My first job at seventeen (left school in the middle of A-levels) was as a kennel maid at our local greyhound racing track. I had to work every single day – dogs have to be fed! – but left after six months because of the corruption, and returned to school.
I was the first model to dance to music in Atlanta and possibly the state of Georgia. Terrified, I swung along the catwalk to Simon & Garfunkel’s rendering of Cecilia belting in my ears. This was a massive change from the slow walk and formal gestures and twirls we’d been used to. I loved the sudden freedom!
In my twenties I taught classical guitar to children in Denver, Colorado from my mobile home. One child quickly outshone me so I had to give up!
My real grandfather was apparently a POW in the First World War. This scandal was brushed under the carpet by the family and any mention of it still causes trouble. Much later, as a novelist, I was thrilled with the idea of such a story which I shall definitely write one day, although most of it will be from my own imagination!
When I first went to the States at nineteen, I sang in a Country & Western band – husband at the time played the lead guitar. I mostly sang the songs of Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette. Decades later and back in England my singing only goes as far as being in the chorus of TWODS (Tunbridge Wells Operatic and Dramatic Society) but I still love being on stage.
I was a veggie cook in a sanatorium in Bavaria in the seventies without knowing a word of German, and very little about cooking either! Thankfully, and by sheer coincidence, I’d given up meat three months before I applied for the job!
I’ve been a loyal reader of The Lady magazine since my twenties. That’s where I found the ad in the magazine’s Situations Vacant Overseas for the job above. I also found a cooking situation for my mother, which changed her life. Another story!
I love all animals, but absolutely adore cats and camels. I have a pure white cat with golden eyes (the rescue centre didn’t have a camel, unfortunately) whose name is Dougal (Dougie) He comes to see me most days in my writing cabin and helps write my novels by dangling on the worktop and flopping over the mouse-mat so I can barely move the mouse, but I love him to bits.
I was a chauffeuse (we had to use the feminine form in the heady days of the seventies) to a Swiss multi-millionaire in Zurich who made no secret he was looking for a wife! I lived in his fabulous house under lock and key of my bedroom, and although I grew fond of him (he was much older than me and not my type) it never went further. Glad to say he was always a gentleman.
I’m crazy trains, especially steam trains, and have actually been on the longest train journey in the world – from London to Beijing. The only thing which marred the trip was when my friend and I were marched off the Russian train as it arrived at the Belarus border. We were under armed guard for eight hours and didn’t know what they intended to do with us – a terrifying experience. But from Moscow onwards the journey on the Trans-Siberian Express and then a Chinese train at the border was amazing.