This is a picture of the Stefan Batory - the ship which transported us across the Atlantic from England. We landed as immigrants on November 19, 1973.
For the August 2018 word challenge piece, which I read out to the Uxbridge Writers' Circle, I wrote a short memoir, copied below, giving insight into our naivete about Canada.
The words which we were to use in our writing are shown in italics.
As the ship rumbled and vibrated, cutting through the chilly waters of the St. Lawrence, I leant on the rail, disappointment cooling my excitement. The topography was flatter than I’d imagined. The only photographs of Canada that I’d seen were of the Rocky Mountains and I’d assumed that these pictures represented the country from coast to coast. My only geography lessons at school had focused on the Great Lakes, but I had only a scant understanding of their size and significance. Such was my ignorance as we made slow steady progress towards our new home.
When we docked at Montreal the bright colours and welcoming atmosphere astounded me. This place was in vivid contrast to the dull dreary Tilbury Docks we’d left behind. Everywhere was alive with bustle. Such was the efficiency and helpfulness of the Canadians who guided us, that we were ushered onto a train to Toronto before we had intended to leave Montreal.
We were young, having just graduated from university in England. We didn’t know where we wanted to live but all recommendations pointed to an apartment in the High Park area. Within six weeks we bought a house in Streetsville, and within ten months after that move, we bought a small brick bungalow on eleven acres in Uxbridge Township.
We’d neither of us lived in the country before and still knew little about Canadian life.
We adopted a town-raised Irish Setter the day after our move, and she was equally as naïve. The first thing Tessa did was visit the next-door neighbour’s bull, circling him and barking, her silky tail swinging from side to side. Fortunately, the bull wasn’t a particularly aggressive animal and probably had not seen an Irish Setter before. He appeared to have a quizzical look on his face as our neighbour helped me to rescue our townie dog.
Despite the certainty that this incident raised their eyebrows, this neighbour and his wife have been our friends for the forty-three years since the interesting encounter.
Tessa also introduced us to our neighbours on the other side of our property. She had an uncontrollable urge to chase their ducks. At first, these neighbours were, naturally, upset. I think a couple of their ducks died as a result of our dog’s pursuit of them and her picking them up in her mouth. She was a gentle dog with a soft, retriever’s mouth, but the ducks hadn’t been told that. Despite these sad and distressing outcomes, we later discovered that these neighbours fed Tessa biscuits every day, so she must have used her special charm on them with some success.
One particularly challenging Canadian phenomenon we knew nothing about until Tessa introduced us to it, is the skunk. I couldn’t believe that its rank stink couldn’t be washed off with shampoo. I didn’t know about tomato juice or the concoctions which I’ve since learned can be helpful. So, we just had to put up with it until the sticky smelly stuff wore off.
Tessa learned her lesson though. If ever there was a sign of a skunk, by sight or odour, she would half-close her eyes as if to wince and beetle back to the house.
We’ve lived in Canada for almost forty-five years, and we’re still learning about this amazing country and what it has to offer. We’ve had many adventures and hope to enjoy many more memorable experiences. We believe that we were fortunate to be approved for immigration in 1973 and are eternally grateful for the warm welcome we received.
Vicky Earle Copyright 2018
For more writing/stories, go to: Short Stories