January 2020

We packed up our lives in Vancouver way back at the start of November (I say we, but what I really mean is, the university paid for a team of burly men to put our life in boxes and then drive it across a continent). But while the movers were there, we stayed local. Natalie mostly supervised the move, whilst I took Rotem off out the way so he didn’t have to live through the trauma of watching all of his stuff get packed up into boxes. Instead, we went to the science museum and played with bubbles in different viscosity liquids and built dams with Lego.

It was certainly a wise move to take a hotel in Vancouver for 2 nights, so we didn’t have to deal with a home in pieces. Then we said goodbye to the lorry, as the driver started his 3-week drive, as we instead went to the airport for our 5-hour flight. Still a reasonable amount of time, but we’re pretty much travel pros at this point. We had toys and snacks by the dozen ready for Rotem, so the whole flight was pretty undramatic. We collected our suitcases from the carousel and then jumped into a taxis and made for our new home.

The university, not being amateurs at relocation had set us up with an apartment-come-hotel type arrangement. Like a hotel, but with the beds in a separate room and a kitchenette to allow us to prepare some basic meals at “home”. In a somewhat silly manner, the hotel had sort of three-quarter beds (not quite a double), and two of them. So I pushed the two beds together and we then had one expansive bed for all of us to sleep in – just like one giant slumber party. As you can imagine, Rotem loved it.

That gave us 2 weeks to get everything else sorted. We needed to find a daycare for the little man and we needed to finalize all of the paperwork for the house.

We interviewed a few different daycare options. One was right on a metro station, but seemed to be run by heartless Mexican nuns and the owner seemed to take pride in telling us that this was just a money-making scheme until he got his computer certificate from the university and then he could get a “real job”. We saw an at-home daycare, run by a Persian husband and wife. Except, they seemed very new to the Western way of doing things — the wife wouldn’t speak to us while the husband was there. The husband did all of the talking and wouldn’t shake Natalie’s hand. In the end, Rotem has ended up at the YMCA of all places. They’re really nice people and know what they’re doing. Yes, it’s the pricey option, but he’s in a little class of 6 kids and all of them are the children of professors at the university of surgeons at the hospital, so there’s some high expectations. It’s really lovely. I think in the last 2 months at the Y, I’ve seen him developmentally progress more than in the previous 18 months. But then, he has weekly swimming and music classes, and personalized development plans and the like. None of this, old-fashioned, kids-will-be-kids.

As for the house stuff, well it all went through in the end. There was a little drama to keep things interesting, apparently the listing agent simply forgot to get a legally-required piece of paper from a land surveyor to say that the building was in-fact where everyone thought it was. Of course, land surveyors are busy people and usually booked up weeks, if not months in advance. And we needed one in less than 48 hours.

Oh! And of course, the mortgage company just got the numbers wrong, so they sent over a cheque for $50,000 more than we’d actually asked for. Which is truly remarkable. You’d really hope that your bank would simply be better with numbers.

Then finally, the owner, Mrs Bornea (pronounced: Bor-nay) had been left the place by the late husband. But the husband had died 3 days after the marriage. Which triggered an investigation as to whether she was the actual, legal owner. As it turned out, the old-boy had a terminal prostate cancer diagnosis and under Quebec law, any change of property is forbidden after a terminal diagnosis. With one exception, in a marriage contract. The moral of the story, is that it was all legit, we just really made our lawyer work for the money. She actually said, she had to go back to her textbooks from when she was a student for this one. So, there you go, we’re never simple.

We found out later, at the key signing, that the old-boy was a Polish Jew and joined the Polish resistance during the war and joined the underground. His first wife was less fortunate and ended up in a concentration camp, escaped, fled, and went on the run in Hungary. At the end of the war they did manage to reunite in Canada, but they were very different people than the young, newly-weds they were at the start of the war. So they went their separate ways and lived their lives (although at the same Temple). The old-boy had actually been living with the woman we met for 40-years, but he’d refused to marry her because of his vows. However, the Jewish first-wife died about a week before he did. So it was then okay for him to marry his pseudo-wife of the last 40 years. It’s all a little bananas. But it gives you a feel for why our 10-minute key handover turned into an hour long affair. And now you have the abridged version of the long history of the previous owners.

Meanwhile, we’re the proud owners of an apartment less than half a mile from downtown Montreal. Although, we’re a bit up the hill, or the Mont of Mont Royal (as it was called when the British were here the first time). So we’re sandwiched between downtown and the large national park of Mont Royal (think Central Park in New York if it gained 400 meters of elevation in the middle). South-Easterly facing with views of the skyline. It’s very nice. Or rather, it has a good skeleton.

The location is fantastic. It’s literally a 6-minute walk for Natalie to get to her desk at work. And it’s half a mile to the YMCA for Rotem. (I’m working from home at the moment, thanks to the wonders of the internet, so it doesn’t matter where I am.) We have nearly 2000 sq. ft. which is decidedly cavernous, to the point of hilarity. This place is approximately three times the size of our previous apartment, and it’s not like we’ve suddenly sprouted three times more stuff. Which means that all of our furniture is sort of like clumped together as little islands in a large expanse of ocean. I’m just going to trust that mother showed you a few pictures while you were over with them at Christmas.

But there’s no escaping the fact, that this is a place built at the end of the 70s, and the old-boy got a fancy designer in to do the place. So the master bedroom has one wall as just a mirror. In fact, both bathrooms have all the walls as tinted mirrors. It’s like looking at yourself through sunglasses. Now I’m not one who is ashamed of my body, but I’m not sure who’s narcissistic enough to need to seem 360 degrees of themselves as they step out of the shower.

While I’m not working I’m busy sorting out life and refurbishments, I get to busy myself in lots of other fun little activities. For instance, Quebec has a totally different health service to British Columbia, so we’ve had to enrol over here. Similarly, the car licensing, insurance and even driving licenses are different, so we’ve had to spend a couple of days at the Quebec equivalent of the DVLA (UK) / DMV (US). Except here, they have a French flair for bureaucracy. You know the sort of thing where you wait in line for 3 hours, only to get a 40-minute monologue about exactly why and how you’re wrong, and which forms you should have filled out — which contain exactly the same information for them to type into the system, just that the boxes are in a slightly different order. In the end, they spend more time lecturing than it would take to just simply fix the problem. But clearly, I come from a different “engineering mindset” where I just want to come up with solutions. Perish the thought!

Otherwise, the only other news to report is that we spent the Christmas break over in Israel. Natalie hadn’t been back in over 18-months, and it was almost exactly 3-years since Rotem and I had been. Obviously, there were a lot of family and friends that were very keen to spend some time with the little superstar — and I was there too.

A friend explained to me recently, that there are vacations and then there are trips. And anything with kids is a trip. In this instance, it was most definitely a trip. Something akin to a show dog at Krufts, except Krufts doesn’t involve several hours on the motorway shuffling between events. All-in-all, I came back far more exhausted than when I left. And sicker. And jet-lagged. With a jet-lagged toddler. But Natalie… well I can’t say that Natalie enjoyed it much either. But I feel an obligation had been met and she felt sufficiently less guilty afterwards. And it means that I can now say that I spent Christmas one year, just on the other side of Jerusalem from Bethlehem (actually drove past it, but didn’t stop for Mass given the Israeli passport in the car).

Anyway, I think that’s all of my news for the time being, so at that point I shall sign off and wish you health and wealth in the new year.

All my love, and best wishes for the new year

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