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?
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


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.
'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?'
'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.