(From my memoir “to Paris for lunch”;)
While I was waiting to start work on ‘Aslan’ for the BBC adaptation of ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’, some other projects were coming in and this is when I was introduced to Brian Collins. He was a freelance tailor and one day he asked me completely out of the blue, if I would be prepared to work away from London?
I was intrigued. ‘Yes, as long as it’s in England!‘
Amused by my answer, he explained that he had recommended me to Tony Ledell, the wardrobe manager of Glyndebourne Festival Opera in Sussex, England!
It was the shortest interview I had ever had in my life and it went like this:
Tony Ledell: ‘So, you are Nicole? I hear you can sew!‘
Me, answering quietly, as I was very nervous and overwhelmed by the surroundings: ‘Yes.‘
Tony: ‘What kind of opera do you like?‘
I was dying inside, as I have never been interested in opera and knew nothing about it. I realised at that moment that it would have been a good plan to have been a little more prepared for this interview. I should have researched what was actually happening at Glyndebourne. I mean, how many times can one get amazing jobs by just saying, ‘I can sew!‘ ?
‘Mozart!’ It was the only thing I could think of.
I looked at Tony and I could see he was studying my face and enjoying my suffering.
Suddenly he smiled and said, ‘Good answer, my favourite composer! You’ve got the job. You can start in May.‘
And that was that!
I had invited my Mum to visit me for my birthday; I was going to be twenty four years old. It was her first time in England, so I decided it would be nice for her to travel with me to Sussex for my interview at Glyndebourne. Whilst I was being interviewed she was waiting outside, wandering through the beautiful gardens surrounding the opera house.
She was shocked when she saw me reappear through the gate so soon.
‘That was quick Nicole. Never mind!‘
‘No, no, I got the job, Mutti, honestly.‘
‘What?!‘ She looked at me in disbelief.
‘But you were only in there for five seconds; did they not want you to make something?‘
‘No, I just told them I can sew, and that seemed to do it…that, and saying I liked Mozart.‘
My Mum smiled, ‘Do you now! You like Mozart?!‘ She knew that I only heard of ‘Die Kleine Nachtmusik’.
How I got the job at such a prestigious opera house was a complete mystery to her and to me as well.
‘You are lucky, you know. This would have never worked in Germany.‘
I’d only been in England for a year and already I had made costumes for the Notting Hill Gate Carnival, the BBC, The Royal Shakespeare Company, and Mick Jagger and now I had a chance to work for a season at Glyndebourne Festival Opera. I could not believe my luck!
‘Let’s go to Brighton and have fish and chips to celebrate. I heard they’re good.‘
My Mum was very happy. Eating fish and chips out of a newspaper and walking along the Brighton Pier was different, and as it was a cold grey February afternoon, they tasted even better, deliciously crispy and hot.
‘And this is another thing you can’t do in Germany,‘ I declared, ‘eating hot food out of a newspaper!‘
She laughed out loud.