What I Miss Most about the UK
Whenever I speak to people who are about to make the big move to Canada or my friends back home, the one thing they always want to know is what I miss about UK. My homeland for thirty something years is always going to be close to my heart so there are some things that I really do pine for sometimes, but I have found alternatives. Most things are attainable, if they are really wanted or needed – that’s the way I see it!
Obviously the first item on my list has to be family and friends. The older you are, the more established you are, the more likely you are to be leaving lots of loved ones behind. Although telephones allow you to speak to each other, long distance calls can be costly, especially when you just want to have a natter. But there are other options, provided you have yourself an internet connection and a webcam. The most popular software application for this purpose is Skype. This allows you to call your other users on line and chat with them, face-to-face, pc-to-pc. Calls to other Skype account holders are free and there are some 663,000,000 worldwide accounts, which makes it the world leader in this area for the moment. If you want to learn more about Skype take a look at www.skype.com. There are other similar applications available through Yahoo, Google and Lycos. I’ve managed to convince most of my friends and family to download this particular one, since it is free, so we can still chat whenever we want to (well before 3pm Calgary Time anyway since UK is 7 hours ahead!!).
The Brits are a nation of TV lovers, it has to be said. I’m a Celebrity, Britain’s Got Talent, in fact anything with Ant and Dec certainly top my list of top TV views. When we first moved over, we purchased a recordable DVD player and, back in the UK, my mum bought one too. She recorded all of our favourites and sent the discs over to us on a regular basis, which wasn’t exactly cost effective, and I’m not sure she particularly enjoyed doing it. What we didn’t realize then though was that there are many different alternatives. I’m not about to debate the legality of file-sharing sites - it depends on what and where you read it as to whether this a bona fide way of watching Brit programmes or not, but they do exist and have many of the popular shows available to download. You can also have a “cloaked” IP address, which many of our friends have opted for. I know nothing much about either of these options, so thank goodness then for BBC Canada and in general most of the top TV Channels both here and in America. They show a lot of the TV shows: Doctor Who (almost simultaneously), the 4 soaps, Law and Order UK, Top Gear, The Graham Norton Show, The Brit Awards and the BAFTAs amongst numerous others. It took me a bit of channel hopping but I’ve found most of my favourites now. It would appear that some of the presenters have also crossed the Atlantic too – Vernon Kay, Cat Deeley, Piers Morgan to name but a few.
Next on the list: the good old British sausage. You can’t beat Bangers and Mash and until recently, it was pretty hard to find anything other than a wiener or hot-dog sausage stuffed with cheese!!! But now Extra Foods have identified that there are indeed a few of us immigrants here in Canada and have introduced their very own version of English Bangers. They are, it has to be said, pretty close to the real thing (although I am still waiting for the low-fat option!!!). Pickled onions are my other penchant. From an early age they featured heavily in my diet and so I was devastated when we arrived and I couldn’t find Haywards on the shelves. But we have found out about several Brit shops located in and around Calgary that, thank goodness, sell pickles galore. In Okotoks there is a delivery shop called Shoppe UK goods (www.shoppeukgoods.com), The British Pantry is located within the Calgary city limits (www.britishpantry.ca) and has a wide variety of M&S products, and there is a food specialty shop that has two branches one in Eau Claire in the heart of Calgary and another in Market Mall, both called A Good Taste of Britain (www.goodtasteofbritain.com). Or the alternative, of course, is to wait for visiting friends and family to stuff their cases full of English treats. Bring me some Battenberg cake when you visit please (haven’t found it yet over here)!!!
I suppose the other thing I would have to say I really do miss is being able to travel, very easily from London, to just about anywhere with a bit of history. Europe is teeming with cities waiting to be explored and some not even two hours flight from England. Canada’s history is very different to Europe’s though. Heritage Park in Calgary features historic shops and houses that are just over 100 years old and that is really old for Canada (www.heritagepark.ca). Then there are the Native Americans who were here long before the Europeans came along, and their history is dotted around at various sites and museums all over the country. There may be no castles, old pubs, stately homes or quaint olde world villages to wander round but Canadian history dates back further than all of that. A visit to Drumheller’s Royal Tyrrell Museum (www.tyrrellmuseum.com) with its’ dinosaur bones is just about as far back in time as you can get. As for the different terrains, well you only have to drive over to British Columbia to be in wine country, similar to Italy and France, or in the desert of Osoyoos (www.osoyoos.ca). The lakes dotted all over BC and Alberta are beautiful and Penticton really is reminiscent of Lake Garda in Italy (www.penticton.ca). Then of course, you can hop on an aeroplane to California with its diverse landscapes again enticing you to try wine, sunbathe or bathe in the geysers. Yes I do miss my little old towns with cobbled streets but Canada and the USA have something different to offer and explore and variety is the spice of life after all.
All in all, as I said before, most things are attainable if
you really want them. Yes you may
have to pay a little extra for Next or M&S to deliver to you. You may have to drive for two hours to
get a Cornish pasty from Lake Louise or English chocolate from Banff. You may have to fiddle with your TV
controls to hook up your computer and buy a DVD player that is
multi-region. But now those “much
loved and missed” items are within reach without too much hassle and
money. With technology now
surrounding us, you can wear that Stetson and stare at the Rockies from your
deck whilst barbecuing but then come in when it gets a little chilly and watch
a bit of Ant and Dec whilst stuffing your face with a Galaxy bar in your Next pajamas!!!
Written by Fran who moved to Canada in 2006.