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  …. 🙂

It’s cold Jim, but not as we know it

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Whenever I mentioned to anyone that we were relocating to Edmonton, Canada, the first comment invariably made was along the lines of, ‘you do realise they have snow there for 6 months of the year?’  This was then often followed by ‘and it’s extremely cold – minus 40 in the Winter’.

Both points are absolutely true, and yes, the snow has indeed arrived along with the sub-zero temperatures.  In the last 2 weeks, we’ve gone from being in the positive mid to late teens, through to minus mid to late teens – and a windchill that has seen it -24 on a few occasions.  That said, it’s hard to describe what this is like unless you experience it – it’s like nothing I’ve known before.  It’s wonderful, yet cold – although I’m conscious that it’s still a novelty at this point!

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The skies are often blue – pure blue, with not a single cloud in them, and the sun shining.  On the occasional day, there’s cloud cover – usually when it’s due to snow, but more often than not (so far at least), it’s been clear blue skies.  The temperatures are so low that there isn’t any rain anymore, just snow.  And now the temperatures have dropped and the first snow has fallen, it stays where it is and gradually compacts down on the surfaces as ice on the pavements and roads.  I’m used to seeing snow turn quickly into a mucky brown slush in the UK, but this never happens either here.  It stays crystal white – even after footprints and boots have trodden in it.

The air is so dry and cold, that you get ice particles in the air which shimmer and glisten in the light – it’s truly beautiful.  The trees stay covered in snow and ice crystals – and are mesmerising to look at and reminiscent of all the picture postcard scenes seen on Christmas cards in the Winter.

And talking of Winter – this hasn’t arrived yet.  It’s Autumn here – and Winter is still to come.  Everyone talks about February being the coldest month – and with the temperatures already plummeting, we’ve procured all manner of clothing and apparel that keeps us snug whilst outside.  Lots of layers is key, and anything left exposed feels the cold pretty quickly.

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Driving has also taken some getting used to.  Luckily, our new Jeep arrived the day before the snow so it’s been both fortuitous, but also a steep learning curve for someone (me!) who’s not been used to driving much in the snow and ice.  I’ve progressed though.  On Day 1 – I accept – I was as slow as a snail.  Driving with trepidation in the snow and on the ice, much to the disgruntlement of the locals who were extremely polite and patient – no honking of horns or gesticulating gestures which I would expect to find back in England.  It’s been a baptism of fire as I’ve had to drive and navigate myself around in order to deposit kids off to various locations and obtain food and necessaries for the house.  My confidence has grown and now – 2 weeks on – I’m driving on the sheet ice (which has become the new tarmac) with greater confidence and assurance.  There have been no minor mishaps, traffic accidents or vehicle breakdowns – key KPI’s from my perspective and a success story, I’m sure you’ll agree!

It’s also interesting to see that life continues and nothing stops for the sake of sub-zero temperatures or a foot of snow.  Nothing can afford to – not when it lasts for 6 months of the year.  Traffic flows easily, there maybe the occasional bump on the roads (usually as the extra stopping distances required haven’t been factored in), but no great inconvenience.  Gritters grit the roads and life continues as before.

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Even the school has a policy that above -20, the kids will continue to play out at ‘recess’.  Below this (including windchill), the kids stay indoors.  But they need to be hardy, and make sure they always wear hats, gloves, thick coats, and waterproof boots.  It’s one of those learning points in life that you’ll only ever forget one of these items once – and you never do it again, as it’s so cold.

Walking to school in a morning, the school has a traffic light system displayed on the doors depending on the weather and temperature.  Below -20, it’s a ‘red’ system and the kids can access the school and wait in the gym until school officially opens.  Above -20, it’s a ‘green’ system, and they have to wait outside until the school doors are open.

You quickly acclimatise to the temperature though.  It’s warm today.  At only -8, I’ve put a thinner coat on and haven’t needed a hat.  Like life – everything’s relative.

Winter when it hits will be interesting …

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

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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 🙂

Education, education, education …

SchoolThe kids have now completed their first full week at school and started their second week earlier this morning by bounding through the doors with excitement.  They’ve had a culture shock of a week – but in a really nice way, and a way which has seen them all unanimous in their views that they ‘really like it over here’.  Bit of a relief if I’m honest – I had no back up plan should they have pronounced they wanted to return to the UK and resume their education in their local primary school at home!

All 3 kids are at the same school.  It was built in 2010 and caters for Kindergarten (Reception class in the UK) through to Grade 9 (Year 9 equivalent).  It’s a larger school as a result – nearly 800 students, and there are lots of classes for the same year groups.  The nice thing is that they stay with their same class for most of the time so getting to know other kids is easier than being dumped in a class that changes constantly with the curriculum.  For the UK, this is a school which is like having Primary plus half a Secondary School included (or Middle School for those who live in areas where these exist).  I’ve got to say, I wondered about the larger school being too overwhelming, but it’s proved not to be the case and also, has the added benefit that my oldest kid gets to stay with her sisters for the next 3 years without having to change school again which was an important feature.

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It’s all non-uniform with very little rules about what you can and cannot wear.  Grades 1 – 3 have a milk option (I remember these from my days at Primary school although they were taken away quite a long time ago) – and not just an option of ‘plain’ milk, oh no – ‘chocolate’ milk no less is also offered.  I’m putting money that my middle kid just goes for the latter option every day ….

The timings are extremely exact – and a longer day than in the UK too.  This comes to fruition in Summer where they finish for the summer holidays a month ahead of their friends in the UK.  As someone said to me last week, ‘there’s not much point having holidays when the snow is thick on the ground for 6 months of the year – we may as well spend the time indoors educating the kids’.  Fair point.

They start at 8.20am (in the UK it was 8.55am), and finish at 3.01pm (in the UK it was 3.05pm).  Lunch/recess is between 11.17am – 12.09pm and they have the option of staying at school under supervised care (which you pay extra for), or taking the opportunity to walk home and have lunch there.  All mine are staying for the time being – mostly so they can make friends and play on the extremely good playground which has slides, swings, climbing frames, and numerous other items which the kids absolutely love.  These fabulous playgrounds feature in all the schools over here – and all look new and are well maintained, painted in bright colours.  There are no security fences – the community gets to also use the facilities when the school kids aren’t on them, and parents are welcomed with open arms into the school and the classrooms.

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It caught me by surprise at how open the school is.  Don’t get me wrong, there are security policies in place so it is ‘safe’ for the kids, but it’s a completely different level of trust and openness that takes me back to when I was at school.  It’s much more conducive to education and supporting the kids too and you forget how wrapped in regulation and security the UK has become that only by moving and experiencing somewhere completely different, do you realise how constraining it is.

All the teachers welcome direct email communication, visits to classrooms, and spend time putting daily updates on the school intranet site – to which all students and parents have direct access to.  Homework and all school news is also put on there – there’s very little physical paper.  Monthly progress updates on every student are posted by their year teachers and sent to their parents to assess progress.  It’s heavily technology driven – all the Grade 6 students and above are expected to have laptops which they bring to school and work on.  Mobile phones and iPads are allowed with the teachers permission and there is certainly a degree of freedom for the students which is refreshing and you can see they thrive on it.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a loud voice or shout in any of the corridors – everyone just gets on with doing what they do and the way they’re expected to do it.  It’s lovely.

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My oldest kid had a band concert on day 3 of her arrival – she learnt 6 of the pieces that were being played by her year group and joined in on the trumpet.  She has been learning the cornet in the UK, but it’s not a common instrument in Canada so the trumpet is going to take over.  She also did a written test on her first day and passed with flying colours – one advantage of moving from the UK with a curriculum that sees kids start school at 4 so puts them slightly ahead of their Canadian counterparts.

My youngest has just turned 5 and as such, has started Kindergarten – but they only do half days, not the full days which she’s been used to.  It’s not a hardship – she’s already enjoying the half day she gets to spend just by herself with me and we’ve been exploring the various activities and things to do during that time together.

Everyone is extremely friendly – all say ‘hello’ and have welcomed us into the school with open arms.  It’s a true joy walking in there every day.  One thing I’ve noticed, is that the assistant principal is always outside on the school crossing patrol every morning and every afternoon – says ‘hello’ to every student and parent and knows all by name.  It certainly makes for a wonderful atmosphere and if this is symbolic of their next 3 years at school in Canada – the kids are loving it and can’t wait.

And that’s all that matters 🙂

 

Leaving, on a jet plane …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the final countdown …

Maple leaf

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

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

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

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 …

🙂

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 🙂

Age? It’s all in the mind …

Heritage.  Whenever I hear the word, I have a preconception about what it includes and immediately assume it can’t possibly interest me as I’m too young and focused on looking forward into the future – not back at times once passed.  However, I accept it’s purely a mindset and sometimes it can offer the stability and grounding that enables us to move forward and build on what we have today.

It was with this in mind that I gingerly entertained the prospect of visiting the Calgary Heritage Park with the kids.  We’d received several prompts and recommendations to visit it – one from an extremely earnest chap fronting the Visitor Information Centre at the bottom of the Calgary Tower.  He was so articulate about the features the Park contained – fabulous bakery, original steam train, Victorian fairground rides, that we were swayed by his enthusiasm and decided to pay it a visit.  And were glad we did.

Calgary Heritage Park      Calgary Heritage Park

It’s Canada‘s largest living history museum and covers Canadian history from 1860 through to the 1950’s, based just south-west of Calgary.  Established in 1964, it’s currently celebrating it’s 50th year and whilst there’s an admission fee, all the fairground rides, train trips and journey on the steamer around the reservoir are completely free.  Not only have they re-created a small village as it originally might have been, they’ve transported many of the historical buildings to the park and placed them on display.  And not as ‘display cabinets’ with ‘do not touch’ signs dotted all around them as you may find in other countries.  No, you’re invited to participate in the houses, they are fully functional with staff playing ‘acting’ roles as residents of the village and acting these out with aplomb.  You genuinely do think you’ve been transported back in time.

Bakery

The bakery was truly fabulous.  Staffed with bakers busily hand-making the produce to sell, we decided to choose a variety of baked goods – the cinnamon rolls were the best we’ve ever had, and the Canadian butter tarts (a speciality of Canada), were absolutely wonderful (to the extent that I’ve had to seek out a recipe online to try and replicate the tarts once we get home!).

At various intervals during the day, the ‘villagers’ act out a ruse and there’s an ongoing saga which continues for a few hours across different parts of the village.  It’s good acting, as authentic as it can get, and the kids loved watching the antics.  There’s an original newspaper press, with two chaps demonstrating and printing an edition of the ‘village’ paper.  Having to explain to ‘kids’ how newspapers were produced compared to today’s modern equivalent is an insight in itself – how quickly technology has moved the newspaper industry forward.  And yet, it’s great to see one in full working condition.

School

We moved onto the school which was complete in all furnishings and decorations.  Blackboards with chalk – again, try explaining to the kids of today who are used to smart boards and IT graphics, how things used to be.  Being British, I was amazed to see the Union Jack up in the classroom and pictures of Queen Anne – I hadn’t quite appreciated the extent to which Canada was a British Colony before it became independent.  It was just like visiting a Victorian classroom in England.

Ice Cream

The kids had heard that there was the opportunity to make home made ice cream, so we made our way to the cottage where this was happening.  I’m ashamed to say I’ve never made ice cream from scratch and watched as the kids all participated in putting the custard and cream in a central compartment, then filling this around the edges with ice and rock salt.  It’s amazingly simple.  They all took turns to churn the ice cream over the next 30 minutes, with their hard work being rewarded with being able to eat what they’d made once it was ready.  Collectively deciding it was ‘the best ice cream they had ever eaten’ and after returning for several repeat scoops until it was finished, is something which has stayed in their memories ever since.

Steam train

We took a trip on the steam train which transports you around the 127 acres, and with 3 stations, provides the opportunity to move quickly from one side of the park to another and see all the various exhibits.  There was an old colonial house with a lady busily making a fruit pie inside with whom you could watch and talk, plus the village store which offers candy sticks and sweets for 50 cents.  There was a saloon offering ales and beers, and we stumbled across a surveyors house with maps and equipment which they used to create the original maps and methods of navigating across the land.  The ‘surveyor’ proudly announced that we were stood in the oldest building in the Heritage Park dating from 1870.  I couldn’t help but smile, as it’s only on occasions like this that you realise how recent that actually is.  In England, we’re so used to history dating back to well before the Roman times, that for something as recent as 1870, it’s classed as modern by our standards – my house in the UK is older than this!  That said, the feats which have been achieved since this time in developing the country are impressive and seeing this in a Heritage Park is a superb way to provide a focus on a country’s history and subsequent development.

Fairground We saved the Victorian fairground till later in the day – as motivation for the kids as we made our way through the many interesting buildings and things to see.  There’s a ferris wheel which provided much amusement, and an old ride very similar to the original ‘waltzer’ running on metal wheels, plus a swing carousal which we all enjoyed.  The best ride of all was a Victorian caterpillar ride which part way through, had a mechanical cover which covers the entire ride – rather like a caterpillar to those watching – but for those in it, means you are cascaded into darkness still moving up and down.  The whole family loved it and with smiles all round, everyone declared it’s as good as the rides of today.  You can forget all the latest gizmos and gadgets – this simplistic form of entertainment had us laughing out loud and having a great time.

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For any motoring buffs out there, there’s ‘gasoline alley’ which is an extensive collection of vintage automobiles in pristine condition – some of which you can sit in and experience ‘hands on’.  There are old oil and gas pumps – you forget how colourful and attractive these were; and along with all the vintage signs and banners, it’s an uplifting and interesting place to see.

So, what did we think about the Heritage Park?  If you’re ever in the vicinity, do check it out.  It certainly made me forget the connotations the word ‘heritage’ usually conjures in my mind.  Heritage is as simple as enjoying the journey from where something has come from, to where it is today – and providing the basis for where we go tomorrow.

Let’s relish it.

Calgary ….. it was a stampede

Calgary Tower

The skyline of Calgary has all the hallmarks of an American city looming into view.  As you come in from the West, you pass the Calgary Olympic Park which was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics.  It’s a huge site, with the iconic sky jump (where Eddie the Eagle made his name), bobsleigh runs, skeleton, smaller jumps and the luge.  It’s a lasting legacy from the Olympics, aimed at every age and ability, but also a source of inspiration and challenge for those wishing to participate at future Olympic Games.

In the distance, you can just make out the Calgary Tower – which held the burning flame at the top and could be seen across the city and beyond – during the 1988 Winter Olympics.  Through the centre of Calgary runs the Canadian Pacific Railway, along with the Bow River which almost divides the City in half.

First on our list was a trip up the Calgary Tower.  At 1228m above sea level, it’s the highest 360 degree observation deck in the world, with a lift taking you to the top in 62 seconds.  Along with the latest technology gadget acting as your information guide in hand and through headphones, you can watch the screen as it maps your progress quickly up the tower.

Calgary    Calgary

At the top, it truly is impressive.  The Tower offers 360 degree views across the city and beyond, and you’re left to your own devices to listen to the guide, use the touchscreen pad, and just take in the sights.  For the brave ones, there’s a clear walkway where you can look straight down the side of the tower and down on to the streets below.  Pretty daunting, but an adrenaline hit all the same.

Calgary TowerFrom the Tower, we walked northwards to the Bow River.  As in Edmonton, the winters are cold and all the buildings and blocks are cleverly connected by ‘pedways’ on the second floor, which enable you to navigate your way across the city without ever venturing outside.  Brilliant!

Older historical buildings from the late 19th Century upto the mid-1930’s are set alongside the modern skyscrapers of today.  In fact, when the original buildings were being constructed, there was a mandate to ensure all the stone used was from the local areas, so therefore, you’re left with buildings in a beautiful yellow sandstone colour nestled in amongst the modern skyscrapers of today.  It gives a wonderful contrast and historical feel to Downtown Calgary.

It’s more of a commercial and business centre than Edmonton, and you do feel a difference in the air between the two.  However, typical of Canadian cities, there’s always parks and play areas for children and adults alike.  The Prince’s Island Park – not named after a royal as you may think, but Peter Anthony Prince, who came to Calgary from Quebec  in 1886.  It’s a superb oasis, also providing host to many of Calgary’s large events, and is an excellent park and area of calm amidst Calgary Downtown.

Prince's Island Park, CalgaryIt would be remiss of me not to mention the shopping opportunities – research obviously I forced myself to undertake purely for the purposes of writing this blog.  Let’s just say, for all female readers out there (and a select portion of men who enjoy the recreational elements of this too), you will not be disappointed.  In fact, not only have they developed large seating areas (‘men waiting rooms’ for all intents and purposes I thought), they provide entertainment for the kids brought along too.  Offering something for everyone and keeping people distracted, whilst those who enjoy the retail experience savour the delights of shop upon shop enticing you in – and doing an excellent job of separating you from your wallet!  We stumbled upon this excellent playground on one of the higher floors of the shopping area which my kids thought totally fantastic – it was excellently maintained, popular with young visitors, and enabled the kids to let off steam and enjoy the ‘shopping’ experience!  The Canadian approach to shopping and facilities for children especially, is something the UK could learn a lot from.  I struggled to get them off it after 30 mins …

Calgary shopping mall play areaOne of Calgary’s most famous annual events is the ‘stampede’ which we had just missed – it’s held in July every year.  Clearly popular, there is still all the signage and banners on display, and the number of ‘cowboy’ or ‘western outfitters’ which provide the full ‘gear’ was interesting to see.  Just the smell of the leather as you pass the outlets was inviting in itself – and the range of clothes, boots, hats and accessories was staggering.  For someone who knows nothing about this whole area (not much call for it in north-west England), it was a brief glance into another world.

Whilst we were there, Calgary – along with Vancouver and Toronto – has been voted as one of the best places to live in the world by The Economist.  In fact, it comes in at number 5.  It is delightful, and even as a tourist, it’s a lovely city to visit and enjoy.  Whilst extremely glad we came, I personally prefer Edmonton, and am now looking to forward to returning back ‘up north’.  Maybe it’s my inherent northern traits coming out …

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 …..

Now … it’s my turn!

GoatThings are starting to progress and my husband is now over in Canada as the work is finally starting to take some momentum. It puts a whole new meaning to ‘commuting to work’ as he’s flying back to England this weekend to return back to Canada within the space of 48 hours (my usual gripes and groans about the bumper to bumper traffic on the Runcorn bridge pale into insignificance by comparison).  Still, it’s only for 2 weeks as the rest of us will join him early August for our orientation visit and hopefully during this time, we’ll be able to source somewhere to reside and start making all the final arrangements for the physical move.

 

Given our imminent departure and transfer across the globe, I’ve probably waited long enough before responding to the questions I’ve asked the ‘kids’ and it’s time to capture my own responses and thoughts.

 

So, without further ado…. in moving to Canada, the most important things to me are:

  • Getting the family settled
  • Feeling a sense of belonging and welcome
  • Exploring new places

 

1.  What excites me about the move?

  • I love change
  • I love the new and unknown
  • Unpredictability

I think this move ticks all the boxes!

 

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

  • I love beautiful scenery, epic mountains and vast lakes. I’d much rather explore a place and area than sit on a beach for 2 weeks. In fact, I don’t sit still.   Ever.   So the prospect of relaxing by just ‘relaxing’, makes me uncomfortable and I have to conjure up reasons for ‘doing stuff’. I’m expecting everything I’ve seen in all the books and in photos – my expectations are high – don’t let me down Canada!
  • For those who know me well, foreign languages have never come easy to me – even a work assignment in Wales had me mispronouncing place names that I’ve never lived down – and Wales is right next door! So, it is with great relief that English is the language of choice and I’m in with a chance of being understood – and understanding others too! I think everyone on both sides of the Atlantic can breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Lifestyle and pace. I’m quietly hoping that the whole way of life and pace of living is much less than it is in England. I’m constantly dashing from one thing to another – I’ve often thought of hiring a ‘tardis’ with multiple versions of me demonstrating with ease the art of being in 4 places at any one time. I’m not going to miss the hectic and frantic way of living in England – but I’ll let you know if it’s any easier in another continent!

inuit

 

3.  What am I hoping it will be like?

  • That it is the best thing we’ve ever changed in our life. Say no more.

 

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

  • Green
  • Wet – constantly
  • Busy and crowded – I’m expecting to notice this the most
  • Quality TV and radio. I hate adverts and do love the BBC and all it stands for. It’s a lot for the Canadians to live up to – but I live in hope 🙂

 

5.  What am I most worried about?

Coming home before we’ve seen the things we want to see, before we’ve really got settled, and before we’re ready. I’d love to exhaust everything so I’m not coming home to England and wishing I was still in Canada.

 

6.  If I can only take 5 things with me, what would they be?

  • My family (obviously)
  • My Mum & Dad (so they can experience something new together with us)
  • My cat (she’s 19 and will probably outlive me at this rate)
  • My friends 🙂
  • Earl Grey tea leaves – a strange item you may think, but I’m from the North of England where a cup of tea solves every problem known to human kind (that’s a fact) and generally replenishes the very soul

 

7.  If I had to describe in 1 word what I feel about the move …

inspired

It’s probably noticeable that I haven’t mentioned anything about the kids or schools or sports. For me, this goes without saying and getting that all sorted will be the first thing I start to organize and will ‘just happen’. They’re givens rather than things I’m really looking forward to or concerned about. Equally, they’re all within my gift to sort out and make happen – the only one who can influence this significantly is me, and it’s at the top of my agenda.

 

Better get started …

A swimmer’s dream

 

Swimmng

As I write this, I’m sat watching my 10 year old ‘kid’ do her usual 2 hour swimming training.  She trains for 2hrs a day, 6 days a week.  The only difference today, is that once a week, she travels 30 miles each way to the Manchester Aquatics Centre – which was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.  It’s a wonderful facility and a chance for her to train in a 50m pool rather than the usual 25m, ‘short course’.  It builds stamina and tests endurance over a longer distance.  The session sees them swimming in excess of 120 lengths – I’m tired just watching.

It’s a strange environment as the ‘training pool’ is directly underneath the main aquatics pool – almost buried in a ‘crypt’.  There are no windows and with only 4 lanes wide, it certainly concentrates the mind.

English: Manchester Aquatics Centre

Manchester Aquatics Centre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Symbolically, as you make your way down the stairs to pool, the walls are covered with photographs of British Olympic swimmers and the medals they’ve won – it’s a fantastic way to visually motivate each and every individual swimmer.  Once you arrive in the ‘crypt’, there’s a digital board with a second by second countdown clock providing a visual display of the number of  ‘days to Rio 2016’.  Now that’s inspirational!

Canada has a worldwide reputation for sports, having hosted the Winter Olympics on 2 occasions and the Summer Olympics once. Canadian swimmers are up there on the world stage as some of the very best.  This year alone, they are 9th in the world rankings out of 45.   It boasts a superb level of investment in facilities as well as the sheer range of sporting opportunities for Canadians to participate.  In a recent study about the level of children’s activity in sports, 84% of Canadian kids aged 3 – 17yrs participate in some type of sports with 60% doing it on an organised basis.  Given the clear health benefits of undertaking physical activity and adopting healthier lifestyles, this is clearly reassuring.

One of the ‘conditions’ my oldest ‘kid’ requires as part of our relocation to Canada, is for a ‘very good swimming team’ which she can join and continue to train with as part of her desire to be a leading competitive swimmer.  She’s most concerned that in her time away from the UK, if she doesn’t enter competitive swimming galas, she won’t receive ‘official’ times for any of her strokes across a variety of distances – these provide a direct and immediate comparison of how well she’s progressing, and how well she compares with others.  Without a doubt, she’ll be keen to join the Edmonton swimming club and become an active member as soon as possible after our arrival.

 

World Waterpark, West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton,...

World Waterpark, West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, serious swimming aside, those who have read our ‘Canadian Bucket List’ will have spotted item number 32 which is ’to visit the largest swimming pool in the world’.  I stand corrected – it’s actually the second largest (after Germany) and is based in Edmonton, Canada.  It opened in 1986 and is the second largest waterpark in the world.  In terms of key stats, it hosts a maximum of 40,000 guests, has an average temperature of 28 Celsius, and has the world’s largest indoor wave pool with a capacity of 12.3 million litres.  That’s huge.  It covers 5 acres, is one single pool, and harbours 23 water slides – offering different levels of adrenaline ‘hits’  and there’s a least one to suit every age and swimming capability.  As a form of entertainment and enjoyment, it’s a ‘must do’ and just goes to show what Canada can offer is on epic proportions.

Looking up from my laptop, the training session is nearing completion and whilst there’s an element of tiredness kicking in, as the kids make their way out of the pool, they are chatting away, clearly invigorated by the exercise and smiles all round.

I’m smiling too 🙂

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!

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

Mother cat

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

To have a good experience of a different lifestyle

 

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

No – she’s always liked being in England

 

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

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

 

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

Not having help close at hand

 

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

  • Enjoy
  • Explore
  • Learn

 

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

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

 

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

Apprehensive

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

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

Better ask the husband

Grizzly

I’ve had some great feedback about my earlier blogs (thanks all 🙂 ) when I asked each of my 3 ‘kids’ to answer set questions about our move to Canada. All were independent and the views and comments each made were interesting given their respective ages, and offered a degree of insight into the minds of children and what they value (click here if you missed them– 4yr, 7yr, 10yr).

So, in a similar vein (and with the same rules applying), I’m conscious that I’ve made observations and drafted commentary on how I feel about it, but we haven’t conducted the same rigorous analysis!  Therefore, the next series of blogs will be capturing the views of myself (the goat) and my husband – I haven’t come up with another term to describe him!. Of course, my husband is the reason why we’re all relocating, so without further ado, his thoughts about it are presented below and captured as spoken………..

 

In moving to Canada, the most important things to him are:

  • Is it a good work opportunity and one he’ll be up to the task on (he never has similar thoughts about assisting in the home – one to chalk up for use at a later date, I’m thinking…..)

1.  What excites him about the move?

  • Doing something he’s never done before
  • Relocation is something he’s always wanted to do
  • Getting experience of living in another country which is more than just having a 2 week holiday
  • It’s an english speaking country that he’s met really nice people from. It aligns with his ethos of outdoor activities, being a big country, offering opportunities for adventure sports – that’s what excites him

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

  • The outdoor way of life & opportunities to ski, cycle, climb, explore
  • Spotting the differences between Canadians & Americans
  • Knowing more about the cultural origins and understanding the ties with the UK
  • Witnessing the cultural diversity within the country: English and French speaking sides of the country

3.  What is he hoping it will be like?

  • That it is an exciting, adventure for us all
  • Provides a big life experience for everyone to look back on and say we are glad we did that
  • That we all get a lot out of it
  • Hoping it’ll make the ‘kids’ more able to deal with big changes in life in the future, and is something they can look back on and compare later in life

4.  When we return to England, what does he think it will be like?

  • He expects it be exactly the same as it is now. If we’re away for less than 2 years, he doesn’t think the difference will be noticeable and expects to slip back in to UK life as though the move had never happened. He does reflect that he may not like being in England upon return and realises that having experienced another way of life which may be better and more preferable my trigger further choices.

5.  What is he most worried about?

The job in Canada and living up to the expectations set with the company over there – everything else is easy by comparison. Being obviously worried that the girls are happy in where they’ve been placed as a result of the move as he’d want them to see this as a positive and enjoy the experience

Never one to miss an opportunity for adding further commentary than that requested, he also went on to add that he doesn’t have any worries about moving to Canada. Ironically, he’d have more concerns if we were moving to somewhere in the UK, eg. London, for the reason that all the admin and hassle required wouldn’t outweigh the act of moving and the benefits. The fact that the move is to Canada almost makes the admin and hassle more exciting as he believes it’ll be worthwhile and something much better will come out of it as a result.

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

Marmite jars

Marmite jars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Family (Goat & Kids – glad to see this appears top considering the other items on the list!))
  • Marmite (just in case it’s not available over in Canada & he has to get Red Cross supplies sent out)
  • Same as above for Earl Grey tea leaves (mind you, this is one of my pre-requisites too)
  • He can get everything else over there (or more to the point – I can!)

He’s more worried about what we’re leaving behind, eg. the house, and whether instead of being an asset, it becomes a liability during our time out of the country. This, we’ll just have to wait and see and take things as they come.

 

7.  I then asked him to describe in 1 word what he feels about the move …

Excited

Very considered.

His final musings on the topic led him to consider what he’ll be doing 12 months from now. He said he’d like to imagine being sat in our kitchen in Canada, having a cup of tea and reflecting about how the last 12 months have gone and whether it met his original expectations or far exceeded them? He’s interested in whether he would be wondering about hoping for an extension of his work, or wishing we could all could come home, or even worse, having to be sent home from the work as it has finished. He’s not sure how he’ll feel about each prospect, and that’s something we have yet to find out.

 

Sage words

Emergency … dial 911

911

Our middle ‘kid’ was over zealous on the monkey bars and upon her second attempt to master the technique, she fell to the ground and the resulting ‘yelp’ was enough to know that it was slightly more than the average 7 year old tumble.  Visiting friends elsewhere for the weekend, we weren’t familiar with the local services but trotted off to the general hospital hoping they could help.

Considering the volumes of people presenting themselves with all manner of ailments, plus it was early on a Saturday evening (not the best day of the week to be visiting Accident & Emergency), we were admitted swiftly and with empathy.  After 3 hours, the administration of painkillers and a couple of  x-rays, we were informed that she had fractured the outside of both bones in her left wrist and a splint was applied.  She’ll heal and is now basking in the attention from her fellow classmates as she recounts the experience and demonstrates the evidence to anyone within a 15m radius.

monkey bars

It made me think about the healthcare we receive in England.

The NHS (National Health Service) was launched in 1948 and was based on three core principles:

  • that it meet the needs of everyone
  • that it be free at the point of delivery
  • that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay

These three principles have guided the development of the NHS over more than 60 years and remain at its core.  Whilst it receives a high level of criticism – what often feels like on a daily basis – the level of care, the capabilities, the services and above all its qualified clinicians and staff, are valued and respected across England and worldwide.

 

So, given our move to Canada, how does the healthcare system work over there and should a similar emergency arise (perhaps with kid number 3 next time), how do we receive the care required?

 

Canada itself, is regarded as a very healthy place to live.  It has a public healthcare system which is funded by both the federal government and provincial/territorial governments – its inception was also in 1948, but wasn’t rolled out and adopted across all Canada until 1972.  It provides universal coverage for medically necessary health care services provided on the basis of need, rather than the ability to pay.

Canada spend approx 11.4% of their GDP (gross domestic product) on health – in Britain, this is 9.8%.  Their spend per head is higher than the average developed country and their results see them having a higher life expectancy than many other developed countries (see my earlier blog), lower infant mortality rates and the treatment for cancer is good.  For example, screening take-up is high, as are survival rates. Almost three-quarters of women diagnosed with breast cancer can expect to be alive after five years – survival rates are among the best in the world.

Their system of healthcare is known as “Medicare’ and for treatment of any kind, a health insurance card needs to be shown.  The cards are presented at a hospital or clinic when you or someone in your family needs treatment.  In most provinces and territories, each family member receives his or her own card with a personal health identification number.  Therefore, as a family relocating to Canada, we need to make sure we apply for a state medical card when we arrive and ensure we have temporary health insurance in place whilst the formalities are completed.

It does make you realise how lucky we are to have healthcare which is accessible and immediate.  It’s something that we often overlook, too readily criticise and take for granted – when a large proportion of the world population and countries receive lower than average healthcare provision, with many dying prematurely as a result.

Hospital broken leg

Clearly we’re lucky and should remind ourselves of this fact daily.  One things for sure, the next time monkey bars make an appearance, I’ll just check out where our nearest hospital is located

 

…. or call, 911 🙂

To Canada – and beyond!

English: Postcard (postmarked 1907) depicting ...

English: Postcard (postmarked 1907) depicting John Bull and Uncle Sam under sign “To Canada” bringing in sacks of money “for investment in Canada” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the issues with moving to Canada for my husband’s work, is ‘what happens to my work’ whilst we’re there?

Three years ago I decided to leave corporate life and set up my own consultancy business after 19 years with the same company.  I love what I do, but the time had come to try something new, push myself into creating opportunities elsewhere and besides, I’d always hankered after setting something up by myself and seeing what happened.  There was also a frustration that after having 3 ‘kids’ and enrolling them in nurseries and link clubs before and after school, I felt they deserved a better quality of life rather than being deposited in various locations either end of the school day.  I wanted to be able to spend quality time with them in the school holidays, and even on a day by day basis, be able to relax, enjoy time with them, talk to them and be there with them.

Well, that was 3 years ago and never a day goes by without me thinking that this was absolutely the right thing to do.  My business is doing well – I work with some really great people, we have an ever growing set of clients and the work has proved stimulating and challenging – just what I love.  Fundamentally though for the most part, I achieve my goals for the kids and yes, have managed to strike a balance between doing stuff that I really enjoy and earning an income from, plus spending quality time with the kids.

So, what’s going to happen when we depart to Canada?

 Trail

The initial thinking is that there should be no reason why the business can’t continue whilst I’m gone.  Fortunately, the business has become more than just me, and the aim is to use others within the team who can deliver to our clients ‘at the coalface’, whilst I remain more in the ‘back room’ – I’ll just be physically 2000 miles away.  I can contribute to a lot of the material and activities we do, and assist in steering the ship from Canada.  There’s also the prospect of starting to grow what we do over in Canada too – but first steps first, let’s get over there and see what happens, get the kids settled and my husband’s work underway.

I’m also mindful that it’s not a permanent move and the plan is to come back.  So, my challenge is to maintain what I’ve built up over the last 3 years whilst we’re in Canada, but be able to pick up again and deliver direct to clients in the UK when I return.  Hopefully it’ll be a smooth transition and everything will go to plan.  And even if it’s not, I’m sure other opportunities will present themselves along the way and take it in directions I’ve not even thought of.  The benefit of living this lifestyle is that the very choice I made 3 years ago has made the prospect of relocating overseas all that much easier.  If I had still been in a corporate, full time, permanent role, I’m sure the thought of relinquishing that would have been much scarier and potentially inhibiting.

I’m quite excited at the prospect of the unknown – I love change, I love challenge and I love trying new things and creating our own trails.  I don’t tend to sit back and wait, but get involved and make things happen.  It’ll be interesting to capture how everything evolves.

As I’m sure it will 🙂

and she pricked her finger and fell asleep for a very long time …

images-16
It’s staggering at how quickly time passes by without us noticing … 5, 10, 15 and 20 years disappear at the click of a finger.  I look at my ‘kids’ today – my 10 year old is as tall as me.  How on earth did that happen?  Last time I looked she was knee-high and yet, is now towering above me.  The ‘in-between’ years have just disappeared.

This was brought home to me this week by a long time friend who I spent many of my formative years with.  When I was growing up, we had an excellent music service in our local area which focused on introducing children to the delights of learning to play musical instruments, and also, playing in orchestras and different groups to create and perform music together.  It was magical.  As a group of approx 85 players, we must have spent at least 10 years together, with large proportions of leisure time spent rehearsing and performing – not to mention the many trips and tours we undertook.  For a large group of people in their teens, it was life defining for lots of reasons and strong friendships and bonds were made.

Like many things in life, we never appreciate it at the time and in true teenage fashion, we all turned 18 and left for various Universities dotted around the country – maintaining links with a small minority of friends, but losing contact with the majority.

25 years ago this month, we won the ‘best area orchestra in the UK’ award – following our performance at the Albert Hall in London – and it’s 25 years since I’ve seen a lot of those individuals.  I have no idea where the time has gone but I do know that making an effort to reconnect with people who have shared so much time and life experience together is an opportunity worth taking and making happen.

Violins
The wonders of modern technology and social media has transformed how we stay in contact.  Re-establishing links with those who we used to know so well is lovely – getting to know who they are today as well as sharing and reminiscing about who we were ‘back then’ is invigorating.

So I’ve awoken from my slumber and decided that if I don’t organise something, it could well be another 25 years before presented with another opportunity so I’m proud to say we have a 25 year reunion organised for the end of this month, a page set up on Facebook reconnecting people from our orchestra, and an appetite and enthusiasm from everyone for staying in contact. I’m looking forward to meeting up with my old friends enormously.  I find it somewhat ironic that in meeting up again after a quarter of a century apart, I’m then relocating 2000 miles to Canada.

Still, all the more reason to treasure the moments, hold onto the memories and stay connected with friends.

To take or not to take? That, is the question …

Yes, I know – a derivative quote from Hamlet, but it is topical in the context of relocating – trust me.

Our progress towards relocating is moving ever forward and one topic which has raised it’s head this week is ‘what’ are we intending to relocate? Whilst clearly it will be myself and the 3 ‘kids’ – my husband and 19 year old cat being still in the debatable category (I jest!), but given the distance from Manchester, England to Edmonton, Canada – how much else are we planning to take with us?

 

We’re not permanently relocating, so we don’t need to sell up and move all our essential worldly possessions with us. But neither are we just stopping for a few weeks or so, where a couple of changes of clothes and some toiletries will suffice.

Equally, it’s not as it we can load up the car and hire a trailer to deliver goods across the other side of the country – there’s a small practical issue that the Atlantic Ocean, plus a further 2000 miles country terrain separates us (did I mention Canada is the second largest country in the world?  See earlier blog…).

 

Then there’s the cost.

 

Whatever we do decide are our priority items, do you ship them and wait 6 – 8 weeks for their arrival, or fly them over at a significantly higher cost? We may opt for a more financially driven approach and decide it’s more cost effective to purchase key items in Canada once we arrive and literally move with a suitcase each and that’s it?

 

Decisions, decisions.

 Suitcase & Teddy

It has made me think though that in everything we hold dear, what would we take with us that couldn’t be bought elsewhere through any other means?  I wonder whether adopting the same approach I gave to my kids in their earlier posts would be useful?

 

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

  1. Clothes (some key essentials)
  2. iPhone (can’t survive without it!)
  3. Laptop (providing connectivity to the rest of the world, plus all my work and family photos, music library, etc etc.)
  4. Toiletries & make up (obligatory)
  5. Key documents and forms of ID

 

The wonders of modern technology means that all things held in ‘the Cloud’ can be accessed anywhere in the world. We now have all our music, photos, work, family stuff – the lot, held up there in the ether. One less thing to worry about.

 

The difference in technology also means we can’t use with any degree of efficiency, electrical items like hairdryers and straightening tongs (which are usually critical travel items), even our TV, DVD’s and kitchen appliances won’t work due to the variations in electrical voltage and plugs. I’m sensing a procurement opportunity upon arrival 🙂

 

In one way, thinking about things in this way completely frees up the mind to not worrying about what to take. No, what becomes more apparent and ever real, is what I can’t take with me. And that’s my family and friends – who I’ll miss enormously. We can certainly look to make new and additional friends out in Canada – and I’m looking forward to doing this – but it can’t make up for my lifelong friends and family who I hope will not only take the opportunity to visit, but also stay connected and keep in touch despite the physical distance separating us. However long it turns out to be.

Family

To take or not to take – that was my question.

My conclusion is, the very things you want to take with you, are those that you must leave behind.

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

Gray Wolf

Gray Wolf (Photo credit: USFWS Pacific)

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

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

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

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

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

 

1.  What excites you about the move?

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

 

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

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

 

3.  What are you hoping it will be like?

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

 

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

Just the same  (why wouldn’t it be!)

 

5.  What are you most worried about?

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

 

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

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

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

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

She said ……

Happy

Perfect.

Next, follows the views of a 10 year old …

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

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

Water

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

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

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

 

1. What excites you about the move?

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

 

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

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

 

3. What are you hoping it will be like?

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

 

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

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

 

5. What are you most worried about?

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

 

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

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

 

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

EPIC

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

 

Why not.

 

 

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

Pedestrian zone

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

    Eeyore as depicted by Disney

    Eeyore as depicted by Disney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Being with her family (ahhh, bless)

 

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

1. What excites you about the move?

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

 

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

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

 

3. What are you hoping it will be like?

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

 

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

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

 

5. What are you most worried about?

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

 

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

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

 

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

BIG

Say no more 🙂

 

 

Predictable unpredictability

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

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

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

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

 Dark clouds

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Matchstalk men and matchstalk cats & dogs …

English: Salford dawn From room 602 of The Low...

English: Salford dawn From room 602 of The Lowry Hotel. http://www.thelowryhotel.com/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Famous lines of a British song written in the 70’s about an artist, Lowry, from Salford in Manchester (check it out on ‘YouTube’ as it’ll set the tone for my blog below ….).  His pictures are unique in their style and the way he captured life in northern England.

 

 

I’ve been perusing various blogs by lots of proficient writers and was struck by those who travel to England, eloquently articulating the famous sites, places and tourist attractions, the ‘britishness’ and quaintness of everything english.  And whilst this is mostly accurate, I can’t help but feel they’re missing out on exploring parts of England ‘lesser travelled’ and which are equally interesting and worthy of note.

 

With our soon departure to Canada, it got me thinking about how to capture the sheer delight, true Englishness and wonderful features that only living in the north of England can truly bring. If nothing else, it’ll serve as a due reminder of Northern life when I’m far away and relishing life in a different country!

 

Well, first things first.  Everyone will have a different view about what is classed as the ‘north of England’.  You’d think it wouldn’t be difficult, but you’ll be surprised how many people think it starts in the ‘Midlands’.  In fact, huge dissertations have been produced trying to clarify the ‘line of distinction’.  All I will say is that in my mind, draw a horizontal line from the top of Wales across England and everything above this is ‘the North’.

 

Map of Northern England within Great Britain.

Map of Northern England within Great Britain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

So – what makes northern living so great?

 

  • There’s a northern humour which is hard to replicate – born from hard graft and sheer determination, a propensity to look on the bright side, and take each day as it comes.  One of my favourite northern comedians is a chap called Peter Kay who uses observational humour to have you rolling around the floor laughing with tears in your eyes (check him out on YouTube).  Victoria Wood (another northern comedian) went to school in my home town and is unparalleled in her ability to make your sides ache.
  • Then there’s the friendliness of people which I’ve never found elsewhere. We’ll talk to you at a bus stop, in the shops, sat on a park bench, in a queue. A true northerner will say ‘mornin, y’rall right luv’ to a stranger passing in the street without a moment’s thought and carry on their way.  It’s lovely.
  • Have I mentioned the ‘cobbles’ and ‘ginnels’ yet?  We have particular names for things which have others looking at us in complete bewilderment.  And don’t get me started on the difference between muffins, rolls, baps and barms …..
  • Talking of food.  There’s none of this ‘nouveau cuisine’ stuff, it’s good ol’ hearty food with decent sized portions – proper pub grub, Lancashire hotpot, fish ‘n’ chips, pie & mushy peas, black puddings, sausage and mash, beef stew & dumplings.  Mmmmmm……..
  • I can’t omit the pubs.  Invariably on most street corners and stocking locally brewed ales aswell as the more commercially available ones too.
  • Wonderful accents and turns of phrase spoken.  I’m only hoping Canadians will be able to understand my lancashire accent.  There was a series of 3 iconic adverts broadcast on tv in the mid 70’s for ‘Hovis’ (a bread) using Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony’ opening as the backdrop. The wonders of YouTube means you can still watch them today – take a peek.
  • Finally, there’s the hills, valleys, victorian factories, huge chimneys and terraced housing.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s loads of beautiful greenery too.  It’s definitely worth travelling to see.

 

So, if in England and with the chance to venture north – please do.    In the words of Michael Buble (a Canadian no less), it feels like home to me.

 

It certainly is.

 

Definitely, maybe

The first thing our friends say when we mention we’re planning on moving to Canada for at least the next 12 months is – ‘is that what you really want to do’ and ‘do you think it’ll be okay?’

It gets me thinking about different attitudes to the prospect of change and something new.  Yes, we all react differently when faced with a variety of conundrums and opportunities on a day to day basis – some welcome, others not. We all make choices in life. I can think of plenty of examples of choices I made which were brilliant, quite a lot which could’ve gone better (and these I try to learn from), and others which perhaps didn’t work the way I originally thought. But the big question is … faced with the same choice again, would you still do it?

Absolutely.

Categorically, yes.

Definitely.

 Bridge

Even in this last category, what’s the worse thing that could happen? For me – it’s the fact that at least I tried and gave it a go. Learn from it, take the good things and build on them, and try to remember the things that didn’t go so well and remove them the next time 🙂

For my kids, knowing they may experience perhaps the best thing ever in their young lives to date, learn loads, meet new people and try different stuff is what spurs me on. Knowing they can always have a go, face the new and daunting, and grow bigger and stronger as a result – that’s what life is all about.

 

With this thought in mind, I tend to find positive experiences always appear out of the things you least expect, so yes, I’m embracing the move overseas and into the unknown.

 

So, in answer to the questions I’m asked about the move:

  • Yes, it’s what I really want to do. To try the new, the brave, and the unique opportunities whenever they get presented.
  • Yes, I think it’ll be okay. Well, to be exact, it’ll be more than okay – it’ll be awesome.

First things first

Well, usually my first job when I’m thinking about something new is to get hold of some books.  So, with a need to satisfy my reading compulsion, I started ordering books on Amazon for next day delivery, entitled:
– ‘living and moving to Canada’
– ‘Alberta and British Columbia’
– ‘Lonely planet guide to Canada’

If nothing else, I’ll know about the basics before we even get there. In an attempt to provide some structure and focus, I set up a folder on my laptop for storing anything to do with Canada in it, and also bookmarked internet pages which may be useful at a later date.
The ever essential swimming was investigated further and as it turns out, there is an extremely good swimming team in Edmonton who fit the bill perfectly – equally good are the swimming clubs in Calgary by the sounds of it so that’s one to chalk up as ‘progressing’ on the list. Superb.

British Passport

It suddenly occurred to me to check the passports – always an essential travelling companion! One is due to expire in 6 months so with the wonders of online ordering, I’ve now got that underway and in the process of being renewed as I speak.

There still remains the challenge of a 19 year old cat and where she’s going to go – it’s on the ‘pending’ list. I’ll think about it another day…..

Fancy moving to Canada, dear?

I can’t recollect many more memorable occasions than being greeted by my husband on our daily evening phonecall, than the words ‘oh, they want me to move to Canada’. It was at this point I was starting to wonder whether I needed to book an appointment with the local GP for lack of hearing clarity.

Let me explain….. we live in England and for the last 9 months, my husband has been working for a global organisation which has him away from home during the week. Even when he’s in the UK, he’s not in the near vicinity for visiting his home so phone calls have to suffice.

We’ve always talked about moving overseas for a set duration of time – but with 3 girls (10, 7 and 4), it would have to be of a sufficient period to incorporate schools and the like.

We do have family – some of which live nearby, and others quite a distance away. But none as far as Canada!

Oh, and there’s a cat. Well, an extremely old one to be exact. She’s 19 and doesn’t move too far on a daily basis from her cat basket. Mind you, if I ever reach such an age, I doubt I would too.

So, where do I start?  This blog is intended to capture our thoughts, our plans, our travels and hopefully, life-changing experiences!