Tag Archives: move

Finding our feet

Still some unpacking left

Whatever you're looking for, it's probably in a box somewhere...

 I keep trying to remember previous moves. God knows, there have been enough of them, so why can’t I remember how long it normally takes us to get settled in?

Yes, it could be said that this was an unusual move. For one thing there was a sudden last minute delay, which scrambled things a bit, and we’d only just come back from holiday etc etc. But it’s been nearly a fortnight in the new house now, and I’m itching to be shot of the detritus of moving. I want all the boxes gone, I want the temporary piles of stuff sorted and put away. I want to be MOVED IN now, thank you.

Mrs Dim doesn’t quite agree. Right now we’re living a stripped-down version of our old life, with a lot of our everyday clutter still boxed up and in the basement. With no internal staircase, it’s all going to stay in the basement for a while, because retrieving it is a nause neither of us is interested in. The weasels haven’t noticed that they haven’t got more than ten percent of their toys available, and if we’re all getting by, then there’s the hope that instead of unpacking all those boxes, we can just shuffle them off to Yard Sales or charity shops….

We also have visitors on board at the moment. My brother and his wife have come out with their three boys, and despite Steve’s visit last September, they feel like our first official visitors. Is that because they’re family? Perhaps. They’ve rented a nice house on North Shore because we couldn’t quite put them up here (and let’s face it, if you’re on holiday, why not holiday in a nice house of your own, rather than camping out with relatives?). So, in between box opening, hanging pictures and fixing furniture, we’ve been doing the tourist stuff all over again, rediscovering why we love this area so much.

Last night we went out dinner and were gently questioned about our reasons for emigration. I went off on my usual rant about not running away from the UK so much as running towards better opportunity, better prospects for the weasels and house prices, and Mrs Dim cut across and said “Don’t be stupid! It was just because we were bored and hadn’t been anywhere exciting…” Folks, don’t make life-changing decisions just because you’re bored, that’s today’s advice. And men, never assume you know the answer to a question when your wife is in the room.

It was a lovely evening, but we came away having realised that we’ve been tremendously self-absorbed. That may be because of the emigration. Certainly we contracted to our family unit when we first arrived, since we knew no one and had only phone and e-mail to stay in touch with other family and friends. In the year that’s past we’ve expanded our circle of friends, but I wonder if all the people we speak to in the UK think we’re monomaniacs, out to convert them to the cult of Canada? We just wanted to reassure everyone that we were happy here, that it wasn’t a grim struggle for survival against the weather, the polar bars and the notion of driving on the right. Now that has given way to a genuine pride in the place that we live, a love of the life we have here.

Next time you call, Skype, or mail us, feel free to tell us to shut the hell up and listen for five minutes…..

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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.

Post Apocolympic….

Oh, Canada!

Well, come on, it IS our national sport....

Yesterday was big deal for Canadians. It was the big rematch of the Winter Games, the Gold Medal Hockey tussle between the US and Canada. It seemed to be the only topic of conversation for a lot of people. I caught the beginning of the game before I had to leave for work, and the Canadians were ahead by two goals to one when I left. I made it into work to find the TV on in the Break Room and folks glued to it. I had to be down on the shop floor, so I wandered away. Somewhere there was a radio piping commentary of the match into the shop, but Hockey Commentary is a mystery to me, since the game moves so fast and I didn’t know which players were on which team (shocking, I know, but give me a chance, we’ve only been here a year!) Still, co-workers were always passing by and happy to give news of the progress of the game.
“The Americans equalised, just seconds to go!” Big groan from everyone nearby. Then a few minutes after that the tannoy squawked into life:
“What did I tell you, Andy? Canada WIN! 3-2” Cheers from all around the store, customers and workers alike. Almost immediately the place began to fill up. The place had been almost deserted during play, but now the game was done people flocked in. Almost all of them were grinning. The first few were eager either to tell me the result of the match, or find it out from me. We had folks wearing flags, with maple leaf face paint, Canada jackets, T-shirts, hats… One lady said she’d been in CostCo when the match was won and the place went mad. I couldn’t work out why CostCo in particular, but then I remembered they have a huge display of big-screen TVs. Where better to watch the match?
I was sorry to miss the closing ceremony, but got home to find Mrs Dim had recorded it for me. I had been surprised by how brilliant the opening ceremony had been, and regretted not recording that, so I’m looking forward to watching this one later.
People are starting to wonder what we’re all going to do now the Olympics have happened. Are we going to go into a post-apocolympic slump? But that’s not really fair. In a few days, on March 12th we get the Paralympics, and if you thought the struggle of the athletes in the regular games was inspiring, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I shall be watching the opening ceremony (and recording it) because Eldest Weasel is one of the schoolchildren who’ll be singing with Nikki Yanovsky, and I spent a good deal of today wrestling with the ticketing system to try and get a ticket for Mrs Dim to attend in person. No joy so far, but I think it’s churlish to complain about something like that when the events themselves will feature people who have overcome far more. I will not be defeated by beaureacracy…though the spelling may give me pause.

So Week Two of Work has begun, and it’s going well. The times are fitting in nicely with Educating Weasels and Mrs Dim’s schedule, and I’m getting enough writing done to feel like I’m not writing to support my new career in retail. (Oh, my new play! It’s going SO WELL. Of course, I’ve had to halve the length and revise my grand plans, but it’s GOING SO WELL! Don’t tell anyone, though. It’s easily startled.) I still don’t have my schedule for the week after next, so I don’t know if my shifts will line up with my elephants and allow me to go on holiday. Now we’re into March time is moving even faster. There’s only a handful of days before Spring Break, only a few more to the holiday and once we’re back from that it’s packing and moving. Tomorrow I’ll pile into the redirection business again. Seems weird, trying to remember what it’s like to be unpacking boxes – this house has been sorted for a while now. We even stopped changing the pictures around, so maybe we got those right at last. Must be time to move.

Getting a job is such hard work!

I’ve thought a lot about this post, especially since it’s about something that only happened in the last forty eight hours. I often remember the phrase “A thought is never fully formed until it has been expressed.” and for me the best form of expression is writing. I need to have things written down so I can see what I think about them. It makes me useless in an argument because I can’t marshal my responses. I look at both sides of what’s being said, and often cave without arguing back. With Mrs Dim, I’ll quite often take her opening speech and run through how I think the argument (oops, meant “discussion” there…Sorry!) will go. Odds are, I’ll find I’ve run out of responses before we really get into it. This isn’t because she overwhelms me or is authoritarian or anything spooky or depressing like that : The fact is, if we’re having a difference of opinion, it’s usually because I am being resistant to change or reluctant to take on responsibility for something (see my previous post).

It may seem daft that I say I’m resistant to change after spending sixteen years moving from house to house, having three kids and numerous minor jobs. Here I am, thousands of miles from the country I was born in, saying I don’t deal well with change. Well, it’s true. I like routine, I like things to sort themselves out and then I can cope with them being the same every day. Having got Tiny Weasel into full-time schooling, I could relax into running my own day between 9 and 3, fitting odd things into that schedule when necessary.

A while ago, when we were living in Bournemouth and not sure if we’d ever get to Canada, I wrote a  magazine article called “Giving up the dream” which talked about the fact that I would have to stop being a full-time writer and go back to regular employment if we were going to stay in the UK. There was no other way we’d cope with the financial reality of life outside the RAF. And besides, with the kids in school and the writing business only growing slowly, there was no reason not to. I had hoped that coming out here, where the house prices are lower and the exchange rate was so good, that we could carry on as we were, and I could survive by increasing the number of published plays. Of course, I also had my grand plays to be visiting Rock-Star-Playwright at the local school and colleges, feted by all and showered with money for deigning to appear and discuss my process.

Well, the plays are still being written. We add new titles every month and our business plan for the next year is healthy enough, but the projected earnings don’t match up to the projected shortfall if we go ahead with the house purchase we’re both considering. Me getting a regular job is the only sensible solution, and this is what Mrs Dim said to me, in a very reasonable tone of voice on Saturday afternoon. I’d like to say that I nodded sagely and instantly suggested several courses of action that we could work on.

I didn’t. I sulked like a teenager. I whined and bitched. I muttered about having wasted the previous ten years building up a business only to throw it away. I said I would only be able to get a stupid shift job at Starbucks, since I’m qualified for nothing, and what good would that do? When this didn’t get me anywhere, I brought the dog into it. How was she going to get her morning walk if I go out to work? Pathetic, isn’t it?

Mrs Dim was more than a little disappointed. From her point if view, I was being very slow and unsupportive. She had shown me the accounts spreadsheet the week before and indicated how the incoming and outgoings wouldn’t match up if we take on a mortgage, or even if we just carry on the way we’re going now. I looked blankly at the lines of figures and nodded hopefully. I did not leap up and suggest I get a job and, bless her, right then she didn’t ask me. She gave me more time to figure it out myself, and when she felt it couldn’t wait any longer, she pushed the issue and I reacted like a spoilt brat.

Why? Well, have I mentioned that I don’t cope well with change? (Please understand, I am aware that everything said in this paragraph is an EXCUSE and not a REASON. I’m explaining my point of view, not asking you to agree.) I have exactly the life I have always dreamed of: I have time to write my looniest ideas down and send them away to my publisher, I get to tidy and clean at my own pace, I get to walk the dog in the fresh air at least twice a day and I don’t have an in-tray. I’ve worked in many different types of jobs in my time, and never really found one that I enjoyed. I worked behind a bar, behind a desk, behind a shop counter, in a factory and it’s only since I’ve been working for myself from home that I’ve been happy with the working hours and conditions. If the kids are ill or there’s a crisis at school, I don’t need anyone’s permission to shut down the computer and go get ’em.

But the point here is not how comfortable I feel in a new work situation. The point is that Mrs Dim has said there is a family crisis on the horizon, and I’m the one who can do something about it right now. If I step up and find work, I can stop that crisis ever arriving, and what kind of husband or father would I be if I just curl up under the desk and hope it goes away? It’s not like she’s asking me to stop being a playwright, and there’s plenty of examples of people out there who acheived more than I do on a daily basis while holding down a nine to five job. If I can’t carry on writing, reviewing and appraising while I turn in eight hours a day somewhere, then I don’t deserve to have all this time at home playing at being a famous writer.

On the other hand, if you know anyone who wants to hire a writer for a couple of thousand dollars a month, I can send you the number to call….