Once the novelty of a new culture starts to die down, homesickness will set in. This may seem daft as apart from everyone being so kind, they also all speak English. Even some of the countryside resembles rural England. On the surface, there should be no problem. I think the main cause, believe it or not, is the television programmes. No offence to our cousins south of the border, but the material broadcast is, on the whole, very poor and segmented badly by the constant barrage of advertising. This revolves, in the main, around bodily ailments with a pill for every condition. There seems to be obsessions with dripping lower regions, glue for false teeth, “Gas X” for wind and cream for itchy butts. There is even an ad running for enjoying life with genital herpes… The unfettered advertising spoils your viewing.
Re-runs of British TV serials such as Keeping Up Appearances, Last Of The Summer Wine, Ballykissangel, A Touch Of Frost, The Darling Buds Of May, Are You Being Served?… are about all that’s worth watching, apart from the nature programmes, which are superb.
Another piece of advice – if you plan at some time in the future to come over here, start videoing all your favourite programmes now and build up a nice library to bring with you. Cable (depending on the package) costs about a fiver a week for a stack of channels, but most are not worth watching. Satellite’s a bit more and both are billed monthly.
There is, Brits will be pleased to learn, NO TV licence here. For our American readers – in the UK if you watch your set and do not purchase a television licence, you can end up in prison.
To ease the UK “urge”, there is BBC World News, plus we use the Internet to deliver daily BBC1 news bulletins which can be actually caught live or in small video pods. Either way, Anna Ford and Peter Sissons are up there making you feel right at home. Live radio broadcasts can be received from Radios 1, 2, 3 & 4 via the same site. Plus the BBC has the best news website I’ve ever used, offering in depth information on any item.
Also there is a UK Mail sold here each week, which carries all the main topics that appeared in the Daily Mail during the past 7 days. Pricey at £1.40, but it quells a need.
Keeping in touch with loved ones is easy as most can be reached by email, and all by phone. It currently costs 14p per min during the week and 7p per min weekends to phone the UK from here (this includes to UK mobiles). Doubtless prices will fall, and we did try out the PC-to-phone free call systems, but with the slowness of the Net there is a talk delay much the same as NASA communicating with its moon craft. I have a best mate in the UK that takes care of any business for us over there and we are in daily contact via email. If there’s a letter or message that needs to go to a non-Internet relative, friend or organisation we send it as an attachment and he prints it out, places it in an envelope and mails it. Likewise, any documents needing to come over here, are faxed by him to our Internet server which turns it into an email that we download. Circles of friends and relatives can be kept posted of our adventures by regular Newsletters done in this manner by post, or sent direct if they are on line.
This is a far reach from when I was a child and we had one phone on an estate of 200 houses. To contact Canada took forever and a fortune through a series of trunk and overseas operators and links. Just how lucky the kids are today… and it’s going to get better.
Canada’s postal system is totally different from that of the UK. For a start, the transportation of mail here in Nova Scotia between sorting offices and post offices is by private companies. The postmen are subcontractors, providing their own vehicles and uniforms.
No mail is delivered on weekends or bank holidays. When it is delivered, it goes either to a mailbox where your property meets the road, or to a communal set of mailboxes positioned somewhere near your home. In these communal ones is a letter box for outgoing letters, and this is emptied once a day when the mail is delivered. The time varies according to when the contractor’s truck finally arrives. Those citizens not having a mail box, possibly because they are off the beaten track, can rent a private one at the post office itself, where there is a separate lobby containing racks of locked cubby holes. Access is 24 hrs a day, seven days a week, and these can be found at most, if not all, sub and main post offices throughout the province.
I can’t leave this section without mentioning those personal household mailboxes that are carefully placed to avoid being scat over in the winter by the snow ploughs. It is one of these areas where the conservative Canadians tend to let go a little, with a splash of creativity. You will find carefully modified boxes in the shapes of cows, trucks, school buses, churches, boats… or carved out of huge tree trunks and varnished to perfection. If the box itself is left plain, then it will be accompanied by a carved bird, lighthouse, maple leaf, bear, moose or some other fancy of the “artist”.
Sometimes people get carried away and you’ll see, say, a six-foot garden gnome with a shotgun parked on the lawn, or large models of deer, geese, ducks, cows and calves cut from block board and painted. Some are complete little scenes with bridges and wells with small figurines fishing or peeking from behind buckets. One guy has a model jumbo jet up on a broomstick. The genius doesn’t stop there; there’s always a wooden woodpecker nailed half way up a tree, or a dozen wind driven mobiles busy working across the lawn. They are great fun to behold, they bring a smile to your face and the creators aren’t chased by petty officials from Planning, clutching enforcement notices as would happen in the UK.
Christmas time is a joy to behold here, where most folk make an extra effort to illuminate their homes, barns, old cars and trees with fairy lights. These are spectacular displays and can be found even in cabins deep in the back end of nowhere, appearing at the beginning of November, vanishing late February.
Internet and phones
Liberal use of the Internet is possible here because it costs us just £12 a month to be online permanently, if we wish. The only draw back doing this is that it ties up the one phone line constantly – however the company (MTT) do have a version of BT’s “Call minder” service and incoming messages can be taken whilst you’re busy. An alternative that has just appeared, available eight miles away, but not here yet, and that’s a hyper net link 50 times as fast. For £5 a week it allows you to continue using your phone as well as being connected to the Net. It’s billed monthly.
Mobile phones are available but presently analogue, unless you reside in the Halifax area where they now have digital. A new phone stacked with call time credits and no contract costs a one-off payment of £75. Ideal for emergencies only, but top ups are available.
© 2002 Klondike Pete