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Annoushka Ducas: Hi, Annoushka here. In this series, I'd really like to take the opportunity to
you a little bit
about The Brilliant Breakfast, an initiative that I set up two years ago to help the Princess Trust
disadvantaged young women. It really can be as simple as putting the kettle on and inviting a few
friends around or
hosting a breakfast for the team at work and asking everyone to give what they can to help change a
girl's life. So
that's The Brilliant Breakfast starting October the 10th this year. And for more details, visit
thebrilliantbreakfastdoco.uk. Thank you.
I'm Annoushka Ducas, and welcome back to My Life in Seven Charms. For me, there are so few things
which can evoke a
memory like a tiny detailed charm. In this new series, I'll be meeting seven extraordinary women and
stories through this very special 18ct gold biography. Today's guest is one of my favorite
florists, Nikki Tibbles.
Nikki Tibbles: Being kind is probably the most important thing in my world. Again, it was
that my father
taught me and he was an incredibly kind man. And I just wish the world was a kinder place.
Annoushka Ducas: If you've ever received flowers from Nikki's business, Wild At Heart, they will
have been strikingly
lovely and superbly colorful. I'm so looking forward to hearing about Nikki's life in seven charms.
Nikki Tibbles: This is exciting.
Annoushka Ducas: So Nicki, thank you so much for coming to my loved little house.
Nikki Tibbles: Thank you so much for having me. It's beautiful and I'm very honored to be here,
Annoushka Ducas: One of the things I love a bit about what you do, but is actually, if I hadn't
a jewelry designer,
I'd want to be a florist.
Nikki Tibbles: Would you?
Annoushka Ducas: Yeah, and my dream, my real dream...
Nikki Tibbles: Why?
Annoushka Ducas: I'm going to talk to you about that separately. My real dream is to
something with my jewelry in it.
Oh, that would be delicious.
Annoushka Ducas: The two things together, wouldn't that be just .
Nikki Tibbles: That would be great. Because the colors, the jewel colors of flowers and the
and the... It would
just be such an extraordinary moment of color and texture and your passion.
Annoushka Ducas: The two best things in the world are flowers and lovely jewelry.
Nikki Tibbles: And a dog.
Annoushka Ducas: Oh definitely, and a dog. I know we can talk about that. So Nikki, your
was, you said, a
multicolored heart. And I loved the fact that it's multicolored and you were quite specific that
should be brightly
colored. So I've seen this as a three dimensional little heart, and I want to put it with pave
pink and orange
sapphires. And I think we could have some rubies too because I know you like all those clashing
So I've seen it as that. Set in yellow gold and polished yellow gold. And I've left the back
plane so that you might be
able to engrave somebody's name or something special to you. And it also opens. It's a little
locket because I thought
you could put a picture inside it of whatever you've chose.
Nikki Tibbles: One of my dogs.
Annoushka Ducas: One of your dogs, whatever you chose. But tell me about this heart. Why
have you chosen a heart?
Nikki Tibbles: Why have I chosen a heart? I think it's tied up with so many things in my
that are about being kind
and wanting to make our world a better place. And if there was more love and kindness in our
world, what a different
place it would be. That is really one of the most important aspects of how I try and live my
life. But I don't really
have a family. So my friends are my family and that's my element of the love I have for people,
and I have, as you know,
a considerable amount of dogs and would have so many more. And the love that you have for
animals and this planet is
incredibly important to me. And that was really the passion and true love that is so incredible
to feel and to have, and
to want in our lives, is really why there's the element of the heart.
Annoushka Ducas: And you don't have your own family now, but tell me a bit about your family
Nikki Tibbles: I had the most incredible... I was very lucky to have two very wonderful
parents. My father in
particular, who I will be forever grateful for because he is the person that taught me my love
of animals. He was a
carpenter, he made beautiful things and I would sit in his workshop watching him work. And I
remember the smells of the
wood and the saw dust and all of those things. And the amount of passion and love that he put
into everything that he
created has remained with me. If we found a bird with a broken wing or back in those days when
there were stray dogs on
the street, I would come home regularly with a dog that I'd found or some animal that I had
Annoushka Ducas: Where are you? Where were you brought up?
Nikki Tibbles: I was in Bristol, just outside of Bristol. And through him that he's taught
me my passion for animals. We
had a house full of animals that my father would just lay down his life for. My mother was long
suffering, sort of, "Not
another dog, not another cat. No more rabbits." I remember finding the most beautiful German
shepherd on the side of a
motorway type thing and running home to my father. We got a blanket and we picked this dog up
between us and put it in
the car, took it to the vet. And this beautiful dog had obviously been dumped on the side of the
road and she didn't
live very long. We called her Wolfie, but she didn't live very long, but she had three very
happy months with us after
But that's all thanks to my father for which I'm forever grateful and nature long walks. We'd go
for amazing long walks
in the countryside. And so with that and his passion for making things and his kindness. And
also, he died quite some
time ago now, he had pancreatic cancer. And when he passed away, my mother asked me what I
wanted of his. And during the
war, he was a prisoner of war and he wrote the most beautiful letters to my mother. And that's
what I asked for as a
gift because his love letters to my mother were so beautiful with the most beautiful
handwriting. People don't write
like he wrote, and the way he expressed his love and depths and emotions for my mom, my mother.
And really interesting moment also is that back then my father was prisoner war, so presumed
missing an action. And so
my mother was presented with a postal order and his tag or whatever it was and she sent it back
saying, "He's not dead.
I know he's still alive." And then of course they found him in a prisoner of war camp in
Germany. And that's when he
started writing, but she knew he was still with her. They met when they were 16.
Annoushka Ducas: God, that's so romantic.
Nikki Tibbles: Until they both passed away.
Annoushka Ducas: That's wonderful. And would you say that your childhood was a happy one? It
sounds like you spent
lovely times with your father particularly.
Nikki Tibbles: Did I have a happy childhood? Yes. I consider having a father like mine and
an understanding mother who
she's slightly trickier and that black is white and there was no swaying or movement from
whatever it was that she
thought. But I was very lucky, yes, because I did a lot of sport and I was encouraged to do
that. And my parents, they
met when they were 16 and they walked down the street hand in hand until my father died, and my
mother died not long
after probably of a broken heart. But I think just going back to the heart is, my parents were
truly in love.
Annoushka Ducas: They sounds so wonderfully romantic.
Nikki Tibbles: They didn't do anything apart. And I always rather naively thought that there
would always be this one
person out there in the world that I would spend the rest of my life with. But that's sadly not
Annoushka Ducas: That's quite a high bar. That is a very high bar too.
Nikki Tibbles: I know, it is. And I think in the bigger picture, again, I feel very blessed
because I know so many
people whose marriages have clearly not worked and that it's children that suffer. So yes, I had
a happy childhood.
Thank you. Yeah.
Annoushka Ducas: That sounds wonderful. But having come from such an unbelievably loving
family, I feel you're never
going to be able to replicate something so precious.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes, it was precious. My father, he called me Nikks. He said, "Nikks, you can
be anything that you want.
You can do anything that you want.' And to have someone who has that much faith in you, or to
have that ingrained in
you, I do believe it. And if I do something, then I want to do my absolute best at everything
and anything I do.
Annoushka Ducas: Your second charm is your favorite flower. And you said I'd like it to be a
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: So we'd have to do it in really pale orangy sapphires like this, fading
out. So we'd color grade it
into perhaps yellow diamonds, which might be really pretty.
Nikki Tibbles: That would sound very pretty.
Annoushka Ducas: Again, a three dimensional set in yellow gold with a yellow gold textured
leaf, same shape as the
peonies. As perfect, a miniature of that giant peony that we could get.
Nikki Tibbles: And this peony in particular, the reason why I love it so much is that it's
completely different when
it's freshly cut. But as it grows, it opens and it is gigantic. It's almost saucer like. It
could fill a dinner plate,
but it's so beautiful as it fades. And that's what I love about it.
Annoushka Ducas: Okay. We have to look it up.
Nikki Tibbles: And as it gets older, it gets more beautiful.
Annoushka Ducas: That's what we should say about ourselves.
Nikki Tibbles: I'm getting more beautiful as I get older.
Annoushka Ducas: Let's go with that. But I assume that you've chosen this because obviously
this is your world, flowers
are your world. Now I've been longing to know how you started Wild At Heart. I've got lots and
lots of questions
actually about Wild At Heart, but tell me how you started and how it ever came to begin?
Nikki Tibbles: It started quite randomly because I was working in advertising.
Annoushka Ducas: Who was that for?
Nikki Tibbles: I worked for various companies, Saatchi, Coport Bell, Davidson Pierce. So
that was my career, so to
speak. But I really wasn't very good at it and I really didn't enjoy it.
Annoushka Ducas: Were you on the creative side of that?
Nikki Tibbles: No, I was an account manager. But when I left university, my parents wanted
me to be a teacher. I wanted
to go to art school and they wouldn't let me, so yeah, thanks for that. My lovely parents I've
been just talking about.
But really I wanted to do something creative. So I started working in advertising and hated
every second, but I met some
amazing people. And I was asked because I was interested in fashion and buildings and
architecture and art and so many
different things and color and anything really, a friend of mine said, "Well, would you help me
organize my wedding and
do the flowers?" And I was like, "Yeah, of course, I'd love to." Having no idea, I trotted off
to the flower market and
didn't even know how to cut the flowers at that point before I put them in an arrangement.
Anyway, I really loved that moment. And then I did another friend's wedding and I managed to
leave my not so heady
career in advertising and I went to work in a flower shop on the Fullham Palace Road, I think.
And I learnt about
flowers because no florist at that point would take me because I had no experience. And I worked
there for a little
while and then I left and set up on my own and I contacted people that I'd used to work for that
I knew. And I started
doing flowers and I had a little studio in Southwerk. And then of course the Island, Turquoise
Island, the famous Piers
Gough building became...
Annoushka Ducas: In Notting Hill?
Nikki Tibbles: In Notting Hill, became available.
Annoushka Ducas: Not everyone might know about this Turquoise Island. Right. So it was
designed as a loo.
Nikki Tibbles: It was designed as a public loo, yes.
Annoushka Ducas: The whole thing?
Nikki Tibbles: The whole thing. But the front of it was always going to be a flower kiosk,
they called it because it's
run by the Porto Bello Stall Holders Association or whatever of Kenson and Chelsea. So this is
when my heady days of
advertising came in useful. So I did this incredible proposal, mood boards, all the sort of
thing I used to do when I
was working in advertising. And it's 6:30, the following morning, I got a phone call saying,
would I like to come in for
an interview? And they had something like 76 applications or something for it. Anyway, I walked
away with the keys and I
opened the following week. And that's really how it all started.
Annoushka Ducas: But had you been looking or was it just one of those things?
Nikki Tibbles: No. Just one of those things and it just happened. And I had this incredible
building and Notting Hill
was amazing people. I mean, I remember Bernadette Rendall who was the head of PR for Chanel
would come in and buy
flowers and send to Hamish Bulls for example. And Rifat Ozbek lived around the corner. And there
were wonderful people
in Notting hill then, 20 plus years ago. And so I opened, and I'd never run a business before
and certainly didn't
really know that much about flowers, but I guess I'm the sort of person that I wear what I like,
I don't really care
what anyone else thinks. I'll put a pattern with a pattern and a stripe with a spot and a color
and whatever. And I did
the same with flowers. I put together the things I like and really, the business has grown from
Annoushka Ducas: So that's quite brave to go and do that to take on the lease, to do
something effectively. you'd never
run a business before. It was pretty brave. Did you think it was brave or did you just think to
yourself, "I'm just
going to do it"?
Nikki Tibbles: And maybe this goes back to the moment I was talking about my father's, I
would never think anything
would fail, so nothing will ever stop me from doing anything. And also, I guess I was so happy
because I'd found my
creative outlet, and through that I've met the most extraordinary people, worked on the most
extraordinary events, seen
the most beautiful buildings, created extraordinary moments where people are so happy. And the
philosophy behind Wild At
Heart is really this sort of sense of generosity through flowers, that again is something that's
so important to me and
that all ties back into the be kind and giving and all of those sort of things that I want
people to open a bouquet or
to receive a bouquet of flowers from us that takes your breath away through its sense of
generosity rather than
something that's going to last for three weeks.
Annoushka Ducas: That's why I think flowers are jewelry are so along the same thing because
when I'm creating a piece of
jewelry, I just want that jewelry to make the person smile. So your reaction, it didn't make you
cry, but I knew that
was a really happy... I so get that. But Wild At Heart, just that name. How did you come up with
Nikki Tibbles: Well, interestingly, I was actually sitting in my apartment at the time in
Notting Hill and thinking of
starting my own business. And it was back in the day when you had magazines. So I went through
magazine after magazine
and I'd tear sheets and tore out pages of images and words and things that I loved. And it kept
coming back to Wild At
Heart and the dagger for the movie and the heart because I also have a massive love of tattoos
and the history of them
and all those things. And that was really that image and those three words. And I always used to
say, when I thought of
a name for companies, I would pick up the phone and say, "Hello, Wild At Heart." And that had
quite a nice ring to it.
Annoushka Ducas: Yeah.
Nikki Tibbles: And so that was really Wild At Heart and it was something very different
because every other florist at
the time and was their name. Steven Woodem and Jane Packer, Paula Prike, but they all had the...
Constant Brie, Moisey
Stevens, they all had their name. So I didn't want to have my name. I wanted words that meant
something that would be
Annoushka Ducas: And all those people that you've just mentioned because I was going to ask
you this actually, in terms
of what you were doing with the colors and putting things together that you love that perhaps
weren't obvious, were they
doing that too or was this a very particular Nikki thing?
Nikki Tibbles: I think Jane Packer was probably one of the first to do something quite
different. And also Paula Prike
and Steven Woodem too, and John Carter. There were lots. And Julia Hodgkin, Howard Hodgkin's
wife, she had the beautiful
flower shop outside the Conran Shop, with the old fan. That was Julia's. So there were people
making beautiful flowers,
but I was never trained to put flowers together. So I think in a way that's why maybe we were a
little bit different and
we were wrapping things in brown paper with , and no one else had done that.
But it was really me
doing what I like, which is really, I think the best thing to do. If someone asked me to do an
event with red and white
carnations, you're asking the wrong person. So it was just the perfect opportunity for me to
work with something that is
so beautiful. Nature is so inspiring. So I never get bored. I'm never bored. So it's the
perfect, perfect thing for me.
Annoushka Ducas: I so get that. But it's quite a competitive world it's become. I know so
many young florists now. So
what would be your advice to them? Because I'm just like, "God, how do you differentiate
yourself? How do you stay ahead
of the next young ones coming up?"
Nikki Tibbles: There are a lot. There are a lot of florist around now and that's great
because I think we, or the older
generation of people who do flowers should be encouraging a younger generation to do something
creative and inspiring.
And so I think it's great that there are a lot of amazing young, talented florists out there. So
yes, it actually makes
me happy and a lot of them have worked with Wild At Heart. So I'm very proud of the girls that
have gone off and set up
their own business and are doing well.
Annoushka Ducas: But does that mean that you have to keep evolving your business in order
Nikki Tibbles: Yeah. But we should anyway, regardless. In lockdown, we completely
were focusing a lot more
on our online business. We're lucky enough that we have an amazing client list that come back to
us time after time for
events and parties and so on. But we do have to keep working very hard because it is very
competitive and people do
undercut us in price because obviously we are slightly more expensive than your averaged florist
and we have overheads.
And of course with the current climate and Brexit, costs have climbed considerably for flowers
and transport and so on.
Annoushka Ducas: No, I wanted to ask you about that particularly because obviously there's
this big thing of grown not
flown. And I wonder what your thoughts are on that.
Nikki Tibbles: Grown not flown?
Annoushka Ducas: Yeah.
Nikki Tibbles: Buying British flowers?
Annoushka Ducas: Yeah. I just wondered how practical that is?
Nikki Tibbles: Well, it's practical if you just want a few VAs of flowers in your house
occasionally. And I do a lot of
flower classes and talk about flowers a lot and I would always say, if you can go out into your
garden or your local
florist or somewhere, a wood or whatever, and you can pick things, then absolutely do that
because I think that's quite
fabulous. But if we're doing an event and I need 3000 pale pink or apricot or coral peonies,
that's not something I can
find from a British grower. And we do try. And there are more and more, which is quite wonderful
to see, and there are
more people growing flowers. And if there were more people in the UK growing flowers and the
quality of flowers and the
quantity that's needed, then absolutely. And we do buy British flowers as much as we can. And
Holland is Holland. And
that is their industry and they are very, very, very good at it.
Annoushka Ducas: And the prices have shot up because of Brexit?
Nikki Tibbles: Yes, about 30%.
Annoushka Ducas: Have they really?
Nikki Tibbles: Yeah. With the costs of transport and so on.
Annoushka Ducas: More challenges.
Nikki Tibbles: More challenges.
Annoushka Ducas: It's full of challenges. Anyway, I could talk to you about that ever. We
might have to do that.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes, we should just make plans together.
Annoushka Ducas: Yeah. But your next charm, your third charm, I love the fact, you say you
were really particular 2D
child style home, you said. And you can see what I've drawn. And I just loved the fact.
Nikki Tibbles: This exactly what I
Annoushka Ducas: For me, it was that Louie Peter type thing. I've made it in yellow gold
so it's flat. It's got a
diamond, just the edge of the roof is diamond pave. And then the four windows and the door are
engraved. And I thought
we'd leave the back plain. It's got little chimney, as you can see also in gold.
Nikki Tibbles: It looks like it's been snowed upon.
Annoushka Ducas: It does.
Nikki Tibbles: It has a dusting of snow. It's beautiful.
Annoushka Ducas: I'm assuming that you've chosen this charm because home is so important to
Nikki Tibbles: Yes. My home has always been so important to me and I don't move around. I
like to stay where I am.
Annoushka Ducas: So you're a nester?
Nikki Tibbles: I am indeed. And I'm at my happiest when I'm at home with my dogs or my
friends. And I like my home to be
the very essence of me and how I like to live. And I think if home is that safe place for when
you feel that all the
world around you is maybe crumbling or something's happened in a relationship or work or
anything, home is that safe
space, that safe place that makes you think everything is going to be okay.
Annoushka Ducas: So what kind of style is your home?
Nikki Tibbles: Well, my home in London is, it's full of color and pattern. And I have rooms
that I change for the
season. So on the ground floor of my home where I have a big TV, which I've never had a big TV
until I wanted to watch
the final episode of Game of Thrones. But I have this beautiful wallpaper in this TV room, which
was made by a amazing
woman called Ellie Cashman. And it was her first print and it's this big lousy peony and roses,
and it's very dark and
moody. And she also made some fabric for me, which sowed beautiful velvet curtains. And there's
a dart board in there so
I can play darts in front of the fire and all that sort of thing and watch TV. And then the
other end of the room where
there's a terrace, there's linen curtains with the same fabric, but it's painted in a pale
green. One of the colors
matched from the wallpaper.
Annoushka Ducas: Oh, that's clever. So same pattern, but different fabric and different
Nikki Tibbles: Velvet and linen, yeah. I never have overhead lights because I like to switch on
lamps. I have a real
fire because the first thing I do when I get home is light my fire and switch on my lamps. And I
have a beautiful old
marble table where I work with the terrace, so I can open the doors and look at my garden filled
with Jasmine. And
Wisteria. Because I love nature and I like to spend as much time as I possibly can outside,
every floor of my home has a
moment where I can be outside. And that was really important to me. So when I renovated the
basement, the wall at the
back of the house is all glass and it folds into nothing. And the floor is exactly the same
Annoushka Ducas: So it's inside out?
Nikki Tibbles: Yes. And I can be in my garden and cook and have friends for dinner.
Annoushka Ducas: It sounds absolute heaven. Because I know you have another home, will have
another home in the country
shortly. Is that very different? Is that very different style?
Nikki Tibbles: It is, yes. It's still full of color. In London it's slightly more, I have a
marble kitchen and a marble
bathroom and my bedroom is in Dior gray and white and...
Annoushka Ducas: Super calming.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: Which is very lovely. And I have beautiful lamps and so on. In the country,
it's a mix of everything
and I have a lot more things in the country, whereas London is neater living and slightly
cleaner, whereas the country,
I have stacks and piles of books and shelves full of... I collect Constance Brie, the beautiful
vases that she made, the
full and wear pottery. Beautiful. And there are walls of those and amazing textures and rugs
everywhere, but I expose
all the floorboards and beams in the ceilings.
They're a bit shabby.
Nikki Tibbles: A bit shabby, yes. But not.
Annoushka Ducas: Carefully shabby.
Nikki Tibbles: Everything has to be in a straight line. Yeah. That sort of thing of
everything having a place and having
a reason for being so. It's very different, but it's also still very colorful. But my home is,
it's I think the
cornerstone of our lives in a way. My friends and I talk about this, if you've got your home and
a relationship and your
work life and the triangle of the things in our lives that are so important, if one of those
falls like your home or
something, then it's much harder I think, to keep the other elements of your life working. So
that's why for me, always
having my home is so important.
Annoushka Ducas: But your next charm, which I think is number four, is obviously got to be a
dog. You said it's got to
be a mut like dog outline, which hopefully you said captures Lenny or Rita from the photos. So I
think it could capture
Nikki Tibbles: You have captured Lenny and or Rita perfectly because they are of the same
mold. Lenny is a giant 65 kilo
Mastine and Rita is a miniature version of Lenny, because she's a little thug. She's actually a
Staffie cross something,
I have no idea. I found her when she was 10 days old in Puerto Rico and she is the most
extraordinary looking dog I've
ever come across. And I often say she has a face only a mother could love, but she is the
funniest and happiest and most
exuberant dog I have ever, ever had. And Lenny is now 14. And I've had him since he was 18
months old because he was
thrown down a well when he was six months old to die. He's 14 and he's 65 kilos.
Annoushka Ducas: Wow. Going strong.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes, he is still going strong. And most mornings I wake up and the first
thing I do is check that he's
still breathing because my vet said he would have a life expectancy of seven to nine year. And
Annoushka Ducas: I've got a Lenny, but mine's tiny. Mine's a French Bulldog.
Nikki Tibbles: It's a great name, isn't it? Why did you call your dog Lenny?
Annoushka Ducas: Well, my children. I've got two. One's called Len. They really wanted to
call him Len. So I've got
Lenny and Stanley. So they're Len and Stan.
Nikki Tibbles: Len and Stan. That's great.
Annoushka Ducas: Because a French Bull's a bit...
Nikki Tibbles: Proper good names.
Annoushka Ducas: Proper good names.
Nikki Tibbles: My dogs, I have a Lenny, Ronnie, Rita and a Ruby. So I like a good Jewish
name for my dog.
Annoushka Ducas: But I didn't describe the charm for those people that are listening. So
I've literally drawn it almost
like it could be a dog tag so that you might put it on a collar, but it's just a flat outline of
quite a big dog. It's
got it's in yellow gold. It's got a little brown diamond collar. And because I wanted something
hanging off it, I put a
tiny pearl off it, but it could actually be anything. And then the alternative you'll see is, I
did a dog pour because I
love, a bit like you, I've never met anyone else that likes the smell of their dog's feet. So I
was so chuffed when I
heard that you really like your... Tell me what it is you like about the dog's feet.
Nikki Tibbles: Well, it's just, again, there's a lot of things here that are rather
comforting for me. I love the smell
of my dogs. I never bath my dogs actually, which most people find extraordinary, but my dogs
have never had a bath in
their life, and they don't smell, but they just smell, they have that lovely soft... I can't
really describe the smell.
It's just a soft, warm, homely smell. I will sit, and my dogs do sleep with me and they sleep on
my bed or if I'm
sitting here on your sofa, I would have three dogs next to me and I literally hold their paws
and I regularly sniff
between their toes, I'm afraid.
Annoushka Ducas: I really do get that. But I have to be bit quiet about that because my
children know that, but they
think I'm a bit weird.
Nikki Tibbles: Trust me, it's not weird. It's a really wonderful thing. So anyone listening
here, get sniffing your
Annoushka Ducas: Yes, exactly.
Nikki Tibbles: It's a delight.
Annoushka Ducas: Because you're obviously passionate about dogs, but are there any rules for
Nikki Tibbles: In my house? No.
Annoushka Ducas: No? They can do whatever?
Nikki Tibbles: They can do whatever they want. They can sleep on any sofa, rugs, chair,
armchair, bed. Literally, there
are no rules.
Annoushka Ducas: Are they trained?
Nikki Tibbles: They have to be trained to a certain extent because they need to be safe. I
want them to be safe for
other people. So yes, they're trained to a certain extent, of course. But I'm not the sort of
person that wants their
dog to sit in a field and will stay there until I whistle for it to come.
Annoushka Ducas: But they'll come if you call?
Nikki Tibbles: Oh yeah.
Annoushka Ducas: Mine won't come if they're called.
Nikki Tibbles: Oh no, mine do come. If we go for a walk and I call, they will come back,
unless of course there's a herd
of deer. But no, they're pretty good. But because I have big dogs, I also have to make sure that
they are safe and
introducing them to new people, I do properly. Because people can be a little bit more wary of
Annoushka Ducas: Well, especially rescue dogs, I guess.
Nikki Tibbles: Well, I talk to people obviously a lot about rescue dogs and a lot of people
say, "Well, they're
damaged." Well, they're no more damaged than you and I or any pedigree dog that you will buy.
It's us that make them
damaged. So it's that nurture over nature argument, I guess. But of course some rescue dogs, if
they've been really,
really badly treated will be more wary of men or certain situations, but there's nothing that...
All the things that
we've talked about, about feeling safe, about having routine, about love, being loved, that's
what we all need and
desire and crave. And that's no different in my opinion, for a dog. I don't have children, but
if I did have children,
I'd like to think that they would fare better knowing that they are loved, knowing that they're
safe, knowing that they
have routine. And that's really how I deal with my dogs. It's no different.
Annoushka Ducas: No, I understand that as soon as they've come into your home, et cetera.
But you say, gosh, one of them
had been thrown down a well.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: So presumably the trust element for that poor dog had totally gone with any
human that might have...
Nikki Tibbles: Well, I tend to have all the dogs that nobody else wants. Right. And I did
have six pre lockdown, six big
dogs. Very sadly two passed away and lockdown. So I'm, I'm down to four. Normally, of course,
when I travel for my
charity or for the foundation, everyone will say to me, "Nikk, please don't come home with
another dog." But I'm like,
"Okay, no, of course I won't." And then I get handed a 10 day old puppy or a dog that's about to
be euthanized, and so
of course I come home with dogs. But all my dogs have suffered a trauma. Smith, who did pass
away. I mean, he'd been
locked in a cage for three years with a broken jaw, shattered eardrum and shattered ribs. And he
was unrecognizable from
the moment I saw him to when he very sadly passed away.
He was probably the most traumatized of all my dogs. But I do believe with patience and love, we
can turn anything
around. And that goes for any rescue dog. Some takes longer. We rescue dogs from the meat trade
and they are quite
abused and traumatized, so that takes a little bit longer. But it's like I say, people, if
someone has love and patience
and understanding and routine, then we all flourish
Annoushka Ducas: That actually brings us on quite neatly to your next charm, which is the
globe. So I've seen it as a
globe made of Lapis lazuli, which is lovely blue stone.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: With the metal, we'd probably make it in white gold and then put a green
Rhodium, which is
extraordinary Rhodium plating over it now for the land mass. And it'll be on an axis and it will
spin super fast.
Nikki Tibbles: Wow.
Annoushka Ducas: But I think I'm right in saying that this is to symbolize the global reach
of the Wilda At Heart
Nikki Tibbles: Yes. We've talked about my father and growing up with animals and obviously
my love of dogs. And the
globe, I guess is, I have this overwhelming desire to make the world a better place. And that is
why I set up the Wild
At Heart foundation about four or five years ago. My business was, I'm very lucky, I was doing
re reasonably well. And
I've always wanted to give back. And I would go on holiday and see the plight of stray dogs in
India and Sri Lanka and
wherever I went to... And Puerto Rico. And to the extent where I had to stop traveling, because
I would spend my entire
holiday feeding dogs, taking them to the vets, talking to people and so on. And one holiday, I
booked what I thought was
a trip to Costa Rica, but I for some reason ended up in Puerto Rico.
And I remember getting off a plane and getting into the car, going to the hotel and thinking,
"Where's the canopy of the
jungle." I was like, "Oh my God, I'm in the wrong country." Anyway, what actually happened
probably was one of the best
things that could ever have happened to me in my life. I spent three weeks in Puerto Rico and I
spent three weeks
traveling the island and feeding dogs on the streets. And I found two little puppies on the side
of the road that I fed
and said to my then husband, "I can't leave them." And he said, "Nikk, if they're here in the
morning, we'll come and
pick them up." And of course they were there in the morning because they live next to the burger
van. And so I took
these two dogs back to the hotel, smuggled them into the hotel.
And so we took them to the vet. Named them Rose and Lily. And Lily had to have her eye removed.
She would've died from
blood poisoning. But of course we were trying to find them a home. And I had offered to pay for
them for the rest of
their lives so that if they needed any veterinary care and food, so whatever anyone adopted
them. Of course, nobody
wants a stray dog in Puerto Rico because you can just go and pick one up off the highway. So I
had managed to get dengue
fever by taking these dogs to the beach next to a tire dump. So I spent a bit of time in
hospital when I got back from
Puerto Rico and I was reading an article in a Vogue or Tatler or something about this woman,
amazing woman called June
Hamilton, who was responsible for the abolition of quarantine.
And she had this charity called the Quarantine Abolition, Fighting Fund, QAFF, something like
that. And I called her and
I said, "I've got two dogs in Puerto Rico. How do I get them here without putting them in
quarantine?" And there'd been
no incidence of rabies in Puerto Rico for 30 years. Anyway, I decided that I would fly these
dogs from San Juan to LA
and then into Paris. And I would smuggle them into the channel tunnel, which is what I did.
Annoushka Ducas: Because you did have to quarantine them.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes. And I was not prepared to put two dogs for six months in quarantine. It
was just a money making...
It should have been abolished forever ago. There's no quarantine anymore obviously because we
have rabies testing and
vaccination. So yes, I smuggled two dogs through the channel tunnel. And at this point, this was
quite, I have to make
this perfectly clear, this was quite some time ago. If we'd been caught in France, they just
would've sent us away
because we hadn't at that point, done anything wrong. And there was no security at the other end
all those years ago. So
once we were on, we were on, it was completely safe. And the dogs were fully vaccinated and
health checked and
everything that they needed to have done.
But I do remember walking around Paris with them because they came up out of the thing on the
conveyor belt, in their
crates and literally they were so moth eaten. They reminded me of , we used to see old men
sitting outside a pub with
the type of dog you used to get from Battersea Dog's Home.
Annoushka Ducas: Yeah.
Nikki Tibbles: They looked like that. So anyway, very sadly Lily died, she had leukemia. But
Rose lived for another 12
or 13 years. And when she passed away, I promised her I would get another rescue dog from
abroad. And so that was really
how the foundation started. And when you Google Rescue Dogs From Abroad, it's unleashing the
gates of hell and you see
things you can't unsee. And this is why the globe, because the foundation I wanted, I realized
that there are, or found
out, there are 600 million plus stray dogs in the world. I haven't added an extra zero for
It's 600 million
stray dogs. And that number is climbing. From one litter of puppies. There will be 67,000 dogs
on the street within 60
years. And with COVID of course with more dogs being abandoned and people not being able to
afford or take care of their
dogs anymore, there are even more dogs on the streets.
I decided that I wanted to set up this charity and to give back and to make our world a better
place. And I could just
have started with, we do re-home dogs obviously, that's a major part of what we do. And we
re-home maybe 50, 60, 70 dogs
a month from all over the world.
Annoushka Ducas: A month?
Nikki Tibbles: A month, yes.
Annoushka Ducas: Wow.
Nikki Tibbles: And our dogs come from all over the world.
Annoushka Ducas: Are they all coming here?
Nikki Tibbles: They're all coming to the UK.
Annoushka Ducas: They're all coming here. So you are re-homing them in this country?
Nikki Tibbles: In the UK, yes.
Annoushka Ducas: Okay.
Nikki Tibbles: And I'm stressing the global element because we are so lucky in this country
that we treat our dogs so
well. I can't remember, again, the last time we saw a stray dog. The only problems we have
really in this country with
abject levels of cruelty are probably dog fighting because we are educated as to how to treat
our dog, to have them
sterilized. We don't let our dogs roam. They're pets as opposed to something that's owned.
Annoushka Ducas: Yes.
Nikki Tibbles: Whereas in most countries across the globe, animals, dogs in particular are
treated, they have zero
rights. And in countries where there are less than any human rights, you can imagine there are
less than zero rights for
an animal. For example, for an animal, there's no point in keeping a dog and feeding it if it's
no use to you for
however long. And you can get another one and then, you'll keep it and dispose of it.
Annoushka Ducas: I'm absolutely flummoxed, actually. I have no idea that people treat their
dogs like that.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes, you have no idea.
Annoushka Ducas: Wow. It's so extraordinary.
Nikki Tibbles: I had no idea until... It's a little bit like when you start to look into
things that you can't unsee.
And I do make myself see things and I have been to shelters the most horrific dog pounds and
shelters. And I make myself
go because I need to see what's happening so I can talk about it with conviction and passion.
Annoushka Ducas: And so your foundation pays for them to come over. You shut them over.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes we do.
Annoushka Ducas: And house them whilst you find somebody to look after them?
Nikki Tibbles: So all our dogs on our website, so you can go on the Wild At Heart foundation
website, there will be the
dogs that are available for adoption. We have a very stringent home adoption process obviously.
But it's quite
interesting because I would never have thought I would just see a dog online and click.
Annoushka Ducas: Decide that's the one.
Nikki Tibbles: We live in a click and collect society. And so I'll click that dog. But we
re-home our dogs just on
online. At the moment we would love a shelter so that we can bring more dogs over and it would
also be an education
center and place where children could come and spend time with animals. So it's not just about
the re-homing, that's the
icing on the cake, that's the lovely, tangible fluffy aspect of what we do. But to get to the
root of the problem, it's
all about sterilization and education. And Manolo Blahnik has sponsored an education
us, which we trialed
this summer, which was launched this September in 250 primary schools, it's called The Be Kind
Curriculum. And it's
teaching kindness, empathy, compassion, and understanding. And anyone can sign up, it's
completely free. And I think
it's relevant particularly right now after COVID and children having had their lives so
disrupted over the last 18
And I grew up with dogs and you have had dogs, obviously all your life. And I think having a dog
teaches us so much
about how to love, how to be responsible about loss, about friendship, about being physical.
We've lost those elements
of communication. And so this Be Kind program is teaching that, but it's also teaching children
to be able to talk about
their emotions and how they feel. And it's all based around working with an animal and being
close to a dog and having a
dog in their life. And then obviously the other important aspect of the work that we do with
every shelter that we work
with, again, across the globe, from Thailand to Borneo, to India, Lebanon, throughout Europe,
Mexico, we have a shelter
we've just opened in Mexico. And of course, Puerto Rico, very important, is that we run
Annoushka Ducas: Which is getting to the nut of the problem.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: Yeah absolutely.
Nikki Tibbles: That's the only way.
Annoushka Ducas: Your sixth charm is a dark green pine tree. I love the idea of doing this.
I just love the idea of
doing this. I would like it to be articulated so you can see I've put emeralds down the spine.
So I don't want to make
the whole thing green. But the shape, it's absolutely three dimensional. But each of those
branches will move just
Nikki Tibbles: Wow.
Annoushka Ducas: But more importantly, why specifically a pine tree?
Nikki Tibbles: It's going to be my next tattoo.
Annoushka Ducas: Oh my God.
Nikki Tibbles: It's quite personal this interview, isn't it, with smelling my dog's toes.
Annoushka Ducas: Am I allowed to ask where this tattoo's going to be?
Nikki Tibbles: It's going up my spine.
Annoushka Ducas: What, the whole of your spine?
Nikki Tibbles: Well, not the whole hole of my spine, no. But it'll be a medium size, not
Annoushka Ducas: Well, just so that you know, Nikki giving me the size like big tattoo.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes. I have a few tattoos. I'm sure one of which we'll come onto in a second.
But I was never allowed to
have my ears pierced. My parents, literally I couldn't have my ears pierced until...
Annoushka Ducas: You also ignored that.
Nikki Tibbles: Well, one, I can now because obviously my mother wouldn't be upset, but I'm
sure she probably is looking
down thinking, "Oh my God, she's got 40 ear piercings in her ears."
Annoushka Ducas: Is that what you got, 40? I was trying to work it out actually.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: 4 0?
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: You need to come and see me.
Nikki Tibbles: I think a few have dropped out.
Annoushka Ducas: I think you need to come and see me.
Nikki Tibbles: I do need to come see you. And the tattoo thing actually goes back to the dog
moment. And I have all my
dog's names tattooed on me. And to me, a pine tree, it's nature, which I love. And it represents
something that is very
strong and very capable. And I love the idea of having that somewhere on my body that represents
Annoushka Ducas: That's so interesting. I have no tattoos. Terrified of having a tattoo. And
also really, I'm so
impressed if you love tattoos, but for me I'm like, "What am I going to look like when I'm 80?"
Or don't you care?
Nikki Tibbles: I don't really care because I think they fade. We're talking about flowers
Annoushka Ducas: They fade. They don't just sag?
Nikki Tibbles: I hope I'm not going to be sagging at 80. I'll try and do my very best to
not be. But where they are, I
think as you get older, yes. But no one can see my tattoos so it's not they're on show. I don't
have anything on my arms
that people can see or my legs or anything like that where... It's a personal thing.
Annoushka Ducas: Just tell me, for somebody who... I would never. I always said to my
children, "Don't you dare have a
Nikki Tibbles: Oh no, my parents also.
Annoushka Ducas: So a big danger because obviously they're probably all dying to have
tattoos now. But what is it about
the tattoo? What is it that you love about the tattoo?
Nikki Tibbles: Well, I strive and I think a lot of people, we strive to be individuals and
to be different. And I don't
want to be different for different sake. And everything in my life has to have a meaning and has
to have a reason for
being. I just don't want to get a tattoo because it's popular, or I don't want to have 20
piercings in my ear because
it's popular. It's just something I wanted to do. And the tattoos, I guess, really started
because of my dogs passing
away. And that was a perfect reason for me to start that. And it's personal and I think that
really it's something that
I can identify with and it's different, and no one else really has to be aware of it.
Annoushka Ducas: That's a really good answer. I have to ask because it's so far off my...
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: So it's so interesting to hear.
Nikki Tibbles: But I'd always wanted one.
Annoushka Ducas: You had.
Nikki Tibbles: Always, yes.
Annoushka Ducas: You just couldn't do it.
Nikki Tibbles: But I just couldn't do it. It's a recent thing.
Annoushka Ducas: So your last charm is a version of your Be Kind tattoo.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: So again, you were really particular about this because you said it's a
vegan, indigo blue tattoo.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: On your inner wrist, which I probably can see.
Nikki Tibbles: Yeah.
Annoushka Ducas: It's rather lovely. So the way I've done it is, because I have a little bit
of an idea why you've
chosen this, and so I've done it as a locket.
Nikki Tibbles: It's absolutely perfect.
Annoushka Ducas: And it would be...
Nikki Tibbles: As are they all.
Annoushka Ducas: I think we'd do it in that blue enamel.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: And as you can see, it's a yellow goldlocket and it just slides neatly so
that you could put a little
picture inside. But can you just tell me about this Be Kind tattoo because you talked a little
bit about it earlier.
Nikki Tibbles: Yes. I guess it in a way, hopefully there is a bit of a pattern throughout
charms. Love and things
that come from your heart are so incredibly important and being kind is probably the most
important thing in my world.
And there's just not enough kindness, which costs nothing. To smile at someone or just to say
something kind to someone
just doesn't exist so much in our world at the moment.
Annoushka Ducas: You're so right.
Nikki Tibbles: Sorry, crying again. But it's something I really do try and live my life by.
The most important thing is
it can change somebody's day. It costs us nothing. And in a world where everyone is so absorbed
with themselves and
financial gain and completely totally on a screen, you can't walk down a street without people
being on their phones and
people don't look up, people don't say thank you, people don't appreciate what other people do.
There's no sense of joy
in life, certainly in so many ways. And yet just by being kind to someone can change someone's
life, change something,
Annoushka Ducas: You're so right.
Nikki Tibbles: And again, it was something that my father taught me and he was an incredibly
kind man. And I just wish
the world was a kinder place. And that comes back to our globe and wanting to make the world a
better place and kindness
to people, to each other, to teach children to be kind, which is part of what was for me, such
an important and landmark
moment in my life when we launched this curriculum, because I always said if I could have a Be
Kind Curriculum program
on our curriculum, I would die a very happy person.
Annoushka Ducas: It's interesting to come back to that. Now I know what this charm means.
But to have that in primary
schools and to teach children early on and it be called that is so strong and so simple, yet so
Nikki Tibbles: So simple.
Annoushka Ducas: But I love the idea of those children going home and saying, "I had the Be
Kind talk today."
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: That's ingrained like it is on your arm.
Nikki Tibbles: It is on my arm, yes. And if we teach one child, we reach 5, 6, 7, 8 adults.
Annoushka Ducas: Yeah. I feel like the next generation are kinder than our generation, my
children's generation aged 20
and in their 20s. They seem to care about the world a lot more than...
Nikki Tibbles: Definitely, yes. I think so. And there's much more consideration about
what we eat. The rise of
vegetarian, veganism, plant based, whatever word makes people happy about not eating meat. Plant
based seems to resonate
better with people than being vegan. But people do care more about where their food comes from
and what they put in
their bodies and what they eat, and what that animal goes through for them to enable them to
have that bacon sandwich or
Annoushka Ducas: And climate and the whole responsible attitude, which is what we so badly
messed up. We have really
badly messed up.
Nikki Tibbles: We haven't left a great legacy for the future, so it needs to change.
Annoushka Ducas: So speaking about legacy. So as you know, as a huge thank you for your time
sharing your life with
us, I'd like to make you one of these charms as a thank you.
Nikki Tibbles: Oh my goodness. Wow.
Annoushka Ducas: And whilst you think about that...
Nikki Tibbles: Yes.
Annoushka Ducas: I think I know what the answer's going to be, but if someone were to find
entire drawing or
bracelet, when you are no longer around, what do you want them to think about you?
Nikki Tibbles: Wow.
Annoushka Ducas: I hope it hasn't been too emotional.
Nikki Tibbles: It's extraordinary when you look at your life like this and the things that
important and what they
represent to you. It was an amazing thing to actually have to think about and boil down into
seven moments. Because
there are so many things in our lives that are so relevant and important. And actually, thank
you for the opportunity of
being able to think about the things that are so relevant in my life and to have to literally
bring them to seven
moments, I guess, was a wonderful thing to do.
Annoushka Ducas: Well, you've done it brilliantly.
Nikki Tibbles: And this is beautiful, so thank you.
Annoushka Ducas: That's a great pleasure.
Nikki Tibbles: I can only have one, I can choose?
Annoushka Ducas: I'm going to make you one. You can have as many as you like.
Nikki Tibbles: As many as I like, yes. But I can make you one. They're also incredibly
beautiful, so incredibly
beautiful, and represent everything that we talked about and discussed, but I guess as a legacy,
it would have to be, Be
Kind. Was that what you thought?
Annoushka Ducas: I thought that might be it, but I just also hope that anyone listening to
has taken that on board
because it's such a simple and yet easy thing to do for other people. Anyway, I'll be thrilled
and honored to make you
Nikki Tibbles: Thank you so much.
Annoushka Ducas: Thank you. Thank you so much for listening to My Life in Seven Charms with
me, Annoushka Ducas. If you
would like to see all of the charms and illustrations that I've made for my guests, please go to
Annoushka.com. If you have enjoyed this podcast, I would be so grateful if you could rate,
review, and subscribe, and
also share with your friends. It would be such a help. Thank you so much to my producer, Robin
at Fairly media. See you