Pass the remote …..

dog remote control

There used to be a time when the 3 kids would all be safely nestled in bed by 7.30pm meaning the husband and I, had a whole evening to chill from the rigours of the day, recover from wrestling kids into baths then bed, and basically to relax and have a chat.  Oh, and to finish off that bottle of wine we just opened ……

As kids get older, bedtimes get prolonged to such an extent that many is the time, I’ve gone to bed before my oldest has turned in.  On the rare occasions I can stay awake long enough, and we’ve finally ousted them to their beds, finding a decent programme to watch on the TV that isn’t full of the usual trite material, predictable plot lines and stiff acting, has been a challenge.  You’d have thought that in amidst what must be in excess of 300 channels of viewing ‘delight’ (a term I use in the loosest sense of the word), we’d find the odd gem which has us switching on in anticipation.

nothing to watch

Now Autumn has arrived, the TV networks are all ‘premiering’ their newest and brightest ‘new season’ of programmes to watch.  To further ‘up the stakes’, we’ve now watched all previous and current season episodes of our favoured programmes of choice, and are on the search for some engrossing new ones …

Oh, bring me back the days when life was much simpler and all we had were 3 basic channels of TV in the UK to choose from – 4, if you count Channel 4 (although this didn’t happen till 1982).  All of which had to be watched ‘live’ – none of this ‘on demand’ or ‘record and watch later’ malarkey.  Plus, on the BBC it would ‘closedown’ for the night around midnight – usually, after the final weather forecast and a quick blast of the national anthem – and off you would trot to bed.  A ‘get what you were given’ philosophy.

BBC test card

Nowadays, if we’re not careful, we can waste the entire evening ‘browsing’ the vast number of channels in the vain search that we stumble upon something that holds our attention for longer than 5 minutes.  This is somewhat of a challenge with Canadian TV, which seems to insist on interspersing each single programme with adverts and intermission breaks every 2 minutes.  I appreciate they have income to generate, but for goodness sake, no sooner have we got going, then they break for ads.  The latest trend seems to be cutting to the ad break as soon as the opening titles have played.  What’s all that about?  Bizarre.  Back in the UK, advert breaks (only on the commercial channels of course, – not the revered BBC), are few and far between in comparison, and usually, stimulate the need for a brew to be made during the intermission.  Even I can’t make (and consume) enough cups of tea to keep up with the sheer volume of ad breaks which are instigated over here. Give me strength ….

So, in this case,  thank the Lord for modern technology and the ability to ‘record and watch’ later – flicking on fast forward through the ads.  No chance to drop off to sleep on the sofa as the programme never goes for longer than 5 minutes before I’m stretching for the remote just to rush us through the ads.  The batteries I’m going through on the remote are costing a fortune – mind you, the stretching exercises each evening certainly saves me the money from going to a gym ……

nothing-to-watch-on-tv

We’ve had to build up a repertoire of programmes that are suitable for the various age groups of our kids – there’s none of this 9pm ‘watershed’ over on this side of the pond.  You’ve got to be on your guard as I’ve been caught out on many occasions with letting the youngsters browse the channels, only to find strong language and particular content that I’d rather they didn’t watch being aired.  It’s a minefield.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that along with ‘certificates’ or ‘warnings’ that are placed on programmes regarding the content, they could also do with another category entitled, ‘level of comprehension’ required.  Maybe I need a specific category for me alone, but many is the time I’m watching these programmes in complete bafflement and confusion as to what’s going on – requiring a level of translation and articulation from my jaded husband who just shakes his head and sighs at my lack of cognition.  His usual withering look and wearied question of, ‘do I need to explain from the very beginning’, accompanied by a resigned inevitability, has him providing a more simplistic explanation of the events over the past episode with the occasional ‘tip off’ of what to look out for, in the next edition.  I embrace this degree of insight with the same delight as if someone has finally explained the football off-side rule in a manner which I can actually understand.

squirrel dancing

It passes the time.  I like to think of it as my way of provoking some discussion and debate following the various goings on we’ve just viewed.  Good job the remote control can’t be used on me otherwise I strongly suspect he’d be tempted to press the the ‘off’ switch on a regular basis ….

🙂

Thanks as ever to Google images for the pics used in today’s blog

What on earth am I doing here ???

Canada Immigration

It’ll come as no surprise to my regular blog readers, that this week’s blog is the sequel to last weeks’ edition of ‘Parlez-vous Anglais‘.  For those of you wondering how on earth I fared in my English test, then please read on ….

As a prequel to applying for any additional residency visas, one is obliged to go through an exhaustive English test. In my case, I spent all of last Saturday at MacEwan University School of Aboriginal Studies (you couldn’t make it up, this stuff just writes itself) for a gruelling set of tests.  Biometric authentication(!) was the only way in, and candidates were stripped of everything except 3 HB pencils, sharpener and an eraser.

IELTS

Entering my first lecture theatre in 20 years along with 70 other ‘foreigners’ from about as many countries was quite the experience. The doors were locked and examination conditions were enforced with draconian vigour. One chap near me was the first to be shouted at, for having the temerity to turn over his answer sheet before being instructed to do so. The timid Iranian girl next to me nearly jumped out of her burqa.

The invigilator/dragon began barking instructions at us for the listening phase of the test. Thirty minutes of capturing numerous details from a CD playing different conversations. I thought I was onto a winner, when the second exercise involved answering questions on ‘driving in the UK’.  Tempted to start answering before the CD had started playing, I held my nerve and listened with interest as a lady speaking the Queen’s english and voicing a BBC-type accent reminiscent of those adopted by the corporation pre-1980’s, began a conversation on the CD with a hesitant gentleman asking inane questions to which she patiently gave a response.  It was during the conversation when the topic turned to the ‘free-flowing traffic in Manchester city centre’, that I was tempted to object and claim this was falsely misrepresentative, but I resisted and distracted myself by watching the bemused look on the face of the fella from the Ivory Coast sitting alongside.

There followed 60 minutes of a written multiple choice paper with another familiar (to me) subject. A detailed comprehension exercise on the 3 Peaks Challenge up Snowden, Scafell and Ben Nevis. Having finished early I began musing what a Korean sitting in Canada with very little English would be making of this challenge. Judging by the wailing coming from the girl behind me, not a lot.

Canada Flag Sign

Another 60 minutes (no bathroom breaks permitted), and a chance to shine by writing 2 essays on given subjects. My piece on writing a complaint letter came naturally, and I had to curtail my enthusiasm and not get too carried away with the second topic entitled, ‘Some people believe family are more important than friends.  Discuss.’  At the end of this session, “PENCILS DOWN” was screamed. Mr Ivory Coast was clearly finishing a word off, but in so doing earned the full wrath of Dragon lady. She flew at him from the lectern, grabbed his pencil and forcibly scrubbed over his last 2 paragraphs. As he’d only managed to write 3, I thought this a little harsh.

After the 3 hours duration, we were almost finished and answer papers were rigorously collected, collated, checked and counted.  We had been provided with detailed instructions at the start of each session and throughout the morning, on how to complete each answer sheet – starting with inserting our name, candidate number and today’s date at the top of each and every page.  A written example was shown to us on each occasion on what to do.  At the very end of the morning and after checking the papers, one of the invigilators approached a Middle-Eastern lady sat in front of me and began insisting that her name was not ‘John Smith’, even remonstrating by showing her her passport in front of her and imploring her to remove all such reference and put her actual name on each sheet.  At this point, I realised that I was sat in a room where English truly was a foreign language to the majority, reflecting that my worries about what the content of each module would be and my ability to answer them all correctly, was minuscule compared to most of the others in the room.

snoopy

With a thumping headache and ballooning bladder there was only the final test of the day to be faced. We had to depart the lecture theatre and navigate our way to a different part of the University.  I was mistaken as a member of staff on several occasions by my fellow foreigners, whose ability to understand what on earth was happening next, let alone where they needed to move to, was clearly beyond the realms of their English comprehension.  We made our way across campus, where we waited in an ante-room and were called one at a time for the verbal interview.  I dutifully took my British passport (the only one in the room) forward and was again finger-printed before entry to a different cell with a different menacing invigilator.

good answer

This test was verbal, and recorded. I was asked to speak for 2 minutes on my beliefs on the importance of being able to speak a second language. Maybe it was the last straw, or the levels of exhaustion, but I put forward the view that a second language would be unnecessary if only people took the trouble to learn English properly. I was just getting into my stride when she cut me off with the 2 minutes elapsed. With a face like thunder she posed question 2. Could I talk about a time when I had been forced to use a second language, and how did it make me feel. By this point I was beyond caring, so I talked about the time I had been thrown into a foreign country with no preparation to live amongst non-English speakers. She seemed to be warming to me at that point, and with a sympathetic smile asked me which country it had been. All goodwill evaporated when I told her it was Canadia.

Interview over I was ejected from the room (not backwards and bowing like the Thai chap before me), and await my results which will be issued to me via traditional Canada post after 13 days. I fully expect to be deported soon after.

🙂