This one is for Louise.
Recording Date: 2/15/2016
Transcription of Radio Show, “You Do What?” from the Faerytale Broadcasting System
Host Paula Pennywhistle (HPP): Hello, I’m Paula Pennywhistle and I’m the host of your FBS network’s show “You Do What?” in which we interview people with unusual careers. My guest today is Dame Ella Nettleblossom, a Fairy Godmother Emeritus and the founder and head administrator of the Fairy Godmother Coop.
Good morning – er, do I call you Fairy Godmother, Dame Ella, or what?
Fairy Godmother Ella (FGE): Oh, just Ella is fine, dear. I’ve gone by many other titles, but we in the Co-op are simply too busy to stand on ceremony!
HPP: Ella, then. Ella, let’s start with some background. I know you’re connected with the Royal Family, though I confess I’ve always been a bit confused about the details. But isn’t it unusual for a royal to work in the Fairy Godmother field? I mean, we’re used to Fairy Godmothers helping princesses, not being princesses. Can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
FGE: You know, that is the oddest thing about growing old – one minute it seems that everyone knows your entire history, then a day later it’s all faded into the dim past. Very well, then, once upon a time – well, really, it did start that way. And really, it’s fair to say the current Royal Family started with me. Technically, I suppose, I am still the Dowager Queen
HPP, startled: Your Majesty!
FGE, continuing: But, really, it’s rather hard to know what to call one’s self when there have been two other Dowager Queens since I first took that title. My daughter-in-law, and granddaughter-in-law, you know. My beloved husband and son both died fairly young for our kind, I’m afraid – only 90 or so. So there I was, very much at loose ends, with plenty of other people there to handle the usual royal duties, visiting orphanages and patronizing young artists and so on – and I started thinking of my own Fairy Godmother, Grainne Nettlethorne, and how very much she’d done for me.
HPP: Can you share that story with our listeners, Ella?
FGE: Oh, I think they’ve heard it many times. In my younger days, I was nicknamed Cinder Ella.
HPP: Stunned silence
FGE, amused: Yes. That’s what I meant about the oddness of getting older – you probably thought that was only ever a story. Anyway, all those years later, I started thinking about dear Grainne and wishing I could continue on with her work. Then one day I must have wished on the right star or the right white horse, and next thing I knew I was recruited.
HPP, intrigued: How do fairy godmothers recruit?
FGE: I’m sorry, dear, that’s a deep dark secret of our order and I don’t know all the details myself.
HPP: Well, we’ll certainly respect that – after all, no smart person wants to annoy the fairy godmothers! And so then you were an active fairy godmother for some years?
FGE: Yes, and I enjoyed it greatly. You may have heard of some of my girls, but I can’t share their stories – privacy, you know. Anyway, after some time I began to see a need, and that’s when I founded the FGM Co-op.
HPP: Nice segue! That brings us to our main topic for today. Tell me, Your Maj- Ella, I think we all understand the important work Fairy Godmothers do – you all are one of our important channels of economic mobility, after all. But can you please explain to us all what a Fairy Godmother Co-op does?
FGE: Well, there are really two main things. Funnily enough, I got the idea, not so much from the work the cobblers and the other guilds are doing for their members, as from the mothers’ groups my daughter-in-law was organizing in the villages.
First of all, as a working woman yourself, you must know how hard it is sometimes – you have always to be polite to everyone, no matter how you feel. Fairy Godmothers go one step beyond that; we are expected to be unfailingly cheerful, nurturing and supportive – and despite our *ahem* special powers, we are only human. We are ill sometimes, or sad, or overworked – and until we formed the Co-op, we had no sick time! We simply had to work, no matter how poorly we felt. A scullery maid wouldn’t have stood for it, in these enlightened times. We in the Co-op have developed a system to back each other up; if one Godmother is ill, another fills in for her, with a simple glamour on her appearance to preserve continuity for the clients.
It’s difficult to provide statistics, of course, since there were no data for the previous system, but our members report that simply being allowed to stay home when they need to has both increased their job satisfaction tremendously, and vastly improved their health. A contented Godmother is an effective Godmother!
HPP: You mentioned that the Co-Op has two functions, Ella – what is the other one?
FGE: Well, another common pitfall of our work is what I call the empty pitcher syndrome. Tell me, my dear Paula, do you have children?
HPP: Yes, I do – two little girls and a baby boy.
FGE: And like most mothers, you care for them on top of the other work you do. Do you ever have the feeling that you do nothing but give to others, until there’s almost none of you left?
HPP: I love caring for my children!
FGE, in the stern but kind tone used by all the best Nannies:That’s not what I asked, my dear.
HPP, a little embarassed: Well – sometimes.
FGE: Then you can imagine what it’s like for us. Few women become Fairy Godmothers until their own children are grown, but of course we still have families, grandchildren and so on. And the very basis of our job is about giving to others – our magic pulls on our own life essence, you know. Our members were experiencing tremendous rates of burn-out, even after we instituted our back-up system to let them rest when they were really ill. And so – we started our Godmother’s Godmother program!
HPP: Godmother’s Godmother?
FGE: Precisely. Each year, at our annual Yule Ball, we draw names from a cauldron. Each of us is assigned one other member to be her Fairy Godmother.
For that year, the Godmother treats her assignee as an extra client – though, let us say a less needy one than the usual client, since Godmothers are selected for the stable personalities and life situations, among other good qualities – and treats her to some of the pampering our other clients get.
HPP, fascinated: But doesn’t this just add to the workload?
FGE: It all balances out. We have done studies; our members use up to 20% of their magic on their assigned Godmother, but – remember I said our magic draws from our life essence? – we found that it is more than replaced by the benefits each member gets from her own Godmother. Not only is there the feeling of being cared for, for once – being the caretaken rather than the eternal caretaker – but after all, our help is targeted at improving all aspects of a client’s life and that includes our own people as well. Those two factors strengthen each member’s life essence, and thus, her magic.
HPP: I see. And what is your own role in all of this, Ella?
FGE: Well, I founded the system and I have done the organizational work so far – but I’m about to step down from all of that and retire, yet again.
HPP: Uh, oh – will the whole system end when you do?
FGE: Oh, heavens, no. Our members are capable and intelligent women – and in fact we are discussing whether to add some men to our group. Fairy Godfathers, if you will. We’ll use an elected board to manage things, and if that doesn’t work out we’ll hire someone to do it. In fact, our clients are frequently in need of temporary employment, so that would enable us to funnel the costs back into our main work. Of course, we would try to hire the girls – or boys – we feel might join our organization later on in their lives.
HPP: Fascinating. I’m afraid our time is coming to an end, but let me say how much I have enjoyed the chance to speak with you. Can you give us any final tips? If we have an audience member who is in need of a Fairy Godmother, or who wants to become one, how can she get in touch with your group?
FGE: The selection process is shrouded in mystery, even for us. But I can say that selection of our clients is based on need and on who you are. The best advice I can give is, regardless of your situation, treat every one you meet as you’d want your Fairy Godmother to see you treating them. But remember, most of us have been in your shoes, glass or not, and we don’t expect you to
stand for being mistreated! Seek the help you need, and help others when you can, and keep hoping we’ll find you. If not, at least you’ll have found other help.
For those who want to become a Fairy Godmother, my advice is nearly the same: wish on stars and stones and wells, but even without Fairy magic, do your best to be a Godmother to those already in your life – and to support those who are making the same effort. Remember that you cannot help others when your own
well has run dry, but do what you can to help the helpers, as well as those who need help, and we will hope that you are tapped to join us.
HPP: And that’s the end of our show. This is Paula Pennywhistle, of FBS’s “You Do What?” radio show, with her Royal Majesty the thrice-dowager Queen Ella, founder and Chief Administrator of the Fairy Godmother Co-op. Thank you, Ella, for joining us today, and thanks to all of you for listening!