Tag Archives: weasels

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?

A BRAVE new world…. at the movies

Don’t call us Princesses, Bub…

Sometimes it seems that Disney invented Princesses. From Snow White and Cinderella, through Sleeping Beauty right up to Jasmine, Ariel and the one I haven’t met in “The Princess and the Frog”, Disney have been selling dreams of dresses and wonderful weddings to little girls for generations.

Wait, did that sound a little negative?

See, there’s a lot of debate about image these days. What’s a good role model for your little girl to look up to? Did Snow White escape a tyrannical stepmother, or just take a part-time job as a housekeeper until her mealticket showed up? And Sleeping Beauty? What was her contribution to the relationship again? Male, Prince, looking for someone…er..unconscious?

And now here we are with Disney Pixar and they’re doing what they do best, building gripping stories with interesting characters. It’s become a cliche that the first few minutes of “Up” are a better love story than most other full-length movies, so what have Pixar got left to tell us?

I took the two Tiniest Weasels along to see “Brave”. They have more than a little in common with Merida. Both have taken karate classes, are fair shots and not afraid of getting their hands dirty, and they were excited about the film. They’d seen trailers and heard about it from friends. I hoped Tiny Weasel wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the climax of the movie, which I’d heard was pretty intense. But my weasels are tough, right?

Merida competes in the competition to win her hand in marriage.

Right. The film is beautiful. It makes Scotland look fantastic – wild, mythic…SUNNY! We’ve been to Scotland. It was a wonderful experience, I loved it, but it rained. Biblical rain. And did I mention midges? I digress…

I don’t think anyone’s pretending that “Brave” is a historical documentary, which is why I had to ask Middle Weasel to wait until after the movie for my explanation as to why the carvings showed the same Celtic Knotwork she’d seen in Dublin. It’s got plenty of comedy, broad enough to reduce both weasels to helpless giggles, and crude enough at times to make the young girl behind us say “Ewww! that’s GROSS!” (Which is another cliche I thought people didn’t actually use. Live and learn.) But when the excitement turned to tension and drama, Tiny Weasel climbed across the seats and into my lap. She knew there would be a happy ending, but getting there was really scaring her. Middle Weasel was together enough to follow the action and offer some words of comfort. Or poke fun at her, I couldn’t really hear.

So what message did they take home from the movie? I honestly have no idea, they’d had fizzy drinks and sweets, they were talking so fast and with such bad Scottish accents they made no sense. But what I hope they saw was something like what I saw. A young woman having to see things from her parent’s perspective, having to find a way to help her parents hear HER voice too. Understanding that she has to make her place in the world, not just complain about the choices made for her.

Looking forward to adding this one to our library. Merida is our kind of princess.

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First Day of School

First Day of School email

The first day of school. The last time all those pieces of uniform would be gathered together….

The modern school can be a minefield of parental etiquette. Are you only allowed to talk to the parents of children that your child knows? Where do these omniscient mothers, the ones who know everything that is happening at school BEFORE the letters come out, get their information? There are newsletters, and the office usually has some helpful staff or parental volunteers that can help you out if you have some queries. If your child is moving up from a nearby nursery or crèche, the chances are they’ll even be taken on a tour and you might receive some helpful paperwork to get you through the difficult time of transition.

However, God help you if you plan to pitch up at a school at any other point in the school year. For one thing, there will be no school uniforms available. Anywhere. None of the shops in the high street will be able to help you, and the only option will be to thrust your poor, self-conscious and half-paralysed child through the gates in only their shirt and trousers/skirt while you go to the office and negotiate with the parental volunteers to purchase a school jumper, fleece, PE shirt and ludicrous shorts. While you’re there, buy two more of everything. Because you’re in such a rush, you’ll hand over the jumper and PE kit to your child without marking them with your name, and you won’t remember to do it until the little moppet comes home on Friday in their shirt again and you realise they’ve lost everything you bought.*

My favourite new school experience came a few years ago. We arrived during the summer holidays, when naturally the school was as deserted as an agoraphobics open air rally. I questioned local mums about the school, hoping to pick up the vital information. Could we have some paperwork to tell us what we needed to know about…well, everything? Sadly, no. The school did have a Parent’s Handbook, but it was being re-written by the current Headmaster, who was only temporary, having taken over from the previous Headmaster when the school failed its Ofsted** report….What? Didn’t you know? I neither knew or cared, to be frank – this was the nearest school and the Moppet in question was attending even if the work was done on slates and the teachers carried guns for self-defence. I had a pleasant holiday, until the week before school was due to begin again and I realised I still knew nothing of importance, aside from where the wretched place was. What time did it begin? How were the kids to get there? (I knew the tiny car park was not for use by parents, thanks to the huge noticeboards at the entrance). Was there a canteen or did I have to provide food myself? Luckily for me, these questions were answered by a teacher who was passing the Reception phone on his way out for a smoke on the day before school started (A Tuesday, naturally, since the Monday was an inset day***). Thus we found ourselves crammed into the tiny atrium of Reception on the first day of school, fighting our way through chattering Mums, reunited after days apart, trying to buy uniform, bookbags, pay lunch bills in advance and find out if there was anywhere to leave our bikes. There wasn’t. In addition to this physical discomfort was the clear implication that I was somehow lacking as a parent –  no, as a human being –  for not knowing automatically what time school began, that there was hot food available for the children and that uniform was only sold through the office on Wednesday afternoons.

Remember, when moving house (along with the other thousand and one things you need to arrange), either contact every school in the neighbourhood to compile the necessary information, or brush up on your telepathy skills so you can draw the knowledge out of your neighbour’s living brain. It’ll be the easiest course of the two.

*In these times of financial hardship, it is perfectly acceptable behaviour to visit the Lost Property box and rummage through until you find a jumper the right size. If it is the same size as the one you lost, TAKE IT! If it has someone else’s name in and they haven’t claimed it, then what is the purpose of Lost Property? Once you get it home, cut out the offending label and sew in a nametag of your own. You’ve probably got a bunch of them left in the school uniform from the last school…Yes, you meant to hand them out to friends, but in the flurry of moving…We understand, really.

 

**Ofsted is a report in the UK on the successfulness of a school. The only purpose of this report is to drive up house prices around certain schools, and reduce parents to gibbering morons.

 

*** An Inset Day is the UK term for a Pro-D day. The purpose of a Pro-D or inset Day is to allow teachers some training time and to reduce parents to gibbering morons.

Getting an education and learning a lesson.

Me, at 17. Confirms your worst fears, doesn't it?

I promised myself that this year I would take some kind of course, and the first one that has come up is the “Write it forward” workshop. I’ve signed up for the “Building your Author Brand” class, because it applies to me as a playwright as much as it applies to those aspiring novelists out there. It’s run by Kristen Lamb, my Social Media guru and author of “We Are Not Alone”

It’s just the course I’ve been looking for: It’s relevant to the work I WANT to be doing, is available over the net, and doesn’t take more time than I can spare from Weasel wrangling, greeting shoppers and writing award-winning plays.

So that’s me getting an education. Learning the lesson was much more unpleasant. Part of my job at the World’s Largest Home Improvement Retailer is to make sure the people slipping out through the In door aren’t doing so with power tools hidden under their hats. Almost all of them aren’t. But on Saturday a couple came through my door and they made me suspicious. Once they had been and gone, I compared notes with a manager and we discovered how they had contrived to steal a modest amount of stuff under our very noses. I was angry, with the thieves and with myself for not acting sooner on my suspicion.

Imagine my amazement yesterday afternoon when the same guy came back. Not only came back, but smiled at me and announced “I’m back again!” He obviously believed that his theft had gone unnoticed and he was back again. Obviously I’m not going to go into details of his method, but he set things up to pull the same stunt again. This time I was prepared and did one simple thing that proved he was stealing something. He went nuts, barged me and my fellow associate aside and legged it. We’re not allowed to attempt to restrain anyone, so I simply followed him in case he was getting into a car. No such luck.

So he wasn’t led away in chains, cursing my intervention, but I don’t think he’ll be back anytime soon. Sadly, now I look at everyone who comes in with suspicion, and I have a knot in my stomach when anyone approaches the door with a full cart. It’s never been a joyous job, never been a laugh a minute, but I don’t like to think that this one greedy thief has soured it completely.

PS: The photo? Well, that was the last time I was in a proper full-time education course. My year at Portsmouth University doesn’t count because the course was rubbish.

Contradiction : a situation in which inherent factors, actions, or propositions are inconsistent

It’s the end of February, but feels more like a time of contradictions. Eldest Weasel is visiting the local High School for taster days, but at the same time she’s more involved in her elementary school than ever before, with choir, band, speeches, decorating committees. The Tinier Weasels received excellent reports recently, but both still need help staying focussed on tasks, both at home and school. Mrs Dim is happier than ever with her job, but the cold morning starts are tough, and the glimpses of sunshine through her office window only serve to remind her there’s loads of plans for the garden she hasn’t got to grips with. I’m glad that my day job hours have been cut back, though annoyed that brings in less money. Then again, with more time at home, why don’t I have more writing to show for it? And if I’m spending writing time doing domestic tasks, why isn’t the house spotless and the children geniusses..genii..cleverer?

The weather isn’t helping. The sun is beautiful, a very welcome sight after the combination of rain and snow that seem to have been taking turns since August ended, but it’s COLD out there! So cold that yesterday I wore a hat that makes me look stupid, but it’s warm and I didn’t care.

The contradictions are seeping into my writing time too. I spent yesterday swinging wildly between projects – I lost an hour searching for a file I know I had started, but it wasn’t anywhere it should have been. It wasn’t a lot of work, only five pages or so, but the thought of starting over was too depressing. In a fit of madness I researched a completely different career, and then sent a spur of the moment pitch to a new magazine. Maybe it’s not the Tiny Weasels that need some lessons on focussing.

Today’s “To Do” list is manageable, and best of all, it includes some things that are just fun. With the weasels on a Pro-D day (Teacher training, for you UK types) we can take the Dog off on a decent walk, one that ends at a cafe with Hot Chocolate and Muffins. It’s Tidy Friday, the new Trasler Tradition that says everyone piles into housework on Friday afternoon before tea. We all have our allotted jobs and two hours to get it all done, preventing the place looking like a pigsty for the weekend. In the spirit of renewal and cleansing, I have three more items to post on Craigslist – the last few things went in a matter of hours.

We booked our tickets for the return visit to the UK last night. It’s funny, how hard it’s been to press that final button – waiting for the price to drop, or the dates to mesh better, or…well, for some kind of sign, I guess. We all want to see our friends and family, we know the trip will be epic and fun, but both Mrs Dim and I have our reservations about going (The Weasels are hyped about the flight, then seeing friends and going to the beach at Bournemouth. Oh, and we’ve promised Eldest Weasel we’ll take in the Dr Who Experience.) I’m worried about jet lag, driving, volcanoes, getting to see everyone, accidents, terrorism, rogue hedgehogs…pretty much everything. But we’re going. It’s part of the adventure.

2011: The year of the return visit.

My first car, after I paid the price for overconfidence.

It’s been something people have asked quite frequently over the last two years: “Have you been back to the UK?”. I was always surprised to be asked – moving to a different continent was a big undertaking, after all. We’re two years in and I only just feel like we’ve got all the variables sorted out. I feel settled, so yes, maybe now is the time to go back and see friends and family.

We’re at the start of the planning process, and with five people to transport, it’s a lot to figure out. We’re looking at calendars, at flight prices, at suitcases – this isn’t going to happen in the next couple of weeks, or even the next couple of months. But we’re odds-on for this year.

The thing is, I’m scared. Not of the friends and family, obviously. It’ll be great to see them. What scares me is…Well, a couple of things.

Firstly, the silly fear. Driving. I’m not a good driver. My Driving Examiner told me at 18 that I had passed the test by the skin of my teeth, that I drove like someone who’d been driving for ten years, and he’d hate to see how I’d be driving ten years from now. At 18, that kind of statement makes no difference whatsoever, and I lasted nearly a year before writing off my car. Over here, the pace of driving is slower. My car has developed a worrying vibration at sixty miles an hour, but you know what? I don’t often feel that vibration in everyday driving. I’ve become accustomed to the Vancouver driving style, to the quieter roads, the lack of bottlenecks. For nearly two years I’ve been driving on the wrong side of the road in an automatic, and when we step off the plane after ten hours of flying and three hours of that weird “Sort of picking up bags and doing Customs but mostly just walking through the airport”, I’m going to have to get into a manual shift car and drive on the OTHER side of the road through English traffic on English roads. Do you think someone could make some sort of announcement, for the safety of other people?

And the second fear, the important one, is getting to see enough people. We’re lucky enough to have a good number of friends, but thanks to our pinball lifestyle, they’re spread far and wide across the UK. For some, travel is a challenge, and for others it may be an awkward time to ask them to scoot across the country to say hi. As someone who once spent five hours on the road in the UK, taking the family to visit friends and then had to turn back when an accident closed the only access, I can appreciate that crossing the UK to see us may not be easy, but what a shame to fly all that way and miss out on seeing folks who are so close (in Canadian terms, at least.)

So this post is part confession – I’m scared – part apology – We may not see you, sorry . But we’re flying back for the best reasons, to see family, to catch a friend’s wedding, to give the weasels a chance to see THEIR friends. If we call you and say we’re around, we’d love to see you. And if we don’t get a chance to call this time around, don’t panic – there’ll be other visits. I just might not be driving at all by then.

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?