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May 2012

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“…Weren’t you always
distracted by expectation, as if every event
announced a beloved? (Where can you find a place
to keep her, with all the huge strange thoughts inside you
going and coming and often staying all night.)…”

Duino elegies – Rainer Maria Rilke


I hope that you will indulge me – over the next few days – if I seem a little distracted. The Kickass Canada Girl arrives at Heathrow in about 2 hours from now for her first visit to these shores since she went back to Victoria at the beginning of March. Understandably – as you might imagine – my mind is elsewhere…

She will be here for just over a week – including, as it happens, the Jubilee weekend – before returning to Canada following her citizenship ceremony a week today. This might seem a long – and expensive – journey to make for such a brief – though important – event, but such is the strangeness of life in these days that very little seems exceptionally unusual. We live in interesting times!

Now – if you will excuse me – I have a drama class to teach, and then I will head for the airport…


Oh it’s such a perfect day,
I’m glad I spent it with you.
Oh such a perfect day,
You just keep me hanging on,
You just keep me hanging on.

Perfect Day – Lou Reed

Well – a perfect weekend really… with one glaring and – hopefully – blindingly obvious exception.

Following last week’s unbridled incalescence the temperature dropped a couple of degrees, the heat haze dissipated to leave the sky a cloudless cerulian and a playful breeze tempered even the most febrile of brows.

Friday evening found me in the company of a group of School staff at a buffet reception in the High Master’s garden; a most agreeable way to unwind after the week and a good way to prepare for the weekend ahead. The final weeks of the summer term can sometimes almost overwhelm with their abundance of social events – a last frantic ‘hurrah’ for the leavers and a long slow exhalation for those others for whom – unlike me, sadly – the long school summer holiday hovers tantalisingly on the horizon.

On Saturday I packed a variety of bags and set off in the 300SL for Sevenoaks in Kent. A beautiful leisurely drive – wind very much in hair – through the Surrey hills delivered me to our good friends – who live at another school not dissimilar to this one – in plenty of time for an aperitif before dressing for the main event – a splendid black-tie ball organised by the parents’ association. Though I am not, myself, much of a dancer I am always happy to don the tartan for such an occasion, and the combination of good food, good wine, good friends and good conversation meant that when the 1:00am deadline for carriages rolled around no time at all seemed to have elapsed.

Waking only a little the worse for wear to find an equally lovely day already well under way I bade my grateful farewells and retraced my top-down tracks as far as Guildford, where I was to play my first proper game of cricket of the summer. The ground was up on the downs (I realise that may sound counter-intuitive to Canadians and other non-Brits!) above the town and offered splendid views over the Surrey countryside towards London. The match was played in a suitably amiable spirit, I scored a few runs and the right side won. It was, all in all, a most satisfactory result and I rolled home close to 9pm tired but happy.

One thought, however, nagged at me throughout… one cause for a scintilla of sadness, regardless of the loveliness of the days, of the caliber of the entertainments or of the pleasures of the bucolic countryside. To whit  – what could possibly be the purpose and meaning of such joy if not shared with one’s consort? I have been fortunate enough to have experienced many wonderful things and exceptional times – both in the UK and in BC – but without the Kickass Canada Girl at my side nothing is as ambrosial, as piquant… as exquisite… as it is when she is!


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‘…till May be out’ 

English proverb.

Last weekend – on one of the last chilly days of spring before the sizzling summer burst upon the UK – I visited the RHS gardens at Wisley to catch the end of the wistful azaleas and the aggresively abundant rhodedendrons. I took some photos…

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As you may have gathered from my last post, after nearly 8 weeks of incessant rain, below average temperatures and unbroken cloud cover, the weather in the UK has suddenly and dramatically broken. In a 24 hour period the temperature has soared by 10 degrees (Celsius), the sun has broken through the cloud cover and summer appears to have arrived. The Brits have emerged – blinking – into the light, dug out their bikes, un-garaged their convertibles and are basking as only a people more accustomed to the gloom and the cold can. To the optimists (me, me, me!) this is the start of the long hot summer. To the pessimists it will all be over by next week. Either way – we will make the most of it!


Back in the world of bureaucracy, form filling, visas and immigration I am still making slow progress toward the submission of my Canadian permanent residency application. Before I can bundle together all the necessary forms, photos and other supporting evidence and forward them to the Kickass Canada Girl for submission there are two further documents that must be acquired – the Police Certificate and the medical report.

Applying for a Police Certificate is relatively painless and all the necessary details can be found on the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) website. All that is required is:

  • The completed application form.
  • Two proofs of current address – recent utility bills or suchlike.
  • A copy of my passport – showing photo, signature, expiry date, nationality and any extension pages.
  • A colour passport photo – endorsed by a responsible person (the ACPO site provides a list of those professions that meet the criteria).
  • A second form completed by the endorser of the passport photo.
  • The correct payment.

The Police Certificate costs £35 if one is not in a hurry – or £70 if one is!

Acquiring a medical report is – sadly – less straightforward and considerably more expensive.

The medical examination can only be carried out by a ‘designated medical practitioner’ – and the list of such in the UK is not extensive. I chose a clinic reasonably close to us in Maidenhead. To make an appointment for my examination I had first to fill out and submit, by email, a ‘Booking Request Form’. The clinic then phoned me to make an appointment. They informed me that I would need to bring the following when I attended my medical:

  • A completed application form – the clinic’s own ‘Immigration Medical Registration Form’.
  • Documentation regarding existing medical conditions and details of any prescription medication.
  • My passport.
  • One other form of identification – incorporating my current address.
  • 3 colour passport photos.
  • Any prescription glasses or contact lenses.
  • Credit card details.
  • A completed Canada immigration form ‘IMM 1017 Section A’.

This last item is the cause of some controversy. The details given on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website suggest that for those applying for permanent resident status sponsored by a family member  – as I am – and with the sponsor in Canada and the applicant elsewhere, should use the form that is in Appendix C of document ‘IMM 3901E – Sponsorship of a Spouse, Common-Law Partner, Conjugal Partner or Dependent Child Living Outside Canada – Part 3: Country Specific Instructions’ (for Western Europe). The clinic demurred and said that I should instead bring ‘IMM 1017 Section A’. I said that I would bring both, at which they enquired as to whether my ‘IMM 1017 Section A’ had been stamped. I replied that it had not – since I had downloaded it from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.

The clinic receptionist then suggested that I should contact the Canadian High Commission in London. I agreed that this would be a good idea – if for no other reason than to obtain a definitive answer.

I phoned the Canadian High Commission. I was bounced around a stack of automated menus before being finally spat out back where I had started. Apparently one cannot call the Canadian High Commission – one must use email. I then followed the complex chain of links on the website to which I had been referred, and found the email submission form – along with a list of conditions under which it could be used. Apparently it is possible to email the Canadian High Commission on visa matters only after submitting one’s application. If one is eager to check that the application is correct before submission, one can neither call nor email the Canadian High Commission to verify that this is the case. Something tells me that if I were to submit the wrong form they would be only to keen to tell me so. What a pity that they cannot do so in advance!


My medical examination – for which I must pay £250 plus any extras deemed necessary – is fixed for the end of next week. In the meantime I think I will go and bask in the sun for a while…

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“Summer Dress

The Surmaster would like to announce that from now on pupils will be allowed to wear summer dress. This means that ties do not need to be worn with shirts. However, if pupils wish to continue wearing jackets or pullovers then a tie must be worn. If a t-shirt is worn under your shirt it must be plain white only.”


Hooray! My favourite work day of the year. The announcement of Summer Dress means that I don’t need to wear a tie again – until September!


As the Canadians are wont to say – ‘Awesome’!!


There is a certain nervous tension in the air ‘chez nous’ this weekend. Both Pearl and I are in need of examinations.

For new readers I should explain at this point that Pearl is my rather lovely Mercedes 300SL, about which you can read more here. It is widely held that – for chaps of a certain age – owning a convertible is a sure sign of mid-life crisis. If that is the case then mine must be one of the longest on record, given that I have not only owned Pearl for more than 10 years, but she also is my third rag-top. Perhaps my life is a perpetual crisis… On the other hand, if this is indeed mid life, then I should be in for a good long innings!

I digress…

I am in need of a medical examination as part of the application process for my Canadian permanent residency. More on this – quite probably much more – in my on-going series of posts explaining the whole process in gruesome detail. Let us – for now – focus instead on Pearl.

It is that time of year at which Pearl’s MOT test falls due. I feel sure that vehicles in Canada are subject to a similar testing regimen – indeed I have no doubt that such is the case the world over. In the UK the test was instigated in 1960 by the Ministry of Transport – hence the origin of the name. We no longer have a Ministry of Transport, but the name survives in acronym form as the title of this annual inspection.

When first established the test was applied to vehicles aged ten years and above. By 1967 it had been modified into roughly its current form, applying to all vehicles that have achieved their third anniversary. This reminds me of the witty comment made by Michael Flanders – the vocal half of Flanders and Swann – during their 60s musical comedy review, ‘At the Drop of a Hat’.

“Hello again. We had to look outside during the interval, see if our car’s all right. It’s getting a bit old, it’ll have to be tested soon. You know they started these tests for 10-year-old cars, they brought it down to six, now five, they’ll bring it down to three. There’s even been some talk of having them tested before they leave the factories.”

I grew up on Flanders and Swann, largely as a result of my mother’s affection for them and for their satirical songs. They were an unlikely duo who had been at Westminster School together before the war, but who hadn’t really started working together until they met again once the war was over. In the meantime Michael Flanders – who once had ambitions of becoming an actor – had contracted polio and was confined to a wheelchair. Donald Swann wrote the music and played the piano, and when they discovered that Flanders’ humorous introductions went down as well as the songs they adopted the review format that was to make them famous.

Their humour was gentle, witty and intelligent – all the things I like in comedy. I was immediately impressed by a duo who could base a song on the first and second law of thermodynamics – who wouldn’t be – but the clincher for me was an elegiac lament called ‘The Slow Train’, which – by incorporating the idiosyncratic names of many of the bucolic English villages and hamlets that had their railways stations sundered from them in the early 60s as part of the wide-ranging cutbacks imposed by the pillaging Dr. Beeching (the first Chairman of the British Railways Board) – contrived to say something heartfelt about the loss of a minor but important part of our heritage.

“The Sleepers sleep at Audlem and Ambergate.
No passenger waits on Chittening platform or Cheslyn Hay.
No one departs, no one arrives
From Selby to Goole, from St Erth to St Ives.
They’ve all passed out of our lives
On the Slow Train, on the Slow Train.”


I digress – again!

Pearl is now some 26 years old and getting through the MOT test is no longer the formality that it once was. To be fair, she does live in a dry garage – under a cover – for much of the year, and does a relatively low mileage mostly in dry, sunny conditions – but I reckon she has earned that. Anyway – when it came to it she sailed through with flying colours.

Let’s just hope my medical goes as well.

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There is quite enough to be done in putting together an application to become a permanent resident of Canada without having to think too much about the hoops through which one’s sponsor has to jump as well. I rather thought I would leave that side of things to the Kickass Canada Girl, who not only relishes a challenge but is also jolly good at this sort of thing.

This doesn’t seem quite fair, however, to those eager readers who are keen to know how the whole process works (huh?!) so I have reconsidered and taken a peek at the document checklist that the sponsor has to fulfil prior to submitting their part of the application.

There are 15 items on the list!

Fortunately they are not all required in every circumstance. Here is a quick run-down of those that I believe the Girl will need to include:

  • Completed ‘Application to Sponsor’ form.
  • Completed ‘Sponsorship Evaluation’ (my understanding is that – if I had children – she would need submit a ‘Financial Evaluation’ instead).
  • A copy of the receipt for the fee.
  • Completed ‘Sponsor Questionnaire’
  • A photocopy of one of – Permanent Resident Card, Canadian Citizenship Card, Canadian birth certificate, Canadian Passport.
  • If previously married or in a common-law relationship, one of – proof of separation, divorce certificate, annulment certificate, death certificate (of former spouse, naturally!), declaration of severance of common-law relationship.
  • An original ‘Option C Printout’ of the last ‘Notice of Assessment’ for the most recent tax year (or other acceptable evidence of employment income).
  • A letter from her employer stating period of employment, salary and regular hours per week.

That doesn’t seem too onerous and once the Girl has this little lot sorted out she can add to it the considerable pile of documentation that I have to provide. She will then submit the whole shooting match to Citizenship and Immigration Canada and we can sit back and await the outcome.

More on my part in the proceedings next time.

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“Citizenship is a tough occupation which obliges the citizen to make his own informed opinion and stand by it.” – Martha Gellhorn

As I noted in a previous post, Kickass Canada Girl is visiting the UK – for a week – at the end of May. This is a particularly pleasant surprise as I had not thought to see her until I travel to BC at the end of June.

She will be here primarily to attend her citizenship ceremony. She applied for British citizenship while she was still working in the UK and this has duly been granted. The ceremony – which apparently entails taking an oath of allegiance and listening to the National Anthem (though possibly not a great deal more) has to be attended within three months of the grant of citizenship, and will thus not wait until she is here again during the summer.

This naturally acts as a wake up call to me – particularly as we are now aiming to bring forward my immigration date to the summer of 2013 – to get started on my application for permanent residency in Canada. The forms and information pack have been acquired and it is time to set things in motion.

The procedure is – quite properly – complex. There are a number of routes by which one can gain resident status:

  • Skilled workers or professionals – in one of the 29 listed skilled occupations – each of which is subject to a quota and other restrictions.
  • Canadian experience class – one who already has work experience in Canada – again subject to other relevant criteria
  • Investors, entrepreneurs and the self employed – subject to the requirement to invest at least $800,000 Canadian, or to own an existing Canadian business.
  • Provincial nominees – those nominated by a Canadian province or territory
  • Family sponsored – for which one must be sponsored by a Canadian citizen to whom one is related. Again – other criteria also apply.

Those who wish to know more about the process should visit the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website, which is packed with an exhaustive amount of information.

For a variety of reasons – not least my age, which renders me ineligible under the points system that governs skilled worker applications – the only route open to me is family sponsorship. Fortunately (and fortunate in so many ways) I am married to a Canadian Girl – and a kickass one at that!

The process by which a Canadian citizen can sponsor a family member is also, inevitably, complex and time consuming. There are two main components to the process:

  • The Canadian citizen must apply to be a sponsor for the family member.
  • Once approved the family member must apply for permanent residency.

Both applications must be submitted together, through the sponsor. It is still possible to apply if either the sponsor or the relation – or both (or niether!) – lives outside Canada.


To avoid this treatise becoming just too perplexing I think I will leave the next chapter for a further posting. This will give your brain – and mine – a chance to recuperate.


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Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

William Shakespeare

May is usually my favourite month. The first true taste of spring – the newly mown grass – the azaleas and bluebells – the fresh munchy green of the reborn floliage. It is time to step outside and to breath deeply of the nascent summer – to sit outside a pub and feel the sun on one’s shoulders. To lunch on tender new English asparagus – to lick the garlic from one’s fingers after the year’s first bowl of moules marinière – to savour the first sip of a chilled glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc…

We have been granted a brief respite – two days on which the sun finally wrestled its way from behind the clouds. I took the Fuji x10 out to record the occasion.

Tomorrow it rains again!

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I have to work this Saturday – the occasion being the main event in the School’s calendar – the annual prize-giving and speech day which, in our case, goes by the name ‘Apposition’.

Apposition is as old as the School itself and thus dates back more than 500 years. The School – in common with other similar schools – is a charitable foundation with religious origins. Ironically, the Founder – unconvinced of the virtue and probity of his fellow churchmen – decreed that the governance of the School should be placed in the care of one of the preeminent livery companies of the City of London. The company remain the School’s trustees to this day.

Wishing to be able to hold the headmaster (known in our case as the High Master) to account, the livery company devised an annual examination of his abilities as an educator. An independent intellectual would be engaged each year to act as the ‘Apposer’.  A select coterie of the brightest pupils would be tasked with writing and delivering – before the Apposer and the assembled dignitaries – declamations on a range of academic subjects. The Apposer would then judge the High Master’s performance on the basis of the learning of the boys and – if satisfied – would recommend that the High Master be re-appointed for another year.

There have been – in the School’s history – two instances of High Masters not being re-appointed following this appraisal, but the last such was in the mid-eighteenth century and the event is now considered to be purely ceremonial. The occasion does, however, give parents and guests alike an opportunity to see some of the smartest boys in action and – if they are by chance related to them in some way – to glow quietly with pride as a consequence.

A list of this year’s declamation topics should give some idea of the level that these eighteen year old boys attain.

  • Mad Hatters and De-ranged Hats – Mathematicians will know what a de-rangement is. Others may want to take a quick glance here before looking away again quickly!
  • Can Noise be Music – From one of our music scholars (a brilliant cellist). Apparently the answer is that noise is not music, but it can be if we choose it so to be.
  • The Death of Neo-Liberal Economics – This year’s Apposer is a life peer who was a cabinet member in a previous Tory administration. It will be interesting to hear what he makes of this!
  • 11 Ball Juggling – How Hard Can it Be? – The physics behind juggling with 11 balls, by a young man who recently broke the world record.


If all goes to plan this time next year will see my last Apposition. I will miss these schools, with their strange rituals and quirky traditions… not because I am heading west to BC, of course, but because I will be retiring…

Still – plus ça change…

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