In some respects it is impossible to comprehend, but today - December 20th, 2016 - marks ten years since Susan and I landed in Nanaimo to start a new life in our forties. Ten years!
Looking back over this decade we have crammed in a lot of living, doing the thing we do, and considering the state we arrived in, we have come an incredibly long way. Six weeks prior to our arrival we lost our Brighton home to fire, an understandably traumatic event that considerably expedited our original plans to move here. The fire started in the apartment above ours when the moronic son of the woman that lived there fell asleep drunk, dropped a lit cigarette, then woke up and went out. How can that even happen? How can someone wake up to presumably find the place on fire, then go out? We have never been given answers to how everything unfolded, and will never receive any, but it is what happened.
Consequently, we had no choice but to up sticks and head over here, a moved sanctioned by Canada House when Susan was approved as my sponsor...the day after the fire! Remaining in ultra-expensive Brighton and starting over there simply was not an option. Susan desperately wanted to come home; we had somewhere to temporarily stay - with Susan's ever-supportive parents - and it felt like my time in Brighton, just short of twenty years, had run its course. Besides, my mother - never a fan of Britain - urged me to get of the 'shithole' if any opportunity to do so ever arose, so hey, mum, I did it, and with an incredible woman I wish you could have met, but alas...
Our exit from the UK was a six-week blur of goodbyes, packing, planning, fretting, paying off debts and other outstanding expenses, and a ton of other things on our to-do list. I could go into the chaotic events that transpired in the wake of the fire, but I would rather not recall them, especially such as witnessing Susan burst into tears upon the sight of any passing fire truck. Let's just say it was a highly emotional, crazy, frazzled and hectic time that, even if paid handsomely to re-enact it, I would politely decline for the sake of my mental health.
The day of departure was one of the most stressful days of our lives. As we were leaving just before Christmas, Gatwick Airport was absolutely crammed to the rafters with travellers, all about as nerve-fried as each other, eager to get the fuck on planes and get out of there. For us, leaving our beloved cat Eddie in the hands of the live cargo department was awful. He was thirteen years-old, not in great health, and we genuinely wondered if he would survive the flight.
After having bid an emotional farewell to our dear friend Shaun, who had kindly driven us to the airport, and his two lovely daughters, we joined the masses moving like molasses through the terminal, firstly to ask where we needed to take Eddie (which proved to be somewhere so far away we had to get a taxi to and from it), then to check in and join the endless queue to get to the departure lounges. It was absolute hell, and so slow-movingly busy we thought we would miss our flight. Then when we finally did get on the plane we couldn't even sit together.
What seemed like an eternity later we landed in Vancouver, where after a right rigmarole and rip-off scenario we collected our freaking-out cat, then were scooped up by Susan's friends Carol and Ariane, whisked off to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal at high speed, only to be the very last passengers (and cat) aboard. It was madness, and not at all how I had ever envisaged arriving in my new country. It was freezing cold, but because we had an animal with us we had to huddle in a particular area on an outside deck. The journey to the Duke Point terminal was only two hours, but it felt like two days.
Collected by Susan's parents at this end, we were taken 'home' to begin our new life. I could relate the events and emotions of the first few weeks and months, but will resist. I will say that it was a period of unexpectedly enormous adjustment that brought with it high emotion, a great deal of uncertainty, and not a little fear...
...but it all worked out in the end.
As I type I am in my office in our dream home, a beautiful and large house, the basement of which was once a noted recording studio. It feels very, very right living inside these walls. We continue to make it our own in terms of adornments and upgrades, and in truth I have never felt happier living anywhere than I do in this wonderful dwelling. Our condo - bought in 2007, and lived in for five happy years - was great, but way too small for our needs and desires.
We both have work, as well as a wonderful cat, Reggie; a community of fantastic friends that took time to find, and are generally very happy with our situation. Like anyone we have our problems and situations to deal with, but we live each day as if it's our last, making the very best of our time together and deal with the crap as it comes along.
We have absolutely no regrets. Moving here, albeit with forced hands at the time, was one of the best decisions we have ever made. Susan needs to be here, near her family, while perversely conveniently I have no one left, so we have that support network as well, without whom we would have truly struggled. We are so very lucky in that respect.
A suitcase each, $1,000 between us, and a cat in a basket: that's what we arrived here with ten years ago today. Now, an extraordinary decade later, in all but wealth we are millionaires.