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Long distance runaround
Long time waiting to feel the sound
I still remember the dream there
I still remember the time you said goodbye
Did we really tell lies
Letting in the sunshine
Did we really count to one hundred

Jon Anderson

One here for the Kickass Canada Girl, who has a bit of a ‘thing’ about the 300SL Gullwing. Well – who doesn’t?

The Girl is on her way to Victoria – via Hong Kong and Vancouver! This somewhat bizarre route is a result of the complete change of plan between booking a return ticket from Canada to attend our good friends’ wedding in Hong Kong at the start of November, and then later realising that she would also need to get to London by November 6th for a job interview. The only course open to her was to book another return flight from Hong Kong to London and then to adjust the return flight dates so that they co-coincided. As a result she now has a 24 hour stop-over in Hong Kong before carrying on to British Columbia.

Once she has wrapped up her affairs there and re-packed all her belongings for the return to England, she has a relatively simple return journey – in two weeks time – via Vancouver and Chicago! Well – when you are booking last(ish) minute in the run up to Christmas you have to take what you can get…

When she returns one thing in our lives will have changed – hopefully for good. We will no longer be in a Long Distance Relationship – or LDR as the TLA has it. Those who have followed these posts for a while may well have seen some of my previous musings on the subject. If you have come to this post as the result of a Google search on such matters let me refer you here, here, here and here where you might find some slightly more useful material. If you want to know how living apart has been over this last ten months, the Long Distance Relationships category herein will guide you to any number of my grumbles and gripes.

That I am sounding valedictory on the subject (if such one can be) is because the first – and most important – of the many lessons that I am sure the Girl and I will learn from this… unusual… year, is that we should not be apart! We didn’t like it – we won’t do it any more!

To those of you whose LDRs must persist – or to anyone about to embark on such – you have our heartfelt sympathies. Of course, for some people it works… for us it was tough, unpleasant, painful and definitely not to be repeated.

So – raising a wee dram to those that must endure – I say “Sealbh math dhuibh”.

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…and an interesting statistic!

In addition to any casual readers who may have stumbled upon these somewhat eclectic posts (Hello there – and thank you!) there is a ‘hard core’ (not sure how well that will go down…) of regular followers – or at least of those who have subscribed to receive email notifications of postings (on the assumption that these emails are not simply diverted directly and discretely into the spam folder!).

These hardy souls – numbering around 20 in all – represent some of our oldest friends, relatives and acquaintances both in the UK and in Canada – as well as from further afield! To them I say, simply – thank you.

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to make this particular connection, but the realisation came to me just the other day that – of this chosen few – no less than three of us are currently engaged in Long Distance Relationships – or LDRs, if you prefer the TLA! Now it seems to me that three out of twenty is statistically rather on the high side, which does make me ponder yet again the nature of co-incidence – on which subject I have mused previously. I have also posted before on the subject of LDRs – herehere, here and here – and I very much doubt that this will be my last word on the subject.

One could delve into the backgrounds of those concerned with a view to identifying some pre-disposition, or to look for some commonality of experience which might result in us arriving at the same place (as it were) at the same time, but in reality our reasons for being so – in terms of distance, duration and indeed intent – are sufficiently different as to render any such essay meaningless. When all’s said and done it is, most likely, ‘just one of those things’ – though so to say will doubtless offend both the logicians and enthusiasts for the scientific method.

It is really rather comforting to know others who are themselves in similar circumstances – to be able to swap notes and to compare experiences. Thanks again to you both – and good fortune for your particular journey. From our conversations I suspect that – if there is one thing that we have all discovered – it is that no matter how carefully we make our plans the trickster that is life will throw them into disarray. More on the trickster in future posts!

On the subject of Long Distance Relationships – today is Kickass Canada Girl’s birthday. It is the first of our birthdays together that has had to be celebrated by way of Skype, eCards, Amazon (CA) and the Brentwood Lodge Spa website. Whereas I am hugely grateful to the InterWebNet for making such things possible I have to say that it is a pretty poor substitute for being able to celebrate the occasion in person

I suspect I will need to make up for this ‘big-time’ – but for now…

Happy Birthday, Kickass Canada Girl!!

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Now that Kickass Canada Girl and I have each paid a visit to the other, subsequent to her move back to Canada in March, some of the side-effects of living at a distance are becoming more apparent.

We have – in great measure – got the hang of residing on different continents. We don’t like it much, and certainly wouldn’t want to do so for longer than is absolutely necessary, but we believe that we can make it work. Visits in either direction are, in the main, joyous occasions. Meeting each other again – as it were – can be a powerfully emotive experience.

The hardest part though – for me at any rate – seems to be the transition between one state and the other.

I posted last month regarding the Girl’s recent visit to the UK, and how her arrival made me realise the extent to which I had built up a protective layer such that I might live without her with the minimum of emotional discomfort. Close observation throughout the course of her visit has revealed rather more about how these things work – as least for us – both at the ingress and egress of her stay.

Before the Girl arrived I was gripped – needless to say – by eager and impatient anticipation. The last week before she arrived seemed in particular to crawl by. Then, on her arrival – as I noted before – there was a brief period of disorientation which resolved rapidly into joyous harmony.

So far, so good!

A couple of days before she was due to leave, however, we both noticed a slight but uncomfortable tension. She had to pack, of course, and that in itself – signifying as it did the imminence of departure – inevitably created a melancholic mood. There was something more, though. My best guess is that the inclination to plan and think ahead – giving thought to the events and activities of the next few days – caused a rupture in the fabric of togetherness. To that point we had been planning things together and sharing a common immediate future. Once we started to consider events post-departure we were inevitably drawn once again into our separate worlds, even though we yet had time together.

The act of parting itself – particularly given that we are to see each other again in a few weeks – was made tolerable by the brave faces to which we are becoming accustomed. The aftermath, however, was less pleasant. Rebuilding the protective shell seemed to take more effort than it had before, and the melancholic spirit hung heavy for a longer season.

It may be, of course, that what is immediately extant simply leaves a more powerful trace than what has gone before, and that in the great scheme of things there is no such thing as a good parting – at least where lovers are concerned. I find myself worried, however, that in truth Greg Guldner’s observation – quoted in this previous post on long distance relationships – to the effect that subsequent partings can prove ever more unbearable may in fact be worryingly close to the mark.

This separation thing clearly has a limited shelf-life.

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Those who write, post or comment on Long Distance Relationships (LDRs) – be they academics, altruists, cynics, sympathisers or those who are currently (or have been previously) themselves embroiled in such a situation – all concur that communication is vital, and that the nature thereof should be agreed in advance by negotiation between the parties concerned.

As you may have noted from previous posts, Kickass Canada Girl and I belong to the school of believers in frequent communication, however trivial or brief it may be. We are – for this and other reasons – immensely grateful that we did not have to endure this experience even five or ten years ago. Skype, email, SMS messaging and mobile devices such as the iTablet and smartphones have enabled global communication in a manner that would have been unimaginable to those who went before us. The idea of embarking on such a relationship with only landline telephony and airmail – let alone in the days when the only communication was handwritten and went by sea – just doesn’t bear thinking about. In this way – as in so many others – we are very lucky.

So important is communication considered to be to the health of an LDR that scientists and developers dedicate considerable effort and resource to enhancing it. Mary E. Morrison’s 2006 article – “How To Make Long-Distance Love Work” contains the following example:

“Cornell University scientists, for example, have started researching “minimal intimate objects” as a supplementary means of communication. Imagine both you and your partner spending your days at a computer. In the taskbar of your computer screen, you see a small box with a little circle. When you click on your circle, the corresponding circle on your partner’s screen lights up: a quick, one-bit message that’s nonintrusive but establishes an ambient awareness of you. As you work, you’re right there with each other.”

That’s not all. A UK company called Little Riot are about to launch a product called ‘Pillow Talk‘. Their publicity blurb claims:

“Pillow Talk is a project aiming to connect long distance lovers. Each person has a ring sensor they wear to bed at night, and a flat fabric panel which slots inside their pillowcase. The ring wirelessly communicates with the other person’s pillow; when one person goes to bed, their lover’s pillow begins to glow softly to indicate their presence. Placing your head on the pillow allows you to hear the real-time heartbeat of your loved one. The result is an intimate interaction between two lovers, regardless of the distance between them.”

The eight hour time difference between the UK and BC rather rules this one out, of course – quite apart from any other consideration!

Finally, for those who really can’t keep their hands off each other, Mara Siegler of Blackbook Magazine offers this weirdness:

“Before conquering us in a global revolution and turning the human race into fuel, robots may actually grow to love us, or at least make our romances better. Hooman Samani, a researcher at the National University of Singapore, has been experimenting with what he calls “Lovotics.” He’s given the metal beings the equivalent of human hormones so they can react to love and also created two totally creepy bots to help couples in long distance relationships. 

The “Kissenger,” which sort of looks like a Pokemon reject, can be plugged into the computer while Skyping and supposedly feels like a real kiss.  Don’t have a significant other to use this with? No worries, you can go solo.

Take a look. Either put the video on mute or jam out. Your choice.”

…and at this point I stop looking – before things get even more bizarre.


In response to my last post on the subject of LDRs the Girl sent me a one line comment expressing her view. It reads:

“Hmm, nobody seems to sum it up the way I do – it sucks!”

I totally agree. One result of our recent cogitation on the nature of our long distance relationship is that we really don’t want to have to keep it up for two years. We are, therefore, reworking our schedule based on my ‘retirement’ being moved forward to the summer of 2013.

More of this anon!


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The sheer quantity of material available online – and elsewhere – concerning Long Distance Relationships is quite staggering. Much of it will naturally not be relevant to any given situation and some of it is, frankly, a little creepy. This post contains a selection of items pertinant to those in a similar position to Kickass Canada Girl and me.

Statistics on LRPs are revealing. These are from America, but as is the way of such things they doubtless echo reasonably closely the situation in Canada and the UK.

  • According to the American Census Beaureau more than 3% of married couples live apart.
  • A 2009 study from UCLA suggests that those couples who do choose to live apart:
    • frequently live in urban areas,
    • tend to be among the better educated,
    • tend to be younger.


  • The American Association of Retired Peoples (AARP) estimates that the number of married couples – of which the partners are 50 years old or more – who live apart, tripled between 2001 and 2005.

Laura Stafford, University of Kentucky professor and author of “Maintaining Long-Distance and Cross-Residential Relationships writes:

“The older you are when you do a long-distance relationship, the less it seems to matter because you’re not changing as much.”

I’m not sure how true this is, though I guess we may find out. The young are probably more accustomed to change and may thus be more resilient. We ‘oldies’ are may be getting more set in our ways, but are hopefully also imbued with wisdom. We have – after all –  been around the block (a few times!) now.

I must admit to only having glanced at Laura Stafford’s book. Indeed what becomes rapidly apparent when browsing the online book stores is that the range of published material available is extensive. Some of it is pretty academic in nature, but the majority would fit more comfortably into the ‘self-help’ category. The sheer volume (groan!) of these publications makes it impossible to make particular recommendations, but does reinforce a long held view of mine that in such circumstances the traditional bookshop wins out any day over the online variant. I much prefer to spend an hour or so browsing physical volumes, to seek out the ones that speak to me – the ones that chime most with my own instincts.

Most of the sources I have studied do seem to agree on basic principles. Here are a few useful tips for those contemplating embarking on an LDR – gleaned in this instance from around the InterWebNet:

  • Establish the ground rules from the start. Do not assume anything – leave nothing up in the air. This should be a no-brainer. Avoiding unecessary friction is key in a situation in which finding resolutions will probably be hampered by restricted communication.
  • Agreed on an end goal for the LDR. A painful time will pass much more quickly if there is a definite end date. It will also help tremendously if the LDR is in itself of benefit to the relationship in some way.
  • Agree on a level of communication. This will vary, but for many people frequent contact – however brief and prosaic – seems preferable to occasional longer conversations. This is certainly the case for us.
  • Alternate visits to each other’s base. A sense of balance and fairness will make things a little easier. Sharing the burden reinforces the relationship.
  • Trust each other. Nothing is as corrosive as jealousy or mistrust in a vacuum. You should not – it hardly need be said – do anything to breach the other’s trust.
  • Make your own life – but be sure to share each other’s vicariously.
  • Take every opportunity for intimacy. Of course! Goes without saying…

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One of the better pieces I have read on Long Distance Relationships (LDRs) is this 2006 article by Mary E. Morrison entitled “How To Make Long-Distance Love Work“. You will undoubtedly – if you are interested – eagerly devour said piece in its entirety yourself, but for those with little time to spare (most of us these days it seems!) here are some selected extracts.

With reference to her own LDR Ms Morrison writes:

‘Instead, we spent three months communicating through emails, text messages, and, yes, quick phone calls, usually about the most prosaic of things. As it turns out, that’s one of the surest ways to a successful LDR.

Here’s why: When psychologists talk about intimacy, they’re generally referring to two components. The first is the ability to verbalize fairly deep vulnerabilities—for instance, to say “Do you love me?” and “I miss you.” The trickier, almost subconscious part is maintaining the feeling of being intermingled in your partner’s life, a state the experts often refer to as “interrelatedness.” Couples that are geographically close establish this by discussing the mundane details of daily life, whether it’s the fact that you had to take a different route to work because of road construction, or that you have a 2 p.m. meeting with a new client, or that you had a turkey sandwich for lunch.’

Now – this seems to me to be most important. It is widely accepted that – when living apart – it is necessary for each partner to establish their own independent life, rather than just to live vicariously on the absence of the other. I have no argument with this, but it seems to me equally important that these new separate existences are not fostered by a diminution of communication – as though contact would somehow taint or inhibit the new life – but rather by sharing its creation through a multiplicity of small contacts, much as would be second nature if actually living together. My fear is that to do otherwise could lead to growing apart.

Ms Morrison quotes Ben Le, an assistant professor of psychology at Haverford College in Pennsylvania who studies romantic relationships:

“The absence of a partner could, in the short term, result in a loss of part of the self. As the long-distance relationship persists, it’s likely that the self-concept would shift to account for that LDR — being a ‘person in a relationship’ would shift to being a ‘person in a long-distance relationship.”

Ms Morrison adds:

‘Missing a loved one actually involves something much deeper than wanting to be around them. Whether you know it or not, your relationship is an important part of your self-concept; when your partner leaves, you might—at least initially—have to redefine your sense of self.’

This is undeniable. I know that I am half the man when I am not with Kickass Canada Girl. My sense of myself is seriously diminished. I am less confident and, indeed, less capable.

Ms Morrison refers to the work of Greg Guldner, director of the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships in the US.

‘Guldner’s research shows that most couples tend to go through three phases of separation: protest, depression, and detachment. The “protest” phase can range from mild and playful—”Please stay”—to significant anger. Once an individual has accepted the separation, he or she might experience low-level depression, mostly characterized by slight difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, and the feeling of being a little down. “Unfortunately, that seems to be a reflex,” Guldner explains. “In other words, it persists. It continues with each separation and, in fact, sometimes worsens with each separation. There is very little one can do to prevent it.” Some people experience this in a more pronounced way than others. In the detachment phase, each person begins to compartmentalize his or her life, breaking it down into the sections with a partner and the ones without. It’s an effective coping mechanism that allows the individual to be in a relationship while doing what has to be done—until the occasional moment of weakness, that is.’

This captures – for me – the very real danger inherent in an extended separation. We can only hope that – by maintaining full awareness of what is happening to us – that the danger of the relationship suffering permanent change – or indeed damage – is minimised.

We are certainly working on that.


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When Kickass Canada Girl disappeared in the direction of Victoria nearly two months ago – accompanied by the greater part of her wardrobe and personal effects – I promised that I would write something about Long Distance Relationships. At the time I carried out some initial research on the InterWebNet – largely for my own peace of mind it must be said –  and found a plethora of information. Almost too much information! Clearly this is a topic that affects a great many people, in many different ways. In the end I refrained from posting anything until I had had a chance to see how things actually went in practice.

The term – Long Distance Relationship – is pretty clinical and not a little cumbersome. Its acronym – LDR – is invidious, but I will no doubt find myself using it simply for brevity. Perhaps the use of a more emotive term would be considered antithetical to the intent – that being to provide a dispassionate label for something that is itself most unlikely to be lacking in passion, in much the same way that medical or psychological terminology can obfuscate the trauma it describes.

There are, of course, many reasons why lovers voluntarily enter into these strange relationships, or partners choose to test an existing liaison beyond its originally negotiated bounds. Many of the cases referenced online concern those of university or college age who find themselves separated from their inamorata for academic reasons. Some of these relationships survive – many do not. Those of more mature years may be drawn apart for family reasons, or to further their careers. For some relationships are predicated on the understanding that for professional reasons they will have to endure separation. Those who work on offshore oil rigs, for example, or who drive trucks long-distance come to mind.

It is the case, though, that in most instances the decision to live on different parts of the globe is – in the final analysis – a matter of choice. It may be that that choice is limited, or that there is great pressure one way or the other, but there is usually an alternative – however onerous or unappealing it may be. For this reason it would be inappropriate for those of us who choose such a lifestyle to try to elicit the sympathies of others – and I certainly won’t be doing so. Only in the case of the armed forces would I make exception. Yes – their trade is also a matter of choice, but I do feel for those whose loved ones are not only parted from them but also in danger of their lives.

But that’s quite enough in the way of generalisations – on with the factual stuff. The next post will be laden with deep psychological insight and hard-gained wisdom…

…or a bunch of stuff gleaned from the web!

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Any fears that I might have entertained concerning seeing Kickass Canada Girl again after a month apart disappeared in about 10 seconds flat last Thursday evening, at the culmination of my lengthy trek from London. It was as though we had just come home from a day’s work rather than having been an ocean apart for an extended period. I can’t help feeling that this bodes well, though of course longer periods of separation lie ahead.

These things are difficult to judge. My readings on long distance relationships (LDRs) suggest a plethora of potential pitfalls (not to mention an abundance of alliteration!) and offer much in the way of advice – of some of which I will certainly not be availing myself. I intend to write something more detailed on the subject in the near future, but for now the sights, sounds and sensations (there I go again!) of British Columbia are filling my senses and leaving little room for extended contemplation.

This next stretch – through the School’s summer term – will pose a more severe challenge, until the end of June when I can again return to the province. That visit will, fortunately, be a little longer than this one. This 10 day trip has – largely on account of the excursion to Kamloops – been not nearly long enough for all that we need to accomplish.

For now, though, I am content to be here, to help the Girl settle in to our dear friends’ suite and to do whatever I can to assist her with her new job. That – for the present – means casting an eye over the charity’s IT setup, to see if things can be sharpened up a little. This is what we Brits would call a ‘busman’s holiday’!

As I may have mentioned before, the Girl really is quite remarkable. When she and I met I was filled with admiration at the courage and sheer pluck she had displayed in uprooting her life and decamping to a strange city – where she knew no-one – to take on a new job for a concern with which she was unfamiliar. Now she has shown similar chutzpah in returning to Canada to take up a high powered position – on which a considerable amount rides, both for her and for the charity – and to live apart from her most ardent supporter – ie, me! Yes, she is blessed with wonderful friends who seem to exhibit similar traits of fearlessness, but this is still a big ask and I am once again awestruck.

So – things still to be done before my return:

  • Open a joint savings account
  • Look at some more properties on the peninsular
  • Talk to telecom providers about iThing contracts
  • Book flights for summer visits in both directions
  • Visit more friends and relations
  • Assorted domestic chores
  • Cook ‘thank you’ dinner for our good friends in Saanichton
  • Find time for further blog entries!

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  • Goat butter
  • Apple rice cakes
  • ‘Free From’ mayonnaise
  • Gluten-free ciabatta buns
  • Gluten-free lemon biscuits
  • Sesame seed rice cakes
  • 2 x Little Gem lettuce
  • Makeup remover pads
  • 2 x bags crisps



Just some of the items that I no longer need to purchase at the store…


Sometimes it is the little things that are missed (almost) the most!


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This post borrows its title from the final episode of a rather wonderful British TV comedy-drama from the 1980s called The Biederbecke Affair, written by the late and much missed Alan Plater. This gentle but perceptive series – set in Yorkshire in the UK – features two disillusioned teachers who find themselves in a relationship with each other. The final episode sees the campaign of the female protagonist, Jill, to gain election as a local councillor reach its climax. Her accidental partner, Geordie, rigs a tannoy system on the roof of his van (Canadian: truck!) so that they can campaign more effectively. He tests the system by embarking on inspiring peroration, but before he can finish the first sentence the sound system burns out, cutting him off in full-flow.

This metaphor for modernity naturally appeals to the sceptical technologist in his late 50s. Four decades in IT has seen the ‘Wow!’ factor subside slowly but inexorably into the ‘Why doesn’t it work properly?’ factor. Yes – it is truly wonderful what can now be done with technology – but when the stars fade from our eyes we really should admit that most of it doesn’t quite work the way it should – even the iBits! (there – that should upset the Appleistas!).

Kickass Canada Girl is in Mexico, taking a well-deserved and hard-earned break before launching into her new role in Victoria. We are having to get acclimatised to the idea of living apart and it is still very early days. Without regular communication I think we would really be struggling.

I have reason – therefore – to be immensely grateful for Skype and for the iPad. I can now not only talk to the Girl daily without bankrupting either or both of us – but I can also see her sunning herself by the pool whilst I am stuck here in the cold, damp, grey, drizzly… (I’m not bitter – I’m not!).

Except that…

…either the wifi in the Girl’s resort is poor – or there is sorry a lack of intercontinental bandwidth – or maybe the iPad is just kicking back and enjoying a siesta rather than working hard to keep us in contact. Either way the connection is not capable of successfully delivering video calls, the sound deteriorating to a crackly mush and the image turning into what can only be described as ‘abstract expressionist’ (see the image above of Skype in action). Turning off the video in both directions at least means we can speak to each other, but it is a poor substitute.

Fortunately connections to Saanichton are an order of magnitude better, so when she returns there next week we can revert to our normal state of gazing into each other’s eyes with the kind of ‘youthful’ intensity that causes those present with an inadequacy of intestinal fortitude to employ such epithets as ‘Get a room!‘.


If only…!


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