Nanna – Heather Woolstone’s Mum, but everyone called her Nanna. A really lovely, elegant lady.
Gail – CKVU – Assistant to the President General
Sheila and Pete – we called them Auntie and Uncle, but Sheila was my Dad’s cousin. Pete, a musician, playing the electric accordion, now performs in a jazz duo with my daughter, Emma Rose (PJ and Rose)
Sheila and Patrick – the couple whose basement we are renting currently (not to be confused with Sheila and Pete!)
To my Dearest Mum & Dad,
Hello – still missing you both enormously. I guess that won’t change, but hopefully, it will get easier to bear. I just wish that sometimes I could reach out and touch you, or call you just when I feel like it, for a long chat. Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve probably depressed you both now! I’m having a bad day today. I do love getting your letters though and I love writing them back. I think I must ramble on a bit – I just don’t want to miss anything out!!
Saturday 10th March 1990
Miniature Scenic Railway in Stanley Park, such a lovely little ride
Got up and went to aerobics. I have to be there for 9 am, so it’s quite an achievement for me on a Saturday morning! Met Vince afterwards and he, Carolynn and I went for breakfast at Cafe Boulevard in Edgemont Village. It’s a really nice little village – it’s up near the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Got back to find out that Heather’s Mum had a slight stroke, so they were all quite worried, but she’s almost okay again now. We got invited upstairs to Sheila and Patrick’s for some home-made blackberry pie and ice cream, it was quite yummy. She picked the blackberries down near one of the beaches. She does quite a lot of baking. Went to Stanley Park and saw the big bear – I feel quite sorry for her being there, but she seems quite happy. She has a cub who was so cute and the mother was laying flat on her back and wriggling around, it was so funny. I’d love to cuddle her and by the way, she has enormous paws. Went on the miniature railway and saw Bison, Wolves (all in cages of course) and lots of bunnies hopping around. The rabbits are not the normal brown kind, like in England, they are all colours and patterns, like pet rabbits. It was a lovely little ride, apart from all the noisy Canadian kids when we went through a tunnel. And to think we’ll be having Canadian kids one day too! Went out for a Chinese Meal in the evening and to see “War of the Roses” at the cinema. It started off well, but turned out rubbish.
Aerial view of Stanley Park – the most amazing place to visit and right on our doorstep.
Sunday 11th March 1990
Got the bus into Port Coquitlam to see what the area is like. It’s probably half an hour drive in good traffic. Well, when we got there, it seemed like the end of the earth. It was like a ghost town! So we got another bus and got off at Coquitlam Centre which is a great big shopping centre. Had some lunch and a look around. We planned to look at some open houses today, but without a car it was impossible. Waited nearly a hour for a bus home (Sunday service doesn’t change across the world). I HATE waiting for busses!!! I haven’t cooked a Sunday roast yet in our new place, mind you I can’t say I’ve missed cooking it, but I don’t mind eating it!
Monday 12th March 1990
Vince went to work with a man from Cool King Refrigeration. He finished just after lunch because there was no work in. He thinks this guy is stringing him along a bit. He wanted Vince to work a couple of months with him before he would tell him what his wages would be, which really isn’t on. If only the Union would pull their weight and find him something. The temp agency called me to say they have work for Thursday through to the following Friday, so that’s good. Sat in the garden in the afternoon to do some letter writing, it was really warm and sunny, and from where I was sitting I could see a mountain peak covered in snow!
Tuesday 13th March 1990
Both got up early and went into town. Vince got booked in to take a TQ refresher course at night school, ready for his next exam. I tried to to find out about a word processing course, but couldn’t find one that was suitable. In the evening, Vince wrapped up my birthday present so that it could sit it with yours! After reading your letter, we realised we had forgotten pancake day, so Vince went over to the corner shop to buy some flour and lemon, and I made some. They were yummy!
Wednesday 14th March 1990
Pacific Centre Mall, Downtown Vancouver
Had a look around town today and looked at some TR6’s which were very nice but a bit tatty inside. Went to the Pacific Centre Mall which is a really lovely and all done up inside like brick houses. There are some really good shops and one in particular which sells all sorts of cottagey bits and pieces – you would love it. Met Heather on the seabus on the way home, she was pleased to see us, she says she really misses us being there. She had been for an interview at the Sinclair Centre in the Refugee Department. Met George at the other end and he told me CKVU, the local TV station, had left a message on their answerphone to say they wanted to interview me. Well, I was pleased, but Heather was ecstatic! She sure does get excited about things. By the way, she can’t wait to meet both of you. Anyway, rang the TV company from Lonsdale Quay and I have an interview on Monday. Bought a pizza, one of the ones they make up there, and then had that for dinner when we got home. Sheila invited us up for dessert, I didn’t really feel like going up, but it was worth it – she made chocolate mousse with grand marnier in it, with raspberry and loganberry sauce and ice cream. It’s her own recipe. You do have to say you’re leaving about 1/2 hour before you want to though because it takes that long to get away. They’re really sweet, but they can’t half talk and sometimes it’s irritating! I think they forget that we’re married adults – they say “are you sure you’re warm enough” and “do you know what bus you’re getting?”. Vince says it’s the Irish in them haha.
Thursday 15th March 1990
First day at work. I’m working at a shipping company, Montreal Shipping, and I’m just sending telexes and also answering the reception phone at lunch time. It’s on the 28th floor of Harbour Centre and the view is just magnificent. It looks out over the North Shore across the water, so you can see the mountains, Lion’s Gate Bridge and Stanley Park. Unfortunately, I don’t get to look at the view whilst I’m working, but it’s probably just as well as it would be a huge distraction! Today, I spent learning how to use the switchboard. The receptionist is a really nice girl called Jennifer, who is about my age. It’s quite complicated, but should be quiet in the lunch hour. Worked 8.30 – 4.30 today, which is quite nice hours except for the getting up at 6.30! But I enjoy getting the seabus to work because of the beautiful scenery on the way.
Friday 16th March 1990
Spent today on the telex with the girl I’m taking over from next week. It’s really boring, so thank goodness it’s only temporary. The telexes are easy to send, but there are four copies of everything that I have to distribute and that part is tricky. All I can say is if the wrong person gets something, they’ll have to give it to the right person! Vince met me from work and we went to see “The Hunt for Red October” at the cinema – a really good film. Went to White Spot for dinner afterwards – they do great burgers and have a special sauce called Triple O Sauce!!
Saturday 17th March 1990
Did my aerobics class but the fireman was not there, so this little Chinese girl took the class and she was a real killer! I think she was hyperactive, she just didn’t stop and she smiled the whole way through. I tried to smile, but think it was a grimace! Met Vince afterwards and we went to look at a TR6 that was advertised in the paper. It has been kept really well and has hardly a spot of rust on it. It’s a red 1969 convertible and it’s cheap. We decided to buy it – Yippee! But firstly, we have to sort out the insurance and registration document, so we will go back in the morning. Got home and on the dot of 4 pm, you called! It’s nice that you can call us on our own phone at last. As always, it was lovely to hear your voice, I just want to keep chatting though! This evening, Carolynn picked us up and we went to see a film “Driving Miss Daisy” which starred Jessica Tandy and is just a sweet and lovely film.
Sunday 18th March 1990
Went to pick up our new car!!! It was so great to eventually drive this car away, after relying on public transport for so long. We put the roof down, because it was sunny, and drove down to Deep Cove. Cor, it was brilliant and it runs so smoothly for its age. I’m not brave enough to try it yet, I want to take it somewhere quiet first, plus I need to buy a cushion as I can’t see over the steering wheel! Drove to the Woolstones who all ran out to oooh and aaah and wow at the car. They thought it was brilliant. They gave me flowers and cards and a birthday tea and even a cake with candles. The cake was just fresh cream with chocolate inside – a good few calories in there I should imagine. Got home late-ish and tried to go in quietly, but Sheila came rushing out to look at the car, so ended up having a cup of tea upstairs.
Monday 19th March 1990
Beautiful birthday gift from Vince which I still have
MY BIRTHDAY – HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! Had to get up early because of my interview. Vince made my breakfast and I opened my cards. Had a little cry when I opened yours and James’s. They were lovely. Was going to ring you, but I would have been rushed and I was feeling tearful, so thought it would make me worse and my makeup would run! Well the interview at CKVU was short and sweet. The position is only part-time, 10-3, and it’s a bit more junior than I would like, but it’s a start and it should be interesting. There’s also the possibility of it becoming full-time and getting more responsibility. I have to go back tomorrow to meet another lady. Vince met me from work and we went out for a meal at 1066 Hastings Restaurant. You would have loved it. You sit in big high-backed armchairs and our table was in front of the fire. Came home and opened my presents – cried again! The clothes are so pretty and fit perfectly, they are just what I would have picked myself. Thank you so much. The clown from James was so sweet too. Vince bought me a crystal perfume bottle with a pewter lid and from Dean and Donna I got some eye shadow, some makeup brushes and a Harrods key-ring! When I rang you, I was so glad to speak to you on my birthday and to James too, but a shame Dad wasn’t there. I wish I could see you all so badly.
Tuesday 20th March 1990
Went back to CKVU for second interview and they offered it to me there and then and so I decided to take it. I’ll be working in the Administration office for the President General and his Assistant, Gail, who is a really nice person. At first I’ll just be doing boring tasks, but hopefully that won’t last long. Had a pretty busy day at Montreal Shipping, I’m so glad it’s only temporary though.
Wednesday 21st March 1990
Mandy phoned in the morning to wish me belated Happy Birthday. Had a bit of a natter, she was obviously calling from work, as wasn’t in a hurry to hang up. Vince went off to see a refrigeration company in Deep Cove, called Domcom. He has got a position as a helper, which is not really what he wanted, but at least it’s his trade and he can gain some Canadian experience till something better comes along. So we’re both working now anyway.
Thursday 22nd March 1990
Forgot to tell you that Vince has been given an enormous van for work, so we are now a two-car family again! Had a not-so-busy day at the shipping company. The people there are really nice and they all keep asking about England. Two of them were born there! They all keep commenting on my clothes or my shoes, they really seem to like what I wear for some reason and was told I’m always coordinated! Vince got home around 8 pm and had a good day, he got some overtime today anyway. It seemed funny to see him come in with a grubby face and hands – he’s been clean for so long! Ha ha. Spent the evening in front of the fire finishing this letter.
Jo signing off x
Our Darling Joanne and Dearest Vince,
Wednesday 7th March 1990
Hope you are both settling in well, you have been in your new home for a week – does go so quickly. Glad Smokey cat has taken to it well. On Tuesday night we watched Holiday ’90 – they took a train from Calgary right through the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver. We can only say one thing about it, it was breathtaking and you are both very lucky to be a part of it. Dad is on holiday again this week so he came to the pub with Pat, Mick and me today and I bought him lunch!
Thursday 8th March 1990
It’s such a beautiful day today, the bees are bringing back such a lot of pollen. Their little legs are wearing their yellow wellies. We have to do the first disease test today and send a sample off to a bee specialist, will let you know the outcome. You have to sedate the bees using tobacco smoke, 1/2 oz of St. Bruno!! Has your snow gone yet and what is the weather like now? I should imagine that Stanley Park is very pretty in the Spring, I have been reading about all the parks over there and can’t wait to see them. We have been watching the Canadian ice skating from Nova Scotia and I said to Dad, maybe we’ll see Jo and Vince (he called me a silly cow – rude, haha) – but we have been willing the Canadians to win!
Friday 9th March 1990
Heaven! Mr. Tory, old fish-face, face-ache, has his last day of work today for two weeks – I will actually look forward to going to work on Monday morning! I bet you’re enjoying not doing the long commute to London anymore, you must be feeling quite relaxed and glowing with health by now?!! When Dad and I were shopping this afternoon, Dad found a £5 note in the carpark, good job James wasn’t with us, he would have seen it first haha. Dad bought me a very pretty bone-china mug with bees on the outside and inside. Dad has just come back from the Doctors and had his ears blown out as he calls it! He feels a bit better now. Kirk Browning from Canada has just won the gold medal for skating – that’s the first time I’ve ever heard the Canadian National Anthem, it’s a nice piece of music, not boring like “God Save The Queen”!
Saturday 10th March 1990
Shopping day again – Dad came with me today, but he trots around so fast, we don’t have time to stop for tea or coffee. He says we don’t have to pay them (tight bugger) when we can have a drink at home! Rang Bee Dave and he said not to do the disease test because of the young bees, it might harm them. We’ve put on the first hive extension today, so it gives the bees plenty of room now. Went to visit Sheila and Pete tonight, had a nice chatty evening. Sheila loved the wedding video and they send you and Vince their love.
Mum liked to send me amusing cuttings from the English newspapers!
Sunday 11th March 1990
Not done much today, I have been very lazy. Watched a film this afternoon (Reach For the Sky) then you rang. Wonderful to hear your voice once a week, makes me feel so happy. When we rang and missed you last night, I had a chat to Sheila, she sounds so nice and she said it’s lovely having you both there. She also invited us to dinner when we come to see you. God, I wish it was soon. I am so pleased you got your parcel in time for your birthday – it got there so quickly, we were surprised.
Monday 12th March 1990
Beautiful day again, Tommy Tortoise came out again and ate some cucumber – I gave him a nice wash. This evening we went to The King’s Head in Bexley with the Bee Club, there were 46 of us. It was a very good night and needless to say our table was the noisiest! James had some friends round while we were out – they watched a film and drank all our coke and orangeaid!! But there was no mess, only empty glasses, thank goodness.
Tuesday 13th March 1990
Very cold and damp today. Went to have my hair cut and saw Bill and he sends his regards to you both. He said if there was one place in the world where he would like to live, it would be Vancouver. He wants to know if you’re coming back for your hair cuts?! I told him with all his money, he could open a salon in Vancouver!! Went for a talk at Bee Club on how to identify the pollen loads the bees bring back. Dad wasn’t with me because he’s on nights, so went on my own and got lost as it was in Beckenham! But I got there in the end and the talk was very interesting.
Wednesday 14th March 1990
Pay day and Pub Day again! Dad went to the doctors again about his ear and he’s been given some more antibiotics, so hope that clears it up, it has been giving him a lot of pain. We had a phone call from a man who wanted to come and view the house, so I rushed around and made it look neat and tidy and yes you’ve guessed it, he didn’t turn up. I’m getting really fed up about the whole thing. I’ve got this deep feeling that we are going to lose Briar Dene in Yorkshire. If we do, I think we’ll give up and stay here.
Thursday 15th March 1990
Another gorgeous day. When I came home from work, Dad and I went to Hall Place and walked around the gardens. There were so many flowers and so much colour, it was so pretty. We were literally walking among the daffodils. Went up to see Dean tonight and took Nan with us. DJ looked nice and cuddly, he had just had a bath and smelled baby clean. Dean kept asking about you and Vince. They now have a nice glass cabinet and have put all the glasses you gave them into it – at least we can have a drink out of a glass and not a mug now. Haha.
Friday 16th March 1990
Your letters and photos came today. James was over the moon with his. Won’t let anyone touch it. I love your letters, they are so long and interesting and gives us such a good insight to things that you do and see. The photos are absolutely beautiful, just can’t believe all that snow and your new home looks and sounds really gorgeous. The kitchen looks so big and we are very jealous of the open fire, the lounge looks very cosy. Love the pictures of Smokey Cat, bless his heart. Our bee meeting tonight was at Hurst Place, Sidcup in Room 14 – do you remember that room where you used to have dance lessons? It brought back a lot of lovely memories and I found myself staring at the floor, thinking my little Joanne’s feet had danced all over it, I could even picture Miss Mabbott sitting by the window.
Another parcel is on its way to you both – Easter prezzies! Well my Darling, we hope you have a wonderful birthday, wish we could be with you. Will close now until next letter.
Sign off from Mum & Dad xx
Starring roles from these letters:
Bee Dave – a friend of Pat’s (I had forgotten about him!)
Judy – Nan’s dog
Joan – my best friend, Karen’s Mum
Vivian – my Step Nan’s daughter
Hayley – my niece, who was also my little bridesmaid
Blue – Smokey cat’s brother
Sheila and Patrick (the Irish couple we are renting from)
Sunday 25th February 1990
Darling Joanne / Dearest Vince,
Hello again. Never done so much writing my my life before – Dad said it’s good for my brain (cheek). By the way, all the big words come from your old dictionary. Well the weather is back to normal again, gale force winds and lots of heavy rain. The few warm days we had, all the blossom came out and looked very pretty, now nearly all gone because of rain and winds. Saw Nan today, she was very pleased to show us your letter, so hopefully you will get one from her now if she remembers?! She does not want to go to Jersey now. One day she says it is too dear, the next day it is too far away, the next day she says she can’t leave Judy, the next thing is that her friend is not going, and so on and so on. So we have given up with asking. If I turn out like Nan, please shoot me (don’t answer that Vince).
Monday 26th February 1990
I hate Mondays. What are Mondays like in Vancouver? Are they as bad as ours? At work today, had a good talk with Pat about Dave. You know, Bee Dave! She came to the Bee meeting Friday with him and not Mick. Although she won’t say outright, I think there might be something going on between them (serves Mick right!) – will let you know what happens. I could ask her, but I think she would tell me if she wanted to. We have still got gale force winds, lots of damage. Do they tell you about the gales in England on your TV news?
Tuesday 27th February 1990
Pancake Day! Do you have Pancake Day? Oh sorry, I forgot you have them everyday for breakfast, don’t you!? Hope you are not putting on too much weight now. Saw Nan again today, she was a bit depressed, but she did not know why. Joan rang me today. Wanted to know how you both are getting on, so I told her all the news that was in your letter. I think she was impressed. She’s going to tell Karen now.
Wednesday 28th February 1990
Vivian and the two girls came to the dentist today, so I took your wedding album in to show her, she thought you looked beautiful and she said the dress was exquisite. She thought Vince was very good looking and you go well together, so now she wants to see the video. She also sends her love and good wishes to you both in your new life in Canada. James is looking forward to going to her wedding in April, just to see the girls, who are both very pretty. Will take photos and send to you. Went to the pub with Pat after work, but could not talk much girl talk because Mick decided to join us. James came home tonight from work and we sat and talked for about an hour about the old days – Nan/Grandad, you/Vince, Dean – and about school. He can be very sensible at times, but he’s very good at mimicking people and he makes me laugh! I think he gets it from Vince!
Thursday 1st March 1990
Your moving day! We will be thinking of you. Posted your birthday present today, something for all of you. Do hope it gets there for the 19th because you’re birthday cards are in there as well. I wish I could have folded myself up and got in as well. Went to see Cynthia this afternoon straight from work. I took some flowers for her and she seemed pleased to see me. Of course I got lost, I ended up near Thamesmead, God knows how I got there (don’t laugh Vince). She was very pleased with the photos I took for her of our dinner at the Bull & Victoria. Hayley came in and said, “Oh it’s Joanne’s Mummy” – she gave me such a nice kiss and cuddle. Cynthia and I talked so much about you and Vince and we both had a little tear. Told her how I tried to be brave when you both left on the Thursday night and how gutted I felt when you went up the road, round the bend out of sight, and she said she felt exactly the same way. I think it’s a nice little house, she showed me all around. Tried to talk her into having my bees when we move but she did not think much of the idea! When I first went in I said, “Oh hello Smokey Cat” because of B.J. and Blue, they all look so alike. B.J. sat on my lap and it was lovely because I felt like I was holding Smokey. When I left, Cyn said, “come again soon”. It was a very nice afternoon – Cyn did tell me a better way to go home, but I got lost again and ended up in Erith!! Oh I forgot, Cyn was over the moon when Vince rang her and said she got a bit upset. I got home about 6.15, so dinner was late.
Friday 2nd March 1990
What a lovely big package the postman has delivered this morning – made me late for work. God, the letter is so long it’s like a book. Thank you so much for the photos, the one of you and Vince is so lovely, I am going to frame it. The new basement you moved into yesterday sounds very nice. Hope Vince is right and it has an open fire – we can just picture you at night with your feet up and a nice bottle of wine and Smokey purring. You will have to take some photos of the inside and outside and let me have them. I would really love to see and touch the snow – hope it snows at Christmas! The sights at night sound absolutely wonderful, you are making us all very envious. I hope you hear something soon from the jobs you have applied for, but in the meantime, I’m sure the rest is doing you good. How lovely to hear from Wendy – Dad said perhaps if we told her we missed you she would send us tickets – haha! Thank you for the visitor’s guide, I am going to read EVERYTHING in it, so when we come we will know all about it. Did not do much work at the dentist today – took your letter and kept reading bits out to the girls saying, “listen to this”!
James has met this girl and she has a horse which she comes round on and James rides it down on the field. He thinks he is real cool!! Well I am going to read your letter again now with a cup of coffee and go to bed.
Saturday 3rd March 1990
The high winds and rain have stopped, a really nice day today, warm enough for the bees to fly again. Dad working all day so went shopping on my own – that’s when I really do miss you. I don’t stay long in Dartford, I get what I have to and go straight home. Hope you have settled into your new home and enjoying it. I wonder what Smokey thinks. The wedding photos arrived today, so we are getting a lovely dark wood frame for the big photo of you and Vince sanding outside the church and putting it on the drink’s cabinet, then I can sit and look at you all night. At the moment, Dad is trying to mend my new vacuum cleaner and not having much luck – he doesn’t know what’s wrong with it and he’s swearing a bit! And because I broke his screwdriver this afternoon, and it’s the only one he can use on it, he keeps saying SHIT!! When I came home from Dartford today, I went mad with housework, it’s the sun that does it! When I shook Shake and Vac everywhere, turned the vacuum on and nothing happened, you can just imagine how I felt! Dad’s found out what’s wrong now, said it’s a long job! Hang on a mo, the phone is ringing! It was My Jo! It’s so lovely to hear your voice when you ring, you sound a bit more happy each time we speak to you. That makes us feel better too. Handing you over to Dad now:
Bloody old foreign vacuum cleaner – had to strip all of it down. Turned out to be a broken power cable inside of the cable rewind, what a pig to get at, it said in the book ‘if rewind spool is faulty, you have to send it to a special dealer’. But I sorted it out, took me two hours. Mum can vacuum all the Shake and Vac up now. For all that though, it’s a bloody good vacuum!
Sunday 4th March 1990
I feel happy on a Sunday morning after speaking to you on the Saturday. Dad working all day again. A nice sunny day today, I had to wait quite a long time before I could put any washing out, too many bees in the garden! James has gone down to the stables in Bexley, he is getting quite Horsey lately! Picked Nanny up for the day, she was in quite good form. Showed her your long letter, she took ages to read it. Can’t get her to understand about your basement, she thinks it’s a cellar. She said, “does everybody have to live in them when they first get there?” Haha. So perhaps you can explain to her a bit better next time you write to you and send her a photo of it. She has written a letter to you, so I will post it off for her. Did you cook a roast dinner today as it is the first Sunday in your new basement apartment on your own?
Monday 5th March 1990
Started to sort out those old photos today in your old room, there’re so many and I have thrown such a lot away as a lot of them are just views. I got quite excited on the way home from work as I thought I saw your car, but it wasn’t! Stupid woman behind was blowing her hooter, that made me very cross, mind you I was holding the traffic up a bit.
Tuesday 6th March 1990
Dad’s been to the doctors today to get his ears syringed, but has got to wait until Friday as he’s got to take a five-day course of antibiotics because of an infection (poor old Dad).
Mum’s sign off x
James: (15 years old)
17th February 1990
Dear Jo and Vince,
I hope you are getting on well with the Mounties over there in Canada. I hope Vince has started his new job. Let me tell you what’s happened to me since you left.
Friday – Set my alarm for 6 o’clock and got up at half past 7. Mum told me off. I had the normal day at school, all the aggro from the teachers etc. Came home, packed and went to Dean’s to stay for the weekend and dopey old me missed the train didn’t I? Anyway, I was only half an hour late. Met Dean at London Bridge, bought myself a large McDonald’s which Dean finished most of!
Saturday – As I was at Dean and Donna’s, I thought I’ll have a nice lay in. Unfortunately, I slept in till 12 o’clock – Damn! I missed “Going Live”. I didn’t eat the cereal Donna gave me because the night before D.J. had been playing with the box in the loo and you know what their loo is like. I had a boring day really – Dean came home from work and we watched telly. I had to walk down to the shop in the rain with Dean so he could get his fags!
Sunday – Got up at 9 o’clock because Charlie wanted to play Thundercats, what a bore! Dean got up about 11 o’clock, still half asleep. I played with D.J. most of the day until he poo’d himself.
Monday – I was home at last – back to the normal stuff, paper-rounds and school (boring!) Oh I was thinking about you all weekend. I had a boring day at school. When I got home I fell asleep and woke up after “Neighbours” – Damn, I missed it. Never mind, Mum probably recorded it. I hope you are looking after the St. Christopher I gave you.
Tuesday – Got up and went to school – how boring! Anyway, it was soon over, went round Darren’s to help him tidy the loft. Had dinner, went to bed.
Wednesday – I got up very late today and was late for school, never mind! I went up Simon Mitchell’s after dinner without Darren, it was quite boring really.
Thursday – I was up bang on time for once, what a surprise! A hard day at school, I was knackered, phew! I had home-made spag bog for tea, yum. I stayed in most of the night.
Friday – Well a whole week gone since you left. I had another boring day at school.
Such a funny letter. Love my baby bro x
Well, I have to leave you now, I have to go to school. I hope to hear from you soon. Say Hi to Smokey.
Hmmmm – a talented cat indeed! And a slightly crazy owner!
Nan: (bless her)
Dear Joanne and Vince,
I hope you got out to Canada safe and sound. I have been thinking of you both. What is the weather like out there, it has been very cold today, but I got all my washing dry. Mum came up this afternoon but did not stop long. I am going down there for dinner tomorrow. I have not been very well today, I can’t get Grandad out of my mind, but time will Heal won’t it? I am going to Dartford tomorrow with my friend. I go to Bingo with my friend Irene, it gets me out for a while. Well, how are you getting on? Is Vince liking Canada, is it cold out there like it is in England? It has not been cold today, I don’t like it when the Winter comes, I like Summer best.
Well I am going to have a bath now and then go to bed. Well take care of yourself and Vince and I will write again soon.
Letter from my beautiful Nan x
Well God bless you and Vince and keep you safe. All my love to you both. Nan
Dear Mum and Dad,
Still missing you both so much. I keep having dreams that you’re close to me, which is a real disappointment when I wake up, but quite comforting as well as they feel very real. I got your second letter two days ago on the same day that I got James’ and also a letter from a friend, so I was in my glory that day! Deep Cove, which I mentioned in my first letter is just a quiet little village in a cove with a lovely view. It’s not far from the Woolstone’s home. We liked he idea of living there, but it’s far too expensive now. Apparently a lot of famous people live there. Nice to hear Tommy Tortoise is out and about, give him and Sam a kiss from me. Ah poor Dad, having to take over my role of Saturday shopping with Mum. I’d gladly fly over every Saturday to relieve you of it! Well, here’s what we’ve been up to.
Friday 23rd February 1990
Stanley Park showing the seawall … miss this scenery!
Was a nice sunny day today. I think I mentioned on the phone that we walked the whole of the sea wall around Stanley Park, which is about five or six miles! You’re so interested in the scenery that you don’t really notice how far you’re going. Every turn has a different view, it’s wonderful. It really was a lazy, hazy day in Stanley Park. Stopped at the end for some lunch which we thoroughly deserved! We saw a man walking in the park and he had a rabbit sitting in his pocket! The rabbit looked as though he was enjoying himself. I want to take Smokey one day, but Vince thinks I’m daft. We’ll see … Had a walk round Canada Place, you remember the big building that looks like a ship with Concorde on top. Watched Dallas in the evening and got well confused, I think we are a couple of months ahead here!!
Saturday 24th February 1990
Canada Place – the cruise ships that docked here were MASSIVE!
Went to aerobics with Carolynn. It’s at the same place as the pool. I really enjoyed it and managed to do everything – just about! The instructor is a fireman and he has nice legs!! Went for a walk around Capilano Mall, they have some nice clothes and shoe shops in there. Got home and you called! It was lovely, although there was a bit of an echo at my end. Got a bit tearful when I put the phone down. Went out for a meal at the Thai House Restaurant with Cheryl, Carolynn and Riyaz, who we have met before. The food was yummy and we had a nice evening – after that went to see a film about Niagara Falls at the CN Imax Cinema at Canada Place. It has a huge screen which makes you feel as though you’re inside it, it was very impressive.
Sunday 25th February 1990
Went to Granville Island with Cheryl – I could hardly walk, I was so stiff from doing aerobics the day before! It was quite warm today as well. Granville Island is a fascinating place, it has a huge fruit and vegetable market plus lots of craft shops. They had some lovely glass perfume bottles there. Had roast dinner again tonight – they now know how to cook roast potatoes. Cheryl’s boyfriend, Sean, came to dinner. He is going to play professional football and has been picked as number one choice to play for Edmonton!
Monday 26th February 1990
Today I had my hair permed! I forgot to tell you on the phone that I had booked the appointment. I went to Cheryl’s hairdresser who seems to be very good. As always, it looks a bit frizzy at first, but will soon drop. Went out to buy some proper trainers for my aerobics class, so now I’m all set. Heard today there have been very bad winds in England – Again!! I hope you haven’t had any damage.
Tuesday 27th February 1990
Went into Lonsdale to sort out our medical insurance. We can’t join the scheme here for two months, so we had to get cover until then, but it’s all sorted out now. It was quite expensive, but better to be safe than sorry. It’s a really beautiful day today, 18 degrees. Vince went down to his shirtsleeves! I undid my coat, but that’s enough for now!! There was a new moon tonight, so I made a wish on it for you both – I won’t tell you what it was ’cause that’s bad luck, but you can probably guess.
Wednesday 28th February 1990
Went to Lonsdale, met Heather and a workmate of hers, Lynn, for lunch. Went to the Quay afterwards and sat in the sun with a view of the city across the Burrard Inlet, which I love to gaze at, and we had an ice cream. The ice creams are made with fresh fruit and are very refreshing and yummy. In the evening George took Vince to see The Vancouver Canucks (Ice Hockey) – they were playing Edmonton. He really enjoyed it, I’m going to go next time. Smokey was allowed upstairs tonight and he immediately jumped into one of their armchairs, he’s getting cheekier by he minute since he got here. It must be something in the air! He found the stairs a novelty, he runs to the top and then half runs, half slides back down again – it’s so funny!
Thursday 1st March 1990
Smokey settling in to his new abode
MOVING IN DAY!! Heather and George moved us and on the way we took Smokey to the Blueridge-Cove Animal Hospital for his Rabies vaccination. He was not happy and moaned all the way. The vet was brilliant, he checked him over better than the one in England did before we left! He has to go back in a couple of weeks to get his teeth cleaned as he has really inflamed gums, poor thing! Went to Save-On to get some shopping, that was fun. Went out to dinner at the Sizzler, this place you have to see. James could stuff himself silly – you get soup, steak, jacket spud or fries and the salad bar and you can go back to the salad bar as many times as you like. The salad bar is more than just salad, it has fruit salad, pasta salads, tacos and fillings, tortilla chips – and more! Anyway, it came to the equivalent of about £5.00 each.
Friday 2nd March 1990
Open fire, dodgy perm and 80’s shoulder pads!!
Unpacked all our clothes – it was wonderful to hang everything up and not live out of a suitcase anymore. So nice to be on our own as well. Wendy called to see if I was okay and she took the new address and phone number. Had our first dinner in the new place, then sat in the lounge all evening reading in front of the open fire. Cor, it was lovely! I’m enclosing a few photos for you. On the other side of the kitchen, there’s a large area with a desk where I have put all our going away cards and where I write my letters. Smokey seems to like it very much here and he has a large patio garden to go out in. There’s no tree though, but hopefully our next place will have one for him. We also have a dishwasher which is a treat, but no microwave, but I guess we can do without that for now!
Goodbye and good luck cards and flower basket from my friend, Wendy
Saturday 3rd March 1990
My favourite, strawberries and cream. Mmmmm.
Went to aerobics again, then Vince, Carolynn and I went out to breakfast to the Dutch Pannekoek House, so I have probably put back on all those calories that I’d just worked off at aerobics! Called you when we got home – the weeks go so fast that I seem to speak to you quite often which is great. Went for a walk to Lynn Valley Canyon, which is ten minutes from where we are now living. It was very pretty and has another suspension bridge, which is smaller than Capilano and has a waterfall next to it – it is so amazing to be able to go around the corner from home and see a sight like that. Got home to find that a huge basket of plants had arrived from Wendy, it’s beautiful and I can hardly lift it – it’s got a hyacinth, some miniature roses and a few different plants too, it was certainly a nice surprise.
We visited here often, such raw beauty
Sunday 4th March 1990
Sheila and Patrick took us to various locations in West Vancouver. They showed us lots of secluded little beaches with lovely views and some great picnic spots. It was a very warm day and we all got slightly rosy cheeks. We had lunch in Horseshoe Bay, which is a lovely spot, where ferries come and go to local islands, including Vancouver Island – then in the late afternoon, went for a drink in a pub at Lonsdale Quay – not really a pub as we know it though! Went to the Woolstones for dinner and took them a cake and some flowers to say thanks for having us. They really seem to miss us and Heather says she can always have a laugh with us when we’re there.
Monday 5th March 1990
Went to Lonsdale about our photos – you’ll notice that some of them have a green line through them, so they are trying to get us a refund from Kodak as it must have been a faulty film. Went to Mark Norman’s office to pick up a reference that Trinifold had faxed over for me. This evening stayed in again with the fire.
Tuesday 6th March 1990
Went over to the Woolstone’s house to use their word processor and printed up some more CV’s for myself and Vince. Vince called the Union today and they are going to put him out to work – he can’t wait. I can – I’m enjoying being a lady of leisure. Took a trip to Capilano Mall to sort out our phone, we have the phone and they are coming out to connect it on Friday 16th. They even gave us a choice of telephone numbers! After our dinner, this evening, Sheila and Patrick invited us upstairs to have apple pie and ice cream. Smokey was allowed up too and he had a good old snoop around, nosy little bugger! Got your letter, and James’, and one from a friend too. Yay!
Wednesday 7th March 1990
Typed a couple of letters on Sheila’s typewriter. I applied for a couple of jobs from the paper, one for Molson Breweries and one for a fashion company. Rang North Shore Studios but unfortunately, they have no vacancies at the moment. They will keep me on file. Jayne from Trinifold called and said that Bryan Adams had called Roger Daltrey to say his manager is looking for an assistant, so Roger told him about me and he seemed quite interested. I spoke to Roger’s wife, who said she’d get somebody to call me, but I haven’t heard anything yet. I’d love to get that job and also their offices are in Gastown! Vince went to see the Union today and paid a fee to join them. They are very keen on him and don’t want to lose him, so hopefully they’ll have him working in no time. Heather came over for a short while in the evening to see how we’re getting on. Found out that all our money has been transferred from England now, so at the moment, we’re very rich!
Thursday 8th March 1990
Got up late to find it was snowing! Couldn’t believe it, and it was starting to lay. Went into Vancouver for an appointment with Hunt Temp Agency. They gave me a typing test for which I got 60 words per minute with no mistakes. They also tested me on spelling and vocabulary. The vocabulary part was quite difficult, but anyway, they’ve taken me on, so I’m just waiting for them to give me some work. Afterwards, we walked around town for a bit then came back on the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay and had dinner in another Italian Restaurant called Corsi Trattoria. We had the mixed pasta dish for two people and it was deeeeelicious!! We felt so fat afterwards though.
Friday 9th March 1990
Vince went off to meet a man from a fridge firm called Cool King. He met him for breakfast in town. He seemed very interested in Vince, but he’s non-union and it’s best if Vince keeps on the side of the Union at the moment – they pay more money too. At least this man is a possible contact for the future. The snow has stopped today, but the rain is absolutely chucking it down. Cheryl came to look at our place, she really liked it. She drove us into Capilano Mall and we had a look around and had some lunch. We might go and see a film tonight, if we feel like braving the rain, called “Red October” with Sean Connery. If we do I’ll let you know in the next letter. Oh also, I received my package today, so am waiting eagerly for my birthday to find out what’s inside!!
P.S. and more x
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
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
We were booked to fly to Vancouver on 9th February, which was a Friday. The previous day our bungalow in Swanley had been packed up by an overseas removal company and our belongings disappeared into boxes and packaging before our very eyes. It was all so surreal. The guys who were doing the packing stopped for so many tea breaks, I thought it would never get done, but they were obviously good at their job and indeed the packing was completed to schedule. It was funny really, one of them would say “well, I think it’s time for another cup of tea, Jo”!! They saved space by stacking chairs, one upside down on top of the other, then using the space between the legs to stack boxes, a trick that we used in later years when moving ourselves. I kept asking them to please be careful with this ornament, those glasses etc., but as far as I can remember, everything arrived at the other end in one piece.
Team from Trinifold Management, fantastic place to work.
I’d left my job, working in a music management company two weeks before departure for Vancouver (see photo of work friends from Trinifold, including my old boss, Bill Curbishley, Manager of The Who, just one of the artists/bands he looked after then). The days and hours that followed thereafter, were filled with visits to family and friends or people popping in to give us cards and gifts. We had so many meals out and a continuous flow of people round for drinks. We rose early in the morning and never went to bed before midnight. It was a whirlwind of emotions. There were many tearful goodbyes. I think we actually saw everyone we knew; no-one was left out. I remember my best friend, Karen, who lived just a couple of roads away, coming round to give me a beautiful gold bracelet on the day our bungalow was being packed away. I wore this with love on my travels.
I remember silly things like wearing the same pair of earrings every day because all my others were packed, and that the backs kept stabbing me every time someone hugged me. I had permanent red marks on my neck for a long time! Things like the stress of having to book our cat, Smokey, onto the same flight as us, and how he needed to have a special carrier box, with certain dimensions plus the correct health and travel documents for the journey.
Farewell Meal at Bull and Vic Restaurant with Canadian Cake. Left to right in bottom pic: George, Vince, Cynthia, Mum, Me, James, Dad.
A few days before departure, Mum and Dad took us for a beautiful meal at the Victoria and Bull Hotel in Dartford, ironically a place that we had never been to, even though it was on our doorstep, but it was posh and they wanted to take us somewhere special. It was just close family, Mum, Dad, my brother James, Vince’s Mum Cynthia and her partner, George. I cannot remember for the life of me what I had to eat that night. I do remember that the restaurant made us a wonderful cake with red and white icing and the Canadian flag. They also presented us with a Canadian one dollar bill for luck. It still sits on our fridge today.I have always meant to get it framed! Maybe now is the time to actually do that.
Our Canadian Dollar Bill from Bull and Victoria Restaurant
Thank you card.
I didn’t want to stay at Mum and Dad’s house the night before departure because saying farewell was going to be hard enough as it was. I left a card with them, saying thank you for absolutely everything in my whole life, and told them not to read it until I had gone. Because the card had a little bunch of flowers on the front, I sprayed it with my perfume. All these years, it has been kept in a glass display cabinet, until recently, when Dad brought it down for me. Can you believe it, it still smells of perfume! It is so hard to describe the feelings of saying goodbye and at this point, we did not know how long it would be until we saw each other again. Mum and I were a mess, but we managed to laugh at ourselves through the tears. These photos are precious, but not pretty!! A lot of red eyes and sad faces. Finally, as it came time to leave (prolonging it was making it worse), my Dad, bless him said to me “Go on, bugger off!” which made us all laugh. As we drove away, I looked back and my Mum was at the end of the garden path, waving and waving until we were out of sight. My heart broke.
Tears of Goodbye
We spent our last night in England at Cynthia’s (Vince’s Mum) house. We let Smokey out so he could have a sniff around and some freedom before his flight. That night, he howled and howled, and we didn’t sleep at all. He was echoing our stress and upset I think, and bless him, he didn’t know what was going on. Once again, there was an emotional goodbye with Cynthia. Vince is the youngest of six of her children.
We did not want family to take us to the airport as it would be far too difficult, and I may not have ever walked through the departure gate! And so, early on the day of departure, our friends Ron and Chris, picked us up and came with us to the airport. We thought this was a better plan as it wouldn’t be so upsetting (we were wrong, ha ha).
We checked Smokey Cat in and said goodbye to him while he was howling. We felt so bad and so helpless; how could we explain to him that we would meet him at the other end and that he was going to be fine? He would be on the same flight as us, but in the hold section of the plane. We had a full English breakfast and coffee with Ron and Chris and for a while everything seemed normal, like we were just going on holiday. However, when we came to say goodbye to them, they both cried just as hard as we did! Their daughter and family had moved to Vancouver some years previously, so I suppose it brought back memories for them. We hadn’t thought of that!!
When the plane took off, it really hit me, THIS IS IT!! New adventure, new life … it’s really happening. The flight had a stopover in Calgary; however, we were delayed because the weather conditions there were heavy snow, being so close to the Rocky Mountains. I kept thinking about Smokey in the hold: was it cold down there, was he OK? At least once we took off it was only an hour to Vancouver.
Finally, we arrived.
We collected Smokey and it seemed to take an eternity for him to be brought out to us. When he finally came through, the poor cat was frantic, his eyes were wild – he wasn’t even responding to our voices. His poor little nose was rubbed dry from him trying to see through the wires of the box and he had not been given any water. Poor baby.
We had a friend, Carolynn, who we’d met when we holidayed in Vancouver a couple of years earlier, and who we’d kept in touch with. She kindly came to meet us, and we were going to stay in her family’s basement. It was a real comfort to know that Carolynn and her family were there for us, and that we could stay until we found somewhere permanent to live. The basement was warm and comfortable, I remember thinking that it was exactly like all the basements you see in American movies, complete with wood-panelled walls, old brown sofas and a TV. Smokey Cat was soon exploring his new space and quickly settled in, which was a huge relief I can tell you. At the time, he was our baby and we treated him as such!
Smokey before leaving with his dancing flower. He loved that thing!
On the night of arrival, we rang Mum and Dad. It was exceedingly wonderful to hear their voices and they sounded so close. We kept the call to about 10 minutes as we really weren’t sure how much long distance calls cost at the time. Again, I cried even more tears on hanging up the phone, but at least they knew we had arrived safely.
The following day, the letter-writing and the adventures began …
When I emigrated to Vancouver with my husband, Vince, in February 1990, I felt both excited to be having this new adventure, but at the same time, I felt almost bereaved. I was so close to my family, and Mum and I had a special bond. She was my best friend. We promised we would write every day, and we did, literally chatting on paper and we kept this up for the almost ten years I was there. The letters started out short, but eventually, we were writing pages and pages to each other and would post them off every ten days or so. I think the longest is 53 pages long!! We wrote exactly as if we were having a conversation over a cuppa and it was a HUGE comfort. Needless to say, I have heaps of these incredible letters and memories, along with photos, newspaper clippings and greeting cards for literally any little reason! Vince used to say my Mum kept Hallmark in business!! My visits to England, and Mum and Dad’s visits to Vancouver, were so exciting and I cherished every single second, but each time we parted, it was agony. I would of course, settle back into routine, but my family were always missing.
I have wanted for years, since Mum passed away in 1998, to do something with these letters. My dream has always been to turn them into a book, but the volume of letters is overwhelming and to be honest, the thought of revisiting all the emotions has held me back. It’s the most wonderful reminder of how much Mum and I loved each other and how easy our relationship was, even at such a long distance. And so, I have decided to start from the beginning with a blog to share my journey with excerpts from the letters. I hope it will be a comfort to those people who live across the world from their families, and also to help those who have lost someone they love. And hopefully along the way I will, at some point, be able to assemble everything into a book.
Living abroad became harder: firstly, when I had my daughter, Emma, in 1993 and wanted to share every second with Mum and Dad. Then, secondly, when Mum became ill and passed away in February 1998. She was 53 years young and had survived six years from breast cancer, which secondarily went to her bones, then her liver. We moved back to England in June 1999 with our two children, Emma and Ryan. Emma was five and Ryan was just 8 months. I found out I was pregnant with Ryan just after Mum died, so was unable to tell her. A life for a life, everyone said. Edie was born in England in 2000. It’s so sad for me that Mum never met Ryan or Edie, or my brother’s two daughters, or saw the children growing up, but it is my belief that she watches over us in spirit. Mum was the strongest person I know.
Don’t get me wrong though, I do not regret our time in Vancouver, we have the most wonderful memories and made lifetime friends, and at least we can say we did it, instead of always wondering ‘what if’. The letters and photos will reflect this as I progress with the story.
My lovely Dad is still here, and we see him often. I will be drawing on his memories and raiding his house for more photos and memories to accompany this blog! I have two brothers, one close to home, and one who is still in Vancouver who moved there shortly after us. He is married to a lovely Canadian lady and is happy with his life there.
Reading these letters has reminded me of the small but important things in life. Mum loved the sun, she loved her garden, she loved her job as a Dental Nurse, she loved my Dad and she loved her family. In the book of remembrance at the crematorium, it reads:
Mavis Ann Figg
Who lived for those she loved
And those she loved
Will love her forever
I have called the blog simply: Love, Mum x