Oh Canada, land of moose and maple syrup. Home of the grizzly bear, the ocean playground of the mighty orca, and ofcourse, a natural habitat of the beaver. I shall now conveniently end this paragraph, avoiding the temptation of an innuendo.
For three weeks I lived in my other world. Vancouver is not the city I remember from when I lived there. It is now a sprawling, cosmopolitan, hectic city. The rapidly changing skyline, which has dramatically altered since my last visit in 2005, is nothing short of unbelievable. With the upcoming 2010 winter olympics, the construction business is booming. The face of Vancouver is changing beyond recognition. The remaining buildings from my childhood, that stood so tall and proud, are now dwarfed by the massive towers that overshadow them. This might be interpreted as progress, I'm not so sure.
Immersed in the buzz of the hectic life of Vancouver, I realised I needed to focus away from my own anxiety and take time to appreciate the simple yet beautiful pleasures Vancouver has to offer. It was late spring and the cherry blossoms were in their full glory. Tree lined avenues proudly displaying glorious pink blossoms. Pink blossoms that gently cascaded onto the ground. Vancouver was covered by a carpet of what could be described as 'pink snow'. What an awesome sight and welcome relief from my own bizarre form of panic. Amazing how concentrating on the beauty of the blossoms helped me in my own quest for a moment of inner peace.
I fondly recall the times I shared with friends and family. I drew great inspiration from my friends. The determined resilience of Heather and Wayne in such challenging circumstances was a provocative reminder that I too had the inner strength to continue to challenge my own negative speculation. For the wisdom and the kindness they displayed to me has renewed my own determination to attempt to be a positive influence to others. My trip to Canada was a powerful experience.
There were some amusing and some surreal situations. Watching the Champions League Final, live at 11:30 in the morning at my good friend Leon's house, seemed most surreal. It just didn't seem right to be watching football at that time. Being a Chelsea fan, the outcome was very frustrating, but somehow didn't seem as bad as if I been watching it in England. Then there was the time at Heather and Wayne's. I decided to check out the television stations. All those channels and nothing worth watching. Then I found one channel that was super boring. For ages I stared at the screen thinking that this tedious channel looked vaguely familiar. Then I realised that it was not an actual channel. In fact, it was the picture from the camera that was set up in the entrance to the building they lived in. Doh! Ofcourse I also spent a considerable amount of time with my friends saying 'eh'. We all had a good laugh about the fact that Canadians say 'eh' quite a lot. So what eh?
Three remarkable weeks came to an end. It was time to go to Vancouver airport and take the 'big bird' back to Manchester. So all packed up, my Stepdad and my Mother took me from White Rock to the airport. I was quite concerned that my baggage allowance was over the acceptable weight. So knowing that my hand luggage was underweight I did a bit of juggling. I put a very large jar of peanut butter into hand luggage. So saying goodbye to family, I headed through Customs. Upon putting my hand luggage through the screening device, I knew there was a concern. "Sir, we have a problem with an object in your hand luggage." Said the Customs Officer. Upon opening my hand luggage he discovered the offending item. That friggin' peanut butter was a banned substance for carry-on luggage. So a rather embarrassed Customs Officer confiscated the dreaded peanut butter. Then he looked at my contac lens solution but decided that I could keep it. Gee thanks.
Safely through Customs, we finally boarded the plane and took off to Manchester. It was a very good flight back and I felt more relaxed. What was really cool was that on the monitor each passenger had was a channel that showed the view the pilot saw out of the cockpit and the view below the plane. I thought that was very exciting. Watching constant twilight through the cockpit window and the occasional glimpse of land below was most fascinating.
The hours past by, all nine of them. We had left Vancouver at 3:30 P.M. on Saturday, May 24th (Vancouver time), we arrived at 8:30 A.M. Sunday, May 25th (British Summer Time). Where the hell had the weekend gone? Safely through British Customs (minus the peanut butter), I met up with my good friend Philip, who transported me back to Leek. Time to return to my other world.
I got back to my house in Leek. For three weeks, my son Tristan, had been looking after the place. What would I be coming back to? Well there was no 'den of iniquity' (oh well..never mind). Actually, the house was very neat, but the garden..well that was something that needed some serious attention. So, despite being extremely jet-lagged, I found myself out in the garden, frantically trying to sort it out. I got great satisfaction in being out in my garden. Despite the 'jungle' before me, I knew that soon my 'oasis' would soon be back to its wonderful glory.
Going back inside my house, I realised that the grocery supply was low. So in a very surreal state of mind, I wandered down to Morrisons to get some supplies. Just a few hours back in England and I was off grocery shopping. Checking out the tomato sauce, I looked up and saw a familiar face. It was my former spouse. A lady I had not seen in months. A lady I had stopped talking to because of a situation regarding our son. Yet we both sensed something was different.
The conversation was most pleasant, bordering on amicable. She realised that I had just got back from Vancouver. She said lets just enjoy the rather surreal situation we are in. I thought that was a very nice thing to say. Then I thought: 'let's make this surreal situation even more surreal.' I showed her a picture on my camera phone. Whilst in Canada I had taken a photograph of our old house. This was the house where are dreams began and our dreams ended. This was a most poignant moment and I wonder if this was some kind of healing lesson for us both. She drove me back to my house, we laughed and the anger I had towards her melted away. A thought provoking start to my return to England.
So I had left Canada where I had gotten used to people saying: 'How's it goin' eh?' Now I was back in North Staffordshire, where people have been known to say: 'Are you alright duck?' (what a 'fowl' expression). For the first two years of living in North Staffordshire, I had a sore neck. 'Are you alright..duck!?' 'Duck'? To this day I'm on the lookout for low-flying objects.
Now back in England, I look forward to the future. Knowing that I have friends in both countries fills me with comfort. I have learnt much about myself over the last few weeks, perhaps it is okay to 'impose' myself on society. Being the 'hermit on holiday' was rather ironic. I hope that proving that I can challenge my anxiety, my social phobia, will be source of comfort to those of you who have similar concerns. Now then, being totally confused, I wonder if it is okay to put maple syrup on my oatcakes?