Sunday, 30 March 2008

Back in Canada

I'm back in Ralston after an eventful experience leaving the UK! I arrived at 7:30am for a 9:30am flight and was told I couldn't check in and had to report to the agent's desk. The agent then told me the flight was overbooked, I was being put on standby and that I'd have to report back to the desk at 8:30am to find out if I was going to be allowed to fly! This of course being pretty standard (and totally legal) procedure for airlines these days.

So after killing an hour in the hellhole that was Gatwick at the start of the Easter holidays, I was fortunately allowed to check in and run across the terminal to the boarding gate - without even as much time to buy the Saturday Telegraph!

The flight was packed with school children and families all heading off for Easter skiing trips and me, desperately hoping against hope that there was going to be snow when we landed! When we did touch down at Calgary (and passport control greeted me with the disconcerting words "welcome home!") it was snowing and -15c.

We headed off to the hotel we had booked for Saturday night and stopped on the way at a Chinese supermarket in town. Jim was after ingredients for curries and typically, this was the only place for hundreds of miles that had them! We had a successful shopping trip and I had a good giggle over some of the "Engrish" signs! (see left)

Overnight on Saturday it snowed heavily and so once again, it was a monochrome panorama that greeted me when I drew back the curtains in our room... the holidaymakers must have been delighted.

Still, better news now we are back in the village, where we have escaped the snow and it is plus 4. I've just been unpacking the clothes I bought in the UK, several summer tops which I'm looking at wistfully and hoping against hope...

Friday, 28 March 2008

The transatlantic shopping comparison

As you may recall I decided to use this trip to the UK to do a shopping price comparison. I've suspected since we moved to Canada that we are paying a good deal more for food and household basics and now I have the results! Canadian prices are from Safeway, UK prices are from Waitrose.

2 x Bounty kitchen rolls - CA $8.80 (equivalent to £4.34) UK £1.41
Heinz ketchup 375ml - CA $3.13 (equivalent to £1.54) UK 62p
Red kidney beans 398ml - CA $1.35 (equivalent to 67p) UK 45p
Green Giant sweetcorn niblets - CA $1.26 (equivalent to 65p) UK 49p
Shreddies 620g CA/500g UK - CA $4.20 (equivalent to £2.07) UK £1.67
Corn Flakes 400g CA/500g UK - CA $3.77 (equivalent to £1.86) UK £1.69
Filippo Berio extra virgin olive oil 750ml $14.41 (equivalent to £7.10) UK 4.74
Nutella 400g - CA $5.65 (equivalent to £2.78) UK £1.59

So quite an eye opener! I'm heading back to Canada tomorrow and it looks like I should have filled my bags with Bounty kitchen roll!

Saturday, 22 March 2008

In Bosham in the rain!

Just when I thought I might escape snow for a week or so, I'm back in the UK for one of the dampest and coldest Easters on record!

I flew into Gatwick on Thursday morning and had an interesting journey down to Sussex. After 8 months on linear Canadian highways - there's just one bend on the 150 mile road to Calgary - my insides were completely unused to the twists and turns of English country roads and I'm afraid to say I nearly didn't make it home!

That and the weather aside, it's been wonderful to be back in the UK, although I must admit I'm quite bewildered by Britain's new obsession with carrier bags and the explosion in avaliability of hessian and cotton bags from stores!

So far I've managed to do a little shopping (lots more still to do) and some of the admin I had to catch up on, but still so much more to squeeze in before I head back to Alberta in a week. I've got to deal with numerous name changes with official bodies. Of course, we left the UK two weeks after we got married and banks etc. have been demanding a visit in person or for me to post my passport, driving license, birth certificate and marriage certificate to them from Canada - as if!

Anyway, I will probably update the blog again in a week when we'll be in Calgary for the weekend, until then, happy Easter!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

What a difference a week makes

Oh dear, no chance of a barbecue this weekend! We've woken up to snow flurries and grey skies this morning and the grass is covered once again!

Some good news though, we finally got the Patriot back from the body shop on Friday. It looks just like the car we had before the crash, but cleaner!

I'm flying back to the UK on Wednesday arriving at Gatwick at 5:45am on Thursday morning, which is 11:45pm on Wednesday night in Canada - I'm hoping a herbal "no jetlag" pill I've found will help me adjust to GMT!

Whilst I'm back I want to do some research about the cost of shopping. I'm really interested to find out exactly how much more expensive Canada is. I've noted the price of a few products that you can buy here and in the UK and I'll get the comparative price next week. While I was doing the list in Safeway yesterday one price that really horrified me was the cost of two Bounty kitchen rolls... $8!!

Anyway, this may well be my last update from this side of the Atlantic for a while, so hopefully
I will catch up with a few of you later this week and next!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Midweek update

With a week to go till I head back to the UK for what the North Americans call "Spring Break", it's great to see Ralston without snow on the ground once again. In fact it even rained last night! In sharp contrast to the British climate, this is such a remarkable occurrence here, that I can actually tell you the last time it happened - November 13th! Prior to that there were possibly two days where rain fell after we arrived in July.

You won't believe me when I say this, but remove yourself from the UK for long enough (and clearly longer in some cases than others) and you'll start to miss rain! There's nothing like a good downpour!

As March draws on, the hockey season is winding up here. I have now played my last game this season for the Ralston Devils and the men's teams play the finals of the Batus Hockey League next week.

For the fanatics, there's still a few weeks of the ski season left. The die hards will ski until the end of May, just to say they have, but most are now thinking about biking, camping and summer expeditions. Jim's keen to make another trip to Fernie to squeeze the last out of the winter sports season, so I may not be off the hook just yet!

Our most significant step towards summer happened last weekend, keen eyed blog readers may have spotted that the clock top right now shows us as being GMT -6. North America takes the plunge into summer time some 3 weeks earlier than Europe.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

It's 12c, let's have a barbecue!

Another weekend in Ralston and today we had the most fantastic spring weather with temperatures up to 12c.

Long before Christmas I had been told that when the big freeze finally ends and temperatures get to double figures, everybody is so relieved that they over react and come out into the garden in t-shirts.

I can confirm we have behaved according to those predictions by holding our first barbecue of the year!

Despite the fact it was well above freezing, the snow is taking ages to shift, so we had a surreal afternoon sitting in the garden wearing t-shirts (well me at least!) whilst keeping the booze chilled by burying it in what's left of the snow drifts (see left!)

We were joined at the barbecue today by the Whelan family who have just arrived from Germany, their inclusion in this blog brings life full circle as Kim used to read it back home in Mönchengladbach trying to find out about life in Ralston prior to their posting!

The good news is that the warm weather is forecast to continue for the next 5 days at least and Jim's going to be at home all week having pulled out of his ski course because of work commitments.

Our other news this weekend is that we appear to have had a change of 'tenants' under our shed. It looks like the rabbits have moved on and been replaced by a pair of gophers. Blackie has taken a keen interest in the new arrivals and came quite close to catching one, but most of the time seems to be oblivious to them running about only feet away from where she's sunning herself.

The gophers which are actually really ground squirrels, aren't actually very attractive close up. I think they look rather like rats - which is ironic because I recently learnt that Alberta is a rat free province. Apparently rats can't cross the Rocky Mountains! You learna new thing every day!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Mixed weather

Still a mixed bag of weather here in Canada. Generally we've been having a couple of days of temperatures above freezing during which the snow and ice gradually recede. Then a day where temperatures drop below freezing and we have a half hearted snow flurry, then back to above freezing and the new snow melts taking some of the old with it.

At the weekend I managed to find our long lost friend, the garden path, which was a bit like digging for treasure. During the 4 months it has been under ice and snow and I had completely forgotten we have a patio which extends off it - which sounds bizarre, but we only had 2 months use of it before it disappeared!

Elsewhere the gophers are out of hibernation on mass. You often hear their mating squeaks before you spot them. I also finally had a twilight sighting of one of Ralston's Great Horned Owls too. It flew down across the rooftops into our garden looking like a 747 coming into land. The cat, who is enjoying the warmer weather, was badgering to be let outside at the time - not a chance!

Jim's off on another adventure training course next week. This time advanced skiing in the Rockies. Presumably preparing him for an occasion when the UK goes to war with errr.... Norway?