Tag: housing

We’re on the move again!!

Only a street away, this time though!

This is going to be a short post because I need to go to bed, and also because Miranda has pulled the space bar off my keyboard and typing this coherantly is very difficult indeed.

Aaaaaaaaaaanyway, when the parents werehere, Mum got ever so overambitious and started looking up houses for us in Cathedral Village.  After going through the paper several times and finding every house she could under $300,000, she eventually found something more useful – a three bed place in the next street to ours, up for rent! Cathedral Village is definitely not the cheapest part of town, but on Carl’s new income, we can afford it, hopefully. Better still, it’s available from August 1st, which is coincidentally the same day Carl is supposed to start  his new job.

I am very fond of this apartment and I have definitely made it mine in the two months we’ve been here, living above work has been handy, and the location is brilliant, but it won’t do three of us. Having been woken up by Miri at 5.15am this morning and with her not going to sleep until gone 10pm, sharing a bedroom with her is not ideal. Mummy doesn’t get two hours nap time in the middle of the afternoon!! I don’t like being on the second floor with no garden either, and living above the cafe means I occasionally  go a whole week without actually leaving this building! Carl and I are going to need more space when he gets here, so I think it will be time to say byebye to this place!

I signed the tenancy agreement on thenew place this evening and handed over a very large cheque from the Bank of Mum and Dad for the damage deposit (THANK YOU!! AGAIN!!). New Landlord seems a great bloke, not put off by Purple/Blue hair or the prospect of Incoming Ferrets. (woohoo!) So, all is exciting!!!!!

Poor Carl has a hell of a lot to sort out over the next few weeks – redundancy money hopefully, selling the house in Darlington (still!) then worrying about international removals, getting our stuff on a ship, getting the ferrets on a flight and all before starting a brand new job. I’ve been googling shipping companies, but otherwise there is not really much I can do to help him!

It is all coming together, slowly, but there is going to be a lot more stress and expense yet!

the new house!

The Never-Ending To Do List….!

… is very nearly done!

We have here exactly one week. What a weird, weird thought!!

We both have a mental To Do list which gets added to more often than we achieve anything from it, it seems. However, having a pause, a good coffee and a natter with friendly people and a ‘check-in’ with the Parents on Skype gave us the opportunity to take stock of what we have managed to do in such a short, insane week. We’ve actually done very well.

I have a Canadian bank account. I also have a SIN – social insurance number. Both these were up there in the High Priority list, as with them, I can now get paid!! Both were alarmingly simple to achieve as well, considering the hassles getting the work permit!

We have an almost-fully furnished apartment. That is, we bought a new bed and a new dining table, bought second hand bedding, a rug and toys for Miri, and acquired a sofa and a coffee table from our new friend Tamara. The kitchen still needs crockery and utensils and a microwave, but otherwise we can sleep, sit, cook and eat relatively comfortably.

Almost sophisticated!
Untidy already - my work here is done.

Carl is comfortable with driving Humunga-Cars on the wrong side of the road now.

Miranda has a place at day care! That took a bit of finding and didn’t end up being as cheap as we’d hoped. However, it is a special Reggio Emilia (sounds like a cheese to me??) – approach nursery, and the owner seems lovely and very enthusiastic. It is also located less than a minute’s walk away from here and Miri didn’t want to leave when we took her there this morning for a visit!! This isn’t the same one as I mentioned in the last post – sadly that one didn’t have any spaces available. But this one is equally nearby and had places available for Miri’s age group, so it’s all worked out rather well! I am NOT looking forward to her starting there though – think she’ll love it, but I am going to miss her and worry about her like crazy!

Miranda and I made the first Canadian UglyCake the other day. It was very successful considering the total lack of bakeware and equipment.

All this, I feel, is not bad for a week’s adventuring.

We are also slowly exploring more of the neighbourhood, and the more we find, the more we like it here. The wonderful, positive things include SUNSHINE. It seems like it’s always sunny, even when there’s snow. Everyday is clear and (at the moment) crisp and beautiful, and there is none of that depressing, constant greyness that pervades the UK for at least 9 months of the year. Grey, miserable weather makes me feel grey and miserable too. Here, I can be achingly cold but still irrepressibly cheerful, just because it’s sunny and it’s not Darlington.

I do just feel far better in myself in terms of general well-being. I have not had any problems getting to sleep at night since we got here. I am not anxious, I don’t feel tired during the day much, and my hair has stopped getting greasy a mere two hours after I wash it. I am able to grow my fingernails. I have noticed a bit of a change in Carl too – he seems more confident and a bit more outgoing than usual. Miranda has just taken everything in her stride as usual, and doesn’t appear to be missing “home” at all – everything is new and exciting to explore!

Everyone here is very friendly too. We are a bit of an oddity with our “weird but cute” accents, and I’ve been asked several times “why Regina?”! But random strangers strike up conversations in the coffee shop, people say hello when they pass you in the street, and the humunga-cars stop to let you cross, even if you are no where near a pedestrian crossing sign. It is, at times, unnerving for British sensibilities. Least ways, it is not going to be too difficult to find friends here I think.

The only negatives so far have just been money-related. Food seems to cost several times more than it does at home, and I really resent it. Everything seems to come in bulk quantities, with no option but to buy Big and shop infrequently. I did not really need to buy 12 loo rolls at once, (for nearly $10!!!) and I really do not appreciate paying over $6.50 for a small block of pretty non-interesting cheese!! Food prices were a bit of an unpleasant shock, it has to be said.

Taxes are driving me up the wall too – we’ve made plenty of visits to the “Dollar-and-twelves-cents-arama” store, where everything costs one dollar – plus tax. WHY cannot they just add in to the price they display? Why does a $9.99 coat for Miranda actually cost $10.41? And why do I have to spend $22 to get a $20 top up for my phone?!

Finally, (WOE is ME!) Beer is also pricey, buit worst of all, they are very, very strict about it. You cannot buy alcohol in supermarkets; instead we had to traipse up to an off license. I did this epic mission yesterday, spent just under $30 and pulled a muscle carting 6 beers in bottles and a bottle of wine all the way home. Even more annoyingly, a lot of bars wont let Miranda in – I suppose so we don’t try and feed her booze??? Daft, and anti-social!!  Bring back the UK’s badly planned, pathetic excuse for alcohol regulations!! please!

Otherwise, all is glorious. And now I am sooooooo tired, I can’t keep my eyes open. So, night night folks!



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!!


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!!

Packing packing and more packing

Oh wow…. it is all finally beginning to hit home… WE’RE ACTUALLY LEAVING FOR GOOD!! I am trying to pack and failing miserably, mainly because Miri is at the stage of enjoying Putting Things In Boxes – and then taking them out again.
Lots of my friends are coming over this week for final saunas and final goodbyes, and Miri has her last Rhymetime and Cookie Tots sessions this week and EVERYTHING IS COMPLETELY INSANE!

In the last three months, I’ve sold 64 things on Ebay, recycled 35kg of clothes, given away 3 bags & 1 box of stuff on Freecycle, handed down three bags of Miri’s clothes to Luke and Nyx, regailed my friends with shoes and books from “Second-Hand Santa”, made small profits at one car boot sale and one baby fair & STILL THERE’S CLUTTER!!!


I will never understand the physics of moving house.

And how do I even begin to decide what books I can’t live without?????

It’s not even that simple. It’s not just deciding what stuff I can possibly bring out now, it’s also packing up the stuff I want Carl to ship over for me later when he comes out finally as well, and then deciding what stuff can be donated to charity/sold/recycled/thrown out so Carl doesn’t have to go through all my stuff by himself. It is quite liberating in a way, but also immensely hard. I have resorted to leaving little stickers on everything with instructions for Carl!


On another note, I can bring 46kg of STUFF with me to Canada… This means after packing clothes and other essentials, I am reduced to ONE cake tin, 4 cupcake moulds, 2 cookbooks, my manual egg whisk and my favourite spatula.

This is either devastating or brilliant – how Ugly are my cakes going to be now?

An open letter to Mr. Cameron

Today I was told a decision had been made on my application for Job Seekers Allowance. Apparently,  I am “not eligible” for job seekers allowance, even though I am not working at present, and I am looking for work  I was told  I can’t get income based JSA because my husband earns a few hundred pounds a year over the threshold.  I cannot get contributions-based JSA either because my Class 2 contributions from self-employment “are not included” and prior to that I was living off a tax-free university research grant since Oct 2007.

I can’t get any tax credits because I’m not working at the moment.

I can’t get any housing benefit cos we’ve got a mortgage.We would love to sell our house and move to a less economically deprived area with more opportunities, but due to the new policies of lenders demanding a deposit of at least 10%, no one can afford to buy our house. Even if we do find a buyer, we are very very close to being in negative equity now anyway.

I can’t get a job because the few jobs that are available are all minimum wage which won’t cover the costs of putting my 18-month old daughter in childcare. Even my “jobs advisor” admitted that there are few opportunities in this area at the moment. This is the grim North-East, Mr Cameron, I feel I have to remind you of this area’s existence. Life does exist outside the M25, but it is telling that there are virtually no Conservative MPs here. I am fairly confident that neither you nor your government have any idea of what life is like here.

So, apparently my husband is supposed to support himself, me, our daughter, our mortgage and all our various debts out of his (public sector) salary, AND pay tax which goes to support everyone else in that jobs centre EXCEPT his wife.

For my part, I have only ever signed on the dole for three weeks before, in the last ten years. I worked pretty much the entire time I was at university in Durham, I once worked three jobs at once on top of my MA degree, I STILL couldn’t find a good job after that so I went back to do a PhD. After that, there are now even fewer jobs than there were before i started it, so I started my own business. I worked over 50 hours a week, paid myself nothing for a year and eventually had to give it up because I could no longer live off thin air. I have a BA, an MA and a PhD. I speak another language fluently. And I have three years experience setting up and running my own business. I am NOT unemployable, nor am I lazy, stupid or a scrounger.

As the spouse of a millionairess and leader of the party which did the least badly in the last election – (I cannot give you credit for actually winning and being elected – you didn’t and you weren’t), – I have to accept that you represent me and as such, you should be able to advise me on this situation. What exactly am I supposed to do? And what else I could have done differently to make myself more eligible for help?

This is just yet another example of your government’s unthinking ineptitude, and your apparent total disregard to how your policies actually affect ordinary people. As is evident if you bother to read the rest of this blog. I have applied for a job in Canada and we are doing everything we can to move over there. I honestly loathe this country now, I do not feel I can bring my daughter up in the UK with such gross inequality, such a laughable failure for a social services system and the shame of having you and your government as our alledged representatives.

I look forward to your response.

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?


Our house (2 bed semi, big garden, and SAUNA!) has been on the market since September and so far we have had precisely no one interested in it. Nada. Nuffink. Not a sausage. This is a bit worrying. But then, this is the UK in a recession, worse, it is in the Grim North East and the housing market is basically at a standstill. We got a board outside this morning just in case that helps! (We originally thought that people don’t really drive up and down cul-de-sacs in Darlington looking for places for sale. Most house-hunters are capable of Googling anyway. And if you search the interwebs, you eventually come up with this: http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-19882884.html You don’t need a for sale sign for this!!) Anyway, our house – the first one we ever bought and where we have lived for the last seven years – is now up for sale. Shall I miss it? I don’t know. I doubt it.

In other news, we are booking flights to go visit Regina again in a fortnight’s time. Carl needs to see the city properly and I need to touch base with New Boss and start seriously house-hunting over there. We’re coming back here for Christmas (otherwise my parents would never forgive us) and I’m looking to move over in the new year, with Carl following with Miranda as soon as he can.
Carl applied for a job over there too, and it would make life so, so much easier if he had something to go to as well as me. I don’t think he’d enjoy too long spent being a stay-at-home Dad, he’d be too bored! So far, they’ve contacted us to say they are considering his application and have received his references. He emailed the other day saying my LMO had come through and that he can now get an open work permit, and that we were heading out there and could he come visit? (ie: hinting for an interview). The reply was so laidback as to be a bit unnerving!! “Yes, pop in whenever you can!”. Not sure what to make of that. It does imply, if they don’t mind him visiting, they haven’t appointed anyone else for the position yet. But then, they are hardly clamouring for him to come over, and haven’t mentioned an actual formal interview either.
That, coupled with New Boss’s resigned despondancy about his staffing issues, and the THREE MONTH wait for Service Canada to issue the LMO, just confirms the stereotype that Canadians are laidback to the point of being horizontal!!!
Now, I almost constantly have a huge amount of stress. I exist in a state of permanent over-caffeination, and for the last year, I have juggled setting up and running my own business full time, writing my PhD thesis and looking after my daughter 24/7 all at the same time. Having now finished the PhD (more or less), I am currently in the process of handing over my business to my partner, selling the house, getting everything organised for emigration, still looking after Miranda all day every day while Carl is at work, and I’ve just voluntarily embarked on National Novel Writing Month – trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
I actually think the adjustment to laid back, chilled out, unhurried Canadians is going to be pretty hard for me!! On the other hand, a break would really, really do me good.