Love, Nina isn’t the kind of show you go to bed still thinking about – it’s frothy and light and easy on the brain. Based on Nina Stibbe’s diaries about being a naive live-in nanny for the literary kings of North London, the series has been a lovely insight into a 1980s world of writers and eccentrics through the eyes of an outsider.
Watching Faye Marsay’s Nina arrive from rural Leicestershire to this Bohemian London life may not be profound, but it’s made me think about my own childhood during which I was looked after by a lot of Ninas.
My parents aren’t friends with Alan Bennett and my mum certainly doesn’t edit the London Review of Books and we are absolutely not Literati. But from a young age I was looked after by a series of at least seven au pairs, mostly from Scandanavia, who had never been to London before they came to live with us. They might have worn shoes and been a little less scatty – but they were definitely outsiders who became part of my own strange-seeming family.
Like the boys in Love, Nina, who warm to this odd new person in their lives, I soon loved having an extra member of the family who came on trips with us, introduced us to their own families and boyfriends, and who still now I regularly see.
And just as Nina is fond of, yet confused by, this London clan, those girls (and one boy) who lived with us must have thought we were all quite strange too. In fact, I know some of them did because my friend and I, obsessed with our Spy Filofax, hacked into her email account (it was her own fault for choosing such an obvious password) and read emails she’d been sending to her boyfriend.
Apart from being enthralled by expressions of lust we’d only ever heard before in 15-rated films, we also discovered they thought my mum was lovely but my dad was a bit, well, eccentric.
We all still talk about the au pairs now – the time one of them fell asleep in the garden and forgot to pick me up from school, the boy who boiled my brother and me an egg for dinner with bolognese on the side. Almost every night. That’s when I learnt to cook for myself, when I’d reached peak egglegnese.
So Love, Nina might not be a deep, thrilling series – but it’s a perfect illustration of how joyful it can be to have your daily life altered by someone from a completely different world.