It is well accepted that the world is shrinking and that people, with increased
income and opportunity, are traveling more frequently and covering longer distances.
Their reasons for traveling are different: Business, holidays, visiting friends
and even settling in distant countries where cultures are alien and the process
of making friends and networking has to begin again.
My personal "journey" starts in spring 1998, in London, England.
I was doing all right, you might think. I had a home minutes away from Central
London, a job with an organization in which I believed and an absolute honey
of a boss. True, the pay wasn't great but that wasn't crucial. As a totally
blind person I was eligible for some state aid in the form of a Disability Living
Allowance, all of which meant that I enjoyed a good standard of living, had
good friends, a good social life and most important of all my twenty-one year
old son from my previous marriage and the love and help of my yellow Labrador
guide dog, Fergie. Yes, can you believe that for a name!!!
The only cloud on the horizon, and a very dark one at that, was my love life,
or rather, the lack of one. I had just emerged from a relationship which had
been damaging in many ways and when the whole thing fell apart I was truly devastated,
and more than a little convinced that I would never become closely involved
with anyone again.
In this setting I asked a friend of twenty-five years who lived in Toronto
Canada if I could visit, just for a change of scenery. He agreed and I began
making my preparations.
On 14 May 1998, I left London's Gatwick Airport and after an uneventful journey
arrived in Toronto. I recall that it was mid-evening when I arrived at my friend's
home. I was tired and a little stressed after my flight, and already missing
my guide dog.
For readers who are unaware, Britain operates a strict quarantine law: If an
animal is taken into Britain it has to be quarantined in a kennel for six months,
at the owner's expense. This law makes no exception for Guide Dogs. So, had
I brought Fergie with me I could not have taken her home without considerable
expense and discomfort to us both.*
I was warmly welcomed by my friend who also was visiting his long-time buddy
Mike, with his golden retriever Guide Dog Raquel. Raquel and I quickly became
friends, thus the holiday began on a good note.
The next few days were filled with gadding about and meeting people. During
this time, Mike was around, making me copious cups of tea and helping me make
It was on the fourth day, after a visit to St Marie among the Hurons during
the holiday weekend that on returning to Toronto Mike took his dog out for a
walk. Raquel was badly frightened by a firecracker, carelessly let off by a
night reveler. She arrived back home shaken and clearly distressed. I comforted
her and pretty soon she was calmer. It was at this point that I truly believe
my credibility increased by miles in Mike's opinion. Mike and I subsequently
became closer friends because of that incident and throughout the next few days
had many long chats, culminating in an invitation to visit him at his home later
in my holiday. I gladly accepted.
A few days later, on my 47th birthday, I arrived in the small Muskoka town
of Huntsville and spent a wonderfully peaceful two days with Mike and Raquel,
before returning to England and my everyday life.
It could have ended here, but it didn't. Mike and I were in touch constantly
by phone. Three weeks later I was back in Huntsville for another two wonderful
We both knew that this was something special. But before commitments were made
Mike agreed to visit me in England to see where I lived and meet my friends.
He did so in August.
Whilst getting fond of this man I was acutely aware of my decision not to become
close to anyone again or put myself in a position where I could get hurt.
By the end of our two weeks together, in England, I knew that I wanted to be
with Mike forever and he felt the same. So we started to plan our future. After
discussion, we decided that it was I who would move. Many people would think
this crazy as certainly materially I was better placed, but I craved peace and
quiet and most would agree that Huntsville, with its 18,000 inhabitants as opposed
to London with its 8 million, offered the best chance of that.
Immediately I set about sorting out my affairshanding in my notice at
work, giving notice on my rented apartment and arranging the packing and shipment
of all my personal effects. Saying goodbye to my son Brian was the hardest thing
I had to do, and it was accomplished with tears on both sides.
On Wednesday 14 October 1998, I left England, bound for Canada and my new life.
The first month was idyllic. However, I was under enormous stress when I discovered
that my specially adapted computer had arrived damaged in transit. This meant
that for three months I was unable to communicate with my friends in England
apart from the telephone, which is expensive. I do not have the luxury of being
able to go to either a library or a cyber cafe and using their equipment.
As a blind person I can not hand-write, but depend solely on my computerand
not just any computer. While my computer is a standard one, it requires special
hardware and software to make the screen "talk" to me.
In addition to this, although an original date for our wedding had been set
for November, I did not feel ready to enter into marriage, and my feelings of
doubt troubled me.
A further date was set for December but again, as the time approached, so the
doubts crowded in again.
Things were beginning to go wrong for Mike and mewe were quarreling and
I was very homesick, plus those awful doubts!!!
To his credit, it was Mike who suggested counseling, which I at first refused.
However, things got no better and I eventually agreed. The two counseling sessions
we went through showed us both the parts of ourselves and the relationship that
Specifically applicable to me, the counselor likened my homesickness to a bereavementa
saying goodbye to my previous life, which would have to be gone through in stages:
For example, sadness, denial, resentment, anger and acceptance. I felt all of
these separately and at the same time. Bereavement Counselors know this pattern
well and when explained to me it helped me understand the emotions I was feeling
and gave me some insight into how to cope and yes, accept those emotions. I
then began to feel that I was ready for marriage.
Things improved significantly in a tangible way as well: my computer problems
were finally resolved which gave me the freedom to e mail my friends and write
letters to my heart's delight.
So, on Valentine's Day, Mike and I were married at a lovely Victorian inn twenty
miles south of Huntsville. The wedding was a small one, but the highlight of
it for meapart from the bridegroom, of course, and our two dogs as bridesmaidswas
that an English friend of mine came over and shared the day with us.
Subsequently, we are settling down in our ordinary, everyday lives. I love
our little town and the peace it affords. I know Fergie is happy in a settled
home with Raquel for company.
I have not been daunted by the long, cold wintersafter all why shop if
I have a husband well used to Canadian winters to do it for me.
Apart from a distinct drop in finances my only problem is that I miss my son,
friends and job in England somewhat. Yes, surprisingly, I miss England itself
much more than I thought I would. On the plus side, I have a wonderful husband,
a nice home and have made some nice friends. Also, thanks to the Ontario Government
I have some first-class training for work. I have obtained Microsoft Office
User Specialist (MOUS) certification in Microsoft Word and Excel.
I was employed on contract for a year by an organization called Community Living.
These guys assist and empower folks with learning disabilities by providing
group homes, social gatherings, daily living skills, supported independent living
opportunities and education to the public. I worked for them as a Policies &
Procedures Coordinator, working on their Adult Services policies. I am actively
looking for work now that that contract has finished.
The point here is that you never know what is going to happen to you, who is
going to come into your life and what opportunities will present themselves.
Life is a journey in more ways than one and we, as individuals, have to make
the conscious decision as to whether we have the survival tools for that journey.
Human beings have the wonderful capacity to make choicesand despite the
high price I had to pay I made mine and I'm confident that it was the right
* A change to this law is likely to be announced in London on 28 November 2002, to the effect that pet owners (and presumably Assistance Dog) can now bring their animals into Britain from North America and Canada without quarantined.