On this day in 1993 (a Monday, if memory serves), a historic event transpired at Dover Ferry port, at about 10 a.m. Slightly bleary-eyed after a 4 a.m. start, a long drive, and a two-hour journey on the SeaCat across a very ‘lumpy’ English Channel (the captain’s words, not mine), I emerged onto British soil for good. I was 20 years old. I brought with me: one blue hard-shell suitcase full of clothes; one hold-all full of books, CDs and assorted knick-knacks; one small boom box (gotta have music, right?); and one collapsible box full of home-making paraphernalia such as two plastic plates, three mugs, one knife, one spoon, one fork, one small pot, and a packet of clothes pegs.
My destination? Royal Holloway and Bedford New College (as it was then), University of London. My purpose: to acquire a degree in European Studies (French and Management Studies).
Previous time spent in England? Five days in London. That’s it. I came here young and naïve, and full of hopes, and dreams, and crazy ideas. Oh and, alone. Did I mention alone?
My family thought I’d never last. I know this, because they told me. They’d given me three weeks. Maybe three months. Three years later, when I embarked on my second degree course, there was a reluctant acceptance (by my family) that perhaps I would stay on this island and build my life here.
What drew me here? I can’t really say. It was like… I don’t know, fate was calling me. It was just something I had to do. I arrived here, and I felt at home. End of story. Or, the beginning, rather!
Talking about arriving… So this first day, my first few hours, were spent in a bemused daze. Driving on the wrong side of the road through the obligatory drizzle. My first experience of a motorway service station; the smell of sausage rolls and tea and Cornish pasties assaulting my nostrils. The anticipation as we neared Junction 13 on the M25 (exit for Staines) and then drove up Egham Hill towards the college.
Finding Williamson Hall of Residence and registering my person as present on Campus. Walking into the slightly sinister breeze-block building to be greeted by a pile of laundry in the corridor, illuminated (just) by a bare 20 Watt bulb… I thought, for a second, I’d perhaps arrived in the Bronx. (I found out much later that I arrived on the heels of a great turning-over of rooms between a business conference ending and the first students arriving. That would explain the laundry, I suppose.).
Did I turn tail and run? Of course not. I sidestepped the laundry, firmly clutching my new room keys like a lifeline or a talisman, and I made my way to what was going to be my castle.
Pretty soon, I discovered:
~fused plugs (after my hairdryer had blown the fuse in the German-to-English plug adaptor, of course, not before)
~sockets with ‘on’ and ‘off’ switches (although after 20 years, I’m still liable to be caught out by an ‘off’ socket and be left wondering why the kettle won’t boil)
I learned all about:
~ milk-in-the-cup-first rituals
~lamb chops (although I no longer eat them)
~how to work a gas hob and oven (this, from the most scaredy-cat anti-gas person in the whole world, ever. Goes to prove that if needs must…)
~saying ‘cheers’ instead of ‘thank you’
~£20 telephone cards that let you make £25 worth of calls (do you remember those days?)
~saving 20p coins for the dryer and 50p coins for the washing machine!
~fitting plugs to electrical cords. I’m nifty with a pair of nail scissors and a screwdriver!
Oh, and I was surprised to find that the English love their baths. As in, the actual bath tub. In my first hall of residence, there was only one shower on each floor — but four baths, which was a slight problem for this here shower fanatic. Solution? I acquired one of those plastic attachments that turn your bath into an improvised shower. Over the years, I owned at least a dozen of those, and it was only during my most recent move that I threw the last one out!
Taking Stock (Just Quickly)
What have I been up to these past 20 years? Please bear with me while indulge myself in a little personal stock-taking. I think the occasion warrants it. 🙂 Here’s a quick run-down of events:
1993 ~ arrive at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College in Egham
1996 ~ move on to St Antony’s College, Oxford
1998 ~ find a job and move to London, where I lived in Covent Garden for six months before settling south of the river in Tooting.
2001 ~ after way too many disastrous dates with men who turned out to be rather… bizarre on second or third sight, I finally collide with Jon during a rehearsal for the Imperial College Choir summer concert. (Well. Our eyes collided. We didn’t meet until the following day.)
2003 ~ get married to Jon and move to Bristol
2004 ~ fall pregnant, quit job (not causally related to falling pregnant), and start writing a certain book!!!
2005 ~ arrival of first child
2007 ~ arrival of second child
2010 ~ go back to college, in a manner of speaking, and acquire Teaching Assistant qualification from the Open University (cor, it felt good to use my brain again after all those nappies!)
2011 ~ self-publish Sophie’s Turn and start writing the sequel
2012 ~ sign with Sapphire Star publishing, move to Lincoln, republish Sophie’s Turn
2013 ~ I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m a writer and published author of three books, I have two-and-a-bit university qualifications to my name, I’m a rock lover, I still sing in the shower, and I have a regular turn contributing to The Midweek Drive show on Siren 107.3 FM. I’d say, that’s not bad going!
And that’s my life in a nutshell. I made friends, I found work, I found love, I fulfilled several childhood dreams (loving husband, gorgeous kids; still working on the thatched cottage by the sea!) and career ambitions (did I mention I wanted to be a writer since I was ten?). I still have the blue hard-shell suitcase, the hold-all and the collapsible box (’tis my laundry basket to this day!). However, the last time I moved, a humble car wasn’t enough. It took a full-size moving container with close to 200 boxes plus assorted furniture to move the Wells family from Bristol to Lincoln, not to mention four professional packers, two drivers and two unloaders, *and* a car full of belongings. Isn’t it amazing how much ‘stuff’ I gathered in 20 years?
Tonight, I’m taking the family out to celebrate. I mean, 20 years, right? Surely that deserves a night out and a bottle of bubbly or two. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t been on that SeaCat twenty years ago. I get that weird ‘Sliding Doors’ sensation when I contemplate how different everything could have turned out, and I shudder. Because I am happy here, and I wouldn’t want my life any other way. Here’s to the next 20 years, ’cause let’s face it, I’m here to stay! 🙂
I really enjoyed reading your ‘Life in a nutshell’ post. Oh, and I see you first caught sight of your husband at a choir rehearsal – hmm – sounds familiar!
Enjoy that champagne 🙂 x
Hi Alison, thanks so much for stopping by! I’m glad you enjoyed my post. It felt a little self-indulgent to ramble on about myself like this, but hey, if I can’t do it today, when can I? LOL! And yes, that choir concert… let’s say there were certain parallels between real life and rockin’ fiction there. 🙂 Have a great day and thanks for your lovely comment! X
Thanks for sharing your happy story, Nicky. We just never know where life will take us!
Very true! I’d never have thought that 20 years on, I’d be blogging and chatting with you over on the other side of the pond… all the way from Lincoln, UK. And to tell the truth, if we did know where life would take us, that would take the fun out of the journey! Thank you for stopping by today, Patricia! 🙂 x
Aw, this welled me up! I’m so pleased that you did come to the UK, that it all worked out for you and that I got to meet you. Wonderful pictures (you are very brave to publish them – I’m not sure I would want to do that with mine).
Oh Marina ~ tears? Really? Wow. I have to say, meeting you, working with you, and sharing that office (and once, very briefly, a flat… or should that be ‘apartment’ seeing as that it was all the way in Rosslyn, VA?) was one of the highlights of my ‘real’ professional working career. I did look for photos of us, but I didn’t think they were *quite* right for sharing, they’re still subject to the ‘official secrets act’ for a little while longer, LOL! Thanks for visiting and commenting! xxx 🙂
Wait a second – you have photos? Arrgggh! Censorship, censorship!
HAHA, don’t panic. I haven’t published them, have I? Not for another twenty years at least!!! X
Well Mrs Wells, you have been up to quite a lot since you set foot on our green and pleasant land. I am so glad you did and so glad you want to stay. Having spent most of my life living overseas, and in Germany twice, I know what it is like to find oneself in a strange place, with strange ways of doing things and not being able to use/find familiar things for every day activities. But you soon adapt, humans do. You seem to have adapted very well and very quickly and so welcome again and here’s to another 20 years in Blighty. 🙂
Morning, Jane! Now you got me singing ‘Jerusalem’! Something to do with green and pleasant land, LOL. I knew–well, I hoped–you’d enjoy this post. It is strange, moving to a different country where everything is so similar and yet so different. For a long while, I used to import certain things that I missed from Germany, but do you know, over time, they have gradually appeared in the shops over here! That’s Europeanisation for you, and I applaud it loudly. (Now if Ferrero could just start stocking Yogurette on British supermarket shelves, I’d be really made up!). Thanks for your welcome and your good wishes. I hope to maybe meet you face-to-face one day… that would be a definite highlight for my next ’20 years’ write-up! 😀
So glad you can get most things German. I noticed this some while back too and when in the USA there are more and more English foods available too….so the world is a village after all. I am not sure about me being your highlight for the next 20 years, but that is a sweet thing to say and I am thrilled you think that. We could natter for woman-kind I am sure and giggle too. Perhaps one day we shall mange it, meantime it is great to chat on here and have a laugh and be virtual mates. 🙂
Natter for woman-kind… oh yeees, do let’s. One day! 🙂
LOL – when we both get time. 🙂
Congratulations Nicky! And thank you for the story.
Vielen Dank fuer Deine liebe Nachricht und guten Wuensche. I’m thrilled that you could stop by today, and that you enjoyed the story. Rock on! 🙂 xxx
What a lovely blog post Nicky!! I love the early pictures :-). Have fun tonight!!! xx
Thanks so much, Heidi! I think the early pictures are mildly embarrassing, but then I didn’t think so at the time, and it *is* me after all, so… hey ho, I thought I’d share. I’m happy that you enjoyed them!! 🙂 XX
WOW !!! What a life-changing experience and wonderful story. You’ve been there in the UK for tw0 decades and from where I’m standing you sound like a native and love being there. There’s apparently turning back to Essen [why am I thinking about having some breakfast this early in the morning – LOL ].
So what can I say but CONGRATS ,,, so here’s to not only the next twenty years but the rest of your life….HERE !!! HERE!!! [or is that suppose to be HEAR !!! HEAR !!!] May you continue to be successful in not only your writing endeavors, but all of your endeavors.
You know me now, I can’t leave without leaving a musical selection, and for this occasion I really needed to search deep into the Far Far Reaches of the thing I call my mind to come up to an appropriate song. I hope this one fills the bill for my humble intentions.
BTW – Since today is so SPECIAL for you I can’t leave without being somewhat nostalgic [for you]. But do you remember the following song? It was the Number 1 hit in the UK from September 19 – October 2 1993.
I hope these two songs have really filled the bill in making this important day memorable to you.
Your musical follower.
Hear, hear, indeed! You make me smile, Robin. Thanks so much for joining the party today and for all your lovely words. I sincerely hope that the next 20 years will be as good, if not better, as the last 20. Although where that takes me, age-wise, defies comprehension just now. LOL!
I can’t honestly say I’ve ever heard your first musical choice before (and I have yet to go to set eyes on the Mersey one day. It’s on my bucket list!) but I do remember that number one very well indeed. How could I not, seeing as that it shook my neighbour’s student room’s walls several hours every day? ‘Boom’ is an appropriate word here, LOL. Thanks for visiting and have a great day!! XX
OOPS !!! That was supposed to be NO RETURNING BACK to Essen. You, Annegret, and a few others might have understood the LOL I’d made in my comment here. 🙂 🙂
What a great story! As you’ve said before, we’ve only known each other a short time, yet we have so much in common – as well as lots of differences, which is what makes for an interesting friendship, I think! 🙂
One thing we have in common from our early years is the hair. You have the exact same hair as I did 20 years ago – sometimes mine was a bit longer, but otherwise the same! Did you perm yours then, or do you straighten it now? 😉
Have a lovely celebration tonight, and here’s to the next rockin’ 20 years! xx
I totally agree! And that’s why blogging and social media are a complete revelation. How else would we have connected??
The hair. Um. Yes. Well, it’s permed. My hair is actually really fine and quite dull, so it was a perm all the way. I had a few magical months where I had permed and red hair (the colour masking the growing out of curls!)… That was the best hair do, ever. If I can work out how to attach photos to comments, I’ll add one shortly. If not… I’ll save it for another day.
Thanks for stopping by and for all your great wishes. YOU ROCK, girlfriend! (Oh, and do let’s try to put a face to a name in the next 20 years, how’s that?) 🙂
Okay. I found it, I scanned it, I looked up instructions for adding photos to comments… so here goes a little prayer and the link. Let’s hope it works: https://nickywellsklippert.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/scan0021-2.jpg
It worked! And oh wow! Red and a mass of curls! How could any rock star resist?! 😉
I’ll try and find some of my photos. A few have been on FB in the past. I didn’t colour mine then, but boy did I perm it! xx
I can’t wait to see it…. XX
Thank you so much! XX 🙂
So glad you decided to stay with us 😉
Awwwww! Thanks so much. I wouldn’t live anywhere else! 🙂
Thats good to hear 🙂
This is precisely the message I wanted to evoke when I chose it. as my first selection today “Nicky is there to stay in the UK !!! “
We’re very lucky Robin aren’t we 🙂
What a fantastic story, Nicky and great pictures! 😀
Woohoo! Thanks, Georgina, I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂 xx
Best blog post of the day – no wait – the week. No! The month. Scratch that. THE YEAR! I loved reading every moment of it – it’s so great learning more about you!!! Cheers to you, Nicky, and the beautiful life you’ve built!
Awww thank you so much, Julie! You got me all emotional here! Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you enjoyed the feature. That means the world. Rock on and happy Friday! Mwah! (One day… who knows, one day my travels might just take me the other side of the Atlantic again. Wouldn’t that be cool?) XX
Thanks so much for sharing your journey, Nicky. I loved reading about it and seeing the pics. Maybe someday I’ll hop over to the UK and you can show me around. 🙂
That would be wonderful! You’re always welcome here! Rock on, and thanks for stopping by! XXX 🙂
Lovely to hear your story again!! Have a lovely time tonight. Hope we can raise a glass together again one day xxxx
Oooh Beth ~ that would be lovely! It’s such a pity we’re such a long way from Wales now, but we have to work something out soon. Big hugs, and thanks for visiting today. XXX
I think you looked really cute with the curls. That’s not to say you don’t look good now. I had to smile at how you met Jon. It sounds like something right out of my Julia book. Anyway, it looks like you’ve made the right choice about where to live or you wouldn’t still be there. Rock on and be happy.
Thanks so much, Anneli! It does sound a bit like out of your Julia book!!! (Or a certain Sophie book indeed… wonder why that is??). I definitely made the right choice, I think. Thanks for visiting and for your lovely comment. XX ROCK ON, you, too! X
Love this post Nicky. It’s always fabulous to see the person behind the label. Thank you for sharing x
Thank YOU, Shaz, for dropping by and taking a moment to share the joy. It’s so lovely to see you here, and blogging and meeting friends like yourself has been one of the big, big upsides of coming here. Of course, there’s nothing to say that I wouldn’t have discovered blogging in Germany but then again… would I be writing right now? I doubt it, for a whole host of reasons. So there! It’s all part of the story, and thanks for joining in. Rock on!
That is such a lovely post! Congratulations on your 20 year anniversary! xxx
Awww Anne! I’m super-thrilled that you took the time to read and leave a comment. Thank you!! Hope all is well with you and Michael and Ella, would be LOVELY to see you again soon. That invitation still stands, of course… XXX 🙂
Congratulations on 20 years in the UK! So glad you decided stay. xx
Thanks so much, Sue! I really don’t think there was ever any danger of me going back… I don’t know. I just belong here, and I never really got that sense of belonging anywhere else. Weird, right? LOL! Wishing you a fabulous weekend and thanks for visiting today! XX
Here I am being fashionably late as usual. And it’s not because I like to make an entrance. Too many things on the go and the poor wee brain has a hard time keeping everything straight.
Well done on all your accomplishments since arriving in the UK,Nicky! Congratulations! Hey, I have a UK related landmark coming up later this year, too.
Hi, Melanie! We…they have a saying in Germany: the later the hour, the more beautiful the guests. Doesn’t quite scan as nicely but I think you’ll get the drift. Thanks for stopping by and for your lovely comment! Now you got me intrigued regarding your UK related landmark…. I’m watching this space! XX
I’m amazed you remember the year let alone the date. Great story and like others have already said, it’s good to hear more personal stories of people we meet in the blogosphere.
Cheer’s m’dear to the next 20 yrs… xx
Thanks so much, Lynne!!! Who knows… maybe we’ll manage to connect for real at some point in the next 20!! XX
Reblogged this on mypennameonly and commented:
This week Nicky has written a very personal entry which starts with her going to college in the UK from her native 20 years ago, falling in love, getting married, and beginning to raise a family, along with some other tidbits. And from the looks of things she there to stay in the UK. But don’t let me tell you everything….READ IT for yourself.
In addition to reblogging this to my WordPress Blog. For those who prefer to follow on BlogSpot; I’ve also posted this post there. Here’s the link:
Thank you so much! X
You don’t have to thank me. I’m happy I could assist in spreading the word about the very personal post you gave us here,
Now to rest those grey cells in my head so I can respond to your next Music Monday selection. 😀 😀 😀
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Oh my GOD, Nicky, you were living down the road from me when you were at Royal Holloway! I spent half of 1993 on campus in Egham at Brunel Uni, I missed the grades to get into Royal Holloway but I thought that main building was gorgeous and my friends used to drive down to the entrance at night because I loved to look at it all lit up. I called it the Disney Castle, I still do 🙂 Happy 20th, my love, this blog post must have taken you ages to collate together, but it was so worth it…xx
OMG Yasmin, you have no idea how close ~ because my hall of residence for that first year (after the first week in Williamson) was… yes! Kingswood, right out there by the Brunel campus. We used to come to your Bonfire parties!!! Well, that settles it. After this near miss, we’re bound to meet up eventually. Founders’ building is very pretty. I’ve taken the boys round and they couldn’t believe that Mummy went to ‘big school’ there! XXX Thanks for commenting today, loveya to bits! XX
Interesting history of your beginnings – you were so brave just picking up and moving to a new location by yourself, but it turned out well for you! Happy anniversary
Thank you so much, and thanks for following my blog too! You know, in hindsight, I’m not sure whether I was brave or just very foolish/naïve, but it worked out for me, and that makes me happy. Glad you enjoyed the post! X
My mother did somewhat the same thing when she picked up and moved us from Indiana to Portland, Oregon when I was 15. She knew no one. It was a gutsy move, but it turned out well for us. I’ve moved several times in my life, but never all alone. 🙂