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.
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.
After the university’s pep rally.
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.
This year I have the pleasure of festively earmarking my blog with the ‘Christmas Tag’. I received this tag by a favourite blogger and poet of mine whose ‘technological challenges’ I do not mean to rub in, but by clicking here, it will send you to his blog.
1. Have you ever had a white Christmas?
I don’t doubt that one of my eighteen Christmases was spent under a white sheet of those cold mounds that hold limitless potential. More memorably, perhaps, was a particular ‘white birthday’ I had a few years ago where my party involved a few more snowmen than had first been anticipated.
2. What is your favourite Christmas song?
Though I shamefully admit that most Christmas songs prove to bring out the Ebenezer Scrooge in me, there are a few songs which I don’t mind hearing on that familiar premature lead-up to the 25th of December. These include ‘Fairy Tale of New York’ by the Pogues and Kirsty McColl, ‘Pipes of Peace’ by Paul McCartney and Lennon’s ‘So this is Christmas’.
3. Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?
This questions sparks a question of my own- does anyone?! Though I wouldn’t call myself conspicuously pious over Christmas traditions, I’d say it was nicer to keep up the suspense for as long as possible.
4. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Not even Coke’s plastering of the reindeer’s names on their bottles has lead me to be completely sure of all of them. In fact, I get a bit stuck after Rudolph. This is when you cross me off any potential Christmas Pub teams!
5. What holiday traditions are you looking forward to the most?
This year I was a waitress donning a rather flash Santa hat.. dressing up is possibly my favourite tradition through the Winter months.
6. Is your Christmas tree real or fake?
Due to the recent addition of a fearless kitten in my household whose hobbies include both destruction and general ninja-esque shenanigans, we decided to give the tree a miss this year. Although I’m sure she would make quite the sweet tree-top…
7. What is your all-time favourite holiday food/treat?
8. What is the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
‘The Catcher in the Rye’ was given to me by my sister and has since become a favourite novel of mine!
9. Are you a pro-present wrapper, or do you fail miserably?
My wrapping skills are indeed so poor that I do not need to write my name in the ‘from’ sections of my labels as the ruthless taping and messy bulges give me away.
10. What do you wish for Christmas this year?
That my first university choice lets me in so I wont need to resort to getting my higher education in a stable amidst hay and sheep whilst wise men denote me of my intelligence… heh.
11. Favourite Christmas smell?
The smell of fire along with the sound of crinkling logs is quite bliss. Although it can become so cold here in winter that anything heat-related would be my answer to most questions regarding the senses.
12. What place/landmark in your town do you love during Christmas?
I mostly enjoy the overblown lights and blow-up Santas produced by my visibly competitive neighbours.
I hope everyone has a splendid Christmas! Thank you again CityJackDaw for my nomination!
Whilst living on this Earth it has become apparent to me that I have somehow collected a number of peculiar objects that proudly linger amongst my shelves and/or deepest corners of my closed drawers. Here I present a list of just a few of these items!
#1 Failed attempt at ‘wine’
Some will undoubted view this possession as a sheer accomplishment of both a disregard for blackberry juice as well as cleanliness. Yet, residing amongst my most treasured ornaments lies what was -four entire years ago- a refreshing beverage. Now, however, it is a questionable, slightly fluffy, blob at the bottom of a plastic bottle. After four years of hoping it’d turn into something of interest, or at least a sip of wine, I can conclude that nothing extraordinary can be expected from the dregs of a once promising drink. Nevertheless, my sheer attachment to this item has grown so irrevocably over the years that no matter how icky it gets, I cannot seem to part with it!
#2 My leaflet collection
The art of collecting is not, in itself, an exotic nor remotely unusual concept. However, when I was a tiny bit younger (certainly not as young as I would like to admit) I decided that stamps or Beanie Babies just didn’t satisfy my human urges for hoarding. Instead, rather ambitiously, I took to collecting leaflets. Consequently, hidden amongst the depths of the darkest corners of my room, lies a shamefully extravagant box that is filled with not the remnants of what was the height in childhood toys or dolls but, rather, an extravagant array of brochures that probably gave me just as much excitement as those aforementioned toys.
#3 Antique ‘Smarties’
When the devilish tales of artificial colours flocked the news, it wasn’t long before the beloved confectionery ‘Smarties’ fell to this health-conscious pressure and decided to remove its artificial colours. It was 2008 and again, I was very young, and possibly scouting the shops for any new additions to the leaflet stand, when I noticed that there were a number of ‘Smarties’ on the counter that had not yet fallen to the higher food standards and remained as artificial as ever. Thinking I’d stumbled upon a jackpot, I bought a packet believing that they would become an antique within the coming years. What is perhaps most astounding, however, is how I have been able to avoid the temptation to dig into this confectionery for the past 8 years.
Now I’m starting to think that I should convert my room to an out-of-date food and beverage rescue centre where possibly the only thing that needs rescuing is my sanity for I am sure that it is out there somewhere!
Although I try to steer my life through the means of logic and reason, somewhere, it appears, I have left enough room for a little superstition. As a generally arty-farty kind of person, it wasn’t unusual for me to attempt to draw the people who I had a crush on or was otherwise ardently ‘in love’ with as I’m sure I would have told you at the time of this passing fancy.
But, after maybe a few sketches along the road, I noticed a pattern between the sketching and the heart-breaking. It seemed it was never long after I’d drawn a person when that character would disastrously escape my life… which, of course, is a happier euphemism for ‘I was dumped soon after’.
Of course this emerging pattern of coincidence did leave me to question myself as an artist; perhaps my amateur skills were more disagreeable than I had believed and enough to turn hearts as well as heads.
So now, out of sheer superstition, I never draw people who I’m remotely fond of, for fear that it will be the inevitable catalyst for a hurried escape! It’s become so true in my mind that this ‘curse’ exists, that I’ve even found myself tempted to draw people who I dislike for the single purpose of wanting them out of my life. Is this the kind of confession that might nullify my science qualifications?
No wonder Bob Dylan has not yet responded to my letters of proposal!
A recent self-portrait, although I don’t believe I’m going anywhere any time soon.
In Summer, many people decide to embrace its corresponding sun by taking a cool, well-deserved dip at the seaside. However, the only dipping I’m doing this season is in the parameters of a sink where the waves are soapy and the seaweed is actually left-over cabbage.
Despite my recent upgrade in obtaining full A-Levels, there is no better place to start the path of careerism than at the bottom and in my case that bottom is a plug hole.
Though it may not be exactly glamorous or requiring much in the way of skills, I feel that I have, nonetheless, acquired a great deal of wisdom during my shifts as a washer-upper and this post will disclose these nuggets.
#1 Whisks are now your mortal enemy
With all those small edges and tight corners, these otherwise essential kitchen tools are a profound nuisance to wash. Needless to say they don’t only succeed in stirring soup and Yorkshire pudding batter but also a great deal of anguish during my soggy duties.
#2 Bubbles become a hair accessory
If you have ever imagined that a certain white foaminess would bring out the colour in your eyes then this is undoubtedly a plus! It is impossible to escape the stray suds so one must learn to embrace this otherwise unique and acquired look.
#3 Wrinkly hands
By the time my shift is over my hands look more like the ruins of a tiny volcanic eruption than actual human limbs. Forget face-lifts, if only my tips could afford a permanent ‘hand-lift’!
So perhaps my hours of labour haven’t exactly left me tremendously enlightened, but it is an experience nonetheless!
Although now a default method of transportation, it took humans seven million years to master just the first stroll. What proved to be an irrevocable step towards evolutionary precision is now, without a doubt, taken for granted especially as a child will be deemed a little dim if he or she has not mastered this skill within only a few years of existing. The art of putting one foot after the other is work of pure genius!
#2 Swallowing Pills
Perhaps it is just me with an aversion to swallowing larger that humanly-preferable items but it took me years to build up the courage to attempt this sorcery. With gag-reflexes on high-alert, this is a tricky one and hence an underrated life skill especially for those whose throats can handle swallowing pills without a second thought.
#3 Applying Eye liner
For those people who decide that covering your face in chemicals with the odd dash of congealed whale fat is not the way to go, applying eye liner is a highly underrated life skill. When I was around eleven I was occasionally referred to as ‘the girl who couldn’t put on eye liner’… although my problem wasn’t that I ‘couldn’t‘ put it on (in fact, saying I’d over do the make-up a little may be discrediting the fact my whole face became a dark shade of black) but it was because it looked like a total mess. The art of applying eye liner, I believe, could be an entire degree… it takes patience, a little creativity and mountains of impossible dexterity.
#4 Eating Broccoli
I have yet to acquire the skill of being able to stomach this green and irritatingly healthy vegetable, and I have great envy for those who can. I’ve been told that it is even possible to reach the level of skill to actually enjoy munching this tiny tree-like cuisine. Wow!
#5 Blinking and Other Reflexes
This is arguably the most underrated life skill as we barely even notice, and therefore never fully appreciate, the reflexes conducted by our bodies which include blinking, breathing and swearing. We’d be pretty stuck if our bodies didn’t decide to take control of these vital functions.