Tag Archives: Dim

Happy New Year, eh?

Watching the eagles at Brackendale - this year, we actually saw some...

The trees are still up and there are still strings of lights festooning houses down every street, but people’s thoughts have turned from Christmas to the coming year. And, of course, to the year that’s past.

It’s a funny thing about this emigration lark. We didn’t arrive in Canada on the first of January, but it’s hard to avoid thinking of this as the end of our second year.  End of the year is what it’s all about, after all.

One of the truths we’ve come to understand in this second year, is that it was both easier and harder than the first. The things that seemed so strange and difficult at first have become everyday. I know where to shop, I know how to get to a doctor, dental checkups are a snap. Mrs Dim and I both have jobs. We have friends, and as much of a social life as we can cope with. So much for the hard things. But this year we have felt some of the strain of being so far from family and old friends. Technology has been a big help, with Skype, email and FaceBook keeping us up to date with events and even helping us send real-time video greetings to my family on Christmas morning, but it’s not the same as the regular visits to and by friends. Or even the sporadic visits. Or those ‘Didn’t know we were coming, but found ourselves in the area” visits. The recent ructions over my working weekends and weasel wrangling showed us how much we missed the support of our families when it comes to getting a break from the weasels, or giving them a break from us.

A stranger relaxation comes from the acceptance that we’re here for the long haul. Mrs Dim was saying today that she’s not in such a tearing hurry to try all the winter sports on offer, or visit every corner of British Columbia RIGHT NOW, because she finally feels that there will be time for all of that. We’ve accepted, for example, that Middle Weasel really doesn’t want to give skiing a go again this winter. She got cold last year, she said, and she doesn’t want to do it again. That was a blow, because if she’s not skiing, then one of us has to not ski too. Brilliant grammar, Dim, try again. If she’s not skiing, then one of us has to stay with her, and the other has to ski with Eldest Weasel (who is competent) and Tiniest Weasel (who is a natural disaster on skis, hurtling down the slopes like a football in a helmet, but armed with two sharpened poles….). So, as you read this, I shall be off to the Mountain with Eldest Weasel only, taking my last ski of the year. Also, as it happens, my second ski of the year, but I’ll take what I can get.

We’re homeowners now, able to bore folks with our tales of renovation, and feeling a lot more Canadian because we have a piece of the land to call our own. In a year we’ve gone from being Newbies, renting and living off foreign earnings, to landed Canadians, paying tax and contributing to our community.

Back in March, celebrating our first anniversary of landing, I said we’d pretty much run out of firsts, but I think I spoke too soon. I’m finding, like a lot of people, that there are many, many firsts in a lifetime, and many more that you don’t regret having to do again and again. In the year to come we’re facing Eldest Weasel going up to High School, further employment ambitions and business expansions and the hope of a Christmas trip to the UK. Whether those things will be problems or challenges we’ll have to wait and see, but we’re ready for them either way.

Happy New Year, eh?

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The Moving Day Challenge Cup

Welcome to what I’m sure will be a thrilling day’s play, here at the Moving Day Challenge Cup. We have the home team of Dim and Mrs Dim facing off against a group of three young men from a removal company, described by an impartial observer as “Enthusiastic but unskilled”. Will that show in their game plan today, I wonder?

Well, as you can see, the home team have made a good opening, with plenty of boxes pre-packed and neatly labelled, and they’ve kept separate a collection of cleaning equipment and coffee-makings. But the Movers also make a strong start, bringing out boxes faster than anyone would have expected…It looks like they’re going to get everything on the van before the home team have finished packing. No, wait, in a brilliant move, the home team have produced coffee and mentioned cigarettes. In a flash the game has turned around, as the Movers fall back to the van to sip their coffee and take a smoke break. That allows the home team to get more boxes packed and more furniture disassembled.

The Movers are going so fast, you can't see them....

Load up, move out!

There are some other players on the pitch here, and I can’t decide which team they’re on – they seem to be a collection of Tiny Weasels, and they’re scoring goals for both sides, disrupting the packing on one hand, and packing their own boxes on the other. It’s too close to call.

And that’s half time! The Movers are taking the first load of possessions to the new house and the home team are splitting up to play on two fronts now. Mrs Dim and the Weasels are attacking the cleaning of the old house, while Dim attempts to organise the boxes and furniture as they come off the truck at the other end. Oh, and a foul has been perpetrated by the previous owners, leaving far more than they said “for temporary storage” in the basement of the new house, leading to awkward confusion as the new possessions begin to be dumped alongside the old. Now as well as directing the furniture to the correct rooms, Dim has to retrieve boxes from the basement and reposition them. This is definitely a case where the Movers are scoring an own goal, treating the labelling of the boxes as if it were some form of bizarre decoration, rather than indicating where the box should go.

The whistle blows, and it’s Mrs Dim bringing over the Weasels and dog to play in the new house while she finishes the organisation, and Dim is back over to the old house to press on with the cleaning and oversee the loading of the last few pieces of furniture. He should also be bringing on the last player, the house inspector from the landlords….but wait! In a last-minute shocker, the house inspector is too busy to come out today! A reprieve for the home team, as now they have an extra morning to get the old house completely cleaned. Dim is able to leave the old house as soon as the Movers have the last item on the truck and the action moves entirely to the new house for a thrilling finale.

Team Trasler moves into overdrive, identifying boxes and furniture on the fly while trying to round up enough ready cash for the tip. With only one breakage noticed so far, it’s been a pretty clean game on the Mover’s side, and the weasels have avoided any threats of death, dismemberment or being locked in cupboards, which puts them well ahead of their usual match results. Just before we have to move into extra time, the Movers announce they’re done and are leaving. As the crowd goes wild, Team Trasler splits one more time so Mrs Dim can run errands on the North Shore and a triumphant Dim buys the Weasels greasy fast food to celebrate the end of MOVING DAY

Still looking, but in the meantime….

John Lee's Marvellous guidebook

I’ve held off on posting another entry, despite the excellent advice from Miss 604 (www.miss604.com) that you should add new content frequently, because up until last night, I really only had my lack of jobhunting success to whine about…excuse me, to document for your interest and amusement.

But last night I got to go out and attend the book launch of “Drinking Vancouver” by The Famous John Lee (follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnleewriter) It’s the first time I’ve been invited to a book launch (by someone I’ve actually met) and since John’s a very nice person and has worked slavishly hard researching every bar featured in his book, it seemed only fair to go along.

Life in the household is never that simple though. The do kicked off at six, and at five fifteen, I was still at the Ice Rink with Middle Weasel and Tiny Weasel as they finished their latest round of skating lessons. Clutching their certificates and badges, I hustled them into the car and rocketed (at a legal and sedate pace) through the darkening streets to the SkyTrain station at the foot of our hill. There I met Mrs Dim, who was returning from another business-type, symposium/seminar/workshop on important things that I don’t quite follow. We did a flying exchange (I had the decency to stop the car, at least, even if the engine was still runnning) and I was on the train and away.

I still haven’t got used to the SkyTrain. It’s clean. It’s quiet. There’s almost always room to sit down – although I realise I always travel off-peak, and there’s going to be standing room only in a fortnight when all the commuters forced off the road by the Olympic Road Closures cram on board – and the people are non-threatening. Well, of course they are – they’re Canadians. Anyway, it’s a lovely journey from our neck of the woods into Downtown. There’s only one change, and it seems like everyone on the train makes the same change, so you sweep off the carriage at Broadway/Commercial and continue sweeping up the stairs and onto the higher level platform. Then you have the choice to make, because the Downtown train will always be there, doors open. If you run, flat out, you  MIGHT just make it. Or, like the guy in front of me last night, you might get there just as the train pulls out and have to go from a sprint to a nonchalant stroll, trying to convince the passengers on the other side of the platform that this is how you always arrive at the station.

So on to the next train ride, past the magical sparkling globe of Science World, and before you know it, you’re in Downtown! I had no weasels in tow, and I was on my way to an event that it would be acceptable to drop in to, so no urgency. It was a fresh evening, rather than cold, and the trees of Gastown were lit with beautiful white Christmas lights – I wonder if they ever take them down? They shouldn’t because it looked magical. Everywhere I looked seemed to have been renovated and renewed and I was getting pretty excited about seeing The Alibi Room (http://www.alibi.ca/) where the launch was being held.

I lost my cool within seconds of entering. I’d seen the poster in the lobby saying that the launch was downstairs. I strode confidently up to the Maitre d’ and asked how to get downstairs. She indicated the huge staircase just to her right. “Down the stairs?” she suggested. D’oh! Downstairs was bustling, and I quickly joined the queue to pick up my own copy of the book – I have family coming out to visit soon, and I figured this is another useful guide to have. I hadn’t realised John had also written a walking guide to Vancouver too (read about it here:http://insidevancouver.ca/2009/12/02/the-perfect-gift-book-for-olympic-visitors-john-lees-walking-vancouver/) and I think that might have to become part of the family library of guide books before long.

I grabbed a drink and stood at the end of the bar, feeling slightly lost and awfully English. I’ve noticed Canadians are great at meeting people. They start conversations easily and naturally, ask relevant questions like “What’s your name?” without it sounding like a criticism or interrogation. Lucky for me, a Canadian came up to me and did just that. Margarita is in the middle of a writing course, and had been told to network. She was easy to talk to and interested in what I wrote, so I talked too much and made little sense. Then she met another friend and introduced me, and Helen was from the UK, so we talked about contrasts, visits to the Old Country and what we miss.

I had a chance to thank John for the invitation and get my book signed, and then I headed off. I had a worry that if I stayed longer I would start to bore people, and I had enjoyed the conversations I’d had. Best to quit while you’re ahead.

Outside the night didn’t feel any colder, and the trip was just as much fun in reverse. All the way I was thinking how lucky I am. Writing plays is something I enjoy, and people seem to like the plays I’ve written (with the possible exception of “Three Sons” and “Yes, but how was the play, Mrs Lincoln?”… Nobody seems to want those ones.) For ten years I’ve seen things I’ve created go out into the world and bring back money, and I’ve been able to say “I’m a writer” and prove it to people. Talking with other writers in recent weeks, feature writers for the most part, I hear them worrying about shrinking markets, convoluted and disadvantageous contracts, increased competition and lower wages. I shouldn’t be complaining that I have to find other work, I should be thankful that it’s taken this long before the need has arisen.

So I’ll update on the employment situation when there’s something to say.

Seven months in and time for the dentist…(originally posted Oct 23/09)

Not so long ago I said the only fly in the immigration ointment was that our Care Cards had been delayed. Well, that’s all over now, as they’re here and we’re in the system. To celebrate, we’re off to the dentist today (not actually covered under the health system, but Mrs Dim has some jolly good Health Insurance as part of her job, so there you go.) It’s a Pro D day, so the kids aren’t in school and for once I’m not whining about it. There’s no half term here, and they’re all exhausted, so giving them a day when they don’t have to leap out of bed early and rush off into the rain (yeah, it’s Fall here, so it’s raining!) might do ’em some good. Of course, the two tiniest weasels have leaped out of bed early anyway, but they’re slumped on the sofa watching TV and making no effort to expend any energy. Mrs Dim has launched off for another day of work, but she goes with a smile on her face.

What I love about life at the moment is the sudden realisations – we live in Canada! I get ’em when I drive down the hill and see mountains on the horizon. I get ’em when I drive to the shops, park in the underground car park and go shopping without getting wet on a rainy day. Yesterday I was reading the local paper and one of the columnists was saying that he’d just been to the US and he reckoned the level of customer service was better there. He said Canadians do ok, but good service in Canada is as rare as bad service in the US. I laughed, thinking of the UK. This week I was out for coffee with someone who wants me to write an article about his business. He’s an ex-pat, and we took along his Design Bod, who is also from England. The three of us went into the local Starbucks and had a collective English moment. I asked for a black coffee, and then got grilled for twenty minutes – did I want extra hot water, what type of coffee, what size of cup? The other laughed at my naivity and then tried to order tea. That took another half an hour and fifty questions. We didn’t bother with snacks.

I have my home page set to the UK news, so I was watching the approach of the BNP on Question Time with mild interest. It also cropped up on FaceBook, with some of my more vocal friends setting out their arguments for or against. I’m glad that it looks like letting the Chief Idiot of the party onto the show allowed him to demonstrate his stupidity and bigotry – he’s now complaining that he was bullied. Oh dear, my heart bleeds – for a party who support a ban on immigration, pursued a racist policy and incite hatred (not to mention the man himself being a Holocaust Denier) to be bullied, what a shame! The sad part is that they will never accept that what they believe is wrong.

A long time ago, when I was at college, we had to do a course which I always think of as Moral Philosophy. It wasn’t, but that’s what it felt like. Our teacher was radically liberal. There were no gray areas in his life, and he was in favour of rights for everybody, which is a lovely idea. Except we ran into a small wrinkle one day. He announced that he would not be teaching the next day’s lesson because he had to attend a rally in London to march on the headquarters of a Neo-Nazi-type group. The plan was that his group would crush the Neo-Nazis in some way, destroying them forever. Now, nobody in our class was Pro-Nazi, but someone raised the point that, even though their ideas were reprehensible, the fact that we live in a Democracy means they have the right to hold those views. They can’t enforce their ideas of hatred, they can’t act on them, but they CAN hold them.

No, said the teacher. They are wrong, and we will crush them. He wouldn’t accept that he was passing judgement on a group of people and trying to impose his world view on them, just like the Nazis themselves tried to do. The difference was, he reasoned, that the Nazis were wrong and he wasn’t. So it goes with the BNP. They rally the disenfranchised to their banner, but the response should not be to try and ban them, to attack them, to push them out. They are trying to say that Britain is exclusively the province of a white Anglo-Saxon people, which is patently absurd. The best thing to do is let them set out their policies and beliefs, examine them and show HOW they are wrong. All those people who voted for them are not necessarily racist. Some will be, but I suspect a lot are simply misinformed. “The BNP want Britain for the British? Well, I’m British, hooray, maybe they’ll get me back into work? Maybe they’ll stop the immigrants living off the benefit that I paid for with my taxes…” Maybe, but I would doubt it. Britain, like Canada, is a multi-cultural society, and always has been. The mix of races and beliefs has always contributed to the growth of the nation, whereas the attempt to define “Britishness” has only led to division, hatred and violence. The BNP and parties like them are a throwback, an evolutionary dead end.

Why do I get so worked up about the country I don’t live in anymore? I still have a lot of friends there, my family live there. It’s all too easy to look back at the UK as a small, crowded pit of misery, and I’d like to think of things getting better there. Mrs Dim was talking to the weasels this week when they were down – they’d been saying “If we go back to England..” which is their chorus when they’re tired or upset. Going back to England will solve every problem, and, inTiniest Weasel’s case, allow her hair to grow back after her latest haircut…Anyway, Mrs Dim described some of the reasons we emigrated, and then I heard Middle Weasel telling some friends “England is full of people running around with knives and drinking drugs….” which is not how I remember it. For a start, I was always told never to run with knives or scissors…

The Great Canadian Adventure – the Mad Week (originally posted Mar 6/09)

 

The whole family, just before we left the country

Still life with weasels....

The GREAT CANADIAN ADVENTURE is a true-life story that follows Dim and his family (Mrs Dim and the Tiny Weasels) as they embark on their epic move from the UK to Canada. After three and a half years, the Visas have come through, the flights are booked, and now it’s the week when they move out of their Bournemouth house.

I used to have a theory that if your life was really interesting enough to blog about, you wouldn’t have enough time to blog about it…. After this week, I’m even more inclined to agree. They say a week’s a long time in politics, but God knows what it’s like for a politician who’s emigrating to Canada….

The Tiny Weasels went off to school as usual on Thursday (the 26th Feb) and removals guys really got stuck in. There were four of them, and the most amazing thing about them was that all four of them were actually working at the same time. Some on our previous moves have featured guys who took it in turns to do the work while the others smoked. Our problem was that we weren’t just able to stand back and let them pack everything – we have this week and a bit travelling around the country catching up with friends and family. So we needed some bags packed for the coming week and bigger bags packed for the first month in Canada before the container catches up with us. Mrs Dim worked her socks off grabbing clothes and entertainment articles from around the house. I made coffee, loaded up the car for several runs to the tip, took bagloads to the charity shops in the village.

It was like some weird kind of optical illusion. These four busy guys, wrapping, shifting and carrying all day, and yet each time I returned to the house, there didn’t seem to be any less stuff in it. The master bedroom was a bombsite, with clothes strewn around and the guy who had packed the kitchen kept shuffling in, asking if he could start packing it up yet.

Mrs Dim and I shared the onerous task of collecting the kids from school for the last time. There were tears all round (except from me – I’m carved from granite and have a heart of teak. I also have a liver of pvc and a foot that turns green in hot weather, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s on the end of my leg.) We headed back to the Wonkey House for the kids to use the loo before the long trek to the Aged Parent’s new house, but Oldest Weasel, still sniffling, didn’t want to go in. I couldn’t blame her. Goodbyes are miserable things.

We made good time on the road and reached the Aged Parents abode. I hadn’t seen it before, since they only moved in the previous week. It’s a smaller place than their last one, and they hadn’t had much luck with the downsizing either. I offloaded the weasels, had the tour and got back in the car to go back to Bournemouth. Mrs Dim had stayed to oversee the removal guys and get more packing done, so she was asleep on her feet when I got back. Luckily we’d booked a room in a nearby hotel (since we now had no bed, and no bedding) and we were taking a friend out to dinner so there was no cooking to do in the kitchen we hadn’t got anymore. It was a good way to round off the day, chatting over good food and good drink, hearing about daring plans that weren’t our own for a change. We were tired but happy when we stumbled into the lovely hotel room later that night.

Friday: We had a hearty breakfast, since we didn’t have to cook it or wash up afterwards. The plan for the day was another round of packing, a clean down and run away to join the weasels at the AP’s. Sadly one of the removers had tipped off Mrs Dim that the Canadians don’t let you import mud, and the bikes and roller blades had to be cleaned. First time I’ve done that job, and I’ve had my bike four years. Anyway, the removers were fewer on the ground than the day before, but they worked twice as hard and were finished on time. We weren’t though. We’d packed clothes into every suitcase we had, we’d thrown away clothes we didn’t even know we owned and still there wasn’t enough room to take them all to Mum and Dad’s. The only sensible answer was to come back on Saturday and collect the other suitcases and bags. It was particularly galling because we’d previously booked Saturday morning for staying in bed and refusing to get up in the vain hope we could regain some sleep. But no.

Heh. Mum and Dad’s place is lovely, but it is, to coin a phrase, compact and bijou. To use the beds in the spare room, Mrs Dim and I put the youngest weasels to sleep in there early on, then when we were all done in the living room, we brought down the sleeping weasels and tucked them under duvets on the sofas, then took their beds for the rest of the night. It was a tough system, but it worked. The pair of us cleaned the Wonkey house until the grime gleamed and packed the last of the suitcases and rubbish into the long-suffering car. We hauled it back to Andover and threw ourselves into helping the AP’s make the most of their place. We Feng Shui’d the place, helped with putting up shelves and cupboards and introduced Dad to his new laptop (he has facial recognition software on it, and it cracked me up that the third time he started it up, it still didn’t recognise him…Is he going to have to get a chaperone to introduce him every day?)

We didn’t get any rest on Sunday either. We went visiting old friends in THEIR new house. This one is not compact and bijou, mostly because they’re bumping their conservatory into a dining room. We forced ourselves to go down to another pub and suffer more great company and wonderful food before returning to our sheltered nook.

So far we had been keeping busy enough to avoid too much thought about the fact that we were homeless and unemployed, but Mrs Dim admitted she has dreamed about her old job every night since she left. I was getting remarkably twitchy about the fact that I hadn’t had an internet connection for days. To combat this, we went travelling again, launching off to Cheltenham to catch up with my brother and his family. Easier said than done, since we arrived mid afternoon to be met by my Sister-in-law and her youngest, because the elder nephew was still at school and my brother was at work. Still, we had coffee and walked to collect Nephew from school, and the Squadron Leader himself pitched up in the early evening. We were only staying overnight, so we made the most of a convivial atmosphere and more good food, staying up late to talk our way through a bottle of wine and several beers. They’re a lovely couple who have battled enormous difficulties in the last two years, but now there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and a fair chance they’ll be out to see us in the Great Beyond.

Since everyone had late nights, when we hit the road the next day everyone but me took the chance to nap. Because I was relying on the Sat Nav, we took a different route to the one nominated by Mrs Dim. I had just remarked that I was hungry and we were going to stop at the next pub we saw, when one came in to view. The Green Dragon inn, it was, somewhere between the A345 and the A417. The food was fantastic and the pub itself everything an old pub should be without the smokey atmosphere and locals made of whisky and compost. We were supposed to have a light Bar Snack, but the plates were enormous. Oh dear. Shame I won’t see the inside of a gym for at least another month…(Or longer, if I can manage it…)

So that gets us back to the AP’s house and ready for Wednesday. What the hell happened on Wednesday? (I’m writing this on Friday morning, having written most of the previous account on Thursday, hence the title – it’d been a week since we left the Wonkey House. My memory is not top-notch at the best of times, and these, as has been mentioned, are not the best of times.) Ah yes. Mrs Dim has just reminded me that we hosted my Aunt Kathleen at the AP’s for lunch on Weds. She’s an amazing person who, at Eighty-odd (it’s not polite to give a lady’s age, you know) has got a hard-drive recorder, mobile phone, laptop and broadband connection, and has just bought a DVDR/Hard-drive combi as a backup recording system. I used to drop round to help sort out cables and fix the odd glitch. She’s a little apprehensive about us being so far away, even now she’s on e-mail. Anyway, she arrived in style, just an hour late, but moving fast, and we had a fun-filled lunch together… I think that was the third official “Final Goodbye” to Kathleen.

Before we knew it we were back in the car (with my Dad following along with more suitcases in his boot – still haven’t got those sorted!) and heading for Mrs Dim’s Parents. I wanted to call them the Other Aged Parents, but that makes the acronym OAPs…Oh well, if the cap fits…. The OAPs made us welcome, despite the fact that we filled their living room with suitcases. The weasels relaxed and we rejoiced in the fact that we would be sleeping in a bed that would still be our bed no matter what time of day it was. I got to grips with the computer we’d given the OAPs, trying to connect it up to the BT Home Hub they’d ordered. Now, I won’t say a word against BT. They’re a fine company, with many highly trained employees who work very hard. I’m just saying they wouldn’t come first in a backside finding competition if you gave them a map and a flashlight. On the plus side, the computer is connected to the internet. Most of the time. On the downside, despite every ADSL filter known to man, the phones don’t work anymore, and my laptop can’t pick up the wireless signal if it’s not in the same room as the Hub. Luckily for me, the guy down the road from the OAP’s house doesn’t believe in password protecting his wireless broadband. Bless him.

On Thursday we strode into the village and achieved many things, but the main point of the day was unwinding. The weasels played outside and took naps, and we drank more tea than was good for us and went to visit Great Gran. We’re starting to get that Holiday Feeling, the one we hoped we’d get as soon as the removers left.

Next Blog: The run up to the FLIGHT!