New province, new city… same old pandemic.
As expected, the second wave of covid hit the western shores of Canada. And it hit hard. We had a couple of weeks to get ourselves settled in to our new home, and then the restrictions tightened. No socialising outside of our household anymore. Further restrictions as the infection rate continued to rise.
This indefinite state of semi-isolation is hard to navigate. We’re cut off from all friends and family (except online contact) yet we’re free to go mingle amongst strangers in parks or grocery stores. The children can’t take a walk with a friend – unless we go sign them up for a group activity. Luckily they adjust better than the adults to this strange pandemic world we now live in.
There are gloomy days where I look out the window in the morning and find everything shrouded in grey mist. We will be tempted to close the blinds against the driving rain and find indoor pursuits. However, it doesn’t take long before claustrophobia sets in. Everyone is cranky and uninterested in doing anything constructive.
The bickering reaches unmanageable levels until I decide I’m done. We reluctantly pull on boots and jackets to venture out into the mud and rain. Even just to traipse down to the library and pick up whatever reservations have arrived. Being able to get outdoors without slipping and sliding on ice and snow is a big plus right now, even though returning home soaked through is tedious.
Then on bright mornings the sun blazes cheerfully in clear blue skies. A dusting of snow sparkles on the mountain peaks surrounding us. The tallest apartment buildings in town stand proudly in the distance with sunlight glinting on the windows. A different world waits outside. It’s amazing the impact the weather has on our perspective and mood each day.
There’s no schedule to follow thanks to lockdown – no activities or social obligations to work around. We can do as we please. Either a spring clean while I can actually see the dust, or a chance to roam outdoors in the chilly sunshine before the rain returns. It feels like it’s a waste not to venture outdoors any day that is mild and dry – even if we’re not going very far. A dose of sunshine, exercise and green space to counter the mental toll of this year.
The homes in our ‘perfect’ North American neighbourhood -one of many nestling in mountainside communities- are very carefully planned. It’s beautiful, but it it feels a little sterile thanks to all the regulations. White window coverings only? Our colourful curtains languish in a closet while flimsy blinds do little to block the piercing early morning sunlight.
I can’t argue with the obvious effort that has gone into planning the park right beside us though. There are an impressive number of facilities crammed into a space that seems far too small to hold them. Pitches and courts of every description. A fishing lake with a walking trail. A skateboarding park, playground, parking sites… and an entire running track where you will always find locals of all ages circling around – at an appropriate social distance, of course.
At this point we’ve settled in as much as we’re going to be able to. At least until this pandemic is over, or next summer brings back a little more freedom. Meanwhile there’s still plenty of household admin to deal with. The biggest time sink lately has been restarting our residency applications. It’s frustrating to begin again, but the road to permanent residency is at least shorter here than in Quebec. Police certs and university transcripts are winging their way extremely slowly across the ocean. With the Christmas rush I’m not hopeful that we’ll see them until the New Year.
There are also English language tests to sit. We haven’t somehow lost our fluency after 3.5 years in Quebec, but proving that requires coughing up a few hundred dollars for a test. My English Leaving Certificate results, with the lengthy essays and poetry dissections is ignored in favour of online testing. There are multiple choice questions about 2 minute conversations with bus drivers. Worse is the awkward rambling into a microphone where you’ve been asked to spend an excruciatingly long 3 minutes convincing a fake family member that your choice of who should mow your fake Uncle’s lawn is better than theirs.
Meanwhile, the youngest has entered a phase where he wants everyone to stop all other conversations and listen exclusively to him as he holds forth on random unrelated topics for the entire duration of meals. He is determined to take major offence at any minor perceived transgression – like the placing of his cup on a table. Or the way somebody looked at him. It’s going to be a fun winter of confinement with this continuous drama.
The eldest has reached the ripe old age of 8, which seems significantly older than 7 for some reason. He alternates between having a mature and helpful nature, and becoming a cackling devil intent on upsetting anyone in his vicinity. Despite the haphazard structure of the year, he is benefitting from hundreds of hours drawing whatever takes his fancy, and many more perusing library books. This point where he has accelerated beyond scraps of text in graphic novels to actual chapter books is almost as exciting for me, as it is for him. Some of my childhood favourite books are almost within his grasp now.
This year I am glad my children have each other for company, but also wish they weren’t forced into quite as much contact. When they fight, it’s unbearable to have to deal with. They both do their best to wind each other up while refusing to take any responsibility for their part in escalating minor complaints into full-blown war.
Sometimes they drift off to spend time on separate activities and peace falls upon the house for a brief period. When they do play happily together it’s cute and heart-warming, but usually also deafening and messy. It generally involves getting up to as much mischief as they can before an adult spots what they’re up to and rains consequences down on them.
The latest enjoyable pursuit for both of them is to don head coverings and arm themselves with pilates exercise rings and any random toys that could possibly be used as weapons. They mount expeditions up stair mountains and camp around a beanbag eating a selection of wooden Ikea food. The other highlight of November/December is viewing Masterchef Professionals and Strictly Come Dancing. A VPN, BBC iplayer and a HDMI cable has provided us access to family-friendly viewing that appeals to all… at least until the youngest runs out of patience and stalks off to get into mischief.
Today the Christmas tree came out of storage and I put on the first batch of mincemeat in preparation for mince pies next week. Pandemic or not, Christmas will still arrive in some form this year. As we have discovered during lockdown birthdays, all the kids really need is presents, cake, cookies, icecream, movies and lots of food. We may not have access to everything that we want as 2020 draws to a close, but we will certainly try and make the most of what we do have.