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Oh Canada! (v)

Today was Daisy’s birthday and also the first day of gymnastics camp. Jet lag effects have their advantages because I was up at five for a relaxed breakfast before the girls arose. The house we are staying in is really nice and it hasn’t taken so long to feel right at home.
Luna had to be at gym with her hair done and ready to go. We arrived before seven to a host of smiling Canadian faces so it was pretty clear that Luna would feel welcomed. We got back home for breakfast and before long we were on the road again to bring Nadia to her junior camp. After some shopping we picked up Nadia and dropped Daisy off for her Fusion camp.
So it was a busy day and once Luna and Nadia were finished we had lunch and went off for a swim. Although Nadia has only just got her A diploma she is a demon in the water. The weather is so hot in Vernon that you just need the water to cool right down. We picked Daisy up from her camp and brought her to an ice cream shop for an obscene cone that had so much junk in it that the younger ones couldn’t finish it. After that another swim was needed before dinner which I had cooked in between in the morning. The three girls were going crazy but Nadia’s stroke was getting visibly weaker so I had to tell her that enough was enough. They were swimming under the boardwalk and I couldn’t see her all the time so it was too dangerous. So now we are winding down with our girls doing tera-band exercises in the sitting room. As one of the posters in the gym says ‘Sore today, strong tomorrow’.
As a last thought for the day it just has to be said that Canadians are amazingly friendly and obliging to the point of offering assistance at all times when you look any way confused. Watching telly and listening to the radio you don’t get the sense of American domination you might expect, what sticks out are local preoccupations followed by national ones. I guess when there are so many things like extreme weather events, wildfires and serious wildlife to consider the events going on elsewhere become less newsworthy.

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Oh Canada! (iv)

After another very early night I was up at the crack of dawn to look out at the beautiful Okanagan landscape. It takes a while to get that holiday feeling but today it arrived. It’s always about water and that first swim in the Kalamalka lake with the picture perfect view in front of me was enough to make me feel that I was far far away from normal life. In Canada as in the States I can get my all time favorite blueberry bagels so the breakfast of kings already put me in the mood. The girls love the Kal Lake beach about 15 minutes walk away but there are so many more to experience in this lake country that I am sure that they will be even happier as the holiday goes on. After the morning swim we took a drive to where the gym camp is so we could time the trip and it turns out that we are on the good side of Vernon. We checked out the biggest mall in town which has a Target and a few other stores. The Target is not as extensive as the one I go to in Chicago but it’s nice to have nearby all the same. The prices in Canada are really expensive in general and food and drink is double what we pay in Holland so it takes quite some adjustment.
We got another swim in at Kal Beach later with the girls jumping time and again off the boardwalk. Nadia only got her A diploma last week bit she is swimming really strongly and she has no fear. I was so proud of my three degrees and though they have had their moments of madness on the trip already I am sure that they will enjoy this holiday of a lifetime and make memories for life.
Tomorrow we will be going to camp for the first time and Luna has a seven o’clock start! Luckily the jet lag should make getting up a lot easier than normal.

Oh Canada! (iii)

Nearly all of the registration plates in BC carry the slogan Beautiful British Columbia and the long drive today from Vancouver to Vernon gave us plenty of evidence why. The natural beauty is awesome with majestic mountains and perfect lakes everywhere you look. I didn’t sleep so well in Van as my usual worries about what might go awry gave me unnecessary anxiety. As the city has a crazy rule that taxis can only carry four we took the trolleybus downtown. The driver was a really friendly character and had a laugh and a smile for everybody as well as a steady stream of repartee. Despite my fears the car was ready to go when we arrived. The insurance ended up making the car more expensive than planned but at least we got an upgrade to an SUV. The first part of driving in the city was pretty scary because the nav didn’t kick into gear and this was our first time ever in an automatic. Once we got going though the drive was good and we arrived early enough and after buying some supplied we are already in the early evening. We are really nicely located close to the lake but first we need to just chill and recuperate before we really get into this part of Beautiful BC.

Oh Canada! (ii)

I was reading a bit about Canadian Football before I came here but I’ve never seen a game until this evening when I turned on the BC Lions v Winnipeg. At first glance it’s not so different to its American cousin. It’s always amusing in that football versus soccer argument to think that soccer is a better moniker in almost every English speaking country because ‘football’ generally refers to other national variants as in Gaelic, Aussie Rules, American or Canadian and ‘soccer’ is pretty unambiguous.
We spent most of the day in Stanley Park which is truly massive and a beautiful park to have in a city. The separation of bicycle and pedestrian traffic is both sensible and necessary as inadvertently straying on the cycle path is life endangering. There are many bathing places and lots of attractions like the aquarium which we will check out on the way back and an exhibition of totem poles. One thing I really like is that all of the benches have memorial plaques and some of them are very recent so you really feel that you are sitting ‘with’ the person whose favorite place it was.
There are very many restaurants around out hotel but actually choosing one when you have kids is easier said than done. Tonight we had a very average Indian but thankfully the service was great. Anyway, tomorrow we are back on the move. Hopefully our car will be ready in the morning and Vernon beckons.

Oh Canada! (i)

Although I managed to stress myself out unnecessarily in advance about our journey it all worked out fine. We were in the air for ten hours but the girls didn’t cause any trouble. Most if the time they were entertained by the consoles or loom bands. The economy seats on KLM are not so much below the business standard. We arrived to a very big immigration queue in Vancouver airport but the whole moved very quickly with less of the questioning I have had sometimes when traveling to the States. We got a taxi to our hotel on English Bay which is a budget Aparthotel with some good points and various inadequacies we will just overlook as it is very well situated for now and when we come back to Van in the last week.
We did our best to stay awake as long as possible but we had to retire at 7p.m. as we were all too wrecked. The great thing is that we slept through till morning so now we should escape the jet lag. Today we are going to walk around Stanley Park and chill because we have the big drive to Vernon ahead of us tomorrow. In a way the holiday will really start once we are over in east BC.
In other news I got the final result of my first OU module at Level 3 and amazingly I got a Distinction. That means that I will get a First
Class degree barring a complete fail on my final module. I am still thinking of taking 20th Century Lit as the final module and switching my degree back to English Lang and Lit. We will know what to do after Canada.

Another Year Without Drink

For the second time in my adult life I can say that I have gone a calendar year without alcohol. When I didn’t take a drink for the whole of 2012 I saw it as a challenge for myself and a chance to clean up my act. At the same time I saw it as something temporary. When I started drinking again in 2013 my initial idea was that I would drink differently, moderately and responsibly. For the most part that was true but things started to fray at the edges and I started to lose control sometimes, I started slipping, sinking into that dark place where drink becomes an end itself. As F. Scott Fitzgerald put it “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”
This time it feels different too because I don’t think that I can go back without it meaning something terrible. I don’t trust myself any more or maybe I just can’t let go like I once did. My relationship with alcohol was always fraught because what I wanted from her was not readily available or definable. In fact drunken times that I would have once called some of the best in my life now look far less glamorous than they did at the time. It’s not necessarily a moral judgment where the temperate has become the intolerant though. There are times worth remembering, it’s just that so much was forgettable or indelibly, inviolably forgotten. So much was about losing myself rather than finding myself. It’s better off dead.
So maybe I am a different person now or maybe I am just better at being myself. It would have been better to learn this trick earlier but what was it that Samuel Beckett wrote that could be a maxim for life? “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

To Canada

When I was younger I thought a lot about going to Canada and I was actively looking at doing PhDs there until I decided to change direction at the end of my first degree. I read a lot of books about the history and politics of the country and read more Canadian novels than your average punter but I never actually made it over. Next week that is about to change because we are going on a family holiday to British Columbia. We are flying into to Vancouver and then we are going to spend some time in the Okanagan region before coming back for a week in the city.
The girls speak good enough English with Luna being the most fluent as you would expect but it will be great to spend a lot of time in an English speaking country. Of course we’ve been to Ireland together in the past but never for more than a couple of weeks. The girls are going to take part in a gymnastics camp in Vernon. Luna will be on an elite RG camp, Daisy will be doing a general acro/circus/RG one and Nadia will be doing more of play one. We think that it will be a great way to do their sport but also to meet some Canadian kids and speak English. Most of the time I am the only person they speak English to so it will be cool to meet new kids and interact in English. If they learn some new stuff in gymnastics that’s great but the main focus is fun.
We are going to be staying in a house near a lake in BC so I am hoping for great weather and a lot of swimming. It’s been a tough year so far with work and study and sport and everything so this will be a welcome getaway.