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sponsorIt occurred to me – a couple of weeks back – that it had been a number of months since I had last been in contact with Oldest Friend and his good lady. I should perhaps – I mused to the Kickass Canada Girl – drop them an email.

“Give him a call” – the Girl directed.

As a long term proponent of world peace I acceded to this ultimatum, quickly dialling Oldest Friend’s mobile number. Following a brief hiatus he answered – somewhat testily, I thought.

“Not a good time?” – I enquired.

“We are in Australia” – he grouched. “It’s three in the morning!”

I forwent quizzing him as to why his mobile phone was switched on if he was trying to get some sleep and promised to contact him again in short order. I briefed the Girl.

“I had a hunch they might be down under!” – she said brightly. I bit my tongue.

She was right to be unsurprised. Oldest Friend’s son lives in Australia with his lovely wife and they have only recently taken delivery of their firstborn.

A couple of weeks on and Oldest Friend called to say that they were back in the country. We arranged to meet  them last Wednesday evening at the same Surrey pub at which we had discussed retirement with them a couple of years back. It was good to see them again.

In some ways they are in a similar position to us. Having inherited the family home on the death of his mother some 18 months ago Oldest Friend is battling to sell the property with a view to relocating elsewhere – although unlike us they have not yet decided where that should be. Like us much is yet up in the air for them and we compared notes concerning the dread feeling of powerlessness by which we all seem currently to be enveloped. We bemoaned as one the fact that nothing seemed to be moving forward on any front. Knowing that one is not alone in one’s travails is surprisingly comforting.

But then – on the very next day – something did happen and there was after all a reason to crack open the Harry Champers in celebration. Yesterday was our fourth wedding anniversary – the which had already put us into a good humour. This mood was further enhanced by the receipt from Citizenship and Immigration Canada of a couple of weighty emails. CIC had not – to this point – even acknowledged our presence on the planet, so it was with great excitement that we learned that not only had my application for Permanent Residence been received by them, but that the Girl has already been approved as my sponsor! The whole shooting match is now on its way back across the pond for the second part of the process to begin in London.

Hoo – bloomin’ – ray!!

Now that does feel like progress…

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luckenbooth‘Tis the feast of St. Valentine – a day that can apparently trigger a wide range of responses. I am – as you have probably gathered by now – a romantic, but on this occasion I will do my very best to avoid inducing a surfeit of nausea.

In historical terms the ever resourceful Wikipedia reveals the following:

“The first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love is in Parlement of Foules by Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer wrote:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

(For this was Saint Valentine’s day, when every bird of every kind comes to this place to choose his mate.)”

Whilst on the InterWebNet I couldn’t resist getting just a tiny bit self-referential. I was deeply gratified – and not a little humbled – to discover that a Google search for “Kickass Canada Girl – Valentine” returns links to this unassuming blog as the top three items. The second such is for a post that I added at this time last year entitled – ‘My Canadian Valentine’. The subject of this particular missive will come as no surprise to anyone, and those who just have to (re-)read it will find it here.

Those who attended our wedding or blessing ceremonies back in the summer of 2010 will doubtless recognise the image that accompanies this post as being that of the Luckenbooth, which featured extensively on both of those occasions. The Luckenbooth – in the form of a brooch – originated in 16th Century Edinburgh. They were given as love tokens or as lucky charms to ward off witches and were purchased from the locked – or ‘lucken’ – booths near St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile. These booths housed mainly silversmiths and goldsmiths and were amongst the city’s first permanent shops. The Luckenbooth has since gained a reputation as the traditional Scottish love token and is often given as a betrothal or wedding brooch.

Last year’s Valentine’s day was tinged with a touch of sadness at the impending departure of the Girl for Canadian shores. This year’s is a celebration (if for economic reasons a slightly low-key one) of her restoration to my side. For this – and for so much else – I am most eternally grateful.

I will – naturally – keep private the true expression of my feelings for the Girl – but would like to take this opportunity to wish lovers everywhere:

…Happy Seynt Volantynys Day!

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In about an hour from now (time of writing rather than posting!) Kickass Canada Girl will be touching down at Heathrow. Hooray! I will, of course, be there to meet her.

We are going on Holiday.

Double hooray!!

On Friday evening we fly down to Marseilles – in the south of France – and on the Saturday will drive up to Avignon where we will meet our dear friends from Saanich and their two small boys. They are travelling to France independently – and directly – but once we have conjoined there we will be spending a (hopefully) completely relaxed fortnight recovering and recuperating from all the recent trials and tribulations. I can’t wait…

I intend to send images and despatches from Provence if at all possible. The apartments we have booked are equipped with wifi and as long as there are no unexpected hitches I should be able to post some relaxed and contemplative musings on life, the universe and – well – everything!



The Girl and I also have reason to celebrate as yesterday marked our second wedding anniversary. Strangely whereas, on the one hand, the wedding feels as though it took place only yesterday, at the same time it is as though we have been married forever. I think this must be a good sign – though as I am an optimist I think that everything is a good sign…

Happy days!

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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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As an accelerated passage to self-knowledge living on a different continent to one’s loved one is not to be recommended, though – conversely – precisely so to be. Such antithetical circumstances are doubtless sufficiently commonplace that I need not expand further upon them here, except to say that I firmly intend to remain humbly grateful for whatever lessons are handed to me.

Learning is, of course, all about the unknown, though I have come to recognise that – at the risk of being swept into waters Rumsfeldian – some lessons come as a greater surprise than others. In the case of my voluntary separation from the Kickass Canada Girl some lessons were easily anticipated. Others came as more of a surprise.

I had – before the Girl’s return – been focusing on the emotional mechanics of living apart – on the maneuvers necessary to maintain a relationship over a long distance… the frequent if sometimes prosaic communication – the need to remain engaged in one another’s life and so forth. I had paid considerably less attention to the things that I was doing to sanction my newly solo existence in the UK. Some of these latter stratagems only really became apparent when the Girl arrived back in Berkshire last Thursday.

It seems that – having shared this living space joyfully with the Girl since last September and having then had to come to terms with inhabiting it alone – I had put in place numerous little routines and rituals that were designed to prevent myself from becoming lonely, or from suffering too many morbid memories. I had clearly applied these defences sufficiently assiduously and conscientiously that I had achieved a sort of emotional plateau, on which – though I naturally missed the Girl hugely – my existence could be maintained for much of the time in a relatively pain-free fashion. Further, this had apparently been done entirely sub-consciously without me even being aware that I had done so.

As a result for the first couple of hours being together again in our apartment in Berkshire felt slightly odd – as though some protective levee had been breached and I was in danger of all my careful defences being swept away in the ensuing flood. Fortunately – notwithstanding my fears – this did indeed turn out to be the case, and the emotional rush of being together again performed its familiar magic as a wave of joy washed us up gratefully on the sun-bleached beach of togetherness.

I’m not sure that I will ever truly become accustomed to that roller-coaster moment when one crests the rise on the big dipper – but thankfully we will not have to do so too many more times.

In that – as in so many things – we are fortunate.

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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…


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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