September 2019

Rotem seems to have taken a real fondness for ice cream again recently. I think his mother might be slipping him some while I’m not looking. But last weekend, he realized that the wafer of the cone is actually edible — much to his delight. Which means that ice creams are now a full half-hour affair, requiring a full change of clothes at the end. My only wish is, that in my age and cynicism, I could enjoy anything quite so much as him. C’est la vie!

Life has suddenly accelerated again to breakneck speed after quite the summer lull.  The major news from this end is that Natalie has been offered and accepted a position as a Professor of Anatomy at McGill University in Montreal (which is Canada’s answer to Oxford, glorious old Victorian buildings and all). Obviously, an offer like that would be silly to turn down, so we’ve taken to planning the move to Montreal on the East coast.  

Whilst her appointment doesn’t start date until the 1st January, we wanted to get the move sorted before the winter kicked in and the city was covered in a metre of snow. As the plan currently stands, the movers arrive on at the start of November, and we then fly two days later. That should give us a few weeks to sort the house and find our feet in our new city before we depart for Israel. Natalie wants to spend some time in Israel in December, as she doesn’t know the next time she’s going to get the chance to get away — that and her grandparents aren’t getting any younger, and no one in the extended family over there has seen Rotem since he was 3 months old.

That’s the major news, but that’s been quietly brewing for a few months now. What caused the sudden acceleration is that last weekend we made an offer on an apartment which got accepted on Monday morning. Meaning that, we’re now legally committed to an apartment in downtown Montreal. If you think of Montreal as a large island in the middle of a river that flows North-East (similar to Notre Dame in Paris), then in the centre of the island is the mountain (the Mont of “Mount Royal” — the original British name of Montreal) and the city centre is on the East side. Well the Mountain is kept as a national park, and our place is right on the edge of where the park becomes downtown. So, we’re a 5 minute walk to the university and a 5 minute walk to downtown, not that dissimilar from your place to Waitrose (just a bit steeper). 

But that slope, means that our second-floor apartment actually has views over the skyscrapers of downtown. It’s a 1980s build, so it needs a little love and maybe a new bathroom, but 3 bedrooms and the building comes with silly things like a sauna, pool, gym and doorman. Not sure how much we’ll actually use them, but having a pool in the building when it’s cold outside on weekends with the little one sounds like a good thing.

It’s funny though, because we’ve just spent months looking for a house in the suburbs, not dissimilar to my parent’s place, about 10 km out from the city centre. For me, that’s an easy bike ride along the bike paths or canals, but for Natalie, that would probably be a 45-minute drive in the mornings. Though I’m not sure how painfully cold cycling in the snow would be. But we basically got to the point where we gave up looking for somewhere. But when I asked Natalie, “Okay, let’s say we’re not buying a place, what do you want from a rental?” Her answer, as it turned out, from growing up in apartments in Tel Aviv was that she didn’t care about gardens, or wanted to drive, or about loads of rooms that we’d only have to clean. She wanted somewhere cosy and close to work. To which I replied, “Well why don’t we just buy one of those instead?” Funny how rephrasing the question can totally change the answer. But heck, if we don’t like it and we change our minds, we can sell it in a year or two and buy somewhere in the suburbs. It’s not like a 3 bed apartment, next to downtown is going to suddenly become undesirable.

The unexpected consequence of all of that, is that I’ve spent most of my week talking with banks and mortgage brokers. Again, this is where Canada is funny. Because property turns over so fast here, you go to the bank with your bank statements, tax returns and credit history months before you go looking for a house, and they give you a mortgage “pre-approval”. A sort of promise, that you go find a place and we guarantee that we’ll give you a mortgage later. In our cause, we had a letter from the bank saying essentially “yep, they’re good, we trust them to the tune of $1M”. Then you need to find a place, go back to the bank and hash out the details, term, interest rate, etc. And of course, this is all time boxed, because I’ve already signed a contract with the property owner with an intent to buy. So I need to come up with the money now in 14 days. But, you know, it keeps life interesting.

Fortunately, working at Boeing for the last year and a bit has seen we work up quite the cash stockpile, that we’re about to watch just disappear. Still, at least there are some benefits to working at ginormous, multinational corporations. Turns out, the other benefit is that they also have an office in downtown Montreal. It’s quite small, as it’s only 40 people, but they work on staffing solutions — making sure airlines have the right pilots and cabin crew in the right places, at the right times, with enough hours left that week to legally complete the flight. All interesting software kind of things, but a little different to the “predicting parts of the plane failing before they fail” that I do now, but similar problems. In the short term however, my boss and senior management are happy with me working remotely (all things happen over the internet these days) for a few months until the project that I’m working on gets released, but then they’re quite happy for me to do an internal reshuffle and work for the Montreal office (if the Montreal office is happy with it too, but by then I will have been in their office for a few months). So that would be great, that means I could move without having to worry about finding another job, and importantly, it means that I wouldn’t even miss a paycheque.

All in all, I’m feeling exceedingly lucky and blessed at the moment. All we need to do is find a daycare for the little one for a while, and then we can enrol him for pre-school come September. There was a few years there, especially towards the end of my doctorate, where after nearly a decade in higher education I didn’t seem to have any prospects and life was going a little adrift. But now, I have a job that values me, a wife about to start the job she’s been planning for for the last 15+ years and, of course, a happy, healthy boy to keep us entertained.

So sights are firmly set on the future. Montreal looks to be a great place to live. Yes, the winters are going to be a little tough — especially with an Israeli that likes the sun. But the city has a more European vibe to it, there’s a lot of civic pride and community spirit to the place. Come spring, when the city turns green and the city turns into a terrace-filled collection of restaurants, parades, live music and art festivals, I’m sure it’ll be a great place to be.

Until then, I’m taking the opportunity to do everything on my metaphorical Vancouver bucket list. This was helped significantly when, week before last, I had a friend from Nottingham, from my undergraduate days, fly over for the week. As you might expect boys-will-be-boys, so we spent the week doing all the things I’d never much convinced Natalie to do. So we took a 1950s built seaplane and flew over the islands off Vancouver before turning inland to the glacier field and landed on our own private alpine, glacial lake for a quick picnic. The next day, we drove nearly 150 miles north and decided to actually hike up to a glacier. The day after that we took an inflatable boat with 450 horsepower on the back up the coast and into the world’s southern-most fjord — seeing the seals, bird sanctuary, as well as an orca and a sealion hunting. And of course, because we were being weird tourists, middle of the week, in the middle of September, both the speedboat and seaplane were essentially private tours. A spectacular way to say goodbye to a stunning part of the world.

So yes, as I say, I’m feeling particularly blessed recently. I’ve worked really hard for years and years, and for a while there I was starting to question whether it was all worth it. But now, on the other side, as I look at my little family, where we are, and what’s ahead of us, I couldn’t be happier.

I don’t know what adventures are ahead of us yet. But I do know that I can’t wait to find out.

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