DJ Taylor: It is a year since Georgie was taken out of her expensive west London girls' school

 

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The Independent Online

'Good day at college, darling?" Mrs Craddock enquires as her 17-year-old daughter slopes nonchalantly into their substantial house somewhere off Clapham Common. "Not so bad, mum," Georgie replies with one of her trademark beatific smiles.

In fact, she has been nowhere near the sixth-form college in Lewisham.

"We dissected a frog in biology."

"And are you seeing Danny tonight?'

"Might do," Georgie replies, who in reality broke up with her boyfriend several weeks ago. "Probably go for a pizza."

There is a brief vision – this exchange takes place in the Craddocks' kitchen – of a crimped pre-Raphaelite hair-do, a pale face and a high-class ragamuffin get-up bought in the King's Road before Georgie is off upstairs to pursue activities which Mrs Craddock, for all her interest in Georgie's life, can only guess at.

It is a year and a bit now since Georgie was taken out of her expensive west London girls' school on the plausible grounds that her stay was doing neither school nor pupil any good, and was presented with what Mr Craddock, a liberal-minded and well-meaning man, described as "a reasonable amount of independence". Although the cramped and polyglot corridors of the sixth-form college are by no means unknown to her, most mornings she takes the train up to Charing Cross and simply hangs about. There is, after all, a surprising amount you can do in central London. You can go and stare at the buskers in the Covent Garden piazza. You can look at the shops in Oxford Street (Georgie is a great one for drifting around shops, trying on dresses and then putting them back), or you can head Up West in search of unoccupied friends.

The curious thing about this detached and carefully concealed lifestyle – Mr and Mrs Craddock have had one or two hints about "attendance issues", but the sixth-form college has a relaxed attitude to absence – is how little it conforms to stereotype. According to all known patterns of teenage behaviour, Georgie ought to be falling into bad company, smoking dope in Green Park and spending anxious hours in the STD clinic. In fact, she is a nice, polite and rather self-contained girl bored to distraction by most of the hoops through which her contemporaries are forced to jump. The other curious thing is that – again confounding all known patterns of teenage behaviour – she is, at least until her parents find out, entirely content.

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