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imageThus commence all good fairy stories.

This one is no exception…

I feel sure that the habitual reader – should such there be – will be unsurprised that there has been something of an hiatus since my last posting to this journal. Given that this week has proved to have been – as predicted afore-hand – pretty ‘full on’ (as the parlance has doubtless not had it for years!) it will probably be taken as read that there has been little time or energy left over to practice the communicative arts.

No matter! We are in!

By which I mean – of course – that as of last night we are officially in residence in our splendid new (to us!) domicile.

As for our physical and mental state you would have more sympathy – I have no doubt – were our weariness solely attributable to our endeavours on the home-making front. Alas, I cannot pretend that this is so. For the last few nights at least we have been living the high life.

Should I needs plead an excuse I find myself in possession of one such of the copper-bottomed variety. This past week has seen the occasion of the Kickass Canada Girl’s birthday.

Happy birthday to the Girl! Hooray!!

Celebrations have included participation in several events of a charitable nature, which means that not only have we indulged in revelry but that we have done so in good cause!

We commenced on Thursday night at a fundraising dinner in support of the Tour de Roc – the ‘Cops for Cancer’ charity cycle which takes two weeks to ride the length of Vancouver Island. This splendid campaign has been an annual event since 1998 and the officers who volunteer not only ride over a 1000 kilometres but also have to scrub up and put in appearances at fundraisers throughout the fortnight.

Last Thursday was the penultimate day of the ride and the dinner in the evening – at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney – not only offered quite the best mass-catered buffet I have encountered, but also a full bill of comedy headlined by our new Canadian favourite – Mike Delamont, who once again had us crying with laughter.

Friday found us back at the Mary Winspear Centre for another charity event for which the Girl’s best friend was helping to organize the silent auction. The most worthy cause on this occasion was the raising of funds to support the excellent work done by ‘THRIVE Malawi‘.

The centrepiece of the event was a concert by local ensemble – The HiFi. All you need to know about this assemblage of musos – who describe their schtick as “New Orleans, West Coast brouhaha” – is that not only are all concerned amazingly talented musicians, but one of them is actually an internationally reknowned boogie pianist appearing under a pseudonym for contractual reasons. Anyway, they all appeared to be having a lot of fun – as were we!


With regard to our new home… all of our goods and chattels were duly cleared through Canada Customs on Wednesday morning, and the movers spent the rest of the day unloading and unpacking everything. They were contractually obliged to unpack everything to a ‘flat surface’ and we to let them so do – for were there to be any breakages of items not so processed we would not be able to claim for them.

As a result the day was extremely long and tiring and at the end of it every available surface was covered with gewgaws. It took a couple of days subsequently to create sufficient order that we could actually take up residence. This not helped of course by the fact that once one’s possessions have been bundled up and bumped halfway around the world in a container absolutely everything needs to be washed before it can again be used.

No matter. ‘Tis done and we are in!

Guess I am now officially a resident…

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Image from pixabayIn exactly four weeks from today we will take possession of our new home on the Saanich peninsular north of Victoria.

If we are fortunate – and our experiences of late seem to suggest that frequently we are so – then our goods and chattels – which have been bobbing their merry way across two oceans – should put in an appearance at roughly the same time.

We have, in fact, heard from our tranter – Bournes International Moves – that the vessel that is playing host to our container is due to make landfall in Vancouver on or around September 4th or 5th. Whereas that should leave plenty of time for our precious cargo to reach us before we complete the house purchase it must first clear Canadian customs – a process in which we need apparently have some personal involvement, the details of which we will learn more about in due course.

Should this cause only a minor delay then our goods must needs briefly be held in storage in Vancouver before making the final leg of the journey to Victoria. This has already been factored in and the necessary arrangements made to cover all eventualities.

I have previously made reference to the fact that our new home – though really in very good condition – is in need of some updating, mostly to bring it into the current century in terms of style and convenience.

Our current wish list of improvements includes the following – in no particular order:

  • A new kitchen
  • Complete renovation of the family bathroom (mine!)
  • Extension and renovation of the ensuite bathroom (the Girl’s)
  • Connection to the natural gas main (we want a gas range and gas water heating)
  • A modern gas fireplace for the living room
  • Hardwood flooring in the living room and bedroom (the Girl does not tolerate carpets well)
  • Installation of a new staircase to give better access from the living rooms to the garden. (This will also involve opening up one of the current external walls at the foot of the new staircase and the installation of new patio doors to the ground floor in its place)
  • In conjunction with the above – the re-siting and re-commissioning of the hot tub (come on – this is Canada!)
  • The creation from the downstairs family room, kitchen and bedroom of a new studio apartment for our guests to use (and for possible future Air-B & B-ing)

I feel sure that there will also be many other things to do, but that’s about all I can think of at the moment. Besides – that’s quite enough to be getting on with.

Though we are blessed with wonderful friends in Saanichton who put up without complaint with our squatting in their suite and imposing on their hospitality, we are reaching the limit of our patience with living out of suitcases. The next four weeks of limbo-living will probably fly by, but we are now increasingly impatient for them so to do.

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…cometh the men…

…the men from Bournes’ International Moves to take away all our worldly possessions en route to Canada, that is!

Having myself nothing more useful to do I took some snaps…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

After a day and a half of febrile packing a strange beast appeared – our 20ft container.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

A couple of hours later the shrewd packers from Bournes’ proved that their estimators had totally nailed the volume required during their survey.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

The inventory taken and the shipping manifest complete, both our movers and the driver of the truck applied their seals.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

As if by magic the truck extended its bed to its full length…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

…and monents later it was gone!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Well – if anything got packed to which we should have hung on, we are not going to see it again now for a couple of months.



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"Alex Pickering van"  - Photo by Harry Shipler - Wikimedia Commons In a previous post – ‘Movers and Shakers‘ – I described our search for an international removals company who could assist us – for a healthy fee, it must be said – with our relocation in July to Victoria, BC.

As that post made clear the process involves a fair amount of research even before the first call is placed, if one is to avoid the fate of those poor souls who bewail their lot on the expat InterWebNet fora as a result of having been ripped off, treated negligently or finding themselves the victims of some insensate act of god… without adequate insurance!

We felt confident that we would be treated well by our chosen quartet of companies – Abels, Bournes, GB Liners and Renmar – and that indeed proved to be that case. None of them flinched under the Kickass Canada Girl’s steely gaze and each responded to her carefully weighted interrogation with an appropriate degree of confidence. They clearly all know what they are about.

Fundamentally all four companies offer a very similar service. They take similar routes, use similar storage facilities, take much the same time and trouble with packing, offer much the same insurance and have almost identical terms and conditions. They all have a decent track record and belong to one or other of the well established trade associations.

What did come as a bit of a surprise – therefore – was that they quoted a wide spread of prices, from around £6,500 (including the quoted insurance) to getting on for £11,500. Each of the companies was quizzed further in an attempt to identify some discrepancy in their offering that had not hitherto been apparent – but there did not appear to us to be any substantive difference that would account for the price gap.

In the end the field was narrowed down to two very similar offerings that were only a few hundred pounds apart. Our ultimate choice was based to an extent on membership of the British Association or Removers (BAR) – the which operates a very useful guarantee scheme in the unlikely event of the carrier folding at the critical moment.

Our chosen international removal company is Bournes International Moves.

The expat fora on the Interwebnet offer much advice on the subject of insurance – largely to the effect that one should eschew that offered by the carrier (at a healthy premium) in favour of a keener deal from a specialist third-party. Opinion seemed to be divided – however – as to whether or not this course of action would make one’s life harder should a claim become necessary. As we (or at least this half of us!) are now officially old farts we decided to take the course of least resistance and to accept what was actually not an outrageous mark-up from our chosen tranter.

Fingers, arms, legs, toes, eyes, etc, etc – firmly crossed that it will not be needed…

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“What you do for a living is not be creative, what you do for a living is ship.”

Seth Godin

This week’s task – to identify a suitable company of international movers who can assist us with transferring all of our precious goods and chattels across the pond to the fair shores of British Columbia… preferably without breaking the bank (or indeed the goods and chattels!) in the process.

As with so many things concerning emigration from the UK the best place to start is the British Expats website – to which regular readers will know that I make frequent reference within these jottings. The fora on that site contain a wealth of knowledge and experience from those who have trodden these paths before us, and many a pitfall may be judiciously avoided by careful study thereon.

Looking for recommendations for removal companies on online fora is not unlike searching for a decent hotel on Tripadvisor. Though this is undoubtedly the best way of finding a berth for the night, for every five-star “like our honeymoon all over again” review one must be prepared to wade through the morass of one-star “worst night of my life“, and “would’a given it zero stars if your lousy system had let me” diatribes.

Seeking an international mover yields similar results. For each “I would have trusted them with my priceless collection of Jihong porcelain” comment one finds a raft of “they charged me for a second container for one extra box“, and “the guy stood outside and smoked the whole time and then broke a teacup” complaints.

Clearly the whole operation is a lottery!

Somehow, from this fountain of fulmination we were yet able to identify at least a few concerns that seemed consistently to elicit more praise than approbrium. These were clearly the people to approach. The thought naturally crossed our minds that they might also be the most expensive – but what price should one put on one’s precious possessions? That is – of course – actually a good question, since an accurate valuation is required for insurance purposes!

Enough – however – of this wordplay…

We came up with a shortlist of four companies – GB Liners – Bournes – Abels and Renmer and reached for the phone. All have subsequently visited and been shown around the estate by the Kickass Canada Girl, who has also subjected each of them to the third degree regarding their modus operadi. We are now collecting quotes prior to making a decision and – ultimately – a booking.

Progress! Progress!

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Image by chrishoefliger on PixabayMy previous post turned out to be a somewhat generic disquisition on the nature and uses of the ubiquitous shipping container. This one really should contain (see what I did there?) rather more in the way of specifics.

If moving one’s existence to another continent can ever be considered straightforward, then the engagement of an international removals company to bring a container to the door (along with a team of experts to pack it) prior to waving goodbye to it for however many weeks it takes to circumnavigate the globe for delivery to the new door – is probably about as simple as it gets.

For the Kickass Canada Girl and I – you will be unsurprised to hear – things are likely to be rather more complex.

Whilst waiting for the new owner of our splendid Buckinghamshire apartment to put in an appearance (to be followed shortly by a mutually agreeable offer and a grateful exchange of contracts) we have been occupying our energies with the consideration of a variety of alternate scenarios by which means our migration might yet be effected.

The simplest of these entails attracting a purchaser in short order and selling the apartment before the end of the year. We would then look to acquire a property in Saanich as quickly as possible before retiring and emigrating at a point of our choosing between January next and the summer of 2015.

Should Plan A not work out as intended we now have a full set of plans bearing alternate majuscules. These variously involve one or both of us retiring in advance of our being able to move to Canada – either staying where we are in Berkshire or moving back to our erstwhile apartment in Buckinghamshire. Some of these options are affordable; some – frankly – are not.

Were we to pursue any of the options that involved moving back to Buckinghamshire the business of shipping would inevitably become considerably more complex. To be able to present the apartment in its best possible light – ‘staging’ as I believe it is known – we would needs place some of our possessions in storage until we were ready to move to BC. The optimal way so to do would probably involve the acquisition of a container – the which would be part-filled and stored it until the time came to emigrate. This option would have the additional benefit of providing some flexibility at the Canadian end should we not have a house lined up ready for us when we got there.

This course of action would require either the purchase a container or the location of one that could be hired for an extended period at a reasonable cost. We would further need to find somewhere to store said container and contents securely once acquired. Again – the best solution would probably be to find a company that could deal with all aspects of the operation.

There is an abundance of information on the InterWebNet regarding such matters. I have found the MoveHub website to be particularly helpful – their site containing a useful shipping guide. Matters are not helped at this stage – however – by the uncertainly as to which course of action we may eventually follow. To gain a reasonably accurate quote for shipping it seems that we would need to get a company involved to a level that we would prefer to avoid at this stage – not least because we cannot at the moment give chapter and verse as to our requirements.

As with so much of this project just now it seems we must wait and see…

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Image from de.wikipedia.orgDeciding that I should direct my thoughts to more positive substance than has perhaps been the case over the past few weeks I have begun again to contemplate the complexities of moving our existence to a different continent.

When the Kickass Canada Girl arrived on these shores a little more than a decade ago she did so accompanied by nothing more than a couple of suitcases and thirteen cardboard boxes containing her personal effects. When she returns to BC, with the Immigrant in tow, at some point in the next year she will undoubtedly be closely (hopefully!) followed by a shipping container of some as yet indeterminate size. I rather hope that she will consider this to be a good result for all her endeavours here!

The shipping container – or Intermodal Freight Container as it is perhaps more properly known – is a wonderful thing. Based on designs that evolved during the 1960s and were codified in ISO standards at the turn of that decade, the intention was – of course – to provide a consistent and reliable means of transporting goods throughout the world without the need to unload and reload cargoes.

Constructed from corrugated weathering steel (developed to eliminate the need for painting and forming a stable rust-like patina after extended exposure to weather) the standard container is 8ft high by 8ft wide and comes in nominal 20ft or 40 ft lengths. They are designed to be stacked up to 7 containers high and the corners consist of castings with openings for twistlock fasteners by which means they can be fixed together. The containers are – when new and appropriately certified – both wind and water-tight.

There are – it is thought – now something in excess of 17 million shipping containers in the world!

It is a testament both to the enduring efficacy of a classic design and to human inventiveness that the humble shipping container – designed but with a single purpose in mind – has proved to be a fantastically flexible and useful resource. Aside from the obvious uses – for the actual shipment or storage of goods – I have personally seen containers used for the following:

  • as a cricket club sitesafe – for the storage of mowers, rollers and other groundwork equipment.
  • as an office. Our dear friends in Saanichton have converted a 40ft container into the site office at their smallholding.
  • as a ‘green screen’. Pinewood Studios constructs enormous exterior ‘green screens’ using walls of shipping containers.

Indeed – shipping container architecture has evolved into quite a field in its own right – as can be seen from this Wikipedia article.

I had not – needless to say – actually intended to post here a general piece on the admirable container, thinking rather that I would go into some detail regarding the complexities of using such to facilitate our emigration.

A second post is clearly called for…

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Thirteen boxes containing 180Kg of Kickass Canada Girl’s wardrobe and personal effects (and no – I won’t be drawn as to what percentage of her wardrobe that represents!) have taken wing and are – as I write – migrating to Canada.

It doesn’t do to speak too soon, of course, but thus far the experience of using Air Canada Cargo to ship these items has proved nothing but positive. Provided the Girl’s precious bits and bobs do not go missing en route I shall have no hesitation in offering my endorsement of their services. Given that my introduction to Air Canada was somewhat coloured by the infamous bastardisation of their erstwhile slogan ‘We’re not happy until you’re happy’, this counts as pretty good going.

The shipping procedure that I followed – which may be of interest should you ever need to do likewise – was as follows:

  • Pack, seal, weigh, address and number the boxes
  • Create a packing list – including dimensions and weights of the boxes and details and approximate values of the contents thereof
  • Book the shipment with Air Canada Cargo – by email – one week before required delivery date
  • Print off the packing list (several copies are helpful) and the confirmation details of the booking and quotation
  • Borrow a van from the School
  • Deliver the shipment to Air Canada Cargo at Heathrow (open 24/7) – 48 hours before required delivery date
  • Air Canada Cargo then:
    • Process the paperwork and produce transit labels for each box
    • Check the weights of the boxes
    • Charge for shipping according to their quote (easiest done by credit card)
    • Produce the Air Waybill (of which one gets a copy)
  • Scan and email the copy of the Air Waybill to Kickass Canada Girl
  • Sit back and relax!

Once launched the shipment can be tracked from the Air Canada Cargo website simply by using the Air Waybill number. A decent amount of information is provided at each stage. All that then remains is to arrange collection at the receiving end.

The Girl slightly complicated things at this point by contacting Canadian Customs to enquire as to the process for gaining clearance for the goods. She was passed between no fewer than five customs operatives, each of whom told her something different and the last of which said that nothing could be done without some item of information that she didn’t have. I advised her to talk direct to Air Canada Cargo in Victoria, and they once again came up trumps. A most helpful customer services operative explained the procedure:

  • The shipment would be held in a secure ‘cage’ until customs had been cleared
  • The Girl should visit Air Canada Cargo – taking the Air Waybill with her – pay the relevant fee and receive the necessary paperwork
  • She should then call on Canadian Customs who would either simply process the paperwork and give her clearance, or go with her to Air Canada Cargo to inspect the boxes before doing so
  • The boxes would then be released to her

So much for the theory. We will see how it all works out in practice. I will add an addendum to this post in a few days time if all goes to plan – or inflict a further post if it turns into a long and harrowing saga instead.

The other positive that should be commented on is that the cost of shipping the Girl’s goodies really has been very reasonable. So much so, it would seem, that the Victoria Air Canada Cargo man expressed surprise on seeing the documentation, and asked if we had been given a staff discount!


Addendum: All boxes duly cleared customs and collected to schedule. Smiles all round!


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As you would expect of a lady, Kickass Canada Girl does not undertake major travel lightly… nor indeed does she travel light! At the risk of offending it has to be said that this is true of many ladies; I myself have known of only one exception, and in that case I suspect that there was witchcraft involved…

When the Girl leaves for Victoria on Sunday she will be accompanied by three large suitcases (in addition to her hand luggage) and will be followed to BC after a week or so by thirteen good sized boxes. She is moving home of course so this is eminently reasonable, but the logistics of it all take some planning.

As an Air Canada Premier customer the Girl can take two cases under her baggage allowance and thus has only to pay an additional charge for the third item. The boxes – which weigh a total of around 180Kg – are more of a problem. Searching the web for helpful suggestions as to economical and effective methods of transportation merely confuses, revealing a plethora of shipping options. Obtaining quotations for many of these requires submission of rather more information than I care to divulge and then waiting for someone to make contact. Whilst doing so I followed up some personal recommendations but in each case the costs seemed to me to be on the high side.

In the end we decided that the best option would be simply to ship the boxes by Air Canada Cargo. As there is no middle man – and because they don’t pick up or deliver – their costs are quite reasonable. Our friends in Saanichton live within 10/15 minutes of Victoria airport and as there is always a pickup to hand (naturally!) the collection part of the operation should be quite straightforward. Getting the boxes to Heathrow will be trickier. We live reasonably close – about half an hour away – but I don’t have a vehicle that will take that many boxes in one go, so it looks as though I will have to hire.

The complication comes – you will not be surprised to hear – in the matter of Customs and Excise. Putting together a manifest for each box is straightforward enough – given the usual difficulty of ascribing a sensible value to personal effects that one may have had for years – but ensuring that the list is comprehensive is not so easy. Everything that the Girl takes back into Canada must be detailed on Canadian Border Services Agency form B4 and handed in to Border Control on her arrival. My understanding is that this list must also cover anything else that she may subsequently want to take back to Canada (remembering that many of her chattels may well stay in the UK until I move there myself in a couple of year’s time) otherwise she will be liable to pay tax on them. This means planning ahead for the next two years to ensure that she doesn’t forget something that she might need. The odds on this part of the operation going entirely smoothly are, I would hazard, slender.

Fortunately there is a wealth of information available online for Canadian nationals who are returning to Canada. This site (Moving Back to Canada) is particularly useful. Hats off to Paul Kurucz for the work that clearly went into it.


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