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Hello LJ/DW! It's been a while, but I am back now. I couldn't resist the chance to write a 2014 year-in-review post :)

2014 was the year we packed up our life in the UK and started again in Toronto, just for the hell of it. It was the year we crossed Canada by train, fell in love with the prairies, ate local sustainable food with the geeky environmentalists of Saskatoon, celebrated Pesach with the Jews of Winnipeg, learned how to live and support ourselves in a different country, together. It was the first year of hockey - the very first game I ever saw was the 2014 Winter Classic, on New Year's Day last year. It was the year we rented a tiny flat in the Annex near the University of Toronto campus, and furnished it as if we were students again ourselves - furniture from Craigslist, crockery passed on to us by strangers, pots and pans found in boxes on the street. There were new local restaurants, tea shops and cafes - eating out is so cheap here, and we've found so many places we love. There were long Friday nights at shul with new friends, sitting around the table after potluck dinner and chatting until the candles burned low and we were the only people left in the building.

I met a man in a cafe who offered me my dream job at his literary agency; Joe's old boss introduced him to somebody who was looking for a young accountant for a new role at his firm. I worked in a shop for a while, and then got a new part-time job online so that I didn't have to do that any more (one day I hope I'll earn enough agency commission to be able to give that up too - but for now, it's good. I'm not in a rush). We built a real life for ourselves, here in a new country, both of us doing the thing that we want to do. We did it together, and no matter what happens after this, for the rest of my life I will be glad that we did this.

It's been a very emotional year. I have cried a lot, about many different things, on the slightest provocation. I am overwhelmed by glorious new manuscripts found in my slush pile, songs sung at shul on Friday nights, the Neilah service (at which I wept like a child for the very first time, and now I think I understand much better what Yom Kippur is meant to do), warm taiyaki from the Korean supermarket, seeing my parents (in real life and also sometimes on Skype), sunsets, snow, sitting in my favourite alcove in my favourite tea shop, having friends, missing friends, seeing Joe coming home from work in his huge warm coat with his glasses all steamed up from the cold outside. I suspect it makes me quite hard to live with, but...well, I'm an expat brat, and when I was little all of my dreams of Being an Adult consisted of living in a land that was foreign to me, with a man whom I loved. And then when I was nineteen I realised that, even though that's how things worked out for my parents and both my sets of grandparents, it's actually not just a thing that magically happens - you had to make it happen for yourself, and the man in question didn't seem keen on any of the countries of my imaginings and I couldn't think of any jobs I would enjoy that would get me to the places I wanted to go. And now I am nearly twenty-nine and I am living that life, and I'm just so surprised and thankful that we managed to find a way to make it happen, that emotion just leaks out of me every time I think about it. Here's hoping it continues into next year (but maybe I'll try and cry less about it all from now on).

Big goals for 2015: Get book deals for as many of my clients as possible, apply to extend our Canada visas.

Small goals for 2015: See more of Canada, read more actual books, blog more (both here and on my professional blog), stay on top of my slush pile, stop angsting so much over clients etc, keep loving my life here, don't take anything for granted.

June so far

Jun. 9th, 2014 12:12 pm
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Today I am working on the balcony, in my new rocking chair, with tea. Joe is out at WORK in an OFFICE earning MONEY. Life is pretty good.

BEA was excellent! I had one day of meetings, one day of interesting seminars about translation and representing books in translation, and one day of wandering around looking at stands and picking up free books. They have a LOT of free books at BEA, which I wasn't expecting - it's a completely different kind of fair from the rights fairs I'm used to. I was extremely restrained and only picked up about fifteen. One of my colleagues came home with ninety.

I was a bit nervous before my meetings started and I felt pretty sure I was going to do something wrong, but it turns out that pitching books is a skill that comes back to you very quickly, and one I really enjoy practising. I had some good meetings and got some good interest in my books, so I'm hopeful that I might even earn some commission one of these days. Meanwhile, I am still applying for every part-time job I feel remotely qualified for, and getting absolutely nowhere but trying not to give up. Somebody will have to hire me one day, right?

BEA was fun and I enjoyed getting to know my colleagues a bit better, but I have to say that New York is not as good as I was expecting it to be. It is big and dirty and mostly smells like wee, and the subway is unnecessarily complicated and everybody around you is constantly talking about how great everything is there and you really can't see what they mean. Though I guess it was never going to be my kind of place, given that I am the kind of person who has had plenty of opportunity to live in London and Tokyo, and has opted to live in Toronto instead. And it was so lovely to drive back up from New York state and finally see Toronto's tiny skyscraper district with the CN Tower gleaming in the middle of it all, and think 'yay, nearly home!'. I feel more at home here now, for missing it then.

We celebrated Shavuot a couple of days after I got back home, which was excellent timing (I'd been staying up until 4am most nights in New York, so tikkun leil was really easy!). Joe's job hadn't started yet, so he even agreed to join me at tikkun leil for the first time ever! The JCC here is walking distance from our apartment, so it was so easy to wander down there for the start of the evening sessions, and then back home at dawn to sleep. My favourite session was one on Lot's wife in midrash and contemporary fiction and poetry, but there was also an excellent one on creating intentional Jewish community, a few good guided chevrutah sessions, and a trivia session which I went to because Joe wanted to but ended up really enjoying. The only slight letdown was the one on queer Jewish philosophy which sounded really interesting but ended up being basically the same old discussions about buttsex, again. And in between sessions there was copious food (including really good cheesecake) and masses of loose-leaf tea courtesy of David's Tea (I managed to score a nearly-full tin of delicious blueberry black tea which was left over at the end of the night, hurrah), and FRIENDS who go to our new shul and are kind and geeky and fun to talk to, and keep introducing us to their friends. We had a little closing ceremony on the JCC roof at dawn, and I watched the sun rise over my new city and it was just wonderful.

I can't believe it's already been a week since then. I took it easy the day after Shavuot, and then dived right back in to BEA followup, part-time job applications and other work-type stuff. Joe got the call about his job on Friday - through extensive badgering of an agency, he managed to get three months of temp work as an assistant accountant for a non-profit just down the road from us, starting pretty much immediately. It's not going to be hugely challenging for him, but he will get Canadian Experience which will hopefully enable him to apply for more interesting jobs afterwards. He called me at lunch and told me that actually it's been interesting so far, and he's enjoying learning what it's like working for an actual company as opposed to an accountancy firm. And oh my goodness, it's such a relief to have some money coming in. We're lucky enough to have a decent pile of savings so we weren't in dire straits just yet, but it was unpleasant not knowing when (if ever) either of us was going to start earning again. And then on Saturday we spent a gloriously sunny day wandering around a nearby street festival (there are street festivals all the time here) - we meant to get there before lunchtime, but when we were halfway there we spotted a beautiful old white rocking chair by the side of the road with a note on it saying 'help yourself' (this is another brilliant thing that happens all the time here), so we had to take it home and install it on the balcony and then go out all over again. And in the afternoon we discovered a new tea house which we intend to go to ALL OF THE TIME. It's all rugs and cushions and cosy nooks and lovely art on the walls, and they have board games and a twenty-five-page tea menu. It's everything I could ever want in a cafe, really, and I am already excited about dropping by again next weekend with a book (a recreational book not a work book) and just sitting there all afternoon reading and drinking interesting tea.

Today, as I said, I'm on the balcony with my computer. This morning was emails and job applications, and I think this afternoon will have to be more manuscripts. My boss has a YA manuscript he wants me to submit to some foreign publishers, and I have to see if I think it'll work or if I should go ahead with another manuscript I was planning to submit instead. I have missed publishing so much, I can't even tell you. I wish I could pick a career that paid the sodding bills for once, but I could definitely spend my two years in this country as a receptionist-and-literary-agent, or a shop-assistant-and-literary-agent, or anything really as long as I could keep agenting and maybe set myself up to do more agenting back in the UK. I am just exactly where I want to be right now, and it is a good feeling.

New York

May. 28th, 2014 12:24 am
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You guys, I am in New York surviving on very little sleep in a loud house full of loud people! We drove down from Toronto yesterday and the scenery was amazing. Today we did New York things like shopping and going to The Strand bookshop for cheap books and having a look at the Statue of Liberty and getting confused by the subway. BEA starts tomorrow!

I owe some people emails! Sorry if you are waiting for an email from me. Love to all!
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We're two weeks in now, and I feel like the dust is finally beginning to settle a bit. Here are some things we have done:

- Acquired a social insurance number and set up bank accounts.

- Found a flat to rent! This was surprisingly easy - apparently you can rent a flat in Toronto by just going to the area you want to rent, and walking up and down looking at all the high-rise buildings and seeing which ones have a 'VACANCY - ONE BEDROOM' sign outside. Then you go knock on the door and ask the super if you can look at it. Everybody we'd met suggested we have a look at the Annex, because it's close to things and a nice area and it's apparently quite easy to find a flat there, so we had a look online first and identified a few buildings we liked, then went to the Annex and wandered around knocking on doors. It was actually pretty easy after the first time. We looked at three or four, and then we were walking past this particular building with big triangular balconies which we hadn't noticed online, and Joe saw it had a vacancy advertised so we knocked on their door too, and the super took us up to this beautiful light apartment with huge windows and a great big balcony and a nice kitchen that didn't feel cramped at all, and it was a bit small but we knew it was the one for us. We were a bit worried we wouldn't be accepted by the building owners because we don't have jobs or previous landlord references and at the time we'd only been in the city for five days, but in the end everything was fine, and a week after we came to Toronto we got the call to say that we'd been accepted and could move in from May 1st.

- Acquired furniture from Craigslist, and transported it to said flat! We got most of it in a moving sale from an MA student who was moving back home after studying at U of T. She likes white things, and her bed is very high off the ground and looks like a princess bed. But, it was like $700 for a bed, mattress, huge chest of drawers, desk, chair, bedside table and coffee table (all barely used because she was only here for a year), so I think we can put up with a princess bed. We also got a drop-leaf table from a lady living one street across from where we live now, and she also gave us a bookcase-type thing and a whole pile of kitchen stuff for free. On Thursday we got a very nice man with a big van to help us move all the things up to our flat, and on Friday we bought a futon from a shop down the road, because we couldn't find one we liked on Craigslist so we figured it was okay to buy just this one thing new. We sill don't have any dining chairs, but we reckon Craigslist will provide.

- Went to Ikea! We discovered there were some screws missing from the bed frame (this is the problem with Craigslist), and we had some other things we needed to pick up anyway, so off we went. Everything went fine, and we were able to put together the bed and the futon that same day. Fortunately we don't have to actually live in the flat yet (though I'm really looking forward to moving in) - we still have another couple of weeks booked in our current short-term place, so we can go back and forth buying bedding and internet and such for the new place bit by bit and get it all set up before we start living there.

- Got Canadian phones! That was yesterday's main project. I am smartphone-enabled for the first time ever, and I am not quite sure how I feel about it. I'm sure it will be fine once I get used to it.

- Started the jobhunt! I am in discussion with a literary agency looking for somebody to represent their children's list abroad (I think I've basically got the job, but it pays commission only so it doesn't really help with the money situation), and I've applied for several jobs at Indigo Books but I kind-of hope I don't get them because I can't stand Indigo. They sell far too many things that are not books and their lights are too bright and their staff are constantly interrupting you while you browse. On Friday I also had a nice meeting with a lady who works for a major children's publisher over here - I applied for a job with them while still in the UK, and I didn't get it but she did offer to meet me once I arrived and have a chat about publishing in Canada. Joe had a meeting with a recruitment agency the same day, and has just tweaked his CV according to their suggestions and sent it back to them. We are very much hoping that something will come out of that. If not I will have to start applying for jobs at David's Tea etc.

- Done some fun things! We have wandered around the city a lot - we like Kensington Market, the Annex and Koreatown, which is great because those are all walking distance from us. We like the food court and the fibreglass geese at the Eaton Centre, but not the rest of it, because it's completely full of posh designer shops (I don't remember it being like that last time) and contains nothing we want to buy. We have been to the board game cafe and the specialist SFF bookshop (also both walking distance!), and we have walked on the Harbourfront on a sunny day and looked at the sparkles on the lake. We have had a lot of lunches out (we don't do it on purpose, we're just out a lot), but eating out here is pretty cheap so that's probably fine, right? :/ We are beginning to work out what is good at the supermarket, and how to deal with the fact that everything here is sold in larger quantities (srsly, one tin of chopped tomatoes will do us for two meals). The board game cafe was the best, and I really want to go there again - we said we might go this weekend, but we got all wrapped up in building furniture and getting phones sorted out, and in the end there wasn't time. Also, moving to a new country is extremely spendy and we really need to limit the amount of non-necessary money we spend, at least until one of us is earning *something*. I worry about that sometimes, but then I remind myself that we've only been here two weeks, and only been working on job stuff for about a week. Still, it is worrying when you get up of a Monday morning and remember that most of the city is heading off to work, and you're just sitting in your pyjamas in a tiny basement apartment, updating your blog and brushing up your CV. But we saved up a good money cushion so we could do this, and that will last us another few months, and at least the rent here is cheaper than it is back home.

- Tea! I have become a regular at David's Tea, which I gather is like Starbucks for tea in that the tea is not actually as good and the staff are not actually as tea-knowledgeable as in some independent shops, but then again it is quite nice and it's practically everywhere and you can always get the things you like from there so you don't mind. I feel like I go on about it all the time on facebook, but it's actually quite a big change for me to have somewhere I can go and sit and buy something I actually feel enthusiastic about drinking. I am discovering chain cafes a couple of decades later than everybody else did - back home I might get the occasional craving for a hot chocolate, but if you ever saw me whiling away the time with a book and a drink in Costa or somewhere it was fairly safe to assume that I was waiting for somebody (or possibly it was raining and I didn't want to be out in it), I didn't particularly want to be there and I would prefer to still have my X pounds rather than the drink I had just had to buy with those X pounds. I mean, there's Yum-Chaa and a couple of other tea places, but you usually have to know where the nearest branch is and/or make a special trip. Whereas now I can happily pop into a branch of David's Tea when Joe is at an interview or watching football at a sports bar or whatever, and browse the teas and talk to the staff and drink tea out of my kraken mug (which I had to buy because in Toronto they serve the tea in paper cups and it tastes of paper, ugh. Fortunately you get a discount on tea if you bring your own mug, so I figure it will pay for itself eventually). And the other day we were walking through Koreatown when we spotted a lady from our local branch offering free samples on the street, and she recognised us and asked how we were, which means that she is the first person in this city to know us by sight. I think that is very fitting and not at all surprising.

Today our ship is supposed to be coming in from the UK, bearing clothes, assorted useful kitchenware, my computer, Joe's ukulele and other stuff we decided we couldn't do without for two years. So *hopefully* tomorrow we'll be able to go to the customs office and get it released. I'll probably spend the rest of today reading literary agency stuff so I'm ready for the staff meeting tomorrow, and Joe will apply for a job or two, and maybe later on we'll take some more stuff over to the new flat, and spend some time there. Maybe we'll buy a kettle on the way, and then we can even have tea there :D
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Lots to write about again this time! We got to Winnipeg very late at night because the train was several hours late, but once we'd stumbled to our B&B and found the secret letting-us-into-the-house code everything worked out fine. The first thing we did the next day was head to River Heights, which is where the Jews of Winnipeg hang out, and visit the Jewish shop for matzah and a kosher-for-Pesach dessert for our seder that evening. I was a bit worried they'd have run out of matzah, but actually we had our choice of about eight different kinds, and a chocolate Pesach cake which apparently had come all the way from Montreal. The shop was full of slightly panicked-looking middle-aged ladies with their arms full of Pesach stuff, and the cashier seemed to know them all by name, and it felt like home to be surrounded by people who were celebrating our holiday.

With matzah and cake successfully acquired, we headed back downtown to the Forks, which is like Winnipeg's Camden Town but smaller and less grubby (and indoors), and then to the MTS Centre to see where the Jets play. I bought a massive Winnipeg Jets hoodie, which I love, and which turned out very useful in Winnipeg because I could wear it over all my other clothes. Spring had still not come to Manitoba when we were there - it was between -8 and -10 in the mornings, which is nothing for Manitobans, but pretty brutal when you're not used to it. On the bright side (lol) it was beautifully sunny all the time we were there, and the snowbanks sparkled in the light, and everything looked very nice in a wintry sort of way.

The seder was lovely - us and a couple of other Pesach orphans from the area, and our two kind hostesses who made delicious food and Jewish wisecracks all evening, and generally made us feel really welcome. The ritual portion was nicely low-key (my complete ideal seder would have slghtly more discussion in it, but sometimes you are not in the mood for theology especially with strangers), and we talked about Canada and Winnipeg a lot and got some useful advice (and also a lot of commentary on the weather. Winnipeggers like to talk about weather).

It's a bit of a strange place, Winnipeg. I didn't like it much when we first arrived - it felt so spread-out, so car-dependent, and the bus schedules were hard to figure out and there was no real focus to the city, no river or lake or sea or hill or other natural feature for the Stuff to cluster around. But after a couple of days, we figured out some of the buses and the main roads and everything started to make a bit more sense. It's a nice, easygoing place to be - the main sights are mostly just bits of the city that are nice to wander around, and they have a good museum and a varied restaurant scene, and even downtown there's a lot of wide open space and blue prairie sky. We went to McNally Robinson (Canada's biggest independent bookshop), and spent a chilly half-day at the zoo looking at interesting arctic animals, and we went to the historical Exchange District and the Manitoba Museum, which is surprisingly big, and packed with information and old-fashioned dioramas (I love dioramas, so this suited me just fine). There's a certain poignancy to the older parts of Winnipeg - the city was basically built by the railway, and in the late 19th century was one of the fastest-growing settlements in North America (along with Chicago, I think). And then the Panama Canal was opened, and Canadian roads and the vehicles on them gradually improved, and Winnipeg's importance for freight and passenger travel gradually declined. Now the station sees two trains per week, and the city doesn't quite seem to know what it is now that it isn't a railway city any more. It makes it an interesting place to be, I think.

And then it was the train again, all the way to Toronto. I miss the train. It's not like you get many opportunities to do that kind of thing. This was definitely the most expensive long-distance train journey I've ever taken, but it was also by far the most luxurious. The food was great, the viewing car was never full and I just loved that the sleeping berths were wide enough for two. I've always loved the feeling of waking up in the night and feeling the train clattering along the tracks, of lifting the blind in the morning and seeing somewhere else rushing past your window, and experiencing that as a shared...experience was just the best. We got into Toronto at midday, in bright sunshine and warmish weather, and after being temporarily stunned by the number of people at Union Station and the availability of more than one public transport option, we got on the metro and made our way to our little basement flat in Little Italy.

That was on Saturday, and now it is Wednesday. We have a lot of important things to do, and there never seem to be enough hours in the day to do them, and even going grocery shopping leaves us both feeling completely overstimulated because SO MUCH NEW STUFF. But we are getting there. I think in a week or so, this place will begin to feel at least a little bit like home.
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We have done quite a lot, this week. I don’t really know where to start. We walked all around central Vancouver – Gastown and Yaletown and Chinatown, and a whole day in Stanley Park walking the Seawall. It poured with rain the first day we arrived, and after trying to Do Tourism a bit with umbrellas, we spent most of the afternoon hiding in a branch of David’s Tea (which is great, by the way. I am now feeling a lot more optimistic about the tea situation in Canada). But we were lucky – although all the other days were grey and smelled of rain, the water mostly stayed in the sky and we could walk around the city for hours and hours without getting soaked. I can confirm the reports of everybody else who has ever been there: Vancouver is very scenic, and the food is amazing. Especially the sushi, which is cheap and plentiful. Om nom nom.

My favourite part of Vancouver was either Stanley Park or the Museum of Anthropology. We accidentally turned up at the museum on First Peoples Day, which meant there were a lot of First Nations people around dealing with excitable schoolchildren and trying to encourage bored teenagers to react to something. There were dances and presentations and harrowing Q&A sessions about residential schools, and it was amazing, and in between the presentations we wandered around the actual museum and looked at an awful lot of beautiful and interesting stuff. My favourite artefacts were the huge dishes that coastal peoples used to serve food for potlatches – they were shaped like boats and dragons and other fun things, and they were so enormous that their owners’ children used to play inside them (there were photos <3 ). Some of them even had wheels.

We spent the day at the museum on Tuesday, and late in the evening we packed up all our stuff and headed down to Pacific Central Station to take the train to Saskatoon. It was dark when the train left Vancouver – we went to bed fairly soon after leaving, curled up in one wide sleeping berth, and in the morning I lifted the blind and saw the sunlight hitting the green forested hills outside, and everything was just how I imagined it would be. The mountains got higher and higher until we were properly in the Rockies, and there was snow everywhere and the sky looked white. I stared out the window all day, stopping only for meals in the dining car (when I also stared out of the window as much as I could without being rude). I listened to ‘Canadian Railroad Trilogy’ and tried not to cry (I’ve been listening to that song all my life – my dad used to dance with me to Gordon Lightfoot to get me to sleep when I was a baby. In fact I sometimes wonder if that’s where this whole thing came from). We met some great people – an elderly Australian couple who told us about their own working holiday experiences in the UK when they were our age, and about all the many places they’d travelled to together since (I would like to be like them when I am old), and a guy in the Canadian Navy travelling back to Halifax after visiting his mother in Kamloops, and a couple of people from Winnipeg who gave us tips for things to do there and shared our enthusiasm for the Jets. When I pulled the blind down to sleep that night we were travelling through tree-covered hills, and in the morning when I lifted it again I saw the sun rise over the prairie. The wide, flat landscape flooded with light in just a couple of minutes, and the sight took my breath away. We were in Saskatoon right after breakfast, getting off the train at a small station seemingly in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farmland and prairie and vast, vast blue sky.

You may remember that we were in Saskatoon due to a rather bizarre set of coincidences which led me to have a very kind and welcoming friend living there. She’s a teacher and she was working all day on Thursday, but she’d asked her son Mike to meet us at the station and take us around Saskatoon. We’d seen his picture before and thought he looked nice, and we knew he was an engineer who did stuff to do with energy efficiency and environmentalism, so we thought we might have something to talk about. As it happened, we clicked with him pretty much immediately, and spent the whole day walking around Saskatoon together talking about music and sustainability and board games and politics and urban renewal and other topics of mutual interest. He’s the guy I mentioned last time, who’s designing the houses – he told us about Saskatoon’s recent economic and population growth, and about the people who wanted to put the money from that into filling in some of the vacant space downtown with affordable housing and building a better public transport network in the city core, and the other people who wanted to just keep spreading out into the suburbs and turn the city into a car-dependent sprawl ‘like Calgary’. Everybody in his social circle is passionate about making it into the former, and I was so, so inspired by his attitude to his home city and his commitment to staying in it and taking a part in creating its future, rather than moving out to somewhere like Vancouver or Toronto where the environmentalist weirdoes are plentiful and the public transport network is already good. It made me think a lot about what kind of city I want to live in, long-term, and whether I have the strength and the drive to pitch in and help create something like he’s doing, or whether I’ll always be somebody who moves to where Stuff is already and takes advantage of what’s there. He told us three of his housing units were still available, and his girlfriend (who works for the city) told us they were looking for an accountant at City Hall. So we thought about that for a bit, and we might think about it some more later. Shame there aren’t many publishers in Saskatoon. Also it gets to minus 40 in the winter and until they do actually improve the public transport network we’d probably need to get a car. Still, though.

In the evening we met Gayle, and she took us up to her farm about an hour from Saskatoon, and we met her husband Danny, who is sensible and kind and very down-to-earth, and runs the farm he grew up on, and is also a socialist who makes his own pesto and is always on the lookout for interesting new foods to cook with, because of course, Saskatchewan. We rode horses for the first time ever, and we took a drive around their little town and out onto the prairie to look for moose (we didn’t see any, but we did see plenty of deer and maybe an elk), and we saw a couple of other little towns, each with a squat little onion-domed Ukrainian church standing amid the single-storey farmhouses, and we visited Danny’s mother who is eighty-six and spends all her time ice fishing, baking cookies (which she freezes in huge batches and then defrosts when guests come round) and making rag rugs. I think she came to Canada as a child from Hungary, or possibly Ukraine (I lost track of which family story was which). She gave us endless cups of tea and let us choose one of her rugs for our new home, and to the many relatives who popped round during the afternoon she introduced us as the people who’d ‘come all the way from England to eat my chocolate-chip cookies’.

Yesterday we woke to about twenty centimetres of fresh snow (in April!), and the news that Mike and Shannon had got us tickets to the Symphony, where one of their friends was playing the viola. Gayle drove us back into the city, and we had a wonderful night out with a whole bunch of really great, interesting people. The performance was great, and afterwards we went out to a bar which Shannon at first pronounced ‘too crowded’ on the grounds that there was only one small table free to sit at, but later relented when another table opened up. It was at about this point when I decided I never want to go back to London to stand in corners of crowded pubs and yell at my friends of a Saturday night while trying not to get beer spilled on me.

While I was with Mike and Shannon it was actually really hard to believe that it wasn’t them we’d come to visit, that we hadn’t in fact been friends for years but had actually barely been aware of each other’s existence until a couple of days ago. I loved the way we fitted in with them and their friends in the city, and also with Gayle and Danny on the farm – we always had something to talk about with everybody, and the whole time we were in Saskatchewan there was never one awkward silence, and all in all it was honestly more like a visit to family I hadn’t seen for years than it was like meeting people for the first time ever. I kind-of feel like they’re my family in Canada, now, and I hope they feel the same way about us. I know that I’ll see them again, at some point somewhere, and I’m looking forward to it already.

Now we’re on the train to Winnipeg, and I’ve somehow managed to tear my eyes away from the prairie long enough to write this blogpost (it helps that the train stops every so often for about twenty minutes to let a freight train go by). I honestly can’t imagine how anybody could ever find this landscape dull. I love the subtle colours of it this time of year – yellows and browns and greys and whites, changing constantly as the sunlight moves across it. There’s the occasional bank of snow amongst the trees, and elsewhere there are pools of snowmelt reflecting the clouds, like huge puddles of sky amongst the grasses. I’d love to see how it looks in other seasons – Gayle tells me it’s most beautiful in summer, when the canola and flax are in flower. The horizon just goes on forever here, and the sky above it is so overwhelmingly huge. My one regret from my time on the farm is that it was cloudy both nights, so I couldn’t see the stars. Maybe next time.

Saskatoon!

Apr. 11th, 2014 08:05 am
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The first person we met in Saskatoon was a guy who is working (in his spare time) with a group of ten friends to design and build (from scratch!) a block of eco-friendly townhouses in downtown Saskatoon. He took us to the tea shop (so much tea!) and the sustainable living shop (sells, among many other things, biodegradable iPhone covers made in Saskatchewan from flax byproducts) and showed us the university campus which has real dinosaurs in the biology department, and took us to the newest vegetarian restaurant which opened last week, and now I kind-of want to move here and work for a tiny indie publisher and help build the eco-houses and live in one when it is done.

I'm sorry I haven't written anything about Vancouver or the train yet. I'm just so excited to have tapped into Saskatoon counter-culture and found that it's every bit as strange and wonderful as I'd imagined it would be.

Galiano

Apr. 5th, 2014 10:48 am
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We are here, and so far everything is really great! We had a pretty good flight over, and immigration went smoothly, although very slowly and in a very long queue. It took a while to believe that we actually had our work permits all stamped in our passports, and that we really were entitled to be in this country for a whole year (actually I am still finding it hard to believe, but I’m slowly getting used to it).

We’d decided that our very first destination in Canada would be Galiano Island, one of the Southern Gulf Islands between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. We thought after all the stress of moving it would be really nice to spend a couple of days on a small island with very little to do apart from Be In Nature. So we stayed at a hotel near the airport on Wednesday night, and then took a bus from the hotel straight to the ferry terminal early on Thursday morning (which fortunately didn’t feel all that early for us, as we’d gone to bed at 9pm. Constructive use of jetlag ftw). And then we got to the island and everything was lovely. We were staying here, in one of a cluster of nine little cabins in the woods, run by a lovely friendly lady who helped us figure out the ferry timetable and gave us a lift to the terminal today. In the daytime we hiked around the forest trails and down by the sea, on routes carefully plotted by Joe to get us to the island pub by lunchtime. In the late afternoon we wandered back to our cabin in time to catch some hockey on TV, and then in the evening there was the hot tub, and dinner in the cabin, and early bed. It was all very wholesome and outdoorsy. Everybody was super-friendly, the food at the two eateries we visited (the pub and the diner) was great, we had everything we needed, and it was just a beautiful relaxing way to start our holiday, and our life in Canada. We also had great luck with the weather – it was mild and greyish the day we arrived, but on Friday we hiked in glorious sunshine all day, and then today as we got up we saw the rainclouds rolling in from Vancouver Island. We’re on the ferry back to Vancouver now – I’m sad to leave Galiano, but also quite excited to be going back to a place where there is public transport and more than three places to eat. I do not think I am cut out for island life, at least not in any long-term kind of way.

Some things that make me happy about Canada:

- The vast majority of people are friendly and nice, and willing to help us figure out stuff we don’t understand.

- There are Canadian and BC flags all over the place. It’s nice to live in a country where the flag has mainly cheery positive associations, rather than guilt-laden and/or faintly xenophobic imperialist ones.

- The money! It is so shiny! The notes are made of plastic and all cheerful colours and they have a see-through bit in them!

- Mountains!

- There is a lot of new and exciting food. Even the snacky food you get in corner shops is new and exciting, and there are also a lot of snacky foods I remember from my childhood in various places but haven’t eaten in forever because you can’t get them in the UK. Every time I go into a corner shop I am overwhelmed with choice. I want to try ketchup crisps, but I haven’t managed it yet because every time I go to buy some I find something else I want to try instead.

- We don’t really know how anything works, which might seem like a bad thing except that I’m looking forward to figuring it all out. I like being foreign, generally.

Some things that make me sad about Canada:

- The cheese here is really expensive.

- A lot of people seem to take some sort of vague offence when we tell them we’re travelling across Canada for the next few weeks but plan to settle in Toronto. We have good reasons for settling in Toronto and there is no reason for people to get sniffy and start listing reasons why Vancouver is better. On the bright side, I imagine this will cease to be a problem when we get to Toronto.

- I am concerned that there might not be any Quorn mince here. I think they make their fake-meat delicacies out of tofu instead, which is fine I suppose but Quorn is better.

NO DAYS.

Apr. 2nd, 2014 02:11 pm
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HERE WE GO!
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We are back from a really excellent weekend in Cambridge! It was the tenth anniversary dinner for my college (tenth anniversary of matriculating, not graduating. And they do anniversaries and things in March when of course we started university in October so it's actually the 9.5th anniversary). Much like our MA graduation three years ago (three years!), I was really surprised how easy it was to get back into the Cambridge swing of things, how the bar and JCR and college and streets felt like home again as soon as I was there, and how it felt perfectly natural to be spending time there with all these people I hadn't seen for several years but once shared something really special with.

It was just...it was just nice, you know? We got the train up from London with Catherine and arrived in the early afternoon, checked into our rooms in college and spent a bit of time around college before getting ready for dinner. There were pre-dinner drinks in the Master's Lodge and dinner in the newly-refurbished dining hall, and the food was very nice and the Master made a lovely speech. Afterwards there was bar and dancing, except not many people danced because they were all too busy catching up with one another. Nadia has still not managed to beat Joe at pool (except maybe for one time? In second year? Am I making that up?). We tried unsuccessfully to get Pixie Matt (he looks like a pixie, okay?) to talk about his work at the MoD. We mocked Spiros relentlessly for getting accidentally put on the guest list as 'Professor' even though he assures us that actually he's 'only a Doctor'. We heard about all the weddings (so many college weddings! Joe says a tenth of our year is now married to itself, and that's not counting all the people married to people in the year above or below us) and the babies and the PhDs and international moves. We got chucked out of the bar at 2am and about 25 of us ended up in somebody's room with a bottle of gin, a small amount of tonic, some sliced cucumber and a large number of portions of cheesy chips from Gardies. Just like those family Christmases where everybody unconsciously regresses to childhood, we all regressed to studenthood and it was great fun.

Also, I remembered that my first ever conversation with Joe happened when we were sitting on the stairs outside a student kitchen at about two in the morning at the end of freshers' week, with about fifteen other people. James from our staircase had invited us all back for post-party gnocchi, and as we sat around chatting he would emerge from the kitchen at intervals with a giant plateful of gnocchi with cheese, which we would pass around companionably and eat with our fingers. It was literally the first time it had occurred to me that this was a bit of a bizarre set of circumstances. At the time it seemed quite a natural way to meet somebody. So I guess I have James and his gnocchi habit to thank for my husband (although honestly, there were only 110 of us in the year so I know I'd have met him eventually even without the gnocchi).

Eventually we left the gin-and-cucumber party and staggered off to our shared single bed on M staircase. The next morning we spent a few hours sitting by the river with David and Catherine, chatting and watching the punts, and then went for lunch with Nadia and Dan (who acquitted himself very well as a Plus One - it was nice to spend time in college with him). The restaurant we went to is sadly not as good as I remembered it, although the portons are still enormous.

And now we are back home, spending another day sorting and packing. Our backpacks are all packed up, everything that was in the bedroom, lounge and library is now in the loft, and all we have left to do is finish off packing the kitchen and print off some Important Documents before we go. I think on some level I am refusing to accept that we leave the day after tomorrow Instead my brain has shut down and is refusing to contemplate the future at all, apart from to insist that all the food in the house has to be eaten in the next 24 hours. So, I have been eating a lot and trying to think about things as little as possible.

Five days.

Mar. 28th, 2014 04:06 pm
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Oh so many last times. Last pub quiz (yesterday night). Last errands run in Camden Town, last lunch at the market and last spicy mocha in My Village Cafe. Last Shabbat.

Going to My Village Cafe always makes me feel wistful. It goes back to summer 2009, which was, in many ways, the year Joe and I became proper grown-ups. In late June, we moved in together just the two of us for the first time (previously we'd been sharing with friends). In July we got married, and in early August, just after we got back from honeymoon, Joe started his accountancy traineeship. Later that month I was promoted, and was given my own sales territories for the first time instead of just assisting with other people's. We thought a lot that summer about how to be grown-ups and how to make a home together, and what kind of life we would lead now we had everything so spectacularly sorted out (lol).

One of the things I daydreamed about was having a local cafe - somewhere that served good food and interesting teas, where we'd go for Sunday brunches or while away long rainy afternoons, and the staff would recognise us and we'd feel like we belonged. The cities we'd been to in Canada seemed full of places like that, and we hoped we'd find one in our new London neighbourhood as well.

My Village Cafe in Camden was everything we'd been looking for. They served falafel wraps and great heaps of fresh salads, and they even had the same brand of tea as the cafe we'd loved in Quebec City. The furniture was mismatched, the staff were friendly, there was a giant picture of Syd Barrett on the wall behind the counter and a shelf of books and backgammon sets at the back of the shop. We wrote all our wedding thank-you notes there over a couple of Sunday afternoons, and we went there a couple of times afterwards, and then...we just stopped going. It turned out we weren't the kind of grown-ups who did lazy Sunday brunches or went to places regularly after all, even if they were really good places. We've been a few more times since then, usually because the market was too packed for us to want to grab lunch there, or because it was raining and we wanted to wait out the storm before walking home, but it's not the regular haunt I once thought it would be. But every time I go there I remember how I felt in 2009, with my new grown-up husband and my new grown-up life, and this great sense of potential - that here, in Camden, in our new flat just the two of us, I could become the kind of person I wanted to be.

This isn't to say that I'm disappointed, now. I'm really happy with the way my life has turned out - we're now living in a house we own, about 500m down the road from that first rented flat, and Camden's still our local area. We didn't turn out to be the kind of grown-ups who whiled away afternoons in favourite cafes with board games, but we did turn out to be the kind who made pancakes at the weekend and went on long walks through the city whenever the weather was good enough. We filled our shelves with books and our storecupboards with food, and we worked hard at our jobs and made new friends in London and we built up our life together, and when we needed a doorstop or a pair of kitchen scales we bought one like grown-ups, instead of making-do with a heavy object or some careful estimation with a measuring jug and a calculator, like students.

And now...we're packing it all up and putting it away, and this time next month we'll be starting out all over again, in a new city and a new country. I'm sad to leave the life we've made here, but there's something so exciting about getting a second chance, about recapturing that great sense of potential we had in summer 2009. I wonder who we'll be this time, what we'll do and how we'll live. I wonder what will be different, and what will be the same. I hope it will all turn out all right, over there. But even if it doesn't, I know it's worth a try.

Nine days.

Mar. 24th, 2014 07:53 pm
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We are gradually cutting our ties to London, and tying up all the loose ends. I left my job last week; I've had my last Korean lesson and done my last bit of consulting for a previous employer; we're slowly saying goodbye to all our friends. We had [personal profile] kerrypolka and [personal profile] ewan and [profile] _jenjen_ over yesterday afternoon to help us finish off our supplies of tea, champagne and other things we can't take to Canada with us, and to talk about all sorts of interesting things, and...well, it was very fun but also very sad. I know we'll keep in touch, but as Kerry says, 'of course there's still the internet but the internet is not the pub'. I must commit to blogging more often when I'm over in Canada - I'm sure I will, as it's such a good way of keeping in touch with people (LJ saved my sanity when I was in Japan - although admittedly a lot more of my friends used it back then!). Joe and I are sharing a computer between us at the moment, so I don't get much chance for blogging.

On the bright side, what a marvellous place we are moving to. Yesterday I shared my worries that Joe and I were going to have to spend Pesach with Chabad Winnipeg ('Chabad: Fun Times For All, Unless You're Not a Jewish Dude'), as no progressive shuls seemed to be doing a first-night seder. But then Kerry told me about her underwhelming and painfully un-egalitarian Purim with Chabad Venice and I realised that anything was better than that, so I overcame my shyness and fear of barging in on people and actually got in touch with the Reform shul in Winnipeg to say 'hello, we are Jewish and progressive and also Jets fans if that helps, please save us from Chabad at Pesach'.

Within an hour somebody from the shul had got back to me to say that she'd put out the call to community members to find out if anybody had space for us at their seder table, and thirty minutes after that we had a response from this completely awesome-sounding couple - one born in the UK, naturalised Canadian and Jewish by choice, the other Jewish by birth but put off the religion in childhood and returning to it as an adult on her own terms, and both of them eco-kosher and progressive and intellectually engaged with Judaism (and also Jets fans, naturally). I think we will have a lot to talk about.

This basically sums up my experience of the prairie cities so far - and Canada in general, come to think of it. Every single person I've interacted with has been welcoming and enthusiastic, genuinely pleased that I'm interested in their home, and eager to introduce me to the best it has to offer. And everywhere is always more interesting than you think it's going to be - Winnipeg, for example, is multicultural (over 100 languages spoken in the city), progressive (first 'large city' in North America to elect an openly gay mayor), has a great food and restaurant scene and a proud history of First Nations/Metis awesomeness, workers' rights and REVOLUTION. And to think I once thought it was just a nothingy sort of town in the middle of a lot of wheat.

I am so, so ready to fall in love with this country. I hope it's as great as its inhabitants seem to be.

Sad.

Mar. 7th, 2014 09:35 pm
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Today at work somebody asked me if I was planning on having any leaving drinks or anything before I left, and it suddenly hit me again that I'm actually leaving, really soon, and I thought how many great people I'll be leaving behind here in London and how much I'm going to miss them all. I mean, I know we have the internet and everything so theoretically it should all be fine, but it's not really the same thing as impromptu Shabbat lunches and holiday-themed cocktails and readthroughs (from Shakespeare to X-Men), and interesting restaurants and murder mystery evenings and veggie barbecues and cakes that look nothing like the picture in the recipe book (but are all the more delicious for it, in my opinion).

Despite being an ex-pat brat who had said a lot of goodbyes by the age of eleven, I'm still not very good at them. I'll miss you, though. Thanks for everything.

Oh, Canada

Mar. 5th, 2014 08:00 pm
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I've been pretty busy this week, so this evening is the first chance I've had to catch up on the 2014 Canada Reads debate which everybody on my Twitter feed has been going on about lately. It's an annual show where five panelists champion five different books - every day they debate the books' merits and one is eliminated, and then the one that's left is the winner. It is a revelation. Here are the things that are brilliant about Canada Reads:

- It is a programme about books on the television. Real books are discussed on television for their literary merit. People get super-involved in the discussion on Twitter and argue about the books in non-book-related podcasts (I was surprised when Joe told me he knew about the programme - this is a man who is disinterested in the literary establishment to the extent that he had never heard of this year's Booker winner until I mentioned it last week, but he knew Canada Reads because all the Toronto Living podcasts he listens to had been talking about it). Over here we don't even have the Richard and Judy Book Club on TV any more.

- It is so incredibly, beautifully earnest. This year, the theme of the contest is 'a novel to change our nation', and the panelists are asked to consider the books not just on their literary merit, but also on how they feel they might contribute to 'a better Canada'. These people want to build a better Canada! And they take it for granted that literature can play an important role in making this happen!

- That kind of rhetoric ('building a better Canada' etc) has not been hijacked by the right wing and used mainly as an excuse to make life worse for the most vulnerable members of society. These books are about the immigrant experience, about relations between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians, about climate change and mental health care and recognising diversity in sexual and gender identities. Canada doesn't always get this stuff right, and sometimes they get it so wrong that it's painful (examples abound: Avery Edison, the Albertan tar sands, virtually anything the current government has done concerning First Nations people...), but at least they're having the conversation, you know? And it seems to be taken for granted that the concept of 'Canada' is something everybody truly cares about and wants to improve, rather than being just something that right-on PC types and flag-waving xenophobes talk about while everybody in the middle kind-of ignores them.

- One of the panelists (a DJ/journalist called Wab Kinew who seems super-cool) introduced 'his' book with a 60-second rap about colonialism and First Nations-related issues in Canada. There is nothing about that that is not awesome.

Families

Mar. 3rd, 2014 04:41 pm
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OH WHY have I spent half of today arguing with my father via email about my family+my-brother's-girlfriend-whom-I-have-met-twice's hypothetical visit to Canada in August?*

Families. They are complicated. I normally have a fairly smooth relationship with mine, and I still have the occasional moment when I just never want to see any of them again, ever.

TORONTO: NOT FAR ENOUGH AWAY IN MY OPINION.


*If you were 23 and you had a girlfriend, would you invite yourself and said girlfriend on a holiday that your parents were going on? Surely you would prefer to spend your holiday time on holiday by yourself, with girlfriend and no parents? Or is that just me?
What if the parental holiday was a transatlantic trip especially to visit your elder sister, who has met your girlfriend briefly twice, and who you are pretty convinced doesn't like your girlfriend?** Seriously, does ANYBODY EXCEPT ME think this is a bad idea for all concerned?

...no? Okay, just me, then. Fine. I'm sure we'll all have a lovely time.


**I pretend! But he knows me well enough to know my taste in people, and also to know how I behave when I am trying my best to be nice to people I don't like.

February

Feb. 27th, 2014 10:24 am
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Well, I have no idea where February went. I think I spent most of it working on my first ever Real Paid Translation, which is a short story by Ekuni Kaori, coming out in an anthology in May but (crucially) being used for an event at Tokyo Lit Fest later this week. I've been working on it every spare moment since I got the text in early February, and I've also been at the bookshop a lot and applying for jobs in Toronto and finding somebody to live in our house (Joe's brother is going to live in it! But he still needs to find somebody to live in the other bedroom). Last weekend we Had People Over for a readthrough, and nothing exploded and we did not run out of food, and it was really nice to see everybody. Now I wish we had Had People Over more often while we were based in London, but oh well (I just have a lot of friends who seem to enjoy hosting things much more than I do. Also (relatedly?) we never have any booze in the house).

Five weeks to go now. I have had to give up on driving-type stuff because thinking about driving tests on top of all the other stuff was making me feel actually properly mentally unwell (panic attacks! For the first time ever! Woo!). I am a little disappointed in myself for this, but I figure I don't *need* to have a driving license right now, and if I'm directing all my energy into being upset about driving then I won't have any left over for doing the stuff I do actually need to do, so I think it was the sensible choice. (don't ask me why driving upsets me so much. I haven't a clue. The parts that really upset me aren't even the reasonable parts, like 'I am travelling around in a machine that can kill people' or 'I am polluting the environment and generally making everything slightly worse for everybody who lives in this city'. I dislike the act of driving, but I think maybe the thing that really gets to me is that I could fail my test very easily through no fault of my own (because, FOR EXAMPLE, somebody broke down right in front of me on a dual carriageway and I copied what the other drivers around me were doing to get out of the situation - apparently had they all been on driving tests too they would have failed) and then have to put myself through *more* driving and *another* test, when all I really want is to just never drive anywhere, ever, unless I absolutely have to).
I think I'm going to try and learn in Canada, actually. It's significantly cheaper over there and I think driving will make more sense to me in a country that is more designed for cars. Also the testing system is different - there are two tests, but the first is only twenty minutes long and only tests you on the easy stuff, and if you pass that one you can rent cars and go on adventures, which is the only reason I really want to drive anyway.

Today I am filling in customs forms to make sure our three cardboard boxes of stuff get across the Atlantic and through customs safely. There's a lot that we're leaving behind and putting into storage, and it feels very weird and uncomfortable and final. Leaving the country when you're a proper grown-up with a partner and a house feels very different from leaving when you're twenty and used to shifting your possessions between home and university on a regular basis. I often think that really Joe and I have managed to get the worst of both worlds - we're grown-up enough that we have a lot of mutual possessions (and a house) to deal with and we can't just give notice to our landlord and set off free as birds, but also we aren't real grown-ups with employers who are paying relocation costs for us. Still, we are FINALLY LEAVING THE COUNTRY, so I can't get that upset.

I hope that somewhere in Canada turns out to be home, you know? Because London, while very nice, is not home, and my other UK options are quite limited (given that I work in publishing and I want to live somewhere with a decent-sized Jewish community. Oh, and also that Joe is a Londoner who pretty much doesn't see the point of living anywhere in the UK that isn't London!). I am trying not to hope too much, because although I know there is a route from where we are now to permanent residence I don't know if we'll manage to get on it (and it might vanish when we're halfway through, as [personal profile] kerrypolka's experience in the UK has taught me), and also we might not like Canada that much in the end anyway. But sometimes the hoping creeps up on me when I'm not thinking about it, and I'm surprised by how much I want it.
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After a stressful week of lots of work to do and no internets at home to do it with (and many other things in my life going wrong besides), Joe and I finally managed to get a BT engineer to come round and take a look at our equipment. When he arrived, we had the following conversation:

Him (after unpacking tools and doing a couple of preliminary tests): Do you know where your broadband cable goes to? I've had a look around and I can't find any cables outside the house.
Me: Sorry, I don't know.
Him: In that case there's nothing I can do for you. I've never worked on this block before. I'll get the company to send round another engineer who knows the local area. *starts to pack up tools again*
Me: Isn't there anything you can do?
Him: Not really. I can't find the cable.
Me: *bursts into tears*
Him: Woah, okay okay! *phones colleague, finds out where cable goes to, fixes internet within about ten minutes*

So, on the one hand I came across as completely hysterical and over-react-y, and in our ensuing interactions he made it quite clear that he thought I was mentally unstable. On the other hand, if I hadn't reacted like that he would have just walked off and left me with no internet for another goodness-knows-how-long, even though the solution to the problem was only one phone call away. And then when he left he had the nerve to give me a little speech about how at BT they don't abandon their customers, they always try to do their best to go the extra mile and get the job done.

The moral of the story appears to be that if you want something done then you should try crying about it (at least, if you are a lady. Maybe if you are a gentleman who wants something done you should try shouting about it, I don't know). It seems rather depressing...but, hey. At least I have internet now.
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I had a nice weekend and I think I am better now. Massive thanks go to [personal profile] kerrypolka, for somehow mystically sensing the two points of the week at which I was most miserable, and inviting me to her house and giving me delicious cocktails until I was tolerably hammered and able to cope with the world again (actually on one occasion it was Tu b'Shevat and on the other it was Shabbat, so I guess it's not that mystical...but still. It helped a lot). Also to [personal profile] ewan, who made the cocktails and tidied up around me while I complained about how dreadful everything was. You guys are the best <3

(also to Joe, who is always amazing at coping with me when I am miserable, and did not tell me to stop whining once all weekend even though I was being exceedingly whiny).

Other good things that have happened since Friday:

- I went to the fun musical service at our shul and did loud singing while surrounded by loud children and adorable babies.
- We watched the hockey on Saturday evening and the Jets won, hurrah! (I still like hockey a lot).
- I had dinner/drinks on Sunday with various university friends and it was very nice.
- I went back to work on Monday and was super-glad to be back (which I guess is the advantage of taking a week off to do something horrible). I have been having a lovely time today organising my sections and creating a new end display for SFF ('Goblin Fruit and Other Delicacies: books inspired by folklore from around the world').
- I have started a new Nalo Hopkinson book.

There will be more driving misery next month, sadly, but it is not next month yet.
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I am never going to pass my driving test. Never, ever, ever, ever. I have just put myself through one of the worst weeks of my life at great financial cost and I'm pretty sure it was all just a massive waste of time.

By the way, if we meet IRL please do not talk to me about driving unless I talk to you about it first. Just don't even mention it. Or I will cry, probably. I've been doing a lot of that recently.
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So, as expected, I still really really super-hate driving. I have done twenty hours of driving in the past three days and it has not been fun at all. On the bright side, there's so much to concentrate on that I don't find myself feeling constantly aware of how much I hate it - there are just these moments throughout the day, when I'm stopped at a traffic light or whatever and I suddenly have space to think, and the only thing I can think is 'oh God I am having a horrible time'. Then the traffic moves off again and I have to focus on something else.

So far I have nearly knocked over one (1) motorcyclist. It was not even faintly, slightly my fault. It was entirely the motorcyclist's fault and the fault of the white van. My instructor repeated this to me several times as if he thought it would make a difference, when in actual fact the motorcyclist would have been just as damaged whoever's fault it had been, so I don't see that it matters all that much. In the normal course of my life, none of my daily activities have the potential to kill anybody, and I really REALLY prefer it that way.

I am measuring my progress in number of cries per day. On Sunday, three (in the loos on my lunch break and tea break, and also when I got home). Yesterday, two (after the motorcyclist incident and when I got home). Today, NONE! Yay me.

This evening I have been looking at RV rental websites and going on Streetview tours of the Maritimes, to remind myself why I am actually doing this. Maybe it will all be worth it one day. Maybe one day I'll be driving down the Dempster Highway with Joe among the lakes and mountains and bears and stuff, and I'll say, 'wow, all that terror I experienced on the Hammersmith Gyratory was worth it, for this'. And then we'll probably crash into a moose or something.
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