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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

New Nanny Needed

“A British Nanny” –to the Tune of “The Life I Lead”

George then decides to take matters into his own hands in hiring the next nanny.  He dictates the advertisement to Winifred, whose behavioral flexibility allows her to easily go from suffragette to secretary, as the need arises.  George, however is a “one-trick pony” as they say, and in his advertisement for the nanny, we see that his ideas about the requirements run along very Saturnian lines:  “A British nanny must be a general . . . the person that we need to mold the breed is a nanny who can give commands.”  George has only one way of being in the world, which the coincidence of his name and occupation suggest.  His advertisement for the new nanny also reflects this gerontomorphic, Saturnian pattern: “Tradition, discipline and rules, must be the tools, without them disorder, catastrophe, anarchy, in short you have a ghastly mess.”  The children have their own view about nannies, one that is diametrically different from their father’s.

“The Perfect Nanny”

The children come downstairs to apologize, and George says “I’d like to have your help in the matter,” by which he means that they should be well- behaved.  When the children offer their own advertisement as a way to help, George dismisses them out of hand.  While their mother Winifred is loving, relational, and inclusive, and listens attentively as the children read aloud/sing, George is ridiculing and excluding the entire time: rolling his eyes, interrupting them, and making rude comments.  The children desire a nanny who they can relate with, not be ruled by.  If their new nanny is not domineering and cruel, the children promise that they will not rebel by playing tricks: “we won’t hide your spectacles so you can’t see, put toads in your bed or pepper in your tea.”

After the children finish their advertisment/song, George sends them off to bed and they leave, crestfallen.  He proceeds to tear up their ad, which he sees as nothing but rubbish.  He throws the torn paper in the chimney, and then phones in his ad to the newspaper.  Winifred attempts to engage her husband, and she tries to put a good face on the situation, but he is just very abrupt.  While George is speaking with the Times, the torn pieces of paper magically rise up the chimney and are carried away by the wind. 

It is appropriate that the papers rise up the chimney because chimneys are symbols of “the mysterious channels of communication with beings in the Heavens. It is the channel used by witches when they go to their Sabbaths” (Chevalier & Gheerbrant, 1996, p. 191).  Chimneys relate to the world axis where celestial influxes come down and earthly souls rise, linking the two realms, and in this way they are also liminal.  Chimneys also symbolize of the bonds of society, because they were places of gathering, where relating bygone customs and storytelling occurred.  The family is torn, just as the pieces of paper and the kite have been torn.  Julie Andrews relates “the magical quality of Mary Poppins lies in the main thrust and her reason for being in our lives is that she fixes things; she goes in and makes families better.” (Stevenson, 2004, DVD)  In a moment, we will see that Mary has done just this with the children’s ad. 

A few days later, in answer to George’s ad, a “ghastly looking crew” of nannies have lined up outside along Cherry Tree Lane.  They are all stern and somber looking.  Jane and Michael remark: “they’re not what we advertised for at all.”  As he prepares the morning time gun, Admiral Boom’s assistant, Mr. Binnacle reports that the wind has changed and it is coming out of a new quarter.

Ellen tells Mr. Banks about the cue of nannies, but she is twelve seconds early and George is so rigid and controlling that he refuses to see them until precisely 8:00, because George has previously told Ellen “ I dislike being hurried into things.”


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