Yesterday was the eighteen year anniversary of our move to Canada: a date of great personal significance and always a cause for reflection. We moved, as a family of five, from Milford Haven in southwest Wales to Halifax, NS. In my case, this was a ‘sight unseen’ adventure. I had the address of the Fleece Artist (from the back of a Rowan pattern-book), the name of the friend (Ilga Leja) of a friend (Shirl the Purl) who lived here (courtesy of the Canadian Knitting Guild) and I’d read a book about the first World War explosion that so devastated this city in 1917.
That was the sum of my knowledge. Yes, very Pre-Internet! No google street view, nothing.
My husband’s employer instigated the move; after putting us through two years of on-again/off-again uncertainty, they suddenly gave us THREE weeks notice of our departure. And what joker moves a family with three small children to Nova Scotia in March (snow followed by freezing rain for days unending), and expects them to stay? Come to think of it, that’s probably why they only gave us one-way tickets.
For leaving Milford, we had an excellent crew of packers to wrap and consign our goods to a container over a period of three days. On the last morning, however, they arrived at our door on foot and without the huge moving truck. They looked a little sheepish. Despite our warnings about the ditches on either side of the unpaved road that led to our home, they had managed to back the truck slightly off course at the top of the lane and now the whole rig was teetering dangerously at a 30 degree angle. I regret that I didn’t have the brain-power to take any photos of this: here, in suspended animation, 95% of our worldly goods, unsecured and about to keel over. We were also anxious to be finished and away, as we had a 6 hour drive ahead of us on UK roads with three small, unsettled children for a last night with grandparents (who, conveniently, were somewhat nearer the airport).
We absolutely had to get the truck out. The nearest heavy tow truck was in Swansea, a two-hour-plus drive away, assuming that it was even available. Grasping at straws, we thought of contacting some friends with a new tractor on a nearby farm: we were just able to, in a very muddy tour-de-force, squeeze our rented car around the truck in order to go and request their help. The phone had already been disconnected, and, imagine: No cell phones!
Fortunately the big rig was extracted safely and we were able to pack the mattresses and last few items. We said goodbye to our home sweet home and were now officially nomads. We spent a day with the grandparents and headed up to Heathrow, where we spent the night in a hotel. I don’t think the children, 1, 3 and 6, had ever eaten out or stayed anywhere other than for occasional visits with relatives and the hotel atmosphere and finding food that they would eat were major challenges. I think this was where they first encountered McDonald’s, and they didn’t know what to make of that.
Our flying day was a long one: I don’t remember much about it other then showing the children the plane as we walked to the departure lounge. Arriving in Halifax, yes, that I remember clearly: piles of dirty snow, and raining dogs and cats. For a family expecting knee-deep powdery snow this was a considerable disappointment. The wait in immigration was interminable, especially with children that had been cooped up for days.
Eventually we piled into a taxi and were driven to our hotel rooms in Halifax. Here, we had been told by someone in the Canadian firm, we could expect to find some groceries purchased for us in anticipation of our arrival, but apparently they couldn’t think of what to get, so there was nothing at all.
6pm on a Saturday night in downtown Halifax (18 years ago) was not the time or place to get food. Fortunately, my husband is gifted in the common sense department and he and Sam went foraging at corner stores whilst I bathed the girls and we ate the remainder of Grandma’s sandwiches!
Things improved steadily, we’re still here (Canadian citizens now), and I wouldn’t choose to return to the UK, beautiful and historic as it may be!