If you missed part one, it’s here
Exploring further afield, we were struck by the almost comical comparison, size-wise, between the UK and Canada. Our roads were narrow and winding, theirs wide and impressive; our houses modest, many of theirs roomier, especially new-builds. And when it came to cars, ours seemed mostly ‘toy-town’. Food portions too made our eyes widen. Order a sandwich in the UK, and you received two slices of white bread with a filling, and that was it. No pickle or side salad; Canadian-style, you also received French fries and a salad. Our rationing system had been harsh! This extended to clothes. I was used to wearing a dress twice before changing. How embarrassing!
It wasn’t long before we all found jobs: husband eventually became a Driving Instructor, passing all the strict tests, while I became secretary to a Count de Salis, who had another home in Switzerland and was a friend of Charlie Chaplin‘s (I was very impressionable in those days). The company was Canadian Reinsurance and suited me just fine. Everyone was friendly, except one French Canadian girl, but she eventually forgave me for being English!!
Looking back, we made the most of every hour. Television was still a novelty, there were some excellent films to see and wonderful music to listen to. We attended a fabulous Jazz Concert featuring the Canadian Jazz Quartet Dan Vickery, played cards, went bowling, drove on wonderful WIDE highways to picnic near the many, clear lakes. The sheer size of the country was mind-boggling: the trees endless…conifer and deciduous aplenty. We journeyed past forests bursting with pines and spruces, green and splendid in their majesty. We explored nearby towns and environs, read voraciously (well, I did) and wrote dozens of cards and letters back home extolling the virtues and wonders of Canada.
We were wowed by Niagara Falls (twice), camped near a river when I heard my first rattler (but didn’t see it), I never moved so fast! Six of us hired a large tent and pitched it near Lake Penetanguishene (?) but never slept a wink as the men joked: ‘Hush… did you hear that? Could be a bear/snake or Indian…’ creeping up in the darkness, when all I saw were nervous Chipmunks.x
And then it snowed… Not snow as we knew it in England – where just an extra soupçon brings life to a sudden halt, but heavy snow and BLIZZARDS. At first, we were enchanted – the countryside was a beautiful landscape of glistening, silvery white, until getting to work was a chilly experience: ‘over-drawers’ and thick boots a must. But the street cars coped well for the most part and the snowploughs did an excellent job, except in outlying areas.
For leisure-time, our men made toboggans and we had great fun skimming down nearby hillocks. We were like pigs in mud! Then, quite suddenly, our tenure was changed by an innocent occurrence.
A guy we befriended on board ship: Tommy, was an “expectant father” when his wife was whisked into hospital, where she gave birth to a son, who – sadly – was not expected to live. He eventually returned home, naturally deeply upset, when the phone rang and an apologetic nurse explained there had been a temporary mix-up, and not only was the newly born child a girl, she was also in the best of health, once, ecstatic, he had high-tailed it to the hospital to be reunited with mother and new daughter, he called on us to share the good news and out came the shnaaps. By then, what had been a light fall of snow had become a raging blizzard, so we suggested he stay the night in our spare TV room. Apparently, not a good idea.
The next morning, our zany Latvian landlady– who we often found sitting on the stairs watching and listening to us as if we were suspect drug addicts or something, came up in a great state of anger and over-excitement shouting “You go, you go, no-one else stay here. Against rules!” And so, in another blizzard, we trudged the streets after work, in the dark, looking for yet another retreat.
We found one, and yet again, our landlady said. “I don’t allow locks on the doors!” What was it with Canadian landladies?! We later discovered why this particular woman didn’t like locks. She was riffling though our belongings. We double-checked and were proved right. What was she looking for?! We decided not to stay any longer, but before we left, the police arrived and arrested her for threatening a child with a baseball bat for hitting her only son. We certainly knew how to pick ‘em…
Roost No.4 was something else altogether and we had fun there. Friend Tommy was ‘overseer’ of a rambling rooming house in down-town Toronto. The basement was “going cheap” and apart from needing a clean and paint-up – which we soon accomplished, we moved in. We painted “Hernando’s Hideaway” over the doorway (from “The Pyjama Game” on at the time) purchased a few bits and pieces and soon made it comfortable.
A “very friendly” young lady occupied the large, ground-floor front room and I commented on how many men friends she was lucky enough to have and how clean she was… Naïve’s not the word! She vacated the premises after a short stay and two men moved in. On the third night of their tenure, we were woken up by, what sounded like a battalion of men from The Royal Mounted Police, (fortunately sans horses) and the new tenants were arrested for drug-smuggling. Oh, we did see life!
There followed a hiatus of calm and we went about our business and enjoyed life. There were countless cafes and restaurants to dine and wine in, and my company gave two fabulous parties; one in the summer on the Yacht Island on Lake Ontario, the other in the elegant house of our senior director at Christmas time, full of festive cheer. We drove to Ottawa and visited Montreal – where a cousin of my husband had moved after marrying a Canadian, calling on an Indian Reservation and meeting an educated “Chief Poking Fire,” and family. Educational and interesting.
Reading the above, you may be surprised to learn that, despite the good times and our great experiences, our feelings of homesickness grew rather than diminished. So, saying a sad farewell to the good friends we had made in Toronto, we returned to the UK. Home is where your heart is, after all. That’s not to say, once we had settled down again, that we didn’t miss Canada. We did and considered returning. But I then became pregnant with our first son and didn’t have the heart to deprive our mothers of grand-children!
Footnote: Many years later, we were lucky enough to visit Vancouver, and The Island, both of which we fell in love with. Two of our good, Irish fiends moved and settled there and were wonderful hosts. Canada is certainly a beautiful country and well worth a visit.
© Copyright Joy Lennick 2019
Picture credits: John Chuckman collection, Scotch Moss on Imgur, The Vintage Inn, personal collection
Your post, Joy, is entertaining and enjoyable but it has confirmed my view that England is the best place in the world to live. I have told my husband that when we leave South Africa [hopefully within the next three years] I am going to live in England – no more new world countries for me.
Hi Robbie, Thanks for reading and commenting. Although we retired to Spain, I still love England and Wales (mother half-Welsh). BUT, from a common sense point of view – as we’re pensioners, not only are British pensions far too low, rents are ridiculously high (as are property prices), there’s also Council tax and expensive travel prices, not to mention eating out. Denseness of traffic is a problem too (unless you live in the heart of the countryside).Here, not only are fares and property prices fair and affordable, we can eat a 3.course meal with wine for €10 in many restaurants. We’ve been in Spain for nearly 20 years now but usually visit the UK once yearly. Although the world climate has gone haywire recently, usually the climate here suits us and we live near to the Med which is an added plus. All the above said…if you can afford to live in the UK, there are some beautiful counties worth considering. One favorite is Shropshire. Brexit is the biggest problem on the horizon as our pensions have already suffered because of the low rate of exchange against the pound. Fingers crossed, things will improve, otherwise I’ll have to learn to play the spoons, (I can still tap-dance a fair Time step though…) Ha ha. Hugs xx
I’m glad you enjoyed your time in Canada, Joy, though it came with some crazy experiences! The snow is beautiful and yet the winters feel neverending. I grew up in the shadow of the rocky Mountains in Alberta and grew to hate those cold months.
We live on Vancouver Island now where there is no, or very little, snow. I’m much happier 🙂
Joy, your memory of details of long-ago events is fabulous. I’m impressed!
I live in the USA. I’ve been to Canada a number of times and like it a lot. The country is vast!
Hi Neil, Your kind comments are appreciated. What a fabulous world we inhabit, eh…(shame about some…of the people!!) I love all “the others” though. It’s amazing what uplifting vibes you can receive contacting folk around the planet. I’ve found that most readers/writers are generous with their assistance and interest which helps keep my aging cogs from rusting! Cheers. x
Oh! Joy I have enjoyed both if these posts what a wonderful time you had living in Canada. Thank you for sharing 💜🤣
Thank you, Willow, for reading and your kind comments. It was great reliving my time in Canada. I was so pleased to hear that you are recovering from your recent, nasty, experience. We lost a close neighbour a few months ago who was only in her early 70s from Sepsis. Take care. Hugs x.
Loved your story Joy. Wondering what year it was you moved to my city in the land of plenty. ❤
Hi Debby, It was 1956 and a real eye opener…”I’ll Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” was heard all over town…and we were young/old enough to appreciate everything. That’s why the memories are still so clear! If only it was a case of “Beam me up Scottie!” I’d pop over to see you…and Toronto again. Hugs xx
Fantastic and insightful post! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for reading and commenting. Great to see two, young people, just starting on the road to marriage. We’re now ancient (but 40 mentally) and have been hitched for an, unbelievable 66 years. If you want any advice? Don’t be selfish and really talk and listen to each other. You’ll get there! Here’s wishing you as many happy years and travels together. So exciting! Cheers. xx
We very much appreciate this! That is wonderful advice and congratulations on such a remarkable journey together!
Thank you both. xx
I really enjoyed reading your memories of Canada. You write very vividly.
Thank you Suzanne. x
What an adventure in housing! I can’t imagine how you “attracted” all those zany landladies and tenants. What a riot. It is a beautiful (and big) country and I’m glad you got to experience it, Joy. Thanks for sharing and for the smile. 😀
What an eventful life Joy and how positive you always were to new experience and making the most of very opportunity. So much for us to learn while we enjoy the stories.
Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it Cheers x.
I love those old photos before the times of digital cameras! 🙂 Thank you.
What a stonking good read. Thank you, I had the pleasure of three weeks on Vancouver island. My husband found his birth mother there. Their home on Shawnigain lake was astounding, as was everything we saw, or had at our fingertips. Bitter sweet, as she died a few weeks later. Having found her we were reluctant to go far, but when we did every turn brought a gasp.
Thanks, Ellen. I was so glad to hear your husband found his birth mother on Vancouver Island, but naturally sad he didn’t have much time with her. It’s a fabulous place…Cheers. x.