Christmas comes but once a year …

What song do you sing at a snowman’s birthday party? …… Freeze a jolly good fellow.

What carol is sung in the desert at Christmas? …. O camel ye faithful.

santa and sleighI know, I know.  I couldn’t resist.  We’re getting close to the height of the madness associated with the  Christmas season and my kids have been busy rehearsing for their School Christmas Concert.  It’s a serious affair.  My middle kid is in Grade 5 who have the honour of performing this year’s coveted christmas play, entitled, ‘A Pirate’s Christmas’, during the concert.  Rehearsals have been underway for the last month or so and it’s at times like this that I’m always reminded of the scene from the Richard Curtis film, Love Actually, when Emma Thompson’s daughter arrives home from school to announce she’s got a part in the School Christmas play…..  love actually

Karen: So what’s this big news, then?
Daisy: [excited] We’ve been given our parts in the nativity play. And I’m the lobster.
Karen: The lobster?
Daisy: Yeah!
Karen: In the nativity play?
Daisy: [beaming] Yeah, *first* lobster.
Karen: There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?

This always makes me chuckle.  In my day, school nativity plays were pure and simple.  There was Mary, Joseph, a ‘tiny tears’ baby doll, 3 Kings, couple of Shepherds, the ‘Angel Gabriel’ (always the second most popular choice after the part of Mary & Joseph was awarded), Innkeeper (and wife), with the rest of the class making up the stable ‘animals’.  The standard ‘tunes’ were customary – ‘Away in a Manger’, ‘We Three Kings’, ‘O Little Star of Bethlehem’ ….. and by the time you were in the ‘top class’ in primary school, you never needed to learn any of the parts as you’d seen it rehearsed and performed so many times since the age of 4, that you knew it off by heart.  Oh, how times have changed …..

nativityBack to recent school events, and there has been quite an intense process of auditioning for parts and judging from the daily ‘feedback’ from my middle kid, there’s clearly a perceived hierarchy associated to the roles awarded – she was desperate to be ‘Prancer’ or “Dancer’ as these were ‘talking’ reindeers.  Auditions mustn’t have gone to plan as she was relegated to being ‘a non-talking reindeer’ – the irony of the part not being lost on us, as the challenge for my middle kid to remain silent for any longer than 30 seconds only usually occurs when she’s fast asleep.

reindeersWhilst a smidgen of disappointment was apparent, she accepted the role with good grace.  We had instructions to source brown tops and bottoms (for reindeers, obviously), and were kindly informed that antlers would be provided.  In the meantime, my youngest kid has been learning all the songs as ‘Grade 2’ are to be the accompanying ‘choral’ voices.  She’s been taking this very seriously, insisting her older sister acts out the play whilst she sings along – and rather like a mini-Simon Cowell, woe betide my middle kid if she doesn’t perform to the youngest’s exacting standards.  My role during all this is rather akin to the UN Peace Talks …..

santa sleighDramatic events transpired during rehearsals earlier this week and the role performed by the reindeers in pulling the sleigh across the stage transporting Santa to his final destination.  Apparently, only ‘Prancer’ and ‘Dancer’ (you’ll remember these as being the ‘talking’ parts), were asked to pull the sleigh whilst all ‘other’ reindeers would follow behind.  This provoked outrage in the muted reindeer community who insisted that Santa would always have all reindeers pulling his sleigh and wouldn’t invoke favouritism.  It’s clearly been a bone of contention.  I didn’t like to point out that the opening scene of a reindeer ‘dancing’ with a beach ball was slightly out of character …..

reindeer protestAll in all, it’s definitely Christmas.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Christmas tree is up, sparkly lights are switched on and there’s an accompanying Christmas moose (the size of a Great Dane) lit up on our decking.  Snow has fallen, temperatures are below -20 and I’ve got the heating on full blast.  It’s certainly a Canadian Christmas.  Ho ho ho ……

🙂

Thanks to google images for the pics in today’s blog

Time flies when you’re having fun …

Time fliesWow!  I’m always staggered how time seems to fly by, and the older I get, the faster it disappears.  Well today is a pretty significant day at our end – it’s 2 years since we boarded the flight from Manchester and touched down here in Edmonton.  Doesn’t feel like 2 years, that’s for sure.  Just goes to show how quickly time flies when you’re having fun …..

As if to mark the event, some of my Canadian appliances are starting to play up.  I always remember my Gran saying that modern appliances never seem to last half as long as they used to – I think she never did replace the original oven that had been put in her house in 1954, and as for the vacuum – it was probably one of the original models of ‘Hoover’ ever manufactured and even outlived her.  It would have been of archeological significance had she still been alive today – she sadly left us in 2000.  And now I find myself sounding just like her.  Let’s hope her penchant for ‘Baileys’ (other irish liqueurs are also readily available), and the copious quantities she actually consumed, aren’t as contagious.  Mind you, I am noticing a tendency to stock up on toilet rolls (just in case we ever run out), which was another thing she was renowned for.  At this rate, I’ll be able to support the whole of south-west Edmonton for at least 72 hours should there be a national shortage ….BaileysAnyhow.  It’s the kettle.  It’s not been well for a few weeks and has suddenly given up the ghost, despite no end of coaxing and cajoling into operation.  It’s probably taken umbrage from excessive use, and now refuses to even turn on.  Now I know for a fact, that I had to buy it after we arrived on Canadian soil – so less than 2 years usage doesn’t sound that much to me.  Mind you, I’m a Brit, and I take my tea-making very seriously – and the poor appliance has probably given up from overwork.  My husband would no doubt empathise ……

So I thought I’d treat myself and upgrade to a newer model (the kettle, not my husband).  My list of requirements isn’t long.  It’s a kettle.  I just want it to reach boiling point as quickly as possible – so I can focus on the really important aspect of steeping the tea leaves for the required duration to produce the perfect brew.  It’s an art form.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.Canadian TireOff I trotted to the local Canadian Tire emporium, trying to stifle the excitement of obtaining an appliance which can rapid-boil in the least amount of time.   Life in the fast lane when you’re in your 40’s, eh!

Imagine then my horror and utter confusion upon entering the store and facing a shelf-full of kettles, to find none of them ‘advertising’ the rapid-boil facility.  In fact, I struggled to find anything remotely referencing this key attribute.  Top of the list as the feature of choice was a ‘variable temperature’ option – some of which declared you could programme up to 6 different settings into the kettle.  I must admit I was bemused.  It’s a kettle.  The last time I was in school doing science, the boiling point of water was 100C and to the best of my knowledge, this hasn’t changed since.UK TeasMy tea drinking has largely centred around black teas – moving over the years from Typhoo (you only get an ‘OO’) to Tetley, then Yorkshire Tea, and now mostly Earl Grey (for the more discerning palate). All of which the perfect brewing temperature is 100C – it’s the ‘steeping’ time which is the more variable element.  So completely flummoxed as to the need for variable temperatures in a kettle – and programmable ones at that – I grabbed the boxes from the shelves hoping for some enlightenment.  Now I know it’s probably not news to you, but it was certainly news to me, to discover that correctly brewing more delicate types of tea – especially green tea – requires lower water temperatures.  Who knew?  I didn’t.  Not only that, but brewing delicate teas in too-hot water can create a bitter taste. If you frequently brew green and white teas, investing in an electric kettle with variable temperature control saves you the bothersome process of first boiling water, then waiting for it to cool to the correct temperature.  My (flippant) answer would be, to drink black teas and then you’d never have to wait …..Variable kettleNeeds must when the devil drives – and a replacement had to be procured quickly for me to maintain my ‘black’ tea drinking frequency.  I went for the simplest version with no additional features other than the ability to boil water.  It’s marginally faster than my previous one – but who’ve guessed that procuring a kettle would provide a cultural insight into the boiling requirements of Canadian consumers.  We may be two years in, but I’m still learning new things every day.

List of attributesLet’s hope the next appliance to fail isn’t my husband.  My list of desired attributes may be unattainable …..

🙂

Thanks as ever to google images for the pics in today’s blog

A Casino, a Caesar, and a Cetera …

30 years ago

There are songs that come on the radio that immediately take you straight back to a particular time and place – and films too, which from just one or two famous quotes, you can ‘name that film’ in an instant.

I was only 14 when the immortal lines, ‘wax on, wax off’, were muttered and a then-young Ralph Macchio took the lead role in the film, ‘Karate Kid’.  It was the sequel to the original film that had the hit song, ‘Glory of Love’, by Peter Cetera – which I remember we used to play on continuous loop using a tape player during lunch breaks at secondary school.  Someone had managed to get a recording off the radio (along with ‘I just died in your arms’ by ‘Cutting Crew’) on a Sunday evening as they listened to the Gallup Top 40 countdown.    Those were the days of high entertainment, I can tell you.  Every time I hear either song, I can picture the old school music room now, hear our warbling renditions and the cobbled together worn-out tape that was endlessly played……

Glory of love

Never did I think in the heady days of 1986 at a high school in North Manchester, that 30 years later – not only would I be watching Peter Cetera perform live in concert, but I’d be sat watching him crank up the vocals in a casino in Edmonton, and we’d be living in Canada too.  Yes – really.  It’s funny when you look back and reflect on what you thought you may be doing later in life – only to find its something so different, you’d never even imagined it in the first place.

My parents have been visiting us from the UK and suggested we took advantage of a rare ‘night out’ – just the husband and I.  One of the drawbacks of living abroad is that where we go, the 3 kids go too – so, given the prospect of a rare ‘night out’, we decided it had to be somewhere we would never be able to go with ‘kids in tow’.  Hence, after a trawl on the internet for ideas, we noticed the local casino was hosting an evening of entertainment with Peter Cetera (ex-frontman of Chicago ……. ‘If you leave me now’, ‘You’re the inspiration’, ‘Hard to say I’m sorry’ ….. need I go on?)

casino-scene

Now, I’m not a regular to casinos – in fact, the one in Edmonton we went to is owned and located on a First Nation reserve.  It’s a large complex, complete with restaurant, slot machines, poker tables, bar areas – all before you finally walk into the concert venue.  Upcoming advertisements for future concerts included the likes of Olivia Newton-John, Boyz II Men, and ….. oh yes, this musical …..

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Now, I’m not even sure how to operate any of the slot machines, but in for a penny, in for a pound (or a ‘loonie’ if you’re on this side of the pond), and we thought we’d try our luck.   Our approach isn’t considered or based on any rationale whatsoever.  It’s purely a matter of pressing a random selection of buttons on the slot machine and seeing what happens – which unsurprisingly, soon materialised as a quick way to relieve us of our initial $20 bill.

images

So, for our final press, I went for the big hit – a high risk, high loss but also potentially high gain strategy.  Still slightly unsure how everything worked and what constituted a ‘win’, when lo and behold, the machine started counting in the opposite direction.  And continued counting upwards.  We looked in slight disbelief as our initial ‘investment’ of $20 was reached …. and still it climbed.  And climbed.  The machine passed $30 …… then $40 ….. then $50.  By this time, I was laughing hysterically – and in disbelief.  It finally stopped at $54 and invited us to ‘try again’, or ‘collect’.  Let’s just say, we cut and run – took the money and ‘invested’ it in several rounds of drinks.  One of which was an ‘albertan caesar’, which is an amazing tomato/clam-based drink with vodka, all manner of ground pepper and tabasco, garnished with pickled beans and, would you believe, an actual rasher of bacon stood up in the drink.  Only in Canadia …..

bacon-row1_wm

And what about the concert I hear you ask?  Well, Peter Cetera was in fine vocal form.  He delivered a superb performance – his voice sounded identical to when I first heard him back in the early 80’s, the music was polished and his band were all accomplished professional musicians in their own right.  Each had played with some of the biggest and the best names in music pop history – and rather like the Jools Holland band which I’ve watched perform in an open-air gig back in London, you could just listen to them alone.

Whilst ‘Peter’ certainly looked and sounded as though he hadn’t changed much since the 80’s – it felt like a complete lifetime ago since I was in that school music room back in 1986 listening to him on the radio.  Who’d have thought 30 years later, I’d be in Canada, in a casino, with a caesar, and watching Cetera himself …. 🙂

Thanks as ever to Google Images for the pics for today’s blog …

Should I stay or should I go now?

ClashStayorGosingle

It’s a pretty momentous day for Britain as we go to the polls and cast our votes as to whether we stay in or move ourselves out of the European Union.  Now, as a point of note – and this has been commented to me on several occasions over the past few weeks – if we do choose to depart, it doesn’t mean we’ll be picking up anchor and sailing ourselves over to another continent as we’ll no longer be part of ‘Europe’.  Mind you, judging from the news coverage of the Euro 2016 football, plus our consistent track record of coming bottom in the Eurovision Song Contest (key indicators I’m sure you’ll agree), I’m pretty sure the rest of Europe wouldn’t object if we did …… maybe that’s where we’ve gone wrong?  It may possibly have been a better option to ask the rest of Europe if they wanted Britain to stay.  I think we all know the answer they would give us  …… 😉

brexit-shutterstock2

Talking of news coverage, I’m only glad we haven’t been in the UK for the full media run-up.  It seems that whatever decision is made will either prompt the ending of the world, trigger World War 3, spark financial ruin or promote another series of Big Brother.  On a more negative note (!!), it could just be like all the preparations that were undertaken as we moved into the new Millennium, when, – guess what? – nothing happened …….

British news does get coverage over here, and indeed, it has been taking more and more of a prime slot as we’ve moved closer to the event.  Almost everyone I’ve spoken to over the last week, has made reference to it during conversation, and it’s notable to me that British news gets such high billing on the media platform.  That said, so does Trump and all the American antics associated with the presidential elections – another key event which is scheduled to take place later this year.  It certainly seems that 2016 is a pivotal year in world history ……. let’s hope it’s remembered for promoting fundamental change and improvement, rather than complete catastrophe.

logo-fort-edmonton-park

I was reminded about Britain’s illustrious past only last week during yet another school trip to the Edmonton heritage park, ‘Fort Edmonton’.  Named after, and housing the original fort which was constructed during the height of the fur trade when Edmonton was first established back in 1846, it reconstructs a further 3 distinct time periods in Edmonton’s history – 1885, 1905 and 1921.  I was accompanying the Grade 1’s, and they were spending the day exploring the 1885 street, with all the various buildings and ways of life that existed during that time.  It’s wonderfully done – with fully functional houses from the time, and staff in costumes depicting the era.

school house

One of the first places we saw was the schoolhouse.  All the class were asked to take a seat at the desks, girls on the right (hats could be left on), whilst boys to the left (hats removed as a sign of courtesy).  And no talking.  The very first action was to all stand and sing the national anthem, to which the entire class starting reciting and singing, ‘Oh Canada’.  The school mistress brought them to a halt after 2 lines of the verse and admonished the class by stating that whilst melodic, this was not the Canadian national anthem of the time.  Could they now recite, ‘God save the Queen’.  Rather like a familiar tune coming over the airwaves on the radio, my youngest kid remarked, ‘oh, I know that one!!’, whilst her fellow classmates looked slightly bewildered around her.  I couldn’t have been prouder …..

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After this, they were instructed to draw the national flag on the chalkboards in front of them.  As expected, they all started to illustrate the Canadian flag with the red maple leaf.  Unimpressed, the schoolmistress was aghast that a piece of broccoli was on the Canadian flag, and could they all please behave and draw the Union Jack.  A knowing smile resonated from my youngest kid, and I did chuckle ……

stayorgo

Britain has clearly left marks on the world and today’s vote will no doubt have repercussions no matter what the decision is for decades to come.  The well-known song, ‘Should I stay or should I go now?’ by The Clash back in 1982 had the following refrain, ‘if I go there will be trouble, and if I stay it will be double’.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come back to haunt us ……

🙂

Thanks as ever to Google images for the pics in today’s blog …

What on earth am I doing here ???

Canada Immigration

It’ll come as no surprise to my regular blog readers, that this week’s blog is the sequel to last weeks’ edition of ‘Parlez-vous Anglais‘.  For those of you wondering how on earth I fared in my English test, then please read on ….

As a prequel to applying for any additional residency visas, one is obliged to go through an exhaustive English test. In my case, I spent all of last Saturday at MacEwan University School of Aboriginal Studies (you couldn’t make it up, this stuff just writes itself) for a gruelling set of tests.  Biometric authentication(!) was the only way in, and candidates were stripped of everything except 3 HB pencils, sharpener and an eraser.

IELTS

Entering my first lecture theatre in 20 years along with 70 other ‘foreigners’ from about as many countries was quite the experience. The doors were locked and examination conditions were enforced with draconian vigour. One chap near me was the first to be shouted at, for having the temerity to turn over his answer sheet before being instructed to do so. The timid Iranian girl next to me nearly jumped out of her burqa.

The invigilator/dragon began barking instructions at us for the listening phase of the test. Thirty minutes of capturing numerous details from a CD playing different conversations. I thought I was onto a winner, when the second exercise involved answering questions on ‘driving in the UK’.  Tempted to start answering before the CD had started playing, I held my nerve and listened with interest as a lady speaking the Queen’s english and voicing a BBC-type accent reminiscent of those adopted by the corporation pre-1980’s, began a conversation on the CD with a hesitant gentleman asking inane questions to which she patiently gave a response.  It was during the conversation when the topic turned to the ‘free-flowing traffic in Manchester city centre’, that I was tempted to object and claim this was falsely misrepresentative, but I resisted and distracted myself by watching the bemused look on the face of the fella from the Ivory Coast sitting alongside.

There followed 60 minutes of a written multiple choice paper with another familiar (to me) subject. A detailed comprehension exercise on the 3 Peaks Challenge up Snowden, Scafell and Ben Nevis. Having finished early I began musing what a Korean sitting in Canada with very little English would be making of this challenge. Judging by the wailing coming from the girl behind me, not a lot.

Canada Flag Sign

Another 60 minutes (no bathroom breaks permitted), and a chance to shine by writing 2 essays on given subjects. My piece on writing a complaint letter came naturally, and I had to curtail my enthusiasm and not get too carried away with the second topic entitled, ‘Some people believe family are more important than friends.  Discuss.’  At the end of this session, “PENCILS DOWN” was screamed. Mr Ivory Coast was clearly finishing a word off, but in so doing earned the full wrath of Dragon lady. She flew at him from the lectern, grabbed his pencil and forcibly scrubbed over his last 2 paragraphs. As he’d only managed to write 3, I thought this a little harsh.

After the 3 hours duration, we were almost finished and answer papers were rigorously collected, collated, checked and counted.  We had been provided with detailed instructions at the start of each session and throughout the morning, on how to complete each answer sheet – starting with inserting our name, candidate number and today’s date at the top of each and every page.  A written example was shown to us on each occasion on what to do.  At the very end of the morning and after checking the papers, one of the invigilators approached a Middle-Eastern lady sat in front of me and began insisting that her name was not ‘John Smith’, even remonstrating by showing her her passport in front of her and imploring her to remove all such reference and put her actual name on each sheet.  At this point, I realised that I was sat in a room where English truly was a foreign language to the majority, reflecting that my worries about what the content of each module would be and my ability to answer them all correctly, was minuscule compared to most of the others in the room.

snoopy

With a thumping headache and ballooning bladder there was only the final test of the day to be faced. We had to depart the lecture theatre and navigate our way to a different part of the University.  I was mistaken as a member of staff on several occasions by my fellow foreigners, whose ability to understand what on earth was happening next, let alone where they needed to move to, was clearly beyond the realms of their English comprehension.  We made our way across campus, where we waited in an ante-room and were called one at a time for the verbal interview.  I dutifully took my British passport (the only one in the room) forward and was again finger-printed before entry to a different cell with a different menacing invigilator.

good answer

This test was verbal, and recorded. I was asked to speak for 2 minutes on my beliefs on the importance of being able to speak a second language. Maybe it was the last straw, or the levels of exhaustion, but I put forward the view that a second language would be unnecessary if only people took the trouble to learn English properly. I was just getting into my stride when she cut me off with the 2 minutes elapsed. With a face like thunder she posed question 2. Could I talk about a time when I had been forced to use a second language, and how did it make me feel. By this point I was beyond caring, so I talked about the time I had been thrown into a foreign country with no preparation to live amongst non-English speakers. She seemed to be warming to me at that point, and with a sympathetic smile asked me which country it had been. All goodwill evaporated when I told her it was Canadia.

Interview over I was ejected from the room (not backwards and bowing like the Thai chap before me), and await my results which will be issued to me via traditional Canada post after 13 days. I fully expect to be deported soon after.

🙂

National pride …

Happiness-in-one-picture

Canada has just been ranked 6th in the ‘World Happiness Report’.  The survey measures the wellbeing of residents in more than 150 countries, based on six key factors: GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity. The report found that happier people earn more in their lifetime, are more productive and are better citizens.  Given that the UK was listed as being 23rd overall, it made me wonder whether I’ve felt the difference in overall ‘happiness’ since moving over to Canada 18 months ago?

happiness quote

Absolutely.

That’s not to say I was ever ‘unhappy’ in the UK.  Not at all.  I love it.  It’s my birthplace and will always be ‘home’.  But do I feel happier in Canada? ……… yes.  I could cite a million reasons why I prefer living in Canada to being in the UK – and on many dimensions – practicality, affordability, opportunity, environmental, lifestyle, friendliness, community.  The list could go on.

Building national pride was always strong in the UK, and likewise in Canada, they do the same – but probably more so.  Even in the schools, every Monday morning bang on 8.30am, the kids all listen (and sing along to), the Canadian National Anthem.  Back in the day, I always remember doing the same when I was in primary school but in later years, this was less so.  Comes to something when my youngest kid can recite the words of the Canadian National Anthem but struggles with the English one.  That’s what happens I guess when you relocate …

diversity

Diversity is much more pronounced where we live than I’ve experienced previously in the UK – and everyone is completely embraced and incorporated into local communities and made to feel welcome.   My kids have a plethora of friends at school from all nationalities.  In my middle kid’s class alone, they have kids there from Jamaica, Pakistan and Greece.  My youngest kid has been doing about ‘where we were born’ and Texas, China, Africa and Korea – plus the UK, obviously – have provided a rich source of material from which to understand different customs, traditions, language and geography.  In my days at primary school, we’d be hard pushed to find anyone who had been born outside a radius of 15 miles from the school!!

HeckleFlag

In ‘social studies’, the teacher recently gave an assignment to my oldest kid requiring the class to each draft a speech on the topic of ‘what makes you proud to be a Canadian’.  Given the range of nationalities in the class it was with some interest that I was keen to see how she tackled this challenge.  Apart from the obvious fact that my kid isn’t Canadian, that’s not to say she doesn’t feel Canadian.  I thought you may be interested to see what she wrote …..

Even though I am not Canadian,
There are some things about them that I know make them special.
For example, how they survive all winter in the cold, cold temperatures
and the strange accent that they speak with, even if they do mispronounce a few words.
The way they mix sweet foods with savoury foods and how apparently they think bacon is finger food.
With a Tim Hortons on every corner, you will always see them sipping a cup of coffee.
Where they have the best hockey in the world and were actually the ones that created
basketball.
These Canadians love poutine but not as much as their maple syrup.
With the maple leaf on their flag and the anthem that tells the world who they are,
These are the things that make a Canadian
special.

Tim Hortons

For a 12 year old, I thought it was an interesting insight into Canadian national pride.  She tells me that they had to memorise their own speeches and perform them in front of the class – getting a few chuckles from her classmates during her rendition.

18 months into our venture in Canada and we’re loving every second.  They say happiness is in the eye of the beholder and I can certainly say that it doesn’t get much better than this.  I’ve even been starting to support the Canadian team in the women’s world curling championships ……  🙂

 

Thanks as ever to Google images for supplying the pics for this blog ….

Seasons Greetings from the cold north!

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It’s been a bit of a chilly week here in Edmonton.  Temperatures are usually around -4 to -6 for this time of year, but this week we’ve had the delights of -19 and at one point, -24.  Now I know it’s going to get a lot colder as we move into the New Year, but still – boy, is it a bit brisk.

On the last day of school, it was pyjama day so all 3 kids trampled off to school with their PJ’s on underneath ski pants, boots, thermal coats, hats, gloves and scarves.  It was so cold that they didn’t even get ‘recess’ – which given the scant nature of their PJ’s, I was somewhat relieved.  That said, there’s no doubt about it – every year it’s a white christmas here, and it certainly feels it with the snow, the ice, the cold, and the numerous christmas decorations.  Now talking of which …..

Once we pass Halloween, it seems to be a ‘free for all’ on the Christmas decorations front.  With the dark early nights, cold temperatures, and snow all around, the colour from the displays definitely brightens things up as you drive through the City and residential streets.  We’ve even joined in, and have added to our range of Christmas cheer this year in the form of a moose.   No, not a real one, but standing on our decking about the size of a Shetland Pony, beaming out white Christmas lights.   Ho, ho, ho …..

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Ever wondered about the definition of a ‘white’ christmas?  Well, I know in England it’s determined by the UK Met Office who only require one snowflake to be observed falling in the 24 hours of Christmas Day somewhere in the UK – whether or not a single snowflake melts before it hits the ground.  I remember every year just wishing for a ‘White’ Christmas to be declared – but they’ve been few and far between and seemingly unlikely this year too.

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It’s a different story here in Edmonton.  A ‘white’ christmas is one where there is at least 2cm of snow on the ground at 7am on Christmas morning.  This year (and I assume each and every year), we’re safe on that score.  Now, this doesn’t invoke a sense of expectation or excitement when the prospect of snow is somewhat a ‘given’, so there’s an additional element built on top as to what constitutes a ‘perfect’ Christmas?  Any ideas?  Well, the formal definition is that along with the criteria being satisfied to declare a ‘white’ christmas, snow needs to be falling at the same time ….. a-ha!  Let’s see if we’re in luck this year then …..

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Now, on the topic of frozen ice….. Edmonton is home to a huge Ice Castle currently under construction in Hawrelak Park, a beautiful location down in the River Valley.  Billed as the largest ice structure in North America, once completed, it’s going to be open to the public and along with the castle itself, will also include slides, waterfalls, tunnels and caves which you can explore.  Every metre of the castle is made up of at least 400 icicles which have been grown from over 3km of water sprinklers.  We’re booked to explore it in early February so the kids are extremely excited about going inside.  Here’s a pic amidst ongoing construction as we walked past earlier today …..

2015-12-24 11.41.52Edmonton isn’t called the ‘winter city’ for nothing.  Along with opportunities for ice and snow sports during the day, there are lots of shows to go and see in the winter evenings.  We’ve been on numerous excursions this week, ranging from the ‘Singing Christmas Tree’ show (brilliantly light entertainment and it was, literally, a choir nestled amongst lights and tiers resembling a Christmas tree), the “Festival of Lights’ at the local zoo (only the snow leopard and reindeers were out and about that night), the theatre play – ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens and excellently performed by a professional cast in a  beautiful theatre, followed by the British panto, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ at Fort Edmonton which was in 1920’s style.  Quite a cultural and eclectic mix of events and activities over the past few weeks – but great fun and well worth seeking out and visiting.  The challenge will be maintaining the momentum and managing expectations for Christmas in Edmonton next year!!

So, as it starts to get dark here on Christmas Eve, I’m off to pour myself a glass and toast to everyone’s good health.  All that remains on this cold and snowy evening, is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂

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Final photo courtesy of google images …

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 …  🙂

Raising a glass to Queen and Country …

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Well, today is ‘Victoria Day’ in Canada – a national holiday to honour Queen Victoria’s birthday, and as such, the skies are blue, the sun is shining and the weather is a toasty 17C.  First declared a national holiday in 1845, it wasn’t until 1901, the year of Victoria’s death, that the holiday officially became known as Victoria Day.  Since that date, it not only remembers Queen Victoria’s birthday, but also commemorates the birthday of the current monarch (Queen Elizabeth II).  Of course, there’s also another unofficial version of the ‘day off’ commonly referred to as the ‘May 2-4 weekend’ (Queen Victoria was born on 24 May 1819), as hard working Canadians celebrate an end to Winter and welcome in warmer temperatures through the consumption of cases of beer (or any other liquor one assumes).  It’s also seen as the time after which we can safely start to plant outside and spend time in gardens now the colder weather has lapsed and the prospect of killing off all living things due to the harsh climate dissipates slightly.  Unfortunately, the plants newly procured and planted in my garden have no protection from my natural ability to fell anything within 250 yards.  I wouldn’t be surprised if everything is left floundering and on it’s last legs within the month ….

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I’ve been waiting weeks for the notional ‘cut off’ date before starting to buy plants and flowers for the garden.  Back in the UK, it can be as early as March – but we didn’t see snow disappear properly in Edmonton until the start of April and even then, we had a sudden snow ‘dump’ just under 2 weeks ago.  We were also not able to bring across anything remotely connected to the outside and garden from the UK in our container as it was regarded a ‘bio-hazard’ – (how on earth they allowed my husband entry I’ll never know) – so I’ve had to buy a lawnmower and outside furniture along with plants and pots (that don’t crack and break in the deep cold of Winter – or at the first signs of frost).

The ‘piece de resistance‘ is a monolithic BBQ.  We’ve had to enter new territory and venture into the unknown where BBQ’s are concerned.  It’s huge business in Canada with every type you can think of and sizes ranging from large through to gigantic.  Our background in BBQ’s isn’t the best.  Only being used to a portable unit no bigger than the circumference of a dinner plate, and the obligatory wait for 3.5hrs before coals start to achieve a temperature useful for melting butter, we’ve always had good intentions but in reality, probably have only made proper use of it on a handful of evenings in the UK.  It’s a completely different animal over here and the monstrosity we procured can easily reach high temperatures within 10 minutes – a feat my oven only dreams of.  So, we’ve had evening meals on it for the last few nights – albeit we all sat inside to consume them – and have even cooked a typical English breakfast on it yesterday morning.  I’m sure the novelty will start to wane and we’ll normalise around 4 or 5 times a week – rather than 3 times a day currently!!

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Given Victoria Day also has a tongue-in-cheek celebration in the consumption of liquor – it has been truly required upon the construction of the outdoor furniture.  For those familiar with the challenges of flat-packed items, you’ll identify with this quite readily.  I wouldn’t mind but I did attempt to manage expectations as upon purchase, most of the comments in the review section focused on the endeavours faced with constructing all 5 items.  Putting the criteria of price above ‘constructability’, I relayed these to my ‘not so D-I-Y’ husband prior to commencing the build just so he knew what he was in for …… (I’ve always found that setting expectations very low for jobs in the house along these lines has proved most fruitful – especially when he’s then able to complete the required job with somewhat ease).

On this occasion, I obviously hadn’t set them low enough as the obscenities and curses uttered as each item was unpacked and attempts to construct disintegrated with each item.  Keeping a low profile during such times is always the best policy except with the frequent interjections of ‘here’s another bottle of your favourite ale’.  Anyhow, I’m now typing this blog to you all sat on one of the newly built items (and comfy it is too), but have decided not to point out the several ‘spare’ screws and items that don’t seem to have been fully utilised in their construction.  So, with no further ado and looking out my now colourful garden with a mouth-watering smell wafting from the BBQ, I’ll raise a glass (or two) to Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.

Happy Victoria Day everyone 🙂

Take your marks …

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My oldest kid is a serious about swimming and my usual week is full of the frantic juggling to get her to her swimming training sessions at a variety of locations across Edmonton – usually lasting between 2 to 3 hrs long and luckily, all after school.  To add some complexity, my other 2 kids also swim but in different places, on different days, and at different times.  Whoever said life was simple!

Back in the UK, I started training as a swimming judge – mainly so I could understand the rules and be able to articulate them to the kids.  It also provides an opportunity for me to do something meaningful during the numerous swimming competitions we attend, rather than watch from the spectator stands.  My oldest kid loves the fact that I’m there and on poolside, so it works well.

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When we relocated to Canada, I was keen to try and transfer the skill set across – albeit, my broken wrist at Christmas didn’t help (click here to get up to speed) and somewhat delayed the process.  The volunteering system is huge over here and requests to transfer in as a swimming judge, welcomed with open arms.  Everything is slick, well-managed and catered for.  So, I have just spent the last weekend carrying out 5 shifts as a swimming judge (‘Stroke and Turn’ if you must ask), and am now officially registered as a judge with Swim Canada.  For those that know me and my uncanny ability to avoid any significant forms of exercise, the irony is not lost on me I admit.  However, this appeals to me completely – I can justifiably encourage and enforce the Canadian Swimming rules, without having to venture demonstrating them myself.  I know exactly what a good butterfly and breaststroke look like, how turns need to be executed, and relay change-overs applied – and can readily articulate this.  Just don’t ask me to demonstrate otherwise you’ll be bitterly disappointed – or alternatively, will keel over laughing at my inane attempts!  It’s not a dry past-time either.  Prepare to be doused in water and lots of it.  I got that wet at times over the weekend, I was beginning to wonder whether I would’ve been better as a competitor in the water rather than a judge on poolside!

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Compared to my experiences of judging in the UK, the attendance and sheer number of volunteers around the poolside in Canada is extraordinary.  Everyone is assigned a specific role for the duration of a session and with a formal briefing prior to the start which is conducted bang on time, every time, by the referee; it gets everyone well versed on what needs to happen, how the referee wants to run the ‘meet’, and what to do should an ‘infraction’ be observed.  The interesting and most significant difference I notice from judging in both countries, is the Canadian emphasis on doing it purely for the kids and providing them with the environment during a ‘meet’ which best demonstrates their abilities as a result of the enormous efforts they put into training every day of the week.  It’s a subtle difference and I’m not inferring that this isn’t the case in the UK, but it’s articulated that many times that you find the behaviours align to the ethos.  It’s a positive experience for everyone concerned, and I’m sure it delivers better results in the longer term.

It was an ‘International’ meet with teams travelling all across Canada to compete.  A different use of the word ‘international’ than what I’m used to in the UK, but given the size and scale of Canada alone, well justified.  The organisers are rightly proud of its longevity as a stalwart in the ‘Meet Calendar’, citing that the ‘Meet’ started back in 1978 and was also where changes to the rules for false starts were made and then applied across Canada – and are now applied across the World.  Good heritage indeed.

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One of the by-products is that you get to meet such a variety of other volunteers, and we all have a laugh and a joke alongside the seriousness of the ‘meet’ and ensuring adherence to the rules and regulations.   Perfect for us a ‘new arrivals’ to the country.  My oldest delivered some PB’s (personal best) times in her swims and left smiling each day.  That’s what it’s all about.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, felt as though I’d assisted and made a difference, plus got to use a completely different skill set than the one I do on a daily basis.

So here’s to the next one.  Take your marks ….

🙂

It’s not what’s said, it’s how it’s said

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Accents are funny things aren’t they?  They define a person – both to themselves, but also to others.  Meet anyone and how they talk often tells you more about them than what they actually say.

Canada has surprised me in more ways than one – but a large one has been in its accents and languages.  In Canada alone, there were more than 200 languages reported in the 2011 Census of Population as a home language or mother tongue.  English and French are the official languages and in more ways than one, the most common form of currency to communicate between different cultures and people.  I’ll be stood at school waiting for the kids to come out of their classes, and the abundance of different languages you can hear is simply staggering.  At the Recreation and Leisure Centres it’s a similar story and it’s lovely to have such diversity – and something I hadn’t thought I would encounter to this extent.  Names of people often reflect their cultural background too and there’s a plethora of choice over here – I’ve smiled when my youngest kid has formed new friends and upon asking their name, has nodded in understanding and carried on playing whilst not being able to recollect what was said or re-interpret it.

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You can safely say for those that have met me and spoken to me, that there is a fairly strong northern English accent.  My father-in-law (coming from what I would call ‘the south’ of England although he would fiercely contest it is more ‘Midlands’ in orientation), has taken great delight and pleasure over the years in requesting translations for various turns of phrases I’ll utter, through a third party – namely, my husband.  It’s said with much mirth and I’ll also try to come up with something to baffle and confound him just to see his reaction.

So, take the girl out of England what do you find?  Quite often, 2 countries divided by a common language!  My husband is often in hysterics leaving me to front conversations in cafes, restaurants and shops just to savour the exchange of words between the parties.  There’s been a few disasters ……

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I love my cups of tea (British tradition and built into my DNA), and I like it strong, white, and without sugar.  Upon staying in a hotel when we first arrived, there was no milk in the room so off I trotted to Reception to ask for some from the kitchen.  It was a testy conversation, I’ll be honest – I wasn’t overly sure the Receptionist understood what ‘milk’ was, so I settled on compromising on the word ‘cream’ as this term seemed to be acknowledged and understood (in the coffee sense of the word).  ‘Cream’ would be sent to the room, so imagine my bafflement and surprise when after 10 minutes, there was a knock at the bedroom door, and a lovely lady from the ‘Housekeeping’ department wanted to provide me with a ‘crib’.

Equally, I’ve asked for ‘hot chocolate’ and been provided with ‘hot coffee’.  This week, we went for a meal on my birthday and I asked for ‘tap water’ only to receive ‘hot water’ in glasses at the table.  Slightly unusual I admit, but we decided suffering in silence was probably less problematic than attempting to explain the error.

Usually though, I’m met with the response, ‘I really love your accent’ followed by the question, ‘where are you from?’, with the option of choice offered as ‘is it English or Australian’?  This astounds me each and every time, but it’s happened so often that all I can assume is it’s obviously something that to people in Canada sounds alike.  Now to me, an English accent is quite distinctive and one I wouldn’t mix up with another country – Australia being the last option I’d have selected.  But maybe it’s the equivalent of me trying to discern the difference between American and Canadian?  To me they sound similar – without the Texan drawl and Deep South accents taken into account – but clearly are offensive options when suggested to a Canadian.

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I’m muddling along though and if all else fails I often adopt the approach of a true English-person abroad – speak slowly, louder, and adopt hand signals …

Could you imagine what on earth life would’ve been like if I’d gone to a completely different foreign country where the language of the nation wasn’t rooted in English?  That said, all these things are fun, memorable and life defining – and that’s what it should be about.

🙂

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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🙂

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.

Go and explore!

Jasper Park, Alberta, Canada

Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

 

This is what he said:

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

English: in , Alberta, Canada.

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

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

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

 

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

Being back home and close by.

 

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

 Good Luck

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

 

Time will tell.

Exhilarating … in every way

Goat

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Much closer proximity.

 

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

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

 

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

Moose

Mmmmmmm ……..

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

Mother cat

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

To have a good experience of a different lifestyle

 

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

No – she’s always liked being in England

 

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

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

 

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

Not having help close at hand

 

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

  • Enjoy
  • Explore
  • Learn

 

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

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

 

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

Apprehensive

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

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

It’s a slippery slope …… to ruin!

Questions

Minds have now switched to thinking about the costs which we will incur for relocating overseas and the myriad of questions that require some form of an answer.   In fact, even getting any degree of an answer is proving somewhat a challenge but let me explain …

It’s the same company in the UK asking us to relocate as we will be working for in Canada. In thinking about the costs of relocating, it gets you wondering about how we will get paid for work. So, at the top of the list is question number 1: do we get paid in a foreign currency or retain our monthly salary in pounds sterling? Deep intake of breath as the vagaries of foreign exchange rates, host company versus home country start to raise their heads.

Clearly this then leads you to question number 2 and debates on tax. Which is most the appropriate? Do we still pay UK income tax? What about Canadian tax and if we’re living there, well……..

Friends of mine will relish the opportunity to wax lyrical on such a stimulating and clearly complex body of knowledge and opinion (not my ideal topic of choice for a discussion around the dinner table, although give me a bottle of wine and I’ll happily participate whether or not I have any knowledge on the subject whatsoever). That said, give my friends any amount of alcohol and it’s hard to decipher any difference !! (I’m jesting if any of them are reading my blog, honest 🙂 )

 

Get yourself through this minefield – the common characteristics being confusion, complexity and a feeling of being clearly ‘out of my depth’ – and you’re into the whole debate on how do we get paid and into where? We’ve got to set up bank accounts in Canada and payments will need to go into this – from which we’ll need to make no doubt, an endless stream of payments both within Canada and to send back home to the UK (did I mention I have 3 kids, who certainly don’t come cheap).

 

Next on my list is social security/national insurance (now, don’t yawn). Call it what you will, when you boil it right down, all we need to know is – it more or less than we pay now? I’m happy to leave out all the specifics in the quest for a simple response.

Puzzle

To live and work in a different country for any duration of time, there will be costs to making it happen which we’re fully expecting – some of which may be met by the company asking us to relocate, some of which won’t. Once we are there and duly settled, what will be our monthly outgoings and will we be better or worse off? The safest assumption to make at this stage is to plan for failure and assume the worst!

 

Finally – and why my next observation features further down the list than all the other items above I don’t know – but did I mention Edmonton has one of the largest shopping malls in the world? Obviously an opportunity for any female and clearly a key influencer on whether we’ll have any funds remaining during or after our time in Canada. I suspect not.

 

Despite all this, I’m fully anticipating that the lifestyle, quality of life and whole experience which we’ll benefit from will be well worth all the effort, pain and no doubt, cost. Everything comes at a price. Let’s just hope it’s not a slippery slope to ruin!!!!

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.

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 🙂

 

 

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!