Tag: 2013

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,600 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 60 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Getting all Googloid and festive!

I have a very new, very shiny, Google/Android gadget, courtesy of Carl. It does manymany thing that I don’t understand!

I turned it on this morning, and Google has made me a little video of my year in photos, all by itself, which is fun but a little creepy.

Also, my year appears to stop in September because I messed up the settings on my camera and apparently all pictures since then read as being taken n 2012! But never mind, enjoy!

Remember, remember, something about November

My Novembers always seem to be busy, and hold some sort of significant event. I don’t know why, maybe my self-inflicted stress of Nanowrimo heightens my senses and makes everything else seem more poignant. I am Nano-ing again as usual; this year I am attempting a semi-sensibly ghost story and so far (4 days in!) it is going well and I am up to date with the daily word count for the first time in my entire novelling career!

Last November, I’d just started my little coffee consulting business, and all our stuff – all the furniture, books, corsets and other essentials finally, finally arrived on the boat from the UK.

November before that, I was actually in Regina, but just at the hostel, in those two mad weeks where I discovered what a sad joke Ken from Kave Haz was, got what I thought would be a great job at 13th Ave Coffee, and met the wonderful Tamara just after her birthday. I also started this blog – I got a WordPress “Happy Anniversary” the other day!

November 2010 we’d just got back from South Africa, and were frantically rushing round insanely trying to get my cafe open.

In 2009 I was freezing on my coffee stall and scooting to Nano write-ins on Binky (the much beloved heap of crap, otherwise known as my scooter), and throwing up on a daily basis thanks to incubating Miranda.

And in 2008, I’d just arrived in Nicaragua!

So, I like Novembers. This year I am feeling unnaturally positive too. For the first time in years I have a Proper Job (as the Mother would call it) which could actually turn into a career if I chose. I may be slaving over a hot scanner still, but I am enjoying it.

Unlike last November, it has only just started snowing. Carl and I battled our way to work in it this morning, but I was still in my cowboy boots rather than the Giant Canadian Snow Boots. It’s only single-digits below zero and apparently it may even melt again by the end of the week. The view from Floor 18 looked very wintery this morning though:

2013-10-21 12.36.28Weather forecasts suggest that this winter is going to be a lot shorter with less snow, but apparently, even colder!! I dread to think how that is possible, I am still traumatised by the -49 degrees Celsius of last  January…. Fortunately this year my walking commute to work is about ten minutes shorter, and there is the minutest possibility that at some point soon I may be able to drive as well. I’ve had 3 hours of lessons driving an automatic on the wrong side of the road in amongst the Monster Trucks, and it’s not quite as terrifying as I’d feared. Mind you, my last lesson was before the snow started. It is going to take A LOT of courage to drive on ice for the first time. I suppose we ought to invest in winter tyres too.

Nevertheless, in a strange way I am looking forward to Proper Winter. I got me boots, and me “toque”.


"I am Canadian!"* *kinda
“I am Canadian!”*

An argument with a hula hoop, and other (mis)adventures.

Kim (of the Early Years Family Centre fame) told me I ought to write a book today. (Another one?) This time, the Adventures of Miranda. Reason being, Miri turned up to the playschool for the last two days with a massive black eye! The explanation goes as follows…

Last weekend was the Regina Folk Festival – yep, another festival, and we attended all the free parts of it. Also as per usual, there were a collection of ‘hippies with hula hoops’. Miranda was playing around, and I started hula hooping, but Miri suddenly decided to run towards me joyfully. I thought she’d see the hoop and stop (it was massive and striped green and pink!) but noooooooo, silly girl ran right into it at eye -height and gave herself a massive shiner! Poooor baby…

Moi, attempting hula-hoops
Moi, attempting hula-hoops
Miri at the festival, pre-hula hoop accident
Miri at the festival, pre-hula hoop accident

Fortunately, this did not stop her rushing about with Emma, dancing like a loon with Marianne and I, trying “guerilla knitting”, making a bandana with bingo dabbers, beatboxing, listening to a storyteller and playing on the playground with Bryony. For once though, all the excitement got too much for her and she fell asleep in the pushchair, allowing us to have an uninterrupted beer with James too! Another sunny, exhausting and fun weekend.

James has been staying with us for the last couple of weeks. This is the result.

James is pondering the next section of his Epic Voyage, and even promises to start blogging about it. I’ve lost track of where he’s headed, but I found this the other day, and thought it appropriate. Worked for us!


Cathedral Village Arts Festival, 2013

Many apologies dearest reader(s), unlike last year I just haven’t found the time to do a blog post every day during the festival this week. The sheer length of this blog post should make up for it though!

We had a fantastic week though!!! I love having a huge, free festival just on my doorstep. One nice moment on Saturday was being asked “Oh, are there more stalls up there?” as I walked up the street – no, sorry mate, I’m just walking the half a block home!

This year was extra special mainly because I could actually go to everything. Last year I lacked energy for a lot of it after work, lacked babysitters for anything that went on past 9pm, and worked my arse off during Victoria day and the Saturday street fair. I feel sorry for my former colleagues having to work in “the zoo” that day! The restaurant didn’t actually look as busy this year though…

Stinky and Buzz
Stinky and Buzz

The Opening Parade on Monday was brilliant. Carl was off work too for Victoria day, so we took Miranda along together, with the drum and shakers we’d made at the library the weekend before. She was a little scared by Stinky and Buzz, two guys(?) in 8ft sock monkey-esque costumes apparently representing environmental awareness and depicting a smelly factory and a forest being chopped down. To Miranda and I, Buzz just looked like a freakish monkey with an axe lodged in his head:

Expert hula hoopers
Expert hula hoopers

However, as soon as we got to the Les Sherman park and she found her friends and saw kites and hula hoops and ice cream and things to climb on etc. etc. she cheered up no end. Perfect weather too – she actually caught the sun a bit!

My go!
My go!

Tuesday was my favourite event of the whole year, The Poetry Slam in the Mercury.  The theme of the festival was “Roots and Wings”, so this year Slam competitors were given a page out of a book on birds, and a page out of a gardening magazine. We had to pick a phrase from each, and include them in our poem. And we had half an hour to write it. Well actually, more like 20 minutes after we’d bought beer and found each other (lovely friends Amy, Carmen and Marianne came along, as well as Miri and Carl. Amy did a poem too and we had a great troupe of cheerleaders and moral support!)  As usual, my own effort wasn’t the startling, groundbreaking piece of literature or poetic masterpiece that it sounded like in my head (that would be the beer’s fault), but I did get to include the phrase “an inch-thick layer of Sphagnum moss”. I’m fairly confident that phrase just had it’s debut in modern poetry.

They're here!
They’re here!

Wednesday we missed everything, because…. The Parents arrived!! Their “summer” holiday, mainly to see Miri and celebrate her birthday, (a little early). They didn’t intentionally come for the Arts Festival, but it was great that they were here for it! On Thursday we wandered around and took Miri to Kiwanis park while they ‘acclimatised’ and got over the jetlag. We found all this Art outside Connaught Library too! I dragged them to see some dance events at the Cathedral Neighbourhood centre. We saw inCubanate and the Praire Lily cloggers (NOT the English style of clog dancing, more like tap!) and some belly dancers. Miranda was utterly transfixed and kept trying to get up on stage and join them! We also saw Brass Buttons (a band) at the big tent that popped up in the park opposite us. Not really my thing but Miri rounded up a crowd of Small Children, raced around madly and danced like a loon all night. Which is what you should do at festivals.

DSCF5096We saw possibly the most bizarre show of the festival on Friday, the Saskatchewan Film board together with the International Puppet Underground Film Festival, (adorably called “iPuff”) produced a load of little short films, most involving puppets and ranging from the pointless to the incomprehensible to the downright WEIRD. My favourites were “Saskatchewan is boring”, one about a small boy being attacked by a duck, and of course, WolfCop.  Carl and I also went out Late (gasp!) and saw a couple of bands – Robot Hive and the Screaming Daisies. They were both great and I got a rubber beer holder, so I was happy.

The finale was the street parade on Saturday. We started the day

Floral patterned wellies for my "roots" and Wings left over from Halloween!
Floral patterned wellies for my “roots” and Wings left over from Halloween!

off wonderfully with a very Canadian Pancake breakfast, and I dressed up according to the theme… There was another parade, this time involving steampunks and some very brave women in catsuits, loads and loads of stalls and food trucks, more music, the “lit tent”, living pictures (ie: people walking round dressed up as a Picasso painting) and even a Bike Valet service! Then there was Funville, with yet more music, various activities for the kids (Miri took it upon herself to teach others “proper football” in the park), and my personal favourite, The Society for Creative Anachronism.

It was incredibly busy, and beautifully sunny. There were even more bands on in the evening, but by that time we’d had such a hectic week that we didn’t have the energy to go out again. So much fun!! Official sources say it was actually a bit bigger than last year. They extended the fair by another few blocks so there were 350 stalls, and around 40,000 in attendance on the Saturday! Incredible!

I can’t imagine anything like this ever happening in Darlington…

DSCF5104 DSCF5115

One last thing I should mention on here…we found a stall run by the Regina Roller Derby club, and were given a flyer for this:

I don’t know what it is, but someone stole my name!! 🙂

The portal is closing….

This is in response to the new changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program. There has been a lot of coverage of this in the press already, but unless I’ve missed it, no one has yet actually asked the views of the people actually in the middle of this program – ie: the foreign workers themselves.
I’ve picked the Globe and Mail article because it’s a national newspaper and, well, it was the first one I found. Taking out all the editorial and opinion pieces though, they all say pretty much the same anyway!
Here’s the original article:

“The federal government will announce sweeping changes to the temporary foreign workers program Monday, aimed at ensuring non-Canadian workers are employed in this country only after every effort has been made to put Canadians in the jobs first.”

– “sweeping changes” says it all. I’ve found nothing to suggest that these changes were on the cards before the RBC scandal broke. In other words, this sounds very like a knee-jerk reaction, and the Tories are just trying to be seen to be Doing Something.  The system ALREADY includes a process that should ensure the Canadians are given the opportunity first – it just needs enforcing better, not completely re-writing. A Labour Market Opinion (LMO) is exactly that – an opinion on the local labour market that identifies a skills shortage. They are only approved for skilled/managerial level jobs, and only after the prospective employer demonstrates that they have tried to recruit locally for a set amount of time, and not found any suitable, Canadian candidates.

“Other measures, to be announced either Monday or at a later date, are expected to require employers to pay a fee for a permit to hire from overseas.”

This is the bit that really, really annoys me. I can see the logic behind it: why should Canadian taxpayers pay for the system that gets foreign workers in to do local jobs? However, to my mind, this is going to severely hamper the system – both from the point of view of small businesses who can’t necessarily afford it, and for the would-be immigrants who then not only need to find a job, but also find an employer who is willing to cough up the fee, AND wait whilst keeping the job open for that person for the months it takes for all this bureaucracy to process. Even the old system was problematic for small businesses, because if you have few staff and are seeking to hire a key worker, the chances are you’d struggle to keep the business afloat during the ridiculously long wait for the application to go through anyway. As I have pointed out repeatedly, my LMO took an epic five months to go through, and I was just lucky that my employers waited for me (not that I ended up doing the job I was originally offered, but that is a different issue). To my mind, adding a fee on to that as well would be enough to make most small business rule out the option entirely.

“The reforms – which will also address the question of wage discrepancies between foreign and Canadian workers doing identical jobs – aim to reduce abuse of the system while not shutting off the tap supplying an essential source of workers.”

Rubbish. Again, the old system did address wage discrepancies – or at least, aimed to prevent temporary foreign workers undercutting the local labour market. Under the old system, a Labour Market Opinion document was only granted if they employer was willing to pay “the going rate” or the local average wage for that specific job or industry. My LMO was actually refused initially because my employers weren’t offering me the provincial average for the role.

The problems with the original LMO system arose from very large companies basically flouting the rules, fudging the applications, and exploiting the workers they brought in. To combat this, the CIC or Service Canada need to be a bit more rigorous with enforcing the existing system, and – most importantly – do checks on the company and the workers after they have entered Canada to check that the foreign workers are actually doing the jobs set out in the LMOs, check they are being paid what they should be according to the job description, and in the case of RBC, check that they are not actually being trained to replace Canadian workers facing redundancy!

There is no need to charge a fee for the application: big businesses will hardly be affected, and if they are determined to flout the system anyway, they won’t be dissuaded by an additional fee. The fee only hurts small businesses and makes the program an option exclusive to huge multinational companies. If a fee has to be charged, it should be in return for much faster, more efficient processing times so that small businesses don’t have to struggle to hold a job open for so long.

From the perspective of would-be immigrants, making the leap into Canada is difficult enough already. Either you get in on the Temporary Foreign Worker program – which in turn, means finding a job in Canada from outside the country, then persuading your prospective employer to not only apply for an LMO, but also hold the job open for you for several months – and then making your own way to Canada and paying for your initial work permit, and then going through the whole process again with even higher fees as soon as you are eligible to apply for permanent residency….


There’s the Federal Skilled Worker program, a process which can easily take over two years to complete, and which also requires you to have $12000 Canadian dollars  in cash, after the already steep fees for the application process, and on top of all your moving costs, to support yourself while you look for a job in Canada. Practically speaking, you couldn’t really look for a job in Canada from outside the country under this system, because you wouldn’t be able to tell your employer when you’d be able to start. Also, the backlog of applications for this program was so long in recent years that they just cancelled ALL the applications, refunded everyone’s money and restarted the whole system from scratch.

We started the whole process of emigrating when my daughter was one year and one month old. By the time we got here (even going through the LMO program), she was nearly two, (10 months in total) and the whole thing cost us over $10000. To reiterate, that was the Temporary Foreign Worker program. The Federal Skilled Worker program wasn’t even an option for us – whereas we did qualify under the points system, we don’t have that sort of money anyway, but more significantly, we couldn’t put ourselves into that program with no guarantees of the timescale and no guarantees of employment nor income, not with a small child in tow. You can’t plan your family’s future with the vague hope that you’ll get to emigrate “sometime in the next few years”, it’s just not practical, especially when children’s schooling, your own career and most problematically – your mortgage, are all up in the air indefinitely during the application process.

For the vast majority of people the Temporary Foreign Worker program, while difficult enough, is the only realistic method of emigrating to Canada. Watch any news program about Europe and you’ll see why there are many people wanting to escape. This article quotes the Canadian unemployment rate as being “stubbornly 7%” – well, the European average is now 12.1%. In the UK there’s around 2.6 million people unemployed: that is over twice the total population of Saskatchewan. Despite this regressive, knee-jerk reaction legislation, Canada is a wonderful place to be. If there are jobs to be done, let us in to do them.   Please don’t close our only portal!




Canuckiversary Part 2 – Silliness

Look what we found!!!

The Giant Coffee Pot of Davidson. Suitable for my usual Monday intake.

We had a lovely trip away this weekend up to Saskatoon and beyond, and the car survived the whole journey with nothing falling off it. We passed the Giant Coffee Pot (7.2m high) in Davidson as our halfway point to let a moaning-Miri out of the car for a stretch, spent the night in a nice B&B in Saskatoon and attempted to visit one of my Twitter friends in a coffee shop there (and missed him, but the coffee was still good!). The next day we went to Wanuskewin Heritage Park, followed imaginary  bison around the river valley, played Pooh sticks in the river, Miranda got fascinated by different shapes and sizes of animal poo, we ate bannock bread and bison burgers, and then had a go at hoop dancing! And finally, finally, Spring has Sprung, and it was warm and sunny all weekend. Perfect! [ed: that was, until this morning when we woke up to another 3 inches of snow and -4 degrees AGAIN aaaaaaargh!]

It was good to have a little trip away, even if it was just one weekend, and one night outside Regina. Other than one trip to Moose Jaw and Regina Beach when my parents visited last June, we haven’t left Regina since we got here. I love this city but I still want to explore a little more!

So, we have officially been here a year – actually, a year and three and a half weeks now. The week of the actual Canuckiversary (I still love that word) we arranged a Skype party and managed to talk to most of our friends in the UK. The “conversation” ranged from madness, flat unicorns, Thor/monkey porn, phantom cement mixers, skeleton motorbikes, noisy typing, Dave’s Mum’s TV, Eric the parrot and Rodney the raven, brownie-making, “giving Carmen’s thingy a quick pump”, marmite beer and Bronies.


My beloved collection of geeks and weirdos.

I do miss them all a great deal – they generate the best sort of collective silliness! But then I meet up with Tamara or Lorena or other friends over here with their split tongues or talking microwaves or poets in bikinis or the beer-making Raspberry Pi, and realise that it is not just confined to Darlington and surrounds!

Year One has been a complete rollercoaster; part of me still doesn’t quite believe we made it, or that we survived all the stress and dramas that went with packing up our entire lives and transposing them to another country where we knew no one, had no connections and no history. I think it beats starting my coffee shop from scratch as The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Attempted, certainly it was harder than my PhD, but it has proved more worthwhile than all of them.

And Year Two? I have Plans and Schemes and Ambitions as always, but for the first time in many years, I am happy to just sit back, enjoy life and stop just bouncing on to the next Mad Project and pushing myself to find a new challenge the second one finishes. My PhD is finally, finally, completed and I’m comfy staying at home with Miranda at the moment. Now the work permit dramas are sorted for a few years, I am in no hurry to find a job that will mean uprooting Miranda’s routine yet again, it’s enough to know that I can get one if I see anything. (That said, I am not *just* staying home with Miri, I’m also Coffee Consulting, writing lots, making Ugly Cakes with the kids, attempting to get some academic journal papers sorted, and absent-mindedly selling coffee t-shirts!)

*Waves a bottle of homebrew in the direction of The Future*