“Nanny, dear, could we have bacon and toast for breakfast?” Mrs Dearly pleaded, rushing through to the kitchen with several dogs chasing at her heels. “We overslept, and now George is late, and he won’t make his meeting and – oh dear!”
“That’s quite all right, dear,” Nanny Cook soothed, and in no time at all bacon and toast were on the table with plenty of time for Mr Dearly to make his meeting.
“Oh, Nanny, dear, I can’t seem to do this tie!” Mr Dearly appeared, quite pink in the face, half-strangling himself with the offending item of clothing.
“Come here, dear, let me see.” And Nanny Butler’s clever fingers quickly redid the tie in a perfect knot before she quickly brushed the dog hair off his smart black jacket.
Life in the Dearlys’ household ran on smoothly oiled rails indeed thanks to the residence of two ruthlessly efficient women who had known the Dearlys since the pair were smaller than… well, smaller than puppies in fact! Little wonder that such long acquaintances could lead to the two Nannies being able to deal swiftly with requests – even before they were made sometimes!
“Nanny, dear, could you post these cards when you go into town?” Mrs Dearly would ask, looking around to try to remember just where she might have left them.
And it would turn out that Nanny Butler had already seen the pile of stamped cards when she left to fetch dog-food the night before (dog-food always being in scanty supply in the Dearly household). By now, people all over town were already carefully peeling envelopes open, smiling at the pictures of puppies playing in the snow.
“Nanny, dearest, I just can’t seem to find my cream shirt anywhere.” Mr Dearly would complain anxiously, rushing downstairs only half-dressed in the morning. “I have to be at a very important meeting with the government by nine. I had thought I left it in the bathroom.”
And Nanny Cook would sigh and explain to Mr Dearly that she had found it crumpled on the floor the night before, and by now it was freshly laundered, ironed, and hanging ready for him to put on before he went to tell the government how to stop getting into debt. Mr Dearly was very good at stopping the government getting into debt but, somehow, very bad at hanging his own shirts up.
Sometimes, it must be confessed, the Nannies became a little exasperated with the Dearlys’ inability to look after themselves but never seriously and never for long. They were far too fond of the Dearlys’ to feel any serious annoyance about the matter. It was, after all, a very Dear household.
Still, on and on the cries for help went, day after day.
“Oh, Nanny dear, can you help me give RolyPoly a bath? He’s been into the mud again, and he will come trooping through the house!”
Even the dogs got in on the act, appearing with a whine or a cocked head to request help or attention in any number of ways.
“Oh, Nanny, dear,” their eyes said quite eloquently, “won’t you rub my stomach just a little?”
At eight o clock each evening though (except in the case of emergencies, or dinner parties which were almost as bad) the Nannies’ duties were over. The pair would retire into the kitchen, shooing out even Cadpig, who would sigh at her television viewing being ended for the day, and settle together on the small sofa the Dearlys’ had bought for them.
“Nanny, dear,” Nanny Butler would ask, “shall we watch that nice antiques program?”
“Let’s,” Nanny Cook would agree. “Would you like some port, Nanny?” And she would pour them each a small glass, and the pair would sit down together companionably, watching as a succession of people brought dubious-looking antiques to be valued.
(Nanny Cook had never truly been interested in other people’s fusty old garbage, but Nanny Butler enjoyed it, and the poor dear deserved it after such a tiring day.)
Nanny Cook’s hand would settle comfortably onto Nanny Butler’s black-clad knee (such a scandalous thing for a woman to be wearing trousers, and yet somehow they suited Nanny Butler’s slim figure). Just as the program ended, she would reach for the remote control. “Shall we watch that nice animal program?” she would suggest.
“Let’s,” Nanny Butler would say. “Would you like some chocolate, Nanny?” And she would fetch one of the two big boxes that the Dearlys’ gave them every Christmas, and they would each solemnly pick five before settling to watch small fuzzy animals narrowly avoid being eaten by a variety of creatures.
(Truthfully, Nanny Butler had always found this slightly bloodthirsty and disturning, but Nanny Cook liked it, and hadn’t she earned a sit-down after a day running after a house full of puppies?)
As they watched, Nanny Butler would reach to gently unpick the hair-pins from Nanny Cook’s head, sending the white hair tumbling down around her shoulders (such beautiful long hair, Nanny Cook had, not thinning at all despite her age). The program would end, and Nanny Butler would expertly time the switching off of the television to the moment before the adverts began.
For a few moments, the two women would sit in comfortable silence. Nanny Butler’s hands would thread through Nanny Cook’s hair, treasuring the softness against her fingers. Nanny Cook’s hand would remain resting on Nanny Butler’s knee, stroking gently through the material. There was no need for conversation. There was little these two had to say to each other that they did not already know. The day was busy, noisy, rushed. Better to sit and to smile at each other, hearing nothing louder than the tick of the kitchen clock.
Finally, Nanny Butler would yawn and stretch, breaking the quiet that had fallen over them. “Shall we go to bed, Nanny dear?”
And Nanny Cook would smile, and take her hand, placing a gentle kiss on the wrinkled cheek. “Let’s.”
And so they did.