Sylvie Nickels, writer
Post World War Two opportunities for travel were initially limited by currency restrictions, but having a Swiss mother brought the possibility to work in Switzerland for a year. Later I worked on a travel magazine and, however ill paid, this led to trips to explore the expanding post-War travel markets. While I was working in Finland the travel magazine was taken over by another company and I decided to start my freelance career. It was then that I was approached by George Spenceley whose headed paper announced him to be a photographer and lecturer and who was seeking information for a new talk on northern Europe. We married fifteen years later and shared several decades of adventuring.
However, before that I had a period of working with a certain Gordon Cooper, a well established older travel writer who needed an assistant to help with research and some of the travelling. It was invaluable experience introducing me amongst other things to former Yugoslavia, my first communist state; when he died unexpectedly, I was able to take over some of his commitments. It was around this time, in the early 1960s, that I wrote my first travel books and became involved with the Jackdaw series, an excellent educational series, each publication dealing with a particular major historical event and illustrating it by means of facsimiles of relevant documents.
My early books and the Jackdaws were among the products of the 1960s. Following my time in Finland, I returned to London to find the travel magazine for which I worked had been sold, and decided to free lance - not quite as simple as I initially thought though simpler than it would be now when on-line publications come and go, and it is necessary to compete with 'celebs' as well as fellow writers.
Following my contact with George Spenceley, I went to some of his talks and we began to share our travels. Travelling with him introduced me to a whole new experience. Not least, because he was collecting material for lectures, his journeys were at a great deal more leisurely pace than mine. In addition, because of his life style as a climber, camper, not to mention his three years as a prisoner of war, he had a firm belief that you could not fully appreciate comfort if you had not experienced great discomfort. This was rather better than one of his best climbing friends who believed that if you couldn't eat it, you shouldn't take it.
the world my oyster .....
Documents for the Assassination describe the events leading to World War One.
My Jackdaw on Scott and the Antarctic included a copy of the last message to his wife before he died.
I joined the British Guild of Travel Writers and, in time, gradually built up a regular connection with a number of magazines and newspapers, and establishing a modest reputation in the travel writing field. Fortuitously for some summers George was preparing talks on Eastern Europe just at the time I had been asked by the London
Editor of Fodor Guides to become their annual adviser on their East European titles. This was during the Cold War so these countries were behind the so-called 'Iron Curtain', adding to their intrigue. As they also covered a considerable area, our journeys also gave me good material for the increasing number of publications to which I contributed, as well as a leading national newspaper. The latter was The Financial Times for whose Saturday paper I became a regular contributor for fourteen years up to 1984. It was ideal. There were two or three of us who met every few months to plan the paper's future travel programme so that I was also able to organise my travels and work schedules. This opened many doors to travel all over the world and gave me a backlog of experience and records that have served me since both for fiction and non fiction articles and books. In due course a regular travel editor was appointed so my freelance services were no longer required. It was a setback but no one could remove the amazing amount of experience of places and people I had acquired.