Tag: friends

Everything is awesome!

Every single bit of me aches.

BUT THE COFFEE SHOP IS OPEN!!

We are back to 13s again. I left the Sensible Office Job on Friday 13th Feb, and today, 13th April, we opened the doors officially! So, I have only been working on this full time for two months. I’ve already blogged about the mysterious recurrence of thirteens in Canada – arriving during the year of our thirteenth anniversary, Miranda’s date of birth, and at the time, living on 13th Ave and working at 13th Ave coffee shop. Actually, if I remain pragmatic, none of that is anything other than coincidence or deliberate design; really I am trying to justify the significance of my 13 tattoo!! df5fb54a2120fec79f46bcb044a4e6ff

Including tackling a few social media explosions and replying to the daily onslaught of emails in the evenings, I am putting in 13 hour days as well. This is to be expected, especially in early days, but I had forgotten how tiring being on your feet all day is, compared with that comfy office job where your arse eventually ends up the same shape and size as your swivel chair. Or maybe I’m just older now. I have three wonderful part time staff at the moment, but I am still there myself all day, every day. Despite the exhaustion and achey feet, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it too!

And people are so lovely. Whereas our first official day (and the three “dress rehearsal” days last week where we put the open sign up on the off-chance that people would actually notice) – were not amazingly busy, it was enough to feel successful. The supportive friends gradually gave way to interested Twitter followers, who in turn were joined by hopeful caffeine-hungry local office workers. Word is getting out! We’ve received so many positive comments and well wishes that I can’t help but feel crazy-confident about the whole endeavour. Our new neighbours even arrived with bunches of flowers for us! As with Wheelie Good Coffee, the response contrasts so sharply with my experiences in Darlington that I’m convinced I must be on the right track finally.

That goes for everything else recently as well. I have my cafe business again, my wonderful hubby and brilliant beastling daughter, there is another Timbit daughter booting from inside my belly, my fantastic friends are all rooting for me from both sides of the atlantic, the Parents have just booked another trip back here for the summer, the sun in shining and all is right with the world! And I am very, very lucky.

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It’s too peopley out there!

Apparently turning this tablet on to “airplane mode” also turns off the bluetooth keyboard… argh! First world problems…
We are on a plane returning home via Toronto, from Heathrow. I still like saying Home, from Heathrow. Gone are the days when landing in London signified the end of a trip! The Canadian adventure continues. However, I am still sad to be returning home, because we have had a wonderful two weeks with The Parents and rushing around all over the UK trying to catch up with friends and more distant relatives. Worse, it’s New Year’s Eve and British Midnight will happen for us in mid-air between Toronto and Regina during our internal flight tonight. Canadian New Year will happen at what we’ll think is 6am tomorrow morning. I doubt we’ll be in a fit state to celebrate either!image
Seeing Granny and Grandad for Christmas was lovely, and it was nice to see all the new weird constructions and eccentricities in their garden, including the newly finished, 24ft high grain elevator (sans grain). My cousin Ol, good friend Hannah and Honourary Auntie Cathy all visited the weekend before Christmas and it was a lot of fun having a large houseful. Ol has already been commissioned to design them a suspension bridge to join the bank to the top of the grain elevator tower, as you do. Hannah was enchanted with everything in the strange parental abode, from the gargoyle that looks like Ol, to the politically correct snowman on the tree to, for some reason, Mum’s 30 year old dinner plates. The mind boggles. It was very, very noisy! Hannah insisted we go out for a walk to find a stone circle on the top of a hill. Whereas I will admit it wasn’t actually raining and wasn’t nearly as cold as Saskatchewan, it was wet and muddy and blowing a gale and a thoroughly unpleasant experience for everyone involved except perhaps Hannah, and Miranda who complained and wanted to be carried until she found Interesting sheep poo.

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Hill walking. Not my thing. At all.

We really trekked all over the place too. The first trip was to Redcar, via Sheffield to deposit Ol. Poor Carl had to quickly relearn not only the route through the twisty little lanes out of the hills where The Parents live, but also how to drive on the left, change gear, negotiate roundabouts and do hill-starts, none of which are necessary skills for Prairie driving. He got the hang of it again fairly quickly, but didn’t seem like he enjoyed the experience. Sheffield was quite hellish though, a lot of pre-Christmas traffic and all the roundabouts have changed again, or so it felt. It took us over an hour to get in to the city, and a further 30 mins to escape again. We did get to meet Ol’s new house mate though. (“What’s she like?” “She’s vegan.” “Oh.”)
DSCF9204We collected Grem and new girlfriend in Richmond a good deal later than planned. Next stop was Redcar: featuring the local speciality, the Lemontop icecream, stunning views of the offshore windfarm, nuclear power plant and steelworks, a desolate stretch of beach on the north east coast, a 99p store (now closed down)a usefully located Wetherspoons, and most importantly, home to the wonderfully welcoming Chapmen clan. The girls are now much bigger and more Northern sounding (Miri, with her neo-Canadian accent, amusingly stated that Ione “sounds silly”, in fact, “everything is silly here” according to her!) The kids stayed with poor Rachel who had to endure watching Frozen AGAIN, while we headed to the Wetherspoons to meet as many Northerners as we could find. We got 8 together eventually, and it was great to see everyone again after nearly 3 years. We’re just sorry it was such a short evening!
On the way back, we stopped near Pontefract to meet Carl’s family, none of whom I’d never met, and most Carl hadn’t seen in 30-odd years either. They all thought Miranda was wonderful, and took great interest in Carl’s now pretty extensive family tree he’d been researchjng. It is very very wide. He has a LOT of cousins. Ah, the joys of Facebook and Ancestry.com. Perfect for emigrants!
After a day to recover, we headed to Birmingham to meet Julie and deliver her Canadian ex-pat care package of Goldfish crackers and strawberry Twizzlers. Mercifully, we opted to take the train rather than drive, because the city was packed with people. Miri was rather excited about her first memorable train ride, too. In true Christmas spirit, we went skating! It was an artificial rink obviously and extortionately expensive particularly when we’re used to Regina’s lovely free one with free skate hire back home. It did have large plastic penguins that you pushed around that helped Miri stay upright, and Birmingham being a very multicultural city, we also got to witness a woman on skates pushing a penguin round, while wearing a full burka. Not something you see too often in Regina!!
Christmas itself involved the usual festive gluttony and cheeriness and manymanymany presents were received!

Christmas Eve pile of presies
Christmas Eve pile of presies

(thank you, all!). The problem is, we received a greater volume than we gave out, and so we had to borrow a suitcase off the parents and pay an extra baggage fee to get them all home! Unpacking them will be good, because I’m sure Miranda got so many she didn’t even see some of them.
As soon as we’d recovered from the festive food comas, Mum drove us all down to see my nan and family in Sussex, via a short stop at my aunts on route. There were very long traffic jams…  Nan couldn’t put all of us up at her house, so Carl, Miri and I stayed at a Premier Inn down town. Comfy enough, but with an oddly smelly hallway. Also, if one of us left the room with the key, the others were left sitting in the dark, as you needed the key card to keep the lights on! Bizarre. On Sunday we visited my step gran, my uncle and then another aunt fed us in the evening. Miranda charmed her honourary great uncle and big cousin Paul into playing Hungry Hippos all evening which was fun (from a safe distance!). After that, we took a double decker bus into Brighton (another touristy thing that got Miri very excited!) and went round the Sealife centre there which she thoroughly enjoyed. She even got to meet Kwazii the Octonaut! (If you don’t know what that means, I shall spare you the explanation!). Brighton was also very busy and we struggled to find somewhere to sit and eat cos everywhere was full up! Best of all though, I got to meet up with Mice, a friend from school, who I haven’t seen for over 7 years. She’s doing well, still recognisibly Mice, and we’re hoping it won’t be another seven years before the next get together.
Finally, on our last day we went up to London on an eyewateringly expensive, horribly early train, to take Miranda to the Natural History Museum and the Science museum in South Kensington. The museums are both free, but it being school holidays, the queue was round the block even though we’d arrived before the place had even opened! There were more queues inside to get into the dinosaur exhibition, so we may well be the only tourists in history to tour the museum with a child and not see a single dinosaur. Instead, Miri LOVED the volcano section and had two goes on the earthquake simulator. I guess this is what happens with a geologist for a father.

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Dad’s family

Speaking of geologists, we’d arranged to meet Carl’s friend Paul (also an earth scientist) that afternoon, along with two more of Carl’s cousins. Unfortunately, meeting them involved navigating the tube system to Covent Garden with an extremely overtired Miranda in tow. The tubes were PACKED. We were wedged in so tight, Miri sat on my foot clinging on to my leg to avoid being trampled. I’m only glad we didn’t have to attempt that with all our luggage, or worse, a pushchair still! Miranda, unsurprisingly, slept through the entire afternoon in a pub with the others, woke up once, glared at Tanya, ate a slice of sausage then went back to sleep, drooling quitely on to my knee. Two of the tube lines were closed on the way home, so we missed the train back to Newhaven. Instead, we got on one to Lewes intending to change, but then missed the connecting train as well. Argh. By this time, I was wiped out, so we had to mournfully phone Dad and get them to come rescue us. They picked us up quicker than the train could have done anyway, and we went back to my aunt’s house juuuust in time for sticky sweet Pavlova. Yum. Miri had woken up again by this point and “entertained” my cousin and the rest of the family, very loudly for another few hours until we forced her back to the hotel to bed…

So, right now we need a holiday to get over the holiday again, but sadly I have to work on Friday. Uuurgh. Of course, we sought out as many friends and family as we could over these two weeks, (most would never have forgiven us if we hadn’t!) But the whole trip felt Uncomfortably Peopley. I love my People, but it’s amazing how quickly you get used to the relatively sparse population density in Canada.  Getting stuck in 3-lane traffic jams heading south, driving in hopeless circles round sheffield, waiting for tables in greasy fish n chip shops in Brighton, queuing and playing sardines on the London underground all came as rather unwelcome culture shock having got so used to small-town-big-space Saskatchewan. We had a total of two sunny days the whole trip, the rext of the time it was wet and miserable or extremely windy and grey, and there was no snow for Christmas either…. I miss the parents and my friends and family, i miss being able to take Miri into cheap pubs, and I miss Cornish pasties and pork pies, but I really do not miss England it seems. We are still far better off where we are!

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Location, location, location.

I am having to wear my new glasses to type this post. I am officially OLD.

Glasses selfie
Glasses selfie

This last week, we have had Hilary and D stay with us, coming from Edmonton and “on route” to Toronto for their beloved rollercoasters. They are both a year older than me, and both spent a lot of time squinting at their phone screens. D admitted he needs reading glasses, Hils isn’t sure… yet. We are ALL getting old. (apart from Carl, it seems, who actually IS old!)

Anyway, Hils and D are the first of our UK friends to make it over for a visit, (unsurprising, given the horrifically extortionate costs of the flights!) and I had a wonderful – if too bloody short – week of showing them my Regina. Ahem. It was also Thanksgiving, which to the British mind, is a festival of Over-Eating. This year, we got an 8kg turkey from the Farmers’ Market, and I spent 5 hours in the kitchen making stuffing for it, sweet potato soup and pumpkin pie. And then Turkey curry and then turkey pie and a multitude of turkey sandwiches. FOREVER. On top of that, I also introduced them to Poutine at the Mercury, explained why Perogies are now a Canadian thing, forced D to eat a maple-bacon doughnut, and took them to Timmies. All this was washed down with copious amounts of homebrew, and I duly gave Thanks to Hils for bringing me a bottle of pinotage wine from afar. Om nom.

DSCF8979When not eating, we did try and see the sights of Regina. We tried to walk off some of the turkey with a wander down to Wascana park to see the lake, but we had spent so long “digesting” – by which I mean lying on the couch groaning – that it was getting dark before we headed out, and by the time we got there, it was pitch black and we found the legislative building had been inexplicably covered in cardboard anyway. We did find quite a few houses nicely decorated for Halloween though.

Explaining a town to someone “from overseas” is quite difficult. Hils and D are not ones to appreciate architecture anyway but Regina is not an architecturally stunning city in the first place. They asked very similar questions to those we asked when we first arrived:
Why are there so many bungalows? (so much space – why build up when you can build out?)
Why is everything wonky? (Particularly true in Cathedral – old wooden houses that have warped and partially sunk in the Regina Gumbo. Ours is a shining example of The Wonkiness)
Why build wooden houses when there are tornadoes here and no native trees? (I don’t have an answer for that one!)
Why do pubs close on long weekends? (again – no clue!)
Why is it so quiet downtown? (See above)
How do you get to the airport if you don’t have a car? (they didn’t like my answer to that, which prompted the next question-)
What sort of city has no public transit to its own airport?!?! Answer: one that is addicted to driving.

I am not going to write another rant about the needlessly enormous cars here or my near-death experiences cycling in Regina, but – and this is for another blog post entirely- I have good reason to keep an eye on specific locations around Regina right now, particularly if they have adequate parking. If I build it, they will come (in their SUVs…) Let’s leave it, cryptically, at that for now. If you do spend all your time driving around town though, the chances are you will miss views like these. Autumn in Regina is simply gorgeous, and I think even Hils and D, Londoners as they are, could appreciate that:

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The things that go unspoken.

One month of Blog Silence has passed, but so much has happened I don’t know where to begin writing it all up. And I don’t really know how, either.
I have been writing recently, but in purple biro in one of my many expensive notebooks. And what I wrote does not really bear re-reading, let alone publishing. I was thinking of turning it in to some sort of slam poetry piece, but unlike many others, I Don’t Do Emotion at those events. My default mode is Flippancy and that is where I am most comfortable. However, to misquote someone academic: “The cutting edge is never found in the comfort zone, but it isn’t necessarily in la-la-land either.” La-la Land does sound quite appealing right now though.

The fact remains that something happened to me, to us, that rarely gets talked about. So much so that nothing could have prepared us for the experience, even if we had been fully aware of the possibility. I had no point of reference to frame an understanding of it all. But I know I am not alone in experiencing this, and so for that reason I shall endeavour to explain, perhaps more for my own sanity but hopefully for other people’s as well.

In brief terms, I was pregnant, and now I’m not. I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks in.

We actually found out when we were in Edmonton, I took the test the day after Miranda’s birthday. I suspected anyway, but Carl was a bit shell shocked that it had happened so quickly as we hadn’t been trying very long at all, and of course Granny and Grandad were over the moon about it. We kept it quiet, only told our nearest and dearest and I didn’t mention it on the blog, just in case the worst happened. Oh the irony!! I had my first ultrasound at 11 weeks in because I had a few symptoms of Something Being Not Quite Right – but baby was there on the screen, with a tiny heartbeat and about the size of a Timbit. So at that point, we got incredibly excited and told *everyone* – my work, all our friends, and I even sent cryptic little postcards to everyone back in the UK about ‘spilling the beans’.

Those postcards took a week or so to arrive, and by the time they did, I was back in hospital being told to horrible news that Timbit hadn’t grown at all and no longer had a heartbeat, and all the while getting congratulatory messages from my friends as they read their snail mail.

The doctors tried to comfort us in the hospital by pointing out quite how common miscarriage is. 1 in 3 pregnancies end in miscarriage before 9 weeks in, and 1 in 5 at 12 weeks. We had got through the first hurdle, but were in amongst the unlucky 20% at the second milestone. Of course I was aware of the possibility, (which is why you’re always advised to wait to tell people until you’re in the second trimester), but One in Five is A LOT. I had no idea at all it was that many. But, as I made tearful announcements, so many of my friends suddenly came out and told me about their miscarriages, or about the someone they knew who’d had one and so on. It was astounding.

I am apparently at the age now where most of my friends also have kids, usually more than one now as well. My friends also usually fall into the category of loud, unreserved and open sort of people, unafraid to share even the most gruesome details. We talk about Poo as a normal topic of conversation, or leaky nipples, or discuss ways to actually have a sex life without traumatising the kids who won’t sleep through the night,  graphic, gory birth stories around the campfire, that sort of thing. But nobody ever mentions miscarriage. Never. It can be gruesome, but it’s not anyone’s fault. It’s not shameful, just heartbreaking. And it seems to happen to an awful lot of us. So why the silence?

Knowing that it does happen so frequently is little comfort – my brain still wants to know “why couldn’t we have been in the lucky 80%? Why us? Why now?” or worse, “what did I do wrong/what’s wrong with me?” and there are no answers to any of those. Timbit just didn’t want to be, and it has taken me a long time to accept that and process the experience. I think maybe people don’t talk about it because not having the answers is still as scary as the physical experience itself. Knowing that you have no control over your own body makes you very, very vulnerable, and no one ever wants to admit vulnerability. But knowing that I’m not alone, that other people, friends have been through the same thing – that does help, a little. So talk about it I shall, to anyone who needs to hear it.

I am a sad turtle.
I am a sad turtle.

The Girl is THREE!

Miranda, aged 3, with an enormous amount of presents!
Miranda, aged 3, with an enormous amount of presents!

I can’t believe I have a three year old daughter! She was only just a year old when we start the process of emigrating. And she’s now spent over a third of her short life in Canada. That makes me very happy indeed!

Celebrations kicked off far earlier than they should have done, in that we had Miranda’s party a full three weeks before her real birthday, because we wanted to do it when The Parents, sorry, Grandparents were here. Miranda neither knows nor cares I suppose! Mum and Dad have now been to Regina three times, once for Miri’s second birthday last year, once at Christmas, and now this next birthday. The upshot of which is, Miri now firmly associates Granny and Grandad visiting with Presents. Lots of Presents!

All Miri’s little friends came round, accompanied by their parents, meaning we could have a more adult get together as well. There was lots of beer (for us, not the kids), paddling pools and nakedness (the kids, not us), lots of brightly coloured pretty outfits (me, Mum, Miranda.. well, all of us really), a dinosaur Cake, jelly and icecream, and Carl did a magnificent barbecue as usual. We also started the day with a trip to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, or “wanna go see dinosaurs!” as it is more colloquially known. Miri and her friends Bryony, Willem and Maddy made use of the Paleo Pit quite happily! I’ve met so many people recently, entirely through staying home with Miranda instead of working in the coffee shop, and it was really nice knowing I have good friends so close that can be called on for sunny afternoons drinking beer in the garden AND providing company for Miranda. We’re only missing the sauna!!

Granny and Grandad stayed another week after the Arts festival and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They complain about the flatness, or the heat, or the rain, or both, but they do seem to genuinely like Regina, and not just because Miranda is in it. They spent a long time taking photos of the interesting houses around Cathedral Village, inspected Miri’s library sessions and the playschool we go to, and then took us to the Legislative building so I could pose in a graduate’s gown (hand made by Mum, out of a bedsheet, dyed an unfortunate pink, then touched up with Photoshop..!) and the fantastic mortarboard made by Rachel Chapman Millinery  because….I finally got my PhD! All official, but of course I can’t afford to fly back for the real graduation do. So here’s my doctorate photo that can be formally sent to my Nan!

That hat is even more fabulous than the picture shows! It has glass coffee beans on it!
That hat is even more fabulous than the picture shows! It has glass coffee beans on it!

We also went camping! Well, glamping. Alright, we stayed in a lovely log cabin, by Pike Lake, outside Saskatoon. But we did cook over a firepit (can you guess who loved that?), and got eaten alive by killer mosquitoes, and went swimming in the lake and it was generally glorious! We even hired an Aquabike to splosh about in. (Aquabikes are large tricycles with giant, floating wheels with paddles on – so much fun!)  It was a really lovely weekend and felt like a little holiday for Carl and I as well as the Parents. We’re slowly beginning to explore the Flatness  – a lot easier now Carl has managed to fix most of the car’s more serious injuries. My parents weren’t overly keen on the very very flat drive to Saskatoon and back, but they did get inspired enough to decide to build a replica Grain Elevator in their garden. As you do.

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8 things you’d never expect to say in public

It has now been nearly two months since I gave up my job to be a SAHM (stay at home mum) after Carolina left and Miranda’s beloved daycare closed. It’s been an experience, to say the least! A very steep learning curve: Miri and I had to get used to each other again. A year is a mighty long time when you are not yet 3, and so I’m not sure how much of Life Before Daycare Miri actually remembers! I’ve also spent our year here working pretty much full time as well without Miri around, and even before that, I was working full time at my cafe since she was five months old, so not working now is very difficult to get used to!
(Well actually, I feel like I am working twice as hard at a much more demanding job now, especially trying to juggle Miri with my coffee consulting! But never mind…)

We have had our ups and downs, but on the whole I’ve enjoyed it so far. I am applying for jobs if I see anything that looks interesting and financially plausible (ie: enough to cover childcare AND make it worth disrupting Miri and my routines again!) But I am in no hurry, and fortunately, not under much pressure to get any job again.

Now summer is finally here, we have been very busy. I said this last year and I’ll say it again, there is so much to do in Regina! (Innuendo fully intentional) Tea parties with robot dinosaurs (you read that right), plenty of workshops at the libraries, free sessions at the JUNO awards and so on. Also, with thanks to Amy for introducing me, I’ve joined a few local parents’ groups, which give Miri a chance to hang around with her friends, and me the opportunity to talk to other adults occasionally! I’ve met a lot of new people and have got to be a lot more social than I expected. None of the stuck-in-the-house-bored-and-miserable scenario that I was dreading.

For her part, Miranda has adjusted fairly well, and I make sure we’re busy enough to mean that she’s not bored and doesn’t miss her daycare too much. It is very important to me that she sees her friends, she does need company at the moment. Luckily, we’ve managed to keep in touch with almost all her little friends, with the exception of Roady, which is very sad as he was the one she talked about most. Unfortunately I barely knew his parents, who are both very busy anyway, and I just haven’t managed to arrange any playdates with them. Outside the confines of daycare, however, Miri is busy testing boundaries – with me and with her friends. She is… assertive, shall we say, and hasn’t quite got the hang of sharing, (easy at daycare since everything was everybody’s, but much harder when I get her to share Her Own toys when her friends come to play!) and will lash out when frustrated. She is also affectionate to the point of casual violence and frequently knocks her smaller friends flying whilst trying to hug them…

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She is only three…well, not even three yet. This is still the Era of Tantrums and boundary-testing and “transitioning.” I know this is normal and to be expected, but I can’t say it’s that easy to handle!  To this end, I have compiled a list of the things I’ve found myself saying out loud, usually in public spaces, which I never imagined having to intone quite so frequently:

1. Don’t eat that sausage! Put it down! Yuk! Dirty!

(She found half a hotdog that someone had dropped in the park and tried to eat it. “No it’s not dirty Mummy! Tasty!”)

2. No you do not need to jump in every single puddle you see…

(She has new boots, this is reason enough to jump in puddles apparently)

3.That is not your pet rock, that belongs in the fish tank, your pet rock is this one. No it is not going to hatch, sorry!

(this arguments went on for a full ten minutes, and resulted in heartbroken howling when I refused to fish the rock out of the tank for her)

4. Please try not to strangle your friends. I know you just want to hug her but you’re hurting Norah/Maddy/that random kid you’ve just met.

(Miri doesn’t yet know the difference between affectionate embrace and a headlock)

5. Miri! That boy doesn’t want to be chased!

6. Mummy is not a trampoline, darling

(Or a stepladder, for that matter)

7. No, you don’t need to lay in the fountain.

8. Sweetheart, Mummy’s nipples do NOT sound the Octoalert! No, please don’t check…

(I am really not going to explain this one)

It Is Exhausting! But I wouldn’t change her for the world 🙂

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.

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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*

CHEERS!