Leaving, on a jet plane …

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The last week has been a whirlwind to say the least – the house is now a shell, with all our worldly possessions either on a boat sailing the Atlantic, or have gone into storage in the UK.  For those of you concerned about the welfare of both the cat and the kids (see earlier blog!), you’ll be relieved to hear I still have the 3 kids with me complete with e-tickets for the plane, and the cat hasn’t been put into the wrong container but is calmly awaiting her journey tomorrow to an animal air transporter specialist who will whisk her across to us in a few weeks time.

It’s very odd when you look at the house – nothing on the walls, no pictures, no toys, no lights and no furniture.  In a bizarre way, it’s easier to leave when there’s nothing left to leave.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful house, but something happened this week whilst all our contents were being removed, that it’s personality disappeared and it’s lost its soul.  It’ll no doubt return when we manage to secure some tenants to offer some love and attention to it, and it’ll take on a different character and feel whilst we’re away.

Whilst there’s been a degree of minor stress during the week, there have been some hilarious moments too….

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All our kitchen goods were packed on Monday, with the exception of food items and any electricals – as both can’t go to Canada.  So, looking at the options for bread on Monday evening, I still had the bread machine and whilst there were no measuring items (all packed up in a container!), how hard could it be to estimate the quantities required and deliver a wonderful smelling loaf of bread for breakfast the next morning?  Now, I know what you’re thinking – the bread was a disaster and all that resulted was a congealed mess?  You’re wrong.  In fact, quite the contrary – a lovely looking (and smelling) loaf was the result.  The only thing I’d failed to consider was how we would cut it – the bread knives were already packed up in the back of the container, so tearing it off caveman style was the inevitable option.

Next up was the evening meal.  I’d thought everything through in terms of food, and what we could eat with the bare essentials including sourcing plates from a friend to provide an air of decorum to proceedings.  There have been 3 glasses in the house since Monday – not bad as long as all 5 of us don’t want a drink at the same time.  I’d even ‘saved’ one of the final bottles of wine, and with the girls dispatched off to bed, and only 2 of us – plenty of glasses available!  What I hadn’t realised is that the wine had a cork.  And a cork requires a cork-screw to open it.  And guess where the cork-screw was?  So, I announced emergency measures had to be hastily put in place and my wonderful next door neighbour kindly came to my rescue.  It was a close call …..

The true winners this week have been the 3 kids, who have participated in an endless round of social events, parties and school activities to mark their departure.  The gifts they’ve received have been lovely, and my oldest kid remarked that it was worth all the turmoil and disruption for the celebrations alone.  In fact, she concluded that upon our return in 2 years time, if we could earmark our next foreign destination, she could then take 2 years in the UK to have an endless round of welcome home, and ‘sorry to see you go’ parties to look forward to.

The next time I write this, I’ll be in Canada – so this is ‘goodbye’ from the UK, and ‘hello’ Canada.  We’re set to arrive.

It’s the final countdown …

Maple leaf

Well, we’re now in the final week before we physically relocate to Edmonton, Canada.  Everything has moved up a gear and instead of being in the planning and organising mode, has now turned into physical action.  As I write this, all our worldly possessions are in the process of being packed up into a container which will be shipped to Canadian shores in the next few days.  There are boxes, packing materials, chaps who clearly know what they’re doing – and me, hovering around and assigned the critical role entitled ‘provider of hot beverages’.  Mind you, I can offer quite a selection – particularly in the alcoholic spirit department which I haven’t been able to diminish in any significant quantity.  The wine on the other hand has been surprisingly easy to consume ….

It’s turned into a logistical challenge – of the like you used to see on ‘The Crystal Maze’ (for those who are not familiar, it was a UK TV challenge programme aired mostly during the 1980’s with Richard O’Brien).  We’ve had to pack suitcases with the clothes and stuff we’re going to wear and use in the next month – or for however long it takes us to secure a Canadian house, as our container of goods won’t be appearing until this has happened.  The thought – ‘how long is a piece of string’ – is regularly springing to mind.  Having never experienced winter in Canada (and yes, there is snow for extremely long periods of time plus temperatures which can drop to -40), we’re also having to take clothes warm enough to see us through – or last until we can get ourselves to the nearest shop where the appropriate attire can be purchased.

For those who have been enquiring about the current status of the 9 mountain bikes mentioned in a previous blog, these has required negotiations only familiar to the UN.  I’m pleased to say an agreement has been reached and only 6 are entitled to reside in the container and have been approved to be shipped.  I’m sure there will be subsequent pleas for the purchase of additional items when we arrive in Canada – but I’m already ready with my response!!

Suitcase

Then there’s all the documentation that we need to carry with us – just to enable us to open bank accounts, enrol kids into schools, secure a mortgage, get through customs and obtain the ever essential family permit entitling us to live over there.  I’m now adopting the ostrich approach – with my head in the sand, I’m not even giving any thought to what happens if any of the above doesn’t happen …. it’ll be fine (fingers crossed and with a fair wind behind us).  As a contingency, at least I haven’t got a tenant for our house as yet so we’ve still got somewhere to return to should it all go ‘pear-shaped’ over the next few days.

When all our stuff disappears to Canada, we’re then left with sorting out the remaining items which are either a) staying in the house for a future tenant to utilise, or b), going into UK storage at the end of this week for a significant period of time.  Either way, we need to make sure there’s nothing of any essential note that we’re going to need in the next few years which finds its way into the wrong box …

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The kids are very excited and I’m just glad they’re still in school this week.  Every box that is being packed unearths toys or books they haven’t seen in a while and in typical fashion, becomes the essential toy they just need to take back out and put in a different place.  I’ve felt as though I’ve been transported into one of those magic tricks where you could swear you put something in one box, and before I’ve turned around, it’s disappeared somewhere else.  Suffice to say, it’s going to be nothing short of a miracle that we manage to get 75% of our stuff in the right place, at the right time, and with the right person!

Let’s just hope the cat doesn’t get put into UK storage, and one of the kids misplaced and left in the Canadian container of goods …

🙂

You can count on me like 1, 2, 3 – I’ll be there

Heart

I’ve got some absolutely amazing friends.  The most really, truly, wonderful and thoughtful people you could ever wish to have the pleasure of knowing.  And for massive life changing experiences, it makes it all the more apparent that it’s those people who are around you that make the world of difference.  In our move overseas, I’ve always thought that the hard bit is not what you take with you that matters , it’s those we leave behind which we’ll miss the most – and I’m banking on them coming to visit us too.  I’ve got some gems of friends that have been behind me, supporting me , and just ‘there’ as we’ve been going through this major upheaval and life change.

Over the past few weeks, it’s a tough process trying to get everything in place for such a move.  Staying optimistic and positive when the reality is ‘you’re not quite sure how it’s all going to work’ has been a challenge – but I’m sure it will and pieces will slot into place in their own due time.  What’s astounded me is the kindness and thoughtfulness of friends around me – willing to give their time, effort and skill to assisting in whatever way possible.  This has ranged from crawling into attics, all the hidden places ‘stuff’ just resides and helping me get it all out and sorted; doing the jobs that I’ve just put up with like fixing electrical sockets which I’ve previously had to ‘tap’ to make the light come on, getting new brackets on the wardrobes so the doors don’t fall back open – all the things I’ve just got into a habit of accepting over the years.  My laptop which has been whirring and struggling for breath with the volumes of data and files that I hold, now has a new lease of life and with a complete system reboot, I’m hoping keeps it going (and me going!) over the pond.  My house is now up ‘for let’ and our cars which I absolutely loved, have been sold with friends offering their vehicles in a bid to keep me mobile until we go.  Beautiful jackets and fantastic boots have been given to the girls (and are now in their suitcases ready), plus lovely cards and supportive messages from others who have been through similar experiences in life.

It’s certainly made life easier, and supported by a detailed gantt chart and constantly updated spreadsheet (those who know me well will be smiling ruefully at this point …), there’s now a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  I must say at the moment, I’ll be glad to be actually on the plane and able to concentrate on the life ahead rather than sorting out the one we’re leaving temporarily behind for a while.

The Story

It goes to show, that when the chips are down, you can count on your friends to see you through and never has a truer word been spoken than over the last few weeks.
The reassuring and great thing is that whilst there’s a huge physical distance and clear 7 hours time difference , the sheer brilliance of social media these days means we can still stay in touch, be accessible & ‘there’.
I can’t wait to share all our escapades and adventures – the trials and tribulations of life overseas and the day to day realities that this will bring. I’m hoping by doing so, it keeps the strong connection with those back home , plus creates new friends and contacts in our new home and life over there.

I’m looking forward to hearing about complaints with the English weather and the traffic chaos, sighs of relief on a Friday night that the working week is over, and what’s cooking for tea and the ingredients being used.  Keep them coming – and they’ll make me smile and remember home.

There’s a brilliant song by Bruno Mars that sums my friends up completely and if you’ve not come across it, just check it out on ‘You Tube’ …

You can count on me like 1 2 3
I’ll be there
And I know when I need it I can count on you like 4 3 2
And you’ll be there
Cause that’s what friends are supposed to do … oh yeah 🙂

On your marks … get set …

Time

Well, the long awaited work permit was granted earlier this week and the green light was given by husband to set everything in motion for moving to Canada officially.

After months of planning and excitement, it’s now turned into hard graft and a process of contacting removals, letting agents, local council, schools, banks, mortgage lenders … (the list is endless) … to notify them of our impending departure.  Whilst time consuming, most have been pretty straightforward, it’s purely been a case of setting a date and aiming for that.  The logistics are amazingly complex though and getting all the plans from numerous organisations to harmoniously coincide is a black art.

On the plus side, due to the shipping timescales (and no doubt the highly reputable and influential international removal agent I’m using), instead of taking 6 – 8 weeks to delivery our goods 9000 miles east, they can turn this around in 4 weeks.  They did mention to me that as ships can take 1 week to load all the containers onto a vessel, and another week to unload at the destination port, if you’re lucky enough to be one of the last containers loaded you’ll therefore be one of the first containers off on the other side.  This saves you 2 whole weeks!  We’ve often taken a ferry into Europe and there’s been a delay of sometimes upto 1 hour before entering and leaving the ship with your car, but this takes it to a whole new level!!!

Based on this 4 week timescale, my eagerness to get our worldly goods delivered to Canada by the end of October has meant it’s bought me an extra week to organise, sort and plan for what goes, and what stays.  This has been complicated by the fact that we can’t take everything – and indeed, there’s no point (see my last blog!) as there are customs regulations preventing certain items being shipped, let alone the fact that Canada has a different electricity supply and the majority of my UK electrical items won’t operate there anyhow.  This means not only have I scheduled the Canada goods to be shipped out before we leave, but I’ve also had to arrange for a UK removal of the goods we can’t take, but don’t want to leave in the house, to be taken into storage.  What’s then left is either for the bin or staying in the house.  Let’s hope I don’t get each shipment mixed up – that could be a major disaster!!!!

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Then there’s the letting agent.  We’re renting our house out and it has taken me a while to get used to the sheer notion of someone else living in my house.   I absolutely love where we live and the house itself, so the last week has seen it polished and preened ready for a photo shoot and a well-articulated and compelling summary of what it has to offer written.  No need to sell it to me, but I’m just hoping whoever selects to reside in it for a duration of time, looks after it with some love and care.

Plan construction

I do have to conclude that when they say ‘moving house’ is up there in the most stressful things to undertake – along with a death and divorce (hopefully not all 3 combined); the madness of not just moving house, but moving to another country (albeit ‘next door’ but over a very large ‘pond’), just adds a scale and level of complexity that makes the head hurt and blood pressure escalate.

I’m handling it well though ….. the wine ‘stash’ is assisting with relieving the pressure as I’m unable to take it with me.  I could consider the notion of putting it into storage, but then again …… let’s drink it now and enjoy 🙂

It’s one less item to pack ….

Does it stay or does it go now?

No bikes

A slight amendment to the title of a popular 1980’s hit by The Clash, but a major dilemma.  When space is limited on a container heading for Canada, how many of the 9 adult-sized mountain bikes currently residing in our UK garage do you select to make the trip with you?

Answer: all of them – according to the gospel that is my good husband.  He likens it to having to choose between his own 3 kids.  Loves them all equally, but given the possibility that some may not be able to come along for the ride, couldn’t possibly be forced to make the selection.  I’m informed that each one is significantly different, performs numerous functions not duplicated on any of the others, rides unlike the other models, and unique in having a specific specialism and use depending on requirements.  To be absolutely honest, I accept I’m an uninformed bystander with no knowledge of the complexities of modern day mountain biking, but if I could offer a humble observation – they all have 2 wheels, handlebars and a seat.  What could be complex about that?  Maybe it’s the compelling proposition placed in niche magazines by clearly articulate and commercially savvy marketing bods sensing a market opportunity?  If so, they’ve hit on magic here.  And it certainly works in our house!!

Maybe it’s like women with handbags and shoes.  Not really something I relate to that well, but I know that for some very good friends of mine, this dilemma will resonate strongly 🙂

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Anyhow, the sofas, chairs, dining room table and all electronic equipment has had to be sacrificed and will be remaining in the UK.  I hadn’t realised how much ‘stuff’ accumulates over the years and when forced to make a choice about transporting it 9000 miles east and taking 6 – 8 weeks to get there, how much this concentrates the mind.  Likewise, the sheer practicality kicks in as the majority of electrical goods also won’t work over the pond.  When you look around your house at the number of items this then prevents, you start to realise how dependent on electricity we’ve now become.  For the essentials, I’m going to have to procure Canadian versions upon arrival.

On the plus side, my 19 year old cat will be attempting the journey.  Speaking to a specialist animal carrier company earlier today, and the oldest cat they can remember transporting went from the UK to Australia at 24 years old.  My cat’s up there with some of the oldest veterans so let’s hope we get the ‘green light’ from the vet prior to the flight and there’s no undue turbulence en route!

Then there’s the toys and general ‘mess’ that kids naturally create and festers in their cupboards, drawers and in the far depths of the sofa.  I’m hunting it all down and we’re going to have to be pretty disciplined in whether we bin, bag or box.  The kids are excited about the move but have been brought back to earth with the requirement of a major sort out this next weekend in preparation.

Wine

My domain is the kitchen and all my baking goods and ingredients will now need to be delivered to good homes in the UK as no liquids, foodstuffs, spices are allowed into the country.  Not too bad if you’re only going for 6 months, but I doubt they’ll be in a fit state of consumption after 2 years!  Never mind.  I’ll just have to work my way through the wine stack prior to departure…..

It’s a tough job, but I guess someone has to do it ……. 🙂

How big is too big?

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One question I never thought I would be troubled by is ‘how big is too big’?  But over the last 2 weeks, this has been a keen topic of debate.

We’re in the midst of selecting a Canadian house to live in for when we move to Edmonton from the UK – or more to the point, when myself and the kids are able to join said husband who has been holding the fort over there for the last few weeks.   Whilst his job is in full swing (I’d like to say ‘just ramping up’ but I think he’s missed the ‘ramping up’ part and just gone into full overdrive), he’s currently residing in a selection of hotels – depending on availability – and clearly the novelty has well and truly worn off.  As much as I’d like to join, there’s a small matter of work permits and residency visas to resolve – hence the current position of transatlantic communication.

Ever tried selecting a house when there’s 4000 physical miles in the way?  Such has been the position.  But, the wonders of modern technology has reaped benefits and we’ve been able to target properties which my husband has then viewed.

In the initial stages, it was interesting to note the difference in specification requirements we were looking for.  Whilst I was keen on bedrooms for the kids, decent sized kitchen, ideally not overlooked, lots of windows with a light and airy feel, and close to schools.  For the male contingents amongst you, you can imagine this was not necessarily the same list for my husband.  On his requirements was ‘enough room for his 7 mountain bikes’ (I kid you not – I’m told all have a specific use …..),  place to chill out (I think he’s secretly hankering after a man cave), wet room for changing after coming in from outside, access to recreation areas.  That’s not to say these aren’t important – all have to be carefully balanced and negotiated like the peace talks at the UN.

Mystery box

A common issue we both have is age (for many reasons), but in this case I’m referring to the age of a property.  This is where there are massive differences between the UK and Canada.  Our house in the UK is one of 3 buildings built originally as a farmhouse and outbuildings.  They were built in 1750 (it’s not a typing error), and whilst next door there’s the farmhouse and another outbuilding which was originally the cow shed – our house was built as the hay barn.  One end of our house is where the tractors used to come in from the fields and store the hay for the animals, whilst the other end was the piggery.  In fact, when the kids are at their best being noisy and squealing, it could be mistaken for still being one!!  It has lots of character and for the UK, lots of space.

Compare this to Canada.  Most of the properties are from 1980 onwards – there are some from 1960 but these are few and far between.  Whichever way you look at it, the pool of properties which are older than even 100 years old is extremely small.  What they may lack of in age they certainly make up for in space.  They are huge.  What seems to be an average size residential house is largely from 2000 sqft and up.  My husband who has viewed a range of Canadian properties over the past week has been staggered at the sheer space available.  He’s remarked that he’s been ‘put off’ by certain properties as there were rooms he just wouldn’t know what to do with – or what to put in them – they were spacious to the excess.  Now I never thought space would be much of an issue!  I’m looking forward to the challenge of filling them (!!!!) but as I’ve not stepped foot inside one so far, I’m very much in my ‘other half’s’ hands in selecting us a good one to meet all our needs.  Even the kids are considering the possibility of being able to have a double bed in their bedroom – it’s unheard of!

One property had a summer room extension to the main house where the sole article in it was a hot tub, ideally placed for looking at the garden whilst relaxing in the tub inside.  Another had a fully furnished cinema in the basement complete with wet bar.  It’s scale and a different way of living I’ve not got my head around yet!

The next week will be key.  If the permits and visas come through we can quickly put an offer in on a property and then we’re in the lap of the gods for the timescale and how quickly things will move.  It’s exciting.  I’m thrilled with the idea that the next time the kids and I walk into a property in Canada will be (fingers crossed and with a fair wind behind us), our own home.  It’ll be the first time we’ll see it with our own eyes and whilst that’s quite daunting, I can imagine my poor husband weighing up the consequences should we fail to be anything short of delighted.

It’s all part of life’s great experience and these things you just have to give it a go and try 🙂

Relocation, relocation, relocation

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Flights booked.  Check.
Hotels reserved.  Check.

Since having flights confirmed, I’ve spent most of the last 2 days talking to 2 relocation companies who specialise in relocating employees overseas.  It is quite a daunting experience.  Having never been to Canada before in my life, just researching the different areas of Edmonton and viewing property websites with rentals online, it’s difficult to know what direction to go in and where to focus most of our efforts during the orientation visit next week.  Link this to where the best schools are for the ‘kids’ and you have a double nightmare.

If you had to do this yourself, from scratch, it’s a hard job to manage from such a long distance away.  That’s where these specialists in relocating come in.  They take the nightmare out of it and use local expertise to target exactly what you need in the shortest space of time.

Plane

Next week’s orientation visit is a good example.  I’ve already outlined my wish list and our requirements for both the property to live in and schools for the ‘kids’ to attend.  With this in mind, the proposal is to spend 1 day obtaining an overview of the area we’ll be moving to, and an outline of the properties available aswell as the quality of the schools nearby.  They’ll also provide ‘everyday living advice’ which I’m assuming means nearest supermarket, doctor’s surgery, how to sort out basic utilities, etc.
The next step during our week will concentrate on schools.  Education professionals will provide us with a steer on where to focus, set up interviews with schools, provide comparisons and assist with registration.  Alongside this, we’ll get an itinerary of the properties available and accompanied visits to those houses we wish to visit.  They’ll also guide us on negotiating the appropriate leases and terms.  Let’s hope there’s a sweet spot somewhere where the ideal location meets a lovely rental property all of which are near a good school.

If all goes to plan and it’s a successful trip, we’ll be able to ‘tick the boxes’ on getting the essentials in place ready for our physical move over there.
If not, well, I guess I’ll jump that hurdle when and if it arises.

Canada flag

I’m now experiencing first hand what it feels like as we move to becoming ex-patriots overseas.  It’s interesting when I reflect back to what I was doing 15 years ago.  My job during that period of time was about managing the ex-patriots of a UK-based company in their many locations overseas.  I would agree their relocation packages and arrange such relocations for them with firms like the ones I’m now dealing with.  The only difference now is that I’m experiencing it first hand, from the other side of the fence – and it’s a completely different experience, let me tell you!  Whilst I know I was extremely competent in the role I did 15 years ago, upon reflection, it’s probably one of those things you can only empathise with when you’ve actually undertaken a relocation yourself.

Well I guess the time has come.

Excited about the next week?  Absolutely.
Nervous about what we’ll find and whether we get everything done?  Possibly.
Want to change our minds?  Not in the slightest.

See you in Canada 🙂

Momentum is building …

Organising

Well this week has seen more progress in our relocation to Canada than the last 2 months put together!  We now have a relocation package on the table which has been agreed, and as such, flights for our orientation visit are now booked and seats reserved.  It’s next week (I know – hardly time to shop, but I’ll try my best 😉 ) and we fly out of London Heathrow to Edmonton, Alberta; for a 2 week period.  The intention is to try to view the area, see as many available properties as humanly possible, and research into the local schools such that after the 2 weeks and upon returning to the UK, we can sort out the physical move and relocate over there as fast as we can (ideally, before the snow arrives).

 

In terms of the work for my husband, it’s off and running.  He’s busy and has been over there for the last 2 weeks.  Unfortunately, the fates have conspired against him and he’s currently ‘stuck’ halfway between Edmonton and Manchester (namely, Toronto), as he missed his connecting flight yesterday.  Putting new meaning to the term ‘globetrotter’, in a bid to return home before we depart back to Canada – he’s having to fly via Germany (never saw this as being en route to the UK from Canada before), but it means he gets home at some point in the near future.  ‘Helpful’ suggestions from myself about seeing the sights of new cities, have been met by stiff tongue and cold shoulder – I’m sure his mood will brighten when he returns to 3 hyperactive and excited ‘kids’ all vying for his immediate attention.  (Bet the prospect of a quiet trip round Frankfurt will sound positively appealing to him upon reflection)…..

Plan construction

For my part, like a bullet from a gun, I’ve kicked into full speed ‘organiser mode’ and have been busily securing us accommodation in which to stay whilst we’re over there.  Not the easiest when we’re looking for availability less than a week from now for a family of 5 at the height of the summer season.  However, not to be deterred and like a dog with a bone, I’ve managed to secure us rooms in a selection of hotels across various locations for the duration of our stay.  I’ve been keen to build in some fun and downtime for the kids in-between all the orientation shenanigans which are obligatory if we’re going to get the most from our time over there before the flight departs to return us back to the UK.

I’m trying my hardest not to get distracted from the job in hand, but when you see the absolutely fantastic places to visit, attractions to see, and scenery that I’m told is ‘to die for’, I’m starting to think 2 weeks will be nowhere near long enough!  I have to keep reminding myself to keep things focused as we’ll have acres of time once we’ve relocated over there to take in the full extent of what Canada has to offer.

 

As a form of incentivisation for the ‘kids’, I’ve saved the last 2 days of our stay as their ‘treat’ – comprising of a stay in the ‘Fantasyland Hotel’ in Edmonton, situated in the largest shopping mall in the world, with the 2nd largest Water Park (23 slides in total), an ice rink, an aquarium sea-life centre, attraction park with thrills and spills, all under one roof!  For the observant amongst you, you’ll spot a few of these items as being included in our bucket list from an earlier blog – so I’m getting them in early!  One thing’s for certain – 2 days will never be long enough, but it should make the trip memorable for the ‘kids’, give them lots of fun, and create a desire to get back there as soon as possible to try out all the things they won’t get chance to do on their first visit.

 

On the plus side, we should only be local the next time we’re there …..

It’s a small small world …

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You’ll be relieved to hear that I resisted the strong temptation to download the Disney tune to accompany the title of my blog!  ‘It’s a small small world’ has been a big theme for us this week.

Plans are getting firmed up – there’s a relocation proposal on the table, and we’re in the midst of arranging the flights for our orientation visit to Canada in early August.  One thing has been absolutely staggering to me though throughout the process so far – and that’s how many people I’ve spoken to who have been to Edmonton, have friends/family who have relocated there or thereabouts, or have contacts who are based there.  Without fail, every single one has offered to put us in contact with them, help us in some way, and generally be supportive to us during our relocation.  It’s a fantastic testament to the human species, in their inherent willingness to help others 🙂

Even new acquaintances have offered support with contacts they have out there – and the range of opportunities, skills to draw off and knowledge of what to do and how to do it, gives us encouragement and eliminates any nerves about the impending change of life we’re about to embark upon!

inuit

Let me throw you a few examples.  One of my best friends has family just south of Edmonton and after sending me their details, we’ve been emailing and exchanging thoughts on schools and areas to live in.  A work colleague who has a friend recently having relocated to Edmonton, has given me her details so we can meet up when I’m finally over there.  She’s given me some helpful tips on ‘the things she wished she’d known before moving out there’ so I’m well prepared.  And a client, who upon discovering that I was about to relocate, explained she had also moved there to live before having to return to the UK 2 years ago.  She will put me in contact with her friends and business contacts out there – and gave me superb advice on the best places to live, trucks to drive, and events to attend.

City Hall's main pyramid and fountain. To the ...

Edmonton’s City Hall main pyramid and fountain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then there are examples of the wonderful Canadians who my husband has met over there in the last 2 weeks alone.  He mentioned to one of the Canadian team he’s working with about our oldest ‘kid’ being a competitive swimmer and wanting to make sure she joins a club in Edmonton who trains seriously and competes externally.  It turns out this lady’s husband is a swimming coach in Edmonton, and has coached swimmers in the last 2 Olympics!  What are the chances of that!  Needless to say, she’s kindly passed on his details to us……

Another Canadian gentleman has a brother who is a realtor in Edmonton.  He’s confident that finding a property isn’t going to be a problem and emails have already been exchanged.  A final example, is a Canadian who my husband met during a business meal last night.  He’s a consultant based in Calgary and working in the same field of consultancy as me.  He’s keen to meet up and discuss potential opportunities.  I’ve already sent him my contact details.

 

It’s exciting.  But it has made me marvel at the coincidence of so many people, having so many contacts, in a place so far away.

Just goes to show.

It’s a small small world 🙂

Best places to live in Canada? Big isn’t always best …

 

Official logo of St. Albert

Official logo of St. Albert

Given the size and epic scale of Canada, you’d think there would be a natural gravitation towards larger cities as being the better places to live.  Whilst Calgary certainly factors up there in number 2 spot for 2014 (Moneysense 2014 survey of best places to live), a much smaller town appears in the number 1 position – St Albert.

Luckily for me, it’s a small ‘town’ to the north-west of Edmonton in the state of Alberta.  It’s a small community with a population of 64,000, unemployment is low, incomes are amongst the highest in Canada, crime rates are low, and whilst the winter is extremely cold and long, it’s sunny all year round.  20 minutes drive from Edmonton (who, incidentally, was placed 8th overall, 3rd best largest city to live in after Calgary and Ottawa), St Albert has an abundance of open spaces, active areas for sports of all types, and for those with ‘kids’ it seems to tick all the boxes, and is a parents’ dream.

St Albert Clocktower Downtown. Originally post...

St Albert Clocktower Downtown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

St Albert has been mentioned to me by many people as ‘the’ place to live when we relocate.  My husband visited it for the first time last week and (as instructed), came home at the weekend weighed down with maps, leaflets, newspapers and general ‘bumf’ about things to do, places to stay, where to eat, schools to attend.  In fact, the most noticeable feature when you look at the street map, is the amount of play areas, parks, woodlands and sporting facilities there are available.  He described walking around almost every corner to be greeted by another ‘park’ with climbing frames to die for – in fact, based on my middle ‘kids’ recent exploits and ability to fracture her wrist from some monkey bars (see previous blog), she’d be able to break almost every bone in her body each week for a year from what he saw in the play areas and the range of stuff to climb and generally have fun on.  (Better make sure the medical cover is up to date 🙂 )

 

As in the UK, the weather was hot last week in St Albert, with paddling pools in abundance and fountains spraying water over pre-school children who were clearly in their element.  These turn to ice rinks during the winter months when the snow arrives.  There are basketball courts, rugby fields, soccer fields, tennis courts, athletic tracks, cross-country skiing facilities, BMX parks, canoeing, water parks and of course, swimming pools.  Ice hockey pitches, fishing, golfing and nature trails also appear.  And all this, in an area with a population size of 64,000.

St Albert Playground

64,000 people doesn’t sound a lot, and when I look at places I’m familiar with in the North-West of England, it’s equivalent to the population of Bury, a town just north of Manchester (yes, the one with the 2 football teams), and the place I was born and brought up in.  I can probably recollect a few of the facilities in the list above being available, but certainly nothing the size and scale of leisure and active sports Canada seems to offer.

On the accommodation front, I hear it’s a busy market with properties not appearing and staying long on the open market before being snapped up.  Not surprisingly, if the range of facilities is anything to go by, the sheer number of schools built to educate the youngsters, and the promotional material advertising it’s place in the top spot, it sounds like a prime location and let’s just hope we manage to secure even a tiny spot for the 5 of us.

I’m sure there’s a little space …

Now … it’s my turn!

GoatThings are starting to progress and my husband is now over in Canada as the work is finally starting to take some momentum. It puts a whole new meaning to ‘commuting to work’ as he’s flying back to England this weekend to return back to Canada within the space of 48 hours (my usual gripes and groans about the bumper to bumper traffic on the Runcorn bridge pale into insignificance by comparison).  Still, it’s only for 2 weeks as the rest of us will join him early August for our orientation visit and hopefully during this time, we’ll be able to source somewhere to reside and start making all the final arrangements for the physical move.

 

Given our imminent departure and transfer across the globe, I’ve probably waited long enough before responding to the questions I’ve asked the ‘kids’ and it’s time to capture my own responses and thoughts.

 

So, without further ado…. in moving to Canada, the most important things to me are:

  • Getting the family settled
  • Feeling a sense of belonging and welcome
  • Exploring new places

 

1.  What excites me about the move?

  • I love change
  • I love the new and unknown
  • Unpredictability

I think this move ticks all the boxes!

 

2.  What interests me about Canada and what would I like to find out about?

  • I love beautiful scenery, epic mountains and vast lakes. I’d much rather explore a place and area than sit on a beach for 2 weeks. In fact, I don’t sit still.   Ever.   So the prospect of relaxing by just ‘relaxing’, makes me uncomfortable and I have to conjure up reasons for ‘doing stuff’. I’m expecting everything I’ve seen in all the books and in photos – my expectations are high – don’t let me down Canada!
  • For those who know me well, foreign languages have never come easy to me – even a work assignment in Wales had me mispronouncing place names that I’ve never lived down – and Wales is right next door! So, it is with great relief that English is the language of choice and I’m in with a chance of being understood – and understanding others too! I think everyone on both sides of the Atlantic can breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Lifestyle and pace. I’m quietly hoping that the whole way of life and pace of living is much less than it is in England. I’m constantly dashing from one thing to another – I’ve often thought of hiring a ‘tardis’ with multiple versions of me demonstrating with ease the art of being in 4 places at any one time. I’m not going to miss the hectic and frantic way of living in England – but I’ll let you know if it’s any easier in another continent!

inuit

 

3.  What am I hoping it will be like?

  • That it is the best thing we’ve ever changed in our life. Say no more.

 

4.  When we return to England, what do I think it will be like?

  • Green
  • Wet – constantly
  • Busy and crowded – I’m expecting to notice this the most
  • Quality TV and radio. I hate adverts and do love the BBC and all it stands for. It’s a lot for the Canadians to live up to – but I live in hope 🙂

 

5.  What am I most worried about?

Coming home before we’ve seen the things we want to see, before we’ve really got settled, and before we’re ready. I’d love to exhaust everything so I’m not coming home to England and wishing I was still in Canada.

 

6.  If I can only take 5 things with me, what would they be?

  • My family (obviously)
  • My Mum & Dad (so they can experience something new together with us)
  • My cat (she’s 19 and will probably outlive me at this rate)
  • My friends 🙂
  • Earl Grey tea leaves – a strange item you may think, but I’m from the North of England where a cup of tea solves every problem known to human kind (that’s a fact) and generally replenishes the very soul

 

7.  If I had to describe in 1 word what I feel about the move …

inspired

It’s probably noticeable that I haven’t mentioned anything about the kids or schools or sports. For me, this goes without saying and getting that all sorted will be the first thing I start to organize and will ‘just happen’. They’re givens rather than things I’m really looking forward to or concerned about. Equally, they’re all within my gift to sort out and make happen – the only one who can influence this significantly is me, and it’s at the top of my agenda.

 

Better get started …

School’s out (well, almost!)

Girl drawing back to school

It’s the final week of the school year for my ‘kids’ this week and if all goes to plan, the next time they return to school, it’ll just be transitionally as we’ll be packing up and relocating to Canada as quickly as possible.  It’s also quite strange too.  Not knowing whether they’ll see many of their friends when they return in September is a very odd sensation.

It’s a big year for lots of reasons.

My middle ‘kid’ moves into the ‘Juniors’ (year 3) in September and they get ‘perks’ with such a move.  They don’t have to wear a blue top any longer – they get to wear a blue shirt and tie (and a proper one at that – so it’ll test my technique of attempting to show her how to tie one), plus they have the option of buying ‘toast’ mid morning, so she’s very excited at the whole prospect.  I just wish she showed as much enthusiasm at our daily breakfast time when we all stock up our supplies for the day and a mouse has a better feast than she often does!

My youngest ‘kid’ is due to start school in Reception class – something she has been counting down to for the last 10 months.  She has well and truly outgrown nursery – in all senses of the word – being the tallest by a long way in her nursery class, plus with a birthday early in the school year, has felt ready for school for a long time now.  She has resorted to teaching herself how to write letters and count numbers based on what her sisters do for their homework and mimicking their work.  She also gets to wear a uniform and I’ve had to cover all bases by ordering her one for her school in England – even though we’re not planning on being here for much longer.

Alphabet

The end of the school year sees lots of key events coming together over the last final weeks.  The older ‘kids’ have had music evenings, sports day, toy day (later this week), the summer school fair, the school disco and celebration assembly for all to attend.  It’s hectic and the weeks have flown by lurching from one event to the next.

School reports came out last Friday and they are certainly thorough in their content and presentation.  My Dad dug out my old school reports just as a comparison – and there really isn’t one.  35 years ago, all I received was 1 side of A4 with a handwritten note from the year teacher saying ‘she tried very hard and was a pleasure to teach’.  Not that I’m disputing the essence of the message being conveyed – in fact, my girls now get a very similar one.  However, they also receive very thorough observations, evidence, constructive advice and further opportunities for development highlighted throughout the many pages of the report plus the ‘kids’  have the delight of including their individual sentiments for what they feel they have personally gained and enjoyed during the past year.  It gives you a real insight into what they value as ‘kids’ and the major events which have resonated with them over the past 10 months.

School bus

It is a big year.  Moving to Canada, my ‘kids’ will resume their education over there and I’m interested to see how the English education compares to it.  I’m expecting a full curriculum – much as they get here – but with a much stronger multi-cultural flavour with wide ranging topics that will hopefully stimulate and really challenge my ‘kids’ into thinking about the world and different ways of living in a completely new way.  I’m anticipating a stronger vocational feel to learning along with an academic one.  I’m sensing there will be a drive to encourage independence – in thought and deeds, from an earlier age much greater than we do nowadays in England – and that won’t be a bad thing.  Harnessing talent, realising potential and building confidence are life skills that I’m hoping Canada fosters in each and every one of them – and in me too.  There’s always something each and every one of us can benefit from along life’s great path and I’m also looking forward to a form of ‘education’ and change that affects me equally as much as my ‘kids’.

‘School’s out’ (or nearly anyhow) for this year, but for me and my ‘kids’, our education is just beginning.

 

Bring it on 🙂

A swimmer’s dream

 

Swimmng

As I write this, I’m sat watching my 10 year old ‘kid’ do her usual 2 hour swimming training.  She trains for 2hrs a day, 6 days a week.  The only difference today, is that once a week, she travels 30 miles each way to the Manchester Aquatics Centre – which was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.  It’s a wonderful facility and a chance for her to train in a 50m pool rather than the usual 25m, ‘short course’.  It builds stamina and tests endurance over a longer distance.  The session sees them swimming in excess of 120 lengths – I’m tired just watching.

It’s a strange environment as the ‘training pool’ is directly underneath the main aquatics pool – almost buried in a ‘crypt’.  There are no windows and with only 4 lanes wide, it certainly concentrates the mind.

English: Manchester Aquatics Centre

Manchester Aquatics Centre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Symbolically, as you make your way down the stairs to pool, the walls are covered with photographs of British Olympic swimmers and the medals they’ve won – it’s a fantastic way to visually motivate each and every individual swimmer.  Once you arrive in the ‘crypt’, there’s a digital board with a second by second countdown clock providing a visual display of the number of  ‘days to Rio 2016’.  Now that’s inspirational!

Canada has a worldwide reputation for sports, having hosted the Winter Olympics on 2 occasions and the Summer Olympics once. Canadian swimmers are up there on the world stage as some of the very best.  This year alone, they are 9th in the world rankings out of 45.   It boasts a superb level of investment in facilities as well as the sheer range of sporting opportunities for Canadians to participate.  In a recent study about the level of children’s activity in sports, 84% of Canadian kids aged 3 – 17yrs participate in some type of sports with 60% doing it on an organised basis.  Given the clear health benefits of undertaking physical activity and adopting healthier lifestyles, this is clearly reassuring.

One of the ‘conditions’ my oldest ‘kid’ requires as part of our relocation to Canada, is for a ‘very good swimming team’ which she can join and continue to train with as part of her desire to be a leading competitive swimmer.  She’s most concerned that in her time away from the UK, if she doesn’t enter competitive swimming galas, she won’t receive ‘official’ times for any of her strokes across a variety of distances – these provide a direct and immediate comparison of how well she’s progressing, and how well she compares with others.  Without a doubt, she’ll be keen to join the Edmonton swimming club and become an active member as soon as possible after our arrival.

 

World Waterpark, West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton,...

World Waterpark, West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, serious swimming aside, those who have read our ‘Canadian Bucket List’ will have spotted item number 32 which is ’to visit the largest swimming pool in the world’.  I stand corrected – it’s actually the second largest (after Germany) and is based in Edmonton, Canada.  It opened in 1986 and is the second largest waterpark in the world.  In terms of key stats, it hosts a maximum of 40,000 guests, has an average temperature of 28 Celsius, and has the world’s largest indoor wave pool with a capacity of 12.3 million litres.  That’s huge.  It covers 5 acres, is one single pool, and harbours 23 water slides – offering different levels of adrenaline ‘hits’  and there’s a least one to suit every age and swimming capability.  As a form of entertainment and enjoyment, it’s a ‘must do’ and just goes to show what Canada can offer is on epic proportions.

Looking up from my laptop, the training session is nearing completion and whilst there’s an element of tiredness kicking in, as the kids make their way out of the pool, they are chatting away, clearly invigorated by the exercise and smiles all round.

I’m smiling too 🙂

Canadian ‘Bucket’ List

One of the things I’m most mindful about when relocating to Canada, is that there’s a danger we’ll get so submerged in just ‘living’ in a new country, that by the time the ‘kids’ have enrolled and attended school, my husband has focused on his new job over there, and I’ve got a house and everyone settled – time will have gone by.  Before we know it, we’ll be on our way home and the 12, 18, 24 months will have passed in a heartbeat.

Trying to make the most of this fantastic opportunity, we’ve sat down as a family and developed a ‘bucket list’ of things we have to do whilst we’re there and before we come back.  For each one, we’re going to ‘capture the moment’ as a blog, document the evidence in the form of photos and/or videos, and we’ll ‘tick off’ what we’ve completed as we go along.  It’ll also act as a form of bingo, and only when all are completed will we be able to call ‘house’ and return to England!!!!

Happy to add to the list too.  I’m sure there are loads of things we haven’t listed or don’t yet know about and will want to do whilst we’re over there.  But, as a list goes – it’s not a bad start!!!

The Story

We’ve come up with some categories to group the different bucket items by that sums up the activities they contain:

– Canadian ‘must do’s’

– Canadian ‘jaunts’

– Adrenaline junkie husband outings

– ‘Kids’ rule

 

So, without further ado, here’s our initial bucket list of 31 items:

Canadian ‘must do’s’

1.  See a grizzly bear
2.  Learn to ski
3.  Try curlingCanada flag
4.  Go up the Calgary Tower
5.  Watch an ice hockey match
6.  See a mountee
7.  Drive in 6ft snow
8.  See a moose
9.  Go kayaking
10. Buy a fur hat
11. Drive a truck
12. Take a school bus
13. Take a train journey into the mountains

14. See ‘tumbleweed’

 

Canadian ‘jaunts’

Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

15. Drive across the Island Parkway

16. Go up to the arctic circle
17. See the northern lights
18. Visit every province
19. Visit Price Edward Island
20. Go to the Calgary Stampede
21. See Lake Louise
22. Visit Banff National Park
23. Visit Jasper National Park
24. See Niagara Falls
25. Visit Baffin Island
26. Edmonton Folk Festival

 

Adrenaline junkie husband outings

27. Ride up Whistler on my mountain bike
28. Sprawl the Rockies

29. Drive a monster truck

30. Play ice hockey

 

‘Kids’ rule

31. Do snow angels in really deep snow & sink!
32. To visit the world’s largest swimming pool in Edmonton

33. Make a massive snowman & record how long it lasts without melting

34. Hunt for fossils in Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park

35. Go taboganning

 

That’s not bad for starters.  We’ll add to it as we get new ideas, suggestions – and of course, experience the reality!

Better ask the husband

Grizzly

I’ve had some great feedback about my earlier blogs (thanks all 🙂 ) when I asked each of my 3 ‘kids’ to answer set questions about our move to Canada. All were independent and the views and comments each made were interesting given their respective ages, and offered a degree of insight into the minds of children and what they value (click here if you missed them– 4yr, 7yr, 10yr).

So, in a similar vein (and with the same rules applying), I’m conscious that I’ve made observations and drafted commentary on how I feel about it, but we haven’t conducted the same rigorous analysis!  Therefore, the next series of blogs will be capturing the views of myself (the goat) and my husband – I haven’t come up with another term to describe him!. Of course, my husband is the reason why we’re all relocating, so without further ado, his thoughts about it are presented below and captured as spoken………..

 

In moving to Canada, the most important things to him are:

  • Is it a good work opportunity and one he’ll be up to the task on (he never has similar thoughts about assisting in the home – one to chalk up for use at a later date, I’m thinking…..)

1.  What excites him about the move?

  • Doing something he’s never done before
  • Relocation is something he’s always wanted to do
  • Getting experience of living in another country which is more than just having a 2 week holiday
  • It’s an english speaking country that he’s met really nice people from. It aligns with his ethos of outdoor activities, being a big country, offering opportunities for adventure sports – that’s what excites him

2.  What interests him about Canada and what would he like to find out about?

  • The outdoor way of life & opportunities to ski, cycle, climb, explore
  • Spotting the differences between Canadians & Americans
  • Knowing more about the cultural origins and understanding the ties with the UK
  • Witnessing the cultural diversity within the country: English and French speaking sides of the country

3.  What is he hoping it will be like?

  • That it is an exciting, adventure for us all
  • Provides a big life experience for everyone to look back on and say we are glad we did that
  • That we all get a lot out of it
  • Hoping it’ll make the ‘kids’ more able to deal with big changes in life in the future, and is something they can look back on and compare later in life

4.  When we return to England, what does he think it will be like?

  • He expects it be exactly the same as it is now. If we’re away for less than 2 years, he doesn’t think the difference will be noticeable and expects to slip back in to UK life as though the move had never happened. He does reflect that he may not like being in England upon return and realises that having experienced another way of life which may be better and more preferable my trigger further choices.

5.  What is he most worried about?

The job in Canada and living up to the expectations set with the company over there – everything else is easy by comparison. Being obviously worried that the girls are happy in where they’ve been placed as a result of the move as he’d want them to see this as a positive and enjoy the experience

Never one to miss an opportunity for adding further commentary than that requested, he also went on to add that he doesn’t have any worries about moving to Canada. Ironically, he’d have more concerns if we were moving to somewhere in the UK, eg. London, for the reason that all the admin and hassle required wouldn’t outweigh the act of moving and the benefits. The fact that the move is to Canada almost makes the admin and hassle more exciting as he believes it’ll be worthwhile and something much better will come out of it as a result.

6.  If you could only take 5 things with you, what would they be?

Marmite jars

Marmite jars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Family (Goat & Kids – glad to see this appears top considering the other items on the list!))
  • Marmite (just in case it’s not available over in Canada & he has to get Red Cross supplies sent out)
  • Same as above for Earl Grey tea leaves (mind you, this is one of my pre-requisites too)
  • He can get everything else over there (or more to the point – I can!)

He’s more worried about what we’re leaving behind, eg. the house, and whether instead of being an asset, it becomes a liability during our time out of the country. This, we’ll just have to wait and see and take things as they come.

 

7.  I then asked him to describe in 1 word what he feels about the move …

Excited

Very considered.

His final musings on the topic led him to consider what he’ll be doing 12 months from now. He said he’d like to imagine being sat in our kitchen in Canada, having a cup of tea and reflecting about how the last 12 months have gone and whether it met his original expectations or far exceeded them? He’s interested in whether he would be wondering about hoping for an extension of his work, or wishing we could all could come home, or even worse, having to be sent home from the work as it has finished. He’s not sure how he’ll feel about each prospect, and that’s something we have yet to find out.

 

Sage words

It’s a slippery slope …… to ruin!

Questions

Minds have now switched to thinking about the costs which we will incur for relocating overseas and the myriad of questions that require some form of an answer.   In fact, even getting any degree of an answer is proving somewhat a challenge but let me explain …

It’s the same company in the UK asking us to relocate as we will be working for in Canada. In thinking about the costs of relocating, it gets you wondering about how we will get paid for work. So, at the top of the list is question number 1: do we get paid in a foreign currency or retain our monthly salary in pounds sterling? Deep intake of breath as the vagaries of foreign exchange rates, host company versus home country start to raise their heads.

Clearly this then leads you to question number 2 and debates on tax. Which is most the appropriate? Do we still pay UK income tax? What about Canadian tax and if we’re living there, well……..

Friends of mine will relish the opportunity to wax lyrical on such a stimulating and clearly complex body of knowledge and opinion (not my ideal topic of choice for a discussion around the dinner table, although give me a bottle of wine and I’ll happily participate whether or not I have any knowledge on the subject whatsoever). That said, give my friends any amount of alcohol and it’s hard to decipher any difference !! (I’m jesting if any of them are reading my blog, honest 🙂 )

 

Get yourself through this minefield – the common characteristics being confusion, complexity and a feeling of being clearly ‘out of my depth’ – and you’re into the whole debate on how do we get paid and into where? We’ve got to set up bank accounts in Canada and payments will need to go into this – from which we’ll need to make no doubt, an endless stream of payments both within Canada and to send back home to the UK (did I mention I have 3 kids, who certainly don’t come cheap).

 

Next on my list is social security/national insurance (now, don’t yawn). Call it what you will, when you boil it right down, all we need to know is – it more or less than we pay now? I’m happy to leave out all the specifics in the quest for a simple response.

Puzzle

To live and work in a different country for any duration of time, there will be costs to making it happen which we’re fully expecting – some of which may be met by the company asking us to relocate, some of which won’t. Once we are there and duly settled, what will be our monthly outgoings and will we be better or worse off? The safest assumption to make at this stage is to plan for failure and assume the worst!

 

Finally – and why my next observation features further down the list than all the other items above I don’t know – but did I mention Edmonton has one of the largest shopping malls in the world? Obviously an opportunity for any female and clearly a key influencer on whether we’ll have any funds remaining during or after our time in Canada. I suspect not.

 

Despite all this, I’m fully anticipating that the lifestyle, quality of life and whole experience which we’ll benefit from will be well worth all the effort, pain and no doubt, cost. Everything comes at a price. Let’s just hope it’s not a slippery slope to ruin!!!!

Emergency … dial 911

911

Our middle ‘kid’ was over zealous on the monkey bars and upon her second attempt to master the technique, she fell to the ground and the resulting ‘yelp’ was enough to know that it was slightly more than the average 7 year old tumble.  Visiting friends elsewhere for the weekend, we weren’t familiar with the local services but trotted off to the general hospital hoping they could help.

Considering the volumes of people presenting themselves with all manner of ailments, plus it was early on a Saturday evening (not the best day of the week to be visiting Accident & Emergency), we were admitted swiftly and with empathy.  After 3 hours, the administration of painkillers and a couple of  x-rays, we were informed that she had fractured the outside of both bones in her left wrist and a splint was applied.  She’ll heal and is now basking in the attention from her fellow classmates as she recounts the experience and demonstrates the evidence to anyone within a 15m radius.

monkey bars

It made me think about the healthcare we receive in England.

The NHS (National Health Service) was launched in 1948 and was based on three core principles:

  • that it meet the needs of everyone
  • that it be free at the point of delivery
  • that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay

These three principles have guided the development of the NHS over more than 60 years and remain at its core.  Whilst it receives a high level of criticism – what often feels like on a daily basis – the level of care, the capabilities, the services and above all its qualified clinicians and staff, are valued and respected across England and worldwide.

 

So, given our move to Canada, how does the healthcare system work over there and should a similar emergency arise (perhaps with kid number 3 next time), how do we receive the care required?

 

Canada itself, is regarded as a very healthy place to live.  It has a public healthcare system which is funded by both the federal government and provincial/territorial governments – its inception was also in 1948, but wasn’t rolled out and adopted across all Canada until 1972.  It provides universal coverage for medically necessary health care services provided on the basis of need, rather than the ability to pay.

Canada spend approx 11.4% of their GDP (gross domestic product) on health – in Britain, this is 9.8%.  Their spend per head is higher than the average developed country and their results see them having a higher life expectancy than many other developed countries (see my earlier blog), lower infant mortality rates and the treatment for cancer is good.  For example, screening take-up is high, as are survival rates. Almost three-quarters of women diagnosed with breast cancer can expect to be alive after five years – survival rates are among the best in the world.

Their system of healthcare is known as “Medicare’ and for treatment of any kind, a health insurance card needs to be shown.  The cards are presented at a hospital or clinic when you or someone in your family needs treatment.  In most provinces and territories, each family member receives his or her own card with a personal health identification number.  Therefore, as a family relocating to Canada, we need to make sure we apply for a state medical card when we arrive and ensure we have temporary health insurance in place whilst the formalities are completed.

It does make you realise how lucky we are to have healthcare which is accessible and immediate.  It’s something that we often overlook, too readily criticise and take for granted – when a large proportion of the world population and countries receive lower than average healthcare provision, with many dying prematurely as a result.

Hospital broken leg

Clearly we’re lucky and should remind ourselves of this fact daily.  One things for sure, the next time monkey bars make an appearance, I’ll just check out where our nearest hospital is located

 

…. or call, 911 🙂

To Canada – and beyond!

English: Postcard (postmarked 1907) depicting ...

English: Postcard (postmarked 1907) depicting John Bull and Uncle Sam under sign “To Canada” bringing in sacks of money “for investment in Canada” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the issues with moving to Canada for my husband’s work, is ‘what happens to my work’ whilst we’re there?

Three years ago I decided to leave corporate life and set up my own consultancy business after 19 years with the same company.  I love what I do, but the time had come to try something new, push myself into creating opportunities elsewhere and besides, I’d always hankered after setting something up by myself and seeing what happened.  There was also a frustration that after having 3 ‘kids’ and enrolling them in nurseries and link clubs before and after school, I felt they deserved a better quality of life rather than being deposited in various locations either end of the school day.  I wanted to be able to spend quality time with them in the school holidays, and even on a day by day basis, be able to relax, enjoy time with them, talk to them and be there with them.

Well, that was 3 years ago and never a day goes by without me thinking that this was absolutely the right thing to do.  My business is doing well – I work with some really great people, we have an ever growing set of clients and the work has proved stimulating and challenging – just what I love.  Fundamentally though for the most part, I achieve my goals for the kids and yes, have managed to strike a balance between doing stuff that I really enjoy and earning an income from, plus spending quality time with the kids.

So, what’s going to happen when we depart to Canada?

 Trail

The initial thinking is that there should be no reason why the business can’t continue whilst I’m gone.  Fortunately, the business has become more than just me, and the aim is to use others within the team who can deliver to our clients ‘at the coalface’, whilst I remain more in the ‘back room’ – I’ll just be physically 2000 miles away.  I can contribute to a lot of the material and activities we do, and assist in steering the ship from Canada.  There’s also the prospect of starting to grow what we do over in Canada too – but first steps first, let’s get over there and see what happens, get the kids settled and my husband’s work underway.

I’m also mindful that it’s not a permanent move and the plan is to come back.  So, my challenge is to maintain what I’ve built up over the last 3 years whilst we’re in Canada, but be able to pick up again and deliver direct to clients in the UK when I return.  Hopefully it’ll be a smooth transition and everything will go to plan.  And even if it’s not, I’m sure other opportunities will present themselves along the way and take it in directions I’ve not even thought of.  The benefit of living this lifestyle is that the very choice I made 3 years ago has made the prospect of relocating overseas all that much easier.  If I had still been in a corporate, full time, permanent role, I’m sure the thought of relinquishing that would have been much scarier and potentially inhibiting.

I’m quite excited at the prospect of the unknown – I love change, I love challenge and I love trying new things and creating our own trails.  I don’t tend to sit back and wait, but get involved and make things happen.  It’ll be interesting to capture how everything evolves.

As I’m sure it will 🙂

and she pricked her finger and fell asleep for a very long time …

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It’s staggering at how quickly time passes by without us noticing … 5, 10, 15 and 20 years disappear at the click of a finger.  I look at my ‘kids’ today – my 10 year old is as tall as me.  How on earth did that happen?  Last time I looked she was knee-high and yet, is now towering above me.  The ‘in-between’ years have just disappeared.

This was brought home to me this week by a long time friend who I spent many of my formative years with.  When I was growing up, we had an excellent music service in our local area which focused on introducing children to the delights of learning to play musical instruments, and also, playing in orchestras and different groups to create and perform music together.  It was magical.  As a group of approx 85 players, we must have spent at least 10 years together, with large proportions of leisure time spent rehearsing and performing – not to mention the many trips and tours we undertook.  For a large group of people in their teens, it was life defining for lots of reasons and strong friendships and bonds were made.

Like many things in life, we never appreciate it at the time and in true teenage fashion, we all turned 18 and left for various Universities dotted around the country – maintaining links with a small minority of friends, but losing contact with the majority.

25 years ago this month, we won the ‘best area orchestra in the UK’ award – following our performance at the Albert Hall in London – and it’s 25 years since I’ve seen a lot of those individuals.  I have no idea where the time has gone but I do know that making an effort to reconnect with people who have shared so much time and life experience together is an opportunity worth taking and making happen.

Violins
The wonders of modern technology and social media has transformed how we stay in contact.  Re-establishing links with those who we used to know so well is lovely – getting to know who they are today as well as sharing and reminiscing about who we were ‘back then’ is invigorating.

So I’ve awoken from my slumber and decided that if I don’t organise something, it could well be another 25 years before presented with another opportunity so I’m proud to say we have a 25 year reunion organised for the end of this month, a page set up on Facebook reconnecting people from our orchestra, and an appetite and enthusiasm from everyone for staying in contact. I’m looking forward to meeting up with my old friends enormously.  I find it somewhat ironic that in meeting up again after a quarter of a century apart, I’m then relocating 2000 miles to Canada.

Still, all the more reason to treasure the moments, hold onto the memories and stay connected with friends.

To take or not to take? That, is the question …

Yes, I know – a derivative quote from Hamlet, but it is topical in the context of relocating – trust me.

Our progress towards relocating is moving ever forward and one topic which has raised it’s head this week is ‘what’ are we intending to relocate? Whilst clearly it will be myself and the 3 ‘kids’ – my husband and 19 year old cat being still in the debatable category (I jest!), but given the distance from Manchester, England to Edmonton, Canada – how much else are we planning to take with us?

 

We’re not permanently relocating, so we don’t need to sell up and move all our essential worldly possessions with us. But neither are we just stopping for a few weeks or so, where a couple of changes of clothes and some toiletries will suffice.

Equally, it’s not as it we can load up the car and hire a trailer to deliver goods across the other side of the country – there’s a small practical issue that the Atlantic Ocean, plus a further 2000 miles country terrain separates us (did I mention Canada is the second largest country in the world?  See earlier blog…).

 

Then there’s the cost.

 

Whatever we do decide are our priority items, do you ship them and wait 6 – 8 weeks for their arrival, or fly them over at a significantly higher cost? We may opt for a more financially driven approach and decide it’s more cost effective to purchase key items in Canada once we arrive and literally move with a suitcase each and that’s it?

 

Decisions, decisions.

 Suitcase & Teddy

It has made me think though that in everything we hold dear, what would we take with us that couldn’t be bought elsewhere through any other means?  I wonder whether adopting the same approach I gave to my kids in their earlier posts would be useful?

 

If you could only take 5 things with you, what would they be?

  1. Clothes (some key essentials)
  2. iPhone (can’t survive without it!)
  3. Laptop (providing connectivity to the rest of the world, plus all my work and family photos, music library, etc etc.)
  4. Toiletries & make up (obligatory)
  5. Key documents and forms of ID

 

The wonders of modern technology means that all things held in ‘the Cloud’ can be accessed anywhere in the world. We now have all our music, photos, work, family stuff – the lot, held up there in the ether. One less thing to worry about.

 

The difference in technology also means we can’t use with any degree of efficiency, electrical items like hairdryers and straightening tongs (which are usually critical travel items), even our TV, DVD’s and kitchen appliances won’t work due to the variations in electrical voltage and plugs. I’m sensing a procurement opportunity upon arrival 🙂

 

In one way, thinking about things in this way completely frees up the mind to not worrying about what to take. No, what becomes more apparent and ever real, is what I can’t take with me. And that’s my family and friends – who I’ll miss enormously. We can certainly look to make new and additional friends out in Canada – and I’m looking forward to doing this – but it can’t make up for my lifelong friends and family who I hope will not only take the opportunity to visit, but also stay connected and keep in touch despite the physical distance separating us. However long it turns out to be.

Family

To take or not to take – that was my question.

My conclusion is, the very things you want to take with you, are those that you must leave behind.

Matchstalk men and matchstalk cats & dogs …

English: Salford dawn From room 602 of The Low...

English: Salford dawn From room 602 of The Lowry Hotel. http://www.thelowryhotel.com/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Famous lines of a British song written in the 70’s about an artist, Lowry, from Salford in Manchester (check it out on ‘YouTube’ as it’ll set the tone for my blog below ….).  His pictures are unique in their style and the way he captured life in northern England.

 

 

I’ve been perusing various blogs by lots of proficient writers and was struck by those who travel to England, eloquently articulating the famous sites, places and tourist attractions, the ‘britishness’ and quaintness of everything english.  And whilst this is mostly accurate, I can’t help but feel they’re missing out on exploring parts of England ‘lesser travelled’ and which are equally interesting and worthy of note.

 

With our soon departure to Canada, it got me thinking about how to capture the sheer delight, true Englishness and wonderful features that only living in the north of England can truly bring. If nothing else, it’ll serve as a due reminder of Northern life when I’m far away and relishing life in a different country!

 

Well, first things first.  Everyone will have a different view about what is classed as the ‘north of England’.  You’d think it wouldn’t be difficult, but you’ll be surprised how many people think it starts in the ‘Midlands’.  In fact, huge dissertations have been produced trying to clarify the ‘line of distinction’.  All I will say is that in my mind, draw a horizontal line from the top of Wales across England and everything above this is ‘the North’.

 

Map of Northern England within Great Britain.

Map of Northern England within Great Britain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

So – what makes northern living so great?

 

  • There’s a northern humour which is hard to replicate – born from hard graft and sheer determination, a propensity to look on the bright side, and take each day as it comes.  One of my favourite northern comedians is a chap called Peter Kay who uses observational humour to have you rolling around the floor laughing with tears in your eyes (check him out on YouTube).  Victoria Wood (another northern comedian) went to school in my home town and is unparalleled in her ability to make your sides ache.
  • Then there’s the friendliness of people which I’ve never found elsewhere. We’ll talk to you at a bus stop, in the shops, sat on a park bench, in a queue. A true northerner will say ‘mornin, y’rall right luv’ to a stranger passing in the street without a moment’s thought and carry on their way.  It’s lovely.
  • Have I mentioned the ‘cobbles’ and ‘ginnels’ yet?  We have particular names for things which have others looking at us in complete bewilderment.  And don’t get me started on the difference between muffins, rolls, baps and barms …..
  • Talking of food.  There’s none of this ‘nouveau cuisine’ stuff, it’s good ol’ hearty food with decent sized portions – proper pub grub, Lancashire hotpot, fish ‘n’ chips, pie & mushy peas, black puddings, sausage and mash, beef stew & dumplings.  Mmmmmm……..
  • I can’t omit the pubs.  Invariably on most street corners and stocking locally brewed ales aswell as the more commercially available ones too.
  • Wonderful accents and turns of phrase spoken.  I’m only hoping Canadians will be able to understand my lancashire accent.  There was a series of 3 iconic adverts broadcast on tv in the mid 70’s for ‘Hovis’ (a bread) using Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony’ opening as the backdrop. The wonders of YouTube means you can still watch them today – take a peek.
  • Finally, there’s the hills, valleys, victorian factories, huge chimneys and terraced housing.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s loads of beautiful greenery too.  It’s definitely worth travelling to see.

 

So, if in England and with the chance to venture north – please do.    In the words of Michael Buble (a Canadian no less), it feels like home to me.

 

It certainly is.

 

Time waits for nobody

We’ve got the whole month of August planned to visit Calgary and do what they call an ‘orientation visit’. I can’t wait. An orientation visit means going to Canada, seeing where my husband will be working, looking around schools, houses, getting a feel for the different areas, and starting to make plans for moving across from England. Yippee!

Luckily at this time of year, there is a direct flight from the north-west of England to Canada (9hrs in duration) which in Britain is commonly considered ‘long haul’. I would imagine most people living in Canada or indeed the USA, would consider this to be just nipping ‘around the corner’ 🙂

It got me thinking about time and how much time we spend on doing the great things in life, compared to the mundane and necessary.

Time

 For instance, did you know over a lifetime:

  • we spend 115 days laughing. That equates to 6 mins a day – but researchers tell me that in the 1950’s, we used to chuckle 3 times more!
  • 27 days of our life is spent waiting for trains, buses and aeroplanes.
  • 6 months of our life just trying to get to the front of a queue. (We’re very good at queuing in Britain, it’s a national past time and taken extremely seriously should anyone breach the etiquette).
  • if you watch more than 4 hrs of television a day, you’ll end up spending 11 years of your life watching tv. Luckily, I’ve got kids and a low attention span, so the prospect of even getting 1 hr in front of the box in peace and quiet is rather remote.

Just thinking about these stats, if I think about how much time I’m really spending on the things that add value to my life – are life enhancing, and real quality activities, I bet over a lifetime, that’s not as much as each of us would hope.

 

I’m going to change this.

I’m going to spend more time laughing or chuckling – and at the very least, smiling.

I’m going to concentrate on making sure we do lots more life-enhancing stuff, quality time with the kids, and embracing the new.

Just a thought, but if I’m going to do this, I’ll need quality sleep to make this happen and with 3 young kids, I reckon I’m behind on my quota (26 years, I’m informed over a lifetime) – so I’m just off to capture a few extra winks….

 

Definitely, maybe

The first thing our friends say when we mention we’re planning on moving to Canada for at least the next 12 months is – ‘is that what you really want to do’ and ‘do you think it’ll be okay?’

It gets me thinking about different attitudes to the prospect of change and something new.  Yes, we all react differently when faced with a variety of conundrums and opportunities on a day to day basis – some welcome, others not. We all make choices in life. I can think of plenty of examples of choices I made which were brilliant, quite a lot which could’ve gone better (and these I try to learn from), and others which perhaps didn’t work the way I originally thought. But the big question is … faced with the same choice again, would you still do it?

Absolutely.

Categorically, yes.

Definitely.

 Bridge

Even in this last category, what’s the worse thing that could happen? For me – it’s the fact that at least I tried and gave it a go. Learn from it, take the good things and build on them, and try to remember the things that didn’t go so well and remove them the next time 🙂

For my kids, knowing they may experience perhaps the best thing ever in their young lives to date, learn loads, meet new people and try different stuff is what spurs me on. Knowing they can always have a go, face the new and daunting, and grow bigger and stronger as a result – that’s what life is all about.

 

With this thought in mind, I tend to find positive experiences always appear out of the things you least expect, so yes, I’m embracing the move overseas and into the unknown.

 

So, in answer to the questions I’m asked about the move:

  • Yes, it’s what I really want to do. To try the new, the brave, and the unique opportunities whenever they get presented.
  • Yes, I think it’ll be okay. Well, to be exact, it’ll be more than okay – it’ll be awesome.

First things first

Well, usually my first job when I’m thinking about something new is to get hold of some books.  So, with a need to satisfy my reading compulsion, I started ordering books on Amazon for next day delivery, entitled:
– ‘living and moving to Canada’
– ‘Alberta and British Columbia’
– ‘Lonely planet guide to Canada’

If nothing else, I’ll know about the basics before we even get there. In an attempt to provide some structure and focus, I set up a folder on my laptop for storing anything to do with Canada in it, and also bookmarked internet pages which may be useful at a later date.
The ever essential swimming was investigated further and as it turns out, there is an extremely good swimming team in Edmonton who fit the bill perfectly – equally good are the swimming clubs in Calgary by the sounds of it so that’s one to chalk up as ‘progressing’ on the list. Superb.

British Passport

It suddenly occurred to me to check the passports – always an essential travelling companion! One is due to expire in 6 months so with the wonders of online ordering, I’ve now got that underway and in the process of being renewed as I speak.

There still remains the challenge of a 19 year old cat and where she’s going to go – it’s on the ‘pending’ list. I’ll think about it another day…..

Telling the kids?

lots-of-windmills-2-1367901-m

I casually mentioned at the breakfast table with my 3 girls this morning how did they fancy going to Canada for August this year. This was greeted with ‘whoops’ of joy at which I offered, ‘and if we like it, we may stay there for the next 12 months’.

Detecting a stunned silence in the room, I threw in the ‘joker’ card, ‘oh, and they have snow for 6 months a year, so we can learn how to ski’!! Silence became grunts of acceptance and you could hear the cogs whirring in their heads as they considered the most important factors.

  • For the 4 year old, she was just happy there would be snow and we were going to a place called Canada.
  • For my 7 year old, the prospect of learning to ski was enough.
  • My 10 year old was concerned about the quality of the swimming (she’s a competitive swimmer in the UK and trains 6 days a week for 2 hours a day) and insisted that there needed to be a ‘good’ swimming team (there are).  She loves watching ‘curling’ and trying it out would be good fun.  Plus, she’ll be home again in another 12 months or so to see all her friends so that meant it wasn’t forever.

Success!

I said maybe not to mention it to anyone else at this stage until we knew more.

 

On arrival in nursery that morning, my youngest announced to the staff ‘we were going to Canada’. Picking the older 2 up from school later in the day, they both said they hadn’t told anyone apart from 4 friends, but that was okay wasn’t it.

Looks like it’s happening 🙂

 

 

Little steps always help

‘THE’ conversation was had with my husband’s boss today about what ‘exactly’ does ‘you want me to move to Canada’ actually mean.
I’m informed of the following facts :
• probably 12 months,
• possibly 2 years
• could be Edmonton – but maybe Calgary (both in Alberta – but either way there’s 7 hours time difference and at least 9 hours travelling time)
• yes, there’s a relocation package
• yes, you can take the family
• we may want to expand the work into North America
• oh, and we need to look into finding a replacement for you in the UK market

canadian-flag-1433362-1-m

 

My first thoughts were: exciting and daunting at the same time. For someone who is naturally organised, structured and in perfect control at all times – where do you start?

Little steps always help. In my chores to the local village today I stumbled into 2 estate agents and enquired into how I go about ‘renting’ my property. Well, that’s today’s idea.
It’s a start….

Fancy moving to Canada, dear?

I can’t recollect many more memorable occasions than being greeted by my husband on our daily evening phonecall, than the words ‘oh, they want me to move to Canada’. It was at this point I was starting to wonder whether I needed to book an appointment with the local GP for lack of hearing clarity.

Let me explain….. we live in England and for the last 9 months, my husband has been working for a global organisation which has him away from home during the week. Even when he’s in the UK, he’s not in the near vicinity for visiting his home so phone calls have to suffice.

We’ve always talked about moving overseas for a set duration of time – but with 3 girls (10, 7 and 4), it would have to be of a sufficient period to incorporate schools and the like.

We do have family – some of which live nearby, and others quite a distance away. But none as far as Canada!

Oh, and there’s a cat. Well, an extremely old one to be exact. She’s 19 and doesn’t move too far on a daily basis from her cat basket. Mind you, if I ever reach such an age, I doubt I would too.

So, where do I start?  This blog is intended to capture our thoughts, our plans, our travels and hopefully, life-changing experiences!