on his first trip to Canada
Well, its there, I can confirm. Having always suspected Canada did
exist, I thought I should check it out this summer. I found it and it
goes on f o r e v e r. Thank goodness the world has shrunk in recent years,
though, so you can fly over the most boring bits. Living in England, we
have simply no appreciation of a country that has several time zones.
All right, it goes dark in the English west country a bit later than in
Kent but Canada is so vast, people have mostly done with the day in Newfoundland
when they are only getting into it in British Columbia. One country? Canada
is stretched east-west so that every day is a day and a half. It is split
English-French. It feels the pull of both Mother Country and vulgar, pacy
neighbour, USA. It doesnt just have seasons, it has SEASONS. Too
hot in summer and still far too cold in winter for all of global warmings
efforts, only the short Spring and Fall are, according to Goldilocks,
just right. For all of this, it comes across as a very welcoming and hospitable
It is a land of heroes. The twentieth century proved that as countless
brave men answered Empires call. Just think of Beaumont-Hamel or
Dieppe. It is a land with a guilty conscience, too, as all the best places
are. Canadians felt so guilty, eventually, about the eskimos that they
allowed them a brand new name to be proud of - "inuit". They
felt so guilty about stuffing the French that now everything federal is
bi-lingual, this being an elaborate form of apology, so that, when you
are cleaning your teeth/dents, the toothpaste caters for two tongues.
Everbody is polite in Canada. They would probably murder you politely.
They are polite about how they dont like Americans. And they dont.
Yet, to an outsider, the two nations are so similar. Can you tell the
accents apart? Both lots have taken to posting their national flags outside
their equally spacious houses. Gasolene (sic) is cheap and what we would
call minibuses are bog-standard, get-around vehicles for one. They drive
exceedingly long distances, relatively slowly, on the left and the staple
diet of each is fast food. Each dislikes the other and this is beautifully
summed up at the crossing town of Cornwall by how Canadas border
sewage works is answered with the USAs border chemical works.
Canadians might seem like Americans to us; they like baseball for instance
but Canadians dont see it that way. The English Football Premiership
is easy to catch live in pubs and bars, and is watched by large numbers.
The many ex-pats see to that. Absorption has been incredibly slow, particularly
because of the inbetween nature of Canada. They seem Canadians as much
because of what they are not as because of what they are. This is perhaps
harsh since nobody goes round constantly defining themselves, they just
go round being people. And before Outraged of Ontario starts
furiously keypunching, I must admit that a trip to Canada made me embarrassed
about many aspects of modern Britain. We are ruder, vainer and more selfish
than Canadians who at least care enough about the future to ban smoking
in all public places in their capital city, like it or not. We are untidier,
too. Canadians dont have the first idea how to litter a place. The
Old Country can really show em there.
We also might be 3,000 miles from Canada but were a million miles
from something as friendly, efficient and cheap as the "Tim Hortons"
chain of coffee and cake shops. Had a nice stay!
© Graeme Garvey September 2002
Journeys in Hacktreks
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