Hello?”

The breathing slows.

“Hello? Is anyone there?”

Suddenly, a voice emerges. It belongs to the five-year-old.

“Did we win the lottery?” she whispers.

“How did you manage to call me?!”

“I know your phone number.”

“No you don’t.”

“Yes I do.”

“What is it then?”

She recites my phone number.

“Christ.”

“So did we win?”

“No.”

“Where are you?”

“Out.”

“What are you doing?”

“Go to bed!”


The Male Nanny