Describe your ultimate escape plan (and tell us what you’re escaping from).
Bethnal Green Road, where I grew up
I have no escape plan, I no longer want to escape but am quite happy where I am in Switzerland. Taxes all paid, no criminal record, and who wants to lock me up?
There came a time in my younger years when I had an escape plan, but it was in a compartment in my mind that was closed. I was at school, a good school. I was too concentrated on passing my exams and preparing my future life with a good education and training. I was happy with the family and made the most of what was available. Living in one of the poorer areas of London it was not easy. There seemed to be a solid shape of things to come. Finish school, go to work, live with mum and dad (in those days there was no chance of moving out), meet the right man, get married, have children and stay where you are.
No, never – I did not want this. I wanted to go places and see things, but how? A good question so I had to plan my escape route carefully. My first breakout was a holiday with a friend of mine. We spent a week in Paris. For me, my first breath of “foreign” air and I loved it. I even found that the French understood my “franglais”. Everything was different, the streets, the shops and above all the museums. I think I was the cuckoo’s egg at home. Somehow I landed in the wrong cradle. Mum and dad were good parents, their mistakes were just human. I never suffered in my childhood and being an only child I did not have to share.
So I returned from France. A few months later it was Summer and as I had just finished my school days, I was earning money, and my next holiday was planned with another friend. This time we made a tour of Italy. It was one of those organised coach trips, landing at Basel airport and travelling by road down to Sorrento on the Amalfi coast, where we stayed a week. Why Amalfi coast you may ask? To be quite honest it was a bit of a trip in honour of our fathers. They both served in the second world war and were stationed in the area, so we were really looking forward to it.
Another seed sown in my escape route I suppose. I returned to England, my hopes reinforced with getting away from things. I was back at work, my first job and where was that? I was working for the P & O Shipping lines in their pay department, afterwards I moved to the Conference Deparment. It was the days when travel on the big ships was the cheaper version of flying, flying was expensive. I soon realised I had the chance to become a Pursurette on board the ships. You travelled with the ship and dealt with any office work that would occur. That was my dream, but not to be realised. Shipping was changing, the big ships and travel was gradually being taken over by the planes, and so I decided to move on, still smelling the chance to leave England.
One day I saw an advertisement in the daily newspaper for work as a secretary in Zürich. I needed no time to think about it, I phoned, had an appointment for an interview and within a couple of months I arrived in Zürich on my twentieth birthday (that was a coincidence). It was 46 years ago and I am still in Switzerland and have never regretted my decision to escape from England, my surroundings and everything that belonged to it.
Perhaps if I had stayed in England I would have married, had a family and been happy to live my life as most of my friends did. I left, followed my wish, and was lucky to be able to realise my dreams. Was it “The Great Escape”? I do not think so. I just went there and did it.
Where I now live