What a Ride (So Far)!
We left Tilbury Docks on November 9 and landed as immigrants in Montreal on November 19, 1973.
So, we're celebrating 50 years in Canada!
This is a picture of the Stefan Batory - the Polish ship that transported us across the Atlantic from England. We were in cabin 155 with a bunk bed and a porthole. Yes, we were seasick for some of the time. The Atlantic rollers were challenging, but we eventually found our sea legs.
This piece is adapted from an earlier short memoir I wrote about our arrival in Canada and our first dog.
As the ship rumbled and vibrated, cutting through the chilly waters of the St. Lawrence, I leaned on the rail, disappointment cooling my excitement. The topography was flatter than I’d imagined. The only photographs of Canada that I’d seen were of the Rocky Mountains and I’d assumed that these pictures represented the country from coast to coast. My only geography lessons at school had focused on the Great Lakes, but I had only a scant understanding of their size and significance. Such was my ignorance as we made slow steady progress towards our new home.
When we docked at Montreal the bright colours and welcoming atmosphere astounded me. This place was in vivid contrast to the dull dreary Tilbury Docks we’d left behind. Everywhere was alive with bustle. Such was the efficiency and helpfulness of the Canadians who guided us, that we were ushered onto a train to Toronto before we had intended to leave Montreal.
We were young, having just graduated from university in England. We didn’t know where we wanted to live but all recommendations pointed to an apartment in the High Park area. I was in awe of the parquet floors, the fridge and stove, and the heating! It was wonderful. And Dominion was just across the street. I bought two full bags of groceries for $15. I couldn't believe it!
Martin had been fortunate to receive a job offer before we left England. I was getting worried because it was two weeks after we'd landed before I found work.
(Another disappointment for me was that there wasn't the six feet of snow I'd expected. And I hadn't even reckoned on there being a summer, especially a hot and sticky one. But we've grown to like the climate (for most of the time)).
Unfortunately, it didn't take long for us to discover we didn't enjoy apartment life. Within six weeks we bought a house in Streetsville. I can't understand why we were able to get a mortgage after being in the country for such a short time.
But subdivision living didn't work for us either. We filled our backyard with trees and refused to join the Tupperware and poker parties. So, within ten months after the move to Streetsville, we bought a small brick bungalow on eleven acres in Uxbridge Township.
Neither of us had lived in the country before and still knew little about Canadian life.
We adopted a town-raised Irish Setter the day after our move, and she was equally as naïve. The first thing Tessa did was visit the next-door neighbour’s bull, circling him and barking, her silky tail swinging from side to side. Fortunately, the bull wasn’t a particularly aggressive animal and probably hadn't seen an Irish Setter before. He appeared to have a quizzical look on his face as our neighbour helped me to rescue our townie dog.
Despite the certainty that this incident raised their eyebrows, this neighbour and his wife have been our friends ever since this interesting encounter. (They later introduced us to horseracing).
Tessa was responsible for unpleasant encounters with our neighbours on the other side of our property. She had an uncontrollable urge to chase their ducks. At first, these neighbours were, naturally, upset. I think a couple of their ducks died as a result of our dog’s pursuit of them and her picking them up in her mouth. She was a gentle dog with a soft, retriever’s mouth, but the ducks hadn’t been told that. Despite these sad and distressing outcomes, we later discovered that these neighbours fed Tessa biscuits every day, so she must have used her special charm on them with some success.
We learned a hard lesson one day. It even made the front page of the local paper. We had a bonfire and it suddenly became a wildly spreading grassfire. We'd not heard of grassfires before this happened. (Too much rain in England!!). It was terrifying. The Fire Department did a great job, but not before several of the (same, you know, the ones with the ducks) neighbours' trees had been damaged. The silver lining was that our insurance provided good compensation, the trees miraculously revived, and our neighbours used the money to make improvements to their house. And, even more amazing, they became friends.
One particularly challenging Canadian phenomenon we knew nothing about until Tessa introduced us to it, is the skunk. I couldn’t believe that its rank stink couldn’t be washed off with shampoo. I didn’t know about tomato juice or the concoctions which I’ve since learned can be helpful. So, we just had to put up with it until the sticky smelly stuff wore off.
Tessa learned her lesson though. If ever there was a sign of a skunk, by sight or odour, she would half-close her eyes as if to wince and beetle back to the house.
We've had a lot of learning to do during our time here, and we still find we're not as knowledgeable about this wonderful country as we should be. Not having spent our childhoods here we don't know much about hockey, for example. Our grandsons are teaching us a bit about the game, you'll be glad to know. We continue to discover great things about this amazing country and what it has to offer. We’ve had many adventures and hope to enjoy many more memorable experiences.
We've made many wonderful friends. Arriving in a new country with no family here means that our friends mean a lot to us.
We were fortunate to be approved for immigration in 1973 and are eternally grateful for the warm welcome we received and the great ride we've had so far!
Vicky Earle Copyright 2023
PS Don't forget that books make great gifts! The Meg Sheppard Mystery Series is available at Blue Heron Books, on Amazon, and from other retailers.