The purpose of this blog is to talk about moving to Australia, not just ramble on about our daily lives. So if we are going to post about our UK trip, it needs to have some relevance. This is actually much easier than we thought it would be.
Most important, Lisa is here for work. These are the first conferences she been at since announcing she was leaving UofA, and is seeing a lot of people who are asking questions about the new position. She is also getting the opportunity to meet with some of her new Australian colleagues at these conferences. But that is an aspect of the trip that was predictable. The more interesting stuff is the unexpected and inconsequential.
One thing we have learned is that Dan can actually drive a manual transmission on the left-hand side of the road. We have been trying to figure out what kind of car to get in Wagga. For the past 16 or 17 years, we have driven Toyotas with manual transmissions. We like driving a stick – it is fun, it gives you control. But the spectre of driving on the left and shifting gears with his left hand, has been a bit scary. Dan has driven on the left on two previous trips: a 10 day visit to Scotland and a few days in Wagga.
Both times, the rental car was an automatic and, except for the occasional episode of turning into the wrong lane and one munted tire (from getting too far over the edge of a Scottish road), it went well. The roundabouts are a bit nerve-wracking, but doable. This time, however, we added the manual transmission into the mix. It has been going very well, despite the car being as wide as the road in a few places! So, he is now leaning toward a standard; Lisa, however, isn’t sure and wants to drive a bit in Wagga before making the final decision. And, being the one with an income, it is her decision.
An interesting part of this trip is how many people we meet with connections to Canada or Australia. As we chat with our hosts at the bed and breakfasts, publicans, barmaids, and tourist info people, it seems that everyone in England has been to either Canada or Australia, or has siblings in one or both of those countries. Examples: George, our host at Burswood Guest House in York lives part time in Perth; we met a publican in Salisbury who was from Brisbane and visited Wagga frequently; we met a barmaid at the Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley (note: if anyone reading this gets inspired to go to the Hawkshead for a pint – and you really should, just to try the Five Hop Ale – make sure you go to Staveley near Kendal, not Staveley-in-Cartmel or Nether Staveley or any other Staveley…don’t believe your gps, which sends you on a pheasant-chase down scenic but narrow cart paths) had lived in Ontario and worked at Western. And they all absolutely love both countries. What this has affirmed for us is that we made a great decision. We like Canada, and we also really like Scotland and northern England. And it seems, from our experiences and discussions, that what we like about these places – the people, the attitudes, the culture, and the scenery – will make us like Wagga too.
And then there’s the sheep. Wagga’s sheep population is probably about 1000000 times that of its human population. We don’t see a lot of sheep in Edmonton, but the green hillsides of Cumbria, the Scottish highlands, and the English midlands, are polka-dotted with woolly white critters. We went hiking near Ambleside, walking through the fells (paddocks in Australia, fields in Canada) dodging sheep shit. They’re pretty cute, and not at all dangerous, so we think we can live among them.
Pie. Ummm, pie…. We’ve mentioned before the British influence on Australia and Canada in terms of politics, but it is also there in food, for better and for worse. The worse end: boiling vegetables until they are mush. The better: pie. This isn’t as big in Canada; yes we eat meat pies but it is more often a sweet item for dessert. But in the UK and Australia, savoury pie is a common main course. One of Dan’s quests for this trip was to eat as many pies as possible, and Lisa is happy to indulge in the occasional one, and so far there have been steak and ale, steak and kidney, chicken, chicken and mushroom, lamb shank, Melton Mowbray pork, broccoli and stilton, and a Cornish pasty.
In the UK, you can get good pie in most of the pubs, and we’ve been to move than a few. Australians understand the concept of meaty pastries to the point that the only food service in the Wagga airport is a Mick’s Pies franchise.
But the most important part of this trip, and the most relevant to the move, is the mental aspect. The past few months have been crazy. Really crazy! But our belongings are in transit and beyond answering the odd email, there is nothing we can really do. It might seem that taking a vacation at this point in our lives is pretty odd, but it was planned long before the move was, and there are a variety of reasons that it couldn’t be cancelled: some flights were booked on Aeroplan points and hard to reschedule; some of lodging was booked early with non-refundable deposits; Lisa had to go to the conferences. So it makes sense to just come, rather than beg and whine about refunds, etc. And it gives our stuff a head-start across the ocean.
The only real downside is the cats. They have to be at camp for about a whole month, then shipped off to quarantine. So except for a day where we shuttle them from Calico Hills to the vet, have them poked, prodded and de-bugged, then take them back to camp for pick-up but World Wide Pet Travel, we will be separated for 8 weeks. We’ve been told that our cats, because they go to boarding frequently, will be OK with this…not sure about us though.