Adrian Mole meets Mary Poppins




In a London bookshop I challenged my husband to find a book he thought I’d like. Minutes later he returned with “Love, Nina.” The cover art included a tube of Toffos, a strip tease pen and glowing praise from one my favourite authors, Nick Hornby. He knows me so well – I was sold! Always judge a book by its cover.

In 1982 Nina Stibbe, aged 20, moves from Leicester to London to work as a nanny for a brilliantly eccentric family with famous connections. She could not cook and had no idea how to look after children, or who the strange guests that called round were. “Love, Nina” is the collection of letters she wrote home to her sister Victoria hilariously describing her new domestic life. From turkey mince to Geoffrey Chaucer, swearing in German to Trevor Brooking, every letter is crammed with batty anecdotes from 55 Gloucester Crescent.

Nina obviously adored her employer Mary-Kay Wilmers (Deputy Editor of the London Review of Books) and her two children Sam, 10, and Will, 9. There was also the hated cat Lucas, competing nannies in the Primrose Hill area, literary students and Alan Bennett – a neighbour who appeared at supper times and whose discussions across the dinner table with the kids are absolutely priceless – as is his on-going critique of Nina’s cooking.

This cast of (real-life) characters is rich and Nina has a turn of phrase and writes with a tone that is nothing short of comic genius. Every page is an absolute hoot and I read and re-read every letter in a bubble of sheer escapism and joy. The many 1980s references throughout the book also filled me with a sunny, happy nostalgia. As Nick Hornby said; “I adored this books and could quote from it forever.”

So could I but I won’t here. You need to buy this, read it and laugh yourself silly or ROFL as the kids say. One of the funniest books I’ve ever read.


Notes on the author: Nina Stibbe

  • Studied at Thames Polytechnic and worked in publishing
  • Now lives in Cornwall with her family
  • Look out for her next book – a novel called Man at the Helm released in August 2014

Burton’s last epic



Burton diary cover

Richard Burton was at one time Hollywood’s most highly paid actor, famed as much for his epic romance with glamorous Elizabeth Taylor and his heavy drinking, as he was for his magnetic performances on stage and screen.

Throughout much of his life, Burton kept a diary. Although he dismissed them as “merely a daily exercise in the observation of frustration,” they have now provided us with an invaluable insight into the life and mind of the legendary actor.

His diaries were published for the first time in full last year having been lovingly edited and referenced by Chris Williams using Burton’s original journals plus other photographs, newspapers, recordings, scripts and books.

The resulting 654 pages are utterly brilliant and as compelling a read as any great novel. Burton is articulate, charming, callous and full of fun and gossip. He writes with such a beautiful and poetic voice that you feel yourself falling for him.

Burton documents a life well lived amongst famous friends and the elite. Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando cop quite a bit of his wrath throughout!

 burton and taylor pose

As well as a journal of his own life it is also interesting to read Burton’s take on history, current affairs, travel and sport. From the moon landings to Churchill, Mussolini to golf, Burton offers intelligent opinions on the topics of the day.

The ease with which he uses quotes from, among others, Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas and  Yeats  to illustrate his thoughts and feelings is a tremendous delight to read and reread. You find yourself marvelling at his cleverness and recall.

We discover that he found the actual daily business of making movies a bore and that he sought other activities to stimulate his mind. He was a very well read man; devouring books almost at the same rate he did vodka and liking nothing better than hiding away from his family and his entourage with a good, or bad, novel. He also studied many languages including French, Italian, Spanish and Russian and liked to watch his weight with what he called “the drinking man’s diet.”

Below I have compiled my favourite Burton quotes from these diaries on subjects such as his darling Elizabeth Taylor, doctors, drinking, social occasions and attacking paparazzi. Please read on, these extracts are beautifully written and often hilarious in their spiteful observation. Who doesn’t love a witty put down? Continue reading