Give it a shot … ?

Photography

When I was little, my Dad used to spend many hours upstairs in the attic which he’d converted to a small office.  There were two items which used to draw my attention – one was a Hornby train track which he’d set up and the miniature trains would run around the track, stopping at the mini stations.  It was great fun and probably inspired more by Ivor the Engine rather than Thomas the Tank Engine ……

Anyhow, the second attraction was that he would convert the attic to a dark room, for processing the negatives from his camera.  I remember there being an abundance of different chemicals and a highly complex process which had to be undertaken in aspiring to produce the perfect print.  I used to help out and would be in charge of switching on and off the red ‘safelight’ – and watched in awe as the pictures slowly emerged onto the photographic paper.  I remember having to ‘hang’ the damp photos up on a small washing line so they could dry.  You’ve got to admit, technology has certainly speeded the entire process up these days, but there’s something more authentic and unique when the technique to produce them was so variable and long-winded.

I’ve always enjoyed taking pics but never really put more thought into it.  My back-catalogue of pics pre-Canada has largely been dominated by the kids in all manner of British places and undertaking an array of past-times.  Interesting for me to look back on and remember the events, but less so for others!

Since arriving in Canada, I’ve found a new sense of inspiration in the natural landscape.  I have no photographic technical knowledge whatsoever but can appreciate inspirational shots.  I also have a personality trait which lacks patience – so taking pics immediately and ‘in the moment’ is more my style along with devoting total reliance on the sheer brilliance of the automatic camera built into my iPhone.

A friend recently challenged me to post a photograph of nature – online, every day, for 7 days.  I wasn’t sure whether I was cut out for the task, but gave it and go, and thought I’d share these with you – along with details of where they were taken……… enjoy 🙂

Day 1: There’s an abundance of red berries as you walk through the River Valley in Edmonton which are striking against the predominantly white snowscape and bare-branched trees.  I love the colour contrast and this was taken in the grounds of the Muttart Conservatory – rather like a small ‘Eden’ project here in Edmonton, and definitely worth a visit.

12593635_10153929422467495_1452592837304906344_o

Day 2: There’s a walking trail called the ‘River Loop’ which takes you around Fort Edmonton park.  Probably just under 3 miles in length, it’s a popular walking route of mine – fairly flat and easy too, for kids to tramp along.  I’ve spotted the occasional coyote along it in the past plus you get to see parts of Fort Edmonton as you walk along. I thought I’d test out a black & white shot …

12321226_10153931500242495_7678236939859260646_n

Day 3: Also taken along the River Valley but looking towards the Fort Edmonton footbridge over the North Saskatchewan River.  I’m constantly fascinated that it can freeze completely over …

946152_10153933353947495_3190221428900654273_n

Day 4: Autumn (or ‘Fall’ as it’s referred to over here), is my favourite season by far for the abundance of colours which are simply stunning.  This next shot I took back in September walking along the Whitemud Park North trail.  We visited ‘New England’ in the Fall several years ago and I think this is equally as spectacular in colour with the ranges of yellows, oranges and reds set against the crystal clear blue sky.  Life can’t get much better than this surely?

12593484_10153935469272495_8118651427861322689_o

Day 5: There are plenty of bridges cutting across the North Saskatchewan River, all of which are subtly different in style.  I’ve taken lots of pics of many of these, but this next one was a footbridge across a river estuary leading into the North Saskatchewan.  I love the angles and shadows – and whilst this was taken mid-day in Winter, it has something compelling about it.

12644832_10153937489997495_2987370797489607090_n

Day 6: One of our favourite places we’ve visited whilst being in Canada is Canmore, just south of Banff in the Canadian Rockies.  Along with being home to the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company (highly recommended for any beer-lovers out there), it also has stunning scenery.  This pic I took on a weekend trip when my parents visited last Summer, on a walk up to Spray Lakes just past the Canmore Nordic Centre.  It was particularly notable, as we were obliged to carry bear spray with us and the kids were constantly wondering whether they would out-run grandma should one appear.

12645082_10153940018142495_5618871926387781436_n

Day 7: My final submission. Taken last Spring, this is Lac Beauvert just outside the Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper.  I can’t begin to describe how peaceful and serene the place is, and the mirror-image reflections in the water, with the turquoise colours and typically blue skies, are staggeringly beautiful.

12662650_10153942323157495_1569581463927390187_n

Nature at it’s best.  It just goes to show, that as with most things in life, it’s worth taking a shot …. 🙂

Books bizarre, brilliant and baffling …

book club

One of the challenges of arriving in a new place is getting out and meeting people, finding different things to do, and new things to talk about. I’ve been lucky. I’ve met loads of really great people – one of which invited me to join a local book club just over 12 months ago. Probably 15 members in total, averaging between 7 – 10 attending each month due to the challenge of juggling other commitments. Some sessions you can make, others you can’t. And that’s perfectly fine. I mentioned in a recent blog my pastime for reading (click here for a re-cap), so always up for trying something new, I’ve been fostered as the newest member of the group.

300cd3519ee55916d492da2f1e5ae758

Back in January last year, collectively we agreed the books we would read each month, and who would host each month’s ‘event’. It’s been a tough challenge, as most of the books were unknown to me – whilst a lot of ladies had read them the previous year and submitted them as books they enjoyed or felt would be worthy of a monthly book club ‘discussion’ – so I’ve been on catch up, trying to read the required books in time for each month’s meeting. Some I’ve managed, others I haven’t – but nobody minds too much if you’ve not completed it. What’s been most interesting, is that I’ve read books I would generally have ignored – some I’ve enjoyed and others I haven’t, but it’s a super way to widen my reading and also, the discussion that each opens up has been positively enlightening. My husband refers to it as a ‘wine club’ under the guise of ‘books’, and that’s partly apt. November saw me as ‘host’ for the monthly ‘gathering’, and whilst we meet around 7.30pm, that particular month saw us only managing to get to the topic of the selected book just after 9. Just to ease things along, I offered a range of delicacies procured from the Italian market – meats, cheeses, dips, plus concocted a simple fruit salad, made ‘sticky date cake’, and also got hold of some homemade cookies from a new shop just at the corner of the road recently opened. Along with wine (the preferred liquid of choice), a great evening was had by all.

read between wines

Some books have been by Canadian authors – and I’m sure if I really hunted them out in the UK, I’d probably find them – but they’ve never had much precedence when I’ve been browsing the book stores back home.  They’ve been great reads, and I’ve been given different perspectives of historical time periods that  I’ve not come across before.  For example, ‘Requiem’ by Frances Itani, deals a lot with the treatment of the Japanese in Canada after Pearl Harbour in 1942 – something I knew very little about.  Most history I’ve come across has been european-based – especially during WW2, so it was refreshing but also shocking what happened elsewhere.

book club laugh

On a lighter note, the last 2 months have seen British authors and with both being set in England, I’ve enjoyed the references to places, past-times and practicalities.  What’s had me chuckling the most is how British references translate across the pond to Canadian readers – or not, as the case may be.  The ladies in the book club have required the occasional translating of particular phrases, explanation of who various celebrities are (‘Katie Price’ – say no more), and verification over whether life is how it’s actually described in the books.  The funny thing is, this must be rubbing off on my oldest kid.  She’s reading a British fiction book in school and the teacher regularly asks the class about what words or phrases mean in the context of the writing.  What had me laughing the most, was when my oldest kid described what the word ‘priorities’ meant to the class and then was challenged to put it into context in a sentence for the class to understand.  She said her example was, ‘my Mum is always saying, I’m not doing that just yet as it’s not at the top of my list of priorities’.  The teacher could readily appreciate the sentiment ….

good reads

For those interested, the list below is an eclectic mix of books read over the past 12 months that I’ve enjoyed – and you never know, you may too …..

P.D. James – ‘The Lighthouse’ 

Rachel Joyce – ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’

Donna Tartt – ‘The Goldfinch’

Andrew Davidson – ‘The Gargoyle’

Cheryl Strayed – ‘ Wild’

Paula Hawkins – ‘The Girl on the Train’

Kimberly McCreight – ‘Where They Found Her’

Linwood Barclay – ‘No Safe House’

Francis Itani – ‘Requiem’

J.B. Morrison – ‘The Extra-Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81’

Happy reading  🙂

Credit to google images for the pics used in this week’s blog – they had me smiling so thought they’d make you smile too

Active? Me? Well, what do you know …..

IMG_4931

When asked to describe me, friends invariably come up with all manner of descriptive terms – some complimentary, some jovial, some just plain rude. One thing that they all would have in common though, is that the term ‘active’ or something even indicating the essence of any effort being deployed in the pursuit of fitness – would definitely not appear. On that they would certainly agree.

But, take me away from home pastures and place me in an unknown city with snow for 5 months of the year, and mostly blue skies and high 20’s temperatures for at least 4 months – then a transformation nothing short of miraculous has occurred. I’m now hankering after any exercise possible – and you know what I put it down to? Having the scenery, blue skies and sunshine – irrespective of the degree of warmth. That’s what.  Staying inside would be sacrilege.

IMG_4930

I tested my theory recently on my brief return trip to the UK. Every day delivered weather that was miserable, raining and cloudy. Now, I do admit, that my social diary was rather manic and a large portion of time taken up meeting friends and family – which was absolutely fab and a wonderful tonic. But did I get the urge to be out and about exercising? No. In fact, it was decidedly the opposite.

Since the kids returned to school in September, at least 3 times a week I’ve been traipsing the trails around the River Valley in Edmonton, seeking out new routes and taking great delight in listening to various playlists whilst enjoying the views. I’ve loved it. It’s become my preferred form of ‘me’ time, and I’ve felt much better for it too. It was a shock to my muscular system initially, and I can only imagine the frenzy of activity it provoked inside my body – rather like an opening episode of the sequel to the animation, ‘Inside Out’. I like to think that instead of ‘emotions’ competing against each other, there’s ‘muscular’, ‘skeletal’, ‘digestive’, ‘common sense’ and ‘reckless’ all jockeying for position. Upsetting the norm of what has been the best part of 40 years, I certainly have.

IMG_4913

The snow came down nearly 2 weeks ago and whilst only a small dump by Edmonton standards, coupled with sub-zero temperatures, it’s still on the ground. Two weeks on, it’s still pure white, shimmers in the light and creates it’s own sense of beauty. It’s cold, but that’s manageable if you just make sure you’ve got your layers on 🙂

So, traipsing in the snow has become my new pursuit and not only that, true to my word, I’m now hitting the ski slopes for an hour or so whilst the kids are otherwise engaged in educational establishments. Strava is struggling to cope with all these various nuances of exercise, but I’m loving it.

IMG_4866

Friends recently asked me if the snow turns a yucky brown colour and goes to mush. Not in the slightest. In fact, most of the trails that are paved are cleared for snow which makes walking on it all that much easier. Only the gravel paths stay full of snow and even then with the advent of others walking the same routes, the snow slowly gets worn down and it’s easier to navigate. Whatever the case, invariably, the sky is blue, the sun is shining and the view is a wintry picture reminiscent of Christmas cards.

A fellow Mum who I see everyday in the drop-off and pick-up at school is a cross-country skiing fan – and has invited me to join her.  I’ve no idea what I’ll need to do, the amount of physical exertion it’ll require, or even the type of skis needed – but I’m game and we’ll try to get out over the next week.  It’ll be a laugh and lovely to enjoy with a new-found friend.

IMG_4871

I’m coming to the conclusion that maybe, all my years of experiencing the UK weather has made me appreciate such a climate and finally having the environment to enjoy such forms of exercise on my doorstep, has unlocked a new-found passion for doing so. I’m not advocating it as a recipe of success for others – but it’s certainly working for me!

Long may it continue.   🙂

Home sweet home

UK flag

After over 12 months in Canada, we’ve just been back to the UK for a fleeting visit to see family and friends.  The most I’ve ever spent outside the UK at any one time is probably 2 weeks – so I was interested to see what I’d notice the most after such a long period of time away.

The humidity in Alberta is very low, such that your skin dries out quickly, lips crack and a good smothering in all types of lotions and potions just to retain and regain moisture is a must.  So immediately upon arrival, the humidity hit me and my hair quickly adopted its natural ability to frizz at the hint of any moisture, and my skin breathed a welcome sigh of relief.  The humidity was also quickly followed by the UK’s signature offering – rain.  In abundance.  That said, we hadn’t really experienced such rainfall for 12 months so it was a familiar sight and treated as somewhat of a novelty.  At least we knew we’d come home 🙂

welcome-to-london-10-638

A cockney bus driver ferried us to pick up our hire car where his ability to talk and recount tales was clearly in his job description.  The funniest observation being made by my kids who remarked at how he seemed to understand every word I uttered and didn’t need to ask me to repeat anything.  We may be living in Canada where the common language of choice is English, but let’s just say there are dialect challenges when it comes to deciphering the terms used by someone from Northern England which never fails to amuse my kids, who are usually called upon to translate requirements.  Oh the delight of being back on familiar turf and linguistic terminology.  We chatted for ages ….

I have a new-found sympathy for any American or Canadian traveller arriving into London and picking up a hire car.  My goodness.  Not only do they have to fathom the whole ‘driving on the left’ scenario, but the delights of a manual gearbox.  In fact, even making it out of the maze of roads surrounding Heathrow deserves applause.  Roads are small, lanes are narrow, volumes of traffic huge, and with endless congestion – welcome to England.  The pace of life is much quicker, the prices of petrol absurdly high, and traffic signals seem to move back to red as soon as they touch green.  Being natives of the UK, we quickly adapted but it’s baptism of fire for foreigners and goodness knows how they cope.

Lake district

All the scenery (albeit wet and rainy), is much greener.  In fact, the famous lines of ‘Jerusalem’ – a national anthem for any Brit – certainly sprang to mind as ‘England’s green and pleasant land’.  It certainly is.  It was awe-inspiring to see rolling countryside and hills.  And sheep.  Lots of them.  I’ve spotted the occasional flock in Alberta, but just not in the same volumes and varieties you see in the fields back in the UK.  It’s interesting how much you take for granted when you live there all your life.

I loved driving on the country lanes and winding roads.  Knowing some of the areas we visited like the back of my hand, my knowledge of the back streets, cut-throughs and scenic routes quickly kicked in and had me smiling with delight at familiar sights and places.  Whilst the grid system in Edmonton is brilliant to navigate and decipher with many opportunities to vary your route and avoid any queues, the logical and structured development of unbelievably straight roads doesn’t provide as much stimulation and interest to the casual driver.  That said, I quickly lost patience with the traffic chaos, time spent waiting in queues, and  sheer volume of traffic on the UK roads.  Some things I don’t miss in the slightest.

IMG_4763

The history, just the ‘age’ of anything and everything, the buildings and architecture is stunning to see.  Western Canada is fairly modern in every shape and form by comparison, so I had a renewed appreciation and noticed more readily, quaint villages, old bridges, picturesque canals, historical buildings and monumental statues which would in previous years have passed me by.

IMG_4785

Food wise, we made a bee-line for a local chippy.  Several times.  What a brilliant British institution.  And pubs.  Love them.   I had great meals out with various concoctions of family and friends.  I think I managed to cram my usual 6 month social calendar into the space of 10 days, so I’m now back in Canada for a rest and diet.  That’ll just about do me for another 12 months.  I loved going back home, being in the UK, the sights and smells – and enjoyed my refill of friends and family.  It was wonderful and had much more of a regenerative impact than my friends probably realised. A huge thank you to all.

Our new home is in Canada.  But did I miss my UK home enough to want to return?

No, not yet …  🙂

Canadian Life – 1 year on …

one year sign

It would be remiss of me not to mark the passing of 12 months since we arrived here in Edmonton, Canada.  12 months???  Can you believe it?  This time last year we were on a plane (click here for a recap of my blog) and arriving through Border Control, hoping upon hope, that they awarded us permits to stay.  The Border Officials were obviously feeling sympathetic (or unwell) that day and luckily for us, they did – and so much has happened since …

Six months ago, I provided a list of what we were looking forward to doing over the Summer.  Well, all this we did.  We visited Vancouver (have a read), had the pleasure of both sets of grandparents residing with us for periods of time during the Summer (updates here), even ventured further afield and sampled Kauia (very very nice and very very hot), and the kids certainly did get 2.5 months off school with amples of activities and entertainment.  A Bar-B-Q (and a huge one at that) was procured, and has been put to very good use – plus, I’ve not given anyone food poisoning as yet, so everything’s good 🙂

pewter-cat-collar-charm-tuna-breath-1

You’ll be relieved to hear that my cat – who’s now 20 years old – is also alive, well, and still extremely vocal.  Whilst being hard of hearing and slightly blind, she never fails to recognise when the tin of tuna is being opened and beats a hasty path to the kitchen.  There was tough competition from one of the Grandma’s over the Summer who also had shared sympathy for these ailments – the only difference being, she could smell the opening of the sherry bottle at 300 yards and it was touch and go I didn’t get the two favoured delights mixed up between them both!

happy-thanksgiving-canada

Last week we celebrated our first Canadian Thanksgiving – an opportunity to give thanks for the harvest and all things that were good over the last year.  I guess you’d describe it as similar to a harvest festival in the UK.  I think the last time I went to one was when I was still at school and we all had to take in boxes of veg, fruit and foodstuffs – and that’s going back a few years ….   Over on this side of the pond, it’s commonly celebrated with a thanksgiving meal consisting of roast turkey, all the trimmings, plenty of veg, squash and potatoes.  Interestingly, this date coincides with a national holiday both in the US and across Central America who celebrate it as Columbus Day – the day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus arrived in Central America. Now, just to add to the melee, it’s not the same date as ‘thanksgiving’ in the US, which is commonly the 4th Thursday in November. It’s very confusing to the uninitiated.

Wanting to embrace the event, a turkey was procured along with all the trimmings and we spent the day preparing what can only be described as having Christmas dinner in the middle of October. It did feel quite bizarre, and almost as a trial run for the major date in December.  Wanting to try out a ‘traditional’ Canadian dessert, we were proffered a suggestion of ‘candied yams’ – sweet potatoes, honey, sugar, orange, marshmallows and nutmeg.  On paper, sounded quite feasible and even amidst preparations, looked quite appealing.  Let’s just say, it wasn’t to our taste, and even the kids took an instant dislike to the concoction.  It’s been subtly suggested to me since, that it should’ve been served as a side dish to the turkey as an additional trimming.  Call me antiquated and old-fashioned, but I still can’t get used to all this mixing sweet stuff with savoury courses.  Goodness me, whatever next …..

IMG_4480

So, what does the next 6 months hold for us I hear you ask?  Well, one thing’s for certain, we’ll definitely be seeing snow.  Lots of it – although ‘word on the street’ has it that we’re in for a mild winter.  All this ‘El Nino’ effect or something along those lines.  Trust me – it’ll still be sub-zero temperatures – this classification of ‘mild’ is all relative!  I’m about to get winter tyres on my truck in preparation so with any luck, I’ll stick to the snow and ice like glue when it arrives.  It’s very technical though – I just want 4 tyres that hold the road.  Apparently, I have to also give due consideration to the look, the tread, the wheels, the type of rubber composition, the size – oh my word, I’m way out of my league on this one.  One for the husband, me thinks …

winter-tires

There’s our visit to the UK for 10 days in November, and then the snow will definitely be on the ground when we arrive back.  We’ll be attempting to ski  – another item on our bucket list (bet you thought I’d forgotten), and with these newly acquired skills (and hopefully, no broken wrist this time), we’re off to Banff National Park for New Year.  We’ll continue to enjoy living here, spotting the occasional glimpse of the Northern Lights, and maybe the old wild animal here and there (not including the kids).  We’ll no doubt mark off another few items from our bucket list and we can definitely say, it won’t be without incident or a large amount of humour and enjoyment.

Bring it on … 🙂

Thanks as ever to google images for the majority of pics in this week’s blog

It’s the little things …

the_little_thingsSomebody mentioned to me a while ago that they would struggle to relocate abroad for any amount of time as after even the shortest of periods, they’d be missing home and wanting to return. I must admit, I’ve always been somewhat the same when going on holiday for 1 or 2 weeks at a time. I’m quite a homebird, and there comes a point doesn’t there, when you’ve done what you came to do, you’ve had the experience, welcomed the change of scenery and are now looking forward to returning home and everything that is comfortable and familiar.

I think the longest I ever spent outside the ‘north of England’ prior to moving to Canada was when I was at University in Sheffield – and maybe even that doesn’t really class as being outside what can only be regarded as the ‘true north’ 😉

Moose crossing

Well, it’s been nearly 12 months since we boarded a plane and set off for our adventure overseas. Canada has not only delivered, but exceeded our expectations.  The time has absolutely flown and with it, there have been new experiences, different opportunities and a huge variety of people and places which have been welcoming and positively embracing.   I’m loving it.   It’s a gorgeous part of the world in which to live.

In the next month, we get a return flight to the UK to visit friends and family just for a brief period. By the time we return to Edmonton, it will no doubt be revelling in the delights of sub-zero temperatures and covered in 3ft of snow.

Rather like the project management and organisation that I imagine is going into the 2016 Rio Olympics, our visit to the UK is no different and commands the same level of detail and meticulous logistical planning. You won’t be surprised to hear that a detailed timetable, spreadsheet and visitation log has been established in order to navigate ourselves the length and breadth of the UK, seeing as many family and friends as possible, savouring the delights of food we’ve missed from our culinary table, and procuring essential items that just cannot be replicated over this side of the pond.

23281

So, after 12 months abroad, apart from friends and family, what have we missed the most? Well, I can tell you with absolute clarity, it’s the little things. It’s the things you would least expect and if you’d asked me the same question prior to us moving to Canada, would not have featured remotely in my expectations of life over here.  That’s not to say there’s gaping holes.  Canada provides the majority and indeed in a lot of cases, there’s a whole chunk of new and different stuff that has enhanced our life over here, what we do, what we eat and what we see.  But there’s no getting away from it.  It’s the little things.  Here are my top 10 …

lists

  1.  I love food, and my first stop in the UK will be to a chippy. Yes, a proper chippy. One that does chips ‘n’ gravy, with curry sauce, steak & kidney puddings, and mushy peas. I’m drooling just at the thought. Don’t get me wrong, Canadians attempt to construct ‘fish and chips’ but it’s just not the same and doesn’t taste anywhere near as good.
  2. Now don’t get me started on the topic of pies. I’ve had to make my own or buy them from my fellow British ex-pats just to satisfy the urge. Any type of savoury pie, I’m not fussy. But a pie. With gravy ……. Mmmmm.
  3. Talking of which ….. Bisto. Bisto gravy granules – sheer innovation. Unknown on this continent for the ability to serve it with anything remotely edible. A truly flexible product that even UK ‘southerners’ have never maximised to it’s full potential. I’m from the north-west of England, it’s in our DNA, and I’m a gravy connoisseur. I’ve nothing else to add.
  4. Biscuits. Yum. Hobnobs. Custard creams. Gingernuts. Al the ones you can dunk readily in a brew
  5. Earl grey tea. Probably the one item I’ve missed the most in terms of taste to the extent that my mother has been sending me regular shipments just to keep me functioning with any degree of proficiency.  You may have been able to detect through my blogs when resources have been short and supplies limited….
  6. Colman’s english mustard. Other interpretations are readily available but none as good or taste the same. It’s something that just fails to be adequately replicated. Perfect with steak and chips.
  7. Moving onto other essential items. The BBC is an institution that cannot be matched. By comparison, Canadian TV is poor in quality and whilst we’ve been able to keep up with our favourite UK programmes, I’m looking forward to being able to watch the BBC on a TV, start to finish, without the spooling data icon appearing on screen as we struggle with the data downloads.  If I’m lucky, I may be able to get in several episodes of ‘Strictly’…..
  8. Pubs. Now there’s another British institution. Readily found on most street corners and in which I’ll be found upon our visit home …

As with any list, there is a necessity to have 10 items in a list.  It’s the rules.  Just has to be done – and I’m struggling after 8.  Sat next to me on the sofa whilst I tap away is my husband, strumming on his ukulele (no, that’s not a euphemism), and reading ‘Ukulele for Dummies’ (never has there been a book more aptly named).  He has gamely volunteered the last 2 on the list:

9.  Imperial Leather soap.  Unavailable in Canada, and no other soap will do (according to the usual complaint I receive when attempting to find a Canadian replacement).

10.  And finally …. germaline.  ?????  I haven’t asked.

I’m guessing for the Brits reading this week’s blog, they’ll be nodding in recognition and amusement at the items I’ve missed most about Blighty over the past year. For those from other countries who won’t have a clue what these are, put them on your list so that if you ever take a trip to England, you can seek them out.  You won’t regret it – just send me your thanks and appreciation for such insight at a later date 🙂

laughing cat

In the meantime, the flights are booked and arrangements are being made. You have been warned. Watch out UK. We’re coming back – for 10 nights only, to a town near you ……. 🙂

(Thanks to Google images for this week’s pics)

Football frolics

2015-07-01 15.43.33

Now I do admit, I’m not the biggest supporter or follower of the UK’s most popular national game – namely, football – but I have been known on occasion to make an exception and turn on the box to watch one of the more significant games involving England.  It’s usually ended in defeat but the addictive process of having raised national expectations and the optimistic hope that this time ‘could be the chance they need’, only to be dashed when the whistle blows after 90 mins is an inevitable tortuous cycle of emotions.

So it wasn’t until I kept driving past adverts in Edmonton for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015, that I suddenly realised our current city of residence is one of the Canadian hosts.  Not only that, my Dad – who is an avid follower of the sport – would be staying with us during this time and as such, a trip to see a World Cup game would be right up his street.  Tickets were hastily procured and excellent seats reserved for the semi-final match.  Seeing a football match (albeit the intent had been a Canadian version of the sport), was also an item on our bucket list (click here to see the full listing!) so there’s the opportunity to tick yet another item off our list in the process 🙂

2015_FIFA_Women's_World_Cup_logo.svg

Image courtesy of FIFA

It wasn’t until the Sunday prior to the match, that whilst sat in a pizza place watching the quarter-final match between England playing Canada (we had to keep the cheering fairly low profile based on the clientele), that the dawn of realisation hit us.  Our semi-final match would be between our national team and Japan.  I couldn’t have planned it better.  In fact, I didn’t – it was sheer luck.

Edmonton have a brilliant approach to encouraging the right behaviours with the appropriate incentives.  All public transport to and from any of the World Cup matches is free to those with match tickets for the 2 hrs before, during and after a game.  So, onto the LTS we went and over to the Commonwealth Stadium, just north of the city centre.  I took my parents and middle kid, and all made an effort to dress in England colours – I even painted the flag on our cheeks and hands as a sign of encouragement!

Excited wouldn’t come close to describing the atmosphere.  The English supporters (of which there were many) were in full voice and just watching the reaction to the vocal support from other nations was amusing.  For those used to watching and being at English matches, it’s the norm, but it clearly had other nations slightly baffled as to whether the correct protocol was being observed by the English.  It was addictive, and as the match commenced, my middle kid looked at me and my parents in amazement as we shouted encouraging comments to the players and obvious instructive insight as to what they needed to do to win the game.   Offering advice and instruction to others whilst having no skill or qualification in the activity whatsoever, has often been a common characteristic of mine ….. 😉

st-george-cross

By the end of the match (and yes, we lost), I could well understand why friends of mine invest princely sums of money for season tickets to support their football teams of choice.  I loved it, and just watching the action from the edge of the pitch gave a different feel about it to seeing it cold on a TV box.  My Dad has reached a new iconic status as he has been able to inform his friends and grandsons that he’s not only been to a World Cup match, but has seen England play in the semi’s – the highest level any football team from the UK has reached since 1966 ….

Our return journey on the LTS was an interesting game of ‘how many people can we fit into a train carriage in one go’.  Very civil and good-natured, everyone took turns and as it was ‘Canada Day’, some well-liquored travellers started a verbal rendition of the Canadian National Anthem as hordes of people waited and shuffled patiently towards the trains.  The refrain was picked up, and by the end, everyone waiting was either singing or humming to the words with huge cheers going up as it finished.  It was one of those ‘hairs on the back of your neck’ moments in life.  Fantastic.

Canada flagAs with all games, it’s not always the winning but the taking part that’s the important part.  We certainly did and had a glorious day.  Winners all round.  🙂

Here comes the sun (doo doo doo doo)

images

At what point is it polite to say ‘it’s too hot’?  I’m currently basking in 28 degrees, blue skies and sun with no let up now for the past 2 weeks.  It’s beautifully hot and everything is decidedly parched – but we’ve gone from one extreme to another.  We’ve spent 5 months under snow and ice with sub-zero temperatures, and now have a blistering heat that makes us warmer than Phoenix in Arizona and Las Vegas in Nevada.  Who’d have thought!  The climate is ultra dry so there’s now a province-wide fire ban as the continuing hot, dry weather has raised the wildfire hazard to high, very high or extreme over most of Alberta.

images-2

I mentioned in my blog last week, that I’ve finally procured plants and outdoor furniture – along with a rather large BBQ – to revel in the delight of the sunny outdoors.  In fact, not only the plants, but the lawn is requiring daily watering just to keep it alive and not parched in the dry heat outside.  Watering the grass wasn’t something that immediately came to mind as I’d assumed being subsumed under snow for months at a time, it would relish the prospect of dryer weather at last.  Not so.  When you’re used to an abundance of rain (cue: NW England) and often several times a day – if not constantly – it’s amazing to live in a climate which is extremely dry and any moisture disappears within seconds.  It’s lovely too, and when you get the chinook wind coming across the plains, it’s very pleasant and makes you think you’re on a permanent holiday.  Staying hydrated is a challenge, so the obligatory glass of wine for rehydrating purposes only, you understand, goes down extremely nicely too …

2015-05-23 12.34.23

The Jeep (you’ll remember me mentioning this in previous blogs) which was super-brilliant in the snow and ice, has now shed it’s ‘hard top’ and the ‘soft-top’ has been deployed.  Not only that, the roof has been down, roll-cage visible and it’s all I can do to persuade my husband not to remove the doors (which I’m informed is a ‘quick’ job and ‘won’t take but a minute’).  Trouble is, with 3 kids sat in the back, I have visions of at least 2 of the 3 departing the vehicle as we round a corner and if not them, the mounds of absolute rubbish that fester under the seats and on the floor which I’ve given up constantly removing, will make a rapid departure from the vehicle and we’ll be ticketed for brazen littering.  It’s a great vehicle though, and perfect for any weather we experience – I quite like the roof down and roll-cage look although I’m not sure the grandparents will appreciate the ‘bare look’ when they visit in a few weeks time.  It puts a whole new meaning to ‘air conditioning’, that’s for sure.

spray_park-3__full

Everything is starting to come to life and spray parks, outdoor pools and visitor attractions are gradually opening their doors.  Given the current climate, the spray parks are superb and perfect for keeping the kids cool and screaming in delight – and are dotted throughout the City.  The River Valley – which I mentioned in a previous blog – is simply stunning and one thing’s for certain, the Canadians certainly know how to embrace outdoor activities and sports.   In fact, the National Geographic magazine has just released it’s list of ’11 of the best summer destinations’, and along with ‘stargazing in a canyon in Arizona’ and ‘attending a concert in the shadow of ancient Greek ruins’; ‘hiking through Edmonton’s river valley’ has also made it onto the list. And deservedly so.  How fab is that?

Edmonton fountains

Farmer’s Markets are also opening up for the Summer season.  There’s a few which are year-round (my market of choice, being in Strathcona every Saturday morning which is exceptionally good), and there’s now one every Wednesday evening just around the corner from our house.  It’s on a smaller scale, but the quality of the produce, the home-made chutneys, ice creams, sauces and meats are well worth trying – plus there’s several food trucks which make an appearance for those wanting hot bites to eat or an early tea.  My kids sampled ‘popcorn ice cream’ which was delicious and I’ve got my eyes on the ‘black liquorice’ ice cream which my Mum will no doubt make a bee-line for when she visits.  Let’s hope there’s some left!

So, here comes the sun (doo doo doo doo),  here comes the sun – and I say, it’s alright.  🙂

Here’s to 2015 …

Goat

Well, if you had said to me on New Years Eve 2013 that this time in 12 months we’ll have bought another house and be living in Canada, I would conclude you had drank too much babycham.  In fact, up until early March, moving to Canada wasn’t even a thought on the distant horizon.  Funny how things can take a significant turn over such a short space of time isn’t it?

It’s been a transformational few months – moving house, leaving England, buying cars, starting new schools, breaking bones – and we’re all loving the change that only true change brings.  It’s easy to become comfortable with our new surroundings and my conclusion is that given time passes by in the blink of an eye, before we know it, our 3 years over here will be over and all the things we want to do, mean we’ve only achieved a small minority.  With this in mind – we made a new years resolution to make the most of the opportunity we’ve been presented with and make sure the next 3 years in Canada is as memorable as possible.

So, we had an idea …..

chalk-board-1206709-m

We have a wall – a full length wall at that – in our kitchen which is a blackboard from floor to ceiling.  We’ve bought some chalk and the plan over the next few days is to create a ‘Canadian Bucket List’ which we ‘chalk up’ and then ‘cross’ items off when we’ve achieved them.  This has to be done collectively, and we’ve developed a set of rules to this ….

1.  All list items must be things that can ‘only’ be done in Canada

2. Everyone (goat, 3 kids, 1 husband) collectively agree what goes on the list

3.  Each person has a maximum of 2 additional things they can submit on to the list – almost like a joker card – for those items which may not get collective agreement

4.  Items can be big and they can be small, but need to be ‘realistic’ and achievable

5.  We focus on achieving all items on the list over the next 3 years and review progress each 12 months

So, before school and work starts again on Monday, we’ll be creating our list – and the excitement is brewing.  This doesn’t mean though that the only things we concentrate on are our bucket items.  Not at all.  It shouldn’t prevent us from making the most of each day, our weekends, school holidays, and time spent with friends and family enthusiastic enough to visit us whilst we’re over here.

fireworks-9-1375943-m

It started on New Years Eve.  Our traditional celebrations with our best friends in England meant a change to our normal frivolities, and as new arrivals, we had been invited to spend the early part of our first New Years Eve in Canada with a family who live locally to us in Edmonton and had taken pity on us British expats.  It was a mild night (luckily!) and at only -1, our walk from their house to the local park to witness fireworks was an enjoyable 20 min trek through the snow.

The fireworks were amazing (I haven’t been in Canada long enough yet for the word ‘awesome’ to be part of my everyday terminology), and truly superb.  Not only that, but there was a tobogganing hill and the kids had gone complete with snow pants and toboggans at the ready.  So, on a clear starry night, with snow on the ground, temperatures at a bearable sub-zero, and fireworks with every colour of the rainbow going off over the period of 25 mins above them, the kids tobogganed down the hill amidst whoops of joy and screams of enjoyment.  How many times can you say that New Years Eve was this memorable and beautifically perfect?  We were the last to leave the park having to the prise the kids away off the hill, and spent the entire remaining ‘Eve’ with our new-found friends.

It just goes to show that seizing opportunities as and when they present themselves – and creating them too, can take us in avenues we haven’t even dreamed of – and we’re better off for it too.

Here’s to 2015, and the creation of many more memories.  We’ll have our bucket list in the next few days and I’ll let you know what makes it on there!  If it’s anything like the last 12 months, I’m expecting and anticipating great things……

Happy New Year  🙂

Life is full of extremes

frozen-fir-branches-1436071-m

It’s getting close to Christmas, one of the most significant and eagerly anticipated events of the year, and I’m certainly nowhere near ready as yet.  Having had mild palpitations at the sheer amount of organising and sorting required in order to make the event on time, I was slightly pacified yesterday when, having convinced myself that ‘The Big Day’ was next Wednesday, I discovered to a huge sigh of relief, it’s actually Thursday and I’ve got a full 24 hours more than expected!  As if that’ll make any real significant difference, but in the scale of things, an extra 24 hours is most welcome.

Thinking back to last year, did I anticipate I’d be celebrating Christmas within 12 months in another country?  Not at all.  It’s certainly taken things to an extreme.  For every December I can ever remember, we have wished for a ‘white’ Christmas to make it absolutely perfect, with Christmas cards depicting this time of year with snow, wintry scenes, snowmen, and children in hats and scarves.  Well, this year, my dream has come true – to the extreme.  Not only have we got wintry scenes, we’ve had snow on the ground for the past month, and temperatures that are well below zero – and this is only the start of the winter season.  Blue skies and sun are visible on most days, and it certainly makes the few days or week if we were lucky, back in the UK with snow, look like a poor substitute.

freezing-1135789-m

There are picture perfect Christmas trees, complete with the frostings of ice covering them from head to foot, and the frost which glistens in the air and makes everything look absolutely beautiful and idyllic.  We pay for this though with the temperature.  It’s cold.  And this gets taken to an extreme that I’m constantly reminded I’ve not even begun to experience yet – it frequently gets down to -40.  Being in the meer sub-teens as yet, makes it seem like childs-play and there’s a way to go yet before Winter really sets in.  But to describe what the cold feels like even at these current temperatures, makes me think of that ‘Peter Kay’ sketch when he recalls the different types of rain and the ‘fine rain’ – ‘that soaks you right through’.  If I had to describe the cold in Edmonton, it’s a ‘dry cold’ – don’t get me wrong, it’s very cold and boy, can you feel it on any part of your body left exposed to the elements, but it doesn’t go right through to your bones and make you shiver.  It’s more like a deep freeze where any moisture or skin immediately starts to frost and freeze – but keep those layers on, and you’ll be all snug and warm.

Oh, by the way and as a complete aside to rub things in for my UK friends, I don’t think we’ve had any rain in Canada since we arrived in October – am I helping ……??

in-the-spotlight-921849-m

So, we’ve got the wintry scenes and picture postcard Christmas, but what about the procuring of presents and getting them off to Father Christmas?  In England, I’d managed to perfect the art of placing all my orders ‘online’ and even securing my annual supermarket delivery slot via the computer so a wonderful ‘jolly’ delivery chap brought all my groceries direct to my door on Christmas Eve (a booking reservation that took months of planning and securing, usually back in October).  Whilst still an element of stress, it removed most of the worry with one click of the mouse.

Not so in Edmonton.  Supermarket shopping online is unheard of.  After years of not even having to go through the door of a supermarket, I now find myself having to push trolleys around aisles, select goods and produce, and wait at a till whilst the goods are packed into 120,000 separate plastic bags by the ever so helpful shopping cashiers.  It’s taken me back 25 years, to a time when we never spared a thought about the use of plastic bags and the cashiers knew the codes and could till in the price from memory for every single item in their store.  It makes you realise how much the ‘green’ agenda has taken hold in the UK and I’m having to ‘suggest’ (ever so subtly) to Canadian shop assistants, that they can put more than 2 of my items in 1 plastic bag – ‘no, it won’t split, and I’m sure I can get it to the car and into the house without incident’.

Then there’s the petrol.  Oh my goodness, it’s quite frankly reckless that the price of a litre of petrol in Edmonton is currently the equivalent of around 40p/litre in the UK.   We can fill up a whole tank on less than £35 – I can’t remember the last time I filled my UK car up to the top.  I was telling the local garage attendant about how cheap the petrol was compared to the UK and he remarked in astonishment ‘but how on earth can you afford to drive’?  I answered back ‘we can’t – why do you think we moved to Canada’?

1439452_53230628

I jest slightly, but the prices are extreme.  It drives (sorry about the pun) totally different behaviours too.  We have a completely inefficient but brilliantly fun to drive ‘Jeep’, which is fantastic on ice and snow and only achieves 19 mpg.  I had to change my last UK car to something that managed to get more than 45mpg just to make it affordable – it just goes to show….

Anyhow, Christmas is nearly upon us and we’re very excited.  We’ve certainly adopted an extreme approach to life over these last few months, but are loving the experience and wishing everyone could experience it too.  It comes at a price, and for this year, and the very first year I can ever remember, we won’t be with family or friends on Christmas Day – but our thoughts are with everyone and we wish you all a very merry christmas and ‘happy holiday’ in return.

1437380_30717823

🙂

First impressions count

Canada flag

First impressions count for a lot. They form an instant view and opinion about a place, a person, an activity, a thought process. Arriving in a new place for the first time and knowing that this is where we’ll be living when we relocate, adds an extra dimension to those ‘first impressions’.

How would I describe the first view of Canada during our drive from the airport into the city of Edmonton?

–  Green.
–  Flat.
–  Vibrant.
–  Spaciously huge.

On the drive into Edmonton from the airport, it’s extremely flat. And I mean – flat. Noticeably so. Especially when you’re someone like me who was brought up surrounded by the northern hills of England and where even moving to Cheshire which has a reputation for being on the ‘plains’ – was considered with a degree of hesitation due to it’s flatness!  But even in Cheshire there are ups and downs.

Well, in Edmonton there is no other word to describe the terrain as being anything other than ‘flat’. Immensely so. They don’t describe it as being on the ‘plains’ lightly. It’s only when you approach the hugely wide Saskatchewan river does the terrain start to incline and not until you are virtually on top of ‘downtown’ Edmonton, do you see a slight ‘hill’ into the city centre.  It’s beautiful and the city skyline with it’s few skyscrapers stands out on the horizon looking impressive.  Whilst the vast majority of buildings are ‘new’ compared to English standards, there is a wonderful selection of hugely modern skyscrapers with their mirrored glass windows, pyramid designs, coupled with beautiful architectural buildings which clearly have strong historical links to the past and how the city has developed.

From top left: Downtown Edmonton, Fort Edmonto...

From top left: Downtown Edmonton, Fort Edmonton Park, Legislature Building, Law Courts, Rexall Place, High Level Bridge, Muttart Conservatory (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And it’s green.  The amount of parkland, trees, leisure areas, grass and space to explore is amazing. The sheer number of play opportunities, playgrounds, climbing frames meant we had to resist the temptation offered every few minutes from stopping the car and allowing the kids to explore and play otherwise we wouldn’t get any orientation done!  Suffice to say, the kids are overwhelmed with the number of play areas and leisure activities and can’t wait to start sampling the delights!  The range of trees – and especially conifers and spruces, was delightful – I can just imagine what it must look like in the wintertime, and can’t wait to see the difference just a few months from now will make.

It’s vibrant, with lots going on – certainly in the city – and the colours and signs just remind me of our trips to America.  Just about to start in the next few days is the Edmonton Fringe Festival, which is compared to that held in August each year in Edinburgh.  Arts and cultural events and activities feature significantly and we should be in the ideal position to sample some of the offerings and delights.

Finally, it’s spacious – in all manners of the word.  Even at ‘rush hour’, it doesn’t equate in any shape and form to the miles upon miles of standing traffic we’re used to in England, and even the busiest volume of traffic on the roads is more akin to early morning (and I mean between the hours of 2 – 5am) in the UK.  I’m going to love this!  Getting around is so accessible and easy.  The grid system has everything on a ‘streets and avenue’ system so it’s quick to navigate and circumvent around the city and surrounding areas. Then there’s the food with huge portions across such a vast range of culinary delights.  I’m going to need to create ‘space’ to be able to do all the food justice!

4 instant impressions of Canada within the first 24 hours.

Here’s to the next 14 days …. 🙂

It’s a small small world …

1116173_85350837

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 🙂

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 🙂

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!

Go and explore!

Jasper Park, Alberta, Canada

Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whenever an event calls for a speech of some description, a spokesperson, a re-count of events in an interesting and often humorous style – my Dad has often been asked to perform the necessaries. Throughout all my life,  events of any kind – whether they be funerals, weddings, birthdays, or general family celebrations – have seen my father making considered observations and final reflections on behalf of others.  So, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I asked him how he felt about our relocation to Canada

 

This is what he said:

 

1. When he was told about the intended relocation, what were his immediate thoughts?

He reflects that when we broke the news we may move to Canada, there was such excitement in our voices, and he was delighted for us.  Grandma and him later reflected on the misfortune of ‘losing us’ to Canada just one year after my sister returned from 5 years in Switzerland as it has always been their desire to have the family nearby and together.  But, he would never wish to hold us back from exploring the world.

 

2. What does he think will be great about relocating to Canada?

He knows that my sister and her family benefitted hugely from their stay abroad. They lived in french speaking Switzerland, so the children attended lessons in a bi-lingual school at a tender age.  Having football lessons in French was a great incentive to learn the language – so much so, that when they returned to England and the ‘kids’ enrolled in their English Primary School, they were more fluent in french than their french teacher!  Getting involved in the community, meeting people and starting to develop strong friendships will be important when we arrive in Canada – and we’ll have a huge benefit being able to speak the same language!

 

3. Relocating to another country – is this something he would have done?

English: in , Alberta, Canada.

English: in , Alberta, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He has a lot of respect for Canadians and is sure we’ll be made to feel very welcome. He remembers a cousin who emigrated to Canada to live in Bracebridge, Ontario and that I have a common 3rd great grandfather with this long lost cousin.  Whilst none of us have been to Canada, my father’s impression is of huge space and stunning scenery and he’s looking forward to travelling the region and photographing the landscapes.

He is apprehensive about the journey to visit us there. It will be a 9 hour flight but worth the effort.  He thinks his artificial knee and heart stent will be challenged by the journey, but it will be worth it to see how we settle in such a wonderful country.  (My mother can now rest assured she’ll be able to get my father on a plane and visiting us, see her earlier blog ….).

 

4. What is he looking forward to most when we return?

Being back home and close by.

 

5. If he had to describe his thoughts about the move in 1 word, what would it be?

 Good Luck

If and when we return, he’ll be delighted – but won’t be surprised if life in Canada, and its opportunities, persuade us to stay.

 

Time will tell.

Relocating – a grandparent’s perspective. Please welcome to the blog … grandma!

Mother cat

We’ve had thoughts and observations on moving to Canada from each of the 3 ‘kids’, and also one by ‘the husband’.  As part of the series, I thought it would be immensely interesting to capture the views and opinions from each of the grandparents.

We are immensely lucky to have a full complement of grandparents – both my parents and those of my husband, all of which are very much active and of sound body and mind.  Equally, whilst supportive, understanding and ever encouraging, each parent takes a different perspective on life’s challenges and adventures that are thrown at them – which makes this all the more compelling and interesting.

So, taking pole position and representing the grandparents fraternity first, is my mother.  Each has received a specially crafted set of questions from which each grandparent has been asked for a response – and in some cases, several responses have been received 😉

So, without further ado, here are my mother’s observations and thoughts about our relocation:

 

1. When she was told about the intended relocation, what were her immediate thoughts?

  • It’s a long way away 
  • It could be worse
  • Would Grandpa survive her moaning about it
  • Could she get him on a plane

 

2. What does she think will be great about relocating to Canada?

To have a good experience of a different lifestyle

 

3. Relocating to another country – is this something she would have done?

No – she’s always liked being in England

 

4. What will she miss most about us not living in England?

Having good times with the girls and spending time watching them grow

 

5. What does think we’ll miss the most about not being in the UK?

Not having help close at hand

 

6. If she had a wishlist of 3 things she’s hoping we enjoy most about living in Canada, what are they?

  • Enjoy
  • Explore
  • Learn

 

7. What is she looking forward to most when we return?

Lots of hugs, and getting her ‘instructions’ from the youngest ‘kid’ (who’s quite dictatorial in approach!)

 

8. If she has to describe her thoughts about our move in 1 word, what would it be?

Apprehensive

As a parting note, and not surprisingly, she’s trying hard to focus on the fact that the relocation won’t be for very long.

As a mother, I wouldn’t have expected her to say anything different.

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

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.

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.

 

 

Take a 7 year old, the idea of relocating – and what do you have?

Pedestrian zone

I was asking my 7 year old what she thought about the move to Canada from England. I think I was expecting completely different responses and it surprised me the things she values and considers important, the things she is looking forward to doing, and those things that are worrying her – and how similar these are to me, her Mum. I expected a longer list but was struck with how simple and straightforward life is when you’re 7 – and can be if you let it.

 

As an adult, when presented with an opportunity to relocate overseas, we can certainly make it overly complex and thereby, daunting as a result. I tend to simplify and break things down into manageable chunks.  That’s why when I think of the move, I’m hoping for something new and exciting, in a place we can easily converse, provide some security in the form of a home to rent and schooling sorted. The rest, we’ll just make up as it happens and chalk it up to being a fantastic life experience.

 

So, when I asked my 7 year old, what do you think she said?

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

  • Making sure she has her soft toy (Eeyore, the donkey) with her (called ‘ETD’ – can you work out why?)

    Eeyore as depicted by Disney

    Eeyore as depicted by Disney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Being with her family (ahhh, bless)

 

I then asked her a few questions, and captured her responses. Here goes:

1. What excites you about the move?

  • Living in a new home
  • Sleeping in a new bed
  • Meeting new friends & going to school in a different place
  • Looking forward to skiing
  • Playing in the snow with my sisters
  • Going on 2 planes to get there
  • ‘I think it’s going to be really good there’

 

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

  • 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?

  • There are friendly people
  • There are lots of things to do
  • People are able to understand us

 

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

  • Eeyore (obviously)
  • Big pillow pet (soft toy in the shape and size of a pillow)
  • Clothes
  • Books
  • Bike to go cycling with Daddy on

 

5. What are you most worried about?

  • Starting school in a new place
  • Trying to make new friends

 

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

  • It’ll be great seeing all my friends again
  • It’ll feel funny driving on a different side of the road

 

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

BIG

Say no more 🙂

 

 

Predictable unpredictability

As part of my prep for moving to Canada, I was reading about the different seasons experienced during each year. Canada has 4 distinct seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter. We’re moving to Calgary where I’m informed the weather is quite unusual compared to the weather for the rest of Canada.

For example, where Eastern Canada and British Columbia are quite humid, with ample rain and snow, Calgary is very dry most of the time, with an average annual precipitation of 41 cm (16 inches). While many Canadian homes have de-humidifiers, most Calgary homes have humidifiers. I love this extreme!

The months which have the most rain are May, June and July. On the plus side, Calgary is also very sunny. I was intrigued to read that the summer months see on average 9 hours of ‘bright’ sunshine every day – because of Calgary’s latitude and extra-long summer days. What’s not to like about that?

Another unique aspect of Calgary weather is the ‘Chinook’ – a warm wind from the west which can make a significant difference to temperatures even on a daily basis. Given the close proximity to the Rocky Mountains, the days in summer can be very warm (23 C in July) but cool off very quickly in the evening. Both Spring and Autumn are described as ‘unstable’ – snow can sometimes fall as early as September and sometimes as late as May.

 Dark clouds

Talking of ‘unusual’, compare this to England – a place I’ve lived all my life. We certainly have 4 distinct seasons, but the weather is at best, unpredictable – and that’s being kind. It does rain a lot – but never at one particular time of the year. Indeed, it can rain at any time, in any place, on any day – often, without any warning whatsoever!

Frequently, you may wake to find beautiful sunshine, which will be quickly masked by clouds, some rain, a handful of hail and blustery wind – all on the same day, and not necessarily in the same order! In fact, even the UK Met Office get some grief for quite often failing to predict what’s going to happen. We tend to work on probabilities instead ….. that, and a touch of luck!

It certainly makes for an interesting conundrum just working out what to wear and take with you (just in case!) each day. I’ve frequently sent the kids to school on a warm and sunny day, suncream plastered on their faces and yet by mid afternoon, when school finishes and parents are waiting to collect their offsprings in the school playground, we’re hit by torrential rain and freezing cold winds. It makes for an interesting challenge at least and after a while, you just have to grin and bear it. The only predictable thing with British weather is it’s unpredictability 🙂

It may sound extreme, but we don’t experience massive swings in temperature during each part of the year – we’re consistent from that perspective at least. In fact, as I write this blog, the UK is on course for one of the warmest Springs since records began – averaging a balmy 8.97 C between March & May this year. We’re also on track for one of the hottest summers – so the experts reckon!  As an example of how quickly things change in a day, the UK Met Office has just issued severe weather warnings just to keep us on our toes tomorrow and avoid any degree of complacency.  Maybe I’ll keep the suncream at the back of the cupboard and opt for the brolly and mac instead.

 

For me, I’ll be watching with interest from afar as our plans to relocate will be during this Summer – at least that’s something I can definitely predict with certainty.

 

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.

 

Canada vs England

No, before you mention it – it’s not a match as part of the impending ‘World Cup’, although it did get me thinking about the strengths, weaknesses, amazing facts, historical significance and physical makeup of both countries.

Canada flagUK flag

Similarities:

  • both speak English (I know Canada is ¼ French before anyone wishes to correct me)
  • both have Queen Elizabeth II as their sovereign
  • major religion, Christianity
  • good life expectancy: 80 yrs men and 84 yrs women (Canada) and in the UK, 79 yrs men and 82 yrs women

 

English, or is it?

It’s interesting when you then compare this to northern England where yes, we speak English – but there are so many different accents within small districts you almost think you’ve crossed an imaginary border. My husband constantly ridicules me by saying that yes, the Canadians speak English, but they probably won’t understand a word of my Lancastrian accent. Oh well…… I’ll let you know.

 

Physical size:

  • Canada: 9.9 million sq km, the UK: 241,590 sq km.
  • The population of Canada is 34.7m; in the UK it’s 60m.

Did you know that Canada is 38 times bigger than the UK but has a population density 71 times less than UK. Put simply, living in the UK means there’s a lot of people and not much space.

Hard to imagine, but the population density in the UK is 249 people per sq km. Compare this to Canada which is 3.5! My goodness, we’ll have so much space we won’t know what to do with ourselves!  It seems hard to imagine a country of that scale compared to the UK.  In Alberta alone, the province is the same land area as the state of Texas!

 

Travel time:

Canada is the second largest country in the world, divided into 14 provinces, covering 5½ time zones – it takes 5½ hrs to fly from one side of the country to the other.

In the UK, given the state of the roads and volume of traffic, it takes about that time to drive from the north-west of England down to the south-east coast. On a bad day, you’ll be lucky to get from Manchester to Birmingham on the M6 in that time. These things I’m not going to miss.

 

Let’s bring this back to the sporting theme. The national sports in Canada are Ice Hockey & Lacrosse. In England, it’s football and cricket.  So, with the World Cup looming ever closer, England are playing, Canada are not.  It’s our national sport after all.  Given the facts above, we should have plenty of professional sportspeople to choose from and thereby stand a good chance of doing well.

Let’s wait and see!

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…..

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!