Oh, Canada.

Apparently, I’m a bit nationalistic. I never knew until I moved to Britain. Oh Canada, I heart you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying my stay here in the UK, but there is no place like home. But I’m getting ahead of myself….

It’s been ages. Longer then ages. A lot has changed since I last posted here, I’ll try to get you up to speed.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve blogged – and I was still in Canada at the time. At the end of September 2010 I flew across the Atlantic to join my Englishman partner- Jack- in the United Kingdom. It was so, so, so  good to see Jack again after being away from him for three months – it felt like absolutely ages. I missed him more I’ve ever missed anybody.

(Me and Jack, reunited once again!>>)

I lived in Bristol, in the South West of England, for the first 6 months of living in the UK. The first couple weeks were a bit of a blur – getting used to roundabouts, the way things are done here and how it all compares to Canada.  I got a job the first week of being there (hoorah!), at a organic grocers/cafe called The Better Food Company. What an amazing place – fabulous ideals, really fun and lively people, and just a good thing to be a part of. It’s the aspect of Bristol I will miss the most – the folks I worked with there. It really is a fun and exciting city – lots of lefty organizations, political actions, student-types and artsy bits.  I lived in a beautiful house with some ace people, and one horrendous lady who made my time in Bristol a bit shit. If you ever meet a lady named Laurie from the ;bloody west midlands’, please give her a kick in the twat for me. Thanks. Other then her, everything went as well as it could have, but the environmental job/volunteering market wasn’t really biting. So, Jack and I packed up and moved further north – to a smallish town called Keswick, in the Lake District.

We’ve been here now 4 months and I’m really getting the feel of the place. I like the people up north, and the landscapes around here make me feel more at home then I have since I arrived in the UK. I live in a very cool house with a very cool housemate who has travelled the world and is obsessive about the outdoors.  I work at a veggie cafe/bicycle shop (best combo ever) and enjoy my time there too, eating lots of salads and proper coffee. Other then work, I’ve been out on my road bike, my mountain bike and for good ol’ hikes with Jack and our house-dog, Kim. I’m actually finishing my degree too – using distance courses from Thompson Rivers. My goal is to finish my degree before my old roommate does – the race is on!

I’m currently geeking out hardcore on cycle-touring books and am getting a touring set-up for myself. I’ve read ‘The Wind in my Wheels’ by Josie Dew, and loved it.  She’s this spunky little british woman who left on her bicycle when she was 16 and hasn’t really looked back. What an inspiration. I really want to go across Canada still, and would like to tour around the UK or parts of Europe next summer. Open invitation to anyone wanting to come with me on some cycle-touring adventures! Thinking about the Surly Cross-Check in robins egg blue (naturally) – we’ll see if I stick with my local little roadie I’ve got now.  (pretty surly though eh?>>)

Anyways, I’ve compiled a list of things I like/don’t like about the UK thus far that I thought I should share with ya’ll. I’ll start with the dislikes, and then end on a good note. Enjoy!

Britain, the official dislikes:

Trail access. In many popular outdoors areas, mountain bikers are second-class citizens. All the good riding is to be found on the numerous footpaths that go all over Britain, and we’re not allowed on ‘em. Lame. Usually riding on footpaths is alright if you’re polite and don’t go ripping down them on bank holidays, but sometimes you get some tweed-swaddled jerk shaking his walking stick at you.

Lack of wilderness. Whatever epic adventure you plan, whatever big mountain you concur, you eventually come around the bend and there’s a pub, a road and a village. You’re never far from people, a farm, or a pub… and this freaks me out to a large extent.  (This might just be England though, as Wales and Scotland remind me more of a wild Canada.)

NO ONE WEARS THEIR HELMET! For pete’s sake people.

Expensive outdoors gear and mountain bikes, it’s ludicrous.

The Summer. It’s 99% of the time non-existent. Southern Ontario, you know it’s summer. You feel like you’re going to pass out from the continuous humidity, but at least it’s a summer. Whistler gets a helluvalot of rain (and some snow) in summer, but you’re usually guaranteed a warm and dry late summer, with promise of dusty trails and some swimming in the lake. Not here. It’s always mild and cloudy.

The fact that it’s England. Lots of folks back home have a very negative view of England. Not Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland… just England. They think it’s flat and densely packed with people and just boring. I disagree now of course, but it’s definitely not the ‘cool’ place to be travelling when speaking to Canadians.

What I like about Britain thus far:

Sheep! I heart sheep, so much. They are quirky little creatures who never fail to delight me. Rumour has it that they are daft, but they aren’t so bad. Plus, they give you wool.

Birds. There seems to be more birds here, even though it is a populated little island. They chirp all the time – morning, noon and night. Weird.

The accents. So much regional variation in the UK – from the south west sing-songy hobbit-like accent, to a Georgie (Newcastle based) very difficult to understand, to punch-in-your-face Bradford accent, to posh, hoity-toity proper Londoner accent, to a North Eastern ‘alright pet?’ – I will miss it dearly.

The need to be polite (to a fault).

Cup of tea? The almighty British institution. Everyone invites you for either  a pint down at the pub or a cuppa tea.  With everything – breakfast, dinner, before bedtime. And anywhere – on the go, in the car, even while you’re working.

The towns, hamlets, villages. There are so many little villages and hamlets that you come across in (seemingly) the middle of no where, each with its own thriving community, market, butchers and 10th century church. Love it.

Stones. Everywhere – buildings are made of it, roads are cobbled with it, and every region has it’s own unique materials – from the red sandstone of the Borders to the dark and foreboding slate of the Lakes , to the copious dry-stone walling of the Dales.

The names of towns and houses. Lacock and Cockermouth are personal favourites. So many ___shire’s.  Lots of houses have names instead of numbers, one of my neighbours lives in ‘The Plosh’. Good stuff.

– (Some) better  environmental practices – ie. no dryers, high fuel prices, radiators that turn off easily, switchs at the plugs,

Tiny, narrow roads. Drivers tend to go slower, as they can’t see what’s around the next bend due to high hedgerows lining the road. Also, when they meet another car, one of them has to back up until they hit a designated ‘passing place’ to let the other through. Civility on the roads!

–  The cars. They are small and relatively fuel efficient. And most folks don’t own an SUV they will never drive off-road, unlike your typical Canadian soccer-mom.

Hopefully will post more later (maybe in another year). 😀

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