Jill, have you ever felt alone?
Episode #
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Jill, have you ever felt alone?

The Storyworth Podcast
Episode Description

This week, we reconnect with Jill, who shares a story about an unlikely friend she made while working as a governess in Stockholm, Sweden. But the real twist came about sixty years later, when Jill discovered the truth about her mystery friend. You'll never guess who took Jill to dinner.

No doubt there were times as a child I felt alone, like the time I got stuck in a chimney.

But the first time I recall feeling really alone was in the early summer of 1965. I was acting as a governess, which is basically a nanny, to two young Swedish children. Their parents were an older couple and both had high-profile jobs, leaving the children somewhat bereft of emotional support. I was their third nanny that year.

When it was family vacation time, the parents offered me a choice of accompanying them to Norway or staying in Stockholm for three weeks. I opted to stay. I was longing for a break from two unmanageable children.

The first few days were peaceful. Having time to myself was a treat. But soon I came to realize my salary was my room and board. I had no money and the groceries were no longer replenished. I was getting hungry and eating less each day.

Fortunately then in Sweden, if you gave blood, you were given a coupon for fish and chips, a cookie and a small bottle of brandy. I went to the hospital and gave my blood. This offered a short-term solution.

One day while coming home from a walk in the nearby park, with an apple that I had filched from a tree in someone's garden, I saw an old Rolls Royce parked on the street. It had blue gingham curtains in the windows and reminded me of home, of England, friends and wholesome meals. I felt more alone than ever and very homesick. I walked around slowly checking the car. A man with unruly bright red curls and a beard appeared beside me and asked if I spoke English.

He looked to be in his late fifties, flamboyantly dressed in black pants with white silk monogrammed shirt and a beautiful cravat. He asked if I knew where a certain restaurant was located. We struck up a conversation. This was his car and he was lost. A few minutes later, we were chatting like old friends. He seemed quite a colorful character and introduced himself as Merlin Minchell, a restaurant and food critic for Egon Rooney, who were publishers of the best top restaurant guides.

Merlin told me he found it rather boring eating one good meal after another, all alone with no conversation. He asked if I would consider accompanying him to dinner that evening, the only requirement being I had to select different menu options to his and would I check out the ladies' washroom in the restaurant.

What an incredible stroke of luck! Not only was my hunger about to be satiated, but I would have an interesting adult to speak to. Of course I readily agreed, and we went to a very fancy restaurant. We got along well. He had lived a very interesting life, and once he heard my circumstances, asked if I would care to join him for each meal for the next ten days. Indeed I did...

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