Martyn K Jones

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Almost Canadian


Another day, another hoop jumped. We’ve been accepted for Canadian citizenship. Swearing in ceremony is for December 1st 2014, Vancouver. Angie and I have decided to make a weekend of it as we haven’t had a break that wasn’t work or family business related in almost a year. Christmas shopping, Citizenship, a little wine and personal abuse. I’m still shaking a little.

We had our interview on the 6th, which apart from the usual interminable waiting, went well. I think both of us were humming like tuning forks on the quiet. I was suffering from a bad case of “What have we forgotten?” on the drive up to Nanaimo, trying desperately not to go rifling through our documentation package every five minutes. We’d got our whole lives in there. Passports, old passports, Permanent Residency cards, copies of IMM1000 forms from November 2010. Copies of just about everything we could think of; certificates, travel receipts, a neatly printed out schedule of all absences from Canada over the past seven years, receipts for all travel, car hire, hotel bills the lot. Memberships, qualifications, the kitchen sink. We were ready for just about everything.

When Angie and I arrived at Nanaimo, we found our way to the right room in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, even though it wasn’t exactly as specified on our letter of notification. Joining a crowd of about eighty people, we sat down in a large room, about a hundred feet by sixty unless I’ve lost my eye for distance, with the oddity of power outletsalmost twenty feet above us in the alcoved ceiling. Four officers sat at brown folder loaded desks interviewing everyone in turn. Only one had a computer of any kind. Which I found a little odd in this day and age.

The time rolled past. Names were called, interviews done, documents inspected and boxes ticked in a surprisingly church-like atmosphere. Everyone talked very softly, so no one would miss their turn at being called. No voice was raised in frustration, exuberance or disappointment. Even the one young man we heard turned down over his refugee status barely spoke over a whisper. I found it curiously eerie.

After over an hours nervous wait our turn came and our young (Nice lad, mid-late 20’s, bespectacled Asiatic with a brown dyed buzz cut you could almost have balanced a plate on) interviewing officer checked our UK passports PR cards and Drivers Licenses. He asked me whether or not we’d been in trouble with the Police or Immigration, to which I answered “No, no, no.” in a mildly distracted manner, slightly surprised by the question. He worked for the Immigration department didn’t he? Surely he knew we were squeaky clean. He said that I didn’t sound convinced, but Angie confirmed we hadn’t had any problems, and that was the one tense moment over and done with. He asked us about our absences from Canada, then almost in a teasing manner asked about proof of the journeys. “Which ones?” Asked Angie.
“The first two?” He asked. At which my darling wife proceeded to extract the relevant stapled receipts, passes and booking forms out of a huge buff envelope. A wedge of papers two inches and more thick. I caught a flash of alarm in his eyes as if we’d called his bluff, but in the end it came out all smiles and handshakes. The right boxes were ticked, and we were offered the choice of Vancouver or Nanaimo for our citizenship ceremony. “What about Victoria?” I asked. Our interviewing officer did a little double take as he realised our new Victoria address was on the form, but we happily agreed to Vancouver on the 1st of December. Considering the course we’ve sailed, a ferry journey and long weekend are no real inconvenience.

With a final handshake we were on our way to pick up our house guest for the weekend. My knees almost giving way beneath me as Angie disappeared for her third rest room break in two hours. My sense of relief was that intense. We’d done it. From a wedding day promise in 2002 to here. I’m still not sure I really believe it myself.

Now it seems as though a leaden weight has lifted. I see a new happy light in my wife’s eyes. Citizenship has been a long road that’s almost broken both of us. But champagne has been drunk, a new confidence has arisen, and now we feel more secure in ourselves. Or we will do when we get our citizenship cards. We’re still a little on edge, but not so much. Smiling is much easier. 2014 has been a hard year emotionally.

‘A Falling of Angels’ should be ready for distribution by next Friday, and all the links will be on this web site, Authors Den and GoodReads by then. For now the only book I have to deal with is booking a Vancouver hotel.

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New short story sample and minor anxieties


New short science fiction sample posted here. It’s bit rough round the edges and in need of further editing. Just something to keep my mind off the possible disruption to air travel over Iceland. Eldest Stepdaughter Laura is flying back from Tanzania to the UK this Sunday and I’m mildly concerned in case the authorities completely shut down European airspace like they did with the Eyfjallajokull eruption.

Trying to look on the bright side, at least Badarbunga is easier to pronounce. Webcam of eruption progress here. A very useful Icelandic geology web site run by a local geology student. Icelandic Met office site here. The whole saga is surprisingly gripping.

Update: The good news is that Laura is safe back home in the UK, and this eruption doesn’t look like it’s going to cause major European air traffic disruption like in 2010.

Recovery mode


The past two weeks have been somewhat traumatic, and I’ve hardly written a word, what with dashing back and forth across the Atlantic. Too many errands and too much jet lag. Today, for the first time in just over two weeks I feel back in control of my life. I actually only awoke at 5:30 this morning. For the previous three nights I was waking up, despite sleeping tablets, at around two and three thirty in the morning feeling tired but unable to slip into the arms of Morpheus until four or five AM.

Everything over the past two weeks, despite best efforts, has gone sideways. It’s been a harsh emotional lesson about planning for the worst family case scenario. Some unpleasant thoughts have to be faced, but these are best examined when the immediate pressures are off. Conversations must be had with family and arrangements made. Just in case.

On the bright side, I’ve been preparing for the two courses I start in mid and late April by raiding second hand bookstores and downloading public domain material online. Now I am the proud possessor of Diana Hackers ‘A Canadian Writer’s Reference, Strunk and White’s ‘The Elements of Style‘, Prentice Hall’s ‘Handbook for Writers‘, and Harold H Kolb’s ‘A Writer’s Guide‘. Not to mention applying for Student Membership of the Society of Technical Communication. I’ve done Technical Writing for real before, for a couple of multinationals no less, but without a Degree found it nigh on impossible to convince anyone to hire me in that role, especially on this side of the Atlantic. Hopefully I will have redressed this shortfall by October or November this year with a Canadian recognised qualification from Simon Fraser University.

The down side is that I won’t be getting as much writing time in on ‘Darkness’ or ‘A falling of Angels’ as I’d like but at least I’ll have a piece of paper saying that I’m a Canadian qualified Technical Writer.

Google and Facebook


Is there a better alternative to Google and Facebook? I ask because I travel periodically, and every time I do, I have to reverify my Facebook and Google accounts, which not only shifts my immediate focus away from the task in hand, but is one of those nagging ‘man from Porlock’ irritations. I’m using the same machine through various secure and insecure Wi-Fi network points, the same fairly strong passwords and access protocols, yet still having my email and access to Facebook arbitrarily cut off is less than funny. I know they’re ‘free at point of use’ services, but they do make their advertising revenue from clickthrough traffic and various other means. Yet my Facebook account and two of my Gmail accounts are now ‘locked’. They may remain that way as I can’t be bothered with the fuss of reopening them. Those who need to know will be notified of changes.

We’re currently in a bereavement crisis on the UK front, scooting between relatives and care homes, and these pernickety and unnecessary interventions to both work and essential on the fly problem solving are less than welcome. My LinkedIn account is globally accessible, as is WordPress and several others, no problem, so why not Google or Facebook? We have an alternative paid for domain with available mail aliases and server, and I’m inclined to build a web site there and activate the email accounts. It means the small expense of changing business stationery, but we can handle that.

Over dinner last night, my eldest stepdaughter was talking about building a service similar to LinkedIn for younger professionals. I’m inclined to buy a new domain name and some extra web space for her to play with. Give her the wheel and see what she can do. It’s just a question of time and effort. Facebook and Gmail are all very well, but I’m thinking that they’ve had their day.

Biting the bullet


What with everything going a little sideways in the last seventy two hours, I’ve compounded my various felonies by signing up for Simon Fraser University’s Certificate in Technical Communication course. Three modules, the first of which is now bought and paid for. Most of the ground I’ve covered as paid work before, but as the saying goes in BC “If you haven’t got the right piece of paper”. My XML and HTML are a bit rusty, I need to get totally au courant with the Canadian style guide, and I’m fine with editing PDF’s, but now with WordPerfect I have the best tool for any writing job. Might even be worth my while buying Corel’s PDF editor, although I’ve already got an old Adobe 5.0 licence and software buried somewhere in my collection.

Now Angie’s on the home stretch of her biology teaching course, which the Education Ministry have insisted upon, the educational burden will shift onto my shoulders and she can relax and enjoy the Summer. However, my April and May will be spent head firmly wedged in English textbooks and burnishing my CV until it gleams. I have DreamWeaver if need be as a web site builder, and a spare domain name to experiment with, so away I’ll go. I also need to put in some serious work on my professional online presence, which is a bit sketchy at present.

Of course this will mean delays on the creative writing front, but as that doesn’t pay many bills, it will be done during ‘leisure’ time only. ‘Darkness’ has just undergone a major narrative restructure, and between now and Tuesday when we head off to the UK for a week, ‘A Falling of Angels’ will be getting similar treatment. If I’m really lucky, I may even get some writing time in while we’re on the move or hanging around in England. If not c’est la vie.

Improved proof reading


Finally installed my copy of WordPerfect yesterday, and was promptly reminded what an utterly superb word processing and formatting toolbox it provides. Proof reading is an absolute breeze using Reveal Codes. Editing likewise. Going through a current work in progress, it highlighted several errors I’d repeatedly missed using Word and OpenOffice, including a massive tranche of unwanted tab settings and assorted code. I’d long ago forgotten what a superb piece of word processing software it is. In the words of the advert ‘It does exactly what it says on the can’. Admittedly WordPerfect is for the advanced user, but once you’ve learned the basics, it’s not that hard.

On the home front, I’ve just celebrated my fifty seventh birthday, am signing up for a Techcomm course, and Angie and I are flying to the UK on Tuesday to undertake one of life’s sad duties. This interferes with main project writing and the prospect of being crammed into an alloy tube for ten hours like so much toothpaste is hardly enticing. Then the infernal hanging around in airports waiting for boarding and security. It’s not so much the travel I hate, I love watching the world skim by. Sitting in a passenger seat, or better still the drivers. That’s not the issue. It’s more the sheer fuss surrounding getting from A to Z and all stations in between. Still, we’ll do what we always do; grit our teeth at the indignities, then try to smile and forget the annoying impedimenta as best we can.

The one consolation is that we’ll be seeing more or less our entire diverse little clan over the next few days, so that can’t be all bad.

Moving on


Angie gets back from England tonight on the eleven thirty flight from Vancouver. Much to my relief. Cooking for one is difficult. While she’s been over the other side of the pond on family business, I’ve been busying myself with various paperwork, job hunting and looking for new accommodation. Somewhere more convenient for Metro Vancouver.

‘A Falling of Angels’ has found its final direction and with luck I’ll have the manuscript finished for first proof and edit by April. About 25,000 words to go, with the ending planned and plotted. The story threads are set to tie up neatly, with the bad guys (mostly) caught and brought to trial, my hero redeemed and on a new start in life. Until the next volume of course.

‘Falling through the Stars’ unfortunately, is crawling along very slowly. There’s a whole chunk of storyline that’s simply not working and has to be junked. I’ll just do what I normally do, cut and paste the offending section into a separate file. For future use. Maybe.

While Angie has been away, I’ve been doing a little reading to help keep my Technical writing skills current. One note of enlightenment came from an old copy of Arthur Plotnik’s “The Elements of Editing“. Although it’s a little dated, reading certain sections rather confirmed my suspicions about why so many submissions to publishers go unanswered.