From the north east of England, through Africa and Asia, and on to Barcelona
Niki Jane Moss Simpson, born Nicola Jane Simpson on December 14 1966 in Darlington, Co Durham, England. First loves in life included gymnastics and I represented the NE of England in competitions until age 13. Like my mother before me, who was a beautiful ballet dancer until she married my father at the age of only 19, I loved all dance and studied both ballet and contemporary and harboured a desire to attend the Royal Ballet School for a while. I also played a lot of sports for my schools including basketball and athletics and only the discovery of boys and the ability to get into nightclubs at age 16 interfered with that!
My parents divorced when I was 10 and I remember being the first student of divorced parents in my Junior school. I also remember being Mary in the school Nativity play with no front teeth, having lost them between the auditions and the performance! I was rather rebellious outside school and an exemplary angel with good grades and a positive attitude inside. I knew that education was my way out of the stigma of failure attached, at those times, to children of single mothers. My mum worked hard and money was tight.
I was determined to study at degree level and went to the then, Hatfield Polytechnic, now the University of Hertfordshire, to study a BA Humanities with major in Linguistics and minor in History. I hated most of it! I hated student life with its lack of direction and was much happier working as a silver service waitress at the Hatfield Convention Centre with “real people” in my very generous non lecture or seminar, spare time.
I knew I wanted more, so applied to Operation Raleigh, now Raleigh International, as an expedition venturer. The selection process was brutal and it was my kindness and generosity that won me my selection place rather than my expedition, running, hiking, making fires and personal survival in -4 degrees at night skills! I raised the necessary funding of £4,000 through lots of events in my home area of Darlington, my father’s area of Cumbria and my boyfriend and his family’s area of Dorset, including sitting in a bath of baked beans for 24 hours and a cow splat competition. Botswana was my chosen 3 month expedition and I loved it. Three months in the Okavango Delta, teaching in a school, making bricks to build a school and Aids awareness education as well as guarding waterholes for the Kalahari Conservation society, canoeing into hippos mouths and trekking across savannahs with an armed guard. It was life changing and I discovered so much about myself.
I completed my teacher training in Brighton at Brighton Polytechnic and then moved to Ringwood in Hampshire to start my career as a primary teacher. Living in the New Forest and enjoying mountain biking and Sunday village pub crawls, I met my ex husband, from Liverpool and we soon bought our first home together. We married after 5 years and 3 house moves and then I discovered that my dream to have a baby was a tad more tricky than I had imagined. During fertility investigations a miracle happened and I was pregnant with my beautiful daughter, Eliza Rose; a wee Tibetan elf with the wisdom of the buddha in her soul.
During my pregnancy and whilst teaching, I also trained as a doula and natural birth teacher in Bristol. After becoming parents we realized that our priorities were different and David’s father and step mum lived in the Creuse in France so we upped sticks, bought a renovation project and did our own version of “A Place in the Sun” project for 7 years. I had trained in reflexology, reiki and Indian head massage so after a year of removing roofs, rendering walls etc, I set up as self-employed and David started a renovation and maintenance business.
Louis was born in Montlucon in May 2004, a red tomato of angry fists and adored by us all. I had lost a baby girl at 5 months pregnant after touching a wet electric fence by accident just before conceiving him; Miracle number 2. My parents lived nearby having bought and renovated a Chateau and domaine and running it as gites and high class B & B featured in the Alastair Sawdays books and my memories of this time in my life are the most positive. I was the most relaxed, authentic and content « me » ever. We spent magical days in the sun horse riding, playing in the woods and by the river and singing loudly in French after a good vino or 5.
When the recession hit France hard in 2009, it hit us hard economically too and as I had already gone back to teaching so that Eliza and Louis could have a bilingual education, we settled on a move to Switzerland where we lived in a prestigious ski resort up a mountain and I taught in a boarding school. My marriage fell apart here and the kids and I became a solid threesome. I was also a house parent and it is where the story I tell in the book I have co-authored; The Pay it Forward series; Notes to my Younger Self happened. The book launch is March 8th and Kindle launch is March 1st. I am delighted to be an author at last having always loved writing.
Living in the mountains is beautiful but culturally shallow and I felt the call of a new lifestyle again. Always wanting to give the children languages as a key to the world, I chose Barcelona as destination for operation “Learn Spanish” and get out of our safe bubble. We moved in July 2016 after 8 years living for skiing, sledging, fresh mountain air, fondue and chocolate and having made amazing life long friends.
In April 2017 my project; Shine Sparkle Radiate was born as a vision during a meditation, of all my life experiences, training and beliefs and skills. I knew it was my true calling and coming into my crone years, I felt called to use my healing, listening and empathy to help other women, girls and mothers. Juggling full time teaching in an international school in Barcelona and keeping up with the growth of Shine Sparkle Radiate has become challenging and I feel the need to slow down and focus on one thing. I am scared, excited and curious about the future as I will leave teaching in June 2019 after a career of over 25 years in 4 countries; not easy to work my pension rights out on that one!
I trained as an NLP practitioner in 2018 and the coaching side has really taken off. I
am delighted to be facilitating my first Mother and Daughter connection retreat in June 2019 and continuing supporting teenage girls through the difficult teen years with workshops, coaching and retreats. I’m moving to Sitges next week and super excited to be living 5 minutes from the beach.
Niki will be joining Carrie Frais on her radio show Carrie on Talking: conversations with a guest who has achieved something out of the ordinary in their work or personal life to a back drop of significant songs in their life. Here’s Niki’s playlist:
Roxy Music: Dance Away
The first album I ever bought and played non stop after having moved from our family home in Darlington to a much smaller village following my parents’ separation and divorce. We had an Old English Sheepdog, called Suki and she had puppies there. I was a troubled teenager at this time and listening to Dance Away fed my anguish yet strangely soothed me. I can still be seen swaying nostalgically to this track.
Toploader: Dancing in the Moonlight
This is my antithesis to Dance Away and is my go to when cooking a special meal for friends or when I want to elevate my vibe. I received a Best of 2000 CD with this on and a Jamie Oliver Music to Cook to CD so as I start to get food out of my fridge this is a « has to be played » track to get me in the mood. It reminds me very much of long family car journeys and our happy family times in France either at my parents chateau or my farmhouse.
Laurent Voulzy: Le Pouvoir des Fleurs
This song is one of many that I love from my life in France when my children were little and we lived very close to nature and the changing seasons. I had my own vegetable garden and we had chickens that wandered around our land and could sometimes be found under the kitchen table being fed by Louis in his high chair. Eliza learned this song at the village school where there were only 2 classes and the 2 classes sang this song for the parents at a Mother’s day celebration before giving us all a beautiful yet wilted rose. The words are simple and powerful and full of hope to change the hearts of men and women with flowers and bring peace to the world.
Kim Wilde: Kids in America
Throwback to my teen years with my girl gang on Saturday afternoons in Darlington. The weekly ritual of meeting in a cafe above the indoor market and ordering a yukka brew milkshake – no idea what was in it now! but it reminds me of my own teens’ brief obsession with meeting friends for a bubble tea in Barcelona and is clearly a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood; time with your tribe, away from the prying eyes of adults and parents just to talk and gossip and watch the world go by. We used to sing loudly to this song and even changed the words to fit our then current mood.
Arrested Development: Everyday People
When I met my ex he was BIG into music and football having grown up in Liverpool. His mum had dated John Lennon – once but she blew him out cos she fancied Paul McCartney!! We met when we were 24 but I soon learned that he had been a new Romantic Duran Duran long fringed groupie when I had swung between being a Rock chick and a moped driving mod; I really couldn’t decide what look suited me best so settled for buying vintage clothes from antique shops by the time I was 16 and creating my own eclectic style. He introduced me to new bands long before they became known and he took me to see Arrested Development in Bournemouth on an early date and I discovered I loved their powerful music and stage presence.
Emili Sande: Read all About it
The year my life changed and I saw my vision of a happy nuclear family disintegrate before my eyes one Friday night. The events of 2012 are the subject of the chapter in the book I have contributed to and the words and pain in this song remind me of holding it altogether, wearing a mask and putting on that brave face of business as usual whilst inside I was screaming and afraid. I was lucky to see Emili sing this live at Pedralbes last Summer with friends and was able to wave the torch on my phone with love and freedom rather than agony.
Robbie Williams: Feel
The year of joy and hope as we moved to France with Eliza as a busy 18 month old. We had a really fun fancy dress leaving party and dressed up as Rene and Yvette from the comedy sitcom Allo Allo and had a raucous send off convinced we could speak enough French to survive in a tiny hamlet in rural France. Real life turned out to be very similar as we “made up” what we thought we had heard and understood and no doubt made no sense as Les Rostbeef to our patois speaking neighbours. Robbie accompanied our days of DIY as we ripped up floorboards, showered using plastic bottles left out to warm in the sun and generally had a wonderful time under the stars and in sync with nature; bliss!
Keala Settle: This is Me
Gives me goosebumps as I take a power pose and sing at the top of my voice! I finally feel I know who I am after years of trying to be who others wanted me to be or to fit neatly into the expectations of society. It’s been a long journey and learning to set boundaries for others and self compassion and love for myself have been my toughest lessons. My 3 words for 2019 are LOVE, PRESENCE, FLOW and I’m walking my talk and dreaming big. This song is for women and girls everywhere – love it!