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Foreign holidays


Breaking the bond with nanny
John Julius Norwich Writer
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When I was three, or perhaps just four, I don't know but very early, she started with French lessons. I had Mademoiselle Perrier-Gentil who came three times a week and gave me an hour of French. And at that age, if you start early enough, there's no problem. You just absorb it like you absorb your own language. As a result of this, there's never been a time when I haven't been fluent in French. I've always... Not necessarily bilingual but I've always been easy and fluent in it. But my mother, in order to make it better still and also I think rather more importantly, to start weaning me away from nanny, took me off to France for my seventh birthday. We went to Aix-les-Bains and nanny was left behind, she didn't like it at all, there was a bit of a row about that but anyway, it happened. And my mother took me off and she hired an 18-year-old French girl, who spoke no English at all, in order that I should speak French all day. So it was the three of us, the French girl, Simone, and me and my mum. And we went to Aix-les-Bains and my mum hired a car and every morning she drove herself to the cure, the bains of Aix-les-Bains and there was a lovely big lake with artificial beaches on it so that was just a lovely French holiday. And I used to enjoy them very much but I always... the first two or three anyway, I was always deeply relieved to get back to nanny because the bond with nanny was greater than the bond even with my mother. By this time I realised that life with my mother was a great deal more fun than life with nanny, but the bond was still there and clearly it was going to have to be broken, that's the tragedy of every nanny's life, but the breaking was very slow and gradual and painless in the end.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Aix-les-Bains

Duration: 2 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018