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Emigrate 2004, Sandown Racecourse: a review

Well. I left home at 4.30 this morning and drove 220 miles through torrential rain and howling winds to Sandown Racecourse.

The sight that greeted me told me one thing straight away: there are a hell of a lot of people who want to get out of the UK to anywhere else but here!

Hundreds were flooding into the large hall, well, maybe flooding was the wrong word, as, in their infinite wisdom, the organisers had placed tables of giveaway books just past the ticket desk, causing an almighty queue.

My wife and I made our way in and headed for the Canada Square at the very back of the hall. Canada Square??? Canada Back Alley was more like it. What appeared to be just about the most popular country in the show was squashed into a not particularly large room. The passageways are about six feet wide compared to 12-15 feet in the main hall. Hundreds of people were jostling and pushing between others who were trying to talk to the exhibitors. The queue for the High Commission stand stretched back some 25 yards, making it impossible to get onto the Alberta stand, and making life very difficult for Saskatchewan and others.

I have nothing against children, having two of my own, but to bring babies in double buggies into this heaving cauldron of humanity is nothing less than madness. Ankles and shins were bruised, and tempers frayed. The poor kids were not too happy about the heat or endless vistas of legs.

I was somewhat disappointed with some of the stands and the staff, I know that there are many commercial organisations there, and they need to generate business, but there seemed to be fewer of the expected provincial governments there and more of the commercial types.

Of the provinces represented, I could not get into Alberta, as mentioned above. Saskatchewan were pretty helpful, but the prize definitely goes to a charming, helpful, witty, knowledgeable lady called Frances from Nova Scotia.

This was a province that had previously been lower on our list of choices than others. No longer. She was not just there to hand out a glossy brochure telling you of the delights of the area. She is there to tell you the right way to do things. The information that she imparted today has led my wife and I down unexpected paths, illuminating what was a dull day with rays of sunshine and insight.

The seminar that we were booked into – “Surviving the Emigration experience” was somewhat interesting, as apparently it was given by two people who didn’t survive it, and have now returned to the UK. Also they did not go to Canada as we had been told, but to Australia, so not a lot of help there!

For next year the organisers should think of the following….
1. Put all the financial advisors in the Canada room and bring Canada into the main area.
2. Ban pushchairs.
3. Put the High Commission (wonderful people that they are) in an area that they will not block other stands with their queue.
4. Ban pushchairs.
5. Open up one of the snack areas at the Canada end of the hall so that we do not have to traipse all the way down the other end for a coffee.
6. Ban pushchairs.

Please let us all know what you think. You may see me as a pushchair hating loonie, or you might just agree with me in some small way!

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