Month: February 2012

Mainly Grey

This is a little photo journal I’ve been working on, about Darlington as I see it after spending nearly eight years here. It is called “Mainly Grey” – you can probably tell how I arrived at this title… I’ve already done a post about all the wonderful people I am going to miss, but this one is about the town itself.

This isn’t supposed to be an impartial guide to Darlington, just the way I see it:



The other day I posted this rather nauseating little meme on Google+ in an effort to try and stay positive.

Time to be assertive and try to snap out of the malaise. I think success is knowing yourself, knowing your passions and being true to them. Doing something that’s ‘not you’ always ends in failure. I have not succeeded yet, but i have tried bloody hard – and i’ll never regret trying. Best of all, i know what i’m capable of & what i love. So, with that knowledge on board, i’ve just got to figure out how to do it!

And then, yesterday, I FINALLY received some positive news from Canada!!! Apparently “15th April is realistic”. This still means hanging round in Dull Darlo for another 6 weeks which may half kill me and there’ll be two more end-of-month financial disasters to avert. However, it also means Carl and I get 6 weeks longer together, and 6 weeks longer to sell the house.

And at least I can be reassured that the job is going to be kept open for me, and that alone is an incredible relief!!

This is the GOAL:


Worried. More than Worried.


I celebrated too soon. At the beginning of January, New Employers phoned Service Canada and were told that the decision on the LMO should arrive in the last week of February. This sounded excellent news. Unfortunately, it is now unlikely to happen.

Briefly, an LMO is a Labour Market Opinion which identifies a skills shortage in the local area. If there are no applications for a job from local people with the necessary skills, then the company is allowed to recruit from overseas. I’ve moaned enough on this blog already about the Epic 12-weeks-and-5-days it took for my first one, for Kave Haz, to arrive. This one, apparently, may take even longer.

Service Canada, who are the office in charge of processing LMOs, applications for temporary residency and work permits, never admit on their website how long it takes to process an LMO, with good reason. 13th Ave are now being told 14-16 weeks, and someone on the ex-pat forums I read has reported 21 weeks and counting!!! It’s utterly ridiculous.

Here’s a Canadian lawyer explaining the situation:

This puts us all in impossible positions. New Employers offered me the job because they genuinely need a new staff member. With all these delays, they are having to cope without a key worker. Worse still, all the bureaucracy means that they are frantically faxing off every single irrelevant document they can to satisfy a random audit for Service Canada, on top of running the business and working full time.

Meanwhile, I just do not know what to do here. We are just keeping out heads above water financially but it was all done with the view that I would be over in Canada very soon and earning a salary. If that is not going to happen then we are stuck: there are no jobs here, which is why we want to emigrate anyway. I can’t go back to my cafe because Miranda would be climbing the walls in there nowadays, she needs more entertainment than “coming to work with Mummy” now. And Jo would kill me. I am apparently not eligible for any sort of help or support whatsoever from the benefits office. Even if I could find a job, I can’t work full time because I can’t afford childcare for Miri. I am therefore restricted to working evenings and weekends when Carl can look after her for me. And those sorts of jobs tend to be minimum wage – a fine toss up between the advantages of a minimal income vs the disadvantages of seeing even less of my husband and general exhaustion.

Another potential buyer  is coming round to view the house again tomorrow. If they do decide they want it, do we accept and risk having to move out of here before we can move to Canada?

After my truly gutting experiences with Kave Haz, I am totally and utterly paranoid about whether or not 13th Avenue will just give up on the LMO application, not hold the job open for me and find someone else to do it in the mean time. It is asking so much of them to wait for me, they’ve got a lot to deal with anyway, and for a small business, the wait is crippling. I can totally understand their frustrations – neither of us expected anything like this amount of hassle, and I wouldn’t blame them if they decided not to wait for me. However, they both seemed lovely, I do trust them, and they’ve never given me any reason not to, they always respond and update me, and a rational person would have no reason to believe they won’t wait for me and sort out this LMO. I am losing my rationality very quickly though.

But if they did cancel the application, that would just leave me hung out to dry, house up for sale, unemployed and with my business here already gone. And I don’t think I could cope with that AGAIN!

Very, very worried.

“It’s not racist if it’s vintage!”

Today I bought a half-price Union Jack canvas print from Wilkos. No real reason, just fancied it and having made some pennies from Ebay and UglyCakes, I thought I could splash out on £2.50. It is going to come with me for our New Flat in Regina, wherever that may be.

Usually I am not keen on buying Flag paraphenalia. It’s something about the British character – unnecessary, unprovoked displays of patriotism make most of us slightly uncomfortable. Whereas there are some things about the UK I do love, and will miss, I couldn’t really say I am ‘proud’ of this country. For example, our out of touch, idiotic, nepotistic, fraudulent and corrupt governments, cosying up to America unquestioningly whilst remaining an aloof detachment from our nearest neighbours in continental Europe, illegal immoral unjustifiable wars, the rise of the bog-eyed loons – sorry – I mean the far-right political parties, the “too cool for education” Chavs, the “binge-drinking toddler stole my wheelie bin”/ “immigration causes global warming’ says BB star Chlamydia, 23-from-Essex” style phone-hacking tabloid media, the arrogant reliance on monoglotism, erm, general xenophobia, and the persistently enormous consumption of instant coffee – (pauses for breath) – are just a few of the things I fail to have any pride in.

This clip has already spread its way around the interweb, but it just about summarises everything inherently wrong with the UK!

Funny EDL Interview – Incoherent Anger, Muslamic Infidels

But enough with this negativity! Like I said, there are things I do like about being British (not English – I still prefer to include the other three parts of the UK, and regretfully, the far-right really have hijacked the St George flag, ironic considering St George was also the patron saint of Georgia and Portugal…). I mentioned our uncomfortableness with conspicuous patriotism: I’d argue that the same is true of any public displays of emotion or celebration. Admittedly, the vast majority of the population seemed to go nuts when Princess Diana died, but as I remember the media did as much as it could to whip up some sensational reactions rather than it being truely spontaneous. Prince William and Kate’s wedding was met with a resounding nationwide “meh” – in fact, Carl was one of the many thousands of men who bought the “Thanks for the day off” unofficial souvenir t-shirt. Hosting the Olympics is at best, uninteresting, at worst, actually unwelcome especially given the economic climate. We are Not Good at celebrating, and I actually LOVE that. Cool, cynical, laconic stoicism. Believe me, it’s the way forward.

Good advice folks!
I also appreciate the apathetic secularism, not found in many places at all any more. It took the Aussie comedian, Tim Minchin, (who now lives in London) to point out that the correct way to deal with god-botherers is “mild embarrassment and patient education.”. Richard Dawkins is British. There is just no equivalent of the happy-clappy, evangelistic Christianity that pervades the US. That is not to say people aren’t religious here, some still are, but it is a very personal, private thing. There is no demand for our political leaders to be remotely religious. There are plenty more reasons to distrust David Cameron than his poor attendance at church! The few Repent and Believe! or The End Of The World Is Nigh! blokes with sandwich boards and soggy leaflets that occasionally infest our highstreets are largely ignored, ridiculed or, if any of my friends are nearby and bored, engaged in fruitless circular debate for HOURS in the rain. Seeing this happen gives me a sense of enormous wellbeing.What else will I miss? I adore the English language, all its bastardisations, its obscure, contrary spelling and grammar rules, and its constant evolution. I love the humour the language creates, the self-deprecating wit. No one does sarcasm quite like us. I appreciate the true British eccentric – for me this is encapsulated by a bloke called Satan who attends Whitby Goth Weekend. His name is Neil the rest of the time, and he wears a black t-shirt saying “I’m a Goth” on it, just in case this wasn’t entirely obvious from the rest of his attire. I can’t imagine this Satan would show up anywhere but outside Sainsbury’s in Whitby in April.

I will miss some of the food. Namely, Big Stodgy Stuff. Pies, pasties, heavy stodgy puddings, potatoes as the staple. Not very good for you at all, but not because it’s all fried, it isn’t, it’s just very heavy. Hopefully my Uglycakes will be enough to keep this tradition alive overseas! Oh and Real Ale. In proper pubs. Yus.

And I couldn’t talk about Britishness without the national stereotype: the Cup of Tea. Often run into one word, “cuppatea”. It’s not just a drink, it’s a social norm, fulfills many an emotional need, establishes routine and comfort and is something to rely on in times of stress. Working hours are negotiated around tea breaks. Andit has to be Right – strong but milky and brewed in a tea pot. I don’t even like the stuff but I appreciate its social status. Even the Queen drinks it!

So anyway, back to the Union Jack flag. Yet again, this conversation first arose in the cafe: we needed a rug  for our freezing cold toilet. It was nearly the Royal Wedding, and everywhere was selling Union Jack or Kate&Willz souvenirs. In a fit of extravagance, I bought a Union Jack flag rug for the loo from Poundland. Jo’s immediate, and deliberately sarcastic reaction was “you can’t use that, it’s a bit racialist!!!” The Royal wedding was one of the few occasions that Poundland managed to sell anything with the flag on it to people outside the UKIP party I think!! Perhaps unsurprisingly, the rug in the loo got very dirty very quickly, with everyone standing on it with muddy feet. (Our loo is, in the great British tradition of bizarre Victorian hygiene methods, outside the main building across the yard). The white on the flag soon became grey and sad looking, only because Jo and I are generally upbeat people, we decided to claim it was just “vintage.”And there you have it, you can get away with public displays of patriotism IF and only if it is done in a vaguely ironic sense, and if your paraphernalia can claim to be “vintage”.