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.
#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.
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!
I have been diagnosed today.
A case of ‘Euphoria’, the doctor said,
It is not normal to feel this way.
I said ‘good morning’ with such cheer,
A symptom; met by a scowl
And a muttered ‘Oh dear’.
‘Do your lips often curl upward?’
A ‘yes’ shone from the crescent moon of
My medallion mouth.
From the other end
Of the room the doctor stood.
Troubled. ‘I’m afraid to say,
It’s not looking good.’
There once was a girl
With golden hair,
Curls like diamonds
And locks so fair
She caught a man’s eye
Like the rays of a Sun
‘With hair as fine as yours,
I think you are the one’.
They were happily wed
Under her golden veil
Until a darkened hour
When money grew stale
‘We have no choice’
Her husband did declare
‘But to cut off and sell
Your golden hair’
Their table became full
But her locks did wane
And now she was a girl
With looks quite plain.
‘Where is my wife?’
Said a love gone cold
‘Like my heart she has vanished,
Sold, along with her hair of gold.’
This poem was inspired by a somewhat sombre idea I had for a Children’s book.
I hadn’t quite reached my teens when a stranger first asked me ‘what are you?’. In those days I wore eye-liner like it was going out of fashion, which, of course, by my corresponding chains and striped tights, wasn’t something I was evidently following. ‘Are you a goth?’ ‘Are you an emo?’ In a town populated by few residents, most of whom belonged to this ‘backwards’ parameter of England, it was inevitable (as my mum would often caution me) that a young girl experimenting with styles would garner a little attention now and again.
I didn’t and still don’t know how to respond to questions like this as I am sure most people can’t and wouldn’t care to fit entirely into a single ‘box.’
“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”
This quotation, I feel, perfectly encapsulates my inner and outer conflicts. I have rings through my nose but I also smell of Japanese Cherry Blossom; I often trade my shark-tooth necklace for a string of pearls and a black dress can be a white dress the next day.
But of course this isn’t entirely an inner turmoil dealing with merely the trivial issue of aesthetics. I am conflicted in so many areas of my life that it’s not even a matter of not wanting to explain ‘who I am’ to a stranger but more that I couldn’t, even if I wanted to.
Whilst I desire to be a character of morals and impeccable integrity, I simultaneously don’t want to live a life bound by contrived edicts of what is deemed correct or otherwise immoral. In a world that couldn’t deny its propensity to judge and label, it seems that ‘who we are’ is a question of limited answers.
I want to be so many things but, at the same time, nothing at all.