Tag Archives: immigration

It’s not what you think . . .

Today we became Canadian Citizens!

For those who may be unsure, this does not mean we have to renounce our British Citizenship. Dual citizenship blesses us with considerable freedom of movement in both Europe and North America, as well as consolidating our status here in Canada and giving us the right to vote (and hold office). There is also something important to me about embracing the full responsibilities of a citizen – we feel very fortunate to have this opportunity and would like to play our part in helping to make Canada the best it can be.

To honour the occasion, I thought I’d reflect on some of the misconceptions we have come across about Canada and Toronto!

  • Toronto is not ‘the far north’ – it lies way south of the UK, at the same latitude(43 42’N) as Nice and just south of Florence.
  • Average July temperatures are 3.3C higher than in London at 26.1C, though of course the winters genuinely are colder. Temperatures usually hover much of the time around -1 to -5C, though this year we have dipped on occasion to nearly -30C. But we get 2066 hours of bright sunshine on average a year compared with just less than 1500 in London. And that little bit of extra cold actually takes away some of the dampness.

 

  • Despite the recent glare of publicity on the less than savoury exploits of our mayor, Toronto is ranked the second most reputable city in the world, by the Reputation Institute, the world’s leading Reputation Management Consultancy.
  • As far as crime goes, Toronto’s rates are just slightly lower than London’s.

 

  • ‘Canada produces wine?!’ Yes, and much of it is very good! In Ontario, there are three notable wine areas; Niagara, Prince Edward County and the North Erie Shore. I am enjoying becoming increasingly knowledgeable about Ontario wine – it is fun to find winery tours so accessible. And, just for the record, in 2013, the Decanter World Wine Awards judged a wine from the Okanagan valley in British Columbia, Mission Hill’s Pinot Noir, as one of the World’s Best Wines! Echoing Napa Valley’s breakthrough moment, this could herald increasing interest in Canadian wines.

And on that note, it’s time to raise a glass to the country we have chosen to call home.

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Cheers!

 

More highlights and milestones

  • Eating Poutine, a cholesterol laden Canadian snack speciality consisting of fries (chips), gravy and cheese curds. I wasn’t sure about the idea, but actually we really enjoyed it and will now seek out more authentic renditions.
  • Becoming annual members of the Art Gallery of Ontario – this will allow us gradually to enjoy and absorb what is a really interesting and well curated collection. The new Gehry Galleria Italia is a fabulous space, currently housing a magical sculptural exhibition of trees re-visioned (we loved this)
  • Buying my first pair of ‘leisure skates’ – my UK figures boots are just too uncomfortable!
  • Skating on a natural rink in Glen Stewart park at the foot of a ravine that drops a way just below where we live – steep wooden steps lead down into a magic woodland walk by a stream, currently flowing between snowy banks we were the only people on the ice – magic!
  • Commitment (voluntary) to a local community arts/regeneration project, Art of the Danforth, an art walk planned for April (I’m sure I’ll write more on this as things develop!)
  • Entertaining our first guests in our new home on Friday evening, genuinely a delight!
  • Getting our OHIP cards – we are now covered by the Ontario Health scheme. But with a shortage of family doctors, finding one is the next challenge.

Coming up we have:

  • Toronto’s Winter City festival – spectacle, music, multi-culturalism and more!
  • Winterlicious, (part of the above) Toronto’s winter food festival, a fabulous chance to try new restaurants at very affordable prices. We have, over the two week period, booked two lunches and two dinners, including lunch at Canoe, arguably Toronto’s top restaurant (Jess ate there back in September and is still raving about it!)
  • Music and multi-media show at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts

Moving beyond beginning – a new year!

Blogging has been overtaken by boxes – I checked 163 items of furniture and boxes in through the door as our worldly goods arrived here from the UK on the day before Christmas Eve!

All the boxes have been emptied since then, though some have been filled up again with the things we don’t need or have yet to find a home for. Quite apart from the urge to be settled, with some damage to key items of furniture, we wanted to be clear about any additional casualties, thankfully minimal.

One has to be pragmatic; my antiques have been passed down through our family and, in some cases, have already travelled the world. Lovely as they are, their significance rests as much in their history and usage by people I have loved and people who loved them. They have in their own way lived and they bear the scars of that living. Now, having swung through the air in a container, slumbered in a cold hold across the ocean, rattled along the rails from Montreal, miraculously these old familiars surround me once again, if a little battered. Hopefully their newest injuries will be made good once we get the insurance claim sorted!

Anyhow, carrying every book we own up at least  two flights of stairs, wondering where to put this and how on earth that came to be included in the packing seems to have absorbed as much time and energy as I have had available!

However, it made this New Year, which fell on a blue moon, particularly poignant; it was on New Year’s Eve that I emptied the last box . . .

Happy New Year!


It’s a small world – talking to BBC Wiltshire Sound

I’ve done a number of interviews for BBC Wiltshire Sound over the years on behalf of organisations I’ve been working with. And it also happens that an old friend of mine is now producing the morning show.

Which is how it came about that shortly after 8am on Monday morning I recorded an interview for them about the choice to emigrate and Christmas in Toronto.

The hardest thing was that there is so much that I could have talked about – I hope I managed to say something interesting and get across some of the delight of creating a new life. It was a useful reminder, amidst the flurry of filling, sanding, painting and cleaning, of what an amazing experience this is and how much we have seen and done, even if we’ve had a lot of practical things to get through and have hardly started really to get to know our city.

The interview will be broadcast tomorrow morning in two parts (subject to last minute scheduling changes) and I’m told it will be available on the BBC i-player at:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/wiltshire/hi/

Update: You can reach the broadcast at:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p005j8ch/Mark_ODonnell_17_12_2009/.
This is the whole program, but if you use the slider at the bottom of the  player (the little grey mark on the pink line), you can find the relevant sections at the following time points: 1:45:05, 2:28:50 and 2:41:45. The program is only available online till Thursday 24 December.

Mess and milestones

Those two words seem to sum up the last 10 days pretty well!

As soon as we had tidied up after moving in, we managed to get the electricians in to sort out the badly placed switches and sockets, add some pot lights, wire us for sound etc. So my beautiful, clean, tidy new home is now full of holes! As with most North American houses, the structure is wood frame and drywall (plasterboard), so changing things involves cutting pieces out of the walls and fishing for wires, with the occasional need to pass through a beam. And, of course, every surface is now covered with a fine layer of dust, which will only get worse as we fill and sand . . .

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Mess Mess Mess

But it will be worth it, especially the freshly painted family/media room ready to embrace my piano when it finishes its journey with an ascent to the first floor! And our new central vacuum cleaner, which Paul fitted apparently effortlessly last weekend, vanquishes the dust with ease.

In the meantime, the milestones.

The first snowfall came wet and howling overnight  on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning Paul set out for Tyco at Markham, where a Christmas pot-luck lunch was scheduled, through a thick layer of sludgy snow. A neighbour kindly cleared the sidewalk (pavement) in front of our house but, later, I christened our snow shovel and attacked the side (one downside of a corner property!).  This is definitely worth doing whilst the snow is fresh. We have only had flurries since Wednesday, but Toronto remains dusted with icing sugar in temperatures between around –5 and –8, with hard candy crusts where snow has gathered. Wednesday was gray, gloomy and damp, but the last couple of days have been mostly sunny and invigorating. Yes, it is cold, especially when the wind catches you, but as long as you have appropriate layers, hat and gloves, everything feels so clear and bright.

Yesterday we received notification that our container was arriving in Montreal, followed today by a copy of the manifest. We then had to take this, together with our shipping list, passports, Permanent Residency cards and declaration to the imposing official building at 1 Front Street to gain customs clearance. This was achieved so swiftly that it was almost a (welcome) anticlimax. The container should by now have been released for loading onto a train to Toronto and, hopefully sometime next week, there will be another round of chaos as the 169 boxes containing our worldly goods are delivered to our home.