Archive for the 'Canada' Category


Being back in Halifax


Photo from Dennis Jarvis on flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

Family circumstances mean that for the last week and a half I’ve been living and working from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and will be here for a few more weeks. It’s been a changing experience to be here, and a very different one from when I’ve returned here for holidays.

I was born and raised in Nova Scotia, and spent 6 years in Halifax going to university. I’ve visited here many times in the years I’ve been away, since we still have family here and nearby. But this is the first time where the initial weirdness of visiting has worn off. Being here for this long, and doing ordinary things like working and buying groceries, has made me feel a little more local once again.

These things, which initially felt strange, have started to feel normal:

  • Everyone’s so freakishly polite, especially in the service and retail industry.
  • Food portions are massive.
  • Relaxed drivers: three times I’ve had cars that were already waiting at a four-way stop reverse to let me cross the street without having to walk around them.
  • Everyone has a funny Canadian accent.
  • The price you see on the tag is not the price you’ll have to pay at the counter.
  • It’s cold: it’s well into spring but some days temperatures max out in the low teens. Nevertheless there are a lot of people in shorts and T-shirts.
  • Lots of hockey. And I don’t feel the need to specify that it’s ice hockey.

I’m looking forward to seeing how things feel when we head out to the country.


International Ice Hockey

International Ice Hockey has just swept through Australia. Pros (though not top-of-the-league NHL stars) formed Canada and USA teams that faced off in three games, with two in Melbourne last weekend and one in Sydney last night. I went to the latter, like a good Canadian boy.

It was a fun and well-organised event. Allphones Arena was sold out at 21,000 people. The series was tied at one win apiece so last night was the decider. Canada won of course, 9-6, and so took the series. TAKE THAT, EH!


The grade of hockey played was okay, but I realise that’s relative. It was better than any play you’d ever see here otherwise; the boys were fast on the ice, and the Canadian goalie was quite good (the high score notwithstanding). But as someone who’s seen plenty of NHL hockey they were going pretty easy. There was very little checking, and one or two half-hearted “fights” that seemed more for show than due to real grief. But it makes sense that no pro player is going to risk an injury for an overseas exhibition game.

The scores made it pretty clear that there was a big element of showmanship in all the games. The first Melbourne match was 11-9 for Canada, and the second was a USA shootout win after a 9-9 tie. At the end of the second period last night Canada was ahead 7-2. The third-period USA closing of the gap was completely for show.

But they had lights and music and firecrackers. They had kiss-cams and dance-cams and kids’ hockey between periods. They promoted the local amateur and professional ice hockey leagues. People drank beer and ate hot dogs and cheered whenever a bit of biff happened on the ice. The skating was fast and the passing reasonably skilful. The only nods to the fact that this game was being held in Australia were the announcer guest-spots with cricketers and the videos between periods explaining the rules.



Canadian jobs: Halifax and Vancouver yards win shipbuilding work

I heard about this when I was home, and now it’s happened. This is great news for Canada, and especially for Halifax and the Maritime provinces, which can use the work.

From the CBC:

Halifax’s Irving Shipbuilding is getting the $25-billion contract to build 21 Canadian combat ships and Vancouver’s Seaspan Marine has been awarded an $8-billion contract for seven non-combat vessels, the federal government announced Wednesday afternoon.

Rona Ambrose, the minister of public works and government services, which handles procurement, said the contracts will provide 75 million hours of work and 15,000 jobs annually over the next 30 years.

Halifax Shipyard. Photo from Martin Cathrae via Creative Commons license.


Two weeks in Nova Scotia

Two days ago I returned from 2 weeks back in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was a great visit home with family, and it was really hard to leave.

Sailing from Mahone Bay to Hubbards. Click to embiggen

Some of the fun stuff we did:

  • Counting 14 hummingbirds at once outside my parents’ house.
  • Sea kayaking at Advocate.
  • Making maple butter with my dad and brothers.
  • Two days’ sailing, from Hubbards to Chester and Mahone Bay with my inlaws.
  • Taking nieces and nephews on Halifax’s Harbour Hopper.
  • Meal at The Bicycle Thief.
  • Visiting Lunenburg.
Check out some photos by clicking here.

Trip back to Canada

In two hours we’ll catch a taxi to the airport and start the 24-hour trek back to Nova Scotia, Canada.

The journey won’t be so bad. Sydney to Los Angeles – the longest leg by far – is in V Australia’s premium economy class, about which I’ve heard good things. LA to Montreal, then Montreal to Halifax, is by Air Canada, which is what it is.

The important thing is this will be the first time I’ve been back to Canada in two years. It’s been the same amount of time since I’ve seen most of my family too.

I expect this trip to be very fun, and very relaxing.

See you soon from the northern hemisphere.


Places I’ve Lived

I’ve lived in a few places in my life; more than I thought I would end up doing, anyway.


Nova Scotia

Jan 1969 – Aug 1987: West Brook

A very small farming community in a small eastern Canadian province. Our family farm is there, and my family is still there farming it. Like a stupid kid I didn’t appreciate it enough when I was there, but I sure do now. I love going back to the peace and quiet and family.

Sep 1987 – Aug 1993: Halifax

The capital city of Nova Scotia, Halifax is where I did most of my university studies. It’s a port town, a navy town, an historic tourist destination, and home to one of the largest densities of drinking establishments in North America. It’s a simple place, but an easy place to have fun in. It got a makeover several years ago when it hosted a G8 summit and it’s been looking good ever since.


Sep 1993 – Apr 1994: Toronto

The biggest city in Canada, and the capital of the province (but not the nation) it’s in, Ontario. I was there only a short while, for grad school. Toronto is the world’s most ethnically diverse city, a mosaic of 5 million+ people from all around the world. It’s a bit like a big American city – sometime it wants to be – but with very few of the downsides like crime or extreme economic inequality. Sure, it’s got plenty of big-city problems, but not on the scale that usually happens for cities this size. It may be one of the least friendly places in Canada, but that still makes it very friendly. My brother and his wife have lived there for many years.

May 1994 – Oct 1995: Pembroke

I lived in this small northeastern Ontario city for a year and a half while doing my Master’s research at a nearby nuclear research facility. It’s known for its logging heritage. I can’t really say I enjoyed it that much.

Nov 1995: Deep River

I was here for just one month, as my lease in Pembroke ran out before I could move to Ottawa. Given that it’s a town made specifically to house nuclear physicists for nearby research facility I was glad I wasn’t there for longer. Interesting note: in David Lynch’s film Mulholland Drive, Naomi Watt’s character Betty is from here.

Dec 1995 – Jan 2001: Ottawa

I got a job and moved here, Canada’s capital city. As fate had it, some of my best friends in the world had moved there, too, so Ottawa was a lot of fun (they still live there). I lived in two different spots, both in centre town – one a big apartment tower, the other a nice spot in a duplex top unit on a leafy street. Like many capital cities it’s well taken care of: there are plenty of museums, green spaces, and festivals. The Rideau Canal makes for a great centrepiece in summer and winter. It’s a relatively quiet place, but it’s got everything you need, and seemed a good place to bring up kids. When I got to the end of my six years, though, I was ready to move.

United Kingdom

Feb 2001 – Oct 2009: London

London has it all: everything happens there, it’s got awesome history, the cuisine is tops, and there’s no better hopping-off place for travelling. Well, that is, until the economy went south. And getting around was expensive and, sometimes, painful. And the weather was sooo gloomy. But I never, ever got tired of London. If I had to move back I would not begrudge that ancient, lively, mysterious city at all. I lived in Hampstead (which is genteel and quite fancy), West Hampstead (which is just a bit rough around the edges), and Ealing (which was comfortable and independent). I still have amazing friends in London.


Nov 2009 – present: Sydney

Another great city. Its natural beauty – the harbour, the beaches, the nearby Blue Mountains – is breathtaking. So far I’ve lived in Cammeray (small hilltop enclave to the north), Neutral Bay (genteel family suburb on the north shore), and Marrickville (former Greek neighbourhood, then Vietnamese, now burgeoning yuppie hangout). It’s another city of recent immigrants, and has that energy, and that diversity of neighbourhoods that means you can always find something exciting. But it also feels like it’s resting on its laurels a bit, and needs to prove itself if it doesn’t want to be overtaken by the other Australian cities where things are growing.


Not Since Moses: running through the mud in NS

Although I’m having a good time with my running here in Australia, there’s a race where I’m from back in Canada that looks like it’d be a blast: the Not Since Moses Race, held recently in Five Islands, Nova Scotia.

Five Islands is a tiny community on the Bay of Fundy, one of the places that vies for the title of highest tides in the world. We’re talking 17m of vertical change between high and low tide. That’s a long way for the water to go in and out, and the five islands from which the town takes its name frequently cease to be islands.

Once each summer for the last four years, when the tide goes out far enough, runners race 10km through the mucky, exposed seabed here. And they appear to have a lot of fun doing it.

I’d forgotten about this race until my mom reminded me. I think that’d be an awesome race to try. Not with my good shoes, though.

Not Since Moses Race

Runners in the Not Since Moses Race. Photo by Welcome To Nova Scotia.


This will only mean something to Canadians

At the Twestival the other night I met a very nice Australian woman who helped out as a volunteer. Her name was Casey Finigan.


Trip to Canada

I neglected to blog in the past week, mostly because I was incredibly busy catching up at work after having been on holiday for a week and a half. Things are roughly returning to normality now.

The holiday, as I’d briefly written before, was back to Nova Scotia, Canada, where I grew up and where our families still mostly live. Lt Dan and Nellie are the exceptions – they live in Toronto and so we missed them this time. We’ll be seeing them soon, though.

NS was brilliant. We had none of the travel woes and close-calls we had at Christmastime. Family are all super and happy. The weather was great when it needed to be. We got around a lot, but there was enough downtime to really get chilled.

Quick recap, though I’ve mentioned some points before:

If you want to know what NS (or the Blue Lagoon) looks like, check out some pics on Facebook.

How did I get up there wearing my Mr. Lazy shirt?

How did I get up there wearing my Mr. Lazy shirt?



We’re safely ensconced back in London, having indulged ourselves in a spa day at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon on the way home.

It was a super, super holiday back in Nova Scotia.

Work tomorrow will not be gentle.