Nargess from Iran writes about escaping war ravaged Iran, arriving in Hendon at the age of 13 and being terrified on her first day at school.
My sister and I arrived alone in London in the summer of 1983. We were to be place in the custody of our uncle until my parents, who remained in our first port Istanbul, were granted work visas to join us. I was 13; she 16. The colours and textures of that first summer are as fresh as if it were yesterday. We had escaped a county ravaged by war and revolution; London was immersed in colour. This was the 1980s! Men and women strutted the King’s Road with multi-coloured mohicans, vainly posing for the baffled tourists. Top of the Pops was a riot of pastel colours and silly songs. It was a million worlds away from the Tehran of 1983. Come September and we enrolled in the local comprehensive. On our escape through the Kurdish mountains, I had tried to visualise my new life in England. Having read and loved the old classics, my England was Jane Austin – pretty cottages and apple blossom. Hendon, to put it mildly, was a more sober visual world. I will never forget the sheer terror of that first day at school as my sister and I walked tentatively together to the daunting school gates. They seemed so big and the Victorian building so monstrous. My sister went in one direction, me another. Suddenly I was all alone in a new school and a new country. I sat in my first lesson – I think it may have been science – and just watched as the teacher scribbled on the blackboard suddenly realising how little English I spoke. It all looked completely gibberish. I remember whispering to myself: ‘you better learn quick and fast’ and I began copying everything I saw.