Tag Archives: emigrating

Where’s that accent from?

I always had a unique sense of style.

I always had a unique sense of style.

I don’t have an accent.

That always starts an argument over here.

“Yes you do!” people say. “You have a British accent. You sound different to us Canadians.”

And that’s true enough. But people don’t often say “Is that a British accent?”  They say “Where’s that accent from?” and when I say “The UK.”, they say “Oh yeah? London?”

Because, you know, most of the UK is covered in London. Except for the bit that is Scotland.

We went to Scotland once. It was shut.

We went to Scotland once. It was shut.

Anyway, when I say no, it’s not London, people ask where exactly it’s from. And I sigh, and say “It isn’t from anywhere. I don’t have an accent.”

I don’t have a REGIONAL accent, is what I mean. I was born Oop North, and grew up talking like this   but when I was still quite young, we moved down south, where everyone spoke very differently. With only my brother sharing my peculiar way of speaking, I quickly adapted to a more moderate accent. I say “glass” with a long “a”, like in “Darcy”, rather than “passive”. When I say “castle”, it rhymes with “parcel”, not “hassle”. I may have picked up the Hampshire accent, but it’s not really very regionally distinct, so I can’t be sure.

I lived in Portsmouth for a while. Some parts are damper than others.

I lived in Portsmouth for a while. Some parts are damper than others.

The UK is rich with regional accents, and it’s quite amazing to consider the variation over such a small area. I still don’t understand the Canadian need to pin down a specific location, when so many of the people who are asking haven’t been to the UK, and (more importantly) don’t share any of our own regional prejudices.

 

Advertisements

It’s not about you…

Or me.

Only a couple of days ago, I was sitting in the Driver’s Testing centre just off the Lougheed Highway. I hadn’t been there since my own driving test almost five years ago.

This time I was there because Eldest Weasel was taking her theory test, to see if she was ready for her L plates so she could start learning to drive*. As I sat there, I realised that a lot of the experiences here in Canada have become less about me and Mrs Dim – our new jobs, buying and maintaining the house, struggling with various bots of red tape and so on – and more about the Weasels. They’re doing all the important things that kids do, making and losing friends, finding their way in school, changing up to bigger schools, choosing their life’s directions, trying to balance the things they love with the things they have to do.

Laurel in the garden Oct 99

It’s nothing revolutionary, this realisation. It’s just something that has grown from the first day I left Eldest Weasel at playgroup, a tiny figure alone in a vast ocean of carpet, surrounded by distant shores of toys and an archipelago of playgroup leaders. It doesn’t mean you stop being the star of your own story and have to settle for a bit part. Doesn’t mean your job is finished. It just means that there will be times when you need to remember, it’s not about you.

She hasn't changed a bit.

She hasn’t changed a bit.

 

*She passed.

Hey, Random Citizen….

Citizenship.

When we told folks we were emigrating to Canada, many of them asked us if we were going to get Canadian citizenship. At the time it seemed a ludicrously precipitous question. We needed jobs, schools, houses, short scruffy dogs, that sort of thing. But citizenship? No, not really.

That’s not to say we were opposed to the idea, but it wasn’t something we were really prepared to think about. Like asking a twelve year old about their pension plan. Sure, they’re going to think about it sometime , but right now? Nope.

But over the last year or so, it’s been more of an issue. We’ve been here long enough to apply, we’ve met other ex-pats who DID apply, and the question of electing people we actually WANT in government has become more interesting. To vote, we need to be citizens.

So we underwent the gruelling form-filling and document finding, made all the more gruelling by the fact that we were duplicating a lot of the effort we had to make to renew our Permanent Residents Cards (turns out the “permanent” only applied to our residency status, not the life of the cards themselves, which need renewing every five years…)

We’d been told that processing the papers took a good length of time, so we were very surprised to find an invitation to attend our citizenship exam on April 1st. Surprised and, of course, suspicious. April 1st? Really?

But it was true. I can’t go into details about the exam itself, or I’ll invalidate my own application, but I will say that the booklet “Discovering Canada” is a great source of information. Mrs Dim and I learned a lot about our new home country, as well as discovering that learning new facts has become harder now that we are old and set in our ways (by which I mean “used to Googling stuff we don’t know, so we don’t have to remember it”) I was seriously worried about retaining all this information – Canada’s history, political system, cultural icons…. For a young country, it’s been busy!

On the fateful morning we lined up outside the building with a wonderful variety of folks from all ethnic backgrounds. The test itself went by in a whirl, and then we had a brief interview before our details get passed to an immigration judge. Mrs Dim and I took advantage of our mutual time off to walk through Downtown and admire the city that is our home.

Just a house in Downtown Vancouver...With the most amazing Magnolia tree.

Just a house in Downtown Vancouver…With the most amazing Magnolia tree.

Whatever the final result of the test, I’m happy to be living here, to have the chance to walk through Vancouver, or over Burnaby Mountain. Most of all, I’m happy that my Weasels have the chance to do these things.

As the Autumn leaves fall…

Must be Fall... There go the leaves.

Must be Fall… There go the leaves.

One of the things we told people about wanting to live in Canada was that there were real seasons over here. Summer was hot, Autumn was crisp, Winter was cold and snowy. I think we were both remembering those mythical seasons of childhood, when Summer went on forever and the snow of Winter came up to your hips.

It was an odd claim to make, because until we emigrated, we had only spent three weeks in Canada. Three weeks of glorious Autumn, granted, but in Ontario. We were visiting my Aunt and Uncle, and they certainly told us of cold and snowy Winters: They described being woken on a Winter’s night in their cabin by the sound of trees exploding – the sap had frozen, expanded and broken the tree trunks. We saw the wonderful colours of the trees, enjoyed the late sunshine and the good weather as we drove an RV down the edge of Lake Huron.

But when we came to Vancouver, it was a different story. We arrived just after the worst Winter that many people could remember. Snow had fallen Downtown, and Vancouverites had demonstrated their inability to drive in the snow. Spring was cold and wet and lasted a long time that year, giving us the impetus to book a springtime holiday in San Diego the following year, which turned out to be bright and warm and sunny.

The view from our San Diego balcony March 2010

The view from our San Diego balcony March 2010

Last year was another cold and wet one, with people reminding each other that this area is a temperate rain forest, and really, if you want sunshine, you should be going to Hawaii. We went back to San Diego in the Spring, determined to get some sunshine.

But the Summer was awesome this year. Long, long hot days, breaking records with a completely dry July. We baked ourselves in our own yards, and it’s possible that some of those green lawns may have been illegally using their sprinklers. We were prepared for September to bring the rains again, but the sun has persisted, carrying through into Autumn days that might have sprung from a Famous Five book. The leaves are dropping, crisp and brown, and you can sweep them up because the rain hasn’t plastered them to the ground.

September's weather was good enough for camping and hiking with friends.

September’s weather was good enough for camping and hiking with friends.

Whatever the Winter brings, we’ll be ready. Our Vitamin D reserves have been topped up,and we have the box of gloves, hats and scarves sat by the back door. Not far from that box is the one that holds the ski gear.

Whenever you’re ready, Winter – BRING IT ON!

Grouse Mountain 029

Facebook and the Imminent Divorce Drama

We hadn’t been living in Canada very long before the top question from people we spoke to became “What do you miss?” rather than “Why Canada?” It wasn’t so easy to answer, because we’d spent a long time thinking “Why Canada?” but had been consciously avoiding the “What will we miss?” question. To be honest, there weren’t a lot of the expected things to miss, because there were so many new things to get used to. The Weasels missed odd things, like Weetabix and Ceebeebies, but Mrs Dim and myself…Well, I suppose you could say we immediately missed the familiar, the known ways of doing things. We tried to buy a car by looking in the local papers, a method we both had used in the UK for buying a second-hand car, something good for running about it but not too precious. We couldn’t find any listed. Odd. No “Autotrader” magazine in the shops either…. Little differences, rather than gaping absences.

As time passed, however, it was clear that the expected suspects were the ones that were missed most – family and friends. That first month in Canada was the longest time we had all spent together as a family without the intervention of school or work, and the realisation that the kids had no friends to go and see, that we had no parents available to go and stay with, was quite terrifying. You know that moment on a rollercoaster, when the bar clunks into place and you realise, however enthusiastic you were getting in, that now you CANNOT GET OUT if you want to and your stomach gives a little flutter of panic? Well, that was us, all day.

Moving into our first house and making friends with the other people in the street took some of the strain off, and regular Skype chats with our parents helped the lonlieness, but it still felt like we were on the end of a long line. We’ve adjusted, had friends come over to stay, but there are times when we still feel those absences sharply. Like last weekend.

I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts how I’m struggling with The World’s Largest Home Improvement Retailer over the matter of working every weekend. For her part, Mrs Dim is struggling with working 7am to 6pm weekdays and Weasel wrangling all weekend. There are unhealthy tensions from time to time, and last weekend the dam broke again. Despite me working Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon/evening, we had gone to the US to celebrate Thanksgiving with Mrs Dim’s Sister and her family. I came back early Sunday to get away to work, and returned home in the evening to find a frosty reception. Over lunch the next day we laid out the problems on both sides and discussed possible solutions. In the meantime, Mrs Dim used my Facebook account to post that we were in the throes of an “imminent divorce”. It’s nice to report that friends were horrified and rallied to support us and send messages of hope and best wishes. Nobody weighed in with “I knew he was a waster, you’ll be well shot of him!” which was a relief. Once we had sorted through the mess and established a plan of action, we posted a retraction:

Mrs Dim is worried that we trivialised the very real and stressful effects a marital break up can have on everyone concerned, when the real problem we seemed to be suffering (apart from inflexible working conditions) was the lack of a safety valve – had we been in the UK, Mrs Dim might choose to spend at least part of the Weasel Wrangling weekends with one set of parents or the other, thus spreading Granparently joy and getting a break from being sole caregiver. Knowing that isn’t an option increases the tension.

I picked up my new work rota yesterday, and there’s a whole free weekend coming up in early December. The school  Christmas break might involve some manoevering, but for the moment the marriage prospects look good again. Plus, it’s been a record month in terms of writing income, which always helps. Today’s moral seems to be, don’t always believe what you read on Facebook. Or maybe it’s make the most of the family you have around you. I shall be smiling more broadly at my folks on Skype this Sunday anyway.