Past, present …. and future

I was reminded the other day of an album I bought on vinyl, 30 years ago.  Apart from it being as brilliantly sounding today as it was back then, just hearing the opening bars to each track – took me back to when I would play it endlessly on the second-hand record player in my bedroom.  Some tracks I haven’t heard in a very long time – yet, I still know all the words and the nuance of every line and song.  Sometimes I can’t remember what I was told last week, and yet this album from 30 years ago, I can recite verbatim.  I also wonder, that as a teenager listening to this in my bedroom all those years ago – what would I have thought if I’d have known that 30 years later I’d be listening to it again living in Western Canada?  I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me.

Three years ago, I started this blog after being asked if we would move to Canada for a year or so.  Back in 2014, being issued with temporary work permits for 3 years seemed a long time in the future – and yet, here we are.  They are due to expire in September.  For those of you who have been keeping up with our antics, you’ll know that about 18 months ago we started the process of applying for permanent residency as an option to extend our time over here.  It’s certainly been a long time in the making and by no means, is a simple process.  We’ve had the ‘delights’ of sitting an English test (part 1 and part 2!), demonstrating our education credentials, applying for police checks, taking medicals, proving job histories – the list has been endless.  Not to mention the cost.  Anyhow, as you’ll know, we finally submitted the full application back in February (click here for that saga) – and this culminated in an interview with Canada Border Agency last Thursday.  During which, we were all granted permanent residency in Canada.  Success!

I was expecting some trumpets heralding the news, a few fireworks to mark the occasion – but alas, no.  We have a piece of paper as confirmation, but now have to wait until our formal ‘PR’ cards arrive in the post which will then act as our main source of documentation proving our status here.  In the meantime, all other temporary permits, study visas and work visas have been taken in lieu of the cards arriving – which means that whilst we can leave Canada, they won’t let us back in – until the PR cards arrive.  Thank goodness, we’ve got no overseas trips planned for the next 2 months …

I’m also slightly relieved that we don’t have to worry about having to pack everything back up to return, and even more so, our cat (yes, she’s still here at nearly 22 years old) equally can continue to reside in the manner to which she has now become accustomed.  I was starting to panic that she wouldn’t last the flight back across the pond ….. mind you, I had the same concern 3 years ago when she first flew across here.  She’ll outlive me at this rate.

So what does it all mean?  Well, it never prevents us from returning back ‘home’ – but at least it allows us to continue residing and working in Canada for the foreseeable future.  It provides options and choice – and that’s what we wanted.  And for my British friends reading this, no need to rush about getting a trip over to visit in the next few months!  Take your time – we’ll be here for a while for those venturing over this side of the pond.  Feel free to sample the harsh cold of the far north with lots of winter skiing and skating – or bask in the blue skies, constant sun and high temperatures over the summer months.  The choice is yours ….

So, upon reflection – the latest albums I’m now listening to over here in Canada, I’m just wondering where I’ll be when I replay them again in another 30 years from now?  Now there’s a thought ….  🙂

For research purposes only, you understand ….

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There are few better pleasures to look forward to each day than collapsing onto a comfy sofa in an evening with a glass of vino.  Not a day goes by without hearing on the radio yet another ‘research article’ on whether 1 glass, 2 glasses, no glasses, red glass, white glass, whatever …. are good for your health, prolongs your life, or reduces it considerably.  I’m prepared to take the chance.  I don’t care whether it’s the latest fad or whether there’s proven evidence that drinking a glass a night is bad for you.  I wonder whether there’s been detailed research on the best or worst times of day to succumb ….. maybe I’ll have to volunteer ……

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Anyhow, one of the delights of being in Western Canada is that the Okanagan Valley, located in the south of British Columbia, is home to one of the most prolific wine-growing regions throughout Canada. It’s also a massive fruit-growing region with farmers stands at the sides of roads where you can purchase their mouth-watering produce, or even go in and pick some yourself from their overflowing fruit orchards.  Nestled between the temperate rainforests of coastal British Columbia, and the world’s only inland temperate forest on the western slopes of the Columbia mountains, it receives relatively low rainfall and enjoys hot temperatures – so attracts over 200 different commercial vineyards where nearly every style of wine is produced, with over 60 different grape varieties.  I’m on a mission to sample each one ….

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Since arriving in Canada, we’ve taken a keen interest in Canadian produce so given that one of the items from our bucket list was to visit a vineyard (or two), we thought we’d take a road trip to the next province and see what all the fuss is about.  For research purposes only, you understand …

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Now, having come from the UK, one of the things about living in Canada that we continuously struggle to appreciate, is the sheer vastness and scale of the country.   What looks like small distances on a map, are actually huge monster drives.  The Okanagan, for example, is fairly ‘close’ to Edmonton at just over 540 miles (870 km) away, taking at least 9 hours constant driving, during which you cross over the time-line, scale the Canadian Rockies, go through at least 3 national parks, traverse 2 mountain passes – witnessing the climate and dramatic scenery changes as you go.  It’s stunning.  Once you hit the Canadian Rockies, it’s virtually just one road too – the Trans-Canada highway – beside which for the most part, you travel alongside the Canadian Pacific Railway line and the huge red CPR freight trains that epitomise Canada.

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Once you reach the Okanagan, there are vineyards and fruit orchards galore.   The terrain reminded us of being in Tuscany in Italy, with huge lakes and rolling vineyards – it’s a beautiful place to visit.  There are local maps detailing where all the vineyards are, and you can drive in and sample their produce – oh, and purchase a few bottles too (it’d be rude not to).  For kids and adults alike, the lakes are superb to swim and play in – crystal clear waters and at various locations, activity platforms harness small zip-lines on which you can throw yourself in the lake.  You need to in those temperatures too ……

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But it’s the road trip through the Rockies and the national parks that is the most spectacular.  If you’re prepared to do some research, you can hunt out various stop-off points along the way which are just hidden off the main Trans-Canada highway – literally, within a few meters too.  Boardwalk trails which not only give you 20 mins to stretch your legs, are within steps of the parking lot, and can see you deep within the forest – walking amidst Giant Cedar trees, many of which are over 500 years old.  Just watch your tank of petrol during the road trip as the distances are so large and the availability of gas stations few and far between – it’s an extremely long walk if you run out!!

So, I’d definitely recommend it.  The road trip, the scenery, the lakes and the wine.  I may have to take a repeat trip …. for research purposes only, you understand …. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long may it continue.   🙂

Home sweet home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, not yet …  🙂

Martini anyone? Anytime, anyplace, anywhere …

If I had to recount any adverts from the early 1980’s that I can still remember vividly today, one would be for Martini, and the famous strapline, ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere’.  The other would be for the chocolates, Black Magic, and the video clip of a mystery man dressed all in black, skiing downhill in the early evening dusk to deliver the chocolates of choice – very much akin to the opening scenes of a James Bond movie.  Why both have remained in my mind to this day, I’ll never quite understand, but I’m sure some psychologist somewhere would have a field day offering suggestions and rationale.  My husband on the other hand, reading this, will probably analyse this on a much simpler level – and the less said about that the better.

Anyhow, there is a point to this preamble, as the Martini advert came back to me this week for quite different reasons.  We’ve just spent a week on holiday taking a well-deserved family break, and to keep costs down, we opted for ‘budget’ airlines to fly us the 7 hours to our destination of choice.  Nothing wrong with this whatsoever, but what was notable about both, was that they promoted the latest in connectivity at 35,000 feet with their own wi-fi and films you could download (for a fee) direct to your mobile, tablet or laptop.

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I’m a strong advocate for the concept of connectivity, and can definitely attribute the fact that we’ve settled in Canada from the UK much easier as a direct result of being able to feel ‘connected’ to family and friends back home.  Social media has played a huge role in making us feel less isolated, and ironically, I probably see work colleagues more often now via video-conferencing and FaceTime than I did when back home!  Distance certainly doesn’t seem to be a factor these days with the wonders of modern technology.

I also ‘get’ the fact that for those who spend a large chunk of their lives on planes, the ability to continue to email and connect with others is time well-spent whilst sat immobile above the clouds.  Our outgoing flight was during daylight hours, and ‘to connect, or not to connect – that was the question’, left us with the view that we didn’t want to pay a premium for connectivity or films we weren’t really bothered about seeing.  The kids were slightly perplexed that the films they were expecting to see in the back of the seat in front were not on offer, but quickly amused themselves with other past-times and activities.  In fact, card games emerged, word searches came out, and general conversation was made.  It was simply refreshing.

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Our return flight was enlightening for much different reasons.  This was a night flight commencing at 10pm, and for the entire duration of the flight, the plane had ‘lights-off’.  Ideal for those wanting to grab what sleep they could for a flight that would see us lose a night’s sleep due to the time difference when we landed back in Canada.   We all tried to get as much sleep as we could – my youngest kid, falling fast asleep the moment the plane hit the clouds and didn’t wake until the tyres touched the tarmac 7 hours later.

However, it’s the night flights that highlight those with connection addictions – and are usually blissfully unaware of the impact this has on those around them.  I had a woman sat on the row in front, who clearly needed to be connected via email and social media to those everywhere else other than with those on the plane.  Such was the extent of her addiction, that the glare from her iPhone screen which she checked every 20 minutes, was so bright, you thought someone had lit a flare throughout the front section of the plane.  Not only that, she was clearly antagonised from whatever email exchanges she was having as she related the dissatisfaction to her husband across the aisle – and everyone else within earshot – who in fairness along with the rest of us, clearly couldn’t care less and was attempting to grab a few winks sleep.  Surely there’s some connectivity etiquette which needs to be observed and maybe there are some instances where being able to disconnect from the world, isn’t such a bad thing?

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Today’s holidays certainly drive the Martini experience of having everything, ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere’.  I just wonder where this will end?  Will at some point, holidays of the future start to market a ‘retro-offer’ with the ability to turn off from work and connecting externally with others, so you have quality time to re-connect with those you’ve gone on holiday with?  It would be ironic wouldn’t it.  Maybe they could throw in a box of Black Magic chocolates as the finishing touch…

🙂

Bear spray at the ready …

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A trip to the Canadian Rockies is always a superb experience and a wonderfully scenic visit, but one of our favourite places to stop off at, is Canmore – just south of Banff.  It’s an old mining town, nestled in between the mountains so you get 360 vistas all around – but without the touristy lure and trappings of Banff or Lake Louise.  As a result, it’s much more authentic.  The main street with shops are individualistic and it is riddled in character and a great atmosphere.

There are some lovely walks along the banks of the Bow River, but for our visit this weekend, we took a walk up to Grassi Lakes.  Bears are still very active and the advice from the Information Centre is to ensure you have some ‘bear spray’, as the berries are starting to come out and are a major attraction for our furry friends.

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Following a 90 second demonstration on what to do should we fall upon a grizzly and how to operate the canister ‘in-haste’ – plus signing a declaration that we wouldn’t use it for any other purpose – we were good to go.  The resulting conversation from the 3 kids for the first 30 minutes into our walk, was a preoccupation into the detailed arrangements should we encounter a furry beast – not helped by suggestions of feeding the youngest as a sacrifice to it first, whilst the rest of us made off as fast as we could.  The youngest was understandably perturbed by this proposal and it was concluded that it isn’t the ability to outrun the grizzly we need to be concerned about – just to be able to outrun the slowest member of our party … let me introduce you to the grandparents who are currently visiting ….!!  The youngest was decidedly comforted upon this news that she wouldn’t be bringing up the rear.

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Anyhow, this certainly took care of topics of debate during the amble, and created a distraction for the kids whilst they traipsed up the paths to an elevation of 1500 metres.   There are 2 small lakes when you arrive – both a vibrant green and turquoise which makes the journey thoroughly worthwhile.  You also get the view of the Bow River down in the valley overlooking the town of Canmore too.  There’s a large waterfall to see and an opportunity to take lots of pics.  It’s not a hard walk and reaps rewards for the small amount of effort required – it’s also extremely popular so get there early to benefit the most.

It was with slight disappointment we arrived back at the cars without an encounter or even glimpse of a grizzly – although if the bears had any sense, they’d wait till it was quieter in the evening to eat the produce in relative peace.  Given my 3 kids, I wouldn’t have blamed them at all.

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For the humans, there are some culinary delights worth testing out whilst in Canmore.  The Rocky Mountain Bagel Company, on the Main Street makes 12 different varieties of bagel each night and the sandwiches they produce are mouth-wateringly tasty.  We tried the ‘Mountaineer’ – pastrami, cheese, salad, mustard and gherkins – which we had on a jalapeno-cheddar bagel.  Truly delicious.

Further down the street is the pub, restaurant and shop of the ‘Grizzly Paw Brewing Company’.  A local producer, they have a modern, purpose-built brewery just 2 miles down the road which offers tours and ‘tastings’ too of all their ales.  Those who don’t necessarily want alcohol (?), can sample their sodas which the kids loved.  Needless to say, beers (not bears) and sodas were procured and consumed that evening …

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There’s also one of the oldest buildings in Canmore to visit, built in 1893.  Not old by European or UK standards, but significantly old in this area, and the original home of the Royal Mounted Canadian Police who were stationed in Canmore earlier last Century.  Prior to this, were there any disturbances of any description, troops from Banff were called in and suffice to say, by the time they often arrived, the event had either culminated in disaster or has dissipated completely.  Those were the days.

So, a good weekend was had by all and should you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, give Canmore a visit and let me know what you think.  I suspect you won’t be disappointed.  In the meantime, we’re into our final week of the school term and the prospect of hunting for dinosaurs looms ever closer (and this isn’t a sarcastic reference to my parents – honest!).  More to follow ….

🙂

Stunning, stupendous and serene …. (and a bear!)

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Well, as weekends go, it’s up there as one of the most memorable and absolute best.  It was Mother’s Day in Canada last weekend and feeling rather like the Queen, I decided to celebrate it twice (the UK had the pleasure of this event back in March).  We also took the rare opportunity to venture away for Mother’s Day weekend – where usually we have either or both of the grandparents round for a meal and celebrations.  Obviously, a little more difficult given the distances between us, so this year we ventured further afield and thought about ticking off some more items from our bucket list.

I still can’t get over being able to travel to The Rockies from Edmonton.  4 hours in the car, it’s practically on our doorstep – so a trip to Jasper it was.  There’s not much that can go wrong for even those challenged with navigational abilities.  It’s basically head West from Edmonton for 400km and you’re there.  I’d like to say there are several road turns and a little bit of a dogs leg to manoeuvre – but I’d be wrong.  It’s literally a straight road, head West and keep going for 4 hours.  Simples ……

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In fairness, it’s not the most scenic either till you come through a small town called Hinton, about 3 hours into the trip.  Just after the town, you get the first view of the mountains and they are remarkable.  Being Spring, they are still snow-laden at the top whilst all the trees and valley floors have melted and are turning a vibrant green.  The weather had clear blue skies and sun shining.  Beautiful.

I was slightly concerned about the timing of the weekend away as last Wednesday saw continuous snow in Edmonton to a depth of 20cm.  It was a bit of a surprise to be awoken to, but hey, guess that’s part of the joys of living in a Winter City!  All gone – thank goodness – by the Friday, and even then, nothing stops here for the sake of a bit of snow.  We’d never get anything done otherwise.  Anyhow – back to the trip.

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A brilliant place to stop off at is Miette Hot Springs – about 40 mins before you get to Jasper.  Miette Hot Springs, located in Alberta’s Jasper National Park, features the hottest mineral springs in the Canadian Rockies.  Water flows from the mountain at 54°C (129°F) and is cooled (cooled!!! I tell you), to a comfortable 40°C (104°F).  There are 4 pools – each of varying temperatures from hot, to very nice, slightly cool, and then absolutely freezing – containing the minerals sulphate, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, and sodium.  It’s hilarious watching the kids jump into the coldest pool (none of the adults seem to be willing to attempt it), and seeing their faces and the speed with which they made a fast exit.  It’s also all outside, so you get to wallow in the waters whilst admiring the views across the mountains.  Bliss …….

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Jasper itself is a lovely town – and less riddled with tourists than the popular Banff and Lake Louise destinations which are another 3 hours due South away in the car.  You get to spot lots of wildlife – who were out in force last weekend – as you travel along the National Park roads.  Elk were in abundance, as were Mountain Big-Horn Sheep, and Black Bears!  Just watch for the tail-lights of cars stopping up ahead and pull over – there’s usually something to see – and we managed a tally of 2 Black Bears during the weekend.  Just don’t venture out of the car … fleeting observations of a wolf on 2 occasions, plus the obligatory Canadian geese, squirrels and birds.  Only the Moose was more elusive and has yet to be spotted.

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Then there’s the scenery.  It’s awe inspiring, majestic and breath taking.  The lakes nestled into the valleys which are turquoise and crystal clear, reflect the snow-topped mountains and the silence is deafening.  It’s one of the best places in the world to spend time.  Instantly from reaching the edge of the National Park, you start to relax and savour the views.  I tell you, I couldn’t help but reflect that being able to experience and see these wonders just within a weekend trip away – it’s not something most people have the chance to do, even for a holiday.  Amazing.  Warrington, England certainly can’t compete with this and even the Lake District (one of my favourite places to visit in the UK), is not remotely on the same scale.

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Sitting outside our room, watching the wildlife, looking at the beautiful lake set in the snow-topped mountains – and sipping a glass of Grand Cru Champagne (Mother’s Day gift from the kids).  We sampled delicious food, (there’s also a superb bakery in Jasper itself which is worth a visit), and walked around Lac Beauvert which was stunning.  Now, that’ll take some beating.  If it’s not on your list of places to visit, put it on there now.  🙂

Bears, Beers and Broomsticks …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🙂

Half a year is gone already!

Canada flag

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

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

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

IMG_0015

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

ice-skates-no-2-319979-m

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll keep you posted.  🙂

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 …

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!

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

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.

 

Canada vs England

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

Canada flagUK flag

Similarities:

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

 

English, or is it?

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

 

Physical size:

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

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

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

 

Travel time:

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

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

 

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

Let’s wait and see!

Time waits for nobody

We’ve got the whole month of August planned to visit Calgary and do what they call an ‘orientation visit’. I can’t wait. An orientation visit means going to Canada, seeing where my husband will be working, looking around schools, houses, getting a feel for the different areas, and starting to make plans for moving across from England. Yippee!

Luckily at this time of year, there is a direct flight from the north-west of England to Canada (9hrs in duration) which in Britain is commonly considered ‘long haul’. I would imagine most people living in Canada or indeed the USA, would consider this to be just nipping ‘around the corner’ 🙂

It got me thinking about time and how much time we spend on doing the great things in life, compared to the mundane and necessary.

Time

 For instance, did you know over a lifetime:

  • we spend 115 days laughing. That equates to 6 mins a day – but researchers tell me that in the 1950’s, we used to chuckle 3 times more!
  • 27 days of our life is spent waiting for trains, buses and aeroplanes.
  • 6 months of our life just trying to get to the front of a queue. (We’re very good at queuing in Britain, it’s a national past time and taken extremely seriously should anyone breach the etiquette).
  • if you watch more than 4 hrs of television a day, you’ll end up spending 11 years of your life watching tv. Luckily, I’ve got kids and a low attention span, so the prospect of even getting 1 hr in front of the box in peace and quiet is rather remote.

Just thinking about these stats, if I think about how much time I’m really spending on the things that add value to my life – are life enhancing, and real quality activities, I bet over a lifetime, that’s not as much as each of us would hope.

 

I’m going to change this.

I’m going to spend more time laughing or chuckling – and at the very least, smiling.

I’m going to concentrate on making sure we do lots more life-enhancing stuff, quality time with the kids, and embracing the new.

Just a thought, but if I’m going to do this, I’ll need quality sleep to make this happen and with 3 young kids, I reckon I’m behind on my quota (26 years, I’m informed over a lifetime) – so I’m just off to capture a few extra winks….

 

Definitely, maybe

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

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

Absolutely.

Categorically, yes.

Definitely.

 Bridge

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

First things first

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

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

British Passport

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

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

Telling the kids?

lots-of-windmills-2-1367901-m

I casually mentioned at the breakfast table with my 3 girls this morning how did they fancy going to Canada for August this year. This was greeted with ‘whoops’ of joy at which I offered, ‘and if we like it, we may stay there for the next 12 months’.

Detecting a stunned silence in the room, I threw in the ‘joker’ card, ‘oh, and they have snow for 6 months a year, so we can learn how to ski’!! Silence became grunts of acceptance and you could hear the cogs whirring in their heads as they considered the most important factors.

  • For the 4 year old, she was just happy there would be snow and we were going to a place called Canada.
  • For my 7 year old, the prospect of learning to ski was enough.
  • My 10 year old was concerned about the quality of the swimming (she’s a competitive swimmer in the UK and trains 6 days a week for 2 hours a day) and insisted that there needed to be a ‘good’ swimming team (there are).  She loves watching ‘curling’ and trying it out would be good fun.  Plus, she’ll be home again in another 12 months or so to see all her friends so that meant it wasn’t forever.

Success!

I said maybe not to mention it to anyone else at this stage until we knew more.

 

On arrival in nursery that morning, my youngest announced to the staff ‘we were going to Canada’. Picking the older 2 up from school later in the day, they both said they hadn’t told anyone apart from 4 friends, but that was okay wasn’t it.

Looks like it’s happening 🙂

 

 

Little steps always help

‘THE’ conversation was had with my husband’s boss today about what ‘exactly’ does ‘you want me to move to Canada’ actually mean.
I’m informed of the following facts :
• probably 12 months,
• possibly 2 years
• could be Edmonton – but maybe Calgary (both in Alberta – but either way there’s 7 hours time difference and at least 9 hours travelling time)
• yes, there’s a relocation package
• yes, you can take the family
• we may want to expand the work into North America
• oh, and we need to look into finding a replacement for you in the UK market

canadian-flag-1433362-1-m

 

My first thoughts were: exciting and daunting at the same time. For someone who is naturally organised, structured and in perfect control at all times – where do you start?

Little steps always help. In my chores to the local village today I stumbled into 2 estate agents and enquired into how I go about ‘renting’ my property. Well, that’s today’s idea.
It’s a start….

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!