A move across the pond: how the heck did we get here?

One woman’s take on her family’s decision to move to Canada.

Chapter 1

Lake and mountainWelcome, dear reader, to my first ever literary endeavor – I am excited at the prospect of seeing my name ‘in print’ for the first time, even if not on paper. It’s another thing off my bucket list and a first for me – well, aside from my entry into the UK Platinum Handwriting Contest circa 1968 in which I was actually awarded a coveted fountain pen prize! I hope you will enjoy my ramblings – and ramblings they may indeed become if I open the bottle of wine before I finish this virgin article (I will try hard not to!)

My remit for this expat column from she who must be obeyed (aka the Editor who also happens to be a somewhat scary A-Type lawyer and very special friend) is to share with you my experiences of living overseas for the past 10 or so years, having left the UK during what can best be described as some sort of mid-life crisis along with my husband and then six-year-old daughter.

We wanted to experience life outside of the Home Counties and widen our daughter’s horizons. I’m Not sure why we felt the need to move so far away and I still don’t know why we didn’t just head north to Dundee or Edinburgh, but so it is that I type to you from the beautiful, somewhat sleepy hamlet of Bragg Creek which we now consider home. And if you don’t know where that is on the globe, it’s a very quintessentially Canadian community of around 3,000 people, 1300 meters above sea level (and compared to the UK that is high!), nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains – about 20 miles west of Calgary, in Alberta, Canada.

As the crow flies it is about 4500 miles away from London. Who knew it was so far away? Or that M&S had pulled out of Canada just months before we landed? Certainly not me when I boarded the plane from Heathrow on that July day sobbing uncontrollably, much to the bewilderment of the other passengers on the flight. I am sure they thought I knew something they didn’t – remember, this was Heathrow just after 9/11 and travelers’ nerves were still frayed. Unfortunately I was crying too hard to be able to reassure them all was well, and quite frankly I didn’t give a damn – I just wanted the plane to take off and the bar to open.

I had in fact boarded the plane voluntarily – just as I had resigned my job, sold my house and my beloved VW Beetle (which even now I hanker for), said goodbye to the best group of girlfriends in the whole wide world not to mention a much loved Mum and sister and packed our two cats into the belly of the plane sedated only by herbal remedies. I was off to start a new life in the prairies of Alberta – and all of this had been done voluntarily. Were we mad? As the plane hurtled down the runway and threw itself into the air it was probably as well I was not sitting near an emergency exit – had I been this column might have been penned by someone else!

Now when my husband and I reflect on the choice we made back then, we question whether it was really us who made all the decisions necessary to make the move happen or whether our bodies were for some months inhabited by aliens. Neither of us are what you’d call risk takers and we had a good, comfortable life in the south of England. We were not and still are not rich and our move was not financed by a generous company relocation package. There was no return ticket for us or funded home visits.

So what the heck happened? Actually I blame my mother – true I blame her for many things – but definitely I blame her for being the one who started the whole thing. It was she who in an innocent voice had suggested dreamily as we stood taking in the breath-taking beauty of Two Man Jack Lake just outside of Banff: “You should move here”. And at the time it seemed like a really good idea. Never in a million years did we imagine as we went through the whole lengthy application process that we’d be accepted as landed immigrants, but the moment the letter of acceptance hit the doormat we were doomed (as Private Fraser in Dad’s Army would say).

So, in a nut shell, that is how I come to be typing this article in my kitchen in beautiful Bragg Creek, from where I can actually see the Rocky Mountains (well, if I walk to the end of my driveway that is!) And it really is incredibly beautiful on a July evening. Ask me again in the middle of January and the answer will be very different. There really is such a thing as cabin fever – it’s not just in Little House on the Prairie reruns – it comes from being stuck inside for days on end because going outside requires putting on so many layers of clothing (on yourself and the dog), risking frostbite (lots of cats and dogs with missing ears and tails are proof of the dangers!) and even then you can only stay outside for 10 minutes. After a while it’s just not worth the effort. Puzzles take on a whole new meaning, as does quilting, scrap booking and pickling! It really is difficult to find beauty when everything is covered in three feet of snow, even if you are an avid skier.

So that’s Chapter One completed – and if my ramblings amuse, annoy or motivate other forty-something women to take a step into the unknown then I will die happy indeed. My philosophy as I get older and wiser is ‘just do it – really what’s the worst that can happen?’ Life is way too short – you get to live it once and you need to live each day to the absolute fullest – take the highs with the lows, laugh as much as you can, be kind to the people you meet, tell those you love that you love them and really just live the best life you can.


About NicolaTalman

I am a 50 something wife to amazing (and patient) husband of 20 + years and mother of beautiful, amazing, feisty 17 year old daughter. Born in Kenya, grew up in UK now transplanted and living in Canada. Home is west of Calgary in a hamlet called Bragg Creek. We share our home with 3 dogs, 1 cat and visiting deer, bears, coyotes, moose and cougars. An HR career professional, yoga novice, red wine drinker, vegetarian, avid shopper, Gerard Butler lover and closet journalist! Oh and long time friend of editor who got very drunk at a Christmas party a long time ago and may find herself featuring in future article unless she's very nice to me!

  • Mark

    Not sure if I am allowed to leave a message on a totally4woman website but heck, just read chapter 1 of my late wife’s best friends notes from across the pond
    Nicola, loved the article and I have shown it to an editor friend who was very impressed and found the article beautifully written, high praise indeed I can assure you. It has inspired her to write of her travel to live in deepest Russia in the same years you left the uk. Thanks for pointing me to the article and look forwards to chapter 2 x

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  • Karen Faulds

    Greetings from a very wet France. Just read chapter one with interest as I have also been commanded by she who must be obeyed (otherwise known as my cousin) to write about our experiences of moving to France. (Appearing in a later edition). It will be interesting to compare notes. At least you speak the same language – or do you?

  • Samantha

    I really enjoyed reading your article and have sent it to my mum – our family moved from the UK in 1977 when I was six to Edmonton, Alberta and from my mother’s recount, my parents experienced a very similar culture shock and home sickness. If you can believe it, I moved back to the UK from Vancouver in 1995 to study here and find out what it was like to live here, having grown up in Alberta and BC. My entire family followed suit several years later and live within 20 miles of each other. Ironically, I would love to go back to Canada (probably because I grew up there) but would miss the very things you mention in your tales – family, friends and the now familiar everyday things I am used to in the UK (I love M&S too!). Please keep writing more stories!! All the best, Samantha from Lancashire.

  • legeddes


    What a nice surprise to find t4w and read A Move Across the Pond. I moved across the pond ten years ago, but in the opposite direction. My eldest was twelve and my youngest was almost six when we moved from Denver, Colorado to a small village north of Leeds.

    I’ll never forget our arrival at the house we had rented. We were greeted by the fresh scent of poo. The local farmers had been busy mucking the fields. Wow, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of horrible mistake we had made. I was told you get used to it but it took a very long time before I could say that was true.

    The first year was hot and sunny. I swore they lied about the weather to keep people away. The dog and cat arrived from quarantine just as summer set in and we felt we must keep the doors and windows closed so they couldn’t escape.

    A lot has happened over the decade, including the breakup of the marriage. I now live a mile away from that first house. My new place isn’t new at all, in fact it is four hundred years old, one hundred years older than the first place.

    I always wanted to write so moving to England made me realise that it was do or die time. I started with poetry, complaining the whole time that I didn’t get it, but loving the fact you could finish a poem. Now I’m not sure a poem is ever really finished. I still write poetry but did write a novel last year. I won’t quit my day job just yet.

    I welcome the next bit from Nicola.

    Best wishes,

    (aka LE Geddes)