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My Canadian Experience
February/March/April 2010

February started with me getting my Birch tree cut down.  It had grown into the Hydro wires so the local Hydro board said they'd need to trim it back.  However they also offered to cut down the whole tree as they said it wasn't in a very good condition and would likely need to be cut down anyway in the next few years which would cost me several hundred dollars.  And so as they were going to cut it down for free I decided to take up their offer.

And so that was the tree cut down and now ready for perhaps a Rowan Tree to go in its place.

Then at the same time I was having new book shelves added to the house...

But first I got a new door put into the downstairs toilet. The door itself has been sitting up in my attic since I'd purchased the house. Certainly looks a lot better than the old one.  I have also added a warm air return into the toilet as there is currently no heat in there so need to have the door open a bit to allow warm air in.

And then we moved onto building the new book cases...

Al and LeRoy

So LeRoy and Al take over my basement as their work area and proceed to work on the bookshelves. The above pictures are work in progress.  In the picture left are two shelves that have been added to the wee room that leads to my attic.  Above right are the new book shelves in my bedroom. 

Learnt about a convenience store, Victoria Variety on Victoria Road in Chatham, that does Indian food. You just contact them the day before and they'll have it ready the next day. They do Butter Chicken, Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, Dal Fry, Channa Masal, Samosas and Pakora. Can't say it's cheap but it is cooked fresh. This week I tried the Butter Chicken and it was very good.  Too much to eat in one sitting so will make 2 meals which makes it more cost effective.  I also had 4 pieces of Pakora which was excellent. Their telephone number is 519 352 8771.

Monday 22nd February saw the work in the house completed...

Above left are the new book cases in the Guest bedroom complete with a wee range of books. The Picture above right is the walk in cupboard in the Guest bedroom with a long mirror on the door and a wee vanity unit within with mirror, desk and chair.

The above pictures in the library show on the left the new book case and on the right the old book case.

Above left are the new book cases in my bedroom and on the right the bath surround got a paint job to refresh it.

And also in the bathroom I had got some mould markings on the wall between that and the ceiling which had been there for a few years so got that fixed at the same time. The picture on the left shows the marking which had already been partly treated to ensure the staining would go when the actual paint was applied.

And so that completes the work in the house for the time being.

During February we've been having wee flurries of snow but no more than a couple of inches.

At the start of the year my cleaning lady didn't turn up and I later heard she had decided it was all too much work and so left.  It would have been nice if she'd at least told me.  And so in February LeRoy arranged as part of his contract to bring in a cleaning lady to get rid of all the sawdust throughout the house and give it a general clean up.  I was actually quite impressed with her attention to detail so had a chat and Cherie has agreed to come on a regular basis.


I might add that my ex cleaning lady did in fact come in to apologise for not letting me know she'd decided not to continue the contract.

This month I also gave a talk to the Kent Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society in Chatham.  As it was the night of the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics I didn't think many would turn up but there ended up being around 40 there. 

Had a visit to my Doctor for a general check up and she told me that I need to get an ECG and get blood taken.  She said that there were new diabetic drugs available which were more effective but needed to get some tests done on me before she recommended a change.

This month of course we had the Winter Olympic Games in Canada which by all accounts were a huge success.  I got sent in a copy of a wee thank you note that Brian Williams of NBC left before heading back to America....

Leaving behind a thank you note - Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor

After tonight's broadcast and after looting our hotel mini-bars, we're going to try to brave the blizzard and fly east to home and hearth, and to do laundry well into next week.  Before we leave this thoroughly polite country, the polite thing to do is leave behind a thank-you note. Thank you, Canada: 

For being such good hosts. 

For your unfailing courtesy. 

For your (mostly) beautiful weather. 

For scheduling no more than 60 percent of your float plane departures at the exact moment when I was trying to say something on television. 

For not seeming to mind the occasional (or constant) good-natured mimicry of your accents.

For your unique TV commercials -- for companies like Tim Hortons -- which made us laugh and cry. 

For securing this massive event without choking security, and without publicly displaying a single automatic weapon. 

For having the best garment design and logo-wear of the games -- you've made wearing your name a cool thing to do.

For the sportsmanship we saw most of your athletes display. 

For not honking your horns. I didn't hear one car horn in 15 days -- which also means none of my fellow New Yorkers rented cars while visiting. 

For making us aware of how many of you have been watching NBC all these years. 

For having the good taste to have an anchorman named Brian Williams on your CTV network, who turns out to be such a nice guy. 

For the body scans at the airport which make pat-downs and cavity searches unnecessary. 

For designing those really cool LED Olympic rings in the harbor, which turned to gold when your athletes won one. 

For always saying nice things about the United States...when you know we're listening. 

For sharing Joannie Rochette with us. [Note: Figure skater Joannie Rochette of Canada learned two days before the ladies' short program that her mother, Therese, always an ardent supporter of her skating career, had passed away from a heart attack the day she arrived in Vancouver to watch her daughter skate.]

For reminding some of us we used to be a more civil society. 

Mostly, for welcoming the world with such ease and making lasting friends with all of us.

Now wasn't that a nice thank you note! And here are the final results showing Canada won the most Golds.

1.    United States  15  13  37 
2.    Germany  10  13  30 
3.    Canada  14  26 

February also saw me doing my least liked task which was doing my company books and sending them off to my accountant.  I have to say that PayPal do not make this process easy as when you download your history they love to add tons of wee notes and so trying to ascertain which entries are real is a bit of a nightmare.  Like there are tons of temporary holds and each non US currency entry has a total of 3 entries so you get a GB currency entry, then a conversion to US dollar entry and then a fee entry. There are some entries for authorization which are not actual entries so you have to watch for these and delete them.  Why they can't just produce a real audit report I just don't know.

I also got in a mailing from my Canadian accountant reminding me that my Canadian accounts are due. While I can start to gather all the info for that I can't actually proceed with that until my US accounts are done.

This month also saw me looking at what to do with my web site as I had arranged to leave it the Scottish Studies Foundation.  At a previous meeting one of the board directors asked if the Foundation needed to continue much longer as with the current payment being made there is only $35,000 still to raise to complete our pledge to raise $1 million to establish a permanent chair of Scottish studies.

I am now in talks with Simon Fraser University so I'll see how this goes and if need be will make a change to my will.

And so this pretty well completes things up to end of February.

March started off with some medical issues.  Having had a visit to my Doctor to get a new prescription she decided that she needed to make some changes to my diabetic drugs and as part of that I had to visit her on 3rd March to get blood taken and then I was sent to the hospital to get an ECG, The hospital visit was interesting as I'd last visited it some years ago and the system has now changed.

You now take a number from a ticket machine and then wait for your number to be called. They then register you and take down contact details, next of kin, etc. You are then directed to where you need to go.  You then need to register at the desk of that department and then you are called in when it's your time to be seen. Having an ECG doesn't actually require an appointment so you can be lucky or unlucky depending on how many people turn up.  There was a delay in my case as there was an emergency which required use of that department,

Then a few days later I woke up to find I was looking through a red crescent moon shape in my eye, It was pretty much in the center of my eye so it made reading things a touch difficult.  I figured it would gradually wash away and indeed by the middle of the month it is now right at the very top of my eye and seems ready to disappear but now I have what looks like flecks of soot all over the eye which is touch disconcerting.  As I have an appointment with my Doctor scheduled for 22nd March I figure I'll just wait for that so she can give me her advice on what I should do.  Of course the eye may improve more up to that date so I'll see what she recommends.

I still don't have heating in my downstairs toilet so got the local heating company to visit and they tell me the duct work needs to be re-done and so they are going to schedule a visit to put this right. It also seems that the expanding piping is not recommended for extending duct work and needs straight pipe so probably an hours work will resolve the issue.

I've now got my accounts back from my company in the USA and so this week I need to complete my returns for my Canadian tax accountant.

Ranald McIntyre in Scotland found me some small tins of Ox Tongue.  This is a meat I enjoy and it's impossible to find it in Canada or at least very difficult.  I did find it once but the shop is not getting it in again and for some reason they couldn't tell me where they purchased it.  So Ranald finding these wee 185g tins was excellent,  He sent me a couple over to see if they were ok and yes they were excellent so am about to email him to get me more of them.  It seems you can import small quantities of tinned meat for personal consumption into Canada with no problems. That in turn makes me wonder why more Scottish companies don't use this process to export.

The week of 14th March has been sunny and warm and so much so that after doing my shopping on the Wednesday I cam out to find my car very warm indeed.  In fact it was so warm I decided to switch on the air conditioning only to find it wasn't working, And so yet again I'll need to get it fixed.  Seems for the past 3 years I've had to get it fixed each year so the various garages are not doing a very good job.

On 23rd March I got my visit to my Doctor.  She is going to organise a visit to the eye specialist and also a visit to a diabetic expert to explore changing my diabetic drugs.

As I hadn't heard from my Doctor I decided to make my own appointment with the eye specialist Dr McCabe.  When I told him about my eye he arranged to see me at 7:45am the next day. He then arranged to send me the same eye specialist, Dr Anjema, that did my laser treatment a few years back. The one that never did follow up on my laser treatment.  Anyway I was seen the next day to get photographs done of my eye at a cost of $175. I then saw him the next day for the results which was on the Friday 9th April and he said he'd send me to another eye specialist in London and would be in contact on Monday to arrange a visit. At time of writing this on Thursday as he hadn't yet been in touch I thought I'd phone him and found that he'd only faxed over the request on Wednesday and it would thus either be Friday or next week before I'd hear back.  I just have the feeling that this Dr Anjema is not the best at doing his job as when I saw him I'd already given all the details about my eye problem to his staff which included the information that it had been 3 weeks since I'd had the problem.  When he saw me he said as it had only been a couple of days he thought he would give it some more time and then do another laser treatment to stop the bleeding.  I then pointed out that it was 3 weeks and not 2 days and thus he said he'd send me to London.  He also didn't discuss the results of all the tests I'd had the day previous.  The Dr McCabe was much more informative as he told me that as long as my retina wasn't damaged the London doctor could flush out my eye and restore my sight. I presume that the tests Dr Anjema did showed my retina wasn't damaged. Anyway... we'll see how this progresses.

Have to have another tree cut down as I noticed that it has almost split in half.  So arranged for my next door neighbour from across the street to do it sometime this month before it falls apart.

I did however drive into Toronto to have a lunch with Mike Russell MSP, Minister for Culture, and several others from Visit Scotland. Found out that Mike Cantlay has taken over as Chairman of Visit Scotland so it will be interesting to see what changes he might make. Also met Stuart McLean, Second Secretary of Scottish Affairs at the British Embassy in Washington.  And I met Dr Patricia A Main who is President of the St Andrews Society in Toronto.

Due to my eye troubles I decided not to attend the Scottish Studies AGM and I also told them that I was standing down as the President of the Scottish Studies Society.  To be frank it just seems daft to be the President with me living in Chatham which is a 3 hour drive away.  I've retained my board position with the Foundation however.  David Hunter the President also stood down and David Campbell took over as President.

I also changed my pharmacy from DrugMart to Sobeys this month as DrugMart had made a couple of mistakes on my prescriptions and they also charge more for filling prescriptions.  Sobeys also offer the free facility to build you a pill pack.  As anyone taking pills will know it takes a wee while to fill those little pill containers with 4 weeks worth of pills.  Sobeys will actually do it for you at no extra cost. So all in all I thought it would be worthwhile to switch.  They also do all the work for you as you just fill out a wee form giving them permission to take over and they handle it all for you.

On 19th April Claud and Leroy cut down the tree with the split trunk...

And all gone!

This month I purchased a few bottles of Barr's Irn Bru, Scotland's most popular soft drink. Yet again it was almost flat and this is by no means the first time I've experienced this.  I have in the past gone tot he Irn Bru web site to report this problem but have never got a response.  This time I thought I'd raise this with Sobey's, the Grocery store I use in Chatham.  It was really nice to get a response from them...

Dear Alastair McIntyre,

Thank you for your email message directed to Sobeys Head Office concerning
your dissatisfaction with Barr's IRN-BRU.  You are correct, this is
information that we wish to know.

IRN-BRU is bottled in plastic bottles by the manufacturer in Scotland.  It
has a shelf life of 10 months.  In our experience the shelf life is not as
stable in plastic as it is in glass bottles and we sometimes see degradation
in the carbonation.  We apologize on behalf of the manufacturer of this.

If you would kindly send us your address it would be our pleasure to provide
you with fresh stock so that you may continue to enjoy the taste of this
unique Scottish soft drink.

Matt Riddell
TFB & Associates Limited

And so it was really nice to get a response.

And while I'm commenting on customer service I note that a few weeks ago my Sobeys store stopped stocking Nelson 2% skimmed milk which I've used ever since coming to Canada.  They now seem to stock a very weird range of milks and nothing I can identify as 2% skimmed milk.  I'm now using a different store to get my skimmed milk but that also means I also purchase other products while I'm there and thus Sobeys in losing some of my business.  I guess that's always the chance you take when a store decides to change a range of products.

Today, 21st April I got my final accounts back for my Canadian tax folk (BDO) and find I have to pay another $2,700 in taxes due to me making more than they thought I'd make this year.  This is due to me being self employed in Canada.  I kind of whish there was a way to spread out the tax in monthly payments as getting a significant lump sum is never a nice surprise.  Anyway... that's now all my tax returns for this year.

This week also saw me concluding an agreement with Simon Fraser University in BC to have them mirror my site at a cost of just $30 a month so a good arrangement.  As it happens they have said that they'd be willing to take on my hosting including technical assistance at a price no greater than I pay at the moment.  This gives me somewhat greater security and so nice to have this offer in place.  They are also looking to invite me over to the University sometime in June to meet with them and also to meet their benefactors and sponsors in the Scottish community in BC.  And so looking forward to this happening.

On Friday 23rd April at last heard back from the eye specialist to the effect that I have an appointment to see a Dr Gonder at St Joes Healthcare, 268 Grosvenor in London on May 10th at 2:15. I did some checking on him and some excellent reviews but also some poor reviews.  I didn't actually know this information was available until I googled his name. You can see a report at RateMDs.

On Sunday 25th I attended the ordination of Nola Crewe at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Toronto and I did a story board of the event which you can see here. I stayed over on the Monday to have a celebration dinner with Nola and Harold at the Sin and Redemption pub which as it happens is opposite the Catholic Church. An excellent meal and also an excellent range of beers available.

I would also note the sad occurrence of the death of my good friend Ranald's wife, Barbara, in Scotland. She was a great lady and any time I visited she always gave me a great welcome.

And so that's about it for this month so we'll see what the next quarter brings.

And just as I was closing this journal the bell range and it was my next door neighbour Claud who wanted me to take a picture of a Turkey they'd just shot so I thought I'd share them with you...

Turkey Shoot

These two pictures show the permit you have to have to hunt and the tags on the Turkey legs show this is legal.

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