It’s getting close to Christmas, one of the most significant and eagerly anticipated events of the year, and I’m certainly nowhere near ready as yet. Having had mild palpitations at the sheer amount of organising and sorting required in order to make the event on time, I was slightly pacified yesterday when, having convinced myself that ‘The Big Day’ was next Wednesday, I discovered to a huge sigh of relief, it’s actually Thursday and I’ve got a full 24 hours more than expected! As if that’ll make any real significant difference, but in the scale of things, an extra 24 hours is most welcome.
Thinking back to last year, did I anticipate I’d be celebrating Christmas within 12 months in another country? Not at all. It’s certainly taken things to an extreme. For every December I can ever remember, we have wished for a ‘white’ Christmas to make it absolutely perfect, with Christmas cards depicting this time of year with snow, wintry scenes, snowmen, and children in hats and scarves. Well, this year, my dream has come true – to the extreme. Not only have we got wintry scenes, we’ve had snow on the ground for the past month, and temperatures that are well below zero – and this is only the start of the winter season. Blue skies and sun are visible on most days, and it certainly makes the few days or week if we were lucky, back in the UK with snow, look like a poor substitute.
There are picture perfect Christmas trees, complete with the frostings of ice covering them from head to foot, and the frost which glistens in the air and makes everything look absolutely beautiful and idyllic. We pay for this though with the temperature. It’s cold. And this gets taken to an extreme that I’m constantly reminded I’ve not even begun to experience yet – it frequently gets down to -40. Being in the meer sub-teens as yet, makes it seem like childs-play and there’s a way to go yet before Winter really sets in. But to describe what the cold feels like even at these current temperatures, makes me think of that ‘Peter Kay’ sketch when he recalls the different types of rain and the ‘fine rain’ – ‘that soaks you right through’. If I had to describe the cold in Edmonton, it’s a ‘dry cold’ – don’t get me wrong, it’s very cold and boy, can you feel it on any part of your body left exposed to the elements, but it doesn’t go right through to your bones and make you shiver. It’s more like a deep freeze where any moisture or skin immediately starts to frost and freeze – but keep those layers on, and you’ll be all snug and warm.
Oh, by the way and as a complete aside to rub things in for my UK friends, I don’t think we’ve had any rain in Canada since we arrived in October – am I helping ……??
So, we’ve got the wintry scenes and picture postcard Christmas, but what about the procuring of presents and getting them off to Father Christmas? In England, I’d managed to perfect the art of placing all my orders ‘online’ and even securing my annual supermarket delivery slot via the computer so a wonderful ‘jolly’ delivery chap brought all my groceries direct to my door on Christmas Eve (a booking reservation that took months of planning and securing, usually back in October). Whilst still an element of stress, it removed most of the worry with one click of the mouse.
Not so in Edmonton. Supermarket shopping online is unheard of. After years of not even having to go through the door of a supermarket, I now find myself having to push trolleys around aisles, select goods and produce, and wait at a till whilst the goods are packed into 120,000 separate plastic bags by the ever so helpful shopping cashiers. It’s taken me back 25 years, to a time when we never spared a thought about the use of plastic bags and the cashiers knew the codes and could till in the price from memory for every single item in their store. It makes you realise how much the ‘green’ agenda has taken hold in the UK and I’m having to ‘suggest’ (ever so subtly) to Canadian shop assistants, that they can put more than 2 of my items in 1 plastic bag – ‘no, it won’t split, and I’m sure I can get it to the car and into the house without incident’.
Then there’s the petrol. Oh my goodness, it’s quite frankly reckless that the price of a litre of petrol in Edmonton is currently the equivalent of around 40p/litre in the UK. We can fill up a whole tank on less than £35 – I can’t remember the last time I filled my UK car up to the top. I was telling the local garage attendant about how cheap the petrol was compared to the UK and he remarked in astonishment ‘but how on earth can you afford to drive’? I answered back ‘we can’t – why do you think we moved to Canada’?
I jest slightly, but the prices are extreme. It drives (sorry about the pun) totally different behaviours too. We have a completely inefficient but brilliantly fun to drive ‘Jeep’, which is fantastic on ice and snow and only achieves 19 mpg. I had to change my last UK car to something that managed to get more than 45mpg just to make it affordable – it just goes to show….
Anyhow, Christmas is nearly upon us and we’re very excited. We’ve certainly adopted an extreme approach to life over these last few months, but are loving the experience and wishing everyone could experience it too. It comes at a price, and for this year, and the very first year I can ever remember, we won’t be with family or friends on Christmas Day – but our thoughts are with everyone and we wish you all a very merry christmas and ‘happy holiday’ in return.