By Julie Norton and the late Mira Harmer
Nice Nipper is part memoir, part novella–two accounts written seven decades apart by a mother and daughter. Their stories dovetail together as the daughter travels back in time to be an invisible participant in her mother’s childhood in 1920s Marylebone, London, giving a different take on “Back to the Future”.
Mira Harmer was one of ten siblings brought up over a second-hand furniture shop in a condemned slum building, and her account – which is memoir written as fiction – centers around her own mother giving birth for the 15th and last time (five children died). As a backdrop she provides a fascinating insight into early 20th-century schooldays, when, for families like theirs, having a bathroom was an unimaginable luxury and where the girls wore their Guide uniforms for best when visitors came.
Seventy years later, suffering from dementia in a nursing home, Mira believed she was a schoolgirl once again and her reclaimed 14-year-old self sees the matron as headmistress and the nurses as teachers. “This is my new green uniform,” she said proudly. Then she lowered her voice conspiratorially, “The teachers wear blue, you know….”
Julie Norton’s account relates Mira’s day-to-day experiences and encounters at the nursing home where Mira believes her daughter is her sister, and confusing conversations ensue where they are talking at cross purposes across the years.
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