As a child, she had everything that opened and shut, that could be rocked or cradled. But despite all this, she was an unhappy child.
Every photo suggested this was her demeanour. Always there was the scowling child, bottom lip slightly in pouting position as if making sure history recorded her dissatisfaction with her world.
Each day she would be taken from her bed and given breakfast, washed and dressed for the day. Her parents were busy people and they employed a series of nannies to oversee their daughter’s childhood. By a series of nannies, I do mean a series as she was not a pleasant child to be around and most nannies didn’t last very long.
Miss Annie Mangle was one such nanny. A pleasant but firm young lady who came from a working-class family to the north. She could see the child lacked, for one thing, the love and attention of her parents.
She tried her best to break through to the child, to make her feel, her love and attention might compensate for the dearth she received from her parents.
But it was all to no avail. The child was obstinate, stubborn and every word the nanny thought applied to a child who appeared to be beyond help.
Such was the child’s behaviour she rarely spoke to her nannies. She listened and acted, ate when food was given to her and lay in her bed at rest time. Conversation was not something she sought from any of the women who entered her life.
After six months of trying and persevering Miss Annie Mangle resigned her position. She felt the child was a case a far more experienced nanny might fare better than she.
So, one morning she announced to the child she was leaving. Explaining that she was sure it was her inexperience that led to very little progress, as Annie Mangle imagined it, being achieved.
The child listened as always and nodded her understanding and went off to find a book to read. There was one she always sought out when a nanny left. It was a small picture book an aunt had given her years before: “Alone on the Plymouth Rock”. She connected with the boy in the story, living his life alone with his parents in a lighthouse on what he called the end of the earth.
Her world was like that, as if living alone was badly enough, having little to no interaction with those she desperately wanted to have interactions with, crushed her inside.
She knew Miss Mangle had tried, she knew it was to a large degree her fault Miss Mangle was leaving. But Miss Mangle had been different and as the nanny took her leave the child looked up and said: “Thank you, Miss Mangle.”
Those were the only words Annie Mangle heard from the child’s lips.