On my first overseas trip my mate and I parted company in Vienna. I was barely twenty with a Eurail ticket in my hand, free to go as I pleased. I travelled around Switzerland for a week including a stay in an ancient Roman city. Freedom was intoxicating, if I saw a town that looked interesting I simply got off the train and wandered around and if it took my fancy I stayed the night. I got to Zurich, and booked into a motel, on the check in counter there was a brochure for a strip bar. I pocketed the brochure while the check in clerk wasn't looking.

It was a classy joint and the drink prices reflected this. I sat mesmerised as the dancers slowly removed their costumes, anticipation washed over me as each piece of clothing was elegantly removed until the dancer was naked at which time they would quickly leave the stage.

A stunning woman sat next to me and said something in German, I nervously said something in broken German with a dash of English, “No problem I like to speak English”

She explained the rules, I could come back to her place for 500 Swiss francs but I would need to buy some expensive drinks so she could get off work early.

She lived in a tiny flat on the first floor of a building that looked over the town square. We made love and she informed me that I was a selfish lover, she would show me how not to be selfish.

In the morning we went downstairs to a cafe for coffee and croissants. She told me that rich fathers brought their virgin sons to her to be educated but it wasn't just sex education, she would take them to dinner and show them the table manners expected of a gentleman, apparently a common mistake that she had to correct was when emptying a soup bowl, the proper way to do this was to gently tip the bowl away from you, never towards you.

We went back to her place and made love again, as we dressed she talked about how in life it seems there is always more bad than good but that nothing is permanent, the good times don’t last but neither do the bad, that life will throw all sorts of challenges and disappointments at you. We sat on the bed facing each other, she took my hands, stared into my eyes with an almost frightening intensity and in her gorgeous accent slowly said “In life you must be strong, you must be sooo strong" the words reached deeply inside of me.

After our goodbyes I went downstairs into the busy town square and as she had promised, I saw her waving at me from the balcony.

Her words have been an enduring comfort to me ever since, through miscarriages, my mothers sudden death, my divorce, whenever the world has dealt me a bad hand I think of them, I can still hear them precisely as she spoke them with the emphasis on "so strong"

"In life you must be strong, you must be so strong"