Hannice Knight was born in southern England to Freddy and Siobhan Knight. When he was only three years old, his mother went into hospital for routine minor surgery. Her heart stopped under anaesthetic and could not be restarted. Freddy was devastated and seemed to lose the will to carry on.
There being no other family close by, Freddy arranged for Hannice to be cared for by what turned out to be a succession of live-in nannies, none of whom managed to retain Freddy’s favour for more than a few months. Each of them had, at one time or another, displayed methods or attitudes that didn’t quite gel with Freddy’s narrow, almost Victorian idea of the way things should be. Meanwhile, Freddy spent more and more time growing the import/export business he had started before Hannice’s birth. His son reminded him of what he had lost, and he had no interest in developing a relationship with him.
Thus Hannice’s developmental years were marred by a total lack of consistency, of commitment, and of love. Six days out of seven, Freddy left the house before Hannice awoke, and returned after he was in bed. Sundays were no better; Freddy was tired and wanted only to rest, read the newspapers, watch television sports and nap. He had no time or patience for a noisy, boisterous and demanding child.
Knight Trading (now Knight Global Trading) flourished under Freddy’s leadership, and Freddy became, if not wealthy, at least rather comfortable. As soon as Hannice reached ten years of age, his father dismissed the last nanny and packed the boy off to boarding school, where he proved himself an able student, though with a reputation for aloofness and pettiness. Small surprise; the only character consistently present during the important, formative period of his young life was Tony, his imaginary friend.
It wasn’t until around puberty that he started to make a few friends; boys like himself from well-to-do backgrounds who had been largely neglected by their parents; parents who believed that money and material things were an adequate substitute for love, for attention, for commitment.
During school holidays, Hannice would return to his family home. At these times, Freddy was in the habit of taking his son to work with him, and putting him in the charge of one or other of his line managers, so they could induce the boy into the company culture. Such a quick learner and so enthusiastic a worker was Hannice, with such attention to detail and procedure, that it was always with a sense of regret and loss that the managers faced his return to school at the end of the holidays.
After school, Hannice went on to university where, against his father’s wishes, he obtained a degree in International Politics and African Studies. On his graduation, Freddy wrote to Hannice: “As you have made your choice abundantly clear, my boy, I have established a small office in East Africa. You will work there, and build it into something worthy of my name.” Freddy wasn’t at the graduation ceremony; he sent one of his managers with that letter and with all the documents Hannice would need to fly to Tanzania and run his latest venture for him.
Twenty years on, in his forty-fourth year, Hannice is running Knight Trading (Africa) from its Tanzanian base, where he lives with his two German Shepherd Dogs, father and son Rex and Prince, and a small staff. The firm has branches in South Africa and Nigeria, and is a successful and growing player in its field. During his time in Africa, he has gained weight, becoming what could be termed ‘portly’. He stands at 175cm, has medium length, light ginger hair that is both greying and thinning. He is clean-shaven, moderately tanned, and dresses conservatively, favouring beige or off-white suits with plain, open-necked shirts to which, for formal occasions, he adds a cravat. His dress, like everything else about him, is correct, conservative, understated and appropriate to time and place.
There are many parallels between the lives of Hannice and Della Jont; both were the only child of a driven businessman, both lost their mothers at an early age and were brought up by nannies and tutors; yet in a demonstration that nature has as large a part to play in character formation as does nurture, they are very different.
Hannice Knight (ESTJ) has a brilliant mind; he is confident and mostly cheerful. He is linguistically traditional and something of a ‘grammar nazi’, though he often expresses himself in clipped phrases, as though trying to economise on words. Meticulous, perfectionist and possibly borderline OCD he is, despite his own foibles, highly tolerant with people he likes. As a businessman, he is dedicated, enjoys creating order, an excellent organiser, loyal, patient and reliable, strong-willed, direct and honest. He is highly respected among expatriate businessmen in his adopted home of Dar-es-Salaam. On a personal level, he can sometimes come across as inflexible, stubborn and judgmental.
Hannice is one of nature’s loners. He has no romantic or sexual interest in either gender and is uncomfortable with any emotional involvement. He has difficulties dealing with and expressing his own emotions. At university, he was part of a small group of students that attempted, without emotional involvement, to stretch the sexual mores of the day to their breaking point. He lost touch with them all when he moved to Tanzania, and has since shown no interest in rekindling any of those relationships or re-creating any of their experiments.
Asked to describe himself, Hannice would say that he’s an ordinary bloke, doing his bit for the company and trying to be one of the good guys. His PA, Lindy, described him as his ‘work in progress’; a good boss, fair and reasonable, and a nice man who was a bit of a social and fashion disaster at first, but is improving.
This is the latest in an occasional series looking at some of the key characters in my current works - The Orphans, and Knight & Deigh.