Dull Grey, The Colour Of Our Times
Ordinarily I find this part of the year the most difficult. There’s a lull when the busyness of Christmas is over. A fresh year has begun, but everything remains the same. There has been no magic overnight transformation from one year to the next. Instead, it just feels like such a long wait for the brighter days of summer to arrive.
This year –for obvious reasons– that feeling is much more intense. The days drift into one another. The vast majority are a blur of grey mist and torrential rain. They aren’t kidding when they say that it rains a lot in Vancouver. Shockingly, it rains even more than it does in Ireland. It’s intense and persistent.
I can see why Montreal natives are horrified at the idea of ever moving here. Their insanely long winters of snow and ice are relatively bright, with a plethora of winter sports to engage in. Even if it’s miserably cold to be out in it most days. For now I have no regrets about leaving that winter behind during a pandemic, but the endless grey days are quite wearing.
The only consolation is the mildness of the temperature, and those brief spells when the rain departs and the sun peeks out from behind the clouds to light up the snow-capped mountains. We are more in tune with the weather here by necessity – the first sign of a 20 minute break in the rain and I’m dragging the children out the door still pulling on rain boots.
It feels like everyone else is doing the same. The park fills up with people making the most of it. Especially the running track, which is like a really inclusive outdoor gym for local residents. A socially distanced one, with a plenty of masks being worn.
The more athletic are in proper training gear, boasting water bottles and wearing weights. They whoosh around the inner tracks at a pace you could never match. The odd person thumps past dressed in heavy jeans and boots built for hiking, not running. I guess when the urge to exercise comes you gotta go as you are! Casual exercisers stroll around in the middle lane, overtaking pensioners shuffling along inch by painstaking inch. Everyone is out, all moving at their own pace.
To the side of the track you might see a group of ladies doing tai-chi or some kind of dance class with a tinny speaker playing something bouncy. In the centre of the track, on the playing pitch, there may be a match in progress or else small groups kick balls about.
Others sit in the shelter of the stands and watch people pass by repeatedly. The kids like to sit up there after a couple of laps. They lean back, feet propped on the seats in front, and cheer wildly each time I cross the finish line.
Those are the good times when the weather is being kind and everyone is out feeling grateful for the opportunity. Being apart, but still together while doing it. The next day it will rain hard. Mountains and the top of apartment blocks are hidden once more. It instantly makes our world outside seem so much smaller and restricted.
Meanwhile the deadlines for taxes, taxes, taxes are looming. The thought of tackling them is overwhelming. I detest doing tax returns in Canada.
The Irish ones are relatively simple to complete and don’t generate any stress. I don’t worry that we made a mistake, or that the Irish revenue will disagree with our self-reporting in the future. If that happens, it’s possible to hold our hands up and admit any errors, pay the resulting balance and move on.
Our experience so far in Canada involves audits for every single year solely because we have some foreign income. Those audits could be triggered anywhere upto a year after submitting returns – right in the middle of doing the next ones. Almost certainly the outcome will be a tax bill which will have an insanely high penalty for late payment of tax we didn’t actually know we owed.
Potentially a years worth of extra interest charged because it took so long to actually start the audit. As for understanding how the tax bill has been calculated… it’s not worth even trying to figure it out. You just pay, and feel horribly cheated because there’s no hope of knowing or proving if it’s them that made an error.
This pandemic year will include the joy of filing a tax return for each of us in Ireland, Quebec, BC and also at a federal level in Canada. That’s 8 tax returns between us! The Canadian ones require filling in all your spouses income and details each time, aswell as your own. And just to top it all off… we have to report the sale of the condo we barely owned in Montreal, and then wait nervously to see if Quebec magics up another immigrant tax on that, despite our distinct lack of any profit on it.
Yep, this January is definitely a grey month. That’s without even getting into the horror of watching covid rates surge wildly in both Ireland and Montreal. There’s an increase in aggressive racism worldwide. The US is literally on fire from multiple sources. And Britain continues to Brexit itself into possible oblivion. Just looking at the news or social media is only going to result in anxiety.
I’m quite happy to have waved farewell to 2020 (or more realistically to have slammed the door behind it and checked all the locks are secure). My expectations for the first half of 2021 aren’t particularly optimistic though. We have a lot more grey puddles to wade or race through before we can summer anywhere.