It was many years ago during my “babysitting period”, which I still consider the most affluent time of my life. With no overhead and countless neighbours with young children, I made a cool living sitting on other people’s couches, watching their TV and eating their biscuits. I came of age at the height of the Celtic Tiger, when people went out constantly and even now at just 23 years of age I believe I will never be as wealthy as I was aged fifteen.
I had a new client, a young couple with one daughter. They had just moved in up the road. The child was already asleep when I arrived, usually the perfect situation for a babysitter, but I had a sense of foreboding. I could see that this would be no ordinary babysitting job. Not in a super-exciting Adventures in Babysitting way, more in a no-biscuits way. Their recent move was obvious from the state of the house. It wasn’t that it was messy, I am certainly in no position to complain about untidiness, but they hadn’t set up the TV yet. Or the kettle. No tea, no telly. Horror.
They apologised and said that they had no channels yet, but the DVD player worked and I could watch a film. I thanked them and when they left went to investigate the DVD situation. It was scant at best, but they did have a copy of High Fidelity, starring John Cusack, for whom I’ve always had a soft spot. I had meant to see the film for a while, since I was also a big Jack Black fan, so I was pretty happy despite my limited choice.
The DVD player did not work. I’m no tech wizard, but it wouldn’t turn on and that’s usually a bad sign. I certainly killed some time trying to work out the wiring, then cursing at it (quietly, I didn’t want to wake the baby), but there were several hours left before the parents would arrive home. I was disgruntled to say the least.
They had a pile of books that obviously hadn’t made it to a shelf yet, so I rooted through them, although I doubted they had any Harry Potter or Jacqueline Wilson. I was right on this count, but what they did have was High Fidelity, Nick Hornby’s book on which the American film was based. So I decided to just read that. And I loved it. I even found a half packet of Maryland chocolate chip cookies in a press (babysitter’s rights, we can root through your cupboards and eat anything we find) so I managed to spend a pretty enjoyable evening. When the parents returned they insisted I take the book home to finish it.
Unfortunately, not long after this, they found a babysitter closer to them, which cost me some business. But the joke’s on them because I never returned the book. And that’s how I got a free copy of High Fidelity, the first Nick Hornby book in my collection.