Thanks to Richard/Packetwire for including me in this Storify post!
Thanks to Richard/Packetwire for including me in this Storify post!
Tonight I pedalled across town on my trike, on my way to a poetry slam, big fat snowflakes drifting down softly.
It would almost be romantic if it wasn’t MID APRIL.
And then there was some frigging idiot who nearly killed me.
Potholes and stones
Won’t break my bones
But the words you speak on your mobile phone
distracting, as you plough on in to the night
looking straight through my signal and lights
Those words, and your massive Dodge truck
Driven as if you don’t give a fuck
Those are the things that will crush me.
(Titled borrowed from Stuart Maconie’s very funny book about Northern Britain)
Canadians don’t tend to write dates backwards like Americans do. (ie: 03/04 would be the third of April, not the 4th of March). However, they do celebrate PI-Day, the 14th March (“3.14”). So, we had a potluck lunch at work on 14th, and my contribution was Pi-pie.
At least this time, people got it! What they didn’t understand though was my love of savoury pies. That one was Caribbean style with beef and loads of peppers and I confused them all before when I made a giant Cornish pasty. Here, pies are sweet, and bakeries only serve doughnuts. I miss Greggs!!
Best news ever: My MAD geeky friends are coming out to visit!! Hilary and D, those sarcastic folk from London famous for Lego, working at the BBC and naked sauna parties, and who made comments about us being insane for moving somewhere so cold – they are voluntarily coming here. Not until October unfortunately, but YAAAAAAAAY anyway.
As soon as I heard this news, I wrote them a postcard, to prepare them for their arrival in this alien culture. It said something along the lines of:
“We will get cold watching the hockey, eh? But we can eat maple doughnuts and roll up the rims on our Timmies double-doubles, while somewhere nearby (about 5 hours away) a moose will nod appreciatively. Don’t forget your toques!”
Believe it or not, that was not (just) an exercise in ‘how many Canadian stereotypes can I fit on one postcard?” – I genuinely believe they will have NO IDEA what “Timmies,” “toques” or “double-doubles” are. They don’t measure distance in hours, and I’m fairly confident that D will think “rolling up the rim” is a sex act. He still hasn’t got over the concept of the Regina Farmers’ market, poor boy.
Last week I was sitting nervously wearing a 10 year old suit jacket and feeling like a complete berk, having a very high pressure discussion about my future job prospects. I faced the usual questions relatively well, or so I thought – research skills, can I do quantitative? Why Coffee? Why Regina? yadayadayada. Then came the question that threw me off-guard. “So, you’re an anthropologist; what cultural differences have you noticed here?”
Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many cultural differences between here and the UK, and probably even quite a few between Saskatchewan and other parts of Canada, but explaining them eloquently under pressure without offending anyone was beyond me. I made some awfully vague comments about everyone being friendlier, and fortunately managed to sidetrack the conversation away by pointing out how everything is designed around the car here. Which is true, and something I am acutely aware of and can’t seem to get used to, but it is certainly not the most striking cultural difference. The devil is in the details as they say. Things like not eating savoury pies, the innate apology-reflex and the adorable national obsession with a gimmicky competition designed to flog cheap coffee.
Some of the stereotypes do ring true. Canadians are very polite, but it’s not always a good thing. You can be deterred and unnerved by politeness, or lulled into a false sense of security. I didn’t get that job, but the woman who interviewed me sure as hell wasn’t going to tell me that. She was too polite. In some ways, that is even more infuriating.
On the surface, everyone is very friendly here, courteous and considerate – and they know they are, hence the “I’m sorry we’re so awesome” memes after the Winter Olympics! It is also much more classless in comparison with the UK. Back there, no one was too fond of claiming what ‘class’ they fitted in to, but it was constantly in the collective consciousness. There were the usual references to ‘middle class Guardian readers’ or some posh toff politician claiming to come from a “normal working class background”. Yes, I’m sure you did grow up on an estate, Cameron… your family just happened to own it…. Here, however, there is none of that. I’m well aware that I live in a nice comfortable middle class and lefty-liberal bubble, but very few call it ‘a middle class area’.
That is not to say that ‘classism’ or other forms of prejudice don’t exist though. I recently had an eye-opening discussion with a friend about our local schools. As of yesterday, Connaught school where Miranda went to pre-kindergarten, is officially no more. http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/Saskatchewan/ID/2339282560/
It will be closed in June, and then knocked down. (This topic deserves a blog post all to itself but it makes me so angry that it’s taken ages to start writing, and each time I do, something else happens to make me need to rewrite!). Anyway, there has been outrage in the local community, and the school board couldn’t have handled it worse if they’d tried. In what passed for “public consultation”, the parents were given different options of what should happen next – where the kids could go in the interim between the school being knocked down, and them (hopefully) building another one. To my mind, none of the options were remotely plausible – and as it turns out, futile too, since the eventual outcome completely disregarded the views of the parents anyway. One option, which the school board finally decided on this week, was to bus all the kids over to Wascana school, which is currently standing empty. The Wascana school kids are now in the brand new Seven Stones school. At the public consultation meeting back in February, this idea was suggested, and shouted down with boos from the parents. I confess ignorance here: I didn’t know where Wascana school is, and I didn’t know why it was empty. As the name suggests, I thought it was some school near Wascana lake, and I thought it was empty because it was falling down or something – and that was why it was an unpopular choice.
As it turns out, Wascana School is nowhere the lake. In fact, it is above the train tracks from here, in the North Central neighbourhood, otherwise known as “the hood”. I’ve mentioned it before on here. Before we moved, I was warned by several people not to move to that area. Now we’re here, I have had other parents aghast that I took Miri to Scott Collegiate for the Early Years Family Centre there, because it involved walking through the hood. I never had any problems whatsoever up there, and I always felt far, far safer there and more comfortable than I did just walking between my house and my own business back in Darlington. But no, apparently, these polite, courteous, laid back, liberal and classless Canadians won’t send their little darlings to a school the wrong side of the tracks. And their reasoning, conscious or otherwise, is worthy of another blog post all to itself because it is even more disturbing!
Today I received another lovely letter from the very daft Rumble, and I shall quote from it to justify the title of this post:
“… I realise…that the woman herself has died since I started this letter. So what’s the coverage been like in the Canadian newspapers? Please send us all a blog post about how her life and death were represented in the media for Canadians!! Did they care? Tell me they’re not like the American worshippers?!”
She speaks of course, of Margaret Thatcher.
Her death was definitely reported over here, in fact, because of the time difference, I was actually woken up by the great news on my radio alarm at 7am. CBC Radio 1 did their bit to remain as unbiased as possible but to their credit, they did mention the fact that she wasn’t going to be universally mourned, shall we say. At the very least, the coverage negated the need for me to check http://www.isthatcherdeadyet.co.uk/ . But I still did, because it is funny.
So, for anyone else who’s interested in the official Canadian reaction, here’s the main newspaper articles:
From the (right wing) Globe and Mail:
Of course, the Globe and Mail had quite a bit to say about her, but there was the obligatory Daily Mail-esque piece:
Here’s the Leader Post:
And here’s CBC:
By far the most telling, in my opinion, was this from our local Talk Radio website, as it details the reaction on social media:
(I would be more worried by the Harry Styles fans’ comments, but then, I have no idea who Harry Styles is.) I would say though, that it was not the “best of the web” because that article stayed safely away from the most negative reactions (like my own!) Here’s some of my favourites!
I did tweet “Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead” as soon as I could get to the computer on 8th April, but sooooo many people had beaten me to it already. I was far from being a lone dissenter, even here in Canada. My own tweets were relatively tame in comparison with some of the bile, biting sarcasm and/or righteous indignation that took up most of my stream that day. What took me by surprise was the intense negative reaction that my one little Ding Dong provoked from a few (a small few) Canadian tweeps.
So, I should be ashamed for singing a song from The Wizard of Oz, yet the woman who destroyed an entire nation is somehow sanctified in death and hence, untouchable… Interesting use of the word “Classy” too – would that be in reference to Thatcher’s reign over a class war?
A balanced retort if ever I saw one. OK, so I am celebrating the fact that an 87 year old woman died. She was hardly going to last forever, was she? But no, apparently being pleased that she finally karked it is Wrong and “grotesque” and shameful, but publicly wishing that an alive, complete stranger gets cancer and dies is a perfectly acceptable. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Tories… Ick.
Fortunately, those were the only negative comments I got. Others were actually curious:
Why does everyone hate Margaret Thatcher? I was under the impression she was a nice PM? Perhaps I am horribly wrong.
We informed her she was indeed horribly wrong. And why. With stats. And bulletpoints. And a 43-reason list. And quotations.
O.O Weeeeelp, I am quite wrong I see. I really had no idea about this lady.
There is obviously a degree of disconnect between the British view of Thatcher (which is highly divided anyway, but based on experience) and the image presented in overseas media and ‘history’ classes! A Canadian friend pointed out that Thatcher was as divisive as former Prime Minister Trudeau Senior, even though he was a Liberal, and from then on, we got sidetracked because, as PM Harper unctuously sped to London for Thatcher’s funeral, this happened:
So now I have to get to grips with Canadian politics, as even though the election is two years away, Conservative/Harper attack ads began against Justin Trudeau just a few hours after he took office. I won’t be able to vote then anyway, but I do need to know who I should support! Lets hope Canada never gets a Thatcher!
Ok, so my last post was typed without use of the space bar, thanks to my dearest darling daughter. This post is written entirely on my phone, (testing the ‘post by email’ function on the blog!) also due to aforementioned daughter *breaking my entire laptop!* I am
internet-less. This also means i am TV-less as i can’t play dvds let alone stream anything, i am skype-less so i can’t talk to Carl and i’ll have to become anti-social(media, that is) too! Waa!
People tend to bemoan my lack of transport rather like i moan about their internet usage – what do you mean you’re not on twitter? What do you mean you don’t have a licence? Etc. I for one would much, much rather be without a car than without my computer. I think i would probably even choose it over Yoshi the bike. There was an article in the metro the other day singing the praises of some bloke who spent a month only shopping in ward 3 of regina – pretty much the area i live in. Oh wow. He shopped *local* and this is newsworthy?! I’ve been doing that since i got here – and he was still using a car too. I think he should try it without the car, restrict his shopping to what can be carried by hand, balanced on a pushchair or tied onto a bike and be forced to take am uncooperative toddler with him at all times. In fact, screw that, just let me write the article next time, ok? Rant over.
Anyway, shopping aside, for the sake of my new bosses’ peace of mind, I have acquired an official Saskatchewan learners’ driving licence. i had to take a written theory test. Again. This time i got 28/30 – not bad since I was having to constantly rotate all the pictures in my head so i could figure out which side of the road i was supposed to be on! It’ll be a while before I can take my road test – 4 different people told me 3 different, contrasting views on whether or not they have ‘reciprocity’ with the UK about swapping licences over, whether this applies to learners licences or whether i have to wait nine months on one sort of licence before I can upgrade to another… Gah. It is so needless complicated and it’s not like I even want to drive anyway! Still, at least now I can legitimately get some practice in, i hope.
I wouldn’t be so laid back about driving if it wasn’t for the thought of Carl arriving soon, and because I have Yoshi the bike.
Unfortunately, you really do need to drive in this city. I am lucky in that the Cathedral area is about the only bit you can walk around, and where it is pleasant to do so. Everything else, supermarkets, restaurants, cinemas etc require a car to get to. The downtown area is mainly pedestrianised, but that is confined to two streets. There is no concept of a town centre or even a high street that you can amble round aimlessly. It all requires a specific destination and intention, which is far too much like organisation to me. An alien concept of town planning.
In this sense at least, Yoshi is wonderful, especially as Miri’s trailer has a lot of space for shopping in the back of it. The other week i navigated all the way down to the blueish hell-hole that is Walmart on it, and got a whole week’s worth of food, and Miri, on to the back. Unfortunatelly all that weight made the back tyre go flat. I naively tried to fix it myself, and broke the pump, bent 2 spanners, covered myself in bruises and oil and got throughly cross with it. It was then i learned a great deal more about my neighbourhood. A few weeks ago, I optimistically attended a “bike maintenance” class at the library – which served to teach me how i *could* have fixed the bike if only i possessed a 12mm socket wrench. By fortuitous accident, I ran into the bloke who ran the class, coming out of Safeway the day after the flat tyre occurred. I explained my woes, and he offered to fix the bike – for free! But with the condition that I brought Yoshi along to an art gallery just a little bit outside comfortable walking distance. Comfortable distance or not, I didn’t have a choice: i couldn’t ride Yoshi, neither could I find anyone to look after Miri while I got on a bus with the bike, and I certainly couldn’t afford to pay the bike shop to fix it instead. So i walked 11 blocks, pushing the bike with Miri in the trailer on the back. And we got completely and utterly soaked. First proper Prairie thunderstorm I’ve
experienced! It hit us about the halfway point so there was no point in turning back, and Miri was OK in the trailer, laughing at Mummy dripping wet…. There were hailstones and everything!
We eventually arrived to find that this bloke was also an artist, and he had an exhibition of paintings and sculptures based on the theme of a workshop – a giant roll of duct tape and the WD40 label done in oil paint and so on – and he was sat in the middle of it all, fixing bikes actually as an art installation!! Bloody brilliant!!
So, Yoshi became a work of art for the evening, and I got a new inner tube, the brakes tweaked and the gears fixed, AND a free shower…. I was seriously impressed and very grateful. But the whole adventure taught me a great deal about this area. Only in Regina….?
Miri has learned that a smiley face means Happy and goes round pointing out things that look happy. This is all very cute and endearing until she applies the logic to the flap-lid on street rubbish bins (which are rounded) and sticks her hand in to the rubbish going “happy! happy!” and I feel so heartless pulling her out and telling her not to….
Had a lovely week with Visiting Parents for the most part, it was great to see them and we had lots of adventures! Poor Miri was very ill at the beginning of the week though and she couldn’t really appreciate the presence of Granny and Grandad to begin with. But she soon got better again and was duly spoilt and generally adored. I finally got to explore a bit more of Regina, and as they had a hire-car, we actually managed to get out of Cathedral Village. They did all my food shopping for me so I didn’t have to cart it back in a rucksack on the bus!! And they dropped me at my Steampunk workshop at the library branch in Southlands Mall, (which was brilliant – I made Ridiculous Headgear involving a steel tulip, copper wire, tiny spoons, a small gold frog and the old valve off the espresso machine). Best of all, thanks to Dad I got a new (old) bike sorted, she is bright green and Ashten named her Yoshi (a proper name for something so green, obviously) and they bought Miranda a trailer to go on the back for her birthday, so I can tow her around. It’s wonderful!
We also went out to Moose Jaw to see Mac The Moose properly and take Miri to the Saskatchewan Burrowing Owls Centre which she loved, and we sploshed around in the pool at the Temple Gardens spa. Lovely!! We also investigated Regina Beach as well- beach in this sense referring to Patch Of Sand On Edge Of Huge Lake. A salty beach is around 1500 miles in either direction from here…. a concept I still can’t really get my head around.
The parents loved Regina, especially this neighbourhood. Mum, in her usual overly-ambitious style, decided to buy the property paper and find me loads of houses which, although lovely, are waaaaaaaaaay beyond our mortgaging capabilities at the moment. She is right though, there are a lot of nice houses around here, and your money certainly goes a lot further here than in the UK. A friend back in Darlington commented on one of my photos, saying the street looked “fairytale like” – I assume that is a good thing (though to me, it immediately conjours up images of long haired women locked up in towers or gingerbread houses and precocious brats burning old women in their own ovens – don’t worry, I don’t inflict my interpretation of fairytales on Miri just yet!) – aaaaaanyway. In Cathedral Village at least, there are no semi-detached houses with annoying neighbours you share a wall with, no terraces, no high rise tower blocks, not even many apartments, no scruffy allotments because everyone has a garden, no graffitti, no dog shit on the pavement, no litter, no smashed up bus shelters, no constant background noise of irate dogs/car alarms/police sirens/people arguing and swearing at full volume and certainly no neighbours playing car-alarm-style “music” very loudly whilst sitting on their doorstep swigging lager at 7.30am on wednesday mornings. In short, no chavs. It is not quite paradise – there are still police sirens, the potholes, like the roads, are gargantuan, far too many people drive humungus 4×4 trucks to go three blocks, there are a worrying number of Healthy People out jogging often in neon shades of lycra, every weekend I am rudely awakened by enthusiastic bell ringing at the Cathedral and someone even drives themselves there every Sunday in a bright yellow hummer – (WHY?! I cannot think of a single reason why you would ever need to go to church in a tank. This is the prairies, not the Gaza strip!) But apart from that, it is certainly an idyllic world away from Darlington!! AND it’s sunny.
All this is reflected in Me subconciously too, it seems. My friends have commented that this blog and my other writing just seems much more animated nowadays. I am feeling Colourful again, I’ve dyed my hair “ultra violet” and bought myself a neon orange “bunnyhug” (er, hoodie) to go with it – very bright in comparison with the clothes that I brought over here with me, 80% of which were black or purple!! More significantly, I’ve lost over 5kg in weight since I got here without realising, had no permanent headache and no insomnia or anxiety attacks at all since arriving.
All in all, it’s “big U-shaped mouth” time for me!
I have been here a month today!!
I don’t know what is more weird, that we left Darlington a month ago, or that it has only been a month….
I feel like I am settling in. I met a friendly bloke today – or at least, Miranda met his daughter, so we had to chat while they dug holes in the sandpit. He (Jeff) was originally from Brisbane, but spent a long time in south west London, and has now been in Regina nine years. When I said I’d only been here a month, he said “God, you’re SO NEW!!” I liked that!
I am meeting a great many more ex-pats that I expected though. Saskatchewan is definitely not as remote as the stereotype dictates and Regina really is boom-town at the moment. I met a woman in the cafe originally from Surrey but now working in the school down the road; another from Bournemouth now working in the baby shop here, a bloke from Nottingham, the pest-control guy from Manchester, and another customer whose husband is from Redcar – I kid ye not!!! This morning I went to the first outdoor Farmer’s Market of the year (it hides indoors over the winter and I never noticed it). I bought some Proper Meat there for dinner tomorrow to make up for the vegetarianism at work, and the bloke on the stall turned out to be from Cumbria, complete with a flat cap!
As for Canadians though, I am meeting plenty, but I feel like I don’t get much of a chance to get to know them! Customers in the coffee house are fleeting as ever and known only by their drinks. There are the usual suspects: Dry-Capp woman, Steam-Cream Girl, Muffin-man, the Burrito Boys, and the woman who phones in her order and who I epically misheard on the phone the first time she rang, and shall now and forever be known as Miss Beaver. It is not the sort of place where I can use the name “Mrs Soya Milk” though (sorry Vicky!!!) because it doesn’t really narrow it down!!
The other staff are all a lot of fun and it would be great to go out with them and chat outside of a work environment because work is tiring and we all get grouchy ythere at some point. However, they are all younger than me, and only one has a kid, and even though I know they do go out together occasionally after work, I cannot join them for as long as I am on my own with Miri. Basically I am destined to have no social life here until Carl comes out here to babysit!!
That said, I am trying my hardest to Go Exploring and Socialising whenever I can. They are starting to recognise me in the pub now – if only because Miranda has made herself rather infamous there by painting her face with guacamole, dropping a pint glass and pulling her brick wagon around the place. I’ve also been down to the coffee house when I am not working to meet people on the other side of the bar! (sad I know, but also lazy since some visits have been prompted by my lack of incentive to cook my own dinner!). Today we went to “Tea Party with Tickle” at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. Tickle is a metre-high very cute baby triceretops that kids can ride on, and she moves her head about and makes cute baby dinosaur noises. It was a fundraising do to help re-house a real dinosaur skeleton called Scotty. Miranda hated Tickle, but enjoyed everything else so it was good! We also went to Free Comic Day in the comic store, picked up some stuff and resisted the urge to buy cuddly Cthulus. Last week we went to the Zombie Awareness night, which was brilliant, tomorrow we’re off to a “vintage letter writing” group at the library and there is a Steampunk Art workshop coming up too. I do love that there are all these sort of very Annabelish events happening around here – and it does give me reasons to get out and about.
Just wandering around Regina still makes me very happy though. It’s pretty even when it is not sunny, I feel safe here, and like I can be myself much more easily. It is a very Canadian custom to be seen walking around town with a keep-cup – as in, your own reusuable coffee cup with a lid so you don’t have to waste the cardboard ones all the time. I applaud the idea, but despite my colossal coffee-drinking habits, I’ve never really needed to walk round with my coffee. I just drink it before I go out! But anyway, in an attempt to blend in, I bought this.