Tag Archives: Christmas

I hear those sleigh bells ringing…

Eldest Weasel makes a Rockin' reindeer in the school production of "North Pole Musical"

For many people here in the Greater Vancouver area, Christmas has been coming since Hallowe’en bowed out on November the first. Folks round this way really seem to enjoy decorating their houses, so barely had the month changed before the giant spiders’ webs and inflatable Frankensteins were being pulled down and replaced with miles and miles of twinkling strings of lights and inflatable snowmen and Santas. Since the World’s Largest Home Improvement Retailer skipped straight over Hallowe’en and started flogging Christmas decos way back in mid-October, I was a little jaded about the whole thing, but recently Mrs Dim and I have taken the odd stroll out along our neighbourhood of an evening, and I have to say I’m charmed. Yes, by UK standards, I suppose the houses look a little gaudy, and there’s an austerity measures voice in my head that mutters about the electricity bill all these people must have to pay in January, but look, it’s PRETTY, ok?

If the lights are going up and the evenings are drawing in, then the weasels must be performing in the school play, right? I fear so, but this being Vancouver, the multi-cultural melting pot of the most laid-back country in the Northern Hemisphere, we won’t risk anything as controversial as tea-towel wearing re-enactments of the Nativity. Nope, last year’s fiesta was a play that stressed the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (a common theme for the school that year) and this year we had the North Pole Musical, where the inhabitants of Santa’s workshops competed to see who would get to perform in the musical. This year the performance was by the elder two age groups in the school, so the singing was more tuneful and there was less “Ahh, doesn’t he look lovely?” from the watching parents.

Middle Weasel had a less demanding role - First Flower in the three-minute Nutcracker

As always, I was torn between enjoying the show and wishing I had written something for them. At the climax of the piece, Santa, Mrs Claus and Crystal Snowflake sing a song about the heart of Christmas, which seems to be about, you know, peace and love, and hope and generally nice but vague concepts. Because, you know, it’s Christmas. A time for presents, and…stuff.

I can appreciate that not everyone at the weasels’ school wants to celebrate Christmas as a Christian festival, but recently we (being TLC Creative) were asked to consider writing a secular piece for a schools Christmas show. I was hesitant, because I dread getting to that moment when one of the characters steps forward to talk about the true meaning of Christmas. I’m sorry, but if you’re atheist, agnostic or of another religion (all of which are fine by me, go right ahead…) then there is no true meaning of Christmas for you. Just as Eid, Ramadan and Diwali mean nothing at all to me. I won’t stop you celebrating them, and if you ask me to come along and hold up a lantern in a Diwali celebration, why I’d love to. Sounds like a neighbourly thing to do. But does it mean anything to me? Nope. So just as I wouldn’t write a secular play on the true meaning of Diwali being what draws a group of street kids to reform their thieving ways and become teachers, I don’t feel comfortable writing about the True Spirit of Christmas being to give out presents and be nice to people you don’t like the rest of the year.

This feeling comes round every year and it makes Mrs Dim cross because she has always worked in a multi-faith, multi-cultural environment, whereas for most of my working life I’ve been in a dark room, staring at the computer screen, so she knows it’s not about the True Meaning of Christmas, it’s about making people take part in Christmas when they don’t want to. People of other beliefs have no option about Christmas, she says patiently every year, the whole place (UK, Canada, wherever) closes over the holiday and some people don’t want to celebrate Christmas. Saying “Happy Holidays” may set your teeth on edge, Mr Grumpy, but it doesn’t offend.

So let me apologise. I know a fair few atheists, agnostics, and folks who just find the whole “Them and Us”ness of religion too much bother. Fair play to you, not going to convert you. You are not a rugby ball, as I point out in one of my plays. But please, let me wish you a Merry Christmas, with no ill intent, no offense meant. I hope it brings a little light into the darkest time of the year, even if it’s only from the strings of lights around your tree.

It’s Christmas time….

I think I’ve said before that, in many ways, this emigration has not been hard. It wasn’t easy leaving family and friends behind, it wasn’t easy having to re-equip a home, and it’s never easy fitting into a new school or new job….But generally things have gone well and we’re settled.

Up til now, the only test has been time. Mrs Dim has a Social Calendar in her head that goes off every few weeks saying “We haven’t seen/heard from so and so, we must call/write/visit/thank our lucky stars..” It’s a supersense she has developed over many years, and is therefore not something that gets deactivated by minor details like moving a few thousand miles. So moments have come and gone where she suddenly sits bolt upright and then slumps slightly… I know she’s thinking “We should go and see…oh.”

But then you get to Christmas. Like any married couple, we have evolved a system for visiting family over the festive period that allows the maximum exposure with the minimum of fuss. Clearly, dropping in on anyone’s parents this year would involve quite a bit of fuss.

It was difficult, but at the same time, it was simple too: There was no way we could go back to the UK and visit. It was not an option. That only left deciding how to spend it here. We’d been invited to some friends of Mrs Dim for Christmas Day, but that didn’t feel right yet, so we plumped for throwing a Christmas Drinks do for the people along our road.

Most of the church stuff was done on Christmas Eve (I’ve decided not to talk about Religion on the blog, at least for the moment) so we spent the afternoon watching the kids being angels, then got a babysitter in so we could go to the evening service. We got to sing my favourite carol, so that got some extra points.

Christmas Day itself was non-standard. Yes, the smaller weasels got up at ten to four in the morning, but they were persuaded to go back to bed. Once everyone was up and conscious we compared the presents we’d been left in our stockings and exclaimed over the sooty footprints by the fireplace. (Some of us, with responsibilities for household cleanliness, exclaimed a little more loudly than others…) Then we clambered into the car and went off up a nearby mountain for tobogganning. I was a little disappointed at how regimented it was, with lanes marked out, rules to follow and a fee to be paid, but actually, none of that matters once you’re hurtling down the slope on your flimsy plastic sled. The views were amazing, and the other people (of which there were many, surprisingly) were good natured. Well of course they were. They were Canadian.

Then we came home and had Hot Dogs for lunch. Yep. With a boned and rolled turkey in the fridge, we had Hot Dogs for lunch. I may never get over that. On Christmas Day, we sat down for our midday meal and ate Hot Dogs. Huh.

Then came the massacre of presents, with wrapping paper everywhere, the dog in a frenzy over her new toys (and everyone else’s new toys – three pieces of Middle Weasel’s action figure were recovered from Moose’s jaws during the day.) And we all got what we’d asked for, more or less. It was good.

THEN came the turkey with all the trimmings, though we skipped both the Christmas Pud and the Christmas Cake, not being big eaters of either of those. We may have to figure something out about those for Mrs Dim next year.

And where was the family in all this? Well, in that magical time after stocking presents but before getting dressed, we hooked the webcam and computer up to the tv in the lounge and went online. We spoke to both sets of parents, my brother and his family, Mrs Dim’s Aunt and Uncle, their children…It felt like they were just around the corner (although my brother’s internet connection is as reliable as British Rail.) We may not be able to drop in at a moment’s notice, but we’re not out of touch. It’s times like these I believe Father Christmas can get around the world in one night – it’s such a small world after all.

If I were pregnant, I’d be due by now….

Seems funny, living in a place with so many great landmarks, that we now have so few in our lives. Not so long ago it seemed that everything we did was a first, and now it’s hard to find something that isn’t part of the everyday routine.

Buying snow chains was new though. Last year they had a big old dump of snow here in Vancouver, more than they’ve ever had, and a lot of people didn’t know what to do. Most seemed to think that driving too fast and crashing was the best plan. So a lot of our neighbours have been telling us we need snow tires, and chains. And a shovel. And some blankets. Hell, don’t even bother coming out of the house until March, stock up on tins and firewood and live in your basement.

But I’m British, and we don’t change our own tires these days. We certainly don’t have two sets of tires at the same time. For one thing, we have TYRES, which are much more imbued with a sense of history and Empire. So I won’t be joining the long queues outside the ttire shops when the first snow falls. I shall drive slowly and carefully in the All-Weathers that were already on my car, and put on the chains when the going gets really tough. I’ve tried it once, and it wasn’t too hard. Just takes twenty minutes per wheel. Maybe I better practice again?

The other first that is looming is Christmas. I’ll miss my family, because that’s what you do at Christmas, but we’ve already turned down one kind invitation to do Christmas Dinner with someone else. This emigration is something we did as a team, and there are some moments when we have to draw back down to just that team and say “Ok, this is us. Are we still ok? Is this still the right thing to be doing?” Mrs Dim has had her moments of worry recently. They say the six month point is crucial, but that was when she got her great job, and that kind of carried us over. Now that’s all normal (SOP:Standard Operating Procedure) she’s starting to get the jitters she should have had three months ago. We’re looking at houses again, worrying about the money, suggesting I should get a proper job…

Sidebar for a true story: I joined an online essay-writing group. You choose the assignments you want to write and get paid for them (providing you pass the initial test and the customer is happy, I guess.) I passed the initial test ok, then went to look at the assignments. The first one I saw was an essay on plagiarism. It had all the details of the University where this essay had been set. Some student had been assigned an essay on Plagiarism, and was paying someone else to write it! I didn’t take the job.

It’s nine months since we arrived in Canada, give or take a day, and eight months since we moved into this house. I think that’s cool: Three quarters of a year in the country, two thirds of a year in the house. It still feels like there are things I haven’t got sorted out yet : I still haven’t earned any money in this country yet, though I think about eight grand has stacked up in the UK bank account. We haven’t been able to talk to an accountant or Tax advisor – I think that’s a job for me to sort. We’ve found a mortgage advisor, but the sum she says we can afford is not as big as the ticket on the houses we’ve been looking at. Middle Weasel has just begun her assessment to find out if she’s certifiably bonkers or just a tough cookie when it comes to schoolwork. But we’re healthy and happy, and when the sun shines, like it is today, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be. In fact, it’s not that bad when it’s raining.

Heh, just thought of another first. Mrs Dim and I took a day off last week and went for a skiing lesson. Just the two of us, and a guy called Ryan as our instructor – came from Manchester, of all places. For a glorious couple of hours we were out on the mountain, above the rain and mist in the sun, falling on our asses and laughing like four-year-olds. One of the things that we promised ourselves we would do when we moved here, and we’re doing it.