Saving the world …

Waste disposal … recycling …. never the most eye-catching and engrossing of topics for a blog, I know, but I bet you didn’t know that  by the age of 6 months, the average Canadian has consumed the same amount of resources as the average person in the developing world consumes in a lifetime.  That’s frightening.  The UK fares much better – mind you, when you look at the world rankings for being environmentally conscious, it’s harder to get much worse than poor Canada ….. unless you’re in the USA of course, who sits at the bottom of the league table.  Based on recent events and the USA’s denial of any climate change, it’s easy to understand why  …..My experience of waste disposal in the UK was never great.  Whilst each householder has a rainbow variety of bins to select from in which to put their rubbish, there are strict rules on what to put in each, how often they get collected, and woe betide you if you fill the bin up above the required level.  We’ve often reflected that our regular Sunday activity was a trip to the local tip, waiting in line whilst we slowly made our way to the required bins in which to dispose of anything else that we had in excess of the weekly entitlements.  I’m sure my husband still hankers after these days ….. 😉

Cut to life in Canada.  As a householder, we put our ‘garbage’ out in plastic bags on the front lawn and every week without fail (yes, even in -30 and below), the garbage truck arrives and takes everything away.  There are guidelines on what you should leave out – and most things outside this (like batteries, electrical items, paint, etc), are encouraged to be taken to a local ‘eco station’.  Huge recycling centres where you may be charged depending on the items you wish to dispose.

One of the things I’ve always found quirky over in Canada is that we pay a recycling levy and tax at the point of sale for any bottle of liquid.  Being fairly new to the Canadian way of life, I’ve always thought that this is a great way to incentivise people to recycle – charge them a fee at source, and reward them with some monetary incentive if they then do return the bottles and help the environment.   Never quite understanding how the whole process worked, it was only after a woman started arriving at our garbage pile every week with a car to collect our bottles, just before they would be taken away by the garbage truck – that we started to think there may be something in this.  There were some telltale signs … in 2 years of collecting our bottles she’s managed to upgrade her vehicle and now appears in diamanté jewellery ……

Anyhow.  Collecting our bottles is only half the tale.  There are ‘bottle depots’ (pronounced ‘dee-poes’) around the city, so as a bit of an experiment, we started to save all our liquid containers with the intent of taking them to one of these localities and seeing how much our ‘waste’ was worth.  After a month and a half – and in our defence, we did have a visitation from a fab friend over from the UK during this time which saw an upsurge in the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed – we decided to take our 8 huge bags brimming with all manner of glass, plastic and cardboard containers to one of these places.

Upon arrival, the smell of stale alcohol and the way your shoes stuck to the floor took me straight back to my Saturday nights out as a student in  Sheffield.  Unaccustomed to such odours, my youngest kid scrunched her face with disgust and turned up her nose declaring, ‘what’s that awful smell’, whilst my husband and I exchanged a knowing glance and reminiscent smile.

The rules are simple.  If it hold less than 1 litre, you get 10 cents, more than 1 litre you get 25 cents per item – irrelevant of whether it’s made of veneered glass or the cheapest piece of cardboard going. You tip all your bottles in a huge bin next to a friendly ‘operative’ with ear plugs, who then sorts and counts out each item.  The noise is deafening as you’ve got another 8 banks of operatives all performing the same task alongside each other.  Frankly, it was embarrassing the sheer volume of cans, bottles and containers we’d amassed and finally after only 10 minutes, we were awarded with the grand total of $18.Not enough to fund our retirement I know.  But upon departure, we concluded as part of our commitment to helping the environment, it was only in the global interest that we should continue to consume such liquidities and make this a regular family venture.

It does fly in the face of both our vehicles – mine is a truck – which manages to deliver an average fuel economy of between 16 – 18 mpg.  Still, we’ve got to start somewhere.  Baby steps as they say ….. 🙂

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 …

images-16
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.

My 4 year old has spoken … watch out for wolves!

Gray Wolf

Gray Wolf (Photo credit: USFWS Pacific)

The final part of the trilogy wouldn’t be complete without a contribution by my 4 year old about the impending relocation to Canada. Very succinct in her views and clear in her requirements, she has adopted a strong, practical approach that certainly provides an insight into the mind and priorities of a 4 year old!

As ever, the rules remain unchanged, the questions unaltered, and her responses have been captured verbatim.

So, without any further ado, when asked about moving to Canada, the most important things are:

  • When we go in the forest we need to watch out for wolves
  • Eating inside a hotel
  • If there are swings we can play in the park
  • Having 3 bedrooms in the house for our important naps

So – survival, food, play & rest are key features.  Tells you a lot about basic human instincts that’s for sure 🙂

 

1.  What excites you about the move?

  •  Going on an aeroplane to Canada as there will be games on the back of the chairs
  • We’re going to be high in the sky, floating in the clouds
  • What the house will look like
  • Seeing blue-tits and other birds (we have a lot of birds visiting our garden in England)

 

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

  • What language they speak
  • What type of birds they have
  • What type of colour faces everyone has

 

3.  What are you hoping it will be like?

  • There will be canoes / windsurfing
  • We can see dolphins
  • It’ll be like winter
  • Food will be big portions

 

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

Just the same  (why wouldn’t it be!)

 

5.  What are you most worried about?

If we meet wolves in the forest (clearly of some concern!)

 

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

  • Eeyore (the donkey, similar to her 7 year old sister, but a different colour to avoid arguments)
  • ‘Ella’ (small soft toy which is a pink turtle – very cute)
  • Furby (oh good, a toy which fails to have an off switch  – can’t wait!)
  • ‘Floppity’ (soft toy in the shape of a rabbit – there’s a theme to this list)
  • Hairbrush
  • Drawing pad

When reminded that was 6 items and not 5, she refused to eliminate any on the basis that all were ‘very important’.

I then asked her if she could describe in 1 word the move – what would it be?

She said ……

Happy

Perfect.

Next, follows the views of a 10 year old …

Not wanting to be outdone by her 7 year old sister, next up is my 10 year old who wants to offer her considered wisdom and thoughts about relocating to Canada.  The most interesting thing I’ve noticed is the order of priorities each of my kids put on various aspects of the move.  Here, see what you think …

The rules are the same (obviously), and different pictures were requested, purposely chosen and selected by her.  Both sisters want it to be made known that they didn’t overhear or compare notes during the drafting of these blogs – enjoy!

Water

For her, the most important things about moving to Canada are:

  • Swimming – ‘it’s got to be good and make me better’ were her actual words (she’s a competitive swimmer)
  • Going to school – learning new things, making friends
  • Eating food – trying new things that are yummy

I then asked her the same series of questions as I did her sister, and captured her responses. Here we are:

 

1. What excites you about the move?

  • What they speak like, how it sounds, what their accent is and how we compare against it
  • What the main food in Canada is
  • What animals live there and seeing new animals in the wild

 

2. What interests you about Canada and what do you want to find out about?

  • What clothes they wear
  • Whether school is the same as in England
  • What type of animals we can see in the wild that we don’t see in England

 

3. What are you hoping it will be like?

I think it’ll be similar to our visits to America – with people driving massive cars and lots of nice scenery

 

4. If you could only choose 5 things to take with you, what would they be?

  • Catty (soft ‘moth-eaten’ toy, with little stuffing left and resembling a cat – hence, the name)Catty
  • Books
  • Cornet (the musical instrument, not the ice cream!)
  • Ipad  (sign of the times I’m afraid)
  • Colouring things – pens, pencils, paper, paints

 

5. What are you most worried about?

Not seeing all my friends again when I come home as by the time I return, they may have gone to a different high school

 

6. When you return to England, what do you think it will be like?

  • Temperature – I think I’ll notice the difference
  • Having all my things around me again
  • Sleeping in my own bed
  • Busier, I think I’ll notice there are lots more people

 

I then asked her if she could describe in one word the move – what would it be?  She said ……

EPIC

… because it’ll be fun, it’ll be nice to see a different country, and being able to tell everyone about it when I come home.

 

Why not.