Blog by Chloe Cartwright, BSW, RSW, ABR

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Chapter 2 - Settling In

                                                                                          The Canada Story So Far
Chapter Two:  Settling In

Following our long trip over here we were taken to our new home by Carolyn, assisted by her two children Harry & Alice, which is lovely.  We are living in their basement and by basement we mean large suite with two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and dining / living room (its bigger than our house in Chester!).   The family are wonderful and Carolyn’s husband, Colin, is also great and has got me back into painting models – much to Lauren’s somewhat feigned delight.

I started work on the Thursday after we landed on the Tuesday and really haven’t stopped since.  The company is called Champions Career Centre and it is a not-for-profit agency that deals exclusively with helping people with disabilities find employment. My role as a Case Manager is to meet with prospective clients and assess whether we are the right agency for them; following this I work closely with the client as they develop their skills through either 1:1 sessions with me or through the workshops we provide.  After a few weeks they move onto their job search with another team and, hopefully, find work.  Once the client has found work then we keep in contact for their first six months to offer advice or help if it required. 

The commute from Cochrane to downtown Calgary is about 50 minutes each way so it does make for a longer day.  However, each evening when I drive home I come to the crest of a big hill and the Rockies are revealed in all their glory.  It makes the commute worthwhile if somewhat hazardous as I never pay attention to the road.  Cyclists and motorists alike have learned to fear the ginger drifting across the road with a look of wonder painted on his face.

The only downside to work is that the woman who was taken on at the same time to do the same job as me was ‘let go[1]’ a couple of weeks ago.  This means that I am picking up her clients, my own clients and all the new clients…  But the rest of my colleagues are brilliant and everyone is picking up extra so I don’t mind at all.  Plus it makes me the golden child.

We’ve learnt many things quite quickly over here – mainly some of the quite large differences in language…

When we went to pick up the car we drove into a little one horse town with a pub and a gas[2] station.  I popped into the gas station and was greeted by a denim clad moustached fellah in a Stetson; feeling somewhat intimidated I quietly asked if he sold fags[3]…  The temperature dropped somewhat and Mr Denim took of his hat, fingered something wooden behind he counter and replied “just what are you asking son?!”  Thankfully I was able to laugh of the confusion (gibbered in terror is more appropriate) and make a hasty retreat to the relative safety of the car.

Chips!  If I wanted slivers of potato deep fried and smothered in a cheese powder I would ask for CRISPS!!!  And if I ask for chips I want the thick doorstop wedges of potato lovingly cooked to crispy perfection – not the limp wristed skinny French equivalents.  Breathe Andy, breathe.

When discussing cars it is often a good idea to suspend all common sense and take a detailed picture of a vehicle with appropriate labels such as trunk, gas pedal etc.  When I was asked to ‘pop the hood’ I immediately looked around to find the nearest Chav – which reminds me, Canada is blissfully unpopulated from the Chav breed and the locals run any hood-wearing chain-draped little oiks out of town at the point of a knife or with two smoking barrels (brilliant!).

There are lots of other nuances which cause much discussion with Canadians after, of course, we have explained that we are not Australian and we “sound kinda funny” because we are British and ambassadors of our great monarch Liz!

Driving in and around the cities and towns is an experience, as is getting from one to the other.  So far we have found only two roundabouts!  In their place within the cities and towns are 3 and 4 Ways.  The principal is that there is a line that people pull up to in a slow and sedate manner.  Whoever arrives first has right of way and they move off in their chosen direction; then the next person pulls away and so on.  Surprisingly this works and it is a brilliant, quick and efficient system.  Although when we first approached a sign that said ‘STOP! 3 – WAY’ Lauren and I locked the doors and looked around with trepidation lest a rampant dogger emerge from the bushes wearing nothing but a cheeky smile.

Lauren has had her own rather scary experience at one of these roundabout replacements.  Pedestrians do have right of way so she began to cross one such 4 Way when a crazy old woman[4] pulled off from her line and straight at Lauren.  Thankfully Lauren saw the car out of the corner of her eye and was able to jump just before impact resulting in her sliding along the hood[5] of the woman’s car and landing on her feet.  The old bird waved and smiled at Lauren and then drove on.  Several witnesses were around but none of them thought to take the registration plate – Lauren’s Miami Vice style hood-sliding must have been quite impressive and captivating.  Lauren did suffer a bad back for a few days but is now much, much better.  My comment of “at least she hit the most padded area – your bum” was met with an icy glare and I was rewarded with an uncomfortable night on the sofa under fierce competition from Boo and Digger.

So, driving in towns and cities is ok and quite calm and the police do come down hard on any misdemeanours.   Driving inbetween towns is completely different.  Once you are on the highway all reason, common sense and thought processes are removed and replaced by the following commandments:

1)     Thou shalt drive in whichever lane you desire at whatever speed you desire.
2)     Thou shalt drift over into the path of another vehicle at any time you choose.
3)     Thou shalt not indicate.
4)     Thou shalt pull out of a dirt track into the path of a fast approaching vehicle without any warning whatsoever.
5)     Thou shalt spend time exploring the contents of ones nostril rather than looking where you are going[6]

Thankfully I have quickly settled into this way of driving.

Lauren is still a stay-at-home-mom to Boomer and Digger.  Actually, Digger is probably the only Chav in Canada and he continues to ‘enjoy’ the company of other dogs on the off-leash parks.  Some dogs actually whimper and run off when he swaggers past – we’re thinking of getting him his own wife-beater/muscle vest to wear for such outings.  That is perhaps the one downside to Canada, there are not many places to give the dogs a good run.  Oh, which reminds me of another story…

We got an electric shock collar to try and help with Digger’s issues and with Boomer’s habit of nicking other dogs tennis balls and running off with them.  The collar had no effect on Digger other than to elicit a slight twitch, the barring of his teeth and a presumably uncontrollable fart. 

On the flip side, I took Boomer on his own down the off leash park with said collar to practice on his retrieves.  It turned out that the collar was faulty and only worked when on the maximum setting (but even this didn’t affect Digger).  So as Boomer continued to not bring the ball back I put it on full power and pressed the button; this resulted in him jumping five feet into the air and dropping the ball.  After regaining consciousness Boomer returned to the ball but seemed to believe it was that, that shocked him… He spent five minutes gently circling the ball, sneaking up on it and touching it with his paw and then racing off in the other direction.  Eventually he picked it up and I didn’t have the heart to try and pursue the issue.  I did take the collar off of him and put it in my pocket – I did not turn the damn thing off!  About four minutes later I was walking towards another group of people and absentmindedly pressed the button on the remote.  About 30,000 volts shot into my scrotum causing three things to happen:

1)     A down-below ‘Fro.
2)     My right leg to seize up, shoot upwards an odd angle and make me fall over in front of the aforementioned people.
3)     The return of the damned device to the shop where we bought it from.

As I said, Lauren has held off on looking for a job at the moment as she is so busy looking after the dogs and me while trying to look for household things for our new home and get around without a car.  She’s been an absolute angel and has taken a lot of pressure off of me as I am out of the house for 13 hours a day Monday to Friday.   She is thinking of beginning to get back into her crafts and hopefully market them in the local craft shops.  In the meantime she is considering becoming a school bus driver as the hours are good as is the pay – plus they’re crying out for drivers and the depot is just around the corner from our new house.  I think both of the above are a great idea.  However, Lauren driving a school bus may cause a child’s fear of going to school to increase exponentially.

Colin (landlord) works for the Calgary Police (I am toying with the idea of joining) took me on a ride-along which was something of an eye-opener, especially when considering the difference between the British cops and the Canadian cops.  The Brits rarely reach for their guns while the Canadian’s unleash their tazers into anything with a pulse, then draw their guns and scream ‘ye-haw’.  Its ironic that they then have to apologise for tazering an innocent by-stander while the felon[7] runs off.  Canadian cops are a bit heavy handed but given they work in a city where big knives and pistols are a regular occurrence it is understandable.  The ride along was very eventful but I stupidly chose to point out that the back seat of the van did not have a seatbelt after the high speed chase.  It was hard to tell which hurt more after gripping so hard – my arms or my arse.  At one point I was told to stay in the van and then Colin’s partner passed me the loaded police shotgun and said “if anyone comes out that way – point and shoot”.  Needless to say, I put the gun as far away from me as possible because if anyone did come down the indicated route I would be far too busy screaming in terror to operate a firearm.  It was great fun and I am booked on for a few more.  Although when I tried to point out to Lauren that I couldn’t do the washing up because I was tired from being out ‘fighting crime’ she was quite merciless. 

We got our mortgage accepted and we have had to cut back on certain luxuries[8] to ensure we have enough.  But we are very excited to know we will be moving in on the 15th December.  We did have a slight issue regarding the dogs as although it is a house it still has ‘Condominium Complex’ rules and regulations that stipulated that dogs could not be over 30 lbs in weight.  I played dumb and said I mistook lbs for kg’s and we were eventually given a waiver which said we were good to have the boys move in with us.

Everything else is going well.  Tim & Ronda came out to visit us for a week, although I did have to work we managed to get up to the Rockies for my 30th birthday and, as I have wanted for some time now, I got to have dinner and beers in the Grizzly Paw pub.  Lauren excelled herself and got me my own clay beer mug and I am the next person to be added to the Grizzly Paw mug club.  Whoop whoop! 

Well people, I may have lacked in communication over the last few weeks but I hope I have made up for it.

I don’t think either of us could be happier over here and our Landlords are looking after us really well and have done so much for us so please don’t worry.

Get ready for part three!

[1] Was escorted out of the office and all signs of her presence removed in a matter of hours.
[2] Translation:  PETROL
[3] Translation:  Cigarettes (we can have our own fags sent over – Graham and Steve).
[4] We think she may be related to or is the woman I opened the toilet door on, on the airplane.
[5] Translation:  Bonnet.
[6] Actually, this applies to every male across the globe.
[7] Translation:  Naughty person.
[8] Like eating.

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