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Our European Sojourn turns West and goes home (for a short while).

The last month has been an emotional rollercoaster as we travelled over the Pole a couple of times to get to British Columbia and back to the UK. In late October Martin and I traveled back to our home in Victoria British Columbia with Air Transat via Gatwick and  Vancouver. We received a wonderful welcome from our family and friends and were touched by the generosity and kindness that greeted us. Our visit back to Canada began at my mum’s house in Hull, UK. My dear 85 year old mum agreed to take care of our dog Kerry while we were away. I had misgivings about this as a dog is a lot of responsibility for an old lady, but she insisted citing the unconditional good company that a dog offers. But she did admit that could not walk Kerry (I am glad as Kerry is strong and could have pulled my mum over resulting in a broken hip………..). The neighbours rallied round and took Kerry out three times a day. Kerry also spent time at the local kennels but she will tell her story soon.

On the way to Gatwick we stayed with my pal Abigail. This courageous younger woman is a longstanding friend I met in Katmandu in 1987.  We left her home in St Albans and caught a direct train to Gatwick at about 5:30 am. Our plane left at 9:25 arriving after a 10 hour flight into Vancouver just before noon – Vancouver time. Martin and I had a wonderful reentry into Canada as Kim picked us at the airport (bless her)  took us to her home, gave us lunch, sent us to bed and woke us up for dinner a few hours later for dinner and to let us share some of our travel pics. This regime worked really well and we were able adjust to our new time relatively quickly – (with a little help from melatonin). Kim and Bo are successful North Shore architects who have an office in their lovely home high on the mountain side over looking English Bay. It was the perfect West Coast place.

We spent the next day wondering around, visiting with Marilyn and reorienting ourselves to Canada. Our first conscious evening was a lovely Japanese dinner ( we had been deprived of Asian food in France – duh), followed by a visit to an opening at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I had a strange ‘’small world’’ experience when I met one of my Facebook friends from Thailand/Bali. It was quite a surprise encounter as I thought Peter lived in Asia, but he moved back to Vancouver without revealing his new location (one of the facets of FB). The coincidence got even funnier when Martin arrived at our meeting place with an architect pal of his, who had come to the opening with my Facebook friend Peter. The funniest part of the story was that Peter had met our hosts; Kim and Bo before, and been to their house about 15 years ago, but no-one remembered which friend they had in common who had taken Peter to the party at their house. We did all remember another friend we had in common – Nigel Page (architect) who died suddenly about three years ago. Small world – small town!!!

The next day we took the ferry over to Vancouver Island, Melanie (Martin’s daughter) picked us up and took us back the house to stay with them in Victoria.  Melanie and Mike live just a couple of blocks from our house so it felt a bit strange to be in the neighbourhood and not have a home to go to. After dinner with them, it was quite early, so we called our dear friends Richard and Deborough down the road and spent the rest of the evening with them – signaling the beginning of our short but fun party season in Victoria. Deborough and I went to Croatia and Bosnia together this summer so we could look at the pictures and reminisce.

We had only two weeks in Victoria and the local environs and every day was packed with visiting, lunches, dinners and parties with our wonderful friends. We had Martin’s Mini for transportation, which was a zippy way to get around. Our first party was to celebrate Ayja’s 20th ( Martin’s granddaughter) birthday. She has grown into a lovely young woman who is self -supporting and self-determined.  We also visited with my dearest friend Geraldine Glattstein and her husband Alan Clapp who live close to the beach, and had afternoon tea in Oak Bay with my authoress friend Linda F.

The next couple of days included my first visits with my pal Carolyn Herriot (famous gardener and author of Zero Mile Diet – the cookbook) and my son Tim in Nanaimo. Driving up to Nanaimo was a bit of a nightmare as the Malahat highway is a very poor road and we should demand better, and it was just pouring with rain ( number 6 on my scale). Tim (who was in the middle of moving) and I had dinner and I stayed with Terry and Lawrence my Nanaimo friends. Martin stayed in town and took Ayja out for her actual birthday.

The next day was Halloween so it was a busy day for families and witches. After  driving back to Victoria, Martin and I visited with the grandchildren and enjoyed ‘trick or treating’ with them in their neighbourhood. The Duct Tape Man and his pirate sister had a very good haul of candies and other treats.

My witchy friends, dressed to the nines, also got together for a shindig at Linda and Grahams house. It was a great party and we shared lots of memories of people who had passed away and enjoyed some the old celebrations of Samhain and All Souls Day




The next evening Martin gave the first of two of slide presentations about the “Voyages of Skookum” to the Turkey Head Sailing Association (his sailing Alma Mater). The presentation was well received and showed a lot of interest in sailing the canals of France. Marc and Mary were also there –they can offer holidays on their barge – so check out http://www.divabarge.com  . We just invite friends to join us – like Richard and Deborough, our hosts on Friday night, who we hope to meet in Europe next year (assuming they leave their goofy Weimaraner behind).

We took a little trip to Saltspring Island to visit our friends Neil and Gintare who live there. Gintare is my beautiful Lithuanian friend with her own Flow Day spa on Saltspring Island and Neil is a west coast architect who made a successful transition from Vancouver to the island of millionaires.  They live a form of transhumance by moving to town (into a house with electricity) during the winter, and spending the longer days of spring and summer daylight in their residence (without electricity) in Musgrave Landing (SSI) a long drive over a gravel potholed road. They perform an annual move during the winter and we have the pleasure of visiting some of the lovely places they find themselves in residence over the winter. They enjoy  (and we shared for the weekend) wood burning stoves, beautiful views of the forest and the cheeky deer, and luxuries of modern life like TV and electrical appliances.

Our return on Sunday evening meant Martin and I parted company for a while – I went for dinner with my friend Joan and she invited a bunch of giggly girls – we had a hoot for the whole evening. Thanks to Joan (a local publicist) I got to spend time with some of the sweetest women I know. Martin went off the make a presentation to other yachties and picked me up so we could stay with Mary and Marc for a few days in their lovely turn of the 19th century James Bay home.

Monday evening was a family dinner at Mike and Christine’s followed by a short visit with our friends and boat sharers Ann and Don – it was great to swap stories and find out how they were making out with our 30ft sail boat ‘Chuan’.  The next day was an evening of more boat talk with other yachties as we attended a dinner with Ron and Ruby Smith (yes we are running out of evenings). Daytimes were also used for visiting friends like Linda F , Maria and Leanne but I did manage to fit in a couple of exercise classes with Blanche and the bouncing Divas (Blanche, Virginia, Jane S and Colleen) as I reminded my body how healthy and tall it needed to be.

Mary and Marc were gracious hosts as we hardly saw them for a few days but Mary held a dinner for us on our last evening with them so we could get together with my pal  Colin Grady, and my not so well friend Sharon Hall.

We moved from James Bay to stay with our friends Jane D and Joe, and enjoyed a lovely dinner cooked by Eva – one of our summer guests on the boat. On Friday I visited Reese in the hospital but he had just come out of surgery so I could not see him. I also visited our neighbour Jan who is moving to Somerset house and selling her home. I wonder who our new neighbour will be when we return to our house in September.

Friday night was ‘pub night’ for the Golders – we sent out an invitation for our pub  night regulars to join us at the Canoe Club Bar and Grill. We had about 20 family and friends joined us for a drink. I then witnessed some of the really stupid rules around alcohol that literally cut the Canoe Club in two.


We were told we could not take an alcohol drink from one side of the pub to the other, it had to be carried by the waitress – what century did that rule come from? Some ‘security guard’ said it was for health and safety reasons. I think it is a stupid nonsensical rule, which proves my point about Canada – too many bureaucrats with not enough to do  – too much administration and not enough service. The money spent on the stupid rules and their enforcement may be better spent on people that need services like libraries and training programs rather than policing people who want to walk around with their drink. (Rant over).

Regardless, we had a great evening with our pals.

Martin left very early on Saturday morning (our last weekend) on a Boys Cruise. We were down at the yacht club at 7:00 on a dark morning where Martin jumped on a boat with his sailor pals and spent the next couple of days racing.


I went off to Parksville to stay in my friend Jane’s condo with Jane, Maria, Eve and Carolyn.  We had a lovely day and evening walking the beach, eating, drinking and talking and talking and talking!

The next day I headed back to Nanaimo to see my son Tim and Terry and Lawrence. We all went to see the new Bond ‘Skyfall’ (brilliant movie – worth your time) and then had a great dinner. I will miss Tim so wanted to do something fun with him.

Monday was another trip down island to gather our belongings and head to the ferry. Geraldine drove me and we met Martin at the ferry – he came in from Pender Island after being dropped off from his Boys cruise. Geraldine took Martins sailing bag and we headed to Vancouver on the ferry for our finale …. A Leonard Cohen concert. Super natural BC also gave us a send off with a sighting of a small pod of Orcas swimming through Active Pass (by Galiano Island). We stayed with friends Adrian and Diana in Vancouver and they came to the concert with us at the Rogers Arena after we shared a wonderful Khyber Pass meal.

Needless to say the old man was brilliant – I experienced another cross section of  my life through the music of Leonard Cohen. His voice and poetry were wonderful and the musicians who played with him were top notch.

We were due to leave on November 13 in the late evening which gave us time to visit with Edwina – sales manager at the Sutton Place and my dear friends Lynette and Ayre in Kits.  We  finally headed to the airport around 6:30 pm – saturated by the kindness and friendship we had experienced for the previous couple of weeks.

It has been interesting looking at Canada through the eyes of a visitor. People were helpful and yes, very polite. Life is very expensive however, I noticed that, now we have petro-dollars, prices are higher and the quality of services is down. On the whole, food is about 30% more expensive than France and the UK with a few exceptions (some veggies, chocolate and some prepared foods), alcohol is about 40 – 50% more expensive. Restaurants are incredibly expensive (+30 – 40%) when the costs of tax and tips included. Rents in Victoria are similar to a smaller city in the UK or France. Gas, transit (such as it is), electricity and water are all much cheaper in Canada, as are shampoo, toothpaste and other sundries from the drug store.  Medical expenses and over the counter meds are much cheaper in the UK. In fact as we are over 60 we get them free.

It seems that no-one in Canada is complaining very loudly about things like the price of food, even though wages, investments,  pensions and other forms of income have not kept pace with the price of these basics. We all seem worse off financially and have to work much longer for the things we need, but no-one seems bothered enough to challenge and demand action from political parties on these basics.

Working with petro-dollars in Europe certainly makes things here more affordable (I don’t feel like a poor cousin anymore), but on the home front it appears that everything is more expensive, which does not make sense, as the higher dollar should make imports  (food) cheaper.  Perhaps our food prices have been pegged to Northern Alberta and that is why we pay so much.

Anyway my new perspective gives me ‘food’ for thought and I think we all need to follow Carolyn Herriot’s advice and grow as much of our own as possible.

Thanks to all of our friends in BC – I will miss you with all my heart. I said to people that coming back to Canada was like walking into a big hug full of warmth and love. It is a feeling I will pull round me like a cosy blanket when I feel homesick and lonesome. In the meantime we have more adventures to have……… in our little old car (1996 Peugeot  106 diesel) driving across Europe in the winter time – back to France via the Netherlands then Germany for Christmas.

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