Edmonton, Alberta

When my parents died there was a small legacy which encouraged me to visit my sister in Edmonton for Christmas. The wide-open spaces, clean air, sunshine (I still miss it) and the ease of building your own house so impressed me that I emigrated.

I arrived at the start of a building boom that was driven by oil prices. Eventually the oil prices dropped sharply and the construction industry stopped. I experienced the unhappy environment where wage roll backs were common. This did not make for happy employees. Lack of cooperation and sabotage were common.

I lived with my sister for a few weeks then did some sharing till I Built my own house. It was Tudor style with a shake roof. One irritating aspect of my divorce was that I lost my house to my wife and she promptly moved out of it and left it empty. I went back to sharing houses with a variety of interesting people.

I was engaged for a while but that didn’t work. Later I married someone else and that didn’t work either.

I’m not much of a traveler, despite having lived in so many places, but I did one trip by car down the West coast to Mexico. Traveling by car you can watch the climate change as you move south. In Alberta I did many visits to the mountains for skiing and of course my job took me all over northern Alberta.

Alberta is a remarkably cosmopolitan province, yet integrated. The construction industry was mostly formed of immigrants. The joke on most building sites was ‘Of course were not prejudiced. We even hire Canadians’. I had lunch in a café in Vegreville where the Chinese owner spoke Ukrainian to his customers. Vegreville is famous for the world’s largest Easter egg.

For a short time I worked on the third phase of the West Edmonton Mall. The mall really is one of the wonders of the world. It has more submarines then the Canadian navy, a hockey rink, a wave pool, porpoises, and real pine trees. At one time it even had a factory making gold chains.

The depression lasted so long that I was forced to leave my friends and move to Ontario which was in the middle of boom. I found the move to Ontario a far bigger wrench than leaving England.

I never swam in Edmonton itself. But there are often in the local lakes. My younger sister and husband had a cottage out at Hastings Beach, which was a relatively small lake by Alberta standards. The lake is infested with fresh water shrimp, and as I’m rather hairy, each time I came out of the water I would be have a few dozen of these little creatures trapped in my hair. The occasional leach hanging onto to your body was not so amusing. The secret with leaches is not to pull them off, but to find someone with a cigarette to burn them off.

My older sister, visited from England, and she managed to get up on water skis the first time she tried. It’s quite nauseating what these girls can do.