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It has now been four months since I left England to study in Ontario. After asking if I have ever met the Queen, I will often be asked ‘so what is the biggest difference between Canada and the UK?’ It is a relatively simple question, yet I am still struggling to pinpoint the biggest difference as I mostly encounter lots of small -albeit merciless- disparities between our countries. Here I present a short list of just some of these differences.


#1 Crossing the Road
Feminists beware: if the thought of a white man telling you when you can and cannot cross the road sends a thousand patriarchal daggers down to the tips of your fingers, Canada might not be the place for you. It turns out our familiar friend the Green Man who has helped you cross the road since you were young enough to think jumping in front of a car might be a good idea; did not make it across the pond! Instead, Canadians rely on a slightly paler incarnation of our friendly road guide.


#2 The Yorkshire Accent becomes the Queen’s English

If you’re tired of being told whatever accent you managed to pick up in your years of living on English soil is unrefined and lacks all promise of sophistication, Canada may be the place for you. It turns out that I only had to travel 3500 miles for my Yorkshire accent to be heard as the Queen’s English and I never stop getting kicks from people telling me, for the first time in my entire life, that I sound elegant. However, from first hand experience I should warn the Brummies that even Canadians can sniff you out as sounding not entirely like the royal family- indeed,  you might have to travel a little further before you can hope to fool anyone!

#3 It’s Bloody Expensive

In Canada, shopping for food genuinely feels like you’re purchasing your weekly groceries from an Odeon cinema. As well as that, just as you think six dollars for a bag of crisps was expensive, you are reminded as the bill is handed to you that tax is also added at the checkout. I have learnt to brace myself for the impending total of my groceries at Walmart as though I am about to find out that I have some obscure and incurable disease and one that usually means I wont be able to afford my Diet Coke fix for the next couple of days.

#4 Becoming an Inadvertent Explorer

Ontario may be the only place in the entire world where you can walk from Dublin to Wellington in under five minutes. As far as road signs are concerned it’s almost impossible not to find yourself in places named after all corners of the globe. One memorable journey in particular took me from Pickering to Scarborough and finally to Perth where they were advertising their annual garlic festival. As a result of my ceaseless amusement, I can only be thankful that Canada does not appear to care a great deal when it comes to originality.


#5 You Live in a Petting Zoo

It wasn’t until I arrived in Ontario that I came to realise that black squirrels roamed the Earth- having only previously encountered the red and grey variety. Although my mother is insistent that the fluffy creatures look entirely evil, I think they are impossibly cute. Yet, if black squirrels don’t quite do it for you, there is no doubt that living in Canada will sooner or later enable you to become face to face with a plethora of exotic animals. Just the other week I was cooing over a family of raccoons that were scavenging my friend’s bins as he attempted to shoo them away. Just don’t tell your Canadian friends that you want to go hunting for beaver, however much you want to.



I’ve almost lived in Canada for three months now, here is a -mildly soppy- video from my time here. Hopefully, of course, this is just the beginning… 🙂

As I catch up with a dear friend from home and I tell her about the funeral I attended last week and the marriage proposal I received the week before that, she begins to laugh. ‘You always do things in such extremes Anna!’ I hadn’t, admittedly, thought about this. Although, as I was leaving the funeral service it did occur to me that this was not how I expected to spend any of my year abroad. Indeed, living in Canada has gone as smoothly as I expected it would, which is to say, not very smooth at all.

Though I have lived here for two entire months now, there are still a great deal of things I have yet to get my head around. Cars, in particular. My partner still takes sincere amusement every time I accidentally attempt to get into his car from the driver’s side, for example! Sometimes he strategically lures me by heading towards the passenger’s side, knowing it’ll throw me off. It always does. For the first few weeks I would oftentimes glance at cars on the road and immediate shock would fill my being as it appeared a ghost was occupying the vehicle. Of course, a quick glance to the left and I would remember that the driver was at the other side. The ‘wrong’ side, as I am still adamant. Roads are also a cesspool of confusion and eternal frustration. What English people would describe fondly as ‘zebra crossings’ are everywhere, although- as I have almost killed myself finding out- not all of them mean you can cross the road at your leisure. Some crossings are painted pink… I have no idea what this means. All I know is that I must annoy the shit out of drivers who can probably smell the wreak of me not knowing what the hell I am supposed to be doing. Bloody foreigners!

Living in Canada also feels like you are in some kind of permanent petting zoo; only, where petting may lead to a few bite marks. Oftentimes when I sit outside my residence, skunks will scurry over to me. They are adorable but I am told that I only think this because I have yet to discover the capabilities of their anal scent glands. (A Canadian said to me that it smells like urine and marijuana… so it is possible that a whiff would be more liable to remind me of my hometown than anything else!). I have learned that if you want to suss out foreigners, place a skunk near a group of people. The Canadians will run the other way and the rest of us will run towards it with a naive excitement over its cuteness. I also saw four raccoons one evening, a little family rooting around some bins. Again, my cotton-wool instincts were to run over and pet them as though they were stray kittens. ‘They’ll scratch your nose off, Anna!’ 

Although, even despite the array of exotic menageries, I often find myself feeling rather alone here. Sometimes I miss walking into bars and seeing faces I recognise. Sometimes I miss people that know me beyond the realm of ‘girl from England’. I also miss Yorkshire puddings.

I will end this post on a conversation I had in the first week of my arrival in Canada-

Anna: [Upon seeing a building called Norfolk Manor] oooh! We should go there sometime!

Chad: Err…*laughing*  that’s an old folk’s home.


21743370_10159138899640198_7436508114541544966_nAfter the university’s pep rally. 



I will leave it up to you to decide whether or not this particular room contained only myself and the teacher who spoke these particularly warming words to me, indeed, at a moment I was desperate for any shadow of confidence in preparation for both exams and the rest of my life!


These words have haunted me for perhaps too long now, but are only painful when I think of the 18 year old me who did not make the nicest of acquaintances nor meet with the most fortunate of situations.  Yet, I have chosen these words because they annihilated all my denials, for indeed I wasn’t the person who I wanted to be, or felt like I was.


It was my first month at university and I was still very much a tiny fish in a rather large, foreign and sticky pool. Soon my homesickness was to spread into actual sickness and never had I felt so alone. Yet, a recently made friend offered to make me soup and it remains as one of the kindest gestures anyone has done for me, at a time when I didn’t think I had anyone  close enough to even sneeze on.


It was nighttime in York when a stranger walked passed me and declared me ‘stunning’. Although I don’t doubt the darkness compromised his judgement, it wasn’t something I had ever been told quite so earnestly and it made me happy enough to remember it still.


My class had just finished when the teacher told me to stay behind. She sat in the chair opposite me and whilst I was surveying all the possible reasons I might be in due of a telling off she began what I remember as the words above.I can only think she could tell that I was quite unhappy and though she was under no obligation, she took her time to tell me some exquisite words of encouragement and simultaneously allowed me to believe I wasn’t alone.


The primary school I went to, when I was 8 years old,  used ‘privilege cards’ as a way of awarding good behaviour. If a child did something nice they would receive a signature on their card and depending on how many signatures you had at the end of the term you could watch a film. One particular term I had all but one signature required for this exclusive prize and my teacher at the time found out, most likely by my mother who also worked at the school and knew of my shortcomings and desperation to join the other children in the hall. My teacher took me out of class one morning and told me to open the door for him. I was quite perplexed at this peculiar request but did so, nonetheless. It was to my happy surprise that opening this door for the teacher, despite how he had no intention of leaving the building, enabled me to receive my crucial signature! Another beautifully sweet gesture that still makes me smile.


These words made me realise that it’s okay not to enjoy the best experiences of your life. It was during my trek in Iceland, each day the porridge become more repulsive that the last and I’m quite sure I’d never been so entirely exhausted. The early mornings and long days were painful and I found myself hating more of it than I thought I should. That was until a fellow trekker said these words. I wasn’t alone and it is mostly certainly an accurate statement, if ever there was one!


Onder Meer (Among others)

There’s a patch of burnt grass,
Still blackened by the sausage rolls
We set alight when we were
Fourteen years old.
By the Beck, our prepubescent
Hand holding professed  a love
Now lost.  But still I hold
Onto the memories like a tree
Clings to its leaves-
-They twist
And fade
And somehow fall

I hear our laughter
When I see the burnt patch,
But I cannot place our faces
And I cannot taste  the  ash.

I am  a  world of many worlds,
And though I am no longer
A fourteen year old girl,
I am the smoke – the embers- of
All I have ever known.

This poem was written for a friend who’s putting together an anthology based on the significance of one’s home.



Having survived my first semester at university, albeit somewhat haphazardly, I like to think that I  have already learned a great number of things with regards to surviving the ‘outside world’. In what I hope will become something of a ‘how-to’ series, I will share my snippets of advice  alongside my first-hand woes that naturally stem from a girl who has yet to master the art of living smoothly.

A lot can rest in first impressions- it is the difference between being ‘that intelligent female  who knows a lot about 17th century literature’ and being ‘that girl who parades around with yesterday’s lasagne stuck to her face’. And never are first impressions quite so important than when you start university; when every impression is both first and nightmarishly   immortal. It’s not breaking news to reveal that a drunken slobbery kiss the night before is a terribly awkward encounter in Tesco’s the day after.

But even those ‘did I really lick his face last night?’ encounters do not compare to the events of my first day of higher education. It started with the mishap we all dread- walking into the wrong class- complete with a  sorry face of  pleading embarrassment together with  lost eyes longing for a hug and a forgiving cup of tea. The mathematics seminar group looked almost offended when I asked if this was the literature seminar. It wasn’t.
But all hope was not lost.

I turned around to see a young man waiting in the seats opposite the room I had attempted to enter. He was witness to my    shortcoming  and in a blaze of nervous adrenaline I blurted out my unrefined introductions. ‘Are you waiting for this room?’. I was relieved to learn that he was indeed waiting for the same class as me and- seeing a fine opportunity to start my quest for making friends- I began to chant my pleasantries.
‘Oh! That’s so cool! Where are you from?! That’s awesome! I’m from North Yorkshire! I really like your jumper! Do you have any plans for tonight?! That sounds awesome! Me? Oh! I need a night off, had a bit of a mad one last night that ended in me and my flatmates comparing dolphin impressions in the kitchen! …So, is it American literature you’re studying?’
‘Oh no’ he said.
‘I’m teaching it.’

And that is how not to make a fruitful first impression with your lecturers.




If I am to love only once,
Let it be with you-
For the Sun shines out your ass
And from your mouth- the moon.

I’ll call you a Summer’s day
And you will call me a silly cunt,
Waking in a puddle of your drool
With a glare, a middle finger, a grunt-

In bed with our socks on,
Stroking the hairs on our legs
Like stray animals on our sheets-

I am to love only once.



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