Month: November 2011

“Regina has a pretty leg”

This assertion puzzled me for a while.

But “leg”, it transpires, is short for Legislative Building. And it is very pretty indeed, next to the massive lake in Wascana Park. I wandered round here back in July briefly, but now it looks totally different with the lake frozen and snow everywhere.

I walked the 5km round the edge of the lake which took far longer than I expected, mainly, I think because I was stopping every few minutes to take photos or stalk geese. Beautiful place, and it was so sunny today I could have done with sunglasses!

HAPPY BEL.

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

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Infamy! Infamy!

Here’s the radio clip from Craig Lederhouse at CBC

CBC Radio: “A coffee expert” (?!)

 

This fortnight (that means: TWO WEEKS, peoples! Tamara asked me about the word last night, didn’t realise it wasn’t in common use over here) – anyway, the last two weeks have been utterly insane. But, I think I can finally breathe out again, I *think* I have got myself sorted. 13th Avenue Coffee House are posting lovely things on the internet about Doctor Coffee joining their team and welcoming Ugly Cakes to their menu. Roca Jacks have a sign outside with their weekly special: “The Dragon – 24 shots of espresso served in a bucket”. Just wondering if that had anything to do with my somewhat sarcastic comments about the Canadian drink sizes….ahem! And, fingers crossed and again thanks to the amazing kindness of strangers, I may even have somewhere to live after the Big Move in January.

Of course there are still massive decisions to agonize over, like whether I’ll have to come over on my own in January with Carl and Miri following me later – which makes financial sense but no emotional sense whatsoever. I can’t leave my baby!!! Waaaaaa! Let alone what we’ll do with our house, the ferrets and so on.

But for now, I may just let myself relax. Yesterday I did a huge amount of nothing, just writing, ranting, and eating!! I met up with Tamara again to go watch the game (well, we were supposed to be going coffee cupping, but it got cancelled cos The Game takes over everything!). We went to her friend’s house, met some others, and all the men were growing moustaches for Movember, some serious 70s porn taches happening there, very surreal! Our host was a chef and owns a fish shop, so the snacks he’d made us to watch football with were in a different league (geddit?) to ‘potayto chips n dips’! Deep fried oysters anyone?

I didn’t understand Canadian football. When they said “the game” I thought it would be hockey. But no, it’s big blokes in lycra and shoulder pads and helmets, kinda wrestling and falling over, and very rarely kicking the ball. Meh. I still don’t get football, even the British version, but I’ve come to view this experience as some sort of initiation ritual…..

And today, I am going to visit 13th Avenue Coffee House again this afternoon, but for now, I am going for a Stomp in the snow. Weeee!

Kave Haz – the real story

Ok that is a bad title. Sounds very Heat Magazine, doesn’t it?  “Betrayal! Scandal! My heartbreaking story!”

Well, I do feel very betrayed, extremely angry and completely gutted, but I’m gonna try and avoid tabloid style sensationalism!

Ok, so the story in brief, which I haven’t really gone in to yet on this blog, started way back in July. Carl and I have been wanting to emigrate out here for years, but of course it is very difficult to do unless you have a job in Canada to go to. Doctor Coffee’s Cafe was painfully quiet over the summer, and one day I had an incredibly bad day at work, came home in a foul mood and googled “coffee jobs, Canada”. Several popped up, including the “Front End Manager” (ahem!!) at Kave Haz in Regina. I sent off my CV to them and a load of other places and didn’t really expect anyone to take me remotely seriously. But Ken did, or at least seemed to. He rang me up the next day via Skype, and said I thought I’d do great at the job, he said he needed a manager because he didn’t really know what he was doing, and he wanted the place to be European style, he liked my accent and so on. He was even talking about letting the manager take over the business entirely in a few years and pay him rent for the building.

I coughed up a lot of money for a flight out to Regina at the end of July, stayed for a week and got all excited with Ken and his family. I even trained up some baristas there. I left having got a written job offer letter and he sent off the forms for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO)which, if successful, would enable me to get my work permit. The last thing he said to me at the airport was “I can’t do this without a manager”

The LMO took TWELVE WEEKS AND FIVE DAYS TO ARRIVE. This was agonizing because I did not know what to do. It could have been rejected at any point, and so I couldn’t make any concrete plans about selling my cafe, or our house, or whether Carl should quit his job. During that time, I tried to stay in touch with Ken, but he never rang me, and we only talked when I caught him on Skype. I also got a few very very brief emails (with no punctuation), but nothing in any depth. To be fair, he did sound despondant and said the cafe wasn’t going well, and also that he had “lost” two chefs – which is another matter I’ll come to in a minute. He did say that he wasn’t sure how he would pay me at one point, but most significantly, he never once said “there is no job here, don’t bother coming.” Not once. There was absolutely nothing to suggest that he was retracting the job offer.

Finally, the LMO was approved at the end of October. Ken bothered to call me to tell me. He did warn me that all was not well, but I naively assumed he was being overdramatic and said I would come out and sort things out. Meaning, trying to give him a confidence boost with the place, and get a formal start date for the job. I also needed the time to look for somewhere to live, and for Carl and Miranda to see the place too. I would have thought it was fairly obvious at that point that I was serious about the job offer, and that I genuinely believed there was a job to go to. When I say “I’ll fly out and we can talk about starting work” – you’d think that would be a good opportunity to say “Sorry, there’s no job” wouldn’t you?? But Nooooooooooo.

So, on the basis of a successful LMO application, a job offer in writing, and the fact that Ken knew full well what I was doing, I transferred my cafe business over to Jo. This was pretty emotional for all, and I do still think I was more generous to her than I could really afford to be, but I wanted her to have it and keep it ‘ours’ rather than selling it to a total stranger. But anyway, I ‘sold’ it… that’s it. No more cafe for me.

Then I flew out to Regina with Carl and Miranda.

We spent a couple of days hanging around in Kave Haz, Ken was very busy, and he said he was stressing, still saying he doesn’t know if he could afford to pay me, and that I shouldn’t talk of full time work. Worrying, but I was imagine maybe starting off part time, and helping him build the place up a bit. the fact that he was still suggesting houses and apartments we could rent near the cafe gave me enough hope.

Then he went in to hospital for this knee surgery, said he’d see us on Monday. Monday turned in to Thursday (by which time Carl had left – which was a pain cos I was getting highly suspicious and I want him there for moral support!). Thursday eventually turned in to Saturday morning, by which time I’d pretty much given up anyway, and done my radio interview and heard from some far more positive people. I should point out that Ken NEVER rang me that week, it was always me calling him and trekking down to Kave Haz on the bus.

I kinda demanded a straight answer. He said he thought he’d been pretty straight with me already??? er,… riiiiight. Even then, he STILL didn’t say “there is no job, sorry” he just said he couldn’t pay me. He also seemed convinced that he’d warned me about the state of the place, and I was stupid for selling up and coming out. I replied that I did it on the basis of a successful LMO, a job offer and nothing to tell me the job had vanished, and that he knew full well what I was doing and didn’t stop me. Again, he never told me not to. At this point it got nasty – he kinda realised he’d majorly screwed up and had been caught out and instead of apologising, he basically just sulked, saying it was my fault for trusting him, that I was inventing things and reading too much into what had been said. I did point out there are few other interpretations to “Dear Annabel, We are pleased to offer you the job of Manager at Kave Haz….” But nooooo, apparently, he only wrote that letter to satisfy the conditions of the LMO. Oh and that “Erika – ” (his wife) “told me not to send off the LMO because you’d think it was a serious job offer.” WTF? What planet is this guy on?? Apparently, there was a job but he needed the manager in July. But it’s not like he didn’t know that I wouldn’t be able to start then – he was the one who filled out the LMO!  So, incredulous, I asked why he’d offered me it, and why on earth he hadn’t cancelled the LMO when he realised there wasn’t going to be a job. Apparently “because he was doing me a favour.” Nice favour, it’s really useful without a job to go to isn’t it!? Then he start accusing me of all sorts, saying I wanted to change the place (well, the coffee is cheap and nasty and the machine is crap – but then, the point of employing me as manager would be to develop the place, right?). Basically, he got pissed off and desperate, and turned into a sulky teenager. This didn’t help my mood at all – at the very least he could be mature and reasonable about it, and apologise. The final straw was when he said I was talking too loudly and that he couldn’t understand why I was angry!!!

So, I just stormed out of there, threatening to sue him. I probably could, if I could be bothered. Essentially he cost me my business. I also had a few discussions with three people, independent of each other and all of which shall remain nameless, who have warned me off him, talking of total lack of communication and not receiving payments and so on… I may have to queue up in the solicitors!!

So, fortunately, I seem to have got myself sorted elsewhere, not thanks to Mr Ken Ramage. I do really worry for the people still working for him, and I really suggest, if you are reading this and you are in Regina, then AVOID THE PLACE LIKE THE PLAGUE.

A series of fortunate events….

Holy guacamole…. where to begin?!

Lets start with the positives. I AM HERE TO STAY!!! MWUHAHAHAHHAA!!!

So, yes. Yesterday, I went and did my thing on the radio. As I said before, this came about by a total accident – our waitress for the evening at the Fainting Goat restaurant also happens to work for CBC (like the BBC only… er… Canadian). They wanted to get me on the show, but originally I was going to do an interview with Ken from Kave Haz to help promote the place. But that didn’t work out and given today’s events I am very glad it didn’t. Instead, they framed it round the idea that I was over from “London, England” (doh!!) on a mission to bring European style coffee to the Prairies. Apparently this is newsworthy!

Anyway, CBC is huuuuuuuuuuuuge, and I was pretty nervous since it was a live interview. But the lovely woman doing Useful Techie jobs pointed out that if you compare the population of the UK with the population of Saskatchewan, then I probably had more listeners than when I was interviewed on BBC Tees for Doctor Coffee’s Cafe back home!! Craig, the presenter was very charming, friendly, put me at ease and was very professional so the interview was fairly easy. He also put a link to this blog out on facebook!!!!!! AAAAARGH! So, if you are reading this Craig, thanks again!

The response to this five-minute interview has been utterly phenomenal:

The facebook responses

I looked up La Ronge, incidently. I had to zoom out 5 times to realise it was still in Saskatchewan!!!
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=la+ronge&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&hnear=La+Ronge,+Division+No.+18,+Saskatchewan,+Canada&t=m&vpsrc=6&ie=UTF8&hq=&ll=53.278353,-103.754883&spn=9.204439,18.676758&z=5&iwloc=A&output=embed

Hmmm….! I will visit one day methinks, but probably not today!

And then came the twitter responses; first one from Moose Jaw from the place I was writing Nanowrimo in yesterday:

and then one from 13th Avenue Coffee Shop, who I’d visited last week, resume in hand.

Now this last one turned in to an email, asking me to come visit them the next day. So this morning, after an utterly disastrous time at Kave Haz which will be explained in another blog post, I went down there in the vague hope that they could cheer me up and rescue me from the predicament Kave HAz have landed me in.

They did far, far better than that!!!!

Turns out, they really want to develop the coffee side of the business, as it already houses a restaurant as well. They have only taken over the business recently and seemed to want to make their stamp on the place. And, as luck would have it, two of their staff are leaving in the new year so they are actually looking for somebody to take over!! So they offered me the job. Aaaaaaaaaaand it would be starting in January like I’d hoped, aaaaaaaaand it’ll be full time eventually on a decent wage. Aaaaaaaaand they sounded interested in the Ugly Cake Company, so I may be able to keep that going, Aaaaaaand, they want to use Roca Jack’s coffee, AAaaaaaand they have a proper espresso machine, Aaaaaaaand they also own some property around Regina that they let out, as do their friends, so they can even try and find us somewhere to stay, aaaaaaaaaaaaand, they may even have some contacts to help Carl find some work too!

 

So absolutely bloody amazing.  Aaaaaaaaaaand I got a free burger out of it, which was delicious. Can’t wait to get started now!!!!! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

MOOOOOOOOOOOSE!!!!

A few days No Bloggage, sorry dearest reader(s).

 

It’s been two days and two showers now and I STILL can’t get the stamp from ‘The Exchange’ off my wrist. It took over 24 hours to get the flourescent wristband off. These are the signs of a good night.

This good night was down to New Bestest Buddy and Coffee Geek Tamara of Roca Jacks. She has been introducing me to everyone she meets (and she seems to know EVERYONE in town) as “this is Annabel, she’s from Ingland and she’s got a phd in coffee!” She met me to discuss coffee projects stemming out of her cafe, all of which sounds utterly wonderful and exactly the sort of thing I want to do. She bought me beer and some amazing ginger and lime flavoured ribs, and then took me to the exchange where Austra were playing. Phenomenally good gig, the singer has an amazing voice, and Tamara even got me dancing!!

Unsurprisingly I got back to the hostel late, and then forced myself to get up at some ungodly time in the morning, because I had already booked my ticket to Moose Jaw on the bus. Much as there is ‘only one road in Canada’ there is also Only One Bus to Moose Jaw, and it left at 8am – from the other side of town. So off I toddled feeling like death, but got on the bus, met a chatty bloke called Shane who was braving the bus trip all the way to Calgary (11 hours!) then watched Lots Of Flatness go past for an hour. I saw the giant plastic moose outside the town, and was so shocked when I saw a hill, I had to take a photo of it!!

Moose Jaw is a weird place. I’ll admit, it was quite difficult to kill 6 hours in between The Only Buses there. It is the place of smugglers tunnels and Al Capone and all sorts of fictional tall tales. But nowadays it is sleepy, slightly seedy and has proper, dimly lit, shabby pubs and beer in tankards. Good shopping too – I bought Miri a cuddly moose from a shop exclusively devoted to soft toys, and found places doing gadgets and gothy stuff and FUDGE.No big brand stores either, which can only be a good thing!

I sniffed out two coffee shops there too. One did good coffee and had large squidgy sofas and roasted coffee on the premises, but sadly when I went in it was almost entirely empty. The next did fabulous Saskatooooooon pie (Saskatoon, the town, was named after Saskatoon, the berry, apparently. Saskatoon berries are a lot like loganberries, that kinda thing!), and espresso based coffees out of a bean to cup machine. It also doubles as a funky little boutique selling jewellery and hats and cute little bags and suchlike.They even have live music on there at times.  I really liked the atmosphere there – very fun, relaxed and accepting, like pretty much everywhere I’ve been so far. I sat there for nearly 2 hours writing my Nanowrimo novel (I am still failing miserably though)

Houses in Moose Jaw are considerably cheaper to rent, and to buy than in Regina, so depending on the job situation, it may be worth considering. It’s just under an hour’s drive, which by Canadian standards is practically on your doorstep, though I can’t imagine that commute is too fun when there is loads and loads of snow.

On the topic of the job situation though, I still haven’t heard a squeak out of Ken at Kave Haz, and without wanting to go into too much detail, more information has come to light that makes alarm bells go off in my head. So, I will try once more to get a straight answer, and then give up on the idea entirely. Other opportunities are presenting themselves and this is making me far more excited and helping me stay positive in the light of quite a frightening situation.

Tamara is very keen on learning everything she can about coffee, which is great to hear – I think she can make Roca Jacks really stand out here. She would like to do “coffee education evenings” where I’d use the facilities there to teach barista skills or do cupping sessions or just general coffee chat and stuff. I could make a bit of money from this, it would give me a chance to actually use all the otherwise useless trivia I learnt from the Phd, and in return it would be great publicity for Roca Jacks!! This sounds brilliant!!!

It would only be a part time thing, however, and we couldn’t all survive off just that. However, Tamara’s other wonderfully useful trait is that she used to work in HR and recruitment, and has loads of contacts from her previous job. When  I explained what Carl actually does for a living and showed her his CV, she couldn’t believe he hadn’t found work yet. Apparently there should be loads of jobs for him, and she’s gonna to have a look for us! If Carl got a full time job here then it would mean I can carry on looking after Miri and do coffee stuff on a part time basis. If Carl got a geomatics job, the chances are it’d pay far better than coffee shop stuff anyway.

WEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!1 So lots of opportunities and lovely positive people. I reckon wandering in to Roca Jacks on the off-chance last week was the best thing we could have done! I owe Tamara numerous drinkies now. SO EXCITED!!!!!!

 

 

Q.: How many surrealists does it take to make a latte?

A.: ARMADILLO.

Aaaaaaaaaaanyhooo. Life is getting more and more surreal. Carl and Miranda have now flown home which is very sad, because Miri loved the snow and it was fun just sharing all these bizarre new experiences with Carl for a change – the vast majority of my travelling has been solo. Also, since we’re intent on actually moving here on a permanent basis, I don’t feel like I can make decisions on jobs or housing or anything without Carl’s input as well. However, moving around the town, chasing things up and house hunting is considerably easier without having to fight Miri into four layers of clothing first, and you can get around quicker without manhandling the pushchair through the snow too! It has also halved my hostel bill. So, sorry baby, but you get to go harrass Granny and Grandad for a week! Carl seemed to survive the flights home with Miri without too much hassle, anyway, which is good because it can’t have been easy!

So, this leaves me with another week of trying desperately to find a means of staying here. Ken from Kave Haz is still resting up after knee surgery, so I won’t see him to find out what on earth is going on, until at least tomorrow if not Friday. However, I am too paranoid to rely on him entirely, and so I am scouting around trying to find anything else. Not exactly easy, but Things have that odd way of working out for me, which is where it starts getting surreal.

The first night we were in Regina, we went to a restaurant called the Fainting Goat, and got chatting to the very friendly waitress. Turns out, she also works for CBC radio!! And, she was very interested in my coffee adventures and me turning up in Regina for this job, and invited me to come on the show! eep. She was trying to get Ken on with me to talk coffee and Kave Haz, which would be a great bit of publicity for him. But with him laid up after the operation and my job being so unsure, we’ve left it for a while until the situation is more stable. But you never know, I could get my 15 mins of fame in Regina after all!

As mentioned before, we’ve made several visits to a place called Roca Jacks, the manager of which, Tamara, is a fellow coffee enthusiast/geek. I am off to meet her tonight to discuss coffee and opportunities and so on, and I am quite excited! She says “you should have no problem finding work here, it’s just the economics of it” – erm, well yes, “the economics” is exactly the problem!! Roca Jacks is a franchise though, so maybe, just maaaaybe there may be some opportunities at the company HQ if not in the actual branch itself.

I’ve also handed in CVs to two other coffee shops, both of which were pretty decent, one was a Starschmucks clone, the other is also a restarant and seemed to be filled with earnest sounding yoghurt weavers and woo-merchants. I think I might be too cynical for that place. Carl has also handed in his CV at two companies in Regina, (one was an extremely long walk in the snow to the Old Warehouse District, but at least we got to see far more of the town that way!) and he’s applied for another one online. So, we’ll keep our fingers crossed, but it is encouraging that there are at least some vacancies for jobs he has the skills to do.

Having seen Carl and Miri off at the airport, I came back to the hostel and messed around on the internet on ‘Saskjobs’ – and guess what popped up on the screen? A job actually at this hostel!! Both women who work on the desk here are leaving in December, so they are advertising for their jobs. It’s just 20hrs a week, but this is a fun place, very social and if Kave Haz can only offer part time hours now, I could potentially do both and make a full time wage to live off. Again, the owner here was incredibly laid back about it – “yeah just leave us your details and I’ll give you a call in January…” Riiiiiiight.

And finally, fellow-hostel-buddy, Lloyd has worked all over Canada, and I was explaining the coffee PhD to him. He suggested looking up Salt Spring Island, because he knew it had a coffee company based there. Salt Spring Island is off Vancouver island, right over the other side of the country, a stunningly beautiful place judging by pictures on Google! Madonna has a house there, apparently, as does Patrick Stewart. Aaaaaaaaaaaaand, Salt Spring Coffee Company are hiring! Just baristas at the moment, but I applied and said I’d be very interested in any other jobs going within the company…. you never know!!

So, plenty of things to chase up, and all is not lost. I have a strong feeling that Things Will Work Out Somehow. They always do, even if not in the way I first anticipated. In the mean time, here are some pretty pictures of coffee in Regina.

Of Loonies and Toonies and Bear Brok

Things I am enjoying about Regina and Canada in general:

Dollar coins are called Loonies, because they have a bird on them, which is also called a Loonie. But you now get a two-dollar coin too, so they call it a Toonie. Logical, no? It did lead to the bizarre request this morning from a fellow hostel inhabitant wanting coffee out the vending machine: “Have you got 2 loonies for a toonie?” But then two dollar coins are of course, double- loonies, and so therefore, dub-loonies surely?

There is quite a lot of beer from Round Here, mainly because there is a lot of grain and wheat and so on. Tonight we tried both Cracked Canoe and a very local one called Bear Brok. Bear Brok was incredibly good! Cracked Canoe though, claimed to be a “light beer”. Only 3.5% alcohol, but presumably as a unique selling point, they’d bothered to do a full nutritional breakdown on the label. Cracked Canoe is only 90 calories a bottle! Wow! And there is 0g of fat! Therefore it must be really healthy and good for you and we should drink loads.

the national dish is macaroni and cheese, and comes in cardboard packets for 84 cents.

There are no roundabouts anywhere in the city.

The city centre has its own Globe Theatre and some Twin Towers. (not very big ones).

Traffic lights appear to work on actual clockwork and tick ominously when you press the button to cross.

On that note, I cannot get used to 2 lanes of traffic actually stopping for us (without lights) if we stand at the side of the road and look hopeful.

“Christianmingle.com” – toe curlingly, cringe-makingly excrutiatingly awful dating site, advertised every 15 minutes on TV, because God is telling single people to make the move today!

Family Guy has explicit-content warnings before, after and during the show, and apparantly is not suitable for under-14s.

beer

Cool places include:

  • Roca Jacks coffee roasters,
  • Atlantis coffee for doing baby hot chocolates and having baristas who look about 12 yrs old,
  • The Cathedral Free House for nice beers (but its closed on Sundays??? WTF?)
  • Royal Saskatchewan museum for being free and very kid friendly, with robotic dinosaurs and a Paleo Pit
  • DOLLARAMA!
  • Turgeon Hostel with the most interesting approximation to “working stove” ever encountered.