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What’s this all About?

I wish I knew to be honest with you, but I know I that it all started back in the mid-1970′s when my sister Lesley went on holiday to Canada with the express intention of not catching the flight back to the UK.  At about the same time a cousin of mine, David, emigrated there with his family.  Previously my eldest sister Lynne, had studied at Victoria University on Vancouver Island.  So, with all of these vastly more experienced and much older siblings of mine deciding that Canada was quite a good place to be, and me looking at some pictures (my education hadn’t stretched to words at that point) and liking what I saw (have you ever seen some of those North American girls?!) I thought “I want some of that”.

Unfortunately I hadn’t counted on the emotional power that one of the loves of my life had over me, and still does today (as some of the photo’s on this journey will clearly demonstrate).  But before I get to that I can tell you that I had written to and visited the Canadian Consulate in Birmingham city centre and collected the immigration forms.  My cousin David had even agreed to act as a sponsor for me – Lesley couldn’t because I don’t think she was quite as legit as David was at the time!  I was on my way.  It was just a matter of when.

So whilst I was waiting for the perfect moment I continued doing the kinds of things that kids of 18 do …. out most nights with my mates, discovering that girls are not the ugly things that primary school boys think they are and enjoying some fantastic night matches at Villa Park, and in particular those European night matches.  Trust me, those were very special nights.  There’d be me, Gary Roberts (RIP Gaz), Mark Crutchley (Crutch the Fireman), sometimes Keith Edwards (Zokko) and occasionally a couple of others – and after yet another belter of a game (no doubt Gray, Little or Deehan had scored, since all 3 of them scored at least 20 goals each in one season) we’d be down at the Fire Station in Aston to watch the highlights on TV in the mess, courtesy of Crutch.

It happened one morning at work.  I was recalling the heroic efforts of Andy Gray, Brian Little, John Deehan, John Gidman etc and convincing everyone within earshot of just how great  Aston Villa Football Club were when someone asked me if I’d miss that in Canada.  Suddenly it hit me – if I went to Canada I wouldn’t be able to go to Villa Park with my mates!!  I realised immediately that I couldn’t go … at the time this wasn’t a difficult decision to make.  It was purely logical.

But very soon after I decided that I would go – but only to travel across Canada from Vancouver to Toronto.  I would rent a camper van, I’d wear a Stetson, play tag with some grizzlies and roll up at a thoughtfully and strategically placed log cabin at the end of each day and barbeque a moose for supper.

Well, lots of things happened in between then and now – mainly 3 little things in the shape of my sons Mark, Jamie and Sam.  And then at about 4.45pm on Friday 13th October 2000 (can you tell that this was a seminal date in my life?) I passed my motorcycle test.  Louise, do you remember I stopped by?  You were the first to know.  I was so excited I just had to tell someone.  I had had a bike for a short while when I was younger, and as many guys do I had a yearning for one again – call it a mid-life crisis if you will, but if that’s what it was then it’s been hanging around for a long time, and as my wife Clare will testify, it doesn’t seem to be getting any less important to me.  So a good few years ago now I modified my dream slightly – I would do ‘the trip’ by bike.  I hadn’t thought about trivialities like “How do I get my hands on a bike?” or “How long will this take” or “What if the bears have a natural dislike for ginger Brummies?” – they were just minor details in the master plan.  They could be handled nearer the time.   The other change was that Lesley convinced me to do the route in the opposite direction. “Rob”, she said, “Vancouver and B.C. are the best places in Canada – end up in the best place”.  So that’s what I’m doing.

Oh, and there was one other little problem – my prediliction for decisive prevarication (obviously I did eventually learn to write!).  The ‘decisive’ part of this was I determined that if I did ever make my way over to Canada to visit my sister, it would be when I could do ‘the trip’.  I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t step foot in the Country until then.  Well, appreciating my well-honed skills for putting things off, Clare did a crafty thing – she seconded people who I thought were friends into placing a moral obligation on me to go! (Is she trying to tell me something?). Seriously, what kind of friends would willingly pay to dispatch someone 5,000 miles away?  And on his 50th birthday at that.  Disgraceful!

I was very good at putting the inevitable off for almost a further 12 months – work is very important you know.  As you take your last breath you will still be worrying about that quotation you haven’t yet sent, won’t you?  - so you need to get through as much as possible while you can!  But in February this year I made the momentous decision to book the flights.  Although I don’t actually think it was my decision …

I have to admit that even whilst I was on the phone discussing the options with the young lady from Thomas Cooks, I knew that if she didn’t play it right all the way down the line I would have a get-out clause.  She didn’t mess up – she was just too good for me.  She had me signing on the virtual dotted line before I could say “Saskatchewan”.  Clare was there when I put the phone down – I think the blood suddenly drained from my freckles.  Thankfully, I don’t think my facial expression gave way to my innermost thought (which just for the record was “Oh shit, what have I done?”) .  All the years of acting helped me through that though … I think I got away with it.  Just.

So as I write this with only a matter of days to go, trying not to think about it too hard but making sure that I have everything in place, I hope that you will check back every now and again to see where I am and what I’ve been up to.  Leave me Comments at the end of one of my postings. Let me know that there is still someone out there who is interested in my adventure – if I haven’t bored you all to death with it by now.  And here’s a deal – leave me a comment or I’ll bore you all over again with the photo’s when I get back.  It’ll be like ‘slow death by a thousand million pixels’.

Many of you have asked “What happens if … ?”, and most of you will have received a response along the lines of “I don’t know – I’ll just have to deal with it”.  Many of you have betrayed yourselves with the ’He’s mad’ look.  Maybe I am, but I’ll find out soon enough.  And if I am walking onto the plane out of Vancouver on 12th September, then I’ll have my answer.

And if I’m not walking onto it, then either I was mad – or I just ain’t coming back.

See you all soon!