GAP YEAR by Marion Twyman

When my son James received the devastating news that, despite gaining A grades in his A-Levels, his third application for a university place had been refused, he decided to take a gap year rather than end up with what he regarded as an inferior placement. I couldn’t argue with him, it was his future on the line here, and no one wanted him to get it wrong.
No one we knew had any experience of gap years, so we had no personal advice to rely on. James studied the internet and obviously there were decisions only he could make. What sort of gap year did he want ? Did he want to join an organisation like VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) to go and work in a third world country, or did he want to go backpacking and just see a bit of the world ? There were opportunities in this country too, working with organisations like the National Trust, digging ditches or building dry stone walls and other useful things, it wasn’t going to be an easy choice. And of course, of paramount importance, was the finance. Lots of the jobs and courses pay a little, but probably not enough to live at anything but on the breadline. I had been saving all my life for his university education, and didn’t want to use that, as he’d need it when he eventually started studying again. James himself had been working since he was sixteen at the local garden centre, but the pay was low, and of course he had spent most of what he had earned on holidays, so his savings were very meagre. As a widow, I wasn’t exactly Lady Bountiful either.
His favourite sport had always been skiing, so he first investigated the likelihood of jobs where he could indulge in it. To his amazement, the first resort he looked up had a job in a large hotel advertised through an agency, driving guests to and from Geneva airport in a minibus, with additional tasks like snow clearing and general maintenance. When he investigated it, he was offered an interview in London,
which he jumped at. Was it really going to be this easy? I could afford to pay his fare to Switzerland and sub him a bit each month, after all he wouldn’t be eating me out of house and home here, would he, so it looked the perfect answer to his problem. I had to remain cautiously optimistic and not get his hopes up too high until he had his interview though, which was difficult, but luckily there was only a week until the due date.
He returned from London with a voucher to buy a ticket to Geneva, and written confirmation of the job he was to start the following week at the Hotel Christiana ! It was a mad rush from then on to get all his stuff together and his paperwork completed, and it seemed no time at all before I was seeing him off at the airport. My little boy, all six feet four of him, leaving home for the first time and fending for himself in the big wide world ! His father would have been so proud.
It was very quiet at home without him, but he was very good at keeping in touch with regular e-mails. He absolutely loved the life. The work was hard, especially the snow clearing, but his every spare minute was spent on the slopes, so he was in his absolute element. He made lots of friends, and often mentioned one called Lizzie in his e-mails. James’ gap year was one for me too, I made the most of it by joining a rambling club, where I met Colin, and eventually we were going away for weekends as often as we could, exploring parts of England we had never been to. It was wonderful.
Then came the e-mail to tell us the season was over, and he would be coming home. We met him at the airport, he was slimmer, tanned and fit, and I had forgotten how handsome he was. My boy had returned a man. There was a lot of catching up to do, lots of photos to look at, and anecdotes to hear. Then he told us he had been
invited back , to train as a manager in the hotel. They had given him a month to let them know his decision. It would mean forgetting about university, but if it went well, he would have a career in hotel management in front of him, and if it failed, he still had the necessary qualifications to go back to university in the future.
I don’t think I need to tell you what he did. Of course he went back, to the job and to Lizzie, who is now my daughter in law, a lovely girl. He is very highly thought of in the hotel, where Lizzie also works, and they are saving hard with the intention of buying their own small hotel eventually. We visit them in between our trips around this country, and they visit us when they get a chance, so as far as we are concerned, James’ gap year turned out to be the best thing he has ever done, for both of us.
I wonder how life would have turned out if he had gone to University and got that chemistry degree !

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About highamwriters

A group of recreational creative writers and if you ask us nicely we will let you publish some of our work
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