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!!

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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

Maple leaf

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 🙂