Here’s what day-to-day life is like in England.
The days are very short. Sunrise is about 8:00 and sunset is around 16:00. Most of the time it is cloudy. It rains. Everything is damp. As for winter, there is none. The weather is still similar to the beginning of October. There is frost at night. Most of the trees still have their leaves. I might have to cut my lawn before the Christmas holidays. I’m having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit without the cold and snow.
On the plus side, I can ride my bike most days. I haven’t had to wear any winter clothes yet nor have I had to shovel the driveway.
I didn’t realize what important “triggers” I used to predict the seasons. Geese and ducks. Flocks of them in typical V formation flying south. They don’t have that here. I miss that.
We bought a small car, a Toyota Versa, when we arrived. They don’t even have this model in North America. It is quite low to the ground and I don’t think it would get through the snow in Canadian winters. It is fuel-efficient and gets about 5L/100km in the city (46 miles per US gallon). Gas (petrol) costs about £1.30/litre which works out to about $2.10 CDN/L or about $8.00USD/gallon. Because the weather is so nice here, we ride our bikes almost all the time. It’s a pain to find parking (and expensive) and there is limited traffic on bicycles compared to cars. Also, because we have a left-hand drive car, I’m pretty much useless at trying to parallel park in these tiny car park spaces.
Most British military families send their children to boarding school as soon as they get to the Jr. High level. This allows them to have a consistent education as well as minimize stress in changing schools with every military move. Consequently our children are the only teens in our neighbourhood. This is a benefit because they are also the only babysitters in the neighbourhood and they are both booked almost every weekend!
Everybody has a cell phone or as they call them here, mobile phone. Why? Because phone plans are dirt-cheap compared to Canada. With an unlocked phone you can get a pay-as-you-go plan from £15/month (about $25CDN). That includes 3000 texts, 300 talk minutes and UNLIMITED data – yes UNLIMITED!
I get text messages from courier companies telling me the delivery time for my parcels, I get text messages from the school to remind me to support my children in an upcoming test or project. Many businesses are on Facebook and Twitter. Actually even the UK military housing agency has a Twitter account.
Most payments are direct debit, credit card or cash. Cheques will be phased out in Britain in 2018. Our bank (HSBC) didn’t even offer us cheques with our account because they are so seldom used. Most billing is electronic even at “in-person” stores. You can opt to have the receipt for payment sent directly to your email account.
The sales tax, called the VAT (value added tax) is 20%. As foreign military, we are allowed to claim back a portion of the VAT we paid on certain goods so we need to save all of our receipts and prepare a report every quarter.
I order my groceries online and they come directly to my house. It is wonderful. The store has nutritional details about each product on the website so I can make informed choices. The personal shoppers do a good job of picking top quality produce and I haven’t had any problems with rotting veggies showing up at the door.
If products I purchased are not available, they will substitute similar products and I will be charged the lower price. So far, they’ve only brought a few things that I don’t like including a “leek soup mix” instead of “vegetable soup mix” and they substituted Blue Cheese for Camembert. If I don’t like the substitutions the drive will take them back and reverse the charges. They have brought a few things that we really do like too. The “dessert pears” are very good as are the satsumas. We’ve also tried every brand of Brie they sell and we have decided on our favourite.
The funniest thing of all is the package sizes. The largest bag of flour I can buy is 1.5kg (about 3 lbs). Margarine, yoghurt, sugar, and cereal…they all come in small packages. It is a good thing they do because refrigerators are very small here compared to back home. This means I have to shop more often but that’s okay because I have it delivered!!
FYI: Dairy products are less expensive in England than in Canada (relatively speaking) but meat is a little more expensive. With fruits and vegetables the price depends on the season so it is hard to compare.
I am totally enjoying the experience of living in a new country!
This is my first post in ages and it falls at the close of a very important day: Remembrance Day.
This is my first Remembrance Day outside of Canada. It was thrilling to see everyone in England wearing poppies. With my husband being in an international unit I learned that not all nations commemorate by wearing red poppies. The French celebrate by wear le Bleuet de France (Cornflower).
I also learned that the Dutch celebrate their Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking) on May 4th, the day that the Canadian, Polish and French liberated Netherlands from the occupation in World War II. It is thanks to the Netherlands that Ottawa enjoys such a lovely tulip festival in the spring.
I had to go shopping this morning so I set the alarm on my phone to alert me to take 2 minutes of silence at 11h00. I happened to be in a department store when the alarm sounded. At that moment, a voice came over the loud speaker to announce that all store staff would be observing 2 minutes of silence and the tills would be closed during that time. NO ONE in the store moved. No one spoke. Not staff, not customers. All you could hear was the escalator running.
Two minutes. Once a year. It never seems like it’s enough.
The following information was provided to me so that I might aid the researchers in finding the right participants for this study.
Please contact the researchers directly for information.
Research Participants Required for a Study on Canadian Military Death in Afghanistan.
If your spouse or partner was one of the Canadian Forces members who died during combat operations in Afghanistan, please accept our sincere condolences for your loss. This message is offered respectfully, as an invitation for you to consider participating in a study on military death. If you are interested in how our life stories, identities and our sense of “self” are shaped through the death of a spouse/partner, this project may appeal to you. Participating in this study could provide you with an opportunity to explore the meanings you make of your loss, create new insights, validate and give voice to your personal story, and contribute to the enhancement of services provided to other bereaved individuals (military and civilian).
The study is being conducted by Mark Duffie, a Canadian military family member, whose son was twice deployed to Afghanistan. Mark was also a civilian staff member at a military family resource centre for several years, where he provided deployment and crisis support to military families. This research is part of Mark’s doctoral studies (PhD in social work), and is being supervised by his advisor Dr. Deena Mandell, Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University.
The aim of Mark’s research is to explore what we can learn about the interplay among the personal, institutional and social grief experiences of the spouse or partner of a military member who died during combat operations. This will be achieved through a single-participant case study, focussed on the life experiences of the spouse or partner of a Canadian military member who died in Afghanistan. The research participant will be asked to take part in 4-5 interviews (conversations) with Mark, and to review summaries of these between meetings.
To receive more information about participating in this project and discuss if it is suited to you, please contact Mark by e-mail or telephone. Your initial contact with Mark will be viewed only as an opportunity to provide you with more detail and to answer your questions, not as a decision or commitment to participate. This conversation will be kept strictly CONFIDENTIAL, whether you decide to participate or not, and your final decision will be fully respected.
Thank you for considering this request.
Researcher: Mark Duffie email@example.com Tel: 705-715-7191
Advisor: Dr. Deena Mandell firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 519-884-0710 ext. 5239
The Research Ethics Board (REB) at Wilfrid Laurier University has reviewed and approved this project. The University Research Ethics Board may be contacted through the REB Chair.
REB Chair: Dr. Robert Basso email@example.com Tel: 519-884-1970 ext. 4994
I’m a huge lover of house plants and have quite the collection of African violets, amaryllis, spider plants, orchids, etc. How do I go about taking them with me? My mother had the same problem with her own house plants, but I can’t ask her how she did it as she is no longer of this world, and my army dad can’t really remember the specifics of the moves as he’s been retired for roughly 20 years now. ~ Cynthia
Thanks for your question Cynthia!
I’ve always taken the houseplants in the car with us when we move. I put them in plastic bins or trays so the water won’t spill in the car and we wedge them into the back seat or cargo area so they won’t tip over. If the journey is long, I take a watering can with me or at least a dedicated water bottle for the plants.**
In the summer, I have hooked up sun shades on some of the car windows so that the plants don’t get direct sun. We leave the car window open a crack if we leave the car unattended. I leave the plants in the car overnight if we stop.
In the winter, I have arranged the car so that the plants are not near any of the windows and brought them into hotel rooms (covered in blankets) so they don’t freeze.
There are times when you, unfortunately cannot take the plants with you.
When we got married, I flew from Ontario to BC to join my husband. I had a ficus that I bought when I was in 3rd year university. I left it with my parents because I couldn’t take it on the plane with me. (My parents still have the ficus and it is doing well 24 years later.)
This year, we have moved to the United Kingdom and I was not able to bring ANY of my plants with me. Nor was I permitted to bring seeds, bulbs or clippings. The empty plant pots that I had, were thoroughly cleaned and dried before they were packed.
I donated all of my plants before we moved. I left my variegated ficus with my parents. (I think they are hoping I don’t leave that one for 24 years!) I had some smaller plants that I gave to the children’s school. The teachers will take them home and care for them in the summer and return them in the fall to brighten up the common areas.
If you’re considering leaving your some or all of your houseplants behind, ask the following places if they would like to receive donations:
- seniors’ centres
- shelters for victims of domestic violence
- rehabilitation centres
- Military Family Resource Centres (They often gift plants to new families moving in.)
- friends and family
You may wish to create a little card to go with the plant that details the care instructions.
I hope that answers your question. Perhaps my readers will have more advice – especially those with greener thumbs than mine!
I’m so sorry I haven’t had time to blog about ANYTHING since we returned from our DIT to England. The pre-pack starts tomorrow and we’ve got a lot to do between now and then. I promise my readers that I’ll share everything I’ve learned about moving overseas – organizing, inventories, passports, visas, banking….all of it. I just need some time.
Thanks for your patience!
There are many things about military life that are difficult to deal with but having children shouldn’t be one of them.
I was reading this story in the Ottawa Citizen about military family who wishes to adopt a child from a foreign country, in this case Haiti.
Because both he and she were born to Canadian parents but OUTSIDE of Canada (Canadian Forces Base in Lahr, Germany) they are not fully Canadian citizens and therefore are having a great deal of difficulty adopting a child from a foreign country.
I don’t pretend to understand the Citizen Act or Immigration but I do understand that children of members of the Canadian Forces, regardless of where they are born, should have full Canadian citizenship.
Read the full story and let me know what you think in the comments.