Healthy living and a passion for adult learning

Debbie Muller's story

At Surrey Adult Learning our motivation is to offer adults of all ages across Surrey the possibility to benefit from learning and developGetting married their skills. We offer a broad range of courses with something to suit everyone, that fits around your lifestyle and adds value to your life. We instil a passion for learning that radiates confidence across our diverse community. Our courses are versatile, from learning online to delivery of courses across our 7 dedicated centres in Surrey.

One of our learners, Debbie, joined Surrey Adult Learning (SAL) some time ago and never looked back! More than courses Debbie explored a range of subjects and a serendipitous encounter with the man who would become her husband! All on adult learning courses with SAL.

Debbie and her husband on their wedding day pictured on the right.

In her own words learner Debbie said, "I was recently asked why I am such a fan of adult learning? My answer: Well, it just might change your life. And boy! It certainly did in my case.

Way back in the late sixties I first attended 'night school' to improve my shorthand skills. At the same time a group of us fashion conscious young things enrolled onto a dressmaking course. We had cracked it! Soon we were wearing Mary Quant style PVC mini skirts and psychedelic tops for a fraction of high street costs.

The seventies arrived and I thought it would be fun to learn a foreign language. I chose Italian. At that time, I also became the proud owner of a classic Mini, but I soon learned that I couldn't afford garage costs. So, off I went again to Surrey Adult Learning (then called Adult Education) and joined the 'car maintenance" evening class. And that's when my life changed for ever…

Please let me explain; On the same evenings my boss was attending the German class. One evening a handsome young six-foot three German guy was assisting his class with German conversation.

During the coffee break my boss asked him if he had a girlfriend here yet. "Nein" was the reply. "Well, what do you think of her over there in the coffee queue?" Asked my boss, pointing to me. "Ja, she is very pretty." was the reply. So, without hesitation, my boss crossed the room and dragged me, looking like a grease monkey, protesting loudly, over to meet this young guy. And that's when it happened; the world stood still. It was literally love at first sight for both of us. My next thought was "Damn! I've been learning the wrong language!"

We met, we fell in love and a few months later we moved to Germany on our wedding day.

Almost a decade later my husband was offered an interesting post back in England, which he was able to accept, as Britain was by now a member of the European Economic Community (EEC)

Soon adult education was beckoning to us again. My husband attended a French evening class, and I joined a yoga class. Well, I needed to relax; by now we had twins!

I also remember, a few years later, going to a Saturday class called "Understanding your teenager."

By now the latest fashion for the home was swags and tails on the windows, which were horrendously expensive to buy made to measure. So, I joined a soft furnishing class at SAL and soon we had the best dressed windows in the neighbourhood! This whetted my appetite for more home projects. At upholstery classes I made padded headboards, reupholstered an armchair and restored an antique rattan chair. I also couldn't resist the courses teaching all types of embroidery, tapestry, and patchwork.

In the early 90's my husband and I decided to open our own company, working from home, with me becoming his secretary/personal assistant. The problem was that by now, I was out of touch with office technology. Not a worry; I joined computer classes at SAL and learnt Word, Excel and other programmes. Whenever there was a new programme or an upgrade to existing ones I attended a short course to bring my skills up to date.

It was about this time that we bought a motorboat (no surprise really as my husband had been in the German Navy), and we spent a happy few years cruising the Thames with her. And then he got itchy feet. He attended a Day Skipper course before we changed her mooring to the Solent. That was good fun, nipping over to the Isle of Wight for the day whenever we fancied. But then he wanted to take her across the North Sea. Oh! Dear. This was a different ballgame. You see, I am more of a landlubber. "Would you feel safer if I qualified for "Yacht master"? He asked. Um… so he did (SAL). And we were off! We crossed the North Sea to Belgium and Holland at least twice. We loved it so much that we kept the boat in Belgium for a whole year.

About this time, I started going to Pilates at the Camberley centre. And now, about 25 odd years later I still attend Pilates at Camberley! Our tutor, Karen D'Agata, is one of the best coaches I have had, and she knows just how to push us "oldies" to keep us supple and fit.

My husband and I have also attended quite a few classes together; kitchen and bathroom design, French, ballroom dancing (that was a disaster as, between us, we had four left feet!). The last course that we both attended was all about how to get the best from your single-lens reflex camera.

So, when I look back over the 53 years that I have attended adult education, I see that it has not only been with me for all my adult life but that it has enriched my life in ways that I could never have dreamed of way back in the swinging sixties. I have learned so many skills and made some lifelong friends along the way, as well as meeting my wonderful husband.

  • Reviewed: 14 Dec 2023

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