What Do You Do When You Look At The Map, Eh?

If you are looking at the map of North America and stray above the 49th Parallel you give a little start and say

” Oh. Canada…”

And in many cases you will be correct – save perhaps if you go too far north and are looking at Alaska or too far east and are looking at Quebec. Most of the rest is still Canada.

It’s not the Dominion of Canada, except to us old emigrants who cleared out of the place before 1982. The current flag is a red-and-white affair with a maple leaf on it* – symbolising a hockey team that rarely wins. This is considered quintessentially Canadian – both the hockey and the the not winning.

I suspect the current Prime Minister is also somewhat of a red-and-white affair as well, though it is naughty of me to say that. After all, he is someone else’s choice, saviour, and burden, and it’s not for me to mock the afflicted – or their afflictor, either. As Prime Ministers go, he will….eventually…and unless he takes out Australian citizenship I am safe. There is a whole planet full of molten lava between he and I.

I do miss Canada on some October days when the memories of the autumnal woods and the clear air return but then this is the start of Australian spring and the weather turns cheery here too. There is always solace in Canadian Club, maple syrup, and Red Green Show re-runs.

I am a little nonplussed by what our local hoteliers think makes for a Canadian celebration on Dominion Day – 1st of July. There is a great deal of foofle about Clamato and poutine  and no recognition at all of butter tarts. Remember these got a Prime Ministerial vote of approval in the days when Prime Ministers were real. I should be prepared to make a suitable Canadian menu up but some of my friends would be horrified at what was on it. Many of the dishes were developed before there were gluten or food allergies and quite a few of the ingredients were on the hoof, fin, or feather prior to being on the plate.

I shall celebrate the day with a highball and work on a model of a plane for my little RCAF airfield, wearing my plaid shirt, moccasins, and Red Green braces. It might not be the Inner Canadian that the novelists bang on about, but it can at least be the Inner Former Canadian, eh?

* A corporate logo. The old red duster for me. A proper flag with a flag and a crest on it.

 

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Durian Smoothy? Don’t Mind If I Don’t…

Apparently they cleared out a Canberra public library quick-smart today after someone smelled a gas leak. The gas turned out to be an abandoned durian fruit – but the library visitors were probably grateful to be out of the place anyway – such is the reputation of the thing.

I have also seen notices in Singapore prohibiting it in hotel rooms, elevators, and public transport – because of the vile odour it emits. This is said to be somewhere between sewer gas and faeces. Hell of an advertisement for a food, eh?

Hell of an advertisement for the people who want to eat it, as well. I understand that lots of things can be acquired tastes, but acquiring a taste or faeces seems to be a pretty remarkable culinary achievement. What’s next? Franchise hamburgers?

Perhaps it is like the chili-eating contests that pit smartarses against each other to see who can feel worse – while the locals stand around laughing behind their fans. There is a certain cultural revenge inherent in seeing people eat offal and garbage if you have tricked them into it. It’s what accounts for poutine during Dominion Day celebrations outside of Canada.

Wait a minute. I think we’re onto something here. The durian poutine. Faster than a speeding pheromone – able to penetrate submarine hulls – capable of knocking a French Canadian off a gut-wagon…

The Ten Commandments – Canadian Style

  1. Thou shalt refer to ice hockey as hockey. Thou shalt keep the festival of the Stanley Cup holy and undefiled.
  2. Thou shalt refer to gridiron football as football and to round ball football as soccer. Thou shalt keep the festival of the Grey Cup holy and undefiled.
  3. Thou shalt revere the salmon.
  4. Thou shalt revere maple syrup and not scream when thou dost see the price that they are trying to gouge for it.
  5. Thou shalt hate the American President and love the Canadian Prime Minister, no matter who they are and what they do, lest they become one and the same person.
  6. Thou shalt revere the CBC and revile the CBS, even if the shows are much the same.
  7. Thou shalt honour the memory of Ypres and Dieppe but not think  too carefully  about what actually happened – nor why.
  8. Thou shalt quake and tremble before the Lord, thy God, or if the Lord is busy at the time, before his deputies – the politicians of Quebec.
  9. Thou shalt apologise.
  10. Thou shalt glory in being right when that occurs and in being wrong when that occurs and film a documentary on both occasions with harmonica or accordion music.

Take these two tablets and if thy people will not heed, come back up the mountain, eh?

The Day Of Fools

April 1st.

My day. My birthday. April 1st, 1948. And laugh if you will, when I give the signal, but it has always been a pretty good day for me – fool or not.

As a small child the day was always a celebration that had no connection to anyone outside my family and friends. You’re centered in that as a kid. It was only in the latter part of grade school that the significance of the occasion as a national prank day came to my attention.

Of course, in the natural way that school children have, it was seized upon as an excuse to torment me. And I was a little ashamed of the connection – until one person said that they were jealous of me because I would be able to do anything I wanted to others on April 1st morning and get away with it. It was the dawning of, if not wisdom, at least a new career.

Most April Fool jokes are practical to some extent, but short of damage to property, there’s not much of a practical nature that one little kid can do. But if they are inventive, coats can be switched around in cloak rooms, water coolers can be blocked with wadded paper, and similar low-grade japes. If they talk fast and in a complex manner they can infuriate the slower minds without being actually culpable. But they must stop at noon so as not to overstep the immunity.

This year I simply told the staff members at work that their employment contracts were being rescinded in favour of the system of physical slavery. They were advised to practice the phrases ” Yowsah ” and ” Sho Nuff “. When, by accident, the Star Track man delivered three bales of cotton, I left them to it.

 

The Federal Office Of Lickspittle

Once there was a country full of people. And they had a Prime Minister who was also full – but instead of being full of other people, he was full of himself.

This did not bother the people as they were told that the Prime Minister was the best thing since sliced bread. He was the toast of the country…though eventually a lot of people wanted to toast him…some over slow fires.

The PM went from strength to strength, appearing in many different places in many different guises. He espoused many different causes. He wore many ethnic garments. He held a great many plates of what we were told was ethnic food – for the benefit of the press photographers. Whether he ate any of the stuff is unknown – no-one knew if he actually ate anything at all.

He was a good Prime Minister, as Prime Ministers go, and in the course of time it was hoped that he would go. Eventually enough scandal and dishonest dealings were uncovered  to allow this to happen, and he was relegated to the position of not being as good as sliced bread. It remains to be seen if he will be remembered for anything, though we will remember the sliced bread.

Eh?

Just A Phase

I often wonder how many phases I went through as a child and youth that my parents endured…with suffering. I hope not many, as I wouldn’t like to think I was guilty of making their lives hard. But there must have been a few.

The phase of hunger, for example. I remember being in the 9th grade and discovering a hunger for sesame-seed bread. They made standard white loaves of it that you could toast and smear with butter. On a cold night in Canada I think I was able to deplete the pantry in an hour – leaving my mother exasperated when she found the empty bread wrapper. My excuse of ” I just had a few pieces ” was belied by the plastic bag containing nothing but stray seeds.

Girls? I remember a summer of puppy love in a construction site trailer court once – about the eighth grade. It might have been puppy love, but I seem to have been turned into a working dog – I did the dishes for that girl for months. Fortunately the weather turned colder and so did the affection.

Car driving? Well, I was a late starter for driver education and fortunately there was a 4WD and an empty paddock on a farm at which we wintered. I could circle it without hitting anything. It made my subsequent driver training here in Western Australia much easier, though it cured me of any desire for 4WD vehicles or paddocks.

Thankfully, I can look back and not have to feel too guilty. I was never a junior Marxist, nor skinhead, nor religious convert. That was a close-run thing when the Baptists got hold of me, but I moved off to yet another boarding school in time before I was dunked. I never shot anybody, and the creatures I did shoot were cooked and eaten. None of my massive robberies, embezzlement, and frauds were ever detected.

And thankfully that was just a phase…

The Oslo Lunch – Part Two

Lunchtime was a bittersweet experience for me as a child. Oh, not when I was at home –  lunch was lunch, and if there were brown ‘n serve sausages and eggs, chicken noodle soup, or bologna sandwiches, all was right with the world. The problem was at school.

As I mentioned before, some schools in the US and Canada served hot lunches for the students. They were simple meals, with soups, stews, macaroni and cheese, or other staples forming a large part of the menu. There were hot dogs, but rarely hamburgers. There was always some form of vegetable and/or fruit and most school canteens had no carbonated drinks – you got milk, orange, or apple juice. I sometimes ate at the schools that had a lunch canteen and I think my mother appreciated not having to put up sandwiches.

It was only later that I reflected that these lunches might have been the only meal that some of the students got all day. We were not living in inner-city ghettos – these were suburban schools – but there was a level of neglect there that I did not see in the 6th grade. I did get to see it in the 8th grade when we moved to a bush area for dam construction. The camp children were 15 miles from the school and were bussed in by the company, so it was tin lunchboxes and thermos flasks for lunch.

My lunch was varied – soup or beans in the thermos in the winter, milk or juice in the summer. A sandwich, a couple of cookies, and a piece of fruit. The occasional treat of a square of chocolate. I was never hungry at lunch…But I do not know whether the other camp children were as lucky. I know some of the local children from the bush town were not – and lunch time for them was hungry, sad, and pointless.

There were paper sack lunches that seemed to be two pieces of dry bread with uncooked bacon in between. Or jam sandwiches. Or just a candy bar. Or nothing. Part of the hostility I experienced at the time was due to academic achievement and part of it was probably envy at my lunch. I was at a loss as to what to do in either case, so I just kept studying and eating by myself.

In retrospect, I can’t say whether poverty or ignorance or just lack of care was the cause of their problem, but if ever a school needed a lunch program it was Lodgepole Elementary.