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.