Tag: flights

Out of Province Expedition!

We actually left Saskatchewan!!

Our beautiful beastling turned FOUR recently, and to celebrate, Granny and Grandad came out for the summer holiday to see her. Having exhausted the tourism possibilities in Regina (sorry Regina Tourism, but this is still a small town!!) – and saved a packet on the flights, they flew via Iceland to Edmonton, and we met them there. Carl spent the fortnight prior to the trip lying underneath the car every night to ensure that nothing vital fell off the thing on route. The drive took TEN HOURS! We have NEVER driven that far in one go. I don’t think you actually could do that in the UK without falling off the edge (though I can imagine you could easily sit in traffic for that time!). Prairie driving is an altogether different experience from cross-country driving in Britain though. Carl barely had to turn corners, let alone negotiate spaghetti junctions or ring roads or traffic jams. In that ten hour trip, you pass just three sizeable towns – Saskatoon, North Batttleford, and Lloydminster, and there is A LOT of flat nothing in between them! The provincial border running through the middle of Lloydminster was quite amusing. Liquor tax is a lot lower in Alberta than it is in Sask; consequently there were three off sale places within 200 yards of the Alberta side of the border!! Other than that little distraction though, there was not a lot to look at. Miranda and I counted branches of Tim Hortons and grain elevators on the way there (11:15 repectively), and played “guess the function of that massive bit of agricultural machinery” (ie: “tractor Mummy!”) on the way back! Miranda also had a Canadian Rite of Passage, and had to have a wee by the side of the highway on route.

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Most of the journey looked like this.

The parents arrived without too many problems, and Miranda was overjoyed to see them again at the airport! We stayed in a self-catering condo place which was quite nice, but a loooooong way out of the city centre, which meant more driving for Carl. We ventured in to West Edmonton Mall on the first full day, and.. ye gads it’s huge!! Biggest shopping centre in the world, it takes up 6 postcodes, has 58 entrances and has an aquarium, full sized hockey rink, life sized pirate ship and an entire theme park inside it!! Dad and I were interested mainly for the 53 shoe shops, Miranda loved the performing sea lions and the manta rays in the aquarium, Carl and I took Miri skating – a weird sensation, indoors in June – and Mum suffered loudly all the way round. Given it was Tuesday afternoon, it was fairly quiet and not too busy, so she tolerated it, but the whole concept is more or less her idea of hell….

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We packed a lot in to a far too short week; Dad found an old fashioned tram that went along the high level bridge across the river – which was fun, after we’d wasted a lot of the morning in a (very good) coffee shop having missed two departures in a row! We also ventured out to the Ukrainian Village, a sort of heritage centre outside the city which was very interesting. It had a fully operational grain elevator, and Dad got very excited and talked to the bemused guide about the plans for the inside and pulley systems and so on for ages, taking notes for their home made one in their garden!

ImageWe also checked out Edmonton zoo (Capybaras! Unimpressed Goat!) and the Science centre (like a more-indepth version of the one in Regina, but with sound wave flames and jars full of ear wax. Our membership passes got us in free which was nice!) It was gorgeous all week – gloriously sunny during the day and not stiflingly hot, but nice enough to splash about merrily in the fountains in the grounds of the legislative building, and to go swimming outdoors – Miranda flatly refused to get in the pool at first, then just as we were getting tired, we plopped her in and then couldn’t get her out again. Typical! Best of all, we got to catch up with our friend Carmen, who moved back to Edmonton from Regina at Christmas with her little girl Maddy. Maddy and Miri were bestest buddies, and it was lovely to get them together again! We had a meal out together one night and Carmen invited us over for a barbecue later on too. She lives in Old Strathcona, near the university, which is a great area to be – much like Cathedral only bigger and with better coffee shops!!

Running about madly after dinner!
Running about madly after dinner!

There were Many Many presents for Miranda, unsurprisingly, but the worry now is that she associates seeing Granny and Grandad with Getting Presents, since she only sees them at Christmas and her birthday!! We took Maddy along with us for Miri’s birthday celebrations too, thinking having a friend along with her would mean Mummy has to go on fewer rides. This was true, but it didn’t make the day any less exhausting!! We took them to Galaxyland, the theme park inside the massive-mall, where fortunately they had a Small Kids section which didn’t involve any rollercoasters. They had an amazing time leaping about in ball pits and down slides and scrambling up rope bridges and so on though, ate an enormous amount of sickly sweet icecream cake, and then got so tired they couldn’t cope, so we had to go see the sea lion show again so they had a chance to sit still for ten minutes!

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So all in all, a wonderful week!! We all seemed to like Edmonton – it was big enough to be interesting, but not overwhelmingly huge and busy. There was plenty more we could have explored if we’d had the time though. The drive back was more boring than the drive there because we didn’t want to come back. A week is not long enough! We reluctantly went back to work, and it’s rained every since we got back, and now feels like we never left. Bah. It’s nice having Granny and Grandad around! They are too far away!! A girl needs constant Presents!!!

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All Together Again!

Daddy’s back!!!!

Miri’s gleeful reaction at the airport

So good to see him again!! Unfortunately for Carl, there were numerous last minute dramas involving the ferret-shipping company utterly screwing up with the import papers, meaning that the Furry Children are still in the UK and our little family is not quite complete yet. Poor Carl had to do an epic re-routing session and ended up driving a ridiculously long way all over the country the day before his flight, then due to the social skillz (ahem) of our dear friends in the south, only got a few hours sleep before the flight anyway. And then his connecting flight from Toronto was delayed by two hours. And then Miri and I tried to walk to the airport, and were late meeting him because we spent 20 minutes going round in circles trying to figure out how to get across Lewvan Drive.

– Rant alert:

Seriously, Regina, WTF?? How exactly are you supposed to get to the airport if you don’t have a car?? I cannot afford to pay $20 for a return cab fare when I can walk the distance in under half an hour. Yet there’s no bus, no pavement – sorry, “sidewalk” and there isn’t a pedestrian crossing within half a mile of the airport in either direction!? I had to run for my life across a major highway with the pushchair/stroller just to get to the terminal driveway! Even Darlington has a shuttlebus to the local airport that is actually smaller than your Walmart!!! Sort it out!!

– Rant over.

But Anyway. Carl is here. WOOOHOOOOO!

Today has been pretty stressful as on top of everything else, we are trying to move in to our lovely new house this weekend before Carl starts his new job. No time to relax for Carl! But even despite that, I still feel almost relieved. I’ve kinda had it etched into my brain that Everything Will Be Easier When Carl Gets Here. As anti-feminist as this may sound, I just feel more confident with my husband with me! He’s SUPPOSED to be here, and it’s not right for us to be apart. I also feel like We Have Officially Emigrated now. The last few months on my own didn’t really count since I still had so many ties to and loose ends in the UK. But now we are both free of all that finally!  Certainly his arrival will help with Miranda too, (though she is SO EXCITED to see Daddy again that she got herself all wound up, refused to sleep and has been an over-tired, grouchy madam all day and resorted to the kicking-howling-throwing-things-laying-on-the-floor type tantrums when we refused to put Shaun the Sheep on for the fourth time! But other than that she’s a darling sweet thing, of course!). Having a spare pair of hands with her gets me my evenings back so I can actually do things I want and need to do. I may even be able to Go Out Past 9pm!!

The new house is indeed lovely too; I feel like I can actually make it mine, which is something I’ve never felt in this apartment. It makes me that much more independent from work too. Carl seems impressed with it too, as he hadn’t actually seen it yet! Good thing too really. He also seems to be quite excited about work, even volunteering to buy new shoes for it! GASP. For the first time in at least a decade we should actually have some disposable income soon, and that on its own is a huge relief  as well. Saying money has been tight since I got here is like saying Canada is a fairly big country – massive understatement. No more just eating my tips. Woohoo!

I was going to do a sort of introspective post about the last three months, but Carl is already snoring so I’d better turn off.

Have to share a bed again.

Doh.

 

but YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!! My Carly Warly is back where he belongs!!!!

 

Firsts

WE MADE IT!!!!

We are finally actually here, all legitimate with work permits stapled in to our passports, an apartment to call our own and even a Canadian ‘cell phone’ number. Tis Official!!

THE WORK PERMIT!!! AWESOMENESS!!!!

This post may be a little incoherant because I am still so tired. This is Day 3 and it is still MANIC. Carl is lying on the floor SNORING which is slowly driving me nuts but at least he’s not doing it actually in the bed!

This time, the 7hr time difference really did take it out of us. Our second (internal) flight was delayed for a while at Calgary, so we actually arrived at the Regina youth hostel at 1am rather than the 11pm we were hoping for. 1am of course felt like 8am UK time, and we hadn’t really slept all that ‘night’. Miri was very good on the plane though, and despite waking up enough to help us eat nachos and a steak sandwich at around 2am UK time, she slept the whole way. So when we got to the hostel, she woke us up at 4am thinking it was lunchtime! This meant we had to endure the First Day Madness with little more than 3 hours sleep!!

We were very fortunate that the apartment we were hoping for was actually available for our second night here. It is above the coffee house, so perfect for Miri and I as there is no commute to work!! The flat – sorry, ‘apartment’ is lovely – only one bedroom, but it is far bigger than I was imagining. All open plan with solid wood flooring, a massive bathroom with a bath with feet on it, a good sized newish kitchen and plenty of built in shelves. It also has steps up the back and a balcony, so we don’t have to traipse through the cafe to get ‘home’. The only thing it really lacks is furniture!! We couldn’t bring anything with us, so Emma and Dalton had to lend us an airbed and since then, we’ve had to frantically go buy furniture!

Buying furniture has been the general occupation so far though. Despite Carl’s total lack of sleep the first day, Emma insisted that he drive her home in her car – this huge 4 x4 automatic hybrid thing, with a computerised dashboard and keyless ignition, built in sat nav and even a camera out the back that automatically appears on the screen when you put it in reverse!! It took a good ten minutes to figure out even how to start the engine!! Carl survived the experience, even driving this thing on the wrong side of the road, in a city he didn’t know, in the dark, whilst jet lagged. As a reward almost, Emma has handed over her keys to him so we have her car for the week! This has already proved very useful because the idea of lugging a new sofa to the apartment on a bus was not very appealing… We are definitely being Looked After, and (if you are reading this, Emma!) we are eternally grateful! Despite having a car big enough to buy Big Things though, the incentive is not enough to outweigh the desire to spoil Miranda senseless. We went out looking for a sofa and/or a bed. We came back with a ride-on zebra for Miri and a food mixer for The Ugly Cake Company (it was $8!).

On Thrsday it was 18 degrees and we were sweating in the car. On Friday it rained all day. And today we woke up to snow and “lows of -13C”. Even despite this unnatural flux, Regina is still a pretty place to be, especially this neighbourhood. Within 3 blocks in either direction of the coffee shop are Groovy Mamas baby shop (full of slings and knitted booties and other funky Earth Mother type devices), a live music venue, a handmade shoe shop, a decent pub, ‘Retrovise’ vintage clothing, a secondhand book shop, a designer stationery shop, ‘Dessart Sweets’ Icecream parlour and a bakery that smells gorgeous. Even better, within spitting distance almost, is Cathedral Day Care where Miri could go to nursery, – brightly coloured signs outside, big playground and sandpit out the back, and evidence of Finger Painting indoors. C$540 a month! (£300?). Gotta go back on Tuesday when they reopen and see if there is a place for her.

All in all, it really is a world away from Darlington!! I spent all last week doing Sentimental Lasts – last swimming session, last lemon-top in Redcar, last trip to the park in Darlington etc. This week is all Exciting Firsts – first drive on the right, first Walmart trip (not sommat to be proud of!) first locally brewed beer, first latte made in the coffee shop, first meal cooked at (new) home with Dollarama kitchen utensils, and first bath for Miri in the new, huge tub.

It is all completely exhausting; things like getting my Social Insurance number sorted, trying to get my Canadian driving licence, opening a bank account here are all daunting, and I am nervous as hell about doing my first shift at the coffee house!!! But at the same time it is all mind bogglingly exciting. I am really happy for the first time in ages, and despite the obvious stresses and tiredness, just being here is an incredible relief. I am naively forming the opinion that the hard bit is over now. We’re here. It’s all good!!

Mug shot

I wish I could say it’s all finally happening! Flights are going to get booked this weekend (we hope), and after various dramas, we sat up til 1.45am talking to Canadians on Skype the other night. As always, it isn’t quite working out in the way we’d planned or expected, but then, nothing ever does. But the wait is soooo nearly over, and it was an enormous relief to actually talk to Emma properly. It helped me to appreciate this is actually happening: via email seems so remote!

However, there is still a ridiculous amount of stuff to sort out at both ends, not least Miranda and our house. So, with the exception of the “light relief” in form of ghastly pictures below, this will be my last blog post for a while – just waaaay too much to worry about at the moment!!

Here’s the light relief: I’ve got to send ID photos off, “endorsed” by someone who ‘works in one of the listed occupations’ and has known me for two years. Right now, I cannot think of a single person who fits that description – in Darlington at least. We are all unemployed or perma-students. This is part of the reason why I want to leave!!

Mind you, who would actually want to endorse this?!

Bloody awful isn’t it?

Homeward Bound… temporarily!

Long post alert! It’s been a while. Today I am also thankful for my ability to touch type: the laptop is perched on my knee in the car as Carl drives us back to Darlington, but it is five o’clock and completely dark, so I can;t actually see the keyboard at all. I think I am doing remarkably well, considering. Miranda is wailing miserably in the back. She slept for just under an hour of the journey, scoffed two chocolate bars and a bottle of milk and is now plain bored and frustrated at being strapped in for four hours. Methinks she is going to have to get used to this pretty quickly. Canadians do not think of “four hours” as a long distance at all…. (erm, not that an hour is a measure of distance really… you know what I mean!)

Anyway, I had quite a good flight back. I eventually changed the date because of all the strikes and industrial action at home, supposedly on the day I was due to arrive into London Heathrow. The idea of no staff at Heathrow, no underground running in London, and no trains running anywhere, all the schools closing because of no teachers… etc, was a bit inconvenient, but then, that was the whole point. This is what happens if you piss off a very large proportion of the working population, Mr Cameron! Those that can, leave. Those stuck here will and should cause you as much disruption, inconvenience and embarrassment as they possibly can. As my friend put it, “If people are willing to sacrifice a day’s pay now to attempt to stop them losing far more than that in the future, then good luck to them!” – well actually, he put it far less politely than that, but I appreciate the sentiment. Anyhoo, Air Canada graciously allowed you to change your flight free of charge if you were flying into London on 30th, so I changed it so I flew out the next day. This took me one hour and thirty seven minutes on hold to the airline, fortunately on a toll free number, because it seems everyone else had the same idea.  Consequently it turned out that Heathrow experienced virtually no delays whatsoever, with people reporting it was actually quieter and quicker than normal. DOH!!

The new flight involved flying via Toronto rather than Calgary, and seemed quicker and easier all round – possibly as a result of not having Miri and the pushchair with me. I bought yet another “Regina” pen at the souvenir shop in Regina airport having used up the last one in my Nanowrimo effort, and then waited for the flight to Toronto. During the wait and listening to all the other flight calls, I learned that you can fly direct from Regina to Cancun, Mexico!! FANTASTIC!! This means whenever I get the urge to bugger off to Latin America again (which happens on a two-yearly basis at least, and is actually a medical necessity, if recognised only by me), I DON’T HAVE TO GO VIA THE STATES!!!! This is fabulous news. My experiences with Air Canada only highlight again the ridiculousness of attempting to fly through the USA: neither in Regina nor Toronto did I have to remove my shoes to go through security checks, they didn’t treat you like dirt anywhere in fact they were all very polite and helpful. No one raised an eyebrow at anything in my hand luggage, not even the unmarked foil packet containing white powder, or aromatic sealed bag with “organic produce” in it. (Miri’s formula milk powder and a bag of coffee beans, respectively). They scanned me, but not with the new potentially dangerous scanners, and for once I didn’t set any buzzers off anywhere. I did NOT have to pay $10 for a visa to spend 3 hours in Toronto during my stopover and my bag made its way from one plane to the other without me seeing it, let alone lugging it through immigration and back again like I’ve had to do in Miami so often, for no apparent reason. There was also free wifi throughout the airport. I say again, watch and learn, America!

I got myself some dinner in Toronto, doing the sitting-alone-at-an-airport-bar-whilst-stupidly-tired-and-people-watching thing that is an essential part of any trip. This time I got to overhear the first lot of French Canadian men I’ve come across. They were speaking in French, but the Quebec accent is so, so much easier to understand than French from France. A business trip, I assumed, judging by the suits, the three iphones, 2 blackberries and a posh laptop on the table with them. National stereotypes were abound. One was in a grey polo neck, another had a very metrosexual leather manbag. Another had a silk scarf on indoors. Now assuming my grasp of French isn’t too embarrassingly inept, they were quite obviously talking about women. Monsieur Poloneck said something along the lines of ” Ma femme vit ici et mes vies d’amie ici” or, “my wife lives here” (patting his heart) “and my girlfriend lives in here” and pats his iPhone. Oh my, how awfully French.

Met a girl on the plane who was travelling from some obscure part of Ontario to Bangladesh, only the poor woman couldn’t afford to go the sensible way round the globe over Russia, because the flights were too expensive. Instead, she was going from Toronto to London, to Kuwait City, and finally to Bangladesh, which was over 20 hours in the air and then stopovers as well. She has my deepest sympathies!

After a quick catch up with birthday girl Hils and D, and a snooze, the Parents arrived with Miranda to collect me from London. Miri was so sweet – she missed me and just clung on to me, limpet-like as soon as she saw me!! So I’ve been at the parents’ house for the past few days until Carl appeared to take us all home again. Once I’d got over the initial jetlag, it was wonderful to see Miri and Carl again, we put the Christmas tree up and went to a local Christmas fair and got festive properly – haven’t really had a chance yet. I explained all the 13th Avenue Coffee House news and got all excited! I now officially have a full contract with number of hours and key responsibilities and so on, which is far more confidence boosting. But unfortunately, we went to the Service Canada office on my last day, just to see if I could get my LMO transferred to a new company. Since the point of an LMO is to identify a skills shortage in the area and allow an immigrant to be employed to fill it, I had hoped it would be relatively straight forward. It is essentiually the same job and in the same city, just with more trustworthy employers so the skills shortage it identified is still there. However, Service Canada insist that 13th Ave must complete a brand new LMO anyway. GAH. To be fair, they were sympathetic to my situation, but there wasn;t really much they could do since the LMOs are all dealt with in Vancouver anyway. Most have said that my epic 12 week and 5 day wait was exceptionally long though, and I do think 13th Av have put together a better application anyway, so hopefully it shouldn’t take that long again! They need me to start in January though, so its in their interest to push and push and harrass Service Canada as much as possible.

Anyway, that is the positives – I do feel a lot more comfortable about 13th Av, I think I am really going to enjoy it there and the owners are genuinely lovely. The business has been established for years too, which is reassuring, plus I think I’ll get a lot more freedom to at least put forward my ideas there. However, assuming all goes well with the LMO, the January Start thing is headache inducing and stressful I have no problem with going over in January, but Carl does. He is waiting on a voluntary redundancy scheme at work, which means, if he is accepted for it, they will give him quite a generous pay out. However, it is all on their terms, and the payout won’t happen til September 2012!!!! aaaaargh. We’ve also got to sell the house and sort out everything with that and shipping our stuff and so on. Now, the redundancy money would sort us out properly – pay off our existing debts and overdrafts, and get us the down payment for a new house in Canada. But, at the moment there are no guarantees he’s even going to get it, and he won’t hear til February. If he is accepted, we;ve got the problem of him having to work there until September and what do we do in that nine months?? It would mean me going over alone, Carl working at his job in the UK, and keeping the house (and of course, paying the mortgage, council tax, insurance, everything) on that place, while I paid for a one-bed place in Canada at the same time. And Miranda would either have to be in nursary in Regina (which my salary wouldn’t cover) or at nursary here with Carl, (where we would no doubt have to fight tooth and nail with the benefits office to get any help with the extortionate costs of that) and either way she would be without one parent, and I do not think that is good for anyone. She missed us just in a week! I know I couldn’t cope on my own without Carl AND without her, in a strange town where I barely know anyone. But then, we couldn’t all live off my salary in Canada anyway, The only realistic way we could all go over together is if Carl got a job there too – but then, if he accepted it, we’d have to forgo the redundancy money and be left sending money back to the UK to pay off overdrafts and credit cards and so on. GAH!!!

I decided with all this buzzing round my head,  I just didn;t have the mental energy to rush home to Depressing Darlington yesterday and go to the Nanowrimo N’Oscars party in the evening, partly because Jo held it at my – well, THE cafe, which brings up a whole new emotional bag of worms at the moment. Unfortunately Carl and I started trying to discuss all the above until 2am which eventually turned into snivelling, snotty emotional wreckage with no resolution. I really really want this, but at what cost?