Monday, 4 March 2019

New Beginnings

How often do you wash your car?    Do you find that in winter you have to wash it more than in summer?   At one stage in my life, I found that washing your car in winter was not a good idea as the doors could freeze shut!   No, I wasn't working in the British Scientific Research station in the Antarctic, but I was in a town in the interior of British Columbia.    Back in 1967, I emigrated to Canada and there were many new beginnings to consider.

Still remembering the care of my car, as Merritt was a semi-desert area, nights could be very cold so every car had a block heater which had to be plugged in when parking the car for any length of time, especially overnight in autumn and winter.  Also, when you went to the supermarket on very cold days, you left the car parked with the engine running while you went in shopping.   A practice not to be contemplated in Britain, but a necessity there.


Merritt in Winter – Mascdman [CC BY-SA 2.5 (]

Another "car" new beginning, of course, was driving on the "wrong" side of the road, as it were, (i.e. the right).   I adapted to that quite easily, and yet, one day when I had been driving all over the province for almost three years correctly I came out on to the highway one morning and proceeded to drive on the left!  Luckily the road was empty of any other vehicles.

From films and television, we are all familiar with the yellow buses used exclusively for school children.   If you were driving along behind a yellow bus and it stopped, you stopped behind it.   You did not overtake.   Even if the bus was on the other side of the road you still stopped until it had driven off.

I also had to change my terminology.   The bonnet of the car became the hood, the boot became the trunk and petrol, of course, was gas.   At first, I had to make a conscious decision to change my words but then there came a time when I couldn't even remember which was British and which was Canadian usage.

Another 'new beginning' was recognising policemen!   The majority of police were Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP).    Not dressed in the scarlet jacket worn on ceremonial occasions, but in brown.   To confuse me even further, some towns, such as Nelson, had their own separate police force with their own uniform.   But such places were few and far between.

Working as a teacher was more coping with change.

In Scotland, I was paid 1/12th of my annual salary every month.  In BC I was paid 1/10th of my salary from September to June.   So in July and August, no money went into my bank account.    Another change was that in Scotland my teaching timetable went from Monday to Friday, whereas in Merritt the timetable was organised in seven-day blocks, so if it began on a Monday, it ended on the Tuesday of the next week then the cycle began again.   Also, if necessary, all teachers were expected to be able to teach any subject to any class and not just their specialist subjects.    For example, in my first year there I had to teach General Business 11 to Grade 11 (the equivalent of our 4th year secondary) which was really the economic geography of British Columbia.   But it did mean I rapidly learned all about the province.

And I became used to the large helpings of food beloved of North Americans.   At one of my first meals, I spied lamb chops on the menu.   Well, I thought, that at least is familiar.   I ordered it.   It came on what we would call an ashet, a large oval dish, with three chops standing almost upright, with a slice of toast in between each, and a large baked potato with the obligatory ample helping of sour cream.

All these new beginnings were way back in 1967 but new beginnings at any time for anyone are to be thoroughly recommended.

Nancy Sanderson

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