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My Canadian Experience
Working away up to 11th August

Since my last journal entry I have been busy acquiring more antiquarian books for the site. In fact I spent most of two days trying to find anything on Australia and New Zealand as its a long time since I posted up anything from that part of the world. I did in fact find "The Highlanders of Waipu or Echoes of 1745" and so that's now on order.

I also attended the Scottish Studies Foundation board meeting in Toronto and we've fixed the date for our next Tartan Day Dinner for 6th April 2006.  I am really pleased that Linda Fabiani MSP will be attending as she also has relations in Toronto.  Also Ian Hudghton, one of our Scottish MEP's has also said he will attend.

We're also busy trying to figure what other events we might be able to bring to Toronto so feel free to come up with any suggestions :-)

As Dr Graeme Morton, the chair of the Scottish Studies Dept. at the University of Guelph is also on the board it gives me a chance to chat about what we can get from the University to put up on the site. He is going to see if he can't get one of his students to take images of more copies of the Scotch-Canadian newspaper from around 1836 onwards.  He is also going to see what else he could find that would make a good fit for the site.

I'm getting organized for the Fergus Highland Games in Ontario this coming Saturday and have to say I've gone from being very keen on this event to wondering if I should bother to attend.  I really can't understand why officials at these events don't understand that promotion is the key to making them successful. 

I emailed the official web site some 8 weeks ago asking for advice on parking so I could get near the event.  I simply said I'd be taking lots of pictures and would likely need to do dumps to my notebook computer and so could you recommend any close parking to minimize time spent on going back and forward. I hoped to get a tip off as to a good place to park and nothing more.  I didn't get a reply to that email nor the next 3 that I sent.  I was then given another persons email address to try and that worked.  I was told to email someone else and that they would send me a media pack and a couple of passes.  Well fantastic I thought... completely unexpected but great stuff :-)

So.. I then noticed that the email address I'd been given was the same one I'd been sending the other emails to but thought well I'll try it anyway.  I again didn't hear anything so tried the voice mail where they said they'd get back to me.  Still nothing.. so I emailed the chap back to say I hadn't heard anything.

Well a wee bit later I got an email in from one of the executive directors, whose email address was the one I'd been using, asking me for my accreditation and who I worked for as they didn't give out media packs to just anybody and they had to have full details about me before they could decide whether I should have one or not.  Well I sent some info on my good self but reminded them that I actually only wanted some advice on parking for the event which I still hadn't received.

Well... I got a final email in saying that they don't have any reserved parking and just get there early if I wanted to get a decent space and no word on whether I was getting the media pack.  Did I say I wanted reserved parking? <sheesh>.  That is the kind of person you just don't want working on this kind of event as she sure put my back up and soured my whole attitude to the event and all for just wanting a tip on parking :-(

When I look at what things I miss about Scotland it was mostly the food but as I've been in Canada for some time now I've found alternatives which are every bit as good.  For example...

An excellent alternative to Black Pudding

An excellent alternative to Ayrshire Bacon

An excellent alternative to smoked back bacon

These foods were found at the local Dutch Food Hall on Queen Street in Chatham.

You know I spent around 3 months cutting up sides of bacon when I was a trainee manager for British Home Stores so I know what bacon looks like. I fail to understand how they don't have any traditional cuts of bacon in the USA and Canada. The most popular cut seems to be what we called streaky bacon of which there is far less of than the other cuts like middle bacon, longback and gamon. They must surely grind it down and then make it into this type of cut. I will find out more as I am certainly intrigued about how they come up with this cut.

All the big food stores have a huge selections of fruit and vegetables. I've also found some excellent curry cook-in-sauces so my hunger for those is now sorted :-)  So far I've only found Indian curry restaurants in Toronto (ah.. actually there were a couple in Guelph when I think about it) and considering that these are Scotland's number 1 takeway food I am surprised that Canadian's haven't learned to enjoy them as well :-)

A general impression is that the Canadian's have a sweet tooth.  Most of the fruit pies I've tried are really too sweet for me.  I like some of the tartness you get from the actual fruit and you can always add more sugar that way if you need to. You can't really take out sugar so to get some tartness you really need to add some fresh fruit to the mix.

I'm getting used to driving around Canada although I'm still a bit amazed about how many drivers will pass on the inside.  When I headed into Toronto there was a huge pile up of traffic and thought that there must have been a nasty accident but when I got to the accident it was on the opposite carriageway so our side must have slowed down to look at it.

Here in Ontario the 401 is the road that takes you from Windsor on the American border (by Detroit) and takes you all the way to Toronto and then onto the Quebec border along the St. Lawrence river. At some points in Toronto this becomes a 16 lane highway with collector lanes. It's quite a sight and especially at rush hour.

You will find a huge number of large wagons heading down the road and there seems to be an average speed limit around 115kph although the actual speed limit is 100kph. I note many of the cars will put on their cruise control at 119kph.  There are certainly some signs up saying you will get a fine at 120kph. It's actually quite rare for car to whiz past you doing high speeds as mostly they'll only be going an extra 5kph faster.  You certainly get one or two drivers that will cut across all lanes to try and pass everyone... they are the dangerous ones.  I've also noted that in town cars will pass you quite frequently on both sides of the car but once you are on a normal highway they seem reluctant to pass and will just generally adjust their speed to the car in front.

The one thing you notice in Canada as opposed to the UK is the total lack of road cameras and there seems to be less highway police cars as well. When I went down to the Scottish borders one time it felt like there was a camera around every 10 miles of road.  You just don't see them here in Canada apart from perhaps key spots around Toronto.  I would say that like any large city Toronto does need to keep an eye out for traffic accidents as just one accident can cause huge chaos on the roads.

I'm also not tuned into the road signs here.  Like the Glengarry games... there was no sign for it until you turned onto the road that led directly to the games.  In Scotland you'd have seen it much further back and lots of them so you'd find it hard to take a wrong turning.  They don't seem to go in for this signage here.  Quite often it was the Automobile Association that put up these temporary signs.

And I've commented before that you never see a single sign directing you to a train station where in the UK there are loads of them.

I did find out this past week that VisitScotland spent the enormous sum of 4,000 advertising Scotland in Canada during 2001.  It would be interesting to find out what sum Canada spent in Scotland advertising Canada in that same period.  I also found out that in 2001 140,000 Canadians visited Scotland.

As to the house... I now have all the major outside painting complete.  There are still a few wee bits that need a touch up and we've still to decide on what to do with the stairs up to the porch. I'm told my book case is coming on a treat but it's a bit irritating being told by all and sundry that they look great when I haven't even seen them :-)

Once the library is complete I'll be able to sort out my dining room and that should pretty much complete the inside.  There are still a few wee bits and peaces to be done but likely they will get finished by the end of summer.  I also found the Scottish calendar that I got sent over from Ranald and also the wee silver deer that Elma Marshall gave as a going away present along with my wee monkeys :-)

The only item of  furniture I think I might want to get is a china cupboard and perhaps pick up a small chest of drawers seeing that the movers have lost the bedroom furniture somewhere.

Work wise I continue to make progress but September is the key time for me as I have a couple of major advertisers interested in coming on board but they can't make decisions until September so have been holding off approaching anyone else until I get a yes or no from them. I noted that my Google income has shot up by around 20% this last month so that's a nice surprise as last summer it actually went down.

I also got a reminder in that I need to renew my health card which also reminded me that I'm near to having to ask for an extension on my work permit. I contacted Larry about that and he said to contact him at the start of September and then we'd decide whether to go to Detroit to the Canadian Consulate or just put in another application. Apart from getting an acknowledgement from the Buffalo office that they'd received my immigration application I haven't heard anything else so far.

I also got my first housing rate bill in so feel I now really belong :-)

I am getting some more visitors both from Canada and the USA which is nice.  All work related and I've been asked if I could pop down to take in the Thames College in Windsor as it was thought I could do a wee history course there in the Winter.  Not totally sure about this but will make an effort to get down there and see what it's like.

I am also intending to head down towards Port Crewe as it seems there is a Mrs Pardoe who has a great fruit and vegetable stall.  I've also found out there is a winery down that way so looks like this might make a good photo shoot. 

So.. doing well in Canada both personally and work wise. Long may it continue :-)

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