Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Dad, there's a man in a red suit at the door"!

I can only apologise for the dismal lack of output over the past two months. This can only be explained by a catalogue of events beyond my control. Ed (this had better be good). Firstly, the arrival of our first guests from the old country took me completely by surprise, I had no idea how demanding they all could be. And secondly, by a ....... well, of course, that's another story.

So to recap, the last blog had both Nicola and I just about to take our driving tests. I had planned an entire blog on the whole hideous experience, which could only be compared to that of a theatrical opening night in the West End with an entire cast of Luvvies running around in emotional turmoil. However, sufficient enough time has lapsed for it all to be a distant hideous memory, needless to say we both passed. Ed(Hooray)

Is it 'Good News' that comes in three's? or is it 'Bad News'? I can never remember, but for us on this occasion it was Good News as the Postman delivered not only our BC driving licenses but also our BC medical cards and just in time, as it turned out, but more of that story later.

I had noticed recently that the "trips to the shops"and also a state of what only could be described as "Fevered Activity" had increased exponentially in frequency. When quizzed on this matter, Nicola duly pointed out that this was due to a phenomenon known as the imminent arrival of "THE GUEST'S", apparently a natural occurring phenomenon, goodness me! that must be David and Lynda popping in on their way back from Australia then.

"I've got a cunning plan my lord" someone once said. I had it all worked out, do you remember Parkgate Community Centre
(see Blog Thursday 30th) well, in the Centre, they have a room there which is full of old people playing cards, perfect, we can drop them down there in the morning, then pick them up in the afternoon after the Tea Dance is over, a quick cup of Ovaltine and then off to bed. Nicola, on the other hand didn't quite see it that way and produced a detailed schedule, complete with; movement order, a list of events and activities, times for sun rise and sun set and a fourteen day weather forecast. It was about now I was I wondering if I could get in on that card game down at the Centre?

On a more serious note, we were all looking forward to the arrival of our visitors and Charlie and Tom were almost out of control with excitement at the prospect of seeing Lolly & Papa. As to be expected, Lolly and Papa were on great form and we managed to pack in; a long weekend in Seattle, some serious retail therapy, a trip to Whistler, a small boat tour of False Creek, Up & Down two mountains, several hikes and some rather fine dining to boot and not a cup of Ovaltine in sight. I can only hope that I have a tenth of their energy and joie de la vie when I get my bus pass and we were all so sad to see them leave.

It was only a matter of hours before our next guest arrived, as we eagerly awaited the arrival of Sally Edna O'Brien, time enough though to get up to some mischief. So, forever on the lookout for adventure, Charlie and I headed off to the skate park to hang with the homies for a few hours. Now armed with the knowledge that we were now in the possession of genuine BC medical cards, Charlie was determined to overcome all his fears and anxieties that had been building up from the very first day he laid his eyes on the skate park and today was the day he would finally 'DROP IN' to the 8.'0" concrete skate bowl on his bike. Now, on the one hand, as a parent, I was consumed with worry that he might hurt himself and on the other hand as a Father, I was filled with a sense of pride that he was finally going to conquer his demons and raise his levels of self belief and in turn open up a whole new world of adventure for himself. Luckily, the normal pack of undesirables that frequent the skate park were absent for some reason, leaving the entire park for ourselves. I watched in agony as Charlie hovered on the rim of the big bowl, you could see the utter turmoil he was going through, maybe a quiet word of encouragement was all that was needed, "GO ON THEN YOU BIG HANDBAG",
I said sympathetically, words I would live to regret....

Meanwhile, Sally Edna O'Brien had now arrived at the house and was being warmly welcomed when Charlie and I returned home. Now you can imagine Nicola's reaction when we now needed to rush to the hospital to get treatment for a broken shoulder and a concussion, I was not a popular man, this was going to be a long, cold, lonely winter I thought to myself. "How the ******* **** did that happen" I think she said, it was hard to tell as the concussion was playing havoc with the my brain, "Dad was showing me how to drop in" Charlie said "and he didn't make it!" Ed (X-Ray included for the medically inclined out there)
12 weeks for the shoulder and the brain is OK although Nicola might contest that.

We only had Sally for 5 days but it was really good to see her and we had a great time. I felt terribly guilty just sitting there with my broken shoulder but it meant the girls spent lots of time together doing the things that girls do. Highlights included, shopping, drinking wine, going to the shops for more wine. Going to a place where they make wine, tasting the wine at the place they make it and buying some of the wine they tasted from the place that made the wine. Come back soon Sal.

Well that only leaves me with the joyous task of wishing you all A Very Merry Christmas and A Happy and peaceful New Year.

Love J N C & T.

Ed (Stay tuned to the Blog as the Skiing season in now well and truly in full swing, a rich vein for copy if ever there was one! Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year from all the staff here at 'Endover' Press)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Week 4: Bravo Two Zero, + Tax.

This week our heroes venture across the boarder for a shopping extravaganza in the form of a day trip to the US and take the infamous BC driving test, the ultimate test of man's courage; skill, wit and determination, a feat only surpassed in difficulty by a day's shopping in the United States.

With the Canadian dollar now at parity with the US dollar; but with Canadian retail prices 25% higher than those in the US, we decided to participate in the much loved Canadian pass time of cross-boarder shopping. Having listened to and noted down all the advice given to us by seasoned campaigners about organising such a cross boarder raid; a plan was duly drawn up and team of specialists assembled.

It soon became obvious that there was only one man/women who could pull off a job like this and it was decided that the team should be lead by the very experienced and veteran retail commando Corporal Jones. Also selected for the mission, was Unit scrounger Private, (1st class) Dingus and Unit Whinger, Private (1st class) Wingus. Ed (pronounced Wing-gus and Ding-gus). At the last minute, it was also decided to take along someone from the motor pool to deal with all the transportation issues and so, the team was joined by Private (definitely 2nd class) Sushams. So with the team assembled, it now became a waiting game ... wating for the green light.

Mission: Assault as many US retail installations as possible and liberate with extreme prejudice targeted goods ... also, have a spot of lunch.

Date: Sunday, September 23rd.

Time: Dawn.

As the sun rose, the unit assembled with Private Wingus leading the dawn chorus with a barrage of whinges worthy of his lofty rank. Private Dingus also chipped in with an "it's far too early to go on a mission Dad" and that a full cook up was in order before he would even consider getting his kit on. So to quash this mutinous rebellion I turned to our illustrious leader for support, but it was to no avail, as she was upstairs drying her hair. So we broke out our mess tins had some scoff and made a brew. Ed (They had breakfast). The dawn came and went and it was 0830 hours before the team started to load the specially prepared vehicle that Private (2nd class) Sushams had spent all night working on and with the co-ordinates now loaded into the state of the art GPS navigation equipment, the team headed for the boarder.

It was decided that we would cross the heavily guarded boarder, at grid reference (911-999), a little know town called xxxxxxx and from our intel we were lead to believe that this was a very quiet crossing. Our plan was to masquerade as a British family, with Canadian residency status visiting the US for the day, this would surely be enough to confuse any suspecting boarder guard, as it still confuses me on occasions. This crossing was also to be our agreed extraction point, unless the team got split up and if that was the case, we would go to plan B, which was to meet outside 'Build A Bear' in the Bellingham Shopping Mall.

The journey to the boarder was uneventful, with clear roads and good weather and with the GPS navigation equipment functioning perfectly, the team made good progress. Private Wingus, who it turns out is a distant cousin of Robert Albert Einstein Oppenheimer, inquired on repeated occasions, as to the ETA of the unit at the target area and also suggested several technical modifications that could be made to the unit vehicle, which would speed up our journey, (many of which involved the fitting of rocket motors and nuclear particle accelerators). Private (2nd class) Sushams from the motor pool acknowledged the suggested modifications and said that he would get back to him on that one.

With less than a mile to go to the target area, the vehicle rounded a corner only to be confronted with a stationary queue of traffic and there we stayed, inching our way forward, until finally two hours later we arrived at the boarder. By now troop morale was at an all time low. Private (1st class) Wingus was ready to abort the mission with one of his nuclear bombs and Private (1st class) Dingus even offered to give a hand and when our illustrious leader started talking about aborting the mission, I knew we were in trouble. However, with the boarder now in sight, discipline was restored and the mission was now back on.

At the check point, Private (2nd class) Sushams from the motor pool drew in a deep breath, wound down the window, smiled and calmly presented to the US boarder guard, four British passports. "What's the purpose of your visit to the Untied States?" inquired the humourless man in a stern, approaching rude, turn of phrase. "Pleasure" came the reply from Private (2nd class) Sushams from the motor pool, still managing to hold his nerve. The humourless boarder guard looked the private straight in the eyes and parried back with a testing, probing question, designed to crack the toughest of adversaries; "And how long do you intend to stay in the United States?" The atmosphere in the unit vehicle was electric, it was make or break, would the private from the motor pool hold his composure, or would the relentless interrogation from the surly boarder guard finally break the metal of Private (2nd class) Sushams? ... "At this rate, about 5 minutes" replied the Private with a nervous laugh. The unit simultaneously gasped for breathe. What was the Private from the motor pool thinking, did he honestly think that now was an appropriate time for at best, suspect humour? The pause that followed lasted a lifetime and was then shattered in an instant, when Private (1st class) Dingus, decided to break-wind with all the gusto of an Asian Sirocco ...
The Humorless boarder guard had seen right through our facade; "Park your vehicle in Bay 23 and proceed to the Boarder Control Office. You're not going anywhere, until we get fingerprints and photo ID's" he said. Surely, now with our cover blown, the mission was over, but we had one last chance ...

In the Boarder Control Office, Privates (1st class) Wingus and Dingus decided that they would check-out a possible back door exit strategy and went to the toilet. While Private (2nd class) Sushams from the motor pool, was instructed to stand behind Corporal Jones and say nothing. Now, up and till now, the Corporal had been keeping a very low profile; even pretending to sleep in the unit vehicle on the way to the boarder. But this wasn't fooling anybody, as nobody snores like that in real life, therefore, she must have been faking it. Private (1st class) Wingus likened it to a moose with a heavy cold, but 'cometh the hour, cometh the Women' and the Corporal stepped up to save the mission. Inside the boarder control office, we were asked to present our passports and as calmly as you like, the Corporal handed over the documents, along with (tucked inside the top passport), a wedge of US dollar bills. Genius, thought the Private from the motor pool; the old bribe the boarder guard trick, ... risky, but worth a chance. Well, it seemed to do the trick, as the entire unit was duly finger printed, photographed and processed and sent on our merry way, the mission was back on!

The Editor: I apologise to you the reader, but I have decided to pull this story from the blog as it is quite apparent that there is NO story here. The Andy McNab wanna be, is getting carried away with this self indulgent twaddle. To summarise, they went to Bellingham, had a very average Thai lunch, bought a screwdriver, two Teddy bears from 'Build a Bear' and a cheese grater. Then they had to come home, as they had run out of time. Oh and as for the bribe, it costs $6 per person for a temporary visa for the USA. However, please continue to subscribe to the blog, as our usual columnist returns next week from his holidays, to report on our heroes and the dreaded BC driving test.

Take care and Love to all.

J N C & T.

Bravo Two Zero + Tax.

(L to R) -
Private (2nd class) Sushams: Motor Pool.
Private (1st class) Dingus: Unit Scrounger.
Corporal Jones: Patrol Leader.
Private (1st class) Wingus: Unit Whinger.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Week 3: A Visit from The Pope

Week 3 started well with the arrival of 8 cardboard boxes from the old country. They had been 'on the road' for 12 weeks now and to be honest I had forgotten what we had packed in them, so there was an air of excitement and expectation as we tore into them with all the passion of a child on Christmas morning. The first 7 boxes contained Nix's entire shoe collection from the last 14 years, Ed (Those poor sniffer dogs at the Vancouver docks), however buried at the bottom of box 8, under 14 handbags and a set of curling tongs, lay a small container, harbouring a carefully selected and highly treasured consignment of tools, ah 'the precious'. Monday was also blessed with a ridge of high pressure and what perfect opportunity to try out our latest purchase, none other than The Weber Q220 BBQ with Stand. Our celebrity guest chef, (all the way from the Vatican) kindly agreed to do the honors and a fine meal was enjoyed by all.

Tuesday saw the boy's kayak lessons cut short by a thunder storm, "it's not so much the rain, as the lightning" explained the instructor. Ed (Big Girls Blouse) With an incredible visual and audible show, the storm signaled the arrival of autumn and overnight the temperature dropped drastically and by morning the trees displayed the beginnings of what was to be a beautiful transformation into autumn. The walk to school of a morning is now breathtaking at times, the low autumn sun shining through a forest on the turn, sun rays filtered by an early morning mist, this visual cornucopia, this assault on everyone of the senses is only marred by the odd interruption from Albert Robert Einstein Oppenheimer.....
"Daddy, how long would it take me to get to Mars if I stuck 9 nuclear missiles on a Kona Stinky and..............." I'm hoping this is a passing phase.

As we descend into autumn our thoughts are instantly turning to Winter and the prospect of skiing on our door step. Now the locals let slip that the Mount Seymour organisation ,relies heavily on an unpaid volunteer work force in exchange for FREE lift passes for the family. So a quick e-mail, followed by an application form and I'm now officially a Tot's Ski Instructors Assistant. All they require in return is 90 hours of my time over the entire season, if fact they want 90 hours from us as a family, so Nix and I can work it off between us. I can picture it now, me on the slopes, decked out in the latest kit, bronzed and hanging with the instructors, while Nix is in the car park on traffic duty............. Well!

So as the week draws to an end, I find myself, having been inspired by the boys, down at The Deep Cove Kayak school, enrolling for a level 1 and 2 trip preparation course. "have you got a wet suit" asked the nice man, "no, why" I enquired "well, you will spend most of the day in the water" he replied, "oh." But that is another story.

That's all for now but 'tune in' next week as our heroes learn to 'swim with the fishes', take a trip across the boarder to the USA and take the written part of the BC driving test, in an experiment to see if old dogs can indeed learn new tricks.

Take care and Love to all.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Saturday 8th. "Albert Robert Einstein Oppenheimer"

Today was the last day for the hire car. Now we had a choice, in theory our 24 hour period meant we had until 8pm to return the car, but the office down town closed at 5pm. So we could either come back early to do the sensible thing and drop the car at the office or we could do an "automated drop off" in a dodgy down town multistory car park, great let's do that.

'8.30am wheels up', was agreed by all and would you believe we were all in the car and on our way to Whistler by 8.25am, I think everyone was looking forward to this trip. By 8.32am the first of many mind boggling questions from Charlie was delivered without mercy, "Daddy, if you were doing full speed down Whistler on a Kona Stinky how big would the ramp have to be for you to crash into our house in North Vancouver?" Errrrrrr......... "Daddy, if you have 7 nuclear bombs strapped to a Banshee Scream and you were doing the speed of light down Whistler, and your bombs exploded as you hit a ramp that was like em, the size of say, em, Mount Seymore, would you be able to reach England? This continued all the way to Whistler, which is a 2 hour drive.

Whistler was bathed in sunshine, 28 degrees said the large digital read out at the welcome centre and every where you went you were reminded that the Olympics were arriving in 2010.
Mountain bikers amassed at the bottom of the chair lift by the Longhorn and it would seem you were either biking or shopping. We spent our day wandering through the many shops looking and dreaming, often commenting on what a cool place this would be to live if only it wasn't so busy. Albert Robert Einstein Oppenheimer, would every now and then pitch in a doozy, "Daddy, if you had the front end of a Kona Stinky and the middle triangle of a Big Hit and a Fox 5.1 shok packed with dynamite, how far......... etc etc etc, still the day flew by, a grand time was had by all and sadly we departed, heading for the bright lights of down town Vacouver and some dodgy multistory car park but having vowed to return at the earliest possible opportunity.

The 99, or the "Sea to Sky Highway" to give it it's full and glamorous title is a tricky road at the best of times, but the on going expansion, turning a 'one up and one back' into a dual carriage way can cause for delays but when we completely ground to a halt half way back and everybody turned off their engines, got out of their cars, set up the BBQ's and put the music on, I began to worry, "This happens all the time" said one bloke I spoke to, "they're either blasting or some idiot has driven off the mountain". Great I thought, the hire car is due back in 90 mins. We soon resided ourselves to the fact that we were going to be late and enjoyed the moment, nowhere else would you get a party like this with a view like this.

We eventually arrived down town an hour or so late and I successfully managed to abandon the car and post the paper work and keys in to wooden box nailed to a car park wall, only then releasing that I had left all the remote controls for the gates and garage inside the car, where was Albert Robert Einstein Oppenheimer now when I needed him, we could have nuked the box off the wall!

And so ends our second week in Canada. It has been a fantastic journey so far and I hope you have enjoyed only a few of the many stories. As life settles down and not wishing to subject you all to the tedium of day to day living, I have decided to do a weekly blog from now. Please keep reading and please post your comments as we look forward to reading them. So I leave you with this thought........." If I had 17 nuclear missiles and I strapped them to some roller blades and Tom was on a Kona Stinky, riding flat out down Whistler ,how big would the ramp have to be..........

Friday 7th. What's wrong with an air bed?

As our second week in the promised land draws to an end you can tell life has begun to settle down as the Blog entry's get shorter and all I can find to talk about is shopping, so with that in mind we turned or attention's to the imminent arrival of our first visitor from the the old country, who was due in a week. Nix decided that the purchase of a sofa bed was the mission of the day, "What's wrong with an air bed?" I exclaimed, after all Phil is my old camping buddy and he loves sleeping on the ground! It was then that Nix pointed out to me that all guests would be afforded every luxury our humble home could offer and that included the use of our bed and that the sofa bed was for us! So with orders given we set off to trawl all the stores in furniture land and my goodness is there some quality tat out there, but a sofa bed was duly purchased and delivery was arranged for the day before Phil arrived, perfect.

Now shopping fatigue is something I had never suffered from before (mainly because I never go shopping) so I failed to recognise the symptoms:- The constant yearn to sit down at any given opportunity, the willingness to part with huge sums of money for something I could see no practical use for, but was happy to do so as long as it meant we could move on, I would find myself nodding enthusiastically in agreement with Nix half way a conversation that I knew nothing about but the most disturbing symptom of all was the overwhelming desire to be assembling flat pack furniture rather than endure the pain known as shopping. What I needed was a trip to Whistler.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thursday 6th. "The Haddock & Bloater"

Today was an automotive day, as we had arranged to pick up the car after school. But first we had to go and get the car insurance and number plates. To date this has been without doubt the most alien process we have come across, almost everything else in Canada has been similar to the UK, however buying a used car privately is a completely different story. To start with there are very few second hand cars to be bought privately, everybody seems to trade them in at a dealership. Then there is the insurance. In B.C. the provincial government insists that everybody has a basic minimum level of cover and therefore you have to get that insurance from them, (ICBC). If you want extra insurance, ie comprehensive, then you have to get that somewhere else. Um OK. But get this, if you are a first time car purchaser you have to buy the bloomin number plates, and if that isn't bad enough you then have to pay 7% tax on a second hand car that has already been taxed once when it was new, how mad are this lot? Now it really started to get interesting when the nice lady at the insurance brokers said that my nice letter from my UK insurers clearly stating my 9 years no claims bonus was not sufficient proof for ICBC and I would therefore not qualify for any discount what so ever. So for a 2003 Honda Odyssey, number plates, PST tax at 7% and no discount, let me see.......... that comes to £3995.00. "Would Sir be interested in the Special Edition 2010 Whistler Olympic number plates, they are only $25 extra?"

I consoled myself with the thought that we wasn't paying any road tax and apparently that a correctly worded letter from every insurer I'd ever used over the last 8 years would in fact get me a 40% rebate, so with that thought we headed off to collect the boys and then drove out to Port Moody to collect our brand new used car.

I dutifully screwed my new Special Edition, Whistler Olympic number plates on our brand new used car, ($4000.00 is a much nicer number) and we headed off to celebrate the purchase of our first Canadian vehicle, by frequenting a small but very pleasant Mexican restaurant owned by a Greek bloke, situated in the Italian part of town and as I sipped a well earned margarita I congratulated myself on ticking off "BUY CAR" from the list.

Wednesday 5th. First day of School

We set the alarm for 6.30am as we knew being the first day of school we needed plenty of time. We were working on 20 mins for breakfast and getting everyone washed and dressed and an hour and forty mins to load all the stationary into the car and 7 mins to drive to school, that should do it.

I will never forget that look I was given as we approached the school gates. Eyes moist with emotion and as large as dinner plates, a cold clammy hand gripped mine as if life itself depended on it, a quiver of a bottom lip and a tremble in the voice, Nix was in a terrible state, the boys on the other hand couldn't wait to get in to school, "By" and they were gone.

"So lets go and get some car insurance", that should be be relatively easy! The nice lady at Van City Savings had pointed us in the direction of their insurance brokers as we would get a discount being members. The very nice lady at the brokers quoted us $1400.00 and said we were lucky we had all that no claims bonus other wise it would be a right shocker of a bill, I thought $1400.00 was a bit steep myself as it was, never mind we will be back tomorrow with our proof of the no claims bonus and the money I said.

"We have just got time to go to Capilano Mall" said Nix's before it's pick up time, where does the day go? (well if you spend 6 hours shopping it goes pretty quick), so a few hundred dollars lighter we are off to collect the boys from school.

Well, well how was it? what did you do? Who did you play with? What is your teacher like? Who did you sit next to? Was it fun? What's your teacher like? Who did you sit next to?......... "Oh it was OK, what's for tea?" I'm guessing that's a right result?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tuesaday 4th. The Phone call.


I awoke to the very distant and unique sound of a Canadian freight trains whistle, something that I have grown very fond of as it not only brings back fabulous memories of our two fantastic RV holidays here, but it is also my first reminder of the day that I'm no longer living in England. But today however is the day that all the children in British Columbia return to school all except two that is. So with that in mind Nix and I had decided that the best strategy would be to take both Mohammed's to the Mountain, rather than wait for the mountain to call us. Working on the theory that if we just turned up with two sad, lost, scared and a long way from home looking little boys that they might take pity on us and just let us in. Well like I said it was only a theory.

So when the phone rang at 8am, half way through my bowl of Canadian museli and peanut M&M's we all looked at one another. "Surely it's not that nice man from Ikea again is it"? this time offering us an all expenses trip to Sweden for being this months biggest spenders? No it was the secretary from Cove Cliff elementary school, saying come on down, we want all your children, I swear for a small moment there that I heard Nicola brake wind through shear relief but it turned out to be Tom, too many peanut M&M's.

So all in all an exciting day lay ahead. We have school registration, we also now have another car to look at, as luck would have it I found a new listing for a Honda Odyssey and had managed to catch the guy at home before he left for work, so with a spring in our step we headed for Cove Cliff Elementary School.

'New students report to the library please' said the nice sign. So all the 'newbies' gathered in the library where we suffered a short induction speech from the librarian, followed by a student made video featuring lots of kids playing outside in the rain, then a quick tour of the school and then the mass gathering of all 350 students in the gym as the school principal delivered his vision for the forth coming year. Well that wasn't too bad, in and out within 90 minuets, it turns out that today was just the head count and the first real day of school is tomorrow, of course we knew that!!! So with the weight of the world now lifted from our shoulders we looked forward to another relaxed day, "have you got the stationary list for the school year" asked the nice lady as we were leaving. Why "no" we exclaimed. "your joking" no child of mine could possibly need this much stationary, "I think you have given me the wrong list" I explained calmly to the nice lady, "I think you have given me the entire schools stationary requirements by mistake", "oh no" said the nice lady "that's just for one student and could you make sure that they bring it all in tomorrow". Ed (copy of list to follow when I get a scanner). So the rest of the day was spent stopping complete strangers in Wall*Mart and asking questions like "excuse me can you tell me what the hell a Commercial Duo Tang Asst is please?" and "where would I find a Sharpie Ultra-Fine Black"?


Armed with a car full of glue, wax crayons and Sharpies we headed off to Port Moody to look at the car I had spotted first thing this morning and something in my waters told me that this was going to be the one. Sure enough, it was just as the ad said. Low mileage Honda Odyssey, one careful owner, good condition, perfect family car. So after a quick test drive in which I managed to get pulled by the fuzz for speeding (you should have seen the look on the owners face), a deal was done, hands were shaken and we left with the promise of a vehicle. All we needed now was insurance and license plates........ and that's when it all went wrong.

Monday 3rd. Labour Day.

Labour Day is a bank holiday in Canada as it is in the USA. Although there is always something to do here, Labour day doesn't appear to be celebrated in any particular fashion. So today we decided to go to Stanley park, play some golf then go to the beach. However the first part of our plan was foiled by the man who looks after the pitch and putt, as it would appear that he was 'on strike until further notice', at last our first unhappy Canadian. Never mind, so we headed off to the beach instead. Nix and I sat on the beach and reflected upon the week that had passed, something we had not done since we had arrived here and as we recounted all the madness we had been through, the boys grubbed around on the beach as only they can do.

So Labour day turned out to be anything but laborious and we all retired nice and early to our beds hoping that tomorrow would bring us word from School District 44, as tomorrow was the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.......

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sunday 2nd. "Who's got the keys"

Never one for sitting still, we catapult ourselves into week two with a day trip to White Rock, a seaside town on the Canadian, US boarder. It has a feel of Brighton about it, you know, the nice part before you get to Hove (sorry Em), a long promanarde consisting mainly of eateries and bars that look out at the Pacific ocean. Oh yea and it has a big white rock on the beach.

I must confess that I did have an ulterior motive for the trip to White Rock as is just so happens to be the location of what we call in the trade, a nice looking, low mileage little Haddock that I'd spotted in the auto trader. Ed ( Haddock & Bloater = Motor). It had suddenly dawned on me that we had to return the hire car at the end of the week and if I wasn't careful we stood a very good chance that we could end up with the kids not having a school and we would not have a car, a prospect that had me instantly braking out in a cold sweat.

I had decided after days of in depth research and hours of deliberation, weighing up our needs verses the needs of the environment, that a large "people carrier" based vehicle was probably the best way to go. Encouraged by Nicola who said "we are getting a people carrier end of discussion", so I set about narrowing the field down to a few candidates, these turned out to be the Honda or the Toyota. and you can imagine my further disappointment when I found out that neither model was available with a 5.5 litre, gas guzzling, fuel injected V8 motor. However, I digress, the car in White Rock turned out to be a bit of a dog, so we passed on that one and some what disappointed in not finding our dream car first time, we headed for White Rock and comfort food, fish and chips and ice cream.

Now having spent all of last week training (shouting at the boys) to lock their own car doors, as our bottom of the range rent a car came without central locking, was something I was just about going to regret.

Pull up at the sea front and straight into a parking place, Easy Peezy, Lemon Squeezy. Jump out and stroll over to the talking pay and display meter only to find that my now hyper trained troops were out and off, heading for a full on beach assault, but this time, for the first time ever, they had locked all the car doors, including mine, but this time with the keys still in the car.........perfect! Still every cloud has a sliver lining and I manage to find a very nice female Police Officer with an enormous great Colt .44 magnum strapped to the side of her, who very kindly called a man named Earl, who had a "Slim Jim" who dutifully proceeded to break into our car and retrieve the keys, all for the paltry sum of $75.00.........bargain.

All in all a good day, topped off by a trip to the late showing of Shrek 3 with lots of......"man there was some evil gases Eeking out of my butt that day," jokes, a favourite of the Sushams.

Saturday 1st. Bicycle Repair Man.

Well we have been here a week now and you can tell things have started to settle down already, as today was a fairly normal day all things considered. The boys and I walked down to Cove Bikes in the morning where we bought Charlie the Kona Mountain Bike that we had seen in the shop the day before. It had just come in, second hand but in great condition and I’d put my name on it. He was chuffed to bits and spent the rest of the day on it. I then spent the rest of the day rebuilding Tom’s bike and putting Nix and my bike together, so now we are truly a North Shore family of rock hard, narly mountain bikers – well almost if Nix would only take that bloody basket off the front of hers.

Well that’s all for this week but keep an eye out for further Letters from Canada as week 2 finds our heroes going to school and trying to buy a car.

Take care one and all,

John, Nix, Charlie & Tom xxxx

Friday 31st. "A day of Education"

To date the weather has been fab, but today the clouds have come in and we decide it would be good to knock it down a gear and chill out, I think the week is catching up with us, so we decide to head off to the Science Museum. The museum is situated down town and we are soon reminded that Vancouver also has it’s fair share of social problems like any other major city, but we dually find the Museum and in we go – two adults, two children and tickets for the 3pm showing of ‘The Human Body’ at the Imax cinema please - £30, not bad. Inside the Museum, the exhibits are mostly interactive and very well done, lots of things to punch, kick and fiddle with – Nicola had a ball. I myself was looking forward to the Imax show. 2.50pm let’s go to the pictures. I still, to this day, get excited at the thought of a cinematic experience and the anticipation sat in my chair is unbearable, so much so, that I miss half the film through rapid induced coma like sleep – oh well, what I did see was great.

On the way back – a quick trip to the shops for WD40 and bike tools – and then to Deep Cove and the Arms Reach restaurant to enjoy a well earned meal and a bottle of wine and to watch the sun go down on the beautiful cove and reflect on the roller coast ride of a week migrating to Canada has taken us on.

All in bed by 9.30 – night, Johnboy, Ma, Pa etc.

Thursday 30th. "Parkgate, The Village"

Come out of our road, turn left and there, situated at the bottom of Mount Seymour is Parkgate Village. On the surface it doesn’t look much but dig a little deeper and what a cornucopia of facilities – everything a family needs – a big Safeway with a good selection of foods – Post Office – Chemist – Doctors – Bank – Insurance Broker –as it turns out not one, but two bike shops, a Greek taverna and oh yes a Starbucks. But the real find is the library and community centre. So armed with our passports and BC Hydro bill, we head off en famile to join the library. This new two story building is beautifully kept, with friendly and helpful staff, a great selection of books for everyone – internet and photocopy facilities, DVDs, in fact just about everything a library should offer. So we give the nice lady our documents and five minutes later we all have library cards – ‘Let’s get a DVD’, ok … Ah, we don’t have a TV, never mind, let’s check out the community centre. So, now I’m thinking at best this will be full of old people playing cards – but no – this place has it all – a massive sports hall, an enormous indoor climbing wall, a state of the art gym, a BMX and skate park, a weight room and for the ladies pottery, art classes, crafts, Pilates. Oh yes, and a room full of old people playing cards.

‘The Boys need Bikes’
The troops are revolting, the boys are demanding bikes – you can hardly blame them as we have visited our local bike shops on more than one occasion just to have a poke around. However, a quick scan of Craig’s List (BC equivalent to online Loot) reveals a nice little bike for Tom, so off we all go to down town Vancouver to check out the bike. The nice man shows us his son’s 20” wheel mountain bike, a $50 bill is dually handed over – Bingo, Tom has wheels – hooray. That evening Tom and the local hoods hang out on their bikes with Charlie running behind them dutifully like a loyal man servant, we are not worried as to their where abouts, as we can hear the screech of Tom’s brakes for miles, well what do you expect for $50.
– note to self – must get some tools and WD40 for that bike, and oh yes, must get Charlie a bike too.

Wednesday 29th. "We're on line."

The phone company said their man would be with us between 8 and 10am – yeah right and monkeys will fly out of my butt. 8.30am, ‘ding, dong’ goes the front door bell and my eyes water as a monkey flies out of my butt. One hour later we have a telephone, TV and internet, all racing around our small house – who can we call first …
After several calls and a quick look on ebay … only joking … we set off down town, in search of a government building to get our ‘SIN numbers’ – (social security numbers). Very easy, walk in, sit down, fill out a form, wait 45 minutes and bingo four SIN numbers. Now we can all go to work. We head off back home via a few shops, of course, and tonight we all eat out at Jane and Lorne Rae’s – our Bed and Breakfast hosts from our previous two trips to Vancouver – they have been so helpful and kind to us – people like these restore ones faith in humanity.

Tuesday 28th. "I know what we haven't done for a while"

The mornings are slowly dawning later now – I think we are waking up at about 6am – ‘I know what we haven’t done for a while, let’s go shopping’. So after a hearty breakfast of M&M’s and toast from our newly purchased Costco industrial toaster – (this thing can toast not one but two whole unsliced loaves in one go. We headed off back to Big Blue – not so perfect after all they forgot the two small mattresses – “sorry sir, we will deliver them today between 2 and 4pm, if that’s ok?” … Bastard.

PM Parkgate Village
Parkgate Village is our local community shopping facility, consisting of various food outlets, a library, a community centre and a host of other retail businesses everything from the requisite Starbucks to a wicked mountain bike shop called Cove Bikes – a true Mecca in mountain bike circles. A small recce reveals that there is more to this place than meets the eye and serious investigations are called for later – but for now we have to head back as we are having our phone and internet installed – we can’t miss this one.

Monday 27th. "The Saucepan Lids)

Got to get the kids registered for a school, “it’s a priority” she said, – ‘but I have got four tonnes of flat pack and only my Swiss army penknife, I can’t spend another night on the floor’. So off we went to `North Vancouver school district to get Charlie and Tom a school. We filled in all the forms and gave it to the nice lady who then said – ‘we will give you a call – but don’t worry if all the children have gone back and you haven’t heard from us – we will be in touch as soon as we have all the numbers … gulp … it’s a brave new world.

I know let’s go shopping again – this time the wonderful world of Costco, everything from a two and half hundred weight bag of peanut M&M’s to a 25hp petrol snow blower … fantastic. So we purchase a kettle and a phone and a 2 x ½ hundred weight bag of M&M’s and headed back for a Swedish evening consisting of cardboard, plastic, wood and more cardboard … oh yes and M&M’s.

Sunday 26th. "Shop till you drop"

The new day came sooner than I had hoped, in fact about five hours later … never mind still fired up from the previous day, we headed off to Big Blue – the dreaded Ikea.
Now having vowed never to frequent their doorstep again, I decided that Ikea Canada should at least be given one chance to prove itself different from the Croydon crematorium – so having spent several hours of deep meditation and having entered a Zen like state we entered the house of all things wood and meat balls. Hold on, what do you mean it’s all in stock, why are you being so helpful – I know what will sort this lot out – ok we have three beds, a sofa, four chairs, two bedside tables, a kitchen table, three lamps, three mattresses, knives, forks and spoons – cups, plates pans and a basket thing - when can you deliver this lot then. “Between 4 and 10pm today sir”, said the nice man – bastard!!!

Saturday 25th. "The Longest Day."

Saturday 25th August

Friday was another very long day, consisting mainly of running around and trying to pack and get together all our paper work and we finally retired at about 2.00am. Saturday saw an early start for some of us – namely Nix, as she was up at 6am typing up the last of the notes for the inventory – a humungous document in length and vital to ensure we entered Canada all ship shape and in Bristol fashion. I joined Nix at 7.30am to finish off the packing and load the cars for the trip to the airport. Having said farewell to David and Lynda we headed for Gatwick. I must confess I was not looking forward to the whole flying experience – two adults, two kids – eighteen bags and two bikes – was post 9/11 Gatwick ready for us – I doubted it.

The look on the woman’s face at the check-in desk was a picture ‘are you lot immigrating or something?’ … well, I have to admit all went smoothly and they only charged me £550 excess baggage – not bad for 300 kgs of baggage!!!

After what we had been through over the last week a nine hour flight was a stroll in the park … but during that time I could not stop thinking about what lay in wait for us at Vancouver airport – the dreaded and in my mind the now legendary immigration landing procedure. I had heard tales of rubber gloves, bright lights and time periods of 4-6 hours to clear customs – I was not looking forward to this one iota. So we collected all eighteen bags and two bikes – a small miracle in itself and headed for immigration …
What no queue – are we in the right place? ‘Next please’ said the nice man – here we go … ‘How much cash have you got on you?’ He asked to which I replied about 15K. … That’s ok then … come on in … welcome to Canada …

The van I had booked to collect all our paraphernalia failed to show – but nothing that two taxis and a hire car couldn’t solve – It must have looked like President Bush had come to town when our motorcade pulled out of the airport.

We found our little house in North Van! in good time and the previous two summer camping trips held us in good stead as we had those air beds and sleeping bags out in record time. Good night Johnboy, Ma, Pa, etc. What a day!