What are you going to do when you leave school?

“What are you going to do when you leave school”. When I was seventeen that seemed to be the only thing that anyone could ask me. There was no other topic of conversation. Rather than being a slow drip drip drip of water torture it became like a piece of road-making machinery, manned by everyone I knew and even those I didn’t, pounding away into my head. every waking moment. I had to make it stop. The moment I uttered the words “I’m going to be an au pair”, that persistent pain in my head came to a halt. The pressure was off and rather than being an immature and indecisive teenager I had been transformed into a young woman of adventure. The only problem was that then I had to start this period of my life which these days would, of course, be called a gap year.

Those around me bought copies of NME to keep up on musical events and releases. I picked up “The Lady” every week. In amongst the adverts for live-in chauffeurs and housekeepers would be the brief details of parents looking for someone to keep their home clean and mind their children. Amongst several that I applied for, one caught my eye. “Young Indian Muslim family in Geneva ……”  I don’t remember the rest but to a young girl living in 1975, in a provincial town, things weren’t going to get more exotic.

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