The early years
Danielle grew up as the middle child of the family with an older brother Tony and a sister Emily, 5 years her junior. Her parents Janet and Jack had sadly lost a daughter aged 11 weeks old, 11 months prior to Danielle’s birth. Danielle’s mother had risen from her bed one morning and checked on her baby. As the child was sleeping soundly in her cot, she had taken her small son Tony downstairs and given him breakfast, bathed and dressed him, then settling him in the living room to play with his toys while she went back upstairs to wake her sleeping daughter for a feed. On arriving at her daughter’s cot, she found her lifeless body, her face blue, it was quickly apparent that her baby was not breathing. Janet snatched the lifeless child from the cot and ran downstairs, out the front door screaming into the street, “help me please, help me, she’s not breathing, my daughter is not breathing, please somebody help me,” Janet begged.
A neighbour ran to the local shop on the corner of the street and explained to the shop keeper what had transpired. The shop keeper immediately telephoned for an ambulance and the neighbour returned to comfort Janet. Jack, the child’s father was at work some 10 miles away at the steelworks, where he worked as a bricklayer’s apprentice.
Attempts were made by the neighbour to revive the lifeless baby and the ambulance crew, on their arrival, had taken over attempts at resuscitation, however, it was soon realised that all attempts were futile, and the poor little baby was pronounced dead at the scene. The little baby was taken away to hospital and Janet’s husband was called at work. He promptly returned home to the devastating news that his precious daughter had sadly passed away. Janet and Jack were naturally devastated by their loss and Tony, who was too young to understand what had happened, missed his baby sister terribly. He would often ask his mother where baby was and when she was coming home, bringing tears to Janet’s eyes. She found it difficult to explain to her son that his sister had gone to the angels in the sky.
Janet quickly fell pregnant with Danielle. Poor Janet had to tolerate jibes from neighbours in the street who would taunt her with cruel words such as, “a dead one brings a live one”. Poor Janet was made to feel guilty in that she was somehow trying to replace her lost child with that of another, which of course could not have been further from the truth. She missed her baby terribly and arranging the funeral was almost too much to bear.
Janet and Jack buried their beloved daughter on the day previously planned for her christening. On this unbelievably sad day they were joined by many family members along with close friends and their first-born son Tony. The little angels’ death was subsequently reported in the local newspaper and an inquest was performed, which in time concluded a cause of death as ‘sudden infant death syndrome’. Janet blamed herself for a long time afterwards, what if she had gone up to wake her baby sooner? What if she had picked her up from her cot before taking Tony downstairs for his breakfast? Why hadn’t she sensed that there was something wrong? Why, oh why did her little baby have to die before her life had even begun? Life was so unfair.
In time Jack returned to work and Janet remained home with son Tony, keeping house and packing boxes in preparation for their upcoming house move to a new town closer to Jack’s work. A new start for the growing family, away from the constant reminders of their recent devastating loss, not to mention the cruel taunts from neighbours Janet had once considered friends. People could be so very cruel.
Janet’s pregnancy progressed uneventfully and two months prior to the pending birth the family moved to their new home, a 3-bedroom house on the corner of a cul-de-sac. It was a quiet council estate with local shops a short walk away and an infant/primary school, which taught children from the age of 5 to 11 years old just around the corner. Janet couldn’t drive; therefore, it was hugely beneficial to have local amenities and a school within walking distance. Also, there was a weekly street market a short bus ride away, where Janet could go to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables. Jack also planned to drive the family to the local supermarket once a week on his day off to stock up on other essentials.
In due course Janet went into labour and after dropping Tony at a neighbour’s house to be cared for, Jack drove his wife to the local hospital and tentatively walked the corridor waiting for news of his new-born. These were days when the father was not permitted access to the labour ward and it was expected that he would wait in the family room until after the birth and the mother and child were made presentable for him to visit. The labour progressed well and in time Janet gave birth to another daughter weighing in at a healthy 7lb 3oz with a mop of beautiful blond hair. Once mother and daughter were cleaned up and made comfortable, it was permitted for Jack to be allowed in to congratulate his wife and meet his beautiful daughter. The couple were extremely emotional as the birth of their new daughter brought back memories of their recent loss. However, the young couple vowed that this was a new start for the family, and they named their new addition Danielle.
Janet and Jack had sat down one evening when Janet had fallen pregnant with Tony and discussed baby names. After much deliberation they had agreed on Tony for a boy and Danielle for a girl. They duely wrote down these names on a sheet of paper and placed it inside the front cover of one of Jack’s encyclopaedia books for safe keeping. By the time Tony was born, the couple remembered their choice of names, however they had then forgotten about the sheet of paper. During their recent house move the sheet of paper had fallen from the encyclopaedia as Jack removed the book from the shelf. On handing the paper to Janet she looked at it and on realising what it was she began to cry. You see, Janet believed in that moment that her deceased child was born to be an angel. Poor Janet believed that because their first-born daughter had not been given the name her parents had originally chosen for her, this meant that her time on earth was limited and the angels took her. This gave Janet a sense of comfort and their new-born daughter was given the name Danielle from the sheet of paper. The name the couple originally chose in their discussion prior to Tony’s birth. Janet felt that her lost child was never meant to be!
The couple took their daughter home a week later and started their new life as a family of four once more. Janet struggled to settle after what had happened with her last daughter, she constantly checked that Danielle was breathing and Tony would ask if the angels would come and take her too. Danielle was a good settled baby and hardly ever cried or made a fuss. She slept well between feeds. Janet bottle fed her daughter because she had attempted breastfeeding with Tony but sadly had to give up as she wasn’t producing enough milk to satisfy him. She had tried again with her second born but again had to quickly transfer to bottles. Therefore, with Danielle the decision was made during pregnancy that the baby would be bottle fed and the difference was immediately noticeable with a contented well settled baby. The young couple went on to have a miscarriage some two and a half years later, followed by another daughter two and a half years after that, subsequently completing their family unit. Hence giving Danielle an older brother by 3 years and a younger sister by 5 years. Janet found herself a busy mother bringing up 3 small children whilst Jack continued working shifts at the steelworks, in time, changing jobs to become an overhead crane driver, which he enjoyed.
Money was tight and Jack would often work double shifts to make ends meet. Jacks shift work comprised of a rotation of 6am to 2pm, 2pm to 10pm then 10pm to 6am, with days off after his stint of night duty. He had 4 weeks annual leave a year, two of which were always the last week of July and the first week of August which was known locally as the steelworks’ shutdown period, where annually, the smelting furnaces at the steelworks were cooled and maintained. During this time the family would often go camping to a holiday park down south. Where they enjoyed two weeks residing in a large family sized tent, sunbathing, swimming and attending the camp entertainment club in the evenings. Janet would on occasion help to clean caravans between residents to earn extra spending money to treat their children.
Danielle was a quiet shy child who was strictly brought up by her mother to ‘speak when you’re spoken to and not unless’. Should Danielle ever speak out of turn she would be spanked sharply by her mother and sent to her bedroom. Being the middle child, Danielle often felt left out or in the way. She grew up feeling that as Tony was the oldest and only boy, he was favoured for that reason and as Emily was the youngest and the baby of the family, she was favoured for that. Danielle was never encouraged to express herself or articulate her feelings. Only that she was to be seen but not heard. Consequently, Danielle grew up feeling like an outsider from the family unit, unloved and in the way. However, she idolised her big brother and on the other end of the scale, resented her baby sister for, in Danielle’s opinion, taking away all her parents’ attention. Realistically Emily was often neglected by her mother and more often than not, left to lay in wet soiled nappies, giving the child horrendous nappy rash. However, Danielle was far too young to realise this at the time. It wasn’t until she was much older that she learned the truth from other family members. As the sisters grew older, they became much closer.
Danielle would get herself downstairs on a Saturday morning before anyone else was awake and turn on the black and white television at low volume to watch cartoons. One morning Danielle found that the plug was out of the wall when she went to turn on the television so thinking she was a big girl, she attempted to push the plug into the electric socket. Unfortunately, unbeknown to Danielle, there was a frayed wire to the plug and when Danielle pushed in the plug to the socket, she received a short sharp shock, dropping the plug onto the floor and throwing Danielle back across the room. Poor Danielle sat shocked and dazed for a few minutes until she recovered enough to creep back to her bed. She never told her parents about what had happened for fear of receiving a spanking and being told it was somehow her own fault. Danielle never went downstairs on her own again following her harrowing experience until she was much older.
One morning as the children were downstairs watching television and their parents were in bed Danielle heard a loud bang coming from upstairs. As she went to investigate Tony stopped her, telling her to leave their parents to sleep. When Danielle tried to say she was going to see what the bang was, her brother told her that if it was anything important, their parents would deal with it and he made her stay downstairs. It later turned out that the bang Danielle had heard had been her mother getting out of bed to go to the bathroom. She had blacked out and fallen to the floor. Janet had been diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 15, and although she was stable on medication, which she took daily, she still suffered with intermittent black outs. A while later, Jack had got up and found his wife on the floor. After helping her back to bed he went downstairs to ask if the children had heard their mother fall, but Tony answered that no-one had heard anything. Danielle was too afraid to speak out, so just kept quiet.
Sunday evening was bath night for the children in the household. Janet would put water in the kitchen sink and pop Emily in to play. One day when Emily was around a year-old Janet had placed her in the sink of water with a sponge, which Emily loved to soak with bathwater then suck on it. However, on this particular day, Janet had left Emily in the sink and sat in the living room with a cup of tea. When Danielle was asked to go check on her sister, she found Emily sitting in an almost empty sink soaking up the water with her sponge and holding it over the side letting the water run onto the floor. Danielle took great pride in reporting her findings to her mother in the assumption that her sister would be chastised for her actions. Danielle couldn’t have been more wrong as her mother lifted Emily out of the sink, wrapping her in a towel, giving her a huge cuddle whist shouting at Danielle to get the mess cleaned up before going for her own bath, leaving Danielle feeling jealous of the love her baby sister took away from her and feeling decidedly unloved.
On another particular Sunday evening Danielle was sitting on the floor in front of the sofa after having her hair dried following her bath. Tony was sitting on the sofa playing with his metal toy pistol. He was having great fun throwing the pistol over Danielle’s head onto the floor in front of her, jumping down to pick it up then repeating the process. This went on for some time until he threw the pistol and it hit Danielle on the back of her head. Danielle responded by screaming at the top of her voice with the pain whilst instinctively putting her hand to her head to rub away the pain. On bringing her hand back down and seeing blood Danielle immediately felt queasy. At which point her mother marched her to the kitchen to clean up her head telling Danielle to shut up and stop making a fuss. Her mother then blamed Danielle for being stupid enough to sit in the way when she knew Tony was playing with his pistol. Danielle was subsequently sent off to bed. Poor Danielle was once more crying herself to sleep feeling totally unloved.
In the lead up to Christmas, Jack would assist his children to write letters to Father Christmas with a list of gifts they would like to receive, on the strict understanding that Father Christmas would bring just one item each from their list as he had so many children around the world to deliver gifts to, and he couldn’t possibly bring anymore. On the completion of their lists Jack would then light the fire in the living room and hold the children’s letters over it until it ‘magically’ disappeared up the chimney and floated away to Greenland to be sorted by Father Christmas’s elves. Whilst sitting quietly in the room a few days later the family heard a strange sound in the chimney and a sheet of paper floated out and onto the hearth below. Janet picked up the paper and it transpired it was a very charred letter which Danielle had written to Father Christmas. Poor Danielle broke her heart at the thought that Father Christmas had not received her
letter, therefore, she would not receive her gift. At which, her mother responded by smacking her very sharply on her leg and telling her not to be so stupid, Father Christmas had ways of seeing all letters sent to him, even those of which did not arrive and poor Danielle was told in no uncertain terms to stop making a fuss and to get to bed. Danielle cried herself to sleep feeling alone and unloved while her brother and sister remained downstairs enjoying family time. Danielle felt so hurt and left out. To make amends the following morning and to gain some brownie points Danielle decided to help her mother by doing some ironing. She set up the ironing board and commenced by ironing a few of her sister’s terry nappies. Folding them neatly into a tidy pile, she felt proud and so helpful that her mother would be pleased at how good she was being. Danielle then moved on to the linen nappy liners. To her astonishment and disbelief, the iron stuck to the liner, burning a hole in it and leaving a sticky mess on the base of the iron. Danielle was horrified at what had happened and being so afraid of getting into trouble from her mother that she quickly put everything away as she had found it and hid the iron back in the cupboard. Obviously, her mother found the iron later that day, which landed Danielle another spanking and sent back to bed with no tea. During Danielle’s chastisement her mother also added that nappies and nappy liners don’t need to be ironed, therefore Danielle’s efforts had been wasted.
Occasionally Janet’s older brother, his wife and two daughters would visit for the day. The children’s uncle would always give his nephew and nieces a ten-bob bit for their piggy banks. On one particular occasion Tony told Danielle to ask him if he was going to give them the money. Danielle tried to protest telling her brother that they would get in trouble if she asked for the money, but Tony forced her to ask anyway. Danielle was really nervous as she didn’t think it was right what her brother was asking her to do, but she felt she had no choice, so she shyly went into the room where the adults where chatting and stood waiting to be asked to speak. When her mother finally asked her what she wanted, Danielle told her that Tony had asked her to ask their uncle whether he was giving the children the usual ten bob bit. Her mother was so angry that she accused her daughter of telling lies, telling her that Tony would not have told her to ask such a thing. Her uncle then replied that, yes, he did intend giving the children the usual money for their piggy bank but since Danielle had asked for it, she wouldn’t be getting any money at all. He then took two coins out of his pocket and gave one each to Tony and Emily. When Danielle tried to stand up for herself by saying again that Tony had made her ask, she was greeted by a sharp smack on the back of her leg by her mother and told to go straight to bed with no tea and to learn not to be so greedy. Poor Danielle was left feeling that she couldn’t do right for doing wrong. If she didn’t do as her brother told her she would be in trouble from him and when she did as she was told, she was still in trouble from her mother, and she got the blame and was punished by both her mother with a smacked leg and her uncle by no pocket money.
Danielle found herself, both consciously and unconsciously constantly striving to please those around her, constantly wanting to feel loved and constantly feeling that her efforts were wasted. It appeared to the child that, no matter what she did, it was never good enough. Not long after her little sister was born Danielle pretended to have a poorly tummy, so her mother let her stay off school. Just after 9am Janet asked her little daughter how she was feeling, and Danielle chirped back as bright as a button that she was feeling much better. Before Danielle knew what was happening she was strapped into the child seat on the back of her mother’s pushbike and getting a neighbour to care for baby Emily, Janet cycled her daughter straight to school telling her teacher that the child wasn’t feeling too well first thing, but as soon as the clock turned 9am she miraculously felt much better and pushing Danielle into the classroom Janet instructed to never, ever, try that again. Poor Danielle was left feeling mortified in front of the whole class.
When Emily was still a baby the family went on holiday to a campsite down south. On the journey there the wheel on the passenger side of the family car sheared off. As the front of the car fell to the ground and screeched to a halt Janet’s door was thrown open and she was thrown out into the road. All Danielle could see was her mother rolling over and over across the road until she came to a stop at the grass verge. Luckily, she only suffered with a broken arm and cuts and bruises. Danielle remembered her mother with her arm in a plaster cast and a sling for the duration of their two-week holiday and for many weeks after they arrived back home. How Janet was not hit by another car as she rolled across the road was anyone’s guess. Things could have been so much worse. The rest of the family escaped unscathed and baby Emily was wrapped tightly with blankets in her carrycot in the back of the car, fast asleep. She would grow up with no memory of the incident whatsoever.
When Danielle was around seven years old, she had heard about some of the girls at school going to the Brownies. This was a junior version of the girl guides. She asked her mother if she would take her along to see what it was like, but Janet refused. She told her daughter to go and have a look herself, which Danielle did. The Brownie leader advised the child that her mother would need to go along and fill out the relevant forms for Danielle to join the group. Danielle quickly skipped back home and told her mother what the leader had said, but she point blank refused to go with her to fill out the forms. She told her daughter to bring the forms home and she would have a look, but the leader wouldn’t give them to her saying that her mother had to go in otherwise Danielle wouldn’t be able to join. The child tried to beg her mother to let her join but got no-where. She was at a stalemate; the leader wouldn’t let her take the forms home for her mother to complete and her mother wouldn’t go to the group to fill them in. After trying for a few weeks, Danielle was eventually told that she had her answer and if she dared to ask again, she knew only too well what she would get. Reluctantly Danielle had no choice but to let it lie. It was a huge shame as if her mother had let her daughter join, this could have helped with the child’s social anxiety immensely, as it was, she went on to suffer with this for most of her life.