Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Effing freezing

Yes it can be that bad. Worse. I hear people in the UK (not forgetting I was one of the most vociferous last winter) moaning about how cold it is,
'Ooh, it got down to -6 last night, it was freezing.'
No...that's not cold. Relatively, perhaps. But not bloody actually.
Actually, -22 'feels like' -34 is cold. I love that whole 'feels like' thing they do here. If it feels like -34 then why don't they just say it's -34. Or say it's -34 and 'if you are wrapped up like a duvet sausage it feels like -22'. Surely that would be more honest.
The dogs now need booties to go out which, of course, are impossible to get onto unwilling dogs weighing 9 stones and ludicrous to watch as they walk. It's more like a Thunderbirds walk with each paw lifted a good foot off the ground before going down tentatively (and with a look of mortification)on the ice packed ground. I'm glad to say my nostrils haven't frozen together yet - I still have that little gem to look forward to. It's the strangest thing really - you go from 70 degree heated home, or 80 degree heated shops, and step outside. INSTANTLY you are cold to the bone. Every centimetre of exposed flesh is prey to the searing cold. You breath in the cold and your throat shrieks, in my case quite loudly, in protest.
The cold here laughs at windbreakers. 'Ho, ho, ho...you think you can escape my icy fingers? Not a bloody chance. I see a tiny gap where you haven't duct taped it to you and through that I'm going to freeze your arse off.'
And fool that you are if you think you can just pop into the shop from your car without pulling your hat over your ears, muffling your neck and mouth and putting on your arctic gloves. Instant head freeze followed shortly by icy, brittle fingers.
No doubt there will be many another blog/moan about the cold here. Never will I be so flippant about the weather again.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

...and it's still snowing

This blog is a preemptive blog. The freeze sets in tonight so I'm writing this in advance of my first experience of head numbing Canadian weather. Tomorrow's forecast is for a maximum of -10. A MAXIMUM. And overnight...... -18. Don't people die in that sort of weather? And they want me to send my kids out in it! But here's the 'silver lining' according to the weather forecaster - it will be very sunny. So not only will I be paralysed by the cold , I'll also be blinded by the sun bouncing off the frozen landscape.

Or maybe it won't be so bad.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Breaking the law and other (white) stuff

So far I think I have broken the law 4 times since I've been here. I've been caught twice. Of the four occasions I had no idea I was actually breaking the law and one was definitely an over zealous policeman. Needless to say I won't mention which laws I've broken but suffice to say NONE of them exist in the UK. This place has ssooooo many laws that even born and bred Canadian's must struggle with. As an example...if I wanted to swear in French in public I should not, it's illegal. Merde.

So I'm feeling more alien than I thought I would at the minute. A foot and a half of snow in a day has added to the strangeness. How can that much snow fall in a day? And what crappy snow it is....you cannot make a snowball or snowman, however, you can make fantastic snow angels. It's probably been 30 years since I made a snow angel but I haven't lost my touch - perfect wings and dress and I even managed boobs on one of them made by my fists pushing myself up. Accidental snow boobs. Never thought I'd write that sentence.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Judy

My very bestest buddy Judy has just spent 6 days with us.

Prior to arriving we had weeks of angst and changing minds about whether she should come now or in the new year. She's too busy, she's too indecisive....take your pick, but every day she veered wildly from coming and not coming . Eventually she booked a few days before flying leaving me in a bit of a panic about what we'd do and where we'd go. Of course, at worst we'd resort to lolling around drinking which is our natural position.

I thought 2 'big' trips out would suffice with shorter trips around the area in between. So, on Friday we went to Montreal for the afternoon. We met Stuart for lunch and a few drinks. Shopped for about half an hour then found a bar and sat there until it was time to get the train. So, we didn't see much of Montreal but to be fair it rained all day. On Saturday we went to Ottawa. We barely caught the train (Stuart's fault although I was too nice to suggest this outright but he knows) and after we settled in our seats Judy ordered wine. The nice train man told us it wasn't legal to sell us alcohol before 11am.

Our day in Ottawa was pretty much like our day in Montreal; little shopping and much time spent in the pub, although the weather was just lip-freezingly cold and not raining this time. We did manage to get a couple of tourist photos in of the Houses of Parliament although this was down to the fact that the pub we were in was round the corner rather than us planning anything.

We got back safely but not without me leaving all my shopping on the train which was obviously Judy's fault.

Sunday, being a day of rest, meant a huge brunch at Mon Village followed by crap DVDs and a real fire. It was so hot in the house we could barely speak but I was determined to have a fire for Judy's visit whether she survived it or not. Judy spent the night awake with indigestion and, I suspect, some heat damage.

On Monday the snow I ordered arrived, transforming our neighbourhood into a winter wonderland. Judy was beside herself with excitement, taking photos and sending them to her son. She didn't much care that he didn't get them - it was the sending that mattered. We did some last minute shopping including us both buying identical singing dogs for Christmas. Incidentally, mine has a dodgy right paw and falls over mid way through his Christmas version of 'Shout'.

Judy left us yesterday and now the house is quiet and bereft of her pottering around in her nightie all morning drinking tea and asking impossible to answer questions about all things Canadian. 'What's the mortality rate on this road?' 'What does that big thing do?' 'Is that a telephone mast or a telegraph mast?' What????

Come back Judy. Your madness makes me appear sane.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The school bus incident

Arriving home at 7.45am after having dropped my husband off I see a man pulling up on my drive behind me. I get out of my car a little puzzled; perhaps he wants directions? No. He wants to shout at me.'Do you know what the red flashing light means?'
I obviously look nonplussed.
'ON A SCHOOL BUS', he shouts as if I'm deaf, stupid or both.
'Yeeeesss', I reply wondering where this is going. Is this a quiz they drop on non Canadians to check the have a clue about road safety
'Well why did you drive past the bus?', he sputters.
'What bus?'
'The bus you've just gone past around the corner.
Now I had absolutely no recollection of overtaking a school bus just a few moments ago and at first thought he must have mistaken me for someone else...but he seemed to sure; so confident in his anger.
'I did?' I said, sounding and feeling simple.
'Didn't you see it or hear the bus driver beeping?' He was getting angrier which was the exact opposite of what I wanted him to do.
Now I knew he must have the wrong person. Who could forget overtaking a big yellow bus and being beeped at?
'Where?'
He was almost apoplectic by now.
'Just now, round the corner!!!'
He was really, really sure I was guilty and all i could think of was...oh dear, if he's right and I'm wrong I did a really stupid thing.
'I'm so sorry...I mustn't have seen it.'
Oh no. Everything I said seemed to light his fire even more.
'My kids are on that bus!.
'I'm sorry. I'll be more careful.' I wasn't going to admit doing something I don't remember but I thought I'd better try to say something to calm him....and he seemed so sure.
He gave me what can only be described as the best hacky look ever and drove away, shaking his head.
I felt awful on two levels - one, if I had overtaken a bus I could have endangered children and two the punishment is $2000 and six points on my license. The latter bothered me more because I didn't actually squash any kids. And anyway - they were getting on the bus not off it at that time of day so less likely to be hittable. Nevertheless I felt awful all day.
A few days later, arriving home at the same time at the bus incident I realised what had happened. I didn't overtake a big yellow bus - I went past it on the opposite side of the road. You are supposed to stop going in the opposite direction too.

Now, I'm not disagreeing with this rule - in fact I think it's an excellent idea. But I don't think the angry man had quite the justification he'd have if I had overtaken the bus. I think it's a lesser offense although I'm quite sure the law doesn't.

Oh, and parking facing the 'wrong' way is an offence too.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Getting ready to batten down the hatches

It's a beautiful day here - clear blue skies, crisp air, hardly a breath of wind. Hard to believe that within a few short weeks we'll be hip high in snow. Or so we have been told. And we have been told with great gusto.
'Is this your fist winter here? Yes? Ooohhhh....just you wait. They're brutal.'
Thanks for that, mate. Just what I wanted to hear.
'Have you got your down-filled, ankle length coats and fur-lined boots yet?'
'You'll have to keep your legs shaved because if your trousers get wet they freeze to your hair legs.' Aaarrgghhh. Nobody told me this one before I came.
So....I'm preparing to batten down the hatches and here are my ideas for surviving the winter:

1. Have an emergency pack in the car - blanket, water, burlap bags to help me get out of snow drifts (apparently), snack bars, a torch and a Sudoku book. Only thing worse than being cold is being cold and bored.
2. Order lots of wood for fires.
3. Buy candles in case of blackouts. Incidentally we had no power for a few hours yesterday and we grew bored almost immediately.
4. Stock up on food so I don't have to slither to the shops every day.
5. Upgrade TV package.
6. Allocate parts of the house for individuals so we don't drive each other mad. Needless to say I get TV room.
7. Pre agree phrases which we are not allowed to say such as 'I'm bored', 'What can we do now', 'Can we make another snowman/jam', and 'When will it stop snowing.'
8. Put a post it note on dashboard reminding me NOT to pour hot water on windscreen to melt snow/ice.
9. Eat more to keep warm.
10. Exercise less to maintain extra padding. NB this may be difficult to do as 'less' suggests there's a 'more' somewhere.
11. Write messages to myself reminding me not to scream, beat or spit on members of my family.
12. Buy alcohol.

I think that's a good start. Any other tips gratefully accepted.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

It

On Wednesday night I agreed to have tea delivered - my husband had been dropped off at the airport for a few days in the UK, and it was just us girls. They decided on Chinese. There's only one Chinese take-away near here and it's mediocre at best but it was their choice and I learned a lesson right there; never feel generous about food choices again.

I ordered and it arrived at about 7pm. Ding Dong. I had the cash ready with a tip - a relatively small tip as I had no change, but a tip nonetheless. After all - these guys get paid to deliver this stuff don't they? Not much I imagine but it's hardly stressful work. I opened the door to a man who can only be described at someone frozen in the 80's. Thick, long, curly grey hair and a shell suit. I quickly gave him the cash in exchange for my box of food and shut the door. The dogs were doing their usual guard dog barking behind the glass doors of the vestibule ( my husband calls it a porch but that's far too common and not quite accurate. Vestibule is closer. And posher.)'He was a bit creepy', I say to Eldest.

We ate the predictably mediocre meal whilst watching Criminal Minds. I have become obsessed with Criminal Minds and have been getting DVDs out of all the series. If you don't know it it's about people who use 'behavioural science' to track down killers. Usually serial ones. I was putting dishes away in the kitchen when - Ding Dong. Puzzled and a little nervous (after all I don't know anyone here) I walked towards the front door accompanied by guard dog barking. In this neighbourhood there aren't any street lights so everyone illuminates their house and garden with night lights so the person at the door is back lit. I haven't even got to the vestibule and I can see the curly hair.

So......I'm alone for the first time in a big house, in a different country, knowing nobody, head full of serial kilers and Mr Curly Hair comes back.
'He's back!', I say urgently to Eldest. It strikes me at this point that I don't even try to hide my mounting fear from my children. I think that says something about me but I've since rationalised this with an excuse other than being a bad mother.
'Who?'
'Curly Hair Man, the chinese food guy. He's back'
'Did you give him enough money?'
'Yes. And a tip.' Oh god! I only gave him a small tip. Was that enough to drive him over the edge.
'Call the Police', says Eldest.
'And say what? Stephen King's It is at my door in a shell suit? Turn the lights out. Lock the back door.'
I picked up the phone and called a neighbour over the road. It wouldn't connect. I tried again. It still wouldn't connect. He's cut the phone line.
'Do you have Jay's number?' He's the neighbour's son and friend of Eldest.
I called him. By this time Eldest is cowering on the kitchen floor and Youngest is just looking bewildered.
'Jay, it's me. Is your Dad in? No? What about your Mam? Hi Nancy, it's Maggie. I know this is going to sound weird but.....'
I regaled my fears about mad guy at my door and not knowing what to do.
'Was this about five minutes ago?'
'Er....yes.'
'It's just that a woman has just been at my door handing out leaflets for her new salon.'
Great. What did I want to know this for? I was going to be killed in my own home by someone with a poor dress sense.
'And she had long curly hair. Could it have been her?
Relief, embarrassment and a little of my hysteria came out as a high pitched giggle. How stupid of me. How could I let my imagination go so wild? Stupid, stupid me.

The next night 2 bloody murderers called at my house disguised as Jehova's Witnesses.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Dog Park

A neighbour told me about a dog park nearby where 'you are allowed to let your dogs off their leash'. It's illegal here not to have your dog leashed except in places designated such as this dog park. Having spent almost 2 months traipsing around the streets with 3 dogs (individually) I was looking for a change as, I'm sure, were the dogs.

So we started with the dog least likely to run at some small dog or child at 80 miles an hour and off we went. It's a 5 minute car ride so the dogs didn't freak out too much and it turned out to be a wood on the edge of a very nice new estate and golf club. So day 1 they all had a lovely old time running along the paths through the woods and sniffing around and we felt like good and responsible dog owners giving them freedom to explore and great exercise.

Day 2 and I'm on my own. Rolf runs further away than I was comfortable with and then when we get home he darts across the road to catch a squirrel. Ruby goes way off the paths and chases many, many squirrels. So, by the time we got to Rufus I thought, hang on here, I'm not risking our stupidest dog in that wood on my own, I'll take Eldest. It all started off so well..... until we let him off the lead. He has an inability to hear when he sees another dog and runs like a thoroughbred horse at them. He sounds like a horse when he runs at them and while the target dog may remain calm the owners tend to panic, even those who think they are used to dogs. Nothing can prepare you for Rufus coming at full pelt.

We managed to get him back and turned in another direction. He happily led the way (which way he nor we knew) and then he was gone. He ran at what may have been a squirrel only he could see and he was out of eyesight in seconds. We shouted, whistled, then I sent Eldest off in one direction, I in another. I went off path, climbing over fallen trees and standing in (my mind) rattle snake homes. Not a sign or sound of him (and as mentioned earlier, he's noisy when he runs).
The slow burn of panic started to set in. He's so stupid he would easily get lost forever. What was I going to tell my husband? What if he eats a small dog? What if I get bitten by a snake?
Then there he was - coming from behind me at a gallop; bounding over roots and branches like they weren't there. And he was smiling. He had the bloody cheek to smile.
Bastard dog.

Flab part 2

After writing my last blog I thought a lot about my flab and, indeed, looked at it quite a lot too. Surely, in the great North America, there must be a solution to this? After all there's plenty of flab in this part of the world to work on. For years people here have been available for scientific experiments, like whales waiting to be speared, so where has this led us? I rushed out and bought 2 magazines which I thought might hold the answer - 'Shape' - which I liked because I imagined the nice shape I want to be, and 'Off The Couch' because of its honesty. As you'd imagine Shape was nutrition led and OTC pushed you towards exercise. However, as I checked out the magazines in minute detail, looking for the magic article, I noticed the adverts. My eyes usually gloss over the advertising pages as I inherently believe that all advertising is a lie, but in particular in OTC the first 8 pages advertised weight loss drugs. Not get off your arse and exercise - no, a cheaters way of taking drugs to boost your metabolism or just make you poo more.

I've ordered some.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Flab, flab and more fab

Isn't 'flab' the perfect word to describe the alien that has taken over the part of my body from under my boobs to my pubic area. It arrived like an unwelcome guest - too early and won't bloody leave when you want it to. It disobeys me, it cannot be sucked in, it cannot be held in by magic knickers (so not so bloody magic). I keep looking for the zip so I can remove it as fast as it arrived - alas I can only find more flab and the odd stretch mark. I've read about this alien - it generally lives on women over 35, has no symbiotic benefits at all, is almost impossible to get rid of and a common side effect is an increase in the amount of body hair you have. Flab is not a nice alien.

But what is this? An opportunity to fight Flab? A new life in Canada with time to attack Flab? How wonderful. Lucky me. Time to use all of the gym equipment I've bought as dust gathering implements. A new body, a fit body, a honed body.

Unfortunately another side effect of Flab is lethargy, lack of motivation and lazybastarditus.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Mark the Fraud Man

We got a letter from our bank telling us that they suspected fraudulent transactions on one of our credit cards and could we please contact them. My husband phoned straight away. The conversation went something like this:
' Barclaycard Fraud, Mark Hoojabob talking. Can I help you?' (I made his surname up, his real one was ridiculous)
'Yes, I've received a letter about my card.'
'Can I have your name, address and email address please and tell me what flight you booked in September.'
My husband gave them to him and said he hadn't booked a flight in September.
'I'm sorry, those answers are incorrect. I can't help you.'
'What?'
'The details you have given me are incorrect. You'll have to go to your local branch.'
'I can't go to my local branch, it's 5,000 miles away.'
'You need to go to your local branch, I can't help you.'
'I don't live in the UK, I can't go to a local branch.'
'I can't help you.' ( I wonder at this point if he had any idea just how furious my usually calm husband was getting; wondered if he could picture him pacing around the kitchen.)
Deep breath.
'Is there anyone else there who can help me?'
'No. You could phone back.'
'Will I get you if I call back?'
'You might.'
'What's your name?'
'Mark Hoojabob.' He seemed unaware that someone asking such a question was usually a preamble to a complaint.
My husband hung up and redialled.
'No you cannot,' he bellowed.
'Mark again?' I asked?
He nodded, had a large swig of wine and dialled again.
'Are you the only one working tonight Mark?'

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Thanksgiving?

How do I do it? How do I get myself into situations I'd rather avoid like swine flu? I think it's because a) I'm unable to lie when put on the spot or b) I'm cursed. After last night I think the latter.

Long story short we ended up accepting an invitation to a thanksgiving dinner from almost complete strangers. When I say 'accepting' that suggests some choice in the matter - in fact we were cornered like rats, unable to lie our way out of it. We adopted a 'let's just get it over with' attitude and took comfort from Eldest's 'yes' to 'do they drink?' and 'no' to do they pray?'
Doomsday arrived and I got a call from them - could we go earlier?
'Yes, of course.' Thinking it will be over with quicker.
'Great, we'll have a game of football in the yard before dinner.' Aaaarrggghhhhhh
'Erm, I'm not very fit.'
'No problem, it's just for fun.'
Fun? FUN?

We arrived late, mild hysteria warming our guts. I soon appreciated what I was going to give thanks for - it looked like we were going to avoid the football, thanks to dinner being ready early. Half an hour in it seemed apparent that it was a dry house - strike one for Eldest. Drinks offered were milk, water or juice. I avoided my husband's eye. I was given a bottle of water and some flavouring to add - cheaper than flavoured water it seems. Thank god we had taken a bottle of wine so we at least knew we'd have some with dinner. After what seemed an inordinate amount of time reheating food in the vain hope of having everything ready at the same time we eventually all sat. Then it was strike two.
'Let's do grace.' Aaaarrggghhhh. I again avoided looking at my atheist husband as his hand was grabbed by a thirteen year old boy.
'We don't always do grace, but it's Thanksgiving'
'I never do.' my husband muttered.
We ate.
A quick getaway was scuppered by an after dinner card game. A long after dinner card game.

Please overlay this whole account with us having absolutely nothing in common with each other.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Mr Groundhog Day

A few weeks ago, as I was passing quite a large house, I heard past the Michel Thomas French for Beginners in my headphones, a tinny voice. I looked around and there was a man standing on the front steps of the house wearing, it seemed, just a dressing gown. He was waving and pointing at my dog, 'nice big dog' he was saying and smiling. Needles to say I liked him immediately; anyone who likes my dogs gets my vote. I stopped and said 'yes, thank you' - I thought it an appropriate response and couldn't think of what else to say to an elderly man in a dressing gown. The conversation continued in raised voices across his garden - I didn't want to approach him due to his attire and I presume he didn't want to approach me for the same reason.
'Do you look after him?'
'Yes'
'He's a big dog'
'Yes'
'He's got a nice coat'
'Yes. Thank you'
'What species is he?'
Species?
'He's a Ridgeback - from South Africa'
'You're from South Africa?'
'No, the dog is.'
He looked puzzled.
'I mean they originated in South Africa - I got mine in Yorkshire.'
He looked more puzzled.
At this point a woman, who may have been his daughter judging by the age, came out and silently got hold of his arm and took him in.
'Bye', he said waving enthusiastically.

A week later I was out with Eldest and 2 of the dogs when who do we come across, fully clothed?
'Big dogs'
'Yes'
'Do you look after them?'
'Yes.'
Does he remember me?
'What species are they?'
Apparently not.

Yesterday we met up again
'Big dog'
'Yes, he's a Ridgeback and I look after him'
Not to be outdone we moved on to conversation number 2.
'Do I detect an accent?'
'Yes, I'm from England.'
'We came over from Germany in 1918'
'Oh, did you?'
'On a boat. From a place called Ader A-D-E-R'
'Really?'
'Do you look after him?' Back to dogs
'Yes'
'We came over from Germany in 1918. On a boat. From a place called Ader A-D-E-R.'
'I see. That's a long time ago'
'Yes. 1918. We came over from Ader A-D-E-R.'
I KNOW HOW TO SPELL IT!
'You've been here a long time then.'
'Yes, we came over in...erm....'
'1918?'
'Yes! 1918. On a boat. From Ader A-...'
I kicked my dogs in the leg (gently but enough to make him leap.)
'Oh i think he's impatient for his walk'
'Yes. Big dog. You look after him now.'
And he was off. I'm not convinced he knew where he was off to but relief at my escape outweighed any concern i had for him.

I Googled Ader - no such bloody place.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Sweeps roots and leaves

So, the downside of having a garden of lovely mature trees which in the summer let in dappled light, give shade when needed and rustle softly in the warm breeze? Every single six million of them drop off within a three week period. Onto my gardens and drives. So last week, dutifully, I went out and swept up all of the leaves, trying to ignore the new ones falling around me, and bagged them in special leaf bags I bought (large and orange - may come in handy for a Halloween costume). A neighbour came over and hinted that I could well be doing this every few days if I really wanted to keep my path clean, so I resolved to ignore all leaves and irritating pine needles which, for some reason, I thought didn't fall? Anyway, over at a neighbour's last night I mentioned the leaves and suggested I may leave them until they'd all fallen. Right, she said, we do that. We get about 50 bags. 50 bags!!!! I looked at her 3 tree garden then at my 30 tree garden - oh my god!

I spent 2 hours brushing up leaves this morning....I think I've dislocated my elbows.

Jelly Tots and Coronation Street

We went to the British shop yesterday and what a delight it was for two very good reasons - the Geordie owner isn't just a Geordie - she's a lovely Geordie. Eldest and I stayed there for ages chatting and eying up the goodies. For some reason I decided that I really, really needed Heinz Tomato soup (though can't remember the last time I had it) and Cadbury's Fruit & Nut. I think a strange thing happens when you move away from the things you know, i.e. missing them when you are 3,000 miles away but ignoring them when you are around the corner. That, or it's a magic shop which I haven't discounted yet.

Apart from selling us stuff we didn't really want (but really thought we did) we chatted about all the interesting things going on in the area. Like the Coronation Street appreciation meetings. Now, I am desperately tempted to go to this even though the last time I saw Coronation Street was when Hilda's flying ducks fell off the wall. What better place to meet people who will undoubtedly inspire me to either a) write a bestseller or b) run for the (snowy) hills. Imagine what fun I could have....what do you think? Should I go? My mad mate could give me just enough info on Corrie so I look like a real aficionado. Then the mischief can begin.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A sign of things to come

It has rained all day today. Gets You Wet rain my mother would call this - the type with barely space between the drops. I feel like I've been given a taster of what it will be like to be in the house all day, day after day, week after week. I exaggerate (I hope) but even the dogs look bored.

I have plenty to do, don't get me wrong....ironing, unpacking, cleaning, but it's all BORING. No wonder people 'lunch' and get their nails done - it relieves the tedium. I'm going to have to take something up. Writing, of course. I've already started that but I'm a woman who likes variety - start a million things and finish none - keeps the synapses synapping. Here's my To Do list for today:
- ironing
- find DVDs (in unpacked boxes)
- buy birthday card
- send birthday card
- go to camera shop
- go to knitting shop (don't ask)
- turn pool pump on

Once upon a time not so long ago my To Do list included:
- finish £100m submission
- draft tender for 4 year developer panel
- meet CEO regarding presentation
- write presentation for CEO
- sack someone
The last one's a lie but you get my drift.

I think I'm going through the HolidaysOverThisIsYourLifeNow phase. I'm sure with the help of long brisk walks and a vat of wine I'll get through it and move on to the ThisKnittingPatternIsNice phase.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Meet the parents

My mother keeps asking me if I've met any of the other parents - parents of my daughters. I'm not sure why. Perhaps she thinks that I might have something in common with them. Not necessarily so judging by my most recent encounter with parents of a school friend. In fact, so far from anything in common that I was for once speechless. My husband is often speechless but this is more from choice than necessity so he didn't help the 'conversation'. Needless to say I either need to start loving all things sport or forever alienate myself from some parents. The latter is my natural choice. I think we are a cross between curiosity and novelty so people find us interesting, purely due to our nationality and accent, hence so far I've been invited to gentle yoga (for the chronically unfit), ice hockey ( for the chronically fit) and for tea at a sweet shop ( for the British). When will I meet people like me?

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Seeing the sights

A neighbour, who incidentally seems to drink more wine than me, took me around to see the local places of interest yesterday; places to walk the dogs, places to shop and places to ski. This was punctuated by glasses of the aforementioned and a jolly insight into where I can get both dog poo bags and made-to-order wine. You order 30 bottles (minimum), they brew it, 5 weeks later you 'bottle' it (some law demands this to dodge some tax or some such thing) then, if you have any sense, you order your next 30 to be ready 5 weeks later. Now, here's what I've worked out - this equates to less than 1 bottle per day until the next batch is ready. Whilst I drink lightly my husband is a raging alcoholic(he'll argue that it the other way round but don't listen to him, he's a raging alcoholic) so one bottle a day won't suffice. Do I order 60 bottles? 60 BOTTLES!! I was tormented by the beauty of the system and the thought of ordering 60 bottles of wine and making up some lame excuse about 'having a party' or 'stocking up for Christmas'. Then the answer came to me - I'll get my neighbour to order for me. They are used to her alcoholic ways and better judgement on her than I.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Brunch, or as we know it 'eat all you like'

For my birthday yesterday (I won't harp on about not getting a present from my husband) we all went to Mon Village for brunch. Brunch is an interesting concept - breakfast for lazy people, or lunch for greedy bastards? I could list everything they had on offer but apart from that being boring you wouldn't believe me. Mussels and trifle for goodness' sake. And it was in 2 rooms - hot in one, cold in another. Needless to say we ate until we hated food then waddled home. And still no present.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Furniture disguised as boxes

Hurray, all of my furniture arrived. I successfully managed to direct half of it towards the wrong rooms, due of course to the inadequecies of the removal men labelling boxes as 'clothing' and 'bedding' as opposed to 'teenager grunge gear' or 'Geordie's ill-fitting gear'. Eldest tore through every box marked 'clothing' (including one with only bedding in - toga party?) until she found hers. I have forayed into the first few boxes hoping it would feel a little festive - 'ooh, what's in this box?'. Actually it's receipts for stuff I bought in 2003 and the drip tray for a George Foreman grill I slung 2 years ago.

The other delight of moving continents is guessing what electricals won't work here without a transformer the size of a suitcase. Microwave doesn't work. Youngest is gutted - you need a microwave to cook a Kraft Cheese 'Dinner'. My relief was palpable. Bright yellow sludge with no nutritional, or taste, value. Worse - my GHD straighteners don't work! The disappointment is only slightly diminished by the fact that my coffee machine does. 4th cup of French Roast so far this morning and I'm feeling zingy!
So, realistically an initial rush to empty boxes, followed by the chore of opening some more, followed by storing the rest in the garage. Echoes of the stages of a relationship?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Slowly does it.

An observation which might be grounds to prove that Canadians are indeed 'laid back'. I say 'laid back' rather than laid back because I hate the term 'laid back' so I am distancing myself from it with the '.
Back to my point which I'm sure will offend one or more Canadians but I'm safe in the knowledge that no Canadians, or indeed anyone else, reads this blog so I'm free to offend away. The whole country is geared to be a few degrees slower than anywhere else. Designed so, not just because they can't keep up mind you. As a few examples - speed limits = slower. Boiling a kettle = slower (don't ask me why, or how I worked it out). My hair dryer = slower. I could blow my own hair dry quicker if I could reach. Service in shops (this is where I could cause some offence) = slower. I'll qualify this by referring to a specific case. I went to Hudson yesterday and there was 1 person looking after 3 different shops. Granted they were all next to each other but it was decidedly creepy when I went from the news agent having bought a birthday card from Mrs Nicely to the Ice Cream parlour and Mrs Nicely pops up again. Twins was my first thought, stalker my second. The truth was that she seemed to be either paying 3 rents on shops or covering for fellow shop keepers. I was a bit wary about going into the grocers over the road but apparently Mrs Nicely's services don't stretch that far. My point being - it's just not efficient or speedy to work in three shops at the same time. In the UK we would just shut the other two and have done with it. No ice-cream for you today Miss Youngest!

Monday, 14 September 2009

New old car.

I bought a used car today. I was made to do it by my husband-at-work. Firstly, I don't like to barter. Secondly, i know nothing about cars. Thirdly, I'm in a strange country. So what could make the whole process even more stressful? Perhaps the garage staff only speaking French? Yes indeed - I bought a car today using sign language and facial gestures. I even managed to get it delivered to the house. Who needs to learn French when we have the universal language of gurning.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Ball or Arsehole....

...neither, I want it for my armpits.
You can't seem to buy some things easily here in Saint-Lazare (or perhaps Canada?). Women's spray deodorant, for example. What's all that about? They do men's spray deodorant so it's not to save the planet. What about this one - dog poo bags. Dogs poo here, I've seen them and I presume people don't use bare hands. In the absence of poo bags I sought out nappy sacks - no nappy sacks! No nappy sacks? What do they do with pooey nappies? Straight in the bin in a country where most of the wildlife spend their spare time rummaging through bins? I'm sure the list will grow (bet they don't have sherbet dib dabs either).

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A Geordie actually in Montreal. Well, Saint-Lazare.

Weeks have passed since my last post - weeks filled with packing, disposing, shouting, crying, drinking, more drinking - and at last we are in our house. It's big. It has pool and a pool table. It has no furniture. We are camping here until ours eventually arrives and then we'll have weeks filled with unpacking, disposing, shouting, crying and drinking. We do have 2 very important things though - a TV and the Internet. Hours of babysitting for just $85 a month. Bargain.

This week is my first week alone, though you are never alone with 3 dogs. In fact I'm never even alone in a room - they gather like carrion wherever I sit and their similarity to carrion increases when I have food. They seem to like it here - lots of long rambling walks through the neighbourhood, squirrels to chase, a basement to use as a racetrack, or perhaps Wall of Death is more accurate.

So, camping aside, we are very happy to be here.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

We. Have. A House.

Thank the lord - at last a Canadian with a love (or at least tolerance) of dogs. We've signed the 'promise' to lease as have they so we are sorted. Lovely house, lovely location. So....off we go. And here lies the snag - it's really quite hard to get the final and formal go-ahead and be ready within 2 weeks to arrive having packed everything we want, disposed of all we don't, arranged all the other boring stuff like cancelling utilities, etc. AND arrange for the dogs to go. However, I must say that since we heard about our house (3 days ago) I have managed to produce many piles of unwanted stuff and done a big charity run. My kitchen now looks like it is hosting a jumble sale (car boot sale to those who are under 25). Gladly I have wonderful sisters who like to forage as much as I do so some has been taken away today to spend their lives in someone elses loft.
One very interesting thing I've learned about myself is this - any sentimentality I have that is attached to 'stuff' is quickly lost at the thought of being in the position to justify bringing it 3000 miles.
One very interesting thing I've learned about my husband- he collects really boring books about computers and I suspect he will also lose the attachment when he has to do that same justification. I've also learned that we have a ridiculous number of cd players, dvd players, and wires. Most of which are in the loft (their home for some years now) or tangled up with each other like wormy lovers; useless but impossible to part. I'm torn between the liberty I feel in being able to shed them in Stuart's absence and the fear of shedding something vital. Perhaps someones life support wire.
So - loft almost done (apart from the computer book shedding debate), dining room done again, kitchen done except for fridge/freezer. The next week and a half should have an interesting menu getting rid of all outstanding edibles. Youngest didn't sound too enthused about pasta, chick peas and popcorn for tea tonight. It will only get worse.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Dogs

....maybe they think they are American dogs!

Post Holiday update

Been to France and Italy, hot weather, small rooms and more frustration at dog-hating Canadians. It is proving very difficult indeed to convince owners that my (3 huge stupid) dogs will not eat their house. We even offer unreservedly to pay for any damage they probably won't do. Had I known that Canada was such a dog averse country I may have hesitated more before committing. I've googled and nowhere does it openly say Canadians hate dogs. I suspect a latent distaste, inches beneath the snow. Perhaps I've been lulled into believing they like dogs because of all the sled images; perhaps this just means they like working dogs, not the kind who sleep all day and pee on the carpet.
I've also finished work now and am spending days looking after said dogs, and children as well as trying to dispose of 16 years of foraging. I went through a room today for the second time and found another six bags for charity and 2 to throw out. I daren't do it again lest I scale back to a sofa and a couple of TV remotes. Fun tonight though - I bought a shredder for all the bank statements I've unearthed going back so far nobody could possibly care what I bought then. I don't even care. Youngest has spent the last 20 minutes asking me if I want bits of paper she's picking up - I have been careful to check rather than my usual decision-making with total lack of attention, or it gets shredded with glee.
Tomorrow holds round 2 in the study and dining room!!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

This weekend....

.... is THE weekend to make a big dent in sorting the house out. I wrote myself (another) list and I have 26 tasks on it ranging from 'put washing away' - 10 minute job, to 'clear out pantry' - 6 year job. One thing that hampers me with these sort of things, and there are many other things that hamper me, is that I can't do methodical. I can't simply work my way through each task because as I walk past the bathrrom putting the clothes away I think, I know, I'll wash that floor, then when I go down to get the mop from the kitchen I think, oohh, better fill the dishwasher, and so on. Other hampering issues are: the sunny weather; time spent convincing my girls to help; Rufus; and lazy-bastard-itus.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Been and gone

Back from my flying visit.
It was fantastic! Great feel to Montreal - the people and shops all very continental and, thank god, english speaking. Even the flights were relatively nutter-free - just one French guy coming back who seemed to have a some sort of toilet problem judging by the number of times he went, but he didn't talk to me much which was a relief. Helped, of course, by me avoiding all eye contatct and jamming my headphones in as soon as I sat down.
We saw houses and schools while I was there. Houses - we loved 2 and have made an offer on our No.1. Which has been accepted. BUT. It now all depends on Quebec's strange financing system to come through for us. Schools - well they largely depended on the quality of the person showing me around. At the first one it was some hapless bag lady, second an ageing hippy and third (and least weird) a limping 80's throw-back. We chose his school but because it is closest to where we want to live more than anything else. I conveyed girls' current schooling as very strict, Catholic girls school. They all rolled their eyes and said 'well it's very different here. We're....er....more laid back.' Yeah, horizontal.
So - another step closer to the big adventure. Next 2 weeks will tell if we get the dream house!

Monday, 15 June 2009

the preview

So I'm off to Montreal the day after tomorrow (wasn't that a film with lots of snow!)to do a recce. I have my list of things to pack and do before I go, and to do when I get there. Immigration sounds a bit scary for someone who freaks out at a Council Tax bill but I am assured it's OK. I have my itinerary for when I get there - schools and houses to view. I even have my list of things to do tomorrow to make sure kids and dogs OK.
So....where is my list of things to avoid whilst travelling long distances? I'm a novice after all and I'm pretty good at avoiding queues, annoying people and other such irritations on my own turf but I am starting to worry about those that may view a seat next to me for 7 hours to be licence to tell me personal details which I just don't care about. I'm pretty good at small talk for a short while but the mix of time, height and turbulence don't mix well with me so add to that 7 hours of talking to a probably utterly uninteresting stranger and I may just die.
My itinerary is very organised,however I'm on my own (with strangers) again. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, mainly because it will be less than a 7 hour stretch so I'm less likely to die, and they will be helping me - or so I hope. They will show me potential houses to buy and schools to view. They may even think that I have strong views about either of these things so they may even be enthusiastic. Not sure how long that will last when I let them know I just want a decent school and a decent house - low aspirations are the way forward when emigrating at short notice, or you're stuffed. Being picky is the realm of those who have been planning on emigrating for years - not 6 weeks.
I think I'm also looking forward to getting the feel for Montreal, and Quebec in general ( I'm loath to say Canada as I understand Quebec is a country within Canada). I've seen photos, some recently from Stuart, though his pictures of a disused railway didn't inspire much enthusiasm. The trouble with pictures is that you don't get the smell, the detail, the people. Most importantly I want this week to act as a switch - switching me off from work, tasks, England.
Oh, and sex with my husband will be quite nice too.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Stage 3 - on my own

My husband has now moved to an apartment in Montreal. 5 weeks from 'I think you might be right for this job' to packing his bags. Incidentally that was fun - the perfect opportunity to rid him of shite clothes he has a fondness for as there isn't room in his case. And now we've discovered the mixed blessing that is Skype. Great! We can talk for free. Crap! We have a 5 hour difference and it keeps hanging up.
So now it's really real. He's there. I'm here. He's in a scary new country where French looms heavily. I'm in Newcastle where packing and sorting are my constant nag.
But most of all....I'm on my own (well with 4 kids and 3 dogs) but on my own in terms of responsibility. Don't get me wrong - I can do responsibility. What I struggle with are details and deadlines, both of which are fairly important when emigrating. I'm still working and trying to tie things up there and seem interested at the same time. I'm methodically avoiding doing all the jobs that need doing in the house. I have a 15 year old daughter for god's sake - surely that's enough to keep me occupied full time!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Stage 2 - writing lists

It's a rare and special thing to meet someone who loves a list as much as I do. List writing is a really important method used to remember things, prioritise, and procrastinate. Not good with the timescale we have - Stuart leaving the country 4 weeks after accepting the job, me selling the house, 2 cars and packing our lives up, sorting schools, divesting ourselves of the million ties we have here (yes we remembered to cancel the milk)and would you believe it? I found a special person who loves lists as much as I do. My husband's are shorter, more punchy and short term. Mine are more detailed with priorities, target dates, etc. The combined result is that we've written endless lists and actually done about 10% of the things on them. Furthermore, I have honed my list writing by insisting that once I've crossed off a couple of things (usually the easiest and least important) I need to rewrite it neatly from scratch. Endless time wasting made into an art.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Stage 1 - deciding to go

This post is a catch up of events over the last 5 weeks. 5 weeks ago today I was unaware that my life and that of my family was about to be given a dose of 'oh my god'. 5 weeks ago today I was blissfully unaware how much it costs to transport 3 dogs from Newcastle to Canada. 5 weeks ago today I thought my biggest challenge this year was to get fit (again). 5 weeks ago today I was relatively sane - though some would argue.
In essence, my artful husband was head hunted for a job in Geneva or Montreal. He said he'd consider it....fast forward a week and he's got the job. In Montreal. We decide very quickly, and with adventure in our hearts, to accept. Bloody hell! Who does mental stuff like that? I've lived no more than 3 miles away from my mother and most of my siblings for ever. I've lived in this house for nearly 16 years. But we looked at each other and thought, bugger it. Stuart is free work-wise to go wherever and I could happily not complete another pointless Excel spreadsheet to monitor god knows what to justify someone's existence. And anyway - why think through these things too much? I've learned that despite considering all possible aspects of a decision it can still end up a shite choice - so go with the gut is my motto.
So - we have decided to go. The decision, I was soon to learn, is the easiest part of going.