Tag Archives: Immigration

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.

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Book Launch: The Great Canadian Adventure

The terrific cover designed by Eduardo Ramirez

The terrific cover designed by Eduardo Ramirez

It’s been almost exactly a year since I last worked in an office for someone else. In that time I’ve increased the trade through the Lazy Bee Appraisal Service, completed hundreds of play reviews for my publisher and written a handful of new plays and sketches.

Behind it all, I’ve been polishing old blog posts and working with some neat software to repackage that material with some new entries and information to make this book : The Great Canadian Adventure.

The whole family, just before we left the country

The whole family, just before we left the country

This is the true story of our emigration to BC from the UK. Starting the week before we flew out, it tells of our rush to clear the house we’d been living in, the whirlwind tour of family and friends and the first twelve months finding our feet in the Vancouver area.

But it’s not just a memoir – along the way I’ve collected useful links and made note of things I wish I’d known in advance, and laid them out in the book. Thanks to the Amazon Kindle technology, you can read this book on your PC, your smartphone, your iPad…or even your kindle… and follow those links to learn more.

Writing this book took over four years and several thousand pounds – I had to apply for residency in Canada, and move three children and one wife. We had to get new jobs, a new car, a new house and a dog. And dogs aren’t cheap.

Enjoying our new life in BC!

Enjoying our new life in BC!

Officially launching on May 1st, if you’re seeing this blog post it means you’re special enough to warrant a head start on everyone else! Plus, for the first month, I’m lowering the price by fifty percent. Buy now to avoid disappointment!

If true-life stories of emigration, excitement and orthodontics aren’t your cup of tea, then perhaps you’d rather take a look at some of the other ebooks I’ve written in the past:

Troubled Souls : Three short stories told from the male perspective, each dark and a little disturbing.

Coffee Time Tales 1 and 2: Easy reading for coffee time, two collections of five tales with warmth and often, romance.

Sci-Fi Shorts: Four stories of Science Fiction and Fantasy, including “Twist Stiffly and the Hounds of Zenit Emoga”, a golden-age sci-fi romp.

Writing a play for the Amateur Stage: Guidance and advice on writing plays for community theatre groups, written from the perspective of someone with over a decade of experience in the field. (Me.)

If you’ve produced an ebook, or have some other kind of project you’d like to shout about, HOP ON THIS BANDWAGON! I’ll be posting links to this page as I travel the internet, hawking my books, so why not drop a link to YOUR brilliance in the comments section?

Almost an anniversary

The Tiny Weasels on Arrival Day

The Tiny Weasels Pose, reluctantly, in Vancouver airport

There are still four more days until we reach the one year point, but I’m aware that time is flying at the moment and we’ve already booked a restaurant for that evening – the first place we ate in, as it happens, a lovely place called Milestones on English Bay. It’s part of a chain of eateries, but each one is quite distinct, and this one was our favourite.

I’ve been thinking, on and off, about what I feel about living in Canada. There are still moments of amazement, when the fact that we live so far from family come home to us. There are still days when I worry about driving on the wrong side of the road. Come to think of it, there are still days when I get in the car and wonder where the steering wheel is…

Were there any things I thought I would never get used to? Seeing mountains. When I arrive for work, if the day is clear, I can see mountains on almost every part of the horizon. The reason I can’t see mountains behind me where I park is because the skytrain track loops around the store there, and that’s an amazing view in it’s own right. When I was a kid I used to read “2000ad” and the futuristic city of Mega City One had raised roads that curled and swooped through the cityscape. That’s what I think of when I see the Skytrain.

I still convert currency in my head. Most of the times it’s to reassure myself. I look at new books on sale and think “$30! My God!” and then think, “No, wait, that’s about eighteen quid…Fair enough.” I was surprised when I converted the price of our new house though. Surprised, then ashamed. I will not speak of it.

Some things still strike me as odd though. In the UK I made lasagne, using mince, pasta sheets and two sauces. The red sauce I made from scratch, the white I got out of a jar. Over here they don’t seem to have those jars. I can get pretty much any type of pasta sauce I want, except that white sauce. Last week I made the white sauce from scratch too, and it was brilliant, but it does mean more washing up.

Laundry is great here. In the UK, we didn’t have a tumble drier. Well, we had one once,but we were too eco-conscious to use it much. And it broke down. Over here there was already a huge washer and drier lurking down in the laundry area of the basement. No guilt attached, they’re already here, use ’em! Did you know that when you wash socks and dry them in a tumble drier, they come out soft? Actually soft! My socks used to retain the shape of the radiator….

Hmm. That’s something I haven’t got the hang of. There are vents in the floor of this house that should produce heat when it’s cold. They’re supposed to be controlled by the tiny LCD screen on the wall over there *Dim points*. Mostly I don’t touch it, because I don’t understand it, but on occasion I stare at it in frustration. It can get quite cold here. Then I have another cup of coffee, because I CAN work the coffee machine, which is something else I love about here. The instant coffee is dreadful, but I’ve got the hang of setting the machine before I walk the weasels to school and when I get home, there’s a jug of fresh coffee waiting for me. And it stays hot for two hours! Coffee is a big deal over here. I used to see people carrying take out coffee cups on their way to school and wonder where they had picked them up. Later I realised they might have gone out for coffee and come back to do the school run. I still get surprised to see people walking into the store where I work carrying Starbucks cups. Mind you, I only learned the other day that pets are allowed. Who takes their dog to go shopping for home improvement materials? Well, quite a few people, as it turns out.

I’ve nearly got used to hearing Eldest Weasel’s Canadian accent when she talks to her friends, because it upsets her if we wince. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing Tiniest Weasel gliding around on ice skates. She’s only just turned six! All three weasels have proved themselves adept at the winter sports, taking to ice skating, skiing and sledging like they were born to it.

It’s funny, reaching March and starting to recognise some of the things we saw fresh when we arrived. There’s a regular promotion in Tim Horton’s (a coffee shop chain), where you roll up the rim of your coffee cup to see if you’ve won a prize. That’s just come round again. It’s tax time here too, with many reminders going out for folks to get advice, download free software and so on. I’m in negotiation with the Inland Revenue, since in the midst of the excitement of moving I missed my last self-assessment. Yes, I owe the Inland Revenue a fine (if I’ve made a profit on writing in 08/09) but it’s now in the hands of the accountant we’ve finally sorted. He has a lot to cope with, what with royalties going into the UK bank account, Mrs Dim’s Military Pension, and both sets of Canadian wages being paid over here….

But one whole year. That’s pretty immense, any way you slice it. We arrived here in the middle of the night, relieved to get through Immigration – and it seems stupid now, but we had no “plan B”. If Immigration had turned us around (as they could have) we had no idea what we would have done next. No house, no jobs, no school for the weasels… When I think about it like that, it all seems much more of a gamble than we ever thought. I don’t know how Mrs Dim was looking at it, but I was focussing on one thing at a time. If you asked me five hours before we left for the flght what my biggest worry was, and I would have told you it was packing everything we needed into the nine suitcases we had. At the airport it was whether we’d catch the flight, and then whether the weasels would behave on the flight. Then it was getting through Immigration, finding a taxi, getting into the accommodation we had booked. Even when we were all in The Rosellen Suites and had our cases, I was worried about what we would eat for breakfast.

And now? Well, the house was really the last thing on our list. We came to Canada to improve our lives, to give the weasels more opportunities. We came to find some space, somewhere with some wilderness left. We have jobs, the weasels have a school, we have a dog, we have a house that we couldn’t have afforded in the UK. We are, I would say, settled. Now we’re looking forward to the holiday, to the move, to the visitors that will begin to arrive days fter we move into the New Wonkey House and will continue to stream in all through the long (hopefully hot) summer. Though the first year is coming to a close , I’ll continue to blog because the adventure isn’t over.

 The adventure doesn’t end.