Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Two months in Canada

Friday 9 June

I put crazy paving steps in the garden, which was tiring but very satisfying.

Saturday 11 June

We had a barbecue in the garden to celebrate our birthdays and the new house, and I did a land acknowledgement saying that the land was the territory of the Attawandaron, Anishinaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples.

Monday 11 June
Today was induction day at head office for the new job; it went well.
Tuesday 12 June
Today is the first day in my actual office with my actual colleagues. Lovely people. On the way home from work, the rear brakes seized on my car. The first we knew about it was when someone shouted "fire" at us. So thankful that Bob was in the car with me, that someone pointed out the problem to us, and that the car was still under warranty and we got a courtesy car to tide us over.

15 June
We are gradually getting things sorted out here. Got car, TV, shelving, cat tent (for letting the cats in the garden gradually), getting a new freezer today, possibly a second car.

New job is going well, they’ve got a very well organized development environment which is brilliant (harder to break stuff). Car all sorted now.

18 June
We went to WicCanFest (basically an open Pagan event, not specifically Wiccan) on Saturday. Introduced the topic of inclusive Wicca to people; it’ll be interesting to see how things develop. 

On Sunday we went to Elora Gorge and then to a pub for lunch with two of Bob’s Morris friends (lovely people who are interested in the environment and gardening).

Gradually acclimatising the cats to the garden using a cat tent.

Not homesick yet but I can see it from here.

22 June
Job is going well; I successfully built something yesterday.

Yesterday evening, Bob and I went for a walk. There were red-winged blackbirds, cranes, loads of flowers (a pink & white vetch that smells nice; a white mallow; a white campion; water lilies on the millpond; a big pink convolvulus). We saw ducklings with a mother duck. So cute! And away from the river, we saw a cardinal (bird). And a beautiful sunset.There’s also a funny little bird that flies low over the water. It’s passerine in shape, brownish-black body, bluish-black head, and ears things in the water. I’ve named it the Ontario Dipper Bird.

In the garden we’ve had robins, squirrels, a rabbit, chipmunks, and mice. The roses and hostas are coming out.
27 June
Just finished reading The Dust that Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernières. Lovely book. Shades of Galsworthy and Vera Brittain.
29 June
I was driving to work and listening to Classical FM (Canadian version of Classic FM), when Bach's Jesu joy of man's desiring came on. It's a very beautiful piece of music. What moved me was that we used to hum or whistle it in the car when I was a kid. My dad would start and we would join in. I was moved to tears - mixture of my family being far away and the poignancy of a childhood memory, I think.
2 July
Yesterday we went to Bob’s family cottage by Lake Erie and spent the afternoon and early evening swimming in the lake (freshwater swimming is wonderful), hanging out with the family, and having a barbecue. It was so great seeing the kids, and the rest of the family too. The kids showed me the amazing stuff they can do in the water: handstands and rolls and flips.
Exhausted as we’ve been painting a layer of primer in the living room. Looks a lot better!

Saw a blue jay and a female cardinal in the garden this morning. We’ve also planted the herb bed with rosemary, thyme, parsley, catnip, mint, coriander, and basil. Bob's friend brought some sweet woodruff, echinacea, and wild strawberries to plant.
4 July
On Monday (it was Canada Day, so day off) we put more primer on the walls and yesterday Bob put the yellow paint on. Horrid grey blue colour all gone (there’s still some in the kitchen but one doesn’t spend so long looking at that).
6 July
We went to Puslinch Lake, which was stunningly beautiful.
11 July
On Sunday, Bob and I drove to Lake Huron, which was spectacularly beautiful. I just wish I could look at the landscape here without thinking “this land was stolen from Indigenous peoples” every five minutes. Anyway we had a really nice time at the lake. Found a nice pub at Goderich, which used to be the station, too. 
13 July
Felt my first pang of homesickness today. Knew it would happen sooner or later, but it’s hard.

I’m pleased that the turnout in London to protest against Trump was good.

16 JulyHad an amazing weekend as we went to a cultural festival in Waterloo, where there was a Mapuche singer and storyteller from Patagonia, a Venezuelan band, a Mohawk storyteller, a Brazilian band, and nice food too. It was very hot in the sunshine but after a bit it clouded over and there was a breeze. We are going to Bob’s family cottage next week. Looking forward to that.

23 July
On holiday for the week, staying in the cottage by Lake Erie. We drove to Long Point and saw a snowy owl in broad daylight; also some turkey vultures. And we found a nice restaurant for lunch and had nachos.

24 July
Having a lovely relaxing time at the cottage. It rained buckets yesterday so we went to Niagara on the Lake (very pretty place) and it had cleared up by the time we got there. Also spoke with my friend Jane via Skype, which was nice. Then we went to the Brock monument to the war of 1812 and discovered that there’s a substantial additional monument to the Indigenous people who also fought against the Americans on the Canadian side. This was pleasing. (Photos on Instagram.)
25 July
We went kayaking on the O:se Kenhionhata:tie (Mohawk / Kanienke:ha, Willow River), Grand River (English). We saw cormorants, kingfishers, terns, and dragonflies. A dragonfly landed on my kayak. In the evening we went for a walk by Lake Erie (Erielhonan).
27 July
We visited the home of Mohawk / Kanienke:ha poet, Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwa:ke). Her father was a Mohawk chief, her mother was a Quaker whose family had come to help with the Underground Railroad. Her father built the house the same on both sides to offer a welcome to Indigenous people arriving by canoe from the river, and to European visitors arriving by road. The house is allegedly haunted, especially the room where Pauline wrote her poetry. In one photo you can see a replica of the Two Row Wampum, a peace treaty between the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Europeans — repeatedly broken by European settlers. The drawing room furniture in the house was designed by Pauline’s father. We also visited the Mohawk chapel, where her father is buried.
We visited the infamous Mohawk Residential School. Pauline Johnson’s brother ran away from the school; professional runner Tom Longboat said he wouldn’t send his dog here. Known locally as “The Mush Hole” for the awful food — corn mush. Children at residential schools were forbidden to speak their Indigenous languages or express their cultures. Christianity was forced on them.

Lastly, we visited a reconstructed Haudenosaunee longhouse and village, within the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve. The Mohawk storyteller we met at the Waterloo culturual festival told us that they had to apply for planning permission for this and submit an architectural drawing! For a structure they’ve been building for millennia on their own lands. Anyway I’m glad they built it.
29 July
We went to the Six Nations Pow-wow. My first ever. It was amazing. The dancing, the regalia, the food, the craft stalls. 

After my happiness at seeing the depth of culture still available to the Haudenosaunee — knowledge of healing, wampum, traditional laws, language, etc, my heart breaks for everything that was destroyed by the period of cultural genocide. And I’m angry that it happened.

The government needs to implement UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). Not more of the failed policies that are still oppressing Indigenous people/s.
But what I saw today gave me hope. The depth of knowledge and culture available is considerable — and people seem a lot more confident and proud of their heritage than was apparently the case in the fairly recent past.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Moving to Canada

Oxford, England, 29 May

Last minute preparations for the move, including a mini-ritual to collect up all the memories from the house in Oxford.

Oxford, England, 30 May

Today is the big day of the move. The removal men have arrived and our life is disappearing into a series of cardboard boxes. The cats were freaked out so we have locked them in the bathroom. Poor mogs 😿😿

I've been on the verge of tears all morning as I feel very rooted to this land, and sad to leave my friends and family.

We've gone out for a coffee to a lovely Caribbean-themed community cafe run by the local community. I wish I'd discovered it before.

Passed a local tower block being re-clad which made me think of Grenfell Tower. Finally burst into tears telling Bob about a guy who lost his mum and sister (they were trapped on the top floor) and was on the phone with them till they died.

When we got back to the house, one of the movers had put the cat carriers in a box, but luckily we were just in time to fish them out, spray them with Feliway, and get the cats into them.

The taxi arrived at 1:30pm and we got to Heathrow very early, about 3pm. The flight was at 6, but was delayed by 45 minutes. It took a while to get through security, what with the cats and everything, but all the staff at Heathrow were really helpful, and several were cat lovers. In the end, the flight was delayed by an hour and a half btwemade up sometime on the way over. It took ages to collect our bags, get through immigration (collected my PR paperwork, and declaring the cats) and then we had to go and pick up our hire car; we had to ride the airport train to the end and then the hire company picked us up in a minibus. And then we got stuck in a traffic jam outside Mississauga.

Cambridge, Ontario, 31 May
Arrived safely. The cats are still lurking upstairs, they haven't explored the whole house yet. We managed to get some kip. Arrived 1:30 am Canadian time (6:30 am UK time). There were two "happy new home" cards waiting for us.

Just about to go and get some breakfast. And coffee!

Here's a picture of the back garden.
Bob is mowing the lawn with next door's mower.

Morrissey is hiding in a cupboard in the bathroom. He has explored but got worried when he heard next door's dog. Ziggy has explored the whole house, except the basement. He likes looking out of the windows onto the garden.  The Feliway really helped them. 

We saw some chipmunks in the garden this afternoon. A friend of Bob's came over, bringing coffee and muffins, some herbs, incense, and a candle, and showed us where the local swimming pool is, and also helped us get a green bin from the dump. Later we went to the swimming pool, which has a hot tub, so we got a lot of the aches and pains from the flight out.

Cambridge, Ontario, 1 June

All feeling much better here. We did a new home ritual, asking for the blessing and protection of the elements, releasing the memories from the old house into the new one. The cats seem much happier today. Morrissey had a big purr fest this morning and has come down to explore of his own accord. I had a terrible night's sleep (too hot, uncomfortable air mattress) but it has cooled down a bit now and I eventually got some sleep. We met up with a UK friend who is moving here, and went to a British pub for lunch, and bought a camp bed.
Cambridge, Ontario, 2 June
Today Morrissey went and explored the basement... the first time I turned the light on for him, the second time he went down there in the dark. Both cats have purred and snuggled up with us. It was soooo hot the first couple of nights, we were all melting. It got a lot cooler last night. The cats seem to like all the space in the house and windows to look out of.

The neighbours are very friendly. The lady next door lent us her lawnmower. Today we are picking up a bed and a sofa and a gas cooker from Bob's sisters.

The house is nice but currently not much furniture - except what Bob brought out from the locker. Luckily that includes dining table and chairs. It'll be great when it has all our stuff in it. The walls need painting too. Who the heck paints their walls grey?

The food here is amazing, so fresh and tasty. Watercress that tastes like Hampshire watercress, not like the Spanish stuff, and actually sweet lettuces, and lots of choice. And pretty reasonable prices too.
So far we have seen black squirrels, grey squirrels, chipmunks, a chickadee, and a couple of North American Robins (or as they are called here, robins).

Drove over to Guelph to get the truck to pick up the sofa and bed and stove, but there were only two seats in it, so Bob has gone on to Hamilton to pick up his son, and then the stuff.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

No platform

It was Spring 2007, and a first year student on the University of Bath politics degree course had invited Nick Griffin, then leader of the British National Party, to speak at the University of Bath. The student who had invited him turned out to be the youth organiser for the BNP.

The student union, and all three campus staff unions (UCU, Unison, and Unite), swung into action to protest against Griffin being allowed to speak at the university. Nova Gresham, the regional official for the UCU South-West Region, came to support us, and we had speeches from her and some anti-racist activists at the joint staff and student meeting. Everyone at the meeting signed a petition asking the university to cancel the event. We were all very clear that allowing racists and fascists to speak (particularly if they speak unopposed) at universities lends an aura of respectability to their ideas, because they are given credence and kudos by the university, and that it is likely to increase incidents of racist violence in areas where fascists and racists hold events.

I still have the T-shirt I was given at the meeting, which has that quote about evil flourishing when good people do nothing on it.

We then went to present the petition to the Vice-Chancellor of the University. We explained our concerns about lending respectability to fascist ideas, and that such events have resulted in an increase in racist incidents. I felt that the VC understood where we were coming from mainly because a Black student looked straight at the VC and said, "I live on campus, so inviting this man onto campus is like inviting him into my living room. Would you invite him into your living room?" The VC replied "No".

Later that day, we met with the University Secretary, and advised him that trade unionists from all over the South West would converge on the university to protest (we had been promised up to six coach-loads). The talk was scheduled to take place during exams, and the University Secretary told us that if they cancelled the event, it would be over concerns around being unable to maintain public order, and the potential disruption to exams, as the University was committed to principles of free speech.

I was on holiday in Poland when I got a text to let me know that the event had indeed been cancelled. We heard that Griffin ended up giving his speech on a street corner somewhere in the city of Bath, and that his audience was outnumbered by the police who were there to prevent any incidents.