Where does all the time go?

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I admit it.  In amidst all the preparations for relocating to Canada from the UK, and as we arrived and were getting ourselves ensconced; I was quietly of the view that it would be an opportunity to select a lower gear in life and be able to take the foot slightly off the gas.  Have a bit of a rest.  You know what I mean?

I wasn’t completely misguided.  I did recognise the gaping gap of having no immediate family or long term friends to call on in emergencies, or even, helping me out with life in general and the management of 3 excitable kids.  That said, I couldn’t help but suspect that life may be slightly less busy.  Slightly less manic.  Slightly less ‘full on’.

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Well, my analysis complete, I can safely tell you that after 6 months of being here, life is just the same as it ever was before.  How on earth diaries and schedules fill up I’ll never know, but they do.  The kids are in school, but with the variety and numerous ‘before and after’ school activities to ferry them to, plus getting homework sorted and basics like ‘feeding them’ – which they seem to insist on in ever increasing frequencies and quantities; time literally disappears.

Then there’s my work which needs to get done in amongst all the shenanigans, and if I’m honest, it’s the time when I can concentrate on really interesting stuff and get my innovative and creative juices flowing.  The delights of modern technology and ‘virtual working’ mean that I’m as productive over here as I ever was at home – if not more so, and I relish and look forward to the highlights of the week which are often conference calls with the UK team on a project, the jovial banter and the fact that I’m having conversations with other human beings – other than my kids and the cat (yes, she’s still here …….!)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m making lots of friends and new acquaintances over on this side of the pond too – the challenge is fitting everything into a normal day!

Time

Volunteering here is much bigger than it is in the UK – and more rewarding too.  I’m now assisting with the Kindergarten Reading Programme at the school once a week, sorting and organising the books for the 5/6 year olds to read the following day.  My youngest kid loves the fact that I’m in the school longer than just the usual dropping off and reading a story before her afternoon classes commence.  Then there’s volunteering as a swimming judge during the competitive ‘meets’ for the Edmonton club my oldest kid swims for.  I took it up in the UK as a means to understand and be able to articulate the rules around each of the swimming strokes to my kids.  Also, during a ‘Meet’, it’s a better way to keep occupied and involved by being on poolside, being active, and ensuring the rules are adhered and complied to by all competing swimmers.  My oldest kid loves the fact that I’m there and involved.  I’ve now completed a variety of modules ‘on-line’ for Swim Alberta, have become registered and will be commencing my judging duties in a few weekends time during one of the major competitions.  It’s good fun and thoroughly enjoyable.   I’m looking forward to it.  The sight nuances and variations between requirements in both countries is interesting and I’m ever keen to take on a challenge!

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In the meantime, additional things arrive completely ‘out of the blue’ and time has to be found to sort them out.  Over the last week or so, we’ve suddenly realised that all Canadians have to complete a self-assessment form and submit it to the Canadian Revenue Agency (like the Inland Revenue or HMRC in the UK), by 31 March.  It’s for the previous calendar year and all income – whether earnt in Canada or elsewhere in the World – has to be declared otherwise penalties are applied.  The good news is that we discovered this prior to 31 March so have approximately 13 days left to get it sorted.  The bad news is, I’ve had to instigate emergency protocols and source a Canadian tax specialist who is familiar with ex-patriate income, first submissions by newcomers to Canada, and quite frankly, can navigate their way around what we can and can’t declare – plus what we can claim for and what we can’t.  Life is never simple and our circumstances are not the easiest to decipher and make transparent.  On the plus side, there’s less than 2 weeks of pain to pull all the documentation together and sit down with the tax specialist for her to submit on our behalf, and we’ll be on an even keel again.  No doubt something else will emerge that we have or haven’t done in the meantime!  How on earth they reconcile completely different tax years between countries I’ll never know, and quite frankly, just tell me what the answer is after everything has been thrown in the mix and let’s be done with it.  God help us when we’re doing it the other way and upon our return to the UK.  Another delight to look forward to!!

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It’s all fun.  It’s all learning and it’s part of life’s great experience.  And that’s what we wanted, that’s what we’re getting and that’s what we’re loving.

🙂

(Big thanks for Google images this week for the selection of pics……!)

Bears, Beers and Broomsticks …

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My blog has been absent for over a week – and with good reason.  We’ve been busy ticking off some of our items from our bucket list.  Unlike the UK, the schools in Alberta don’t get many breaks during the school year longer than one or two days at any time, with the exception of Christmas and Easter where we get just over a week.  It’s worth it in the longer run, as schools finish the third week of June and don’t go back until the second week of September, so it’s the equivalent of stacking all your presents up and having them in one long hit during the warmest and sunniest time of the year.  So, Easter is the prime time to take a short holiday – and we’ve been to Vancouver, one of the places on our bucket list to visit and explore.

I’m still amazed that being only in the next Province, it still takes just under 2 hours on a plane to reach – and with a complete change of landscape and climate too.  Rather like the UK, Vancouver sees a lot of rain, and with a temperate climate, it’s very green.  Having experienced snow, ice and a general ‘whiteness’ around everything for the last 5 months, the colours and wetter climate hit you as soon as you arrive.  The landscape too is wonderfully scenic – with mountains, sea and what feels like a greater history in the architecture and buildings.  It’s a lovely reminder of home.

Many would balk at the rain that was coming down like stair-rods on our arrival – but having not experienced rain for the last 6 months, it was a novelty and being from the north of England, a somewhat familiar experience.  Grab your raincoat and brolly, and just get on and ignore it – we had a great time.

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We spent the week gradually ticking off all the iconic stuff to do whilst in Vancouver.  There’s a superb seawall – a walk and cycleway (we did both during the week) that’s approximately 9km and takes you around Stanley Park.  It’s a public park just over 1000 acres, that is almost entirely surrounded by the waters of English Bay and Vancouver Harbour.  We saw a sea otter, watched the huge tankers anchored up waiting for their cargoes to arrive, sampled the fresh fish in one of the eateries around the park, and explored the park.  It’s also home to the Vancouver Aquarium which houses white beluga whales – which we’d never seen before.  Another first.  Very impressive and the range of sea-life and even a sloth (!) kept the kids entertained for a couple of hours.

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Downtown Vancouver looks out at the mountains to the North, and a trip across the harbour on the SeaBus and a local bus up towards Grouse Mountain is a must.  On our way, we stopped off at Capilano Suspension Bridge.  Built in 1889, it stretches 450 feet (137m) across and 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River – and takes you into the West Coast rainforest, a natural temperate rainforest where some of the oldest Douglas Fir trees are more than 1300 years old.  A treetop walk takes you 100ft up into the trees and allows you to see and experience the rainforest from a height – and with seven suspension bridges attached to the trees, it’s accessible to anyone and everyone.  Well worth a trip.

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Further up the road, Grouse Mountain is over 4000 ft high and ascended by either cablecar or by doing the famous ‘Grouse Grind’ – a 2.9km gruelling trail up the face of Grouse Mountain and commonly referred to as ‘mother nature’s stair-master’.  With 2,830 steps and taking the average person approximately 90 minutes to complete, experienced climbers can do it in 45 – it’s not for the faint-hearted.  Needless to say, we took the cablecar….

It’s well worth the view – overlooking Vancouver Harbour and beyond.  We were also in luck as 2 grizzly bears had just come out of hibernation a few weeks earlier and we managed to tick these off our bucket list too!

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What was most enjoyable, was the vast range of artisan shops and crafts you can visit and wander around.  Granville Island was our favourite, and also home to the Granville Island brewery (another item on our list), and Liberty Distillery.  ‘Taster menus’ offer selections of their nectars along with tasting notes which make for a truly pleasant experience.  Authentic coffee bars were also sought out – and well worth the effort of the find, compared to the commonplace commercial coffee establishments familiar to all across the world.  The coffees were equally a delight to sample and the range and complexity of different tastes just goes to show how much we get used to middle of the road multinational, mass-produced fare.  Tasting original and unique food and drink was certainly a highlight.

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One of the most distinctive shops visited was a ‘Broom Shop’.  I’ve never seen one.  Ever.  It’s run by 2 sisters who aim to make 25 brooms a day in their workshop which also serves as a retail outlet.  The skill and beauty of what they do and make is amazing and the kids found it fascinating to watch them hone their skills.  I couldn’t resist a purchase and despite ‘where’s your hat?’, ‘you forgot your cloak‘, ‘have you joined Harry Potter‘, ‘which one should we get for the mother-in-law?‘, comments being hurled in my direction – I admit it was fair game – it’s a lovely reminder of such a great city.

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A wonderful week away.  Next job on the list is planning our adventure and travels over the Summer … with or without broom ….

🙂

Half a year is gone already!

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Would you believe it.  This week, we’ve been in Canada for 6 months.  6 whole months.  Most of them spent in sub-zero temperatures and covered in snow and ice.  I’d like to say that based on my blog last week proclaiming ‘the big thaw‘ had begun – oh, how wrong I was – which will serve me right for tempting fate.  I’m now back to -7 with 30cm of snow falling over the last 48 hours, and very sore muscles spent shovelling it from the drive.  Anyhow, I digress……

6 whole months.  When I mentioned this to the kids, they all agreed that it felt more like 6 weeks, and I’ve got to say, I absolutely agree.  Whatever ‘half a year’ feels like, it certainly doesn’t feel like we’ve been over in Canada that long already.  And such a lot has happened in such a short space of time.  A quick reflection on the half-year events and we mount up a heck of a list …..

  • We spent the first 4 weeks in apartments and during that time not only viewed properties to buy, but offered, arranged finance, secured and moved into a property.  Not bad going.
  • Within the first week, the kids were enrolled in school and had recommenced their education.  (If truth be told, they were all disappointed it happened so quickly …….. unlike me!!)

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  • Bought a Jeep which has been brilliant combatting the ice and snow.  Oh, and have learnt rapidly how to drive and manoeuvre on such road surfaces too.  I wouldn’t say I adopt a reckless approach, but I’ve certainly built up loads of confidence navigating the terrain.  Plus my major KPI of ‘not having a road-accident’ seems to be a minor miracle but reassuringly unblemished!
  • All our worldly possessions safely arrived after 8 weeks in a container from the UK.  Even my 19-year cat made it across on a flight and settled in like the move was just next door (by the way, she’s still with us for those slightly nervous to enquire……)

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  • Learnt how to ice-skate – and equally, how to break a wrist.  I’ve experienced the health-care system in Edmonton and whilst excellent, am hoping there’s no repeat visits.
  • My oldest kid is competing in all manner of swimming competitions, and has even been away with her team for 4 days by herself.  Is loving it, and has benefitted hugely already from the training and coaching support – plus new friends that she’s made along the way.
  • Spent New Year’s tobogganing on a slope whilst watching fireworks go off – a fantastically memorable event.
  • Had several glimpses of the ‘Northern Lights’ from our house so am holding out that a really vibrant display at some point will arise.

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  • Investigated Edmonton – been to the Zoo, Galaxyland, West Edmonton Mall (on many occasions), Farmers’ Markets, Strathcona shopping, visited ice sculpturing competitions, witnessed cross-country skiing, walked in the river valley (it truly is beautiful).
  • Been educated in the art of living in a winter city – it’s all about the layers, getting out and doing stuff.  Kids are enrolled into extra-curricular activities and we’ve got as busy a schedule here as we had at home.
  • Sampled lots of cuisine from around the world, from the vast number of eateries, diners and restaurants dotted all across the city.  With superb variety and an immense choice.  Even discovered a couple of ‘Brit Fish ‘n’ Chip’ outlets too – so my craving for mushy peas has been met.

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  • Husband procured a ‘fat bike’ to add to a growing Canadian collection of bikes to supplement his UK ones.  The grapevine informs me that there’s a potential Canadian biking trip on the horizon that’s in the planning stage with his ‘mates’.  The annual brokering of the arrangements for his ‘holiday jaunt’ has commenced …..
  • We’ve met – and made  – some superb new friends who’ve helped enormously with getting us sorted and providing different experiences for us to enjoy and participate in.

And I’m sure there’s lots more I haven’t covered.  The next 6 months should be equally exciting and enthralling.  We’ve already got serious stuff planned – most notably,

  • First on our list of places to visit will be Vancouver and hopefully, tick off some items on our bucket list (I haven’t forgotten!).  Just a stones-throw away in the next province, it’s 2 hours on a plane and right on the coast.  I still can’t get over the size and scale of this country.
  • Both sets of grandparents are visiting over the summer months, both looking forward to seeing all the grandkids again and all experiencing Canada for the first time.
  • All the kids completing their first school year in Canada and then getting 2 whole months off.  They can’t wait.
  • Finally seeing the warmth of the sun and experiencing beautiful summer weather!  I’ve got plans to invest in a serious Bar-B-Q and sample some of this outdoor living that’s been promised!

I’ll keep you posted.  🙂

The big thaw

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When you enquire about the winter we’ve been experiencing this year, most Edmontonians will describe it as ‘mild’ and positively warm.  Being new to the whole ‘snow in your back garden for 5 months’ scenario, and sub-zero temperatures for months on end, I’d hesitate to agree at this stage – but we are certainly acclimatising to it.  For the last 10 days now, we’ve been on the positive side of zero – even double digits for the last few days which has been blisteringly warm.  Well okay, maybe not blistering, but it’s been t-shirt weather for sure, and there’s also been the odd glimpses of people sporting shorts and sandals on the pavements (sorry, sidewalks).  We must be used to lower temperatures as walking back from school this week, all the kids were in t-shirts as it was ‘too hot’ wearing coats in 8 degrees.  8 degrees!  At home in England, I’d have had my thick coat on, scarf, gloves and hat just to keep warm!

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And people have been coming out of their houses … spring must be here!  It’s quite bizarre.  When we first arrived, a few people observed to us that we wouldn’t see anyone as nobody comes out of their houses – but come the Spring, everyone will reappear and friendly neighbourhood banter will resume.  They weren’t kidding.   The only reason for going out when it’s so bitterly cold is to remove the mounds of snow from the drive so you can get in and out in the car – which you conveniently drive straight in and out of the garage, keeping your exposure to the cold to an absolute minimum.  You never see anyone save the other poor soul who’s trying to clear their drive as quickly as possible before frostbite sets in.  It’s certainly not a conducive environment for taking 5 minutes and passing the time of day.  The most ventured is a hasty, ‘hello, it’s cold today, isn’t it’, and quickly do the job required, before retreating to the warmth of indoors.  So, with the welcome warmth of the sun and unseasonably high temperatures, the snow is finally melting and people are appearing out of their hibernations and venturing outside.  I’ve even met a few of the neighbours ….

And when I say the snow is melting, it’s still not quite disappeared.  Amazing really.  We’ve had positive temperatures for the last 10 days and there’s still snow in my back garden – but it’s starting to melt and the grass is finally appearing.  It just goes to show how deep it is that it’s taking so long to dissipate.  At this rate, it may have just melted before we get to next Winter!!

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And these things get quite technical.

The foot attire has also changed.  We’ve been wearing snow boots for the last 4 months, and with the big thaw, everything has now become wet, soggy and waterlogged.  Snow boots are no good.  Wellies are the order of the day and the local Walmart is doing a brisk trade in meeting retail demand.  The volume of water that is sat on the land and draining into the water system is immense – the sound of the water going down the drains like waterfalls, makes you wonder how the local water utility copes with such volumes and run-off.

And people are out walking dogs!  Yes, even the ‘dog attire’ has changed.  I kid you not.  Before we arrived in Canada I’d seen the occasional novelty dog coat and chuckled at dog boots in the shops, but hadn’t taken any of them seriously.  If you’re a dog out here, those items are absolute essentials and only the most hardy of canines ventures outside without them.  And that’s those that venture out at all.  Given the volume of dogs spotted outdoors being taken for a walk in the last week, it just goes to show how many must have stayed indoors in the warmth for the last 4 months.  It’s become the norm to see a dog in boots that now, they look decidedly under-dressed without them!

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So.  We’ve got the big thaw.  I’ve even had my windows open – that’s after I’d worked out how to open them after 5 months owning the house!  People are remarking that based on experience, we may still get another big snow dump, but for all intents and purposes, the worst is over for this winter.  Part of me is quite sad to see it finally go – it’s extremely beautiful when everything is white, the frost glistens in the air and there are blue skies all around.  Our first winter in Edmonton has clearly been an easy ride so I’m seeing it as ‘breaking us in’ gently.  When there is a ‘typical’ Winter, at least we’ll now know what to expect.

So today.  The sun’s out, there are blue skies, birds have appeared, temperatures are lovely and there’s a positive vibe around the place.

What’s not to like?

🙂

Life is a roller coaster …

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At the end of my last blog, I mentioned a trip to Galaxyland …. the largest indoor amusement park (cue Jeremy Clarkson) … in the world (click here for the pre-amble).  Situated within West Edmonton Mall (largest shopping mall in the world until 2004, and now only the largest in North America and 10th in the world), it has 24 rides and covers an area of 400,000 sq ft – all packed together under one roof.  The one roof is pretty key, as when the temperature outside is a blistering -25, you seek the warmth indoors and being able to enjoy the rides without the fear of frostbite or ice freezing up the equipment.  It is home to the world’s tallest (14 stories), and longest indoor roller coaster, the ‘Mindbender’.  It is also home to the ‘Space Shot’, the world’s tallest indoor tower ride (12 stories high).

Now, just to put this whole mall into context, it also hosts the ‘World Waterpark’, the second largest indoor waterpark in the world and the world’s largest indoor wave pool.  It has a full size ice skating rink, multiplex cinema, sea-life centre, Fantasyland Hotel, and by the way, over 800 stores.  Receiving in excess of 32.2m visitors every year, you can safely say it’s huge.

You would also think it busy – and according to Edmontonians, it is.  The Mall itself receives 32.2m visitors every year which isn’t a small number.  But to someone who comes from the UK and upon any visit to an amusement park, whether in the UK or Florida, the meaning of ‘busy’ entails most of the day spent queuing for rides for the delight of a few moments experience – our trip to Galaxyland was positively quiet.

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This was brilliant, as we could get straight onto each ride without even a single queue – the most we spent was when it got truly busy in the mid-afternoon and delayed us by having to wait a whole 5 minutes.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure if anyone else takes up the mantle and upon their visit is  met by all 32m visitors arriving on the same day – please don’t blame me.

The kids loved it – and I’ve got to say, not being one for thrill rides as a rule, I quickly got into the swing and partook in all except the truly hair-raising and petrifying experiences.  These, I left to my 11 year old kid who sprinted onto both the ‘Mindbender’ and ‘Space Shot’ time and time again, by herself.

For those with toddlers – this is equally catered for.  I did think these would appeal to my youngest kid, who at 5 years old, hasn’t had that many experiences of large rides and I suspected would find the prospect of these pretty daunting.  I was proved wrong, and she refused to entertain anything simplistic – opting for the ‘Intermediate’ level rides and anything she was just about tall enough to gain entry on.  It was hilarious, as her squeals of terror/laughter as they careered through the park, made me and my other kids break out into fits of giggles too.  Never quite knowing whether she truly enjoyed it or not, the test seemed to be at the end when the ride eventually stopped.  If her immediate response was met by the shriek, ‘again’, back we went on the same ride.

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The one downside with it being indoors, is that you don’t necessarily get the scenic views like you would at the top of the Pepsi ‘Big One’ in Blackpool.  That said, the number of rides which have been packed cleverly inside this cavernous space was brilliant.  I was left marvelling at the science which must have gone into positioning each and every ride so they don’t hit one another!

Only the ‘Haunted House’ had the youngest screaming in terror – as mostly it was blood and gore, with motion sensors making the dummies move quickly upon entry to each room which made me jump at one point.  For those wondering how I fared with my broken wrist – well, it’s now out of plaster and having physio treatment.  I had to make sure it didn’t receive too much of a jolt on some of the rides, but my daily exercise picking up a glass (or two) of red wine each night seems to be doing the trick 😉

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Galaxyland is a great proposition.  Where else do you get something that caters for everyone and all their tastes.  Whether or not each family member takes to the rides, those that prefer the ‘retail’ experience can opt to hit the shops which are next door.  The food eateries are too numerous to mention, and the range of food on offer equally so.  Best of all, it’s only 15 minutes drive from our house so I’m guessing we may be visiting it on a regular basis.

‘Mindbender’ anyone …… ????

🙂

Being 5 …

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My youngest kid is only 5 years old, and already almost as tall as her 8 year old sister, she has acclimatised to the move across the Atlantic as though it was just another trip to the shops and back.  Not a fleeting quiver of hesitation, she’s used to being one step ahead and taking opportunities where she can – based on the aged experience of having to fight her own corner (both literally and metaphorically) with her older 2 sisters.  This week has been no exception.

Unlike in the UK, children don’t start school full-time in Canada until they are 6 – which means she’s in Kindergarten (at the school) for half a day, each day.  Despite only being half the time, she absolutely loves it and has a superb teacher – who acknowledges it’s only a matter of time before the younger kid will be taking over and running her class.  They seem to get through as much in 3 hours as they did in a full day of school back in the UK – they’re reading, sounding words, writing, playing out, learning about space, planets, culture, dancing and making lots of new friends with everyone in her class in the process.

Volunteering plays a heavy part in Kindergarten, and the kids’ home reading programme is managed by parents who volunteer to exchange the class reading books according to the levels and instructions that the teacher has left each day.  It’s a great way to get involved, and the kids are loving the books they get – to the extent that the whole approach is around fun and building an enjoyment of reading, rather than ‘how many words can they sound out’ or academically recognise.  Likewise, I’ve fully anticipated not just an emphasis on English, but given we are in Canada and with French also an official language, all the kids learning this too.  What I didn’t expect was Chinese ……

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There’s a large community from Asia and with Chinese New Year celebrations over the past week, Kindergarten has been appreciating and recognising this culture as much as any other.  They’ve clearly been learning new Chinese words and as such, my youngest has started to reiterate these at home.  It was quite a surprise to even know she knew any words, and not knowing many myself (none to be exact), encouraged her to say a few more.  My middle kid was more skeptical about her younger sister’s capabilities and started testing her on some key words – to which her younger sister responded without hesitation.  This culminated in my middle kid ‘upping the stakes’ somewhat and posing the following key phrase, ‘could you tell me the way to the nearest bus depot’.  The youngest didn’t break sweat, just looked at her older sister with disdain and responded with absolute aplomb and utter seriousness with a phrase in what sounded like Chinese.  I spat out my spring roll, burst out laughing and gave her a round of applause – with the rest of us not having a clue whether she was correct or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if she absolutely right …..

For the remaining half of the day, she gets to spend it with me – and for two mornings each week attends a ‘KinderArt Class’ at the local recreation centre.  They get to play with paint, pastels, pencils, pottery and all manner of mediums – plus I only have to wash her clothes following her exploits afterwards, rather than the whole kitchen too!  She’s been producing some art work and has kindly given permission for all the images in this week’s blog to be used.  Not bad for a 5 year old …..

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We also had a day off yesterday from school so went to investigate ‘Galaxyland’ – the largest indoor amusement park in the world – at the West Edmonton Mall.  Absolutely huge, the size and scale is staggering and having the positive feature of being indoors and undercover (useful, when the climate is sub-zero for the majority of the time), we had a brilliant time.  I half expected the youngest to be dubious about the rides, but pouring scorn on the ‘baby and toddler’ rides as ‘being too young and not exciting enough’ (direct quote), she wanted to experience all the rides her older sisters did.  Having the advantage of size on her side, she was accepted onto all except the truly hair-raising and adult-only rides – which my oldest kid at only 11yrs, but being taller than me, went on by herself – several times (I had to watch you understand).  Only the haunted house had my youngest in sheer terror, but the majority saw cries of glee and complete hysteria, revelling in being thrown up and down the roller coasters at speed.

It’s been a good week.  No, a great week.  As usual 🙂

St Valentine’s Day – sharing the love

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It would be remiss of me not to mark the greatest of all days that is chocolate, flowers and cake … whoops, I mean St Valentine (patron saint of love, young people and happy marriages)!

In the UK, Valentine’s Day is an occasion for people to express feelings of romantic love, usually in the form of cards or gifts to their partner or somebody for whom they have romantic feelings.  Often sent anonymously and consisting of a variety of delights in the form of chocolates, red roses (anything else is considered frugal), champagne, lingerie and a surprise meal.  Prices spike for all the aforementioned items and premiums are charged – waiting till the ‘sale’ is considered bad form.  Just a point of note for any men reading this, please don’t consider these to be either/or options – all, are especially appreciated and received with great affection 🙂

Given the above, it’s always been a day filled with slight awe and yet anguish. At school, you would send a Valentine’s card (or a few, should you prefer to keep you options open), in the vain hope that you would receive at least one from an unknown admirer (which only lasted until their friends let you in on the secret to great mirth) to know that someone somewhere thought you were special.  Not to receive one was a distraught experience.  Less said about that the better …

As the years progress and boyfriends appear on the scene, it is obligatory to shower love and devotion on the man of the minute, and fast forward again, to married life when it’s a divorceable offence to forget or not put much thought into it.  So interesting to note the difference this year now we’re residing over the Atlantic and how the same day is marked.  And there are notable differences I can tell you.
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Whilst I can’t talk for the whole of Canada, certainly in our immediate location, St Valentine’s Day is regarded as a day of appreciation and an opportunity to make it visible how much you appreciate others and those around you.  Those more cynical, may class this as a mere commercial opportunity to widen the target market for cards and chocolate to the greater community, but there is something positive about encouraging each other to show gratitude and genuine human love and warmth to friends, colleagues and neighbours.  Cards, chocolates, flowers, candy … and more chocolate … are  the commodities of choice with no one batting an eyelid or thinking twice about issuing such items to work colleagues.  ‘Happy Valentines Day’ is the common phrase of turn at the checkouts and our local school embraced the concept whole-heartedly.  My youngest kid has been encouraged to take cards for every child in her Kindergarten class (that’s 23 in total!) to tell them she loves them and yesterday was marked with a Valentine’s party and heart gifts aplenty.  My middle kid – not used to this concept – felt slightly out of her depth when the exchanging of gifts, cards and sweets between friends was taking place – not having gone prepared with any provisions in exchange. That said, she gratefully accepted all the gifts laid upon her and declared upon leaving school in the afternoon ‘this was the greatest day at school, ever’, and clearly her earlier reservations were laid to rest in lieu of copious amounts of chocolate waded on her.
It’s a lovely thing to do and in this day and age of aggression, violence and terror, it’s nice to celebrate others around you and show them how much you appreciate them. It brings out the best part of human nature.
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There is a downside though.  With this being such commonplace and gifts galore to all and sundry, how then do you let someone know that there’s more to the gift than mere platonic gratitude?  I’ll just leave that statement hanging and thank the Lord that I’m not back in my early teens amidst the minefield that is St Valentines Day.
So, how did we celebrate?  Well, a trip to the local British import store and the stocking up on cordial, Bisto gravy granules and Cussons Imperial Leather soap.  Some things just can’t be replicated although I didn’t turn down the chocolates, wine, jewellery and red roses that were also proffered!
Happy Valentines Day 🙂

Heed the words of an 11 year old …

My 11 year old ‘kid’ has been doing ‘persuasive writing’ at school this week and has been quite vocal about how much she enjoys crafting an argument (must take after her father 😉 ) and putting it into text.  With this in mind, I set her a challenge to draft me a response to the question …’if you got the chance to move to Canada for a few years, would you?’

This was her reply …

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If you got the chance to move to Canada, would you?  

Imagine all the amazing things you could see.  When I got the chance to move to Canada I did and I’ll tell you exactly why this great experience is worth doing.  You would learn new things, have loads of fun and try loads of different sports.  Don’t you think that would be fabulous?

First, you would learn lots of new things.  For example, you would learn how to stay warm in -30 temperatures.  Although, there is no possible way to stand outside and not get cold, you can still learn what types of clothing to wear when it’s freezing.  I would know because wearing leggings is definitely NOT the right thing to wear.  You have make sure to wear snowpants when going outside (even if you’re only walking across the road!)  Also, wear a big fluffy, waterproof coat that has a label saying ‘goes up to -30‘ on it and make sure to wear some gloves, a hat and a scarf.  Whatever you do, do not go outside without these things on.

Another example, you could learn about all the animals and the nature surrounding you.  In the summer, it’s great to go on adventures and see all the wildlife that climbs up trees and hides in the ground.  In temperatures of 20-30 degrees it’s great to go in all the outdoor pools and learn how to swim.  Also, you could go fishing and see all the little fishes swimming around in the ponds with bubbles floating out of their mouths.  There is so much you can learn in every season Canada brings, so wouldn’t you have a great time here?

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Next, you would have loads of fun.  For example, playing in the snow is so much fun (as long as you wear the right clothing).  Me and my sisters love to build snowmen in the back garden, we build big ones and little ones, thin ones and fat ones and even snowmen bigger than us!  You never run out of snow because the sky seems to have an endless supply of it!  At my new school, the snow freezes and creates mini ice rinks.  Everybody slides around on them until they fall over.  It’s so much fun, I bet you would love to try it.

Another example, the parks here are way better than in England.  They have moving monkey bars that you hold onto and they slide along, from one side to the other.  Most of the parks have sand on the ground, so if you fell off anything then you wouldn’t hurt yourself.  In the parks there are baskets that spin around when you sit on them and there are loads of slides so you can race your friends down them.  The parks are one of my favourite bits of Canada but the swimming pools definitely come number 1 on my list.

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Finally, you would be able to try lots of different sports.  For example, in Edmonton, there are at least 20 different sports centres that you can go and visit.  Me and my sisters always look forward to the days when we can go and play on the millions of slides that they have in the swimming pools.  We go in the wave machines, dive tanks and if we’re lucky then we get to go in the hot tubs.  One of my favourite things about the sport centres are the running tracks.  I love running around on them and I usually beat everybody else to the finish line.

Another example, you can go sledding on all the hills.  In the playground, at my school, they have these massive ice hills and I spend all break going sledding on them.  Also, on New Year’s Eve, me and my family went to the park to see fireworks whilst we sledged down the hills.  It was a really fun night and we went to bed after midnight!!!  Where else in the world could you sledge and watch fireworks at the same time?  What I’m really looking forward to now is learning how to ski.

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Taking all this into account, would you like to move to Canada?  I think it would be a fabulous experience for everyone.  Learning new things, having fun and trying different sports is a great way to spend time with your family and friends.  I know that if you tried it then you wouldn’t regret it.  If it were my choice then I know what I would do…MOVE TO CANADA!!!!!

🙂

Holiday? Oh no it’s not … (oh yes it is)

Talking to my middle kid earlier this week, we were discussing when the next full week off school will be – and it’s not till the end of March.  I reminded her that the plan is to select something from our ‘Bucket List‘ and this is what we’ll do during the holiday, to which she responded, ‘well, living here is like being on holiday all the time’.

Very true.  Or at least, a winter holiday at that.

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It’s been a cold January already – we’ve experienced -26 and below, and the kids still have to walk to school and everything functions as it would do normally.  They go in snow pants, boots and thick winter coats with hoods up and gloves – any skin left exposed quickly feels painful, but they’ve taken it completely in their stride and enjoy tramping in the snow which is a constant companion.  It’s warmed up this week and we’ve had a balmy +2 degrees which has seen the snow start to melt on the tarmac on the main roads – but never on the side streets or gardens.  It’s amazing how quickly your body acclimatises to different temperatures as I’ve generally been regarded as part-reptile and will always have cold extremities at the best of times in the UK.  But the last few days has seen me switch coats from my -30 winter duvet to my much thinner and somewhat frivolous jacket with a verbal comment or two along the lines of ‘it’s positively mild out today’.

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The kids take their toboggans to school and make the most of the snow and ice during their breaks or ‘recess’ during the day.  They have an hilarious time and the antics they get up to have me chuckling as they recall the day’s events.  I can see why they regard it as a type of holiday.

On top of that are their classes.  They always describe their school days as fun and yet when I see what they’ve been learning, the curriculum isn’t massively different to what they’ve had back in the UK – but ‘fun’ wasn’t a descriptive term that was prevalent.  Maybe it’s the delivery.  There’s a huge use of technology – everything is based on this as a platform, and an enormous amount of creative learning too.  My middle kid is currently doing a project at school over the next 2 weeks to create and build a series of musical instruments from recycled materials they bring in from home.  They’ve had a develop a plan and they’re now in the execution stage.  It’s Blue Peter on acid – but it’s getting them to think about construction and feasibility.  She’s loving it.  Goodness knows how she’ll get it back home!

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The amount of activities which are available and offered during the winter season is vast.  There are a large number of outdoor venues across Edmonton and despite the temperatures, people are out jogging, running, power-walking and cycling.  Ice skating is encouraged (although off the menu for me for the next 2 months since my last debacle ended in disaster), and is free – just turn up, get your skates on, and try not to fall over!  As is skiing – another one on our list for when my bones have mended.

And getting to all these events and activities is easy.  You may think that the snow impedes how much travelling can be done, but not in the slightest.  The City of Edmonton does an exceptional job of clearing roads and thoroughfares – obviously concentrating on the main artery roads when we have a heavy snowfall, and each area of the city has a specific day of the week for ‘snow blading’ – clearing and maintaining the side roads in that area down to 5cm above the tarmac level.  Refuse gets collected as normal, and the recycling which is encouraged is superb – compared to what we’ve been used to back home.  Nothing stops and if anything, cranks up a gear.

There’s a wider selection of food ingredients available than I expected – and some wonderful independent shops which bake their own breads, delicatessens for meats and a range of authentic spices which has seen me emulating some pretty decent curries.  The kids are enjoying the variety and different ‘treats’ which make it into their lunch boxes each day.

We’ve got all the benefits of living in a new place, different views and way life, but with our own stuff (or at least most of it) around us.  Social media means we’re in touch with friends and family much the same as we would be if we were back home – and in some cases, we now see more of – courtesy of Facetime and Skype!  The kids are starting to get party invites so the diary is filling up, and we’re even off to watch a British Pantomime this Saturday evening at a local theatre put on by a British ex-pat amateur dramatic society.

Oh no you’re not ……. oh, yes we are ….

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Holiday?  Life is what you make it and if it can feel like one for most of the time, then why not.

🙂

It’s all about the list

As a sequel to my blog last week (click here to catch up!), ‘the list’ on our chalkboard is now complete and is quite an eclectic mix of activities ranging from the ‘expected’ and typical Canadian activities through to the slightly bizarre and unforeseen.

As you’ll remember, the criteria was based on things that we can only do whilst in Canada over the new few years.  Some are rather ambitious, given the size and scale of the country, and others are already planned and underway.  Either way, they’ll be a regular focus for us over the next few years to assess and report on progress!

 

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We’ll also have to carefully schedule some of them around specific times of the year – no good trying to snow-shoe in Summer and equally, skating on Lake Louise will be difficult once the ice has melted!  There are some that I’m especially looking forward to – visiting a vineyard to see how Icewine is made (if you haven’t tried it, seek it out and have a taste), and taking the opportunity to view the Northern Lights which has always been on my ‘must do’ list.

The ‘blue’ items are the ‘jokers’ and have been put on there specifically by one or two members of the family.  The one that had me chuckling was ‘to see a Labrador in Labrador, and a Newfoundland in Newfoundland’.  My only slight worry is that we don’t come home with one ….

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For those of you who have been keenly following the biking tribulations of my husband, will spot a ‘buy a fat bike’ item which has made a guest appearance on the list.  Obviously the separation anxiety was too great and he’s starting to amass a collection now on this side of the Atlantic.  I’m informed an order was placed on Christmas Eve and it arrives later today, just in time to enjoy the 5ft of snow and temperatures of a chilly -16.  To say ‘excitement is in the air’ would be a mild understatement.  As for me, on the other hand, I’m looking forward to a few hours of peace and quiet whilst he goes out to play ….

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Due to my current sporting exploits (click here to catch up!), any ice skating or ice-related activities involving snow, me and the potential to break any more limbs, are off the agenda for a few months.  That doesn’t stop other members of the family trying them out in the meantime.  I’ll just need to make sure I don’t add to the collection of plastercasts during the process!!

So, there’s a degree of organising now required.  The next main school holiday is towards the end of March so we’ll be aiming for that as a trip somewhere.  We’ve also got 2 whole months off school in the Summer so there will be plenty of opportunities to tick off a few more items.  In the meantime, the snow is still falling as I write this and there’s lots to be going at …..

🙂

Here’s to 2015 …

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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 …..

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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.

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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  🙂

Making memories

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True to our word, we’re endeavouring to make our time in Canada as memorable as possible – and Christmas week has been no exception.

Our middle ‘kid’ celebrated her 8th birthday last weekend and wanted to do things she’d never done before.  Top of the list was ice skating in an outdoor park (of which there are numerous to choose from nearby), and we opted for a beautiful park down in the River Valley, that is actually home to the Edmonton Speed Skating club.  It is, what it says on the tin, a large rink in a park – and the views are wonderfully inspiring as well as the physical experience of literally donning a pair of skates and taking to the ice. No pay kiosk, beverage stand or commercial opportunity to relieve you of cash in sight and through which to navigate prior to arriving on the rink.  The ice is regularly maintained so its flat and smooth. Bliss.

With newly procured skates for all of us (early Christmas presents courtesy of the grandparents), we took to the ice with excitement and slight trepidation.  I’ve got to say, it was much slippier than anything I’ve ever experienced before.

‘But you’re on ice!’, I hear you shout.  ‘What did you expect?’

Good point.  Well made.

In my defence, this was the real deal – no artificially maintained or manufactured skating rink here (do you think there’s such a thing as ‘grippy’ ice?), anyhow, it was certainly slippier than I’ve ever known in the past.

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The ‘birthday kid’ was soon careering around the rink despite numerous slips and falls – and I was slowly getting more confident and getting a rhythm going.  I’d go so far as to class myself as rather ‘nippy’ on the skates.  Of course, pride comes before a fall, and I didn’t disappoint.  In fact, in keeping with our theme of ‘making things memorable’, I went down with a bump (that ice is certainly an unforgiving surface!) and a trip to A&E was immediately required.  Of course, for those of you who have taken a keen interest in my blogs, will know we’re familiar with A&E departments both in the UK and Canada (click here for previous escapades, 1 & 2!).  I’m now sporting a very fetching vibrant pink fibreglass cast on my right arm having broken my wrist, which I’ve got to keep company for the next 8 weeks.  Memorable indeed.

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Consuming enough morphine to dull the pain for the entire christmas period (it’s strong stuff!), I managed to escape the confines of the emergency cubicle in time for the evening sleigh ride which we’d booked weeks previously for the birthday ‘surprise’.  Surprise it was – in more ways than one – but memorable none the less.  Whilst there was no sleigh, but a horse and cart with ‘Blitzen’ written on the side, and a few bales of hay thrown in the back for good measure, there was plenty of snow and the sub-zero temperatures which provided that ‘wintry feel’.

Christmas itself has seen my duty-bound husband stuffing his hand up a turkey, demonstrating the art of pastry-making and consigned to responding to instructions (helpfully) offered from the sidelines – all of which are outside his normal environment and comfort zone.   He’s done an outstanding job and has been duly rewarded with a visit to a local bike shop which, as strongly suspected, didn’t leave without purchase.  He’s looking forward to the imminent arrival of a ‘fat bike’ as the start of his Canadian collection of mountain bikes – and as recompense for the many he’s had to leave back home in the UK (there’s an ongoing saga here, click here to get yourself up to date!).

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The obvious memory itself has been living in Canada for our first Christmas.  We sat down to Christmas dinner with the snow falling outside and the ‘Carols from Kings’ playing on BBC iPlayer.  We’ve watched a lot of the Christmas specials on catch-up TV (Miranda, Strictly, Call the Midwife, Doctor Who), not to mention the obligatory walks in the snow, a bit of tobogganing (the ‘kids’, not me, you’ll be relieved to note), and snowballs hurled.  It’s been lovely to talk and see family on FaceTime and Skype, and between all the shenanigans, we’re halfway through a ‘goat and kids’ 1000 piece jigsaw.

Memories indeed.

Merry Christmas everyone 🙂

Life is full of extremes

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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.

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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 ……??

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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’?

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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.

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🙂

How many items does it take to fill a Canadian house?

 

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Despite the snow, sub-zero temperatures and the trans-atlantic distance between England and Canada; our goods which were last seen being packed into a container back in mid October, have finally found their way to our new home in Edmonton, Canada.

The removal agents were keen to keep me updated on the progress of our items throughout the entire journey.  For the ‘small’ trip across the Atlantic, I was readily informed that the container had been loaded onto the ship and was about to set sail (on a ship called ‘Sandra’ no less).  Once arrived in Canada, and being transported from East to West by rail, I was provided with regular updates on where our items were during the long trip  – the updates being the equivalent of the ‘container diaries’ as they slowly progressed and undertook a rail trip across a huge country that many would pay a fortune to experience.

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That said – and slightly later than originally expected, I finally heard the news of their imminent arrival in Edmonton.  Even when they’ve arrived, you have to seek clearance by Customs so off I trundled to the Customs Cargo depot to seek the required stamp of approval – rather like the one in Calgary for collecting my cat (see previous blog – who’s settled in very nicely, thank you for asking).  They don’t make these buildings easy to find or in any shape and form, welcoming, so I took my youngest kid along as a source of sympathy should things start to go pear-shaped.

There was a slight altercation in the fact that the shipping contact details on our goods were in the name of my husband, and despite having a marriage certificate and no end of documentation to prove my identity and linkage to our worldly possessions (see previous blog topic),  they wouldn’t accept me as the one to sign for ‘our’ goods.  So, a hastily requested email from said husband arrived at the customs front desk, and this appeased the process.  Once I read, agreed and signed against all the requirements that I can/can not do with any of our possessions, they gave me the sought after ‘stamp’ on the documents and our goods were cleared.

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You may be thinking, they’d get delivered at this point?  Alas, no.  Getting clearance means the rail company can release our container to the removal company, who can then schedule us in for delivery.  A few nice words and a sob story about having no furniture or clothes for the last 8 weeks plus the fact that Christmas is coming and at this rate, we’ll be depicting a modern day enactment of ‘Tiny Tim’s’ family, from the famous novel, ‘A Christmas Carol’ – the removal firm agreed to deliver the following day.

To say I was excited to see our ‘stuff’ again, would be an understatement.   The removal firm arrived as promised, complete with actual container on the back of a lorry.  I’m not sure what I expected to see, but I could’ve sworn it looked smaller than the one we originally sent.  My eyes deceiving me, probably down to the sheer size and scale of everything Canadian, I was asked to stand outside and witness the ‘seal’ being cut from the container.  I guess this is to show there’s been no tampering with the items in transit, but I’ve got to say it was a slightly surreal experience, watching them slowly open the doors of the container and seeing the familiar UK removal firm boxes in the back.  A small sigh of relief too, as I’m not sure what I’d have done if none of the items looked familiar to me at all!

It’s surprising the things you are pleased to see the most, are not always the items you expect.

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My piano (an upright, not a grand), which was an inherited gift from my Grandpa, had the removal firm chaps staggering in under the sheer weight of it.  Not massively large, but extremely heavy, they did a wonderful job amidst the snow and ice.  I was expecting it to sound off-key and in desperate need of a re-tune, but it’s fantastically still holding a tune and satisfactorily complete!  In fact, all our items – bar a wooden picture frame – made it in entirety.

One factor I hadn’t even anticipated but how on earth we didn’t have any more breakages I’ll never know, was the degree of cold everything had clearly gone through.  In taking out insurance for our possessions, I was of the mind that it would cover any fateful sinking of said ship, or the container being ‘dropped’ from the huge cranes used to load and unload shipments.  It never occurred to me, that cold may be such a key factor, and I’ve got to admit, we’ve been extremely lucky to get away so lightly.

Everything took a few hours to defrost and come up to temperature.  Our bathroom items had all frozen in their tubes, old (and well-used) casserole dishes were showing cracks in the pottery, so we unpacked and left things to acclimatise in their own time.  Only a glass ornament suffered from the glue not being able to withstand the frozen temperatures and had a clean break – which is now fully restored.

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Everything is unpacked out of boxes, but with limited furniture as yet, it looks more akin to a jumble sale in many of the rooms than a welcoming invitation to sit down and relax.  That said, everything is here.  And judging from the Canadian scale of things,  we’re going to need a lot more items to fill this house!!!

On that note, I’m just off to the shops – back later  …. 🙂

Have cat … will travel

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Whilst some will consider moving to another country in itself a highly stressful experience, I’ve got to say, moving a 19 year old cat (who’s never been much further than the back door) across a continent has proved to be the most ‘cat’-astrophically stress inducing process by far.

For those up to speed on developments, she’s made it.  She arrived into Calgary airport on a direct flight, in a purpose-made wooden crate, and was unimpressed by the surroundings and the fact that her usual warm bed had been substituted for mere strips of newspaper.

It’s been a long process.  Right from the start, I was reluctant to leave her in the UK and indeed, the local vet saw no reason why she shouldn’t fly.  That decision made, it was left to finding an animal transporter who would successfully get her from ‘A’ to ‘B’.  And, I found an absolutely excellent shipper who solely transports small live animals across the world – usually, New Zealand and Australia; so the prospect of sending a cat to Canada for them was not a big deal in the slightest.  They also kindly let her ‘board’ with them for the last 6 weeks whilst we found somewhere to live and get ourselves sorted, regularly keeping me updated with how she was and the latest news.

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My biggest concern was the weather.  And by weather, I mean snow and sub-zero temperatures.  It didn’t help to discover that there are no direct flights to Edmonton from the UK after the end of October.  This means a round trip of 588km to collect her from the ‘local’ airport in Calgary, 3hrs driving each way.  Manageable if the weather is good, but with snow now on the ground and me being slightly new to the ‘driving on ice’ experience, I was nervous about the journey to say the least.  I also had to take the 3 ‘kids’ who viewed the whole saga as an adventure.  Unlike me, their only concern was having enough sugary snacks to last the journey and whether their iPads would hold out for the full trip there and back in keeping them entertained.  I did suggest we could adopt a more traditional style and perhaps talk and spot things on the roads (which was met with rather withering looks from all 3), and I finally conceded that virtually driving in a straight line between Edmonton and Calgary on one road, in a prairie region probably didn’t offer the full range of stimulation that would last them for 6 hours.

Anyhow, I had a stroke of luck.  The weather held for me and the journey was long but straightforward.

Having never transported a cat – or any animal for that matter before, I wasn’t sure how this was done.  Travelling as ‘cargo’, they are managed by a ‘cargo’ team for that specific airline.  Finding my way to Calgary from Edmonton was a piece of cake compared to navigating the whereabouts of the Cargo office at the airport – which was completely away from any passenger terminal or the usual entry points I’m familiar with.  Reams of documentation are required and upon arrival at the cargo office, you wait for the animal to be unloaded, received by the cargo team and all required documentation completed.  This takes about 1 hour after the plane has landed.

Once you’re provided with the landing documentation, you physically go to Customs to get clearance.  This is held with a border official who requires considered responses to all questions posed and checks all the papers to assess the validity of bringing an animal into the country.  If they are satisfied, you’ll get clearance stamped on the papers – plus relieved of $31 dollars.  Goodness knows the protocol for what happens if they refuse to sign …

Back to the Cargo office, the Customs papers with the ‘clearance’ stamp enable the team to charge me a further $55 dollars and I’m finally issued with the last piece of paper which allows me to obtain (and see) the cat.  Moving to another room, and what can only be described as a warehouse complete with JCB’s and mechanical equipment hoisting goods around, you present this final piece of paper and they offer over the cat.

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For the price of the shipment across the waters, you’d be under the impression that the cat is treated to first class luxurious seating and the full use of a personal butler.  I suspect the reality is more along the lines of being placed alongside the passenger luggage in the hold with not so much as a touch screen TV in sight.

So, after a further 3 hours in the car to our new home, she’s now in situ, favouring a bed in the back of a cupboard where it’s warm and she’s left to herself.  She’s eaten lots and been out for a quick look around and walk around the house – before taking herself back to her domain and catching up on some serious catnaps.

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It was worth it and lovely to see her back with us.  However, for anyone considering doing something similar, I’ll warn you now that it’s easier giving birth …

Happy New Home

Thompson Place HouseIn terms of speed and efficiency, it’s 4 weeks since our arrival in Canada and we have moved into our new house.  Not bad going considering the vast paperwork required (see previous blog), the weather (snow and sub-zero temperatures), and the fact we’ve had to start from scratch in viewing properties, applying for a mortgage and securing bank lending.  It’s been worth it and yes, it’s lovely to be in a house once again with plenty of space to roam and for the kids to make as much noise and mess as only kids do.

And we’ve not had it tough at all.  In terms of accommodation, ‘husband’ secured us a serviced apartment in downtown Edmonton which proved to be absolutely ideal and perfect for what we needed in the initial weeks of our arrival.  In fact, I would advocate its use for holidays and short vacations, especially for those with kids who want the facilities of separate bedrooms and a kitchen thrown in – all the benefits of being in a hotel, but with additional facilities and the freedom to eat and drink what you like without any of the inflated prices.  Bonus features included access to a gym and swimming pool which the kids thought fantastic.  The new house comes without such lavish items …

It’s still nice to finally be in our own home.  For those of you who have diligently kept pace and read my previous blogs, will know that our goods in the UK were shipped on a container in the middle of October (to get up to date click here).  I’ve received word (with some relief), that they’ve now made it across the Atlantic and are currently being transported by train from Montreal and due to arrive in Edmonton early next week.  Perfect timing considering we hadn’t even viewed any properties in Canada when our stuff was sent.  Let’s just say our new home is rather sparsely furnished at the present time – with only 4 beds (thanks to Ikea) constructed and in place.  There are 2 new additions – a television in the basement and a new sofa which was delivered today – which all three kids are currently road-testing.

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So what are the features of our Canadian house compared to the UK, I hear you cry….?

Space.

Space.

And even more space.

Those who have astutely been reading this blog will have spotted the reference to a ‘basement’ which now has a sofa and TV residing in it.  This is in addition to the utility room, bathroom and bedroom which is also down there.  A massive difference to being in the UK and probably bigger than most people’s flats alone.  It’s a wonderful space and something which is a complete novelty.

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Then there’s the bathrooms.  How many sinks and toilets does one family need?  Answer: clearly, like handbags and shoes, there can never be too many.  I can just imagine a few of you thinking, ‘she’ll regret it when there’s all the cleaning to do’ …. very true.  But I’ve also got 3 female kids who are going to be trained in the art of maintaining a clean space.  Unfortunately, I suspect the training programme will fall on deaf ears with ‘husband’ who will remain a lost cause ……

My kitchen (notice the change of personal tense with regards to this particular room in the house), has a monster fridge – the likes of which I’ve only ever seen on American sitcoms, a waste disposal, 2 ovens and a walk-in pantry which I’m just having to concentrate on filling entirely (has to be done).  I’m also a reformed recycling nerd who, having spent the last 8 years living in a property with antiquated disincentives with regard to conserving waste – I’m embracing this with a vengeance.  The kids think it highly entertaining my aspiration to minimise all general rubbish whatsoever and are wondering how long this will last for.  As for me, as with most things in life – I’m in it for the long term …

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What about my 19-year old cat I hear you cry?  Has she made it across the Atlantic?  Well – not yet.  She’s been luxuriating in a boarding cattery at a specialist animal transporters for the last 5 weeks and is due to fly into Calgary Airport next Monday on an Air Canada flight.  I’m not sure what she’ll make of it at all having never been further than the back door for the majority of her life, let alone the sub-zero temperatures, but she’s got a thick coat and I’m sure she’ll adjust.  If nothing else, I can’t wait to see her and be reunited.  Unfortunately, my husband isn’t of the same mindset ….

And there’s the bikes.  Yes, these were culled from the original 9 in our garage back home, and said ‘husband’ has been pining for their return on a daily basis.  He’s stopped eating, can’t sleep, is thinking about them constantly …. do you think now’s the best time to mention there were only 2 that made it onto the container?

🙂

Paperwork, paperwork and ….. yes, even more paperwork

Paperwork

My goodness.  If anyone had told me the extent to which moving to another country would incur the volume of paperwork and means of identification that we’ve had to show over the last few weeks, I wouldn’t have believed them.  There’s also no consistency, so it’s akin to a big game of ‘Guess Who’ and you have to try and predict which forms of identification and paperwork will suffice for which organisation.

For some, it’s obvious.  On entry into Canada, we had to provide a ream of paperwork on official forms, with every type of UK identification you can think of, along with employer letters and bank statements, payroll slips and birth certificates.  But this you expect, and equally, you’re reassured that the authorities are taking all measures to ensure who they accept into the country are both eligible and authentic.  How did we slip through the net then I hear you shout …..

So, upon entry into a new country we were awarded a work permit and visitor permits for a set duration of time.  Another piece of documentation to add to our set – yes, but an absolute essential item, as without it you can’t get any further.  Imagine snakes and ladders – this would be the first snake you’d go down without being able to present the official permits and you’d remain there until one was obtained.

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Moving on, we then had to obtain a Social Identification Number (or SIN) as it’s commonly referred to – rather like a National Insurance number in the UK.  It’s unique to you, and it validates your entitlement to then register for a range of social services and healthcare, but also importantly, for those working in Canada, any Canadian employer isn’t able to pay you without having this.  (By the way, no one tells you the critical path of obtaining all these various forms of identification – it’s very much a sense of luck that you manage to get them in the right order).  This is another piece of critical paper that you mustn’t lose and is required for further services down the line …. (not that I realised it at the original time).

Next up, was opening a bank account.  I’m informed all banks take a different approach to the identification required – luckily, ours accepted all of the previously obtained documents above – plus a UK passport, driving licence, birth and marriage certificates to prove who we were.  It’s a good job we were extremely well prepared and purposely travelled with every known document we possessed.  We had also tracked down all documents we thought we may need, which covered every possible eventuality before departing the UK  – just goes to show, without doing this, we would definitely have come unstuck.  Think of Monopoly – you cannot pass go …

MonopolyWe’ve also had to buy both a house and a car.  Let me just say, that whilst both have required paperwork, the volumes of which even ‘The Hobbit’ would be classed as a ‘light read’ in comparison – on reflection, it’s been harder to secure a car in Canada with financing over a 3 year period than it has been to get a mortgage for the next 25 years.  I kid you not.

You get caught in a catch 22 situation.  You need to build up a credit history to be able to apply for credit cards and smaller loans – even ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes for sofas – but they won’t accept you as you’ve got no previous credit in the country. It’s no good showing UK letters from banks and previous insurers about your credibility as they don’t count for anything in a different country.  We’ve often had to adopt an approach of hauling all manner of documents out of our bags and asking them to peruse which they’d like to accept from the vast ream available in the hope that there’s the critical 1 or 2 hidden amongst them which offers the assurances required.

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And just when you think you’ve navigated your way through what can only be described as a minefield, there’s always something which presents an additional hurdle which wasn’t foreseen.  For example, we managed to buy a car at the end of last week, and once all the documents have been signed and finance agreed, you can’t take the vehicle without going to a ‘Registry Office’ and obtaining a registration plate for the vehicle.  Simple you may think.  To do this, you have to show proof of identity with a driving licence … an Albertan driving licence which also forms the basis for your car insurance as well as a registration plate for the car.  This we didn’t have.  Yes,  we could offer UK driving licenses and in the end, these have been surrendered and temporary Albertan driving licenses provided in lieu of the official ones being dispatched to us over the next few weeks.  It’s an offence in Alberta to carry 2 driving licences – you can only have one, and can only hold a UK licence in the country for upto 12 months anyhow.  It was with a bit of trepidation that we handed these over – but the good news is, we secured our car in the process.  Some things you just have to sacrifice in battle in order to win the war.

Luckily, there are some surprises and things which you expect to prove difficult which have been amazingly easy and quick to secure.  Take enrolling the kids into schools – this was a 5 minute telephone conversation followed by a visit to the school and demonstrating we were moving into the designated area along with birth certificates and school reports.  Fantastic!  This also meant the kids were only out of any education for a week – not bad considering.

Tomorrow, we finally move into our Canadian house and become officially Canadian residents.  Bit of a milestone.  Not bad for Week 4 since our arrival … the saga continues 🙂

The difference a week can make!

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Welcome to Canada!  Well, this time last week we were already on a plane headed to Edmonton, Canada from Heathrow, London.  It was a rather traumatic week and was akin to the last 400 metres of a marathon when the pace picks up and there’s a sprint for the finishing line.  We made it and the flight was boarded and landed 9 hours later in sunny Edmonton.

Our first stop was immigration and for anyone else thinking about applying for a work permit upon point of entry – absolutely.  There’s a bit of a wait, but providing you’ve got the required documentation and lashings of patience, you’ll get through eventually with the signed permits and approval to stay in the country.  Bit of a relief as there was no ‘Plan B’ if we weren’t successful …..

We hired a car and headed towards a service apartment which we’ve booked for a month – so all’s good.

So, the checklist upon arrival looked like this:

1.  Place to stay – tick

2.  Transport obtained – tick

3.  Husband in a job – tick

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Day 1 was already planned and 10 properties to view with a ‘Realtor’ were scheduled in diaries.  It was just me and the 3 kids – with the agreed remit from husband that we ‘could select whichever property we liked’ (direct quote).

It was fascinating going around all the houses and my oldest kid became a godsend, as she was busily scribbling down notes about the good points and negative aspects of each property which after 10 – all became rather a blur!!!  The biggest observation was the sheer amount of space compared to UK houses.  There’s loads of it – and rooms upon rooms that you have to find a use for.  Bathrooms are aplenty, and the number of washbasins has a ratio of 1:1 with the sizes of the bathtubs and showers positively mind-blowing!  I saw some basements with their own gyms, pool rooms, hot tubs, bathrooms, artist rooms, playrooms, cinemas!  Tempting – yes, but the practical reality of housing a lot of this was at the top of my mind.

On the negative side, Canadians seem to enjoy living side by side and directly overlooking one another in the city suburbs.  I’m used to a house which overlooks Cheshire hills and only has 2 neighbours within half a mile.  It was a drawback and several extremely nice properties had to be rejected literally because I didn’t want to be looking into the next door neighbours lounge.  That said, we found a lovely house which will do us proud – and better still, it is vacant and looking for a quick sale.

Day 2 then found us putting an offer in on the preferred house and securing a mortgage broker who would ensure appropriate finance is put in place.

Plan construction

Day 3 had the offer accepted and we have agreed a completion date in 3 weeks time.  I then spent 2 hours queuing for a SIN (Social Insurance Number) which then led me onto yet another building where I had to duly sign up for healthcare.  There’s no getting away from it, these things just have to be done and luckily for me, the 3 kids are extremely patient (probably something to do with the treats I’d taken with me to keep them amenable!).  Day 3 also saw us visiting the Edmonton Keyano Swimming Team who had asked for me to bring our oldest kid as a trial to join one of their squads.  Not only are the facilities absolutely fantastic, but the number of coaches and amount of technical training offered is superb – and she enjoyed every minute.  She’s now enrolled in their Provincial squad and trains with them 6 days a week.

By this point, I now had all the required documents, to enrol the kids in the local school for the house we’re buying.  This was Day 4 – and all the kids were amazed at the newness of the school (it was built in 2010), the size of the playground (lots of climbing frames and swings), and the fact that it takes kids from Kindergarten to Grade 9.  In England, this is like saying from Reception class through to Year 9 at Secondary School  – and for my kids, also means that my oldest doesn’t have to swop to another school in June when she completes Year 6, but gets to stay with her sisters for the next few years.  A great bonus when they’ve just arrived in a new country and they only have each other.

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Day 5 had us purchasing supplies for the kids to use in school – each class has it’s own supply list which you are asked to provide.  This also includes a laptop for the oldest kid, which we’re just hanging fire on until we get a feel for the type of laptops the others are using in her class.  That said, even without this the list is long and the local ‘Staples’ and ‘Walmart’ certainly benefitted from our business!

So, with the house and school secured, Day 6 moved us onto buying a car – a Jeep Wrangler which you can’t get in the UK and well, why not!  The doors, windscreen and roof all come off – and it can traverse any type of terrain known the man – why ever not!  Should just about cope with the snow here then …

Talking of which, upto this point we’ve been lucky with the weather and basking in 21 degrees with blue skies and sun.  Hard to believe then that Day 7 had snow and blizzard like conditions appear!  It was also my oldest kid’s birthday so we took the day off and celebrated with a trip to the cinema and a nice meal.

So, checklist at the end of Week 1?

– House sale agreed – tick

– SIN Number & Healthcare enrolled – tick

– Bank account opened – tick

– Kids enrolled into school – tick

– Car bought – tick

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How funny the difference a week can make?  We’re only 1 week into our Canadian adventure and yet have achieved things that would traditionally take a few months in the UK.  Week 2 sees the kids start school so I’ll let you know how they fare …

🙂

Leaving, on a jet plane …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the final countdown …

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

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

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

Suitcase

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

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

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

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

🙂

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

Heart

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

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

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

The Story

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

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

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

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

On your marks … get set …

Time

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

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

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

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

Suitcase

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

Plan construction

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

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

It’s one less item to pack ….

How big is too big?

Tape measure

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

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

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

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

Mystery box

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

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

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

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

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

Tourists, tourists, everywhere

Banff National Park I’ve mentioned in past blogs about the delights of travelling in Canada, the ability to enjoy the country and savour the surroundings without significant numbers of tourists and volumes of traffic.  There’s an imaginary line which starts at Lake Louise and follows the Trans-Canadian highway down to Banff – both beautiful places and the highway connecting the two has wonderful vistas, but it’s also the honeypot every tourist is seeking to taste.

The drive south of Lake Louise down to Banff is relatively short (by Canadian standards) – and not deprived of scenic vistas and mountain views.  In fact, I thought the Banff National Park particularly stunning but for those wishing to savour the experience and the views with an element of authenticity, an out of season visit would be more fruitful.  Upon arrival in Banff, and as in Lake Louise, you’re surrounded by tourist coaches, cars and people whisking tourists and their cameras to their next destination stop.  It has character, but this is masked somewhat by the volumes of people equally wanting to sample some of the atmosphere and views.

We stopped and walked along the main street.  They have a great playground for kids which is just outside the Banff Information Office and museum – a large granite stone which encourages children to climb and play on – the kids loved it.  I just felt it too touristy (sorry Banff), and was keen to continue our journey to Canmore which is only a further 20 minutes drive south.

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Canmore has the feel of a working Canadian town – almost the place where those working in Banff actually live and relax.  There’s an excellent brewery – the Grizzly Paw Company – which brews it’s own beers and sodas in a beautiful wooden brewery just outside the main town centre.  Definitely worth a visit – they offer ’tastings’ of both beers and sodas, but after my youngest ‘kid’ asked for her fourth ’sample’ of the grapefruit soda, we felt we were outstaying our welcome.  (As an aside, they do tours around the brewery on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday – had we managed to coordinate our schedule, we’d have loved to participate in this).  We had to be content with tasting some of the beer, buying a dozen bottles of both beers and sodas, and chalking this up as a ‘must visit again’ when we move over to Canada properly.

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The town of Canmore has real character and a buzz about it.  Each store is individual, distinctive and seems to epitomise Canadian living.  We stumbled across ’The Banff Bagel Company’ – a cafe which makes it’s own bagels and offers coffees in a variety of strengths and  flavours.  It’s homely and warm, and we ordered several bagel sandwiches which were ‘to die for’.  The pace is relaxed and unhurried, you really do feel as though you could stay in there all day.  As for the bagels themselves, if I ever want a bagel sandwich in the future, each and every one will be measured by the superb taste and texture of the one I devoured here.  We loved Canmore and felt it was a truer reflection of a town in the National Park, and one without significant numbers of tourists – although the irony that we are tourists too, isn’t lost on me!!!

Sad to leave, we progressed along the Trans-Canadian Highway to Calgary.  All in all, from Lake Louise to Calgary it takes approx 2 hours.  You exit the National Park and slowly the mountains get more distant, the land gradually flattens out as Calgary looms closer.

The city calls …

The path less travelled …

Lake Louise

When the scenery is so spectacular constantly, you start to get complacent about seeing ‘yet another stunning view’ of a turquoise coloured lake set amidst fabulous mountain views.  Yet, that’s what you’re up against when travelling south on the Icefields Parkway and down to Lake Louise.

Despite all the hype, Lake Louise was smaller than I anticipated.  It’s a small village and venturing further west, you finally reach the superb glacial lake named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta – the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria (bet you never knew that!).  On arrival at the Lake from the road, and at the eastern end of the shore is the imposing structure of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – one of Canada’s grand railway hotels and built by the Canadian Pacific Railway early in the 20th Century.

Fairmont Lake Louise

Clearly open to tourists, hikers, general public access, as well as hotel guests, it’s a small area attempting to accommodate huge numbers.  In fact, the sheer number of coaches delivering coach load after coach load of visitors just to survey the surroundings was immense to the point of population overload.  You can’t help but feel that Lake Louise has been too successful in gaining such a worldwide reputation that even in the heights of summer (goodness knows what the lure of winter skiing does to overall visitor numbers), but it does detract from the majesty of the place somewhat.

We took a walk along the shoreline from the hotel to just under the glacier, then started to climb up hill for a couple of kilometres.  The tourist numbers rapidly fell away (once the ability to hold a cappuccino in hand whilst taking a shot on a camera proved too challenging with an uphill climb), and only then did you start to get a feel for the real beauty of the place, the quietness, and the fantastic views that can only be achieved with a degree of effort and steadfastness.  Luckily all 3 ‘kids’ were adequately incentivised by the prospect of an ice cream and drink should they manage the ‘circular route’ – a route let me say, that for some bizarre reason was left with my husband reading the map.  Not a normal feature as his navigational abilities are renown – but for completely the  opposite reason!  I’m still not sure what happened, but the 4.2km ‘circular tour’ turned into an 8.7km ‘hike’ – he denies all knowledge and blames the map – however, we made it back to the lakeside where we started, somewhat shattered and with aching limbs and muscles, but all glad we’d made the climb and knowing we’d witnessed something of Lake Louise that the vast majority of transitory visitors fail to experience.

Lake Louise

In the winter, not only is there skiing, but the Canadian national cross-country skiing team train there.  The Lake freezes and there’s the opportunity to skate on the Lake which I bet is superb with the glacier above.

At dinner that evening, we sat next to an older couple from Texas who told us they were travelling from Houston up to Alaska and then a bit of a round trip back down to Texas which would take them a month to complete.  They’d never been to Alaska and that was reason enough to visit – but were stopping off at Lake Louise en route.  They’d stayed nearby 20 years before but had always hankered after staying at the Fairmont – so 20 years later, their wishes came true.  They spent their dinner sat next to us and luckily it didn’t put them off and they offered us a stay in Texas if we ever find ourselves in the vicinity!  That’s one thing to be said for everyone we’ve met whilst in Canada – they are the friendliest and most hospitable set of people I’ve ever come across anywhere else in the world.  They take time to converse, offer advice and will go out of their way to assist – it’s a lesson we could all learn a lot from.

Moving south of Lake Louise, you get the views of Banff National Park (still no moose, bears or wolves), and finally stumble into Banff itself.  The instalment continues …

Ice Station, No Zebra (or moose, or bear…..)

Up there on the tourist list of ‘must do’s’ is to drive along the Icefields Parkway – it starts just south of Jasper and takes you through Lake Louise and down to Banff.  At 120 miles long and built during the Depression, it’s an impressive drive in all manners of the word – both size and scale – and one thing to note, always ‘plan for the unplanned’.  You may think that the sat nav calculation of the time it’ll take you to travel from one vista to the next is broadly accurate, but you’ll need to at least double this as it won’t account for the numerous stops you’ll make in-between this just to ‘snap’ the view and take a few moments to savour the scenery and peace.

On route south from Jasper, you’ll come across the Athabasca Falls.  It’s where the Saskatchewan River is forced through a narrow gap in the rocks and the thunder and pace of the water is ferocious, frightening and mesmerising.  It’s only a few moments from the highway and well worth the detour ….

Athabasca Falls   Athabasca Falls

In fact, from the highway, you quickly get a view of the river once more as you pass the falls and you would never know such a falls exist.  Just goes to show, it doesn’t take much just off the highway to see the miracles of nature….

Continuing southwards, the most notable (and busiest attraction by far) is the Athabasca Glacier and the visitor centre that is built directly opposite it.  It’s the largest glacial expanse of snow south of the Arctic, and at the mountain peak, it’s suggested that the depth of the glacier is 100m deep.  Worryingly, the glacier is decreasing in size each year – they suggest it loses 15m each year as the amount of the decline in the glacier is faster than the corresponding annual snowfall.  There’s a marker of where the glacier was in 1843, and you can see how dramatic the decline has been since that date.  You can’t help but think that the vehicles and tourists now visiting it on a daily basis especially during the summer months, is exacerbating this somewhat.  That said, to take a trip on the snow mobiles onto the glacier itself, stand on it, see the height of the ice, the majesty of the glaciers and drink the freezing water, it’s a life experience in every sense of the word.

Athabasca Glacier      IMG_3698   Glacial Water

One of the newest features near the glacier is the Glacier Skywalk which only opened in May this year.  It’s beautifully constructed, and apart from being 200m above the ravine walking along a see-through glass corridor that for those without any vertigo issues get a real buzz from.  For those of us who have height ‘issues’, sheer terror, panic and a clinging to the rails around the edges seemed to be the common characteristic.  I completely appreciated the brilliance of the architecture and the feat of man being able to construct something so ‘out there’ – I just wished the natural movement of the structure as you walk across it wasn’t as pronounced.  That said, I made it to the other side completely intact albeit with a higher heart rate, but to say we’d done it and seen the views from it, was superb.  A must do.

Glacier Skywalk   Glacier Skywalk

The waters from the Icefield flow down the Snow Dome mountain and continue on until they reach 3 different oceans – the Pacific, the Arctic and the Atlantic.   Known as the hydrological apex of North America, Snow Dome Mountain is a triple-continental divide, and is part of the Great Divide – which divides water flow from east to west across North America.  There’s only 2 places in the world where this happens.

All in all, a great drive with a jewel to look forward to at the end – Lake Louise.

More to come …

The heady delights of Jasper

old-Jasper-Nationa-Park-sign

After Edmonton, we traveled to Jasper for a few days.  It’s a much longer journey than it looks on the map, and was our first sample of the size and scale of living in Canada.  In fact, the first 2 hours of the trip was dual carriageway, with very little traffic whatsoever and vertically straight highways.  It’s not often I’ve seen a sat nav saying turn left in 306km – and as you can see from the photo below, I’ve saved one of the more exciting shots to show you as we were just passing some ‘green space’!

Sat nav

The evergreen trees are broken up by golf courses – in fact, for any budding golfer and golfing fanatic, Canada is the place to come.  I’ve never seen so many golf courses and it made me wonder how on earth they are commercially viable given the sparse numbers of the population and the vast numbers of courses available to ‘make a putt’.

That said, I’m not missing the bumper to bumper traffic of the UK at all.  There are no tailbacks, no queues and even in the ‘busier’ areas, this is the equivalent of early Sunday morning traffic.  In fact, one driver in Jasper was complaining about the difficulties of pulling out onto the local highway, and I’ve got to say, he’s never experienced ‘real’ traffic and congestion if that was anything to go by.  I send all my sympathies to any Canadian brave enough to drive in the UK as it must be a huge culture shock and something that sends them dashing back to their homeland with relief afterwards.

The mountains and Rockies finally came into view and the vastness was extremely pronounced.  We entered Jasper National Park – all vehicles have to display a pass which is issued to them at the various entry points to the parks.  There are bear signs and ‘watch out for moose’ signs – none of which we’ve had the delights of witnessing as yet.

Miette Hot SpringsBig Horned Sheep

We stopped off at Miette Hot Springs which are natural springs where the water (full of minerals) comes straight out of the ground at a blistering temperature of 52 degrees.  This is then artificially cooled to 40 degrees and you can swim in the pool – or rather, bask in the pool as swimming is far too energetic in that kind of temperature.  There are 3 other pools, all with varying temperatures – one at 35 degrees, then another 24 degrees until the final one is more of a ice water pool which is absolutely freezing!  Good for the soul!!!  That said, you’re sitting in mineral pools on the top of a mountain overlooking the Jasper National Park amid stunning scenery and enjoying the delights of the minerals on your skin.  You can see why it’s popular!  A lovely stopping off point – just don’t forget your costume and towel!!!

Jasper

The lakes around Jasper are absolutely amazing – I’ve never seen water that is so vibrant turquoise.  They are clear and extremely inviting – especially on a warm summer’s day.  The picture above is taken from the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge on the shores of Lac Beauvert which is beautiful at anytime of the day.  Deer walk into the grounds in the evening and ground squirrels play in the woodland surrounding the shores of the lake.  Simply stunning.

Pyramid Lake

 

Pyramid Lake was particularly delightful and well worth a visit.  We had a paddle and dip in the lake and as you can see, there’s almost no one else in sight.  Hard to believe you’re in a prime tourist location – it was almost like having your own private lake!!

The Jasper Skytram is also worth a trip.  Just outside Jasper, you take a cable car to the top of Whistler Mountain and for those feeling energetic, you can walk a further 45 minutes to the summit.  It’s a walk well worth it as your efforts will be rewarded in abundance along the route from the views and panoramic vistas which surround you.  We made it to the top (with 3 kids in tow), on a day which had blue skies, not a cloud in the sky, and complete visibility of Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.  We were informed that this is only clearly seen on approx 24 days each year – one of the very rare occasions when we’ve got our timing completely right!

Mount RobsonUnukchukWhistler Mountain

Take a trip – you won’t be disappointed.

Our next stop takes us from Jasper to Lake Louise … see you in a few days 🙂

Edmonton – upon arrival …

 

Edmonton fountains

No one said an orientation visit would be a ‘holiday’ but we’ve been hard at it for the last 5 days.  Aside from our ‘research’ into the emergency Children’s Hospital (see last blog), we’ve covered a lot of miles both on foot and in vehicle.
The city of Edmonton is beautiful – downtown is compact and everything is within easy walking distance. Whilst we’ve been extremely lucky and have had blue skies and sun for the vast majority of the week – always over 22 degrees – there’s no doubt that the winter when it arrives is cold and long.  There are ‘pedways’ linking all the areas downtown such that you never need to go outside and can easily walk from one area to another – essential in bad weather.  The majority of car parking is underground and in various ‘parkades’ around the city.  However, the best feature is the people who are extremely friendly, welcoming and above all, positively glowing about life in Edmonton and it being the best place on earth to live.

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We’ve visited Old Strathcona, a beautiful part of the city where the Farmers Market which is held there every Saturday will be an absolute must.  Full of freshly grown produce, home made relishes and jams, honey, fresh bread, cheeses and hand turned wood carvings – the list is endless – the atmosphere is one of fun and welcome.  The main street ‘ Whyte Avenue’, is strewn with artisan shops and cafes.  There’s a heritage trail you can walk around and the high level streetcar which operates on the original Calgary to Edmonton ‘right of way’, passes many historic sites and is the highest streetcar bridge in Canada.

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There are fountains of water for paddling and splashing during the summer throughout the city, and these turn into ice skating rinks during the winter.  It truly is beautiful.
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By car (we hired a Grand Cherokee which is huge by UK standards), and navigated our way around all the main suburbs and regions of Edmonton.  We found areas where we’ll be targeting for houses to either rent or buy – we haven’t decided which yet – and all have immediate access to woodland, parkland and leisure facilities.  We stumbled across some water parks which, given the fantastic weather, had children screaming in delight at the water jets and mini fountains they could play on.  We don’t have anything like this in the UK – well, not that’s free – and these are dotted all across the city here.  We were staggered that there were no entry fees of any kind, and even on a busy day, they weren’t overcrowded.  Everything is highly maintained, attractive and fully functional.  It’s probably stuff that people in other countries don’t even consider, but it’s such a welcome feature after living in the UK all our lives that I can’t wait to embrace.  The kids can’t either!
BroccoliFood wise, there’s loads of supermarkets and the farmers markets which provide direct produce and all the required essentials.  We even spotted ‘English Mustard’, so the panic is over and we’ve identified where we can source this from without importing direct from the UK!  Like in America, there is an abundance of fast food, high sugar, high fat and massive quantities on offer.  It’s hard to find healthy food quickly and in small portions – all the more difficult when we’re staying in hotels too.  That said, we’ve had some exceptional meals.  The beef is superb – both in taste and texture.  We’ve had bison burgers – lean and mean.  A chinese meal that was completely different to that offered in the UK – but the best I’ve ever eaten.  The flavour and range on offer for the main dishes was staggering and all the ‘kids’ declared this the best meal of the trip so far.  The restaurant was in an unassuming building a few blocks away from where we’re staying, and not somewhere you would naturally think of venturing into.  However, once through the door, it is a cavernous building decked in all manner of chinese adornment, and to add more spice, it turns out that the chinese ‘hosts’ have their own reality programme on Canadian TV which has won various awards – no wonder it was busy!  Worth the experience certainly!

So, a superb 5 days and we all feel ready to embrace the Canadian life in Edmonton.  Off to Jasper and the mountains tomorrow so we’re looking forward to seeing some hills, some snow and wild animals.

Better get the jumpers ready …

Day 1 orientation : a slight change to the agreed schedule …

Yes, we did have a plan for our first day orientation in Edmonton.  Honest.  Let’s just say events took a slightly different turn just after we awoke and we had to hastily reschedule our original plans.  But looking on the positive side, it was a useful experience going through emergency A&E at the Children’s Hospital in Edmonton.

Dudley B. Menzies Bridge (LRT and pedestrian b...

Dudley B. Menzies Bridge (LRT and pedestrian bridge) over North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not only did we get to try out the ‘LRT” – local rail transit from the city centre out to the hospital (it’s a direct link you’ll be relieved to hear), and the whole process of buying tickets, working out which direction to travel and navigating our way to the right transit stop was remarkably simple.  Not only that, I couldn’t get over not having to stand in a train carriage sniffing someone’s else’s armpit and hoping there was enough oxygen to last until the train opened it’s doors at the next stop.  London Underground it is not.  Thank goodness.  In fact, it was almost akin to travelling late-morning on a rural train in the UK.  Wonderfully free of vast numbers of passengers, searing heat and stress. A pleasurably experience and one I now have complete confidence to do alone in the future.

Anyway, I digress….

The Children’s Hospital is directly opposite one of the train stops on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River.  A beautiful modern building, extremely welcoming and with excellent signage.  Getting ourselves and the ‘kids’ to the admissions area was a doddle and upon arrival, we were welcomed by a triage nurse who had both the ‘kids’ requiring medical assistance on the weighing scales, blood pressure checked and immediately assessed.  Not only that, they both received wristbands (complete with a tinker bell fairy – much to their delight) and quickly ran off to play on the touchscreen games and entertainment systems that were in the waiting room for their amusement.  With only 1 other family also awaiting assistance, it is a million miles away from my own experience of the NHS in England every time I’ve ever visited.  This was a case study example of how emergency admissions should operate (for those who are seasoned readers of my blog, you’ll detect a slight trend towards emergency services of late – click here for past blog!).   I do assure you we are not particularly accident prone, but I accept there has been a tendency to navigate towards this characteristic, especially where my ‘middle kid’ is concerned.   She didn’t let me down on this occasion either as being one of the 2 directly concerned.

911In the UK, we’ve had to wait at least 1 hour before meeting a medical professional – and that’s when there hasn’t been a myriad of similar patients awaiting for similar assessments in crowded and underfunded services.  The NHS is a brilliant service in the UK.  But overworked staff, underfunded services and a drive to keep costs as low as possible, often compromise the quality and efficiency of how people are treated.

Back to Edmonton.   The fact that not only we were ‘out of area’ but ‘out of country’, this didn’t upset the system at all and within only 5 minutes of waiting, we were called to admissions to go through to a medical room to await the doctor.  Much to the disappointment of all the ‘kids’ who were clearly about the relish the prospect of whiling away some time on the excellent touch screens and entertainment on offer.  This wasn’t to be – and all I can hope is that this isn’t kept as a dormant desire (particularly in kid number 2), who’ll have us visiting there as soon as we arrive back to live!

A doctor arrived with due haste announcing there was a ‘2 for 1’ package deal on diagnoses today and it seemed on paper that we were vying for this offer.  After a further physical assessment of both kids, a diagnosis was pronounced.  An additional senior medical professional arrived to also confirm the findings and prescriptions were presented.  We were informed that they’d only seen 2 or 3 similar cases of this in the last 3 years so it was a rare occurrence and something that needed antibiotics for treatment and would only get worse if left.  Both clinicians had learnt a lot from seeing it in practice and thanked us for coming in.  Ice lollies were then issued (obligatory I believe), and smiles all round as we went on our way and medications were dispatched and applied.

So, Day 1 Orientation.  We not only got to see where the emergency children’s hospital was, but witnessed first hand how it works, what to do, where to go, who to see.  Our experience was positive, efficient and effective – and above all, friendly and professional.  You can’t ask for more.

Would we go again?  In the nicest sense of the word, let’s hope circumstances don’t require it.  However, I wouldn’t be phased by going through the same thing again should we need to.

Lets hope ‘kid number 2’ hasn’t got alternative ideas ….

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 …. 🙂

Relocation, relocation, relocation

Maple leaf

Flights booked.  Check.
Hotels reserved.  Check.

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

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

Plane

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

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

Canada flag

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

Well I guess the time has come.

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

See you in Canada 🙂

Momentum is building …

Organising

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

 

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

Plan construction

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Official logo of St. Albert

Official logo of St. Albert

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

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

St Albert Clocktower Downtown. Originally post...

St Albert Clocktower Downtown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

 

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

St Albert Playground

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

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

I’m sure there’s a little space …

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.

Exhilarating … in every way

Goat

You’ll be impressed to learn that the next grandparent to air their thoughts is my 84 years young, father-in-law. Extremely spritely, with a positive attitude and an exuberance for enjoying life – you’d be hard pressed to find anyone matching his stamina and wit. In fact, he’s my role model that if I ever reach the ripe age of 80 plus, that’s exactly how I’d want to be embracing life.

 

So, with the prospect of his immediate family and grand ‘kids’  relocating to Canada, here we go with his responses to the questions posed:

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

He says it’s best to describe having a kaleidoscope of thoughts. His first and immediate reaction was to consider the impact our move would have on both grandparents, before moving on to think of the many practical matters which we would have to deal with.

 

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

That Canada being the country we are moving to was reassuring. He believes it should be much easier to integrate and, given that we would be based there for some time, provide us with the opportunity to get “under the skin” of the culture and explore the country’s attractions. (He’s given me an idea to develop a ‘bucket list’ of things we should try and do whilst we’re in Canada – subject matter for a later blog …… keep following!!!)

 

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

Given the right circumstances and his wife’s agreement, he would have relocated for a period of time. (Mind you, you’re reading about someone who was an evacuee during WW2 and then did national service………)

 

4. What does he think he’ll miss most about us not living in England?

He will miss seeing the grand ‘kids’ most. They are growing so quickly and his ability to see them will be less often even than now.

 

5. What does he think we’ll miss the most?

He’s already learnt what the grandchildren would miss, and because we are bound together as such a strong family unit he wonders if it might just be our home.

 

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

Shortly after arrival, he should like us to find 1)  friendly, helpful acceptance; 2)  comfortable accommodation; 3)  successful accomplishment of the task that gave reason for our move in the first place.

 

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

Much closer proximity.

 

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

His final thoughts recommend me to study the Canadian Highway Code. As far as he is aware, the police force is composed in the main of men who are conspicuous in their red jackets and scout hats and are mounted on horses – I should not have to be too alert to spot one. (I suspect an element of sarcasm is being applied to this last statement).  Interestingly, he believes women have refused to be mounted, but if I do happen to exceed the speed limit, anything above thirty-five mph and the horses will be lost. (Is he intimating there is a perceived non-adherence to statutory speed limits being applied by my good self I wonder? 🙂 )

 

Being on a roll and taking every opportunity to ad lib from the set agenda, he also added that based on the answers given by his two youngest grandchildren (see earlier blogs 4yrs, 7yrs), he gathers that they would not be surprised to find wolves or bears roaming downtown Edmonton.  I’m to keep it from them that there is the occasional moose on the loose and when venturing into the wilder parts of the country, to stay in the 4×4 and we will not come to much harm.  On a positive, he says the good news is that we are safe from the last of the mohicans.

Moose

Mmmmmmm ……..

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.