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Lesson 2

                                          Au Pair Girl

                                             Text A

    Gretel comes from Austria. She is eighteen years old. She is going to stay with the Clark family for a year. Gretel has come to England because she wants to improve her English. She works as an au pair girl. She helps Mrs Clark in the house and attends English classes regularly in her spare time.


    Gretel hasn' t been in England long and everything is strange to her. She often compares life in London with life in Vienna. Some things are nicer in London; other things are not so nice. For instance, the shops are bigger in London than in Vienna and there is greater variety. But it's more expensive to enjoy yourself in London. It's expensive to have a meal at a restaurant or to go to a theatre.


    Gretel has got used to many things already, but she can't get used to breakfast in England. "You English eat so much in the morning," she often says. "Fruit juice, porridge, bacon and egg, tea, toast and marmalade! How can you face all that food so early in the day?"


                                              Text B

    Maria had decided that as soon as she had finished school she would become an au pair girl in London. Two of her friends had already spent a year with a family in Kensington, and told her they had had an interesting time and had managed to learn a lot of English. She was advised by her Head Teacher to get her parents' consent and to make all the necessary arrangements prior to her departure: have enough money for her return fare, know exactly what kind of a family she was going to live with and what they expected of her.


    Shortly after her eighteenth birthday Maria received a letter from Mrs Hutchinson, the wife of an advertising executive, stating the terms on which she would be employed. The Hutchinsons lived in a house in Chelsea. They had three children; two boys, aged fourteen and ten, both at boarding schools, the elder at a Public School in the Midlands and the younger at a Preparatory School in Surrey; 

the youngest child was a girl aged eight, and she went to the French Lycee in South Kensington. During term time Maria would have to take the girl to school in the morning and fetch her in the afternoon. She would have to help Mrs Hutchinson in the house - washing up, making the beds, laying the table, dusting the rooms, answering the door, taking telephone messages, shopping and running errands. 

 

She would be guaranteed three evenings a week free and could attend English classes either from eleven till one in the morning or from half past one till four in the afternoon. She would receive 3 a week pocket money. Maria was delighted with the conditions and thought that they were fair. She also liked the look of the family, as Mrs Hutchinson had thoughtfully enclosed a photograph with her letter.


                                Additional Information

    It was nothing for a girl t.o be sent away to service when she was eleven years old. That meant leaving the family as she had never been parted from for a day in her life before, and going to some place miles away to be treated like a dog. I've got nothing against girls going into good service.

 In my opinion, good service in a properly run big house was a wonderful training for a lot of girls who never would have seen anything different all the days of their lives if they hadn't gone. It was better than working on the land, then, and if it still existed now, I reckon I'd rather see any of my daughters be a goodhousemaid or a well-trained parlour maid than a dolled-up shop-assistant or a factory worker. 

But folks are too proud to work for other folks, now. even if it's to their own advantage, though as far as I can see you are still working for other folks , whatever you're doing. Big houses didn't want little
girls of eleven, even as kitchen maids, so the first few ycars had to be put in somewhere else, before you got even that amount of promotion.

 

 Big houses expected good service, but you got good treatment in return. It . wasn't like that at the sort of place my friends had to go. Mostly they went to the farmers' houses within ten or twenty miles from where they'd been born. These farmers were a jumped Up, proud lot who didn't know how to treat the people who worked for them. They took advantage of the poor people's need to get their girls off their hands to get little slaves for nearly nothing. The conditions were terrible.