I was boarding in Berlin at the time the wall was being built

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 June, 2007, 12:00am

I've been a nanny, interpreter, croupier, holiday sales rep and the owner of a new age shop and all those experiences taught me one thing: I can mix with people from all walks of life.

Furthermore, running Hong Kong Dog Rescue means I deal with life and death daily and that's been such a difficult lesson.

I can't say my schooldays in the 1950s and 60s were that happy. My father worked for British intelligence so I spent a lot of the time overseas and in boarding school.

I remember meeting someone years ago who went away to school and he said it had affected the whole of his life in terms of his relationships and trusting people.

I think it's true: boarding school can be an awful wrench and it's not a great place unless the child wants to go.

My first school was an army one in Cologne, Germany, set in spacious grounds. I was in the brownies and on Saturday mornings there'd be a film matinee often featuring cowboys and Indians. It was post-second world war and we had a German maid and driver and my closest friend was Susan Wales who I'd muck around with.

I then went to an army primary school in Berlin. It was where I started to horse ride which turned into one of my life's passions until I came to Hong Kong in 1984.

We lived in a forest and I spent all my time down at the stables and cycling in the woods.

There then followed a spell back in England, first at a Catholic primary school, which was strange as my parents were quite anti-religion and later at a girls grammar school in Lewes in East Sussex.

We wore pinafores and bibs and you were in trouble if you were seen off the school premises without your hat on. I was a good student, and much of that was due to my father being very academic. If I asked a question at home, I'd have to look up the answer in our Children's Encyclopedia.

My favourite subject was biology. I wasn't just interested in animals but all living things and liked to draw them.

At the age of 12, we moved back to Berlin and to a boarding school that I didn't like.

We had armed guards on the train as we passed through what was then the East German sector. It was at the time the wall was being built in the city.

I always seemed to be sick with tonsillitis and I think it reflected how I hated the place and didn't like being locked up.

We were only allowed out of school twice a week for two hours and that was only to walk down a path. We weren't allowed to talk to anyone and certainly not to boys.

Once a term there was a dance held with a boys' school. We'd never met them and it was excruciatingly awkward.

At half term, a lot of parents would pick up their kids but I'd have to stay.

It was only when my parents moved and I was 15 that I was able to escape the place and nothing would drag me back.

My new school was in Nissen huts and had no sixth form; it was like St Trinian's except it had boys.

I had no idea what I wanted to do. I loved the idea of being a country vet but had done more arts and humanities subjects than science.

It was about that time that I discovered boys, discos and having fun. As my school didn't have a sixth form, I left and decided to work.

My first job was as a nanny to a single father and his daughter, who went to a German Swiss school in Ghana, West Africa. It was very corrupt there, the supermarkets were bare and you had to bribe to get things done.

On returning to Britain I worked variously for a rental car company, as a holiday rep and then a croupier.

After that I came to Hong Kong and my first proper job was opening the New Age Shop in Central where I pulled all my life's experiences together to work for real.

I founded Hong Kong Dog Rescue in 2002 after going to the government kennels where the dogs were to be destroyed.

I've learned with HKDR that if you believe in what you are doing then everything happens. Since 2003 we've rehoused 1,500 dogs that otherwise would have been killed.

There's also the educational side. Not so long ago people would run into the bushes when they saw a dog as they were so afraid of it. That's no longer the case.

However, from time to time I see dogs that are overweight and powder puffed which is so sad. After all, when you deal with life and death daily then fashion is so unimportant.