Lisa, now four, sees very little of her mother, who feels the need to keep up appearances on the London social scene. Lisa is being cared for by a young nanny called, Eileen, who she adores, but her life is being made a misery by the aging psychopathic governess, Miss Laverty, who her mother employed to teach Lisa and two of her friends.
“Children are like wet cement.
Whatever falls on them makes an impression.”
Dr Hiam Ginnot
Gloucestershire – 1964
One hot summer’s day, the windows of Lisa’s nursery, which also doubled up as a classroom, were flung wide open and the smell of the dusty heat flooded through the window, along with a whiff of karma.
Lisa had drifted off, she was visualizing what she and Eileen would be doing after the boring Miss Lavatory had gone, a walk by the river or perhaps they would go and have tea with Charlotte or Julia. Eileen always made Lisa forget about her awful mornings in the schoolroom.
Miss Laverty’s characteristic drone was reaching acute boredom level. The subject was arithmetic and she was asking the children which monetary coin they would prefer to take shopping with them, a penny or a sixpence. Which coin could they buy more things with?
Lisa, whose brain had been focused on playing Pooh Sticks, opened her mouth and the words, ‘A penny,’ popped out, along with a subconscious yawn. When asked why by the scowling Miss Laverty, she still failed to engage her brain and absentmindedly responded, ‘because it’s bigger.’
As this unfortunate episode was pre-decimalization, one copper penny, despite being much larger than a silver sixpence, was worth five times less. Lisa was not quite as confident when she looked into Miss Laverty’s bloodshot eyes. They were pulsating, threatening to jump out of their sockets.
Julia and Charlotte sucked in the air through their teeth; they both knew Lisa was wrong. Miss Laverty’s gnarled face screwed into a tight grimace and her enormous facial wart started to twitch. Bunching their fingers into podgy little fists, they watched in horror as the harridan picked up a ruler in her shaking hand and slapped it down onto the back of Lisa’s hand. They both felt her pain.
Lisa was trying very hard not to cry, watching the red mark flood across the back of her hand. She narrowed her eyes, the pièce de résistance of her very best cross look and fixed the witch with her stare, placing both her hands palm down on the table. Then biting hard on her bottom lip, she watched Miss Laverty lift the ruler again and slap it down on to her other hand. This time Lisa let rip an ear piercing scream, which echoed around the whole house and caused a murder of crows to scatter from the tops of the Silkwood trees. Enough was enough.