The moment I first set foot on your quaint, cobbled streets is etched in my mind forever.
My trepidation at leaving my life in Brisbane behind became a distant memory as I stepped off the train and inhaled your crisp air.
My lips curled up in a delirious smile as I struggled to contain the excitement brewing inside of me. I forgot about the weight of my bulging backpack, my exhaustion from the long trip, and the bitterly cold wind as you serenaded me with a flurry of delicate snowflakes that gently kissed my eyelashes and face.
The snow was a magical welcome to your town and so far removed from the sweltering heat we had left.
It was in January 2003 when we first met.
Dave had convinced me we should trek across to the other side of the world for an overseas experience – a rite of passage for Aussies and Kiwis.
I was keen to set up home in the big smoke of London, but Dave had assured me for various reasons that you would suit us better.
He made the right choice.
When we reached our new home, I peered out the window to survey my surroundings. The snow was falling heavier now covering everything in a white blanket. The houses were joined together and the streets were lined with cars parked in whatever direction suited the driver. There was a pub across the road which we soon learned was owned by a tough, old bird Ange, who once told us she would ban us for life if we brought anymore Aussies or Kiwis into her pub.
I spent the first few weeks getting lost in your winding streets and exploring your old castle, Roman wall and ruins. I still remember the excitement of my first squirrel spotting.
I battled terribly with the cold at first and whinged constantly about not having a shower and having to bathe with a weird contraption that only dribbled out water.
Three weeks into our stay with you, I wrote this to my family.
As the oldest recorded town in Britain, Colchester has quite a history to it. Founded by the Roman Emperor Claudius in 49 AD, the town was once the capital of Roman Britain. At that stage, London was just a small trading post. Colchester has an awesome old castle, Roman wall and ruins.
The town centre’s paved streets lined with shops run from one into the other. That is until you reach the top of North Hill …
… At the top of North Hill, I have found an oasis. A source of shelter from the bitterly cold winds. This home away from home is O’Neills – our favourite pub. After a week of unemployment I spent nearly every day in this pub. I am now on a first name basis with Kevin the Manager, and Maria and Nikki the barmaids.
I was quite homesick at the start. I could only find sporadic temp work in London and wasted most of my wage on the weekly commute. On days I wasn’t working I would mosey alone through your town centre, chat to the gang at O’Neills, and ensure I was home for Neighbours.
We quickly became die-hard Corrie fans, found a local, and entertained each other with fake English accents using the words ‘pukka’, ‘alright gee-zer’, ‘pants’ and ‘slapper’ probably a little more than we should.
Although the first few months were a little solitary, it brought Dave and I so much closer together. We leaned on each other and we grew as a couple.
Dave was the first to make a friend and fortunately his friend’s partner was awesome. They opened our eyes to your interesting nightlife which I captured in this email home.
Had a night out in Colchester last night and it was quite the crazy experience. We came across a new breed of women – Essex slappers. (Essex being the county we live in).
I definitely felt out of place. It was just two degrees and these girls were wearing extremely low cut tops accentuating their assets with a wonder bra, mini skirts with black fish net tights and knee high boots. Rugged up in my jeans and coat, I felt so out of place.
And on another occasion …
We went out again last night and busted some moves on the dancefloor. I didn’t have anything slutty to wear, so I just wore my jeans and a long sleeved black top. On the way home, we stopped at the kebab shop and saw a girl in a skirt so short I could see her bum cheeks. Did I mention it was five degrees?!
When I landed a job in your town, my experience changed dramatically.
This job introduced me to the amazing people you have in your town. Some of the most amazing people I have ever met.
The friendliness and generosity of my new workmates and their willingness to take me under their wing was unbelievable. They welcomed me into their homes and introduced me to their families, dropped me home from work, rescued me in the snow when I was close to dying of frostbite and gave me mugs of hot water to hold so I wouldn’t feel left out when everyone else had about 20 cups of tea a day.
These people made me belong in your town. They became my family truly making you a home away from home.
I have been lucky enough to have seen the sights and experienced the cultures of some of the most amazing cities in the world.
I have climbed the likes of the Eiffel Tower, La Sagrada Familia and the Duomo. I have wondered at The Sistine Chapel, El Capitan, and Top Shop on Oxford Street 😉 I have experienced La Tomatina and the vibrant nightlife of Spain. And lastly, in my hometown, Brisbane, I have witnessed an overwhelming sense of community when natural disasters devastated our city (taking my photos of Colchester with it).
All of these places and more have left massive impressions on me.
It is you though, Colchester, that I have a soft spot for.
For me, to make a place truly memorable it needs to go beyond natural wonders, architecture and nightlife. It is the culture and the people that make it special. It is the memories you make.
I grew as a person in your town, Colchester. Dave and I grew as a couple. We made friends for life.
Just as it was hard leaving our family in Brisbane in 2003, it was equally hard leaving our new family two years later.
So, here’s to you Colchester – alright geezer. We had a pukka time even though your weather was pants. We’d be chuffed to bits to see you again sometime soon xoxo.
Today, I am linking up with always Josefa for Conversations over Coffee. Each month, Josefa opens up a link with a specific theme. This month’s theme was Conversations with my favourite city.