Tag: winter

Saskatchewan stereotypes

I am in a wide open space…. There is a great deal of snow-covered nothing out here. Carl is driving us back, 300km of dead straight roads stretching out ahead of us and not another car in sight. Its almost eery. They even put rumble strips running up to the few junctions to wake you up in case you’re using cruise control and forget to turn!

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There are many jokes and stereotypes about Saskatchewan, most of which I have ignored because they don’t really apply to Regina.
“In Saskatchewan, time stands still” (no daylight saving time)
“In Saskatchewan,  you can see your dog running away for two days”
There’s also plenty of Corner Gas references that I can’t comment on having never seen it, and then there are the less kind comments about marrying your cousin and so on….
In comparison to the UK equivalent, Regina is a small town, barely a blip on the map and certainly not a “city” in the more generally understood sense of the word. To my mind, a place is not a city unless you can walk for more than half an hour without running in to someone you know. After nearly 4 years here, i am pretty much guaranteed to see a familiar face as soon as i leave the house. This is not just because the population is tiny but also because everyone is so friendly. But outside Regina, in rural Saskatchewan the likelihood of running into anyone,  whether you know them or not, is distinctly remote.

The Parents are here for Christmas, and this year we decided to go adventuring and booked a log cabin in the woods near Greenwater Lake, which is about 3 hours north west. It was gorgeous! Much more snow than in Regina, and Proper Trees! I didn’t realise I missed trees, but it was oddly pleasing to wake up surrounded by them again.  We were the only people in the campsite, and got to play around in the snow,  take Miranda toboganning and march across the frozen lake completely undisturbed. No phone signal and no wifi either – actually quite lovely, At night it was pitch black and utterly silent, to the point where Miri woke up st 1am wanting her bedside light on because she was scared of the dark. She’s not used to it!

Of course,  this also meant that there was no food. We’d read online that there was a cafe in the provincial park, and so hadn’t brought much with us. It being Christmas week and the park being empty apart from us, of course the café was closed, and so we had to venture out to “nearby” Porcupine Plain (25km away) as soon as Carl started looking hungrily at the squirrels. There were only two places that did food in Porcupine Plain, and both were just about to close at 8pm when we finally arrived. The first was WEIRD. Funny little cafe with chunky white diner mugs, and a group of old men who just stared at us without saying anything when we went in. There seemed to be no one behind the counter and no one interested in serving us, and also nothing that looked like food, just the diner mugs full of stewed coffee. So we turned around and walked out again, and still the men didn’t say anything.  Next door (literally), was much more friendly, and despite us arriving two minutes before closing time (sorry!) we were soon presented with enormous burgers and small mountains of chips. Yum. As we left, I read the community notice board: a house for sale for $45,000 complete with its own well on site(ie: no running water), a poster for the Christmas Eve service at the church, and an ad for “Firearms training”…

On route, we’d stopped in Wadena, and encountered our first Coffee Row. I’d vaguely heard about this little ritual: small cafes in tiny communities where people gather with their coffees on one long table to chat and discuss the world all day, every day. It may sound simple enough, but it is a very distinct cultural phenomenon in small town Saskatchewan. From what we heard it was mainly about what was on TV last night and the weather, but my parents rather reluctantly got into conversation with the old man next to them, who was not only fiercely proud of being Canadian, but also a devoted Christian. After makinng sure we understood the true meaning of Christmas, he fortunately turned back to his friend before he really noticed he was addressing a bunch of liberal godless cynics!

Those cafe experiences were glimpses of Real Saskatchewan for me: remote but friendly, conservative but well-meaning,  flat and cold, but beautiful and certainly a very very long way removed from the grey, miserable mass of humanity in Britain where we were last Christmas!

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Aaaaaaaaaaaaarggh!!

LOOK AT IT. Just LOOK AT IT! That is not including the windchill. If it’s windy, it feels 10 – 15 degrees colder than that!

Anyone outside Saskatchewan would go “Brrrr!” or, more likely “You must be insane”

Canadians say, “Oh look, it’ll be sunny at the end of the week, eh?”

I am having the same issues as I was last winter, only last year the truly ridiculous temperatures didn’t really hit until January. It’s earlier this year. Maybe January will be WORSE. Anyhoo, my issues lie more in the fact that I am still walking to work. Out the door we go at 8am, having fought Miranda into about 14 layers of clothing to carry her three blocks to the daycare, strip her off again, kiss her goodbye then leg it to work where I usually arrive thawing messily all over the lifts, elevators with precisely 2 minutes to spare. I am usually carrying my insulated, ceramic travel mug full of hot coffee in thickly-mitted hands. Three times in the past fortnight two weeks, there has been a layer of ice on the top of my coffee, inside the mug.

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Note frozen coffee dribbles on the top (the inside had melted again by the time I reached my desk on 6th floor!)

My eyelashes freeze, my hair freezes, my breath freezes on the inside of my scarf making it all crunchy and weird. The gap over my knee between the bottom of my coat and the top of my boots goes numb. We are all permanently red-cheeked from windburn. BUT, it is always survivable. And it’s a great excuse to wear silly hats, sorry, “toques”. And it’s pretty and wintery and Christmassy. Everyday that I struggle through the frozen wastelands to get to work, I feel proud of myself for just attempting the journey and making it into the office unharmed. That feeling puts me in a good frame of mind to start the work day at least!

As usual, everyone else is just getting on with things. They plug their cars in, they wear their toques and snow mits, and the streets are scraped very quickly and efficiently. When the postie mailman can’t get through on a weekday, he delivers on Sunday instead!

We had our office Christmas party last week, which was a fun night. We all dressed up, but as far as I know, no-one photocopied their arse or got up to mischief in the stationary cupboard, so it was a little disappointing in that respect. (Admittedly, I’ve never been to an office party before, so my expectations were based on a very vague stereotype!). Now, Sam gave me a lift there, and Fay drove me home afterwards (Thanks!!) but this is what I wore:

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Sparkly Sparkly!

I had equally purple 4″ heels on underneath, and yes, unsurprisingly IT WAS FREEZING. The snow is now over the height of my heels anyway. BUT I SURVIVED!!! We had a great night anyway, and there were obligatory group photos, none of which I will share on here after plaintive begging from a friend who HATES photos….

The other news is, I’ve now finished my compulsory 6 hours of driving lessons, and they didn’t actually go too badly. It is a lot easier not having to worry about clutch control (ie: everything’s automatic!) Plus, once I’d got used to everything being on the wrong side, and stopped trying to change phantom gears with the door handle, Saskatchewan driving is fairly easy because the roads are so much wider and there are considerably fewer things to hit. (Though to be fair, I didn’t have to worry about hitting Moose in the UK!) No hill-starts either.

What I did have to contend with though, is driving on packed ice. Carl is saving up to get winter tyres (yes with a Y!) for the car, but annoyingly Revenue and Customs have only just, just paid him his tax refund, (we sent it off in March, FFS!) and they’ve decided to disallow half his claim for no apparent reason, meaning his refund was a lot smaller than we’d anticipated.  GAH. So the tyres have yet to materialise. They make a bit of a difference, apparently, but whatever you do to the car, you can’t avoid the fact that we won’t see concrete for quite a few months yet. Once the ice is there, it stays put, and the street clearers just remove the loose snow on top of it. (Very quickly and efficiently, I should add.) Carl finally, reluctantly let me drive down to the supermarket last week, and I skidded a bit when stopping at a junction intersection. Well, it was that or run a red light on my first outing! Skids aren’t uncommon, but on my last lesson, the instructor made me parallel park, and I could actually hear the ice crunching as I turned the wheel. I thought I was doing something horrible to the car!!

Never mind… I suppose this is actually the best time to learn: it’s got to be done, there is no escaping the winter conditions so I better learn to cope with them, as the locals do. That goes for most other issues too!

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Remember, remember, something about November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRING IT ON!!!

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