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 have long speculated that a person’s favourite shape of pasta is closely aligned to, and revealing of, personality traits which I propose to explore in this enlightening blog post. So here is it, a penne for my thoughts!
Starting with the most popular of all the pasta shapes, if Fusilli is your favourite pasta, chances are that you are equally as popular! Your taste for spirals and twists indicate a playfulness in your personality which simply does not exist amidst other shapes. Through allowing equal distribution of sauce, Fusilli is also one of the more balanced of the pastas and thus indicating your desire for equilibrium and moderation in day to day life. However, if your balance is compromised and you end up a little overcooked, the Fusilli-lover will inevitably spiral out of control and potentially end up as soggy as a wet sock.
Incidentally the bow-shape is my own reigning champion, although that wont stop me highlighting the frivolity of the bow-lover’s personality. Lets face it, we enjoy frills and getting dressed up in the pearls we spent two pounds on in Primark. Yet, despite a potential streak of vanity in our characters, the chewiness of the pasta’s inside indicates there’s far more than just meets the eye. In fact, it could even be p’a’stulated that our well-groomed outer layer is merely a distraction from an inside that simply needs a little more cooking and a little more love before we can fully flourish. Aw.
It perhaps comes as no surprise that the hollow nature of the Penne shape embodies the intrinsic hollowness of its lover. As a result of this, you often let people in a little too easily which can lead you to spending time with the wrong crowds. The jealousy you hold for your slightly cooler and more fun-loving uncle -the Macaroni- suggests that you’re also almost certainly predishposed to jealousy. The simplicity of Penne reveals that whilst you enjoy the quiet side of life, you are well-liked and particularly cherished by your close family whose love you appreciate most in the world.
Lasagna is undoubtedly the most friendly of the pasta personalities; even your name sparks the comfort and friendliness which your many layers sing to the tune of warmth and tastiness. You are traditional and proud of your moral compass which is as sturdy as an uncooked lasagna sheet. Despite your squared shape, you are deceptively fun and adventurous. However, your reliance on mince and onions to create your dish means that you’re almost certainly a little co-dependant, but that’s nothing a little cheese can’t hide.
Your love of the Shell shape unveils a need for protection and almost certainly aligns to your protective nature. Similarly, your caring nature often coincides with loyalty; you would sooner run out of Parmesan cheese than let a friend down. Although that isn’t to say you’re predictable- sometimes you’re open and sometimes you’re closed- and the Shell relies on its uncertainty to remain the life and soul of the party. In this way you are also the blurred line between extroverted and introverted and you refuse to shell yourself short.
The malleable and flowing shape of spaghetti means that you enjoy a carefree and relaxed existence. Your flexible nature, whilst making you good at compromising and thus relationships in general, means that you are easily taken advantage of. It is most likely due to your carefree attitude which makes you the messiest of all the shapes and as a result you are terrible on first dates.
You’re either attempting to eat this through your nose because you’re two years old or you need to learn to let go.
with thanks to jefurber for his drawings of the more expert-level shapes.
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.
#1 The person who decided what men should smell like
There was a defining moment in history when man decided that we could no longer rely on our natural ea de toi-sweat to continue our evolutionary progression and thus the cologne was formed. Despite defying the man’s natural scents, the discovery of Lynx as a adolescent male has become a signpost in coming-of-age. With names such as ‘Excite’ and ‘Temptation’, I’m not sure that even the body sprays themselves know exactly what they are supposed to smell of, but whatever it is, my nose quite assuredly agrees.
#2 Laughter during a crisis
Whether it’s a slug in the toaster or finding out that there is no milk for your tea, there is something irresistibly comforting about the hearing of laughter during a crisis. Though I would not encourage hysterical giggling at the news of your deceased great aunt twice-removed, I do believe that, more often than not, life is a badly worded pun where the punchlines make the greatest memories.
I’m not sure if this miraculous concoction exists in all corners of the world, but I don’t think it’d be an overstatement to say that this ointment has saved my life on many occasions from all its countless functions. Though I believe the cream is meant for the menial nappy rash, it deletes my spots, cures my cuts and I’m fairly sure it would re-grow a finger should ever I lose one. I trust in the healing powers of Sudo-Crem so much, in fact, that I once even used it to cover my entire face as I believed it would make me beautiful.
I focussed too much attention towards his premature attempts of family décor to listen entirely to the fodder flowing from his mouth. My wife, on the other hand, appeared to be entirely enthralled by the vaunts of his career. At the time my disgust was targeted exclusively at photographs of grinning toddlers and not my wife’s lewdness. Her lips were a darker shade of red that night.
The following Autumn I was struck by my wife’s infidelity. It was no cause for concern that she had spent a great deal of time helping the Merriweathers move in. Yet, before long she became their reliable babysitter, an occasional dinner guest and a mandatory cog for the family Bridge games. With every one of these frequent jaunts, my wife’s face grew less recognisable as she became more generous with her powders and lipsticks. She was hiding; covering herself and her wrongdoings.
It was a Tuesday when Martin Merriweather lowered our garden fence in order to ‘gather more sunlight for the primroses’; even when the sun was setting. It was my rose which he had his eyes on, though. It wasn’t long before watching them chatter across the splintered wood became a visceral pastime. I imagined the words that escaped her wandering mouth. Words that she no longer had time to spare for me.
On bonfire night the clouds were fresh with bursts of flame as fizzled light danced beyond the darkened sky. A neighbourly celebration was taking place at the Merriweathers’ residence and the invitations were plenty. My wife wore a suitably fitting red dress together with a black satin shawl that caressed the arch of her smooth back. Pearls hung close to her neck and lit up against the fireworks. I wanted to hold her. I wanted to gather her so tightly in my arms that she would forget the outside. I wanted to envelop her entire body like a rapacious clam hides its only riches. I wanted to protect her.
It took only a thought of my wife holding on to a single word of that Martin Merriweather’s for me to torch their house. Red filled my eyes. Screams echoed in the burning. An accident. No one was hurt but the house which fell to the Earth like an unfolding rapture. My wife did not scream at the burning or at the sight of the wreckage. She accepted this fate but turned a shade of pale that I had never seen before.
I did not murder my wife. But I could not save her. Only a single month after the fire, she grew so weak and fragile that a limp beyond her mattress became virtually impossible. Her jaunted face was full of shadows when she finally uncovered the nature of her sickness. Her womb had given birth to tumours that had taken hold of almost every organ in her body. She explained how Martin had accepted her as a patient to a heavy programme of experimental drugs that had a chance of saving her life, if only for a little longer. A sickness tugged at my throat as she delivered a truth I could not swallow. Her love was never questioned and yet I had burned her hope in a fire of jealousy. The medicine had all been lost in the ashes that wrote my name. She crumbled away like the walls of the house next door. My helplessness was my foreboding punishment.
And here I stand, looking at my dead wife. Every inch of my honing gut begs that she might wake up with those blushing eyes that still belong in her skull. But she lays still. I close the coffin lid; covering her body for the final time. She was always mine to protect.
We had always stayed rooted in our home town. My wife and I did not rely upon recycled dreams of travelling the world in order to justify our existence. We enjoyed how our trees arched beyond the hills and how our neighbours never changed and how we always knew exactly what to expect. When there is no future there is no time and nothing to pass you by.
It was autumn when the Merriweathers moved in to the cottage next door. Those walls had been empty for a long while and I greatly enjoyed the company of no-one. I had little care of my own to meet them, though my wife was persistent that we should make a good first impression. That was another flaw with women; they required, almost insatiably, to be liked. When the moving vans and cardboard boxes diluted, we laundered the third best bottle of wine from our pantry and cheerfully arrived at our new neighbour’s new house. As the door opened, so did Mr. Merriweather’s stonking eyes as he observed the beauty of my wife. He was perplexed at our apparent offering of free booze until we unveiled the nature of our arrival. Our adjacent living situation was apparently a cause for celebration. He welcomed us in and we sat a few hours and drank from bubble-wrapped glasses. Of course he was a promising doctor of some sort; his wife was three kids down but not looking too bad on it. Luckily James, Lucy and Michael were spending that afternoon elsewhere but I did not doubt that I would soon be hearing their acquaintance from our unnervingly close radius. My wife could not bear children, but not in the same way that I couldn’t. Hence, my last name has remained, and will remain, my own.
I did not like Martin Merriweather. Nobody, especially that soon after moving into a new house, could present such a fine tray of cakes in the face of unexpected guests. If you have Mr. Kipling on standby, it can only be concluded that you think too highly of yourself or too low and Martin did not have the physique of a man who found comfort in confectioneries.
I was nine years old when I first saw my wife naked, when both her body and maiden name remained intact. It was summer. The outdoor pools were dense with sweating bodies cradling the water’s cool waves. Middle-aged men bobbed up and down beneath the ripples whilst little wet droplets crept down their brows. She was heedless as I was headless; diving so intently and carelessly her swimsuit unravelled, blossoming a naked, virtuous flame from the communal pool. The splashes instantly curtailed and her beautiful, spotless body –ripened from embarrassment- started to cry unto an audience of sorry parents and mocking children. As a premature young boy I had no intention of staring, although my fascination of the human form begged me to, I grabbed a towel from the side and threw it at her. The towel immediately soaked her shame as she galloped from the pool and retreated. I was nine years old when I first fell in love with my wife.
Within the passing decades she no longer relied on me to cover her up. She used make-up to hide the imperfections that I enjoyed. Men would frequently leer in their short bouts of lust. Her cheeks didn’t blush from childish tomfooleries but from pink dusty powders. Her fresh, teary eyes were blackened by heavy-handed mascara. She was a cut-out from a magazine that I had no desire to read. Women try so desperately to conceal the truth. My father did not run out on my mother, for example, he had died in the Second World War but was later discovered- quite alive- in another lady’s bed.