‘You were always a worrier,’ she used to say.
Nanny. Nanny Clarke. Freesia Clarke, or was it Fuchsia. I’d get the two names confused. Freesias with their sweet, sweet scent and Fuchsias so pink. We’d pop them open. I loved her. I loved staying with her when Mum and Dad went away. Staying in her little council flat. Climbing the big stone steps, so cold. Painted light blue. Her bathroom that smelt of soap – plain soaps. She had a tray that was suspended over the bath. There was a pumice stone and a loofah. No central heating. We would dry ourselves in front of the electric fire. A little flat. A tiny kitchen, freezing floor and those blue and white striped jars with biscuits and tea bags. Her living room, with her souvenir on the mantelpiece. Souvenirs from Switzerland and Spain. She didn’t go. Other children had remembered her and sent them. A miniature Swiss chalet – a container for matches – and a cuckoo clock. I loved them. Her treasures. In her bedroom there was a dressing table with a glass top. Underneath were photographs.
She made me feel safe. As a child. She was steady, reliable. Her hands cool and strong. I loved being part of her life. Waiting for the milkman and his horse, delivering the half-pint bottles, hearing the clink of glass. The walk down to the park. Feeding the ducks. Then back to the flat for cauliflower cheese. Safe. Steady. All those sayings. You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Don’t cry over spilt milk. Safe. Steady. Reliable.
Dad told me she went mad. Started peeing in milk bottles. Wandering around in the nude. We didn’t see her again. The loss of her. Large. The loss of the child.
‘The grieving process can take two years,’ she tells me. So be it. I am ready.