Long weekend

In addition to the epic day out in Hamilton, this weekend also brought a lie in of mammoth proportions – which reminds me, another thing Canadians dont say is lie in, they say sleeping in and look at me confused when I say lie in.  There were drinks with The Brits at a great pub downtown called The Artful Dodger which had a pool table and a nice atmosphere.  I was itching to play, but not brave enough to go and ask the weed smoking players if I could go next, especially as I had to ask them to shut the door to outside while they smoked as I didnt want to taste cannabis with my food.  Next time, that pool table is mine.  On Saturday, a couple of Brits came to the beaches for a walk in the ravine and on the boardwalk, we then had our first BBQ of the season. I bought a BBQ last year (just before Farmer Chaz came to town) but never got a chance to use it.  After assembling and throwing in charcoal and some lit paper, we realised we were supposed to have firelighters or gas.   A quick trip to Valumart for some gas provided entertainment in throwing it on the slightly lit pile of coals, cardboard packaging, some plastic and some dry leaves.   Eventually, perseverance prevailed and we had ourselves some tasty burgers.  I think part of why BBQs always taste so good is because of the work and sheer determination required to get to the point of eating!  

 Sunday brought a lazy day at my friends house, a couple of blocks away.  We spent all afternoon chatting, drinking tea, eaing biscuits and watching Pretty Little Liars, Eastenders and Muriels Wedding.  When its a drizzly day with distinctly English weather, this is the perfect way to spend it.

A few facetimes and some chats with the family and it was back to work today, back to the gym and, after a lovely four day weekend, life is going on. 

Hiking in Hamilton:  Webster’s Falls, Tew’s Falls and Christie Lake

What better way to spend a Bank Holiday Sunday than on a roadtrip with one of the original Brits.  Trusty Zip car booked, plan of action in place and off we went to Hamilton.  First stop: Taylors Tea Room.  I heard that they do a Devonshire cream tea.  We bought ours to go, and extra bottles of cream.  Such a quaint little tea room with super friendly ladies working there.  Looking forward to going back again in the future and taking the time to sit and enjoy some tea and cake.  The scones were delicious and the cream was gloriously thick and rich – a delight after a year with no clotted cream in my life.  I dont understand why its not a thing in Canada.  The Devon cream came in jars that I have never seen in Devon and was made in Wiltshire, but it was still a tasty English start to what would turn out to be a very (apart from Tims) English day. 
 English treats bagged up, we set off for the trails for a spot of hiking.  Walking boots on and Webster’s Falls was the first bit of water on our adventure.  A pretty waterfall, nothing spectacular.  We headed off towards Christie Lake following the Spencer Adventure Trail.  The trail started off with scenic bridges and grassy areas and continued along by the water through woodland and grassy banks and fields.  We got to the Christie Lake dam and as we stepped onto the bridge, stunning views of the Lake appeared in the sunshine.  The weather was great and the water looked sparkly and picture perfect.  We walked around the Lake and past a big field that reminded me of home.  The whole walk was so incredibly English.  It reminded me of Burrator Resevoir and the Devonshire countryside.   

 We ate our cream and scones by the water and headed back to the car park to do the trail on the other side. 

The other side of the trail started off with another waterfall – Tew’s Falls, below.  I loved this one.  

 After seeing Tew’s Falls, we followed the trail until we reached Dundas Peak with views out over the landscape.  Our total walk was just over 10 miles.

   Our next stop was Hamilton to visit the first ever Tim Hortons for a much needed cup of tea.  There was some rather pricey merchandise and a little museum upstairs.  I enjoyed a mooch around the mini museum taking a walk down Tims memory lane.  It was a cute idea and nice to mark the beginning of such a massive part of Canadian culture.  It is a shame that the original building was knocked down and replaced with such a modern one. 

On the way back from Hamilton, my fellow Brit and I stopped off in Burlington for a spot of dinner.  After a day in what felt like the English countryside, we headed for a British pub called The Queens Head.  The most British pub I have encountered so far!  The server was friendly with an infectious laugh and the whole place had a friendly feel.  The menu test was passed – they had pies, bangers and mash and other stodgy favourites.  The biggest challenge was passed…. Shepherds pie was marked as Shepherds pie! Canadians dont seem to differentiate between Cottage and Shepherds pie and will call a pie with cow in it, Shepherds.  This bugs me. a lot.   

  We had some food and took a stroll around Burlington as dark was setting in.  We walked along by the water and on the pier before it was time to head home. 

What a great day out!  There is no room for complaints when your day has all these views rolled in to one roadtrip. 

 

A new weather.. 

This week brought another new type of weather condition.  The “ice rain”.  This is not just a bit of hail and slush that makes slushy slightly slippy puddles.  This is a devil rain that turns all surfaces into ice rinks.  It forms a solid sheet like icing sugar on grassy areas and a barely visible rink on concrete and other hard surfaces.  Even walking on the ‘icing sugar’ on the grass did not make moving from A to B easier, it cracked with an aggressive stamp into large sliding pieces.  It clung to the trees and shrubs like a pretty glass coating.  Luckily it melted on the roads and pavements realtively early, but still…  

 

Resigning

The last couple of weeks have brought about changes.  I have handed in notice at two jobs.  I was sad to have to resign from my job in England.  Whilst I want to stay in Canada, I am all too aware that it could be a lengthy and costly process with no Permanent Residency granted at the end.  It was therefore nice to have the cushion of knowing I was on sabbatical and could go back to the job in the UK if I have to leave Canada.  My request to have my sabbatical extended was declined and I therefore gave my notice in.  After 6 years (with a short gap in the middle), I was sad to end it and face that I might not get to work in a prison again for some time.  I loved working in a prison and all the dynamics, challenges, dramas, well everything about it really.  I hope that I get to do this again in some capacity – getting some work in prisons in Canada later in the year would be amazing.

I also handed my notice in at my full time Canadian job.  Again, this was sad in some ways as I love the team I work with, but I cant see much of Canada with 10 days leave a year.  It made sense to leave when my buddy comes to visit at the end of April.  I am leaving with plans and aspirations in place, but this comes with a bit of anxiety about cash flow.  I will be leaving a full time job to work part time in a role that pays just over half the hourly rate I was on before, with a third of the hours. I also will need to top up my hours in this field of work before I can apply for residency at the end of 2016/ 2017.  Despite all the sensible reasons that point to me staying in the role,  I still feel that this is the right decision.  Deciding to stop doing the sensible thing and move to the other side of the world turned out to be the best experience I have ever had, so clearly there are times that not taking the sensible route pays off.  I need to see the country, and don’t know how long I could maintain 3 hours of travel a day for work, so I had to do what’s right for right now.  I have planned and worked hard and will be doing two jobs for April, so hopefully when it comes to May, it will all pay off and I can enjoy a summer seeing Canada, enjoying the Lake and regaining the tan I worked for last year!

A numbers game

Doing my tax return is something that I have been a little concerned about every time I think about it.  My brain does not enjoy anything numbers related and my Dad is not here to deal with it for me.  I was intending to pay someone to do it, but the prices seem to vary significantly and I couldn’t figure out who was just trying to rip me off.  One of the Brits said that I could just do it myself online, so I found a website and think I have submitted it.  It all seems a bit of a faff having to put in how much I spent on transport and all the numbers from my T4s (P60s).  Taxes in Canada just baffle me.  Nothing has the tax included in the advertised price except alcohol, so you have to constantly be aware of adding 13% on to everything.  Then you have to pay tax all year that is taken automatically until the end of the year when you have to fill in a load of forms and claim some back.  So, from what I can gather, you claim back tax on transport and medical expenses… I dont understand why they dont just not put tax on those things so we dont have to keep handing money back and forth?  Very bizarre.  Anyway, so it seems that after filling in all the forms, the government will check it again anyway and then send out a cheque.  The online form thing that I am not at all confident I filled in correctly tells me that I am due $1,700 back.  Luckily, this whole tax debacle only comes once a year so I am going to forget about it until 2017 when I will definitely be paying someone to do ti.  For now, I will just wait for my cheque and say thank you very much for the free money.

A new dentist

This week found me back at the dentist.  A different dentist obviously. What a treat after the previous horrors.  I went to the the dentist I actually thought I had booked with in the first place.   I remember passing them in the summer when they opened and they gave out free cakes.  Anyone that gives me cake is off to a good start in my book!  They gave me a look  around when I registered and said I could ask questions and make sure I was comfortable.  The form asked me to detail past traumatic dental experiences…. I wrote the name of my previous Canadian dentist.

For the appointment itself, I was lucky to be in the end room meaning quiet and noone passing by.  The dentist was friendly, she didnt tell me off for declaring my ability to eat toffee whilst my mouth was still numb, she didnt offer me a teddy like the last dentist, she let me look at the needles and see what was going on and when I made noises indicating the words “whats that?” she explained.  She let me scrunch up my legs and tense my hands without telling me I was stressing her out and she just got on with it.  Most importantly, there was no dental dam torture device.  There was an offer of a bite rest – some rubber thing that was to allow me to relax my jaw and stop aching – I tried it.  It was not okay and she took it back out.  I was even allowed to hold my own sucky thing to hoover up my spit – I enjoyed this. It still hurt, it was still a trip to the dentist, BUT I feel okay to go back and get the work completed and I have two lovely white fillings instead of the ugly silver ones we get in England.  

In like a lion, out like a lamb 

They say that the stereotype Canadian, amongst other things, talks about the weather alot eh?  Well, I find that I fit well with this and feel amazement and surprise most days at the changing climate.    Every day can be a different season.  Last week, people kept posting pictures on Facebook of this tree covered in ice where the water has splashed up over the rocks.  I went off to find said tree and the icicles and other winter identifiers that were alongside it.  Exactly a week later, I returned to the same spot and was able to sit in the sunshine reading a book, munching on Easter chocolate, stroll on the sand barefoot and paddle in the water.  Even as I approached the water I expected it to be freezing given the ice a week before – I wasnt rushing to go for a full on swim, but it was surprisingly warmer than expected.   

 The day after my day of glorious sunshine, cold and wind kicked back in.  Taking another photo on the same stretch of beach, the waves were now crashing noisily against the rocks and the little piers.  

Top to bottom… Sat 5th, Sat 12th, Sun 13th

 People keep saying that we will go in to March like a lion and out like a lamb.  This makes me miss having pet sheep and lambs to cuddle.  Saturday was a taste of whats around the corner and I cant wait to embrace it! 

My first Canadian run

A couple of months ago I signed up for my first Canadian run.  A St Patricks Day 5k for Achilles Canada. The day came yesterday and I was a little nervous due to the old knee playing up.  First difference, in Canada you have to go collect your number and bag of race swag in the days before the event instead of being given it at the finish line, and the number being posted.  Bit annoying when you work nearly two hours away and have to get it before 6.  Luckily, one of my cohorts got my for me.

Bag check done, water bottles in hand ready to find the start, realised my trousers were on back to front.  A fine start I feel.  Clothing righted, we went off to find our spots in the crowd, assessing the attire of those waiting to try and figure out where the elite ended and the fun runners began hoping to find a spot nestled somewhere in between.  We figured we needed to be behind those wearing compression socks, but in front of the people wearing boppers.  We did not take dogs into account and ended up stuck behind a lovely chap wearing the green St Patricks day race tshirt.  Finally free of the annoying bit where everyone is trying to find the people of the right speed, we got into a steady pace.  There were no markers, so the 5k would be done when it was done. 

I was pleased to keep a fairly steady pace throughout, not stopping to walk.  Knee niggled a bit, but okay to proceed with caution.  Perfect running conditions – a bit breezy with a slight chill in the air. I came in at 31 minutes 55 seconds.  I had decided that over 40 would make me sad, under 30 would make me elated and under 35, I would be happy with, so happy with this I am.

After the run, they gave us chilli and a pint. I traded my pint for a second chilli.  They also gave out free full size boxes of Lucky Charms.  I got to run and had lots of food given me, this was great!  They also gave me my medal.  I say medal, it was a bottle opener.  

Test run done and I am now ready and excited to sign up for a 10k.  

 

Making bookings

This week, I have been on a little bit of a booking spree….. Aside from looking forward to life in general in Canada and an English visit in April, I now have a string of exciting events planned.

I was felt sad that this would be his first of Jimmy Carrs tours since 2005 that I would not get to see.  Last year, I had to squeeze in a trip to Bournemouth in the month before coming to Canada to ensure I got to see him.  Too excited to find out he is coming the day after the bestie arrives from England!  It is meant to be.  Two tickets purchased on Monday, they arrived yesterday.

In addition to booking tickets to JC, I have booked the cottage for the weekend after my birthday.  A big cottage with a sauna, a fire pit and a jacuzzi between Toronto and Algonquin.

As if JC AND the cottage were not enough, I went one further and booked a flight to Newfoundland in the summer.  I have been planning this trip for a while and am looking forward to 6 nights exploring another province.  Whales, icebergs, walking, sunshine, open green spaces.  I am not quite sure what to expect with Newfoundland – I hear lots of varied tales from Torontonians, but from research I feel like I am going to love it. 

 

Life and snow

The past couple of weeks have passed by in a blur of fluctuating weather.  It is bizarre that it was so sunny last weekend that the boardwalk was crowded, there was a queue out of the door of my favourite ice cream shop and I went out with no coat, contemplating wearing flip flops and then, two days later, the snow hit and is half way up my calves.  I went into the gym on Tuesday night scoffing at the reports of incoming snow and came out to a white wintery wonderland.  The snow has continued all week and I am still enjoying every second of its beauty.  The sun shines so brightly bouncing off the snow and sparkling in the light, it hurts my eyes to go outside without sunglasses sometimes.  I also keep enjoying how fine and fly away the snow is.  Despite cars being covered in inches of snow, everyone just has long handled brushes and the snow just brushes away like dust.  When the Canadians said in the summer that winter will just suddenly come, they were right.  There are still seasons here, but they dont seem to change gradually.  Whilst I love the cold, I do look forward to not having to walk around wearing the bulk of a duvet, carrying gloves, sunglasses and a scarf at all times, just in case. 

 The last two weeks have thrown out a hockey game (in true Maple Leafs style, we lost), more extraordinary hot chocolates at Sweet Jesus, food and gossip with friends, a couple of trips to the cinema and a visit to Cherry Beach to see the skyline at night.  I have also tried a Canadian treat – the Butter Tart.  It looks like a potentially dry item – I am not big on tart pastry and it seemed like it should be warm.  I was encouraged to try them by  my Canadian gym friend, so I bought one and looked at it for two days trying to convince myself to taste it.  After eventually summoning up the motivation to have a nibble, I discovered the most amazing baked good!  Caramel sauce ran out as I bit into in.  A sweet and sugary, moist delicious treat.  O Canada!