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My Canadian Experience
January, February, March 2012

First significant event this year was on the 5th when I had my left eye operated on to remove cataracts and have a multi-focal lens implant done. That was followed by an examination the following Monday and seems it went well.  I need to take eye drops for around 3 weeks.  I was given an appointment for 2 months time.

Right now I can see very well with my left eye but the right eye is not quite so sharp.  On the usual eye text to read letters the left eye could read the smallest print but the right eye couldn't read that at all and had difficulty reading the next size up.

However all that said I find I don 't require reading glasses any more and the shadow image I was seeing around things has completely gone.  So right now I'd say this was a big success.

I also had my six month visit to the Diabetic health care dept. at the local hospital.  This is a useful visit as they keep you up to date with what's new.  Like there is a new meter out that warns you if it detects a high or low sugar trend.

The weather in Chatham has been quite spring like on the whole with no snow worth talking about other than a light covering which quickly melted away.

Here in Canada there has been a lot of talk on the proposed oil pipeline from Albert to the USA and also another pipeline from Alberta to BC.  It seems with the green and environmental groups there is a lot of protests going on about it.  In the USA it would create thousands of jobs and most people are all for it but the US President is up for election this year and he's decided to postpone any decision until after the election as he feels the lobby against it might lose him some votes.

Right now Canada only supplies the USA with her oil but this political stuff has made them decide that China would be a great market for their oil and so looking to build a pipeline to BC where it would go onto tankers to China.  The problem with this project is that there has to be an enquiry and with all the protesters this means it could take 2 years to get approval for the project. The Harper government is protesting that foreign money is being poured in to help the objectors to this which is seen as a purely Canadian affair.

Given China is such an economic power these days Harper will be doing a full state visit to China shortly and it seems to me there is a lot that Canada can get out of a better relationship with them.

I've also been progressing with my Electric Canadian site and finding it just as difficult to get up to date information about Canada.  I've come to the conclusion that no government wants to share information about their country outside their own web sites. Problem is the way they present their information means there is no easy or quick way to get at decent information and thus the vast majority of people will give up long before they get any meaningful information. 

I have had to postpone some work on the Canadian site as I'd run out of material for Electric Scotland so had to turn my efforts back to that site.  Right now all my income comes from Electric Scotland so that's where the effort needs to go until I can ramp up more visitor traffic to the Canadian site.  Bit of a catch 22 on that as if I don't add to the Canadian site on a regular basis I won't get the traffic there.

However I have managed to get up another Maker of Canada biography and am now working on the final book in the series and hope to get that up over the weekend. The it will be back to Electric Scotland to build up some stock for future weeks.

Friday 13th 2012 saw our first real fall of snow in Chatham. Thankfully I have plenty of supplies in to take me over the weekend so need to go out. In fact I could last to over the following weekend if I needed to albeit I might run out of bread but do have the facilities to make a loaf of bread if needed.  Mind you having said all that it's not that bad so I could get out in the car if needed.

Today I also got a visit from my Internet service team as I'd been having some intermittent outages on my Internet line.  He diagnosed a loose cable in the splitter box but also noted I didn't need a splitter so removed it and all the test results after indicated that had fixed the problem.

On February 3rd I heard that my friend Harold Nelson had passed away.  I'm told it was quite quick so thankful for that. 

On February 6th a wee bit of a crisis in that a cat got itself onto my roof and seemingly couldn't get down.  A passer by climbed up but couldn't get it to come down.  The another passerby said she'd seen it on the roof before and it had got down on its own.  However I then got another couple of door rings to say did you know a cat is stuck on your roof.  So... I phoned my friend LeRoy who does all my handiman stuff and he popped down to open the attic window to get it down. 

On February 7th I was on my way to Toronto to attend Harold's funeral when the temperature warning light came on.  As I was just at one of the service stations I popped in and topped up the radiator.  Then  got a coffee and heading back onto the 401 to continue on my way.  A few miles further on the temperature light came back on and then my traction control light came on saying OFF and then a hundred yards on it said ON. And then off and on with the temperature light going on and off.  So I figured there was something seriously wrong and so pulled off the motorway onto the hard shoulder. I then phoned the CAA and within forty minutes of my first phone call they had arrived and gave me a tow back to Chatham.  I had considered getting them to give me a tow to Toronto but realized that at the speed we'd be travelling at I'd never make in time for the service.

So at time of writing I'm back home with the car dropped off at the garage and am awaiting their verdict on what needs to be done to fix whatever problem they find.

The CAA provided an excellent service. They identified where I was on the 401 and then told me I should get picked up in around half an hour.  They then phoned back to say someone would be with me in 20 minutes. They also asked if they could phone anyone for me so I got them to phone Nola to tell her that I'd broken down and would not be able to make the service. I was due to read Psalm 121 but hopefully they found someone else to read it.

I will say that is the first time in all my driving life that I've actually broken down. I've had a flat battery and of course a flat tyre but never an actual breakdown. As I always have my cars regularly serviced it's not something I expected to happen but of course there is always a first time for everything.

And just got a phone call in from the garage to say it was a faulty thermostat that caused both problems so $141 plus taxes and labour to fix the problem and I might get the car back later today or tomorrow at the latest. They did say that I now had too much coolant in so they will drain some off to get it to where it should be. Then a half hour later they phoned back to say they'd discovered I also had a leak in my water pump so that needs to be replaced. The part is only $61 but it's a labour intensive job so labour for that will be around $140.00. 

I might add that you should never purchase a Buick as they seem to have poor build quality although the engine will go on for ever.  I had a Mazda for 10 years and apart from regular servicing every 6,000 miles it never needed anything done to it. This Buick is now 11 years old and I seem to be gradually replacing everything in it. It's a very comfortable car to drive but as I say the build quality is poor.  Personally speaking I wouldn't purchase another GMC vehicle.

This week also saw me come down with the flu so am not a well man right now. I got myself a hot toddy and was trying to sweat it out of me by being in bed.  Heard someone knock on the door but didn't feel well enough to go down and answer it.  Then the phone rang and as most of my phone calls are ones trying to sell me something or asking for donations I just ignored it.  However w while later got a very determined knocking at the door so decided I'd better see what it was and lo and behold it was the police.  It had been reported that I wasn't answering my door or my phone and that perhaps I was ill.

Certainly nice that someone took the trouble to check on me but I could really have done without it. One of the police officers asked if I was depressed... I answered of course I was depressed wouldn't you be if you came down with the flu? <sheesh>.

Learnt today that our Knights Templar Ball got some 300 people and made over $10,000 for our cause.  Excellent work!

Was asked if I could help the Scottish Democratic Alliance with their overseas work as they feel only the SNP are getting coverage and that also means folk like the USA are getting the wrong signals on whether we will withdraw from NATO, etc. Happy to help.

Reading a book today which commented that in the history of Scotland there was no reference to milk.  While that is not absolutely true references to it are very rare.  This made me think a bit as part of the reason for this journal is to provide a wee insight into normal life in Canada during this small time frame. 

We do in Canada have many fast food restaurants where you drive up to them and speak your order into a speaker system and then pay at a window and pick up your order.  There are also a huge amount of ordinary restaurants and many restaurant chains and from what I can see many Canadians use them quite frequently. 

I was not brought up that way myself in that in my early days there were no fast food outlets unless perhaps fish and chip shops. In the Middle East we had our own in-house cook and then of course I went to boarding school where all our meals were prepared for us.  I would at times pop into the local cafe to get a snack.  In my working life in Scotland I did spend a lot of years as a salesman, area sales manager, etc. and thus stayed many nights in hotels and obviously at that time either ate at them or went out for a meal.  I would purchase a lunch for my sales people. In more normal times I did use the local fish and chip shop and a curry house but when it comes to MacDonalds or KFC, etc. I hardly ever used them.

In Canada and in Chatham I rarely use them. I do cook almost all my own meals.  There are two local fish and chip shops in Chatham but have to say neither are up to the standards I enjoyed in Scotland.  I have thus taken to making my own and find I can prepare and make the meal faster that I can go out and order it from them and my fish and chips are of a higher standard and more like the British Fish and Chips.  The main difference is that in the UK the Fish is normally one large fillet and the chips are thicker. Usually they can be simply ordered in the UK as I guess they are busier so that they always have them available whereas in Canada they will cook them fresh.

So in Scotland I would order Fish and Chips usually one a week.  I would also have an Indian curry once a week.  As there are no curry houses here in Chatham I make my own but do purchase the curry sauce (Butter Chicken) from the supermarket in a jar.  As long as you have a chicken breast a curry meal just taken half an hour to prepare and cook.

I do tend to make enough for two or three meals when cooking my own.  Like this past week I've had two curries as I made enough for two meals.  I've had one fish and chips that I made myself and I've had a beef burger that I made myself. Usually when I do beef burgers I make my own and enough that I can usually make 4 x 6oz burgers. I then freeze them and so can just take out one when I want it. This week I also made Macaroni and Cheese to an old Swiss recipe and that is enough for three meals.

I'm not one for shopping really so I usually make sure I have 2 x 1litre cartons of milk, usually three loaves of bread 2 of which go into the freezer and three packs of butter. Usually plenty of potatoes and mostly frozen vegetables  I will purchase a cauliflower and cabbage but not much for herbs but always have onions.  In season I will purchase sweet corn and do have tomatoes on a regular basis.  Love bacon and eggs and from time to sausages.  I usually have a carton of orange juice in the fridge. 

I will do joints of meat and individual lamb, pork and beef steaks. I will also have shrimp salads either as a main meal or a starter and do make my own soup.  However I do always have Heinz Tomato Soup and also tinned Cream of Mushroom soup. Some cold meats purchased from the Supermarket although I prefer to cook my own joins and have them hot for the first meal and cold until finished.

So if you asked me how often I go to a fast food takeaway restaurant I would guess once a month but that's usually just to pick up a coffee. As to actual sit down restaurants I would have to say almost never.  I've found over the years that I can cook a better meal that most restaurants serve up.

Due to having diabetes I usually don't have dessert but I will purchase fruit although I don't eat too much of that.

And so I usually have just two meals a day with a kind of brunch as my first meal, a kind of mixed breakfast and lunch and the other being dinner which is often just one course. On occasions I might have a snack late at night which might be a tomato toasted sandwich or cheese on toast. I usually have 2 or sometimes 3 cups of coffee a day, an occasional cup of tea and often one diet soft drink.

I don't drink much alcohol these days but do have a well stocked spirit bar with things like Martini, Dubonnet, Rum (light and dark), Gin, Brandy, Whisky, Vodka, Single Malt Whisky, Rye, Sherry, Port, and various liqueurs. I also have red and white wine available and some beer. Were you to ask me how much I drink I think I can say not very often.  I will have a red wine if I'm having a steak but almost never drink white wine. I can easily go an entire month with not one drink. I tend to drink mixes like Dubonnet with a shot of gin and topped up with lemonade, slice of lemon and ice. Or might do the same with martini but usually with a tonic water.  Gin and Tonic is also an occasional choice.

As I'm a Scot I often feel I need to have whisky available although I must confess to not really liking it as a drink. I think I'd actually prefer a Brandy or Southern Comfort. So I have a very good blended whisky from Orkney and three good single malts.

In my younger days I was a heavy drinker but I have found that since having to go onto injections of insulin for my diabetes I find one drink is really all I can take.

As to coffee I confess to preferring Nescafe instant coffee as I like the taste and I always get a nice hot cup. I have had Tim Hortons and MacDonalds. I do take my coffee with the equivalent of a double cream and one sweetener.  Tim Hortons is always consistent but I find that MacDonalds is not and I think that is due to them not putting in the whole sachet of sweetener. When MacDonalds does put in the correct amount of sweetener I find it better than Tim Hortons but as they mostly don't put in enough I'm now not going there very often these days.  Like I was heading out on an hours journey the other day and as I was passing a MacDonalds I popped in for a coffee and yuk! not enough sweetener.

I should explain that in Canada when you order coffee they will put in the cream and sugar for you whereas I note in the US they don't. Not sure what they do in other countries and its really only since coming to Canada that I've actually bothered to pick up a coffee.

Seeing as I was brought up in Scotland I do make an effort to get some haggis and black pudding slices and some sliced square sausage. I also prefer the UK Heinz Baked Beans and so I do have a source to get all that.  I also pick up a few 1 pound steak pies and the odd bridie or two. I also like the Scottish Kipper filets and I do pick up HP Fruity sauce which is called Chicken and Rib sauce in Canada. I will purchase the odd can of Irn Bru if I come across it but avoid the plastic bottles as they are usually pretty flat. One thing I do miss is Ox Tongue. In Scotland every wee store stocked it as Lunch Tongue but all the major supermarkets stocked the full Tongue all as sliced meat. I have yet to find a supplier in Canada despite hunting all over the place. I ended up resorting to a friend in Scotland to send me over half a dozen wee cans of it.

My favourite sausage back home were Richmond Thick Irish sausages but you can't get them in Canada and so far I've not really come across a really good link sausage that I like. I've often said that British sausages were pretty plain but that was why they invented HP Sauce!

So while this is not a comprehensive list of food and drink and eating habits it might serve as a wee introduction to that topic and thus fill a gap in my journal.

I had my other eye checkup towards the end of March. My left eye is good with excellent vision. My right eye is still trying to focus but is struggling a wee bit to focus when reading but longer site is excellent.

And in March we were getting summer weather in Chatham. I was almost at the point of powering up my air conditioning.

And so that's about it for this quarter.

PS  A couple of things came to light in April which I thought I might add here just to record my impressions...

First there was fire at my neighbours house across the road from me..

I am pleased to note that no-one was hurt in the fire but considerable smoke damage was the result. Right now I don't know if my neighbors will return so time will tell what happens to the house.

Then as you may know I lost my family doctor due to her own health problems and have now got a new family doctor, one Jennifer MacKinnon.  In my initial interview with her she made a point of telling not to go to a walk in clinic as if I did she would lose $40.  I have to admit that set me back a bit as I really couldn't understand why she would say that. It's certainly not something I would have expected in Scotland.  On doing a bit of research it does seem a lot of doctors in Canada are in it for the money.  That's not to say they don't do a good job but money is the motivation for becoming a doctor and hence the money chat with me. It seems the average salary a family doctor can make in Canada is around $230,000 a year and they can make additional monies if they also do other work in the medical field.  So just thought it was worth recording that.  You do also have to be proactive in finding a family doctor here in Canada. Here in Ontario there is a hot line number you can go to for help in finding a doctor but they still advise you to keep looking yourself.

The other point I wanted to record was in the political field.  My own local MP is Dave Van Kesteren who is a Conservative.  I was trying to get some help on finding out about the Industrial and commercial sectors in Canada and wasn't getting too far in getting information.  I thus thought he might be able to help so contacted him.  One of his assistants did contact me and promised to help but as a couple of months have gone by without any word I guess I can write him off as a source of help.  I only make this point as I had received a letter from him congratulating me on becoming a Canadian citizen and said to contact him if I needed any assistance.  And so I did contact him and he's been of no assistance.  I often wonder about politics.  Like I am a natural Conservative voter but in the Federal elections I have to either vote for him or I have to vote for another party. As he's been of no help do I still vote for him or should I just vote for someone else to try and get an MP that would help?

One other point I wanted to record is that when we get heavy rain here in Chatham the road outside my house on Lorne avenue gets flooded...

As you can see from the picture it goes across the middle of the road and immediately to the right is a stop sign on a cross roads with Raleigh St.  In my view that is a hazard and could cause an accident as cars would normally try to avoid the flooding but by doing so are driving too far to the centre of the road.  In addition the pavement is also flooded and there are many parents with wee children walking by. I have contacted the council about this as they were due to re-tarmac the road which they have now done but I felt this was an opportunity to put an extra drain in to help get rid of the water.  However nothing was done and hence this possible driving hazard is still there.

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