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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dial M for Martens

When I was about 15, my school ran a babysitting course at lunchtimes. This covered precisely nothing about what it was like to actually look after a baby, but essentially provided a very high-level overview of first aid, and an awful lot of practise folding cloth nappies. To this day, I have never needed to fold a cloth nappy other than when on some sort of training course.

Most importantly, completion of the course came with a certificate which "qualified" you as a babysitter.

Off I raced to our local cornershop, which was either called Lateshopper or Tateshopper. The logo was confusing and nobody cared enough to actually find out. We always called it Lateshopper. Until it changed to Spar. Then we continued to call it Lateshopper.

I put a card up in the window. "Qualified babysitter available. £3 per hour", plus our phone number. I underlined "qualified" twice.

I sat back and waited for the phone to ring. I had done the same the summer previously when I had advertised piano lessons for children, despite only having Grade 6 myself, and not really liking children. I also failed to factor the second part of that into my babysitting advert. No-one wanted piano lessons.

However, against all odds, a couple of weeks later, the phone rang. Someone wanted a babysitter! Remembering my babysitting course, I asked for full details of the child. Not child. Children. Five of the little fuckers. All girls. Their names? Mary, May, Mandy, Molly and Megan*. And their parents Michael and Marnie Morrison.

Their ages ranged from 7-13. In for a penny, in for a pound. I said that because there were so many children, I would have to charge £4 per hour instead of my advertised £3. This didn't seem to be a deal breaker.

On the designated date, Mrs Nunn walked me to the Morrisons' house. In I went to meet the children. The parents left. Little Molly brought her colouring book into the living room, "because I might not want to talk to you". This was a good start.

"Anyway," May said, "you probably won't stay very long. The last babysitter we had, we tied her to a chair and left her in the middle of the road." This didn't sound very likely, but I didn't want to call bullshit on a ten year-old.

Turns out, babysitting is the easiest job ever. 13 year-old Mary put the youngest to bed, and then kept bringing me lemonade and pizza. She then insisted we watched an 18-rated vampire film, and told me - on her life - that the younger children were allowed to watch it, so long as we fast-forwarded through the sex bits.

Four very easy hours later, after a fair amount of blood and gore, home came Michael and Marnie, and massively overpaid me. I pointed this out - but they said it was fine - it was difficult to find a good babysitter. (Skillsets utilised: pizza eating, not getting tied to a chair, allowing underage children to watch horror films.). The part that confused me was when both the adults walked me home, thus leaving an entire household of children by themselves, completely undermining the need for a babysitter in the first place.

A few days later, I bought my first pair of Doc Martens. I had money. It was brilliant.

*Names have been changed very slightly, but I swear, they all started with the same letter. It must have been an absolute bastard when post arrived for M Morrison.

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