In Which There is Snow in Vancouver and Sunshine in Kent

Some starring roles from these letters:

Cynthia – Vince’s Mum

Old Face Ache – Mum’s boss at the dentist!

Mick Marney – Pat’s husband

Donna– my brother Dean’s partner at the time, and their son, D.J. (Dean Junior)

Sheila and Patrick – the lovely Irish couple we rented our second accommodation from

Ray and Debbie (Daughter and son-in-law of Ron and Chris who took us to the airport)

Wendy Byrnes – daughter of Mum and Dad’s neighbours. She got me my first job at WEA Records.  She moved to L.A. with her husband, Ed, some years previously to us, so completely understood the whole long-distance family thing.




Darling Joanne/Dearest Vince,

Monday 19th February 1990

Still feeling terribly lost knowing that you are not around, but Dad said I am coping very well.  It was lovely to hear from you Sunday, you seemed so close.  We are all so pleased that you seem to be getting things sorted out very quickly.  Looking forward to receiving your letter, so we can read all your news in detail.  Nan had a few tears when she spoke to you on Sunday, but thought it was amazing to hear you so close when you are so far away. As we told you Sunday, James has tonsillitis.  He is feeling a lot better now, but he has me running up and down the stairs.  Dad says I am stupid, but you know me!  Pat came in to work today with a very bad hand (no she didn’t hit Mick, tell Vince – not yet anyway haha).  She tried to stop a dog fight and she got the worst of it, it looked so bad she should not have come into work and had been to hospital with it.

My lovely Nanny Annie and Grandad Fred at our wedding and Nan with her Dog, Judy.

Tuesday 20th February 1990

Wonderful! Your letter arrived!  Such a lot of news.  Your flight sounded very impressive, especially the food.  It sounds like The Woolstones are looking after you well, we can just picture Vince’s face every time he goes to the fridge with all that food in it.  It does sound so pretty with all that snow; wish we could see it and would love to see people ice skating around the fountains.  Still perhaps we can have a go when we visit.  The basement that you are going to look at sounds nice, you will have to describe it all to us.  Has it got a garden for Smokey and a tree?  Hope you both enjoyed your valentine’s day dinner, tell us where you went.

It’s very mild here, the daffodils are all out, the forsythia is breaking out in flower, the lawns want mowing and the bees are out in force bringing back lots of pollen, but it is all wrong, it should be cold and snowing!  James is getting a lot better now, he has started shouting again, back to normal!

Wednesday 21st February 1990

At last Mick has finished the carpark at work.  I might park in it tomorrow, but don’t want Old-Face-Ache to think he’s doing me any favours.  Remember me telling you about Mr. Carter, the American gentleman who rang about the house?  Well, he rang again tonight, and he wants us to send details to his hotel in Paddington.  He works for a firm in America who are buying houses in and around the London area, so you never know what might happen.

Watched Dallas tonight – Bobby and April are going to get married and Cliff has done the dirty on JR and Bobby!!

Thursday 22nd February 1990

Went to see Dean and Donna, but Dean was out!  My own fault because I usually send them a letter to let them know I’m coming. Poor little D.J. has got conjunctivitis and looked quite poorly.  On the way home, I saw a really bad accident across from Hayes Common – if I had been a minute earlier, I could have been involved.  There was so much devastation, it made my legs go all jelly-like.

Friday 23rd February 1990

What a beautiful day it is today, walking around with no coats on (stupid weather).  Even turned the fires off at work.  I have given in and parked in the new carpark at work and I showed off, letting them all see how well I could manoeuvre my (sorry our) car in a small space, with three cars already parked in there.  Angie takes up two spaces!  Went to a Bee meeting in Dartford tonight – it was all about what plants attract the bees in Joydens Wood.  We had colour slides and it was very good.  By the way, it was so warm today Tommy Tortoise came out of hibernation.  Hope it doesn’t harm him if it turns really cold again because as you know, he doesn’t usually come out until April (stupid weather again).

Saturday 24th February 1990

Dad: Oh gawd it’s Saturday again.  Got to go shopping with Mum, somebody we know has got a birthday in March, so we had to sort out a pressie for her.  So, it was let’s look in this shop, then this one, you know what I mean, round and round till we came back to the first shop!  Still we sorted out a pressie in the end, so we hope you will like it as we both agreed it was something pretty for a pretty girl.  But from what you tell us about the snow, perhaps we should have bought you some woolly knickers and a string vest!!  Got let down again tonight, sat in waiting for this bloke to view the house but as usual didn’t bloody turn up, been all the same if we had wanted to go out!  Lovely to speak to you tonight, but the time goes so quickly, don’t really have time to say much.  Still at least we can put it down in writing in much more detail.

Mum: It’s me again, I had a nice letter from Cynthia, she also sent me her tea cosy pattern, so I will be turning them out by the dozen ready for when we move.   She said she was very choked when you both left on the Friday morning, and said how she misses Vince not popping in and saying, “Hello Mum”.  I know what she means.  Anyway, I am going to go and see her in the week, and we can have a good chat.  I have some photos for her from when we went to dinner before you left.  I keep looking at them, even though they are sad.

Well my darlings, I will close now.  More news to follow soon.

Mum and Dad signing off





To my wonderful Mum and Dad,

The happy picture of Mum and Dad which I framed as I loved it so much.

I got your letter on Tuesday!  God I was so excited!  George said, ‘there’s a letter here for the Andersons in a pink envelope, who wants it?’ I bounded out of the bedroom saying ‘me, me, me!’  It was so wonderful to read it, it made me sad and happy all at once.  You’ve written it in such a nice chatty way that I could just imagine you saying the words and you sprayed it with your perfume, so I have been hugging it to me.  I’m glad you liked my little note, I wanted to do something special that you could keep, and I thought it was better than a present.  I’ve got some photos back and have a wonderful photo of you both smiling, so am going to frame it so I can look at you often.  I’m glad you’re both okay; when I speak to you on the phone, it makes me feel a bit braver and it makes me so happy to hear you so close to me.

Smokey is doing really well.  He’s eating like a hog.  Luckily, we can get Whiskas out here and they also do Whiskas cat biscuits which I don’t think they do in England.  When he wants to go out, we put him out the basement window! He trots around for a little while and then jumps back in.  Heather is becoming attached to him and calls him Smoke meat!  I’ve given him a big kiss from you, and he said to give you one back.

Smokey making himself at home at The Woolstones

Well, I’ll go back a few days now and tell you what’s been happening:

Tuesday 13th February 1990

Went to look at the basement of a house that friends of Heather and George are renting out.  When I say basement, it’s actually on the ground floor and they live on the first floor!  They have a very large and lovely house and a beautiful big open fire that you would love.  Vince thinks that the basement has an open fire as well, but I can’t remember.  I hope so!  Anyway, we’ve decided to take it, it is very nice and bigger than our bungalow!  The rent is $700 a month, including heat and everything, so that’s about £350.  It’s also convenient for Smokey.  It’s self-contained, we have our own front door and we will share the laundry room.  They have also only just redecorated it, so it really is a bargain.  We are moving in on 1st March, so I’ll send you the new address and phone number before then.  Sheila and Patrick, the people who own the house, are very nice and apparently, they really took to us.  They are Irish and moved out here in 1968.  It’s nice talking to them because they have been through exactly the same situation as us.

Wednesday 14th February 1990

Took a bus to the local post office, Maplewood Stores, to post your first letter off.  Went to explore “Save On” the big supermarket near here.  From our reactions to everything, I’m sure people must think we’re mad!  This supermarket is gigantic, and it sells such unusual things.  Lots of stuff is sold loosely so you can mix things together.  There are loads of different biscuits (cookies), fruit juices where you just take back your empty bottles and refill them, and frozen goods where you help yourself to as much or as little as you want.  It has to be seen to be believed.  We had booked a restaurant to go out for Valentine’s night, but it snowed so heavily that we had to stay in and have hamburgers.  That wasn’t too bad though.  I was in a good mood because you had called and made me happy.  It sounds as though you had a lovely Valentine’s day, especially lunch in Rye!  Watched a film, “The Prince’s Bride” – it was very funny.

Thursday 15th February 1990

The snow on Plymouth Drive, North Vancouver

We were snowbound, so couldn’t do a whole lot.  Went for a short walk and took some photos.  Everything looked absolutely lovely, but the snow was about two feet deep, so it was hard-going.  Vince helped George to shovel the driveway a few times, but the snow was coming down so thick and fast that it just kept covering over again.  I wish you could see the snow!  By the way, I’m so pleased that Briar Dene is still free.  I bet the snow in Yorkshire looks lovely too.

Friday 16th February 1990

Went swimming with Carolynn.  The snow has stopped, the sun is out, and the sky is blue, and everything looks pretty in a different sort of way today.  The pool is walking distance and is fairly small, but nice and you can use the hot tub and sauna for the same price.  So, we had our first sauna and jacuzzi today.  The hot tub is lovely, but the sauna was too much for me, I came out to have a cold shower and nearly lost my breath!!  This evening, we went to Ray and Debbie’s for dinner (You remember that’s Ron and Chris’s daughter?)  Ray came to pick us up and we drove across the Lion’s Gate Bridge which got me really excited.  The views of the city at night from there are just incredible – I’d go as far as to say breathtaking!  On the way home, we saw another wonderful sight.  Because we were driving toward the mountains, we could see three of the smaller ski-runs which were all lit up.  From left to right, we could see Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Seymour Mountain.  It looked so amazing because you couldn’t see the mountains’ outline, only the ski-run lights, so it looked like star formations in the black sky!  It’s so hard to describe things properly.  I just keep thinking ‘oh I wish Mum and Dad could see this too!’

Saturday 17th February 1990

Went to the B.C. Home Show at B.C. Place, that’s the large white-domed building that you may remember from our holiday photos.  It’s like our Ideal Home Exhibition, but on a smaller scale (one of the few things here which is smaller!)  I bought this wonderful steam iron that you can use while your clothes are hanging up or laying down, apparently, it’s what dry-cleaners use, and it will never scorch your clothes.  Hopefully this could be the answer to all my ironing nightmares – Vince is certainly hoping so anyway!!

B.C. Place Stadium amid beautiful mountain views

Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver, by the terminal for the seabus to mainland

Got the sea bus back to Lonsdale Quay and while we were waiting for it to turn up, we watched this busker who made everybody join in the singing and everybody does, including Vince!  I’ve got to get used to it yet, but it does create a good friendly atmosphere, rather than everyone standing around with long faces.  It was really funny.

Had dinner at an Italian Restaurant called Café Roma, which looked out across the water at a view of the city which was lovely.  The meal was really nice and as usual over here, very cheap.

Sunday 18th February 1990

Cheryl (Woolstone) has a word processor in her bedroom, so she let me type up my CV.  I’ve applied for two jobs: one at a local TV station, so we’ll see what happens.  Went for a walk on the sea wall in West Vancouver with Heather, George and Cheryl.  Had lunch at Capers, a health food café.  When I got back, Wendy called me.  It was a really nice surprise as I had forgotten she said she’d call this Sunday.  Bless her heart, she had only just got in from the airport, she said anytime I feel home-sick and want to go and see her, she’ll send me a ticket!

In the evening, we went with Carolynn and a friend of hers, Rick, to see a film “Born On The Fourth of July” with Tom Cruise.

Monday 19th February 1990

Went into Burnaby, another nearby town, to apply for Vince’s Trade Certificate.  We had to walk for miles to find this place, so we were very tired later on.  Got the sky train from there to Vancouver.  There’s a beautiful view of the mountains as you go along.  Nothing else much to report today.

Tuesday 20th February 1990

Vince went off to see the Union to sort out when he can take his exam to get his certificate.  He’s taking it this Thursday!  I went to see Mark Norman at Perryscope Productions (he’s the one that Bill, my old boss, asked to find me a job).  His office is at the bottom of a very treacherous hill, which was extremely slippery from the leftover snow.  I stupidly wore suede ankle boots with no grip and I literally stood on the hill in the middle of the road for ages, thinking if I move, I’m going to break my neck!!  Finally, managed to make it without landing on my bum, but I was a bit scared there for a while!  Mark is a really nice man.  He’s going to help me all he can and has given me some more numbers to call.

I took your letter with me today, I read it again on the bus, then again having lunch, and over and over again since then.

Wednesday 21st February 1990

Did nothing much.  Took bus to post office and walked back.  I cooked chicken casserole for everyone, I think they were impressed.

Thursday 22nd February 1990

Vince got up early to go and take his exam, he said it was quite difficult and was a three-hour 100 question multiple choice paper.  We should find out quite soon how he got on.

I stayed in today, so took the time to write your letter, I like telling you everything in detail.  I’m enclosing a small card about English scones which might interest you.  They served us scones, clotted cream and jam on the plane and this card was with it.  I’m also enclosing a Vancouver’s visitors guide.  I’ve dog-eared some pages and marked where we are.

I miss you still and love you both very much, but I think of you all the time.  Can’t wait to speak to you at the weekend and to get your next letter!


Jo and Vince sign off

In Which We Write Our First Letters

Introducing some starring roles from these letters:

Dean – my younger brother by three years

James – my even younger brother by ten years – he was an ‘accident’ but a wonderful one 😉

Nanny Annie – Mum’s Mum who at this time was sadly showing early signs of dementia

Grandad Fred – Mum’s Dad (he passed to spirit in July 1989, just after our wedding – I feel so lucky to have had both Grandparents there for our special day and to have shared a dance with my Grandad (the Anniversary Waltz) – he had been so ill, but at our wedding was absolutely full of life)

Pat – Mum’s work colleague and good friend

Aunt Peg – (never call her Aunt, she’ll get annoyed, but what a character!)

The Woolstones – the family we stayed with when we first arrived in Vancouver

Some points to note: Mum and Dad had been looking at a property in Yorkshire with a view to moving there and opening a bed and breakfast, which had been a dream of theirs for a few years now.  I think us moving away spurred them on and subsequently, they were putting their house up for sale.  


Mum actually started her letter the night we left their house, Thursday 8th February 1990, and starts by acknowledging the goodbye card I wrote to them.

It has just occurred to me that this is the first time Mum’s letters and my letters have met in person, as they were always in separate places.  For me, this is a wonderfully significant moment which is hard to explain but it filled my heart with such emotion – Mum and daughter back together again!

These letters are so short compared to later ones, but I suppose at the time, we were desperate for communication from each other, thus wanted to post them off as soon as possible!

The first time our letters have met x


And so … on with the letters … on with the memories x



Thursday 8th February 1990

Our Darling Joanne and Dearest Vince,

I will begin this letter with your letter to us.  I can’t begin to tell you how we felt when we read it, but then you probably have a good idea.  It is the most beautiful thing we have ever read and only you could have put it together.  You’ve put so much thought and love into it; we will treasure it forever.

Friday 9th February

I was not looking forward to going to work, but Dad told me to be brave, I could not look at my watch all morning.  Pat took me for a drink after work – cheered me up a little.  James is going to Dean’s for the weekend, so that will be good for both of them.  When Dad came back from work, we had a nice long talk about your lovely new life.  Dad’s got a lovely way of making everything sound alright.

Saturday 10th February

Went to Dartford, very boring without you to shop with. Saw Aunt Peg and had a long chat with her.  She is very pleased with the fridge/freezer you donated to her and thinks she’s very posh now.  Dad’s working all weekend, so when I came home from Dartford, I felt very lazy, so watched TV all afternoon till he came home.  We were just washing up from tea when the phone rang, Dad said it might be Joanne and Vince.  My heart jumped.  It was wonderful to hear your voice, you were so clear, it seemed you were not that far away from us, a sort of sad but happy feeling.  Was so pleased that Smokey was alright, bless his heart.  Watched Dave Allen on TV later and he made us laugh, wish he was on every night!

Sunday 11th February

Boring Sunday again.  Just cleaned brass on front door and now it is raining hard!  Used my new vacuum cleaner this morning, the suction was so strong, it picked up the tiles in the back hall.  I rang Nan.  She said she is alright just gets a bit sad when she thinks of both of you.  Dad had just had a funny turn as he can’t finish his crossword ha ha ha!

Monday 12th February

This is going to be a busy week for you both, getting things sorted out.  Vince might even be starting work this morning.  How big a breakfast is he eating?  Is Smokey eating alright?  What sort of cat food is it?  Hope it’s not bear meat!  Felt a bit better at work today but have to turn the radio off when something sad comes on.  Did a crown prep on the boss Mr Torry today and Angie kept making silly faces at me round the door to make me laugh, but I kept my cool.  Went to see Nan with Dad this afternoon, we told her that you rang on Saturday and she said, ‘where is she now then?’ We are keeping up your good work, we went to the bottle bank and Dad had a smashing time!  Watched a Survival Special on TV this evening about Scarlet Salmon breeding grounds in British Columbia.

Tuesday 13th February 1990

Went to see Rhona and Ted this afternoon.  Told Rhona you had been trying to ring her before you left for Canada.  She said that was very sweet of you to think of her and to give you both her love.   Mrs. Hilary, from Briar Dene, rang this evening and said she had not forgotten about us and would like us to have the Yorkshire cottage.  She said it’s snowing there now, and it looks very pretty.  She also said she has told everyone that I would like to contribute to the craft fair.  I thought ‘oh gawd’!

Wednesday 14th February 1990

I had the day off work today because it is Valentine’s Day and Dad took me to Rye for lunch, but we walked first from the harbour right to the end of the bird sanctuary and it was raining.   But we had our waterproofs on, so we quite enjoyed it.  Apart from our noses dripping, getting wet and cold on valentine’s day, that’s what I call true love.  Some bad news on TV tonight, interest rates to go up by 1%, so that’s going to make selling even harder, we can’t win, can we?  A little message from Dad now:

Hi Jo, who sent me a Valentine card, does Vince know?  It was a very nice surprise, good job you didn’t disguise your writing or Mum would be on my ear-hole saying, ‘who’s this other woman sending you a card?’  I had to buy a pound of homemade fudge in Rye to keep all the girls at the dentist quiet for taking Mum out for the day.  Good job Vince wasn’t here, he would probably have eaten half of it Haha!

Thursday 15th February 1990

One whole week gone by since we said goodbye.  It’s gone so fast.  Christmas is going to come very quick at this rate.  Good.  Went to see Aunt Peg today, she was pleased to see us.  Showed her the letter you gave to us, she said how beautiful it was.  I love showing it to certain people, because we are very proud of it.  She also said not to worry about you because you will both do well.  It was so good to hear your voice again Wednesday night and know everything is going well.  Can’t wait for your first letter to explain it all in detail.



Dear Mum & Dad & James,

10th February 1990

I miss you both (all) so much already.  I only hope it gets easier!  At least we’re going to be busy, so my mind will be occupied.  It was good to hear your voices on the phone today.  Although I cried, it’s nice to know that I can talk to you that easily when I want to.  It is exciting to see Vancouver again though.  The air is so fresh, and it’s been snowing, so everything looks really pretty.  I will take some pictures before the snow melts and send them to you.  I’ll also send you a photo of The Woolstones, so you know what they all look like.  The flight over on Wardair was very impressive.  We had china plates and proper cutlery and a lovely meal.  We had a mixed salad to start and then I had chicken Florentine and Vince had steak and then they bring round a sweet trolley, just like in a restaurant!  The film was Turner and Hooch, which was quite funny, and all on a proper TV screen with decent headphones!  When we arrived, everyone here was really pleased to see us.  Smokey is settling in well.  We are sleeping in the basement and there is a really big area for him to wander around in.  Today, Heather and George [Woolstone] drove us around to look at some open houses.  They were very impressive, but a bit beyond our price range.  We had lunch in Deep Cove (remember us telling you about it?).  They keep us well fed here and it’s warm.  We help ourselves to breakfast and lunch, they have one of those large American fridges which is filled to the brim with absolutely everything!

Vince and Carolynn in the snow!!! Plymouth Drive, North Vancouver

Our first Canadian home (the basement of The Woolstones’ house)

Sunday 11th February 1990

Today was probably the longest Sunday I can remember.  The time seems to go much more slowly here.  Because they have English guests, Heather and George decided to do a proper roast dinner, but can you believe it, they don’t know how to make roast potatoes.  So, I cooked them, and I think they were impressed!  Vince and I went out for a couple walks today and looked at some more open houses, they’re still a bit above our price range, but they were so wonderful.  I think we’ll have to move a little bit further out to start with, but that should be okay.

A typical dinner at The Woolstones, lots of friends!!

Monday 12th February 1990

Went to open a bank account, they gave us cheques, cheque card and cash card number on the spot.  It was amazing.  We also applied for our social insurance number so we can now look for jobs.  We had a quick look in the job centre today but saw nothing much.  Vince called the refrigeration engineer that Heather had found who was very helpful and will contact Vince in a few days.  Went to Lonsdale Quay and to Vancouver City Centre today which was fun.  It seems strange to see it again, but on the other hand it seemed perfectly normal.  The mountains looked lovely today.  It snowed in the night a little bit, so they have white peaks and you can even see the ski run clearly on Grouse Mountain. On the way back on the bus, there were lots of people with skis who had just been skiing for the day (can you believe that?!)

Tuesday 13th February 1990

Went into Lonsdale (Lower North Vancouver) to Rent-A-Wreck, a car-hire company that hires older cars, so it’s cheaper!  But they wouldn’t let us rent one until we have a credit card for a deposit!  Never mind – the weatherman says there’s more snow on the way, so maybe it’s just as well.  Tonight, we’re going to look at someone’s basement with a view to us renting it.  It’s self-contained, furnished and it’s in a good position.  The people are friends of Heather and George, so we’ll probably get it at a good price.  In any event, we’re welcome to stay where we are for a couple of weeks.

Well, I had better save some news for the next letter although I want to just keep writing as it makes me feel so close to you all.

First letter signature x


Well, I hope our first correspondences have piqued your interest and that you will enjoy reading future letters/blogs.  Until next time …

Love, Jo x