Visiting The Old Country From The New Country

How many migrants to and from Europe, Canada, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand have had this experience:

They’ve migrated and worked and saved and succeeded in the new country but always hold a dear memory of the old land. This homesickness has been acute in the first couple of years but worn off somewhat after that – what with new careers, families, and homes. But it starts again at about 15 years and they decide to go back and see the old place.

They plan to make a big trip and see everywhere they used to live – and possibly everyone they used to know. The get on the plane or ship and float on water or air to the old home country. And are horrified to find that it is not there.

Oh, the dirt is still there, and in the case of a lot of places it has crawled halfway up the buildings…but the society and people and nation has so changed from what it was that they are strangers in a wasteland. Worse – if there has been a war go through the place – or a spate of developers – even the buildings they knew do not exist.

Their old friends are dead, or older, and do not have the last 15 years of shared memories to talk over. Only the past – and that can be as dead as the dust. They run out of conversation in 5 minutes. Even if the old language is the same, the speakers are not talking to them.

This is the thought that I took back to the UK when I visited in 1995 – from having once lived in the place in 1973. It was just that way, though there were plenty of tourist activities in which to immerse myself. Would I get any benefit from another visit? Yes, if my current interests could be pursued – the UK is a nice place.

Canada or the USA for me? After 52 years? There’s a big question. An expensive one to answer, too – especially with the fear that seeing my youth gone would age me more. I can do that right now at local prices and wearing comfortable clothes.

Advertisements

Oh, Candida

In honour of the Dominion Day a’coming, I have written a little song that can be played and sung at school assemblies. It is perfectly suitable for Edmonton and Ottawa.

Oh, Candida

 

Oh, Candida, the home of native scams.

True, reasonably patriotic love, if that’s not too strong a word, in all our non-gender specific citizens command. Well, not command as such, but suggest, eh?

With glowing bongs we see thee rise, Trudeau’s North stoned and twee.

From far and wide, we stand aside, we stand aside for thee. Sorry.

God keep us all, even Quebec…

God keep us all from being Yanks, By Heck.

God keep us all from being Yanks, By Heck.

 

Sorry.

 

Poutine – Cultural Cuisine Or Misspelling?

We are just about to encounter Canada Day. It’s the 1960’s revision of the first of July –  Dominion Day – that allows Canadians to make slightly sad cultural asses of themselves throughout the world…or throughout the world that actually notices. This would be about 0.08% of humanity…

Shorn of its fun features – picnics on the shores of freezing lakes, fireworks, and a couple of months off school – Dominion …Oops…Canada day is a time of wild celebration for Canadians overseas. All through Kenya ice hockey and curling is breaking out. The mountains of Holland echo to the sound of gunshots as Canadians open fire on moose. The Indians dedicate another temple to Justin Trudeau and then flush it…

Just kidding. We go out a buy a carton of Molsons or a bottle of rye and some ginger ale and  scuff round the kitchen to see if that recipe for butter tarts has turned up. And we contemplate poutine.

I say contemplate, because I do not know any Canadian overseas who has eaten the stuff. Indeed, I passed a childhood and youth in the Dominion of Canada without ever seeing it, and I lived in Montreal and Chicoutimi for years. I did see strawberry pie in Quebec, but my parents were wise not to let any of it get on me.

Poitine would seem to be French fries with cheese and gravy. I should like to hear the Canadian Heart Association’s take on the dish, as it seems to be comprised of equal quantities of cholesterol, oxidants, and toxins. I am surprised it is not linked to Donald Trump. In an age that views anything other than salad as sin, how has poutine become a star dish? Is it because it is French Canadian, and is therefore excused from any goodness? Is it the culinary version of the Cirque du Soleil?

Well, for me, I shall celebrate Dominion Day with the aforementioned rye highball and something else Canadian enough to do the trick. I am going to get a pound of small fish, split them and roll them in cornmeal, and fry them in Crisco like Fraser River Smelt. Add some PEI potatoes and creamed corn and it will be as close to the True North Strong And Free as you can get in Western Australia. Unless I can gun down an elk on St Georges Terrace.

I may even put up a picture of the current Prime Minister, if I can find the dartboard, eh?

Secede From Success

I suppose I should be grateful to the people of Quebec. I might not have felt so in 1957 when I lived in Montreal and had to endure the indignities of Grade 5. The school system was split between English-speaking teachers and French-speaking ones and there were times when the kids were the football between the teams. Thankfully they had to teach English literature in English and mathematics in numbers and the odd intrusion en Francais could be endured.

Later, the pressure to teach every school child in Canada some French extended out as far as Alberta and British Columbia and I got at least two years of basic grammar in the early 60’s. I can fumble my way through a French magazine if there are pictures with short captions. If there are girlie pictures I fumble slower.

But they did contribute enough political whining and pressure to raise a great debate about ” Bi-culturalism ” and we school kids got onto the gravy train. We wrote essays, made speeches, and in some cases collected free trips to Ottawa to pretend that we were the future of the country. We were overwhelmingly snot-nosed, mealy-mouthed, and cynical, and I guess that if we had pursued that course over the time one of us could be Prime Minister of Canada right now. Come to think of it…

I didn’t win the Ottawa trip on the strength of my speech, but I won a job at the local newspaper doing anything that no-one else wanted to do. I loved it, and it has given me a taste for writing, photography, and cynicism ever since.

Secede? Oh the political pundits sometimes come out with the business of Quebec seceding from Canada and becoming an independent nation. They toy with it every few years…just long enough to get more federal money. The awkward thing is that the rest of Canada may see it as a good idea one day and take them up on it.

On one condition. Quebec gets Trudeau. All the Trudeaus…

The REAL Canadian Measurement System

Sometimes people in the United States look at Canada and laugh. And sometimes it is the other way around. This is commendable, as we all need more laughter in our lives, but in some cases it can be a little misplaced. Like the business of laughing at Canada for adopting metric measurement.

The Wikipedia entry on metrication in Canada is pretty comprehensive about it – and points out that it went very well, but many daily measurements are still in the older Imperial numbers – the railways, photograph sizes, football fields, etc. In fact, if you wanted to, you could cheerfully ignore the metric numbers and use the old ones in your head all the time.

But the Wiki does not tell you about the REAL Canadian measuring system and the units that it uses – a system that has been developed over time using local ingredients for local people. Canadians are not selfish, however, and are more than willing to share them with the world, eh?

The basic unit of the CMS ( Canadian Measuring System ) is the Canada Goose. One of these things:

The Canada Goose was chosen for two reasons – they are reasonably common, and they have the word Canada in the name – the basic insecurity of Canadians is thus assuaged.

The Goose, as it is known in normal speech, is used to measure any number of things:

a. Affection. The number of gooses ( not geese ) that you are prepared to administer and/or endure is a measure of your emotional attachment to another person. Those who neither goose nor are goosed have a more distant approach to life. This distance may be abridged during the Christmas and New Year festive season by the use of alcohol. Not as a rub, eh?

b. Intelligence. ” As silly as a goose. ” is instantly understood by all Canadians and is a base-line measurement of many forms of intellectual activity. ” As silly as Justin Trudeau. ” has not yet entered the national vocabulary to the same extent, but it will only be a matter of time before the voting population realise the connection, eh?

c. Honesty. ” As full of shit as a Christmas goose. ” is also well-understood. It is frequently applied to political figures from all parties  – often when they get on the television and discus economic figures. I know a local female journalist to whom this applies…

d. Acceleration. ” Goose it.” is a technical term for applying more fuel to an engine.

People have often pointed out the fact that there are probably more ducks than geese on the flightways and ponds of Canada in the appropriate seasons and have questioned why they do not figure as a unit of measurement. I’ve no idea, other than to imagine that the Walt Disney cartoon character of Donald Duck reminds them of Donald Trump, and that is politically incorrect. Or the Warner Brothers cartoon character Daffy Duck is black, and they find that they are uncomfortable with that.

But that would be drawing a long bow and sound somewhat loony…and who ever heard of naming something a loonie, eh?

 

 

 

Red Or White? And What Calibre?

I am going to have to screw up my courage here and admit something that few adult Australians ever say; I have no idea about wine. None. None whatsoever.

I know people who are experts. Not just family party experts, but earn a fortune and drive wonderful motor car experts…on the subject of wine. People who can tell you the truth about wine. Indeed, they could tell you lies about wine and you would still believe them…they are that good on the subject. But not me.

I have wondered about it – recently I decided that it was the result of my upbringing – a product of the times and places that formed me. This has made my ignorance sweeter to bear, as it has excused me from feeling that I have let the home team down. The truth is that the home team couldn’t care less about wine.

Let me explain. I am the product of a childhood and youth spent in western Canada in the 1950’s and 1960’s. My parents drank alcohol – responsibly – and taught me to do so as well. They depended upon the native produce of the places where we lived, and this was never wine. Western Canada produced moose, petroleum, and grain, but it did not grow vines. The winters saw to that.

Thus, the drinks of Canada were beer, rye whiskey, and whatever the Yugoslav migrants  decided to distill. The first category was taken care of by Molson and Labatt, the second by Seagram, and the third by Josef Bosich and his mates in the back shed. You could still get conveniently blasted on any of these liquids, but none of them had a hint of overripe passionfruit mixed with dark oak and cinnamon. None of them were a grande cru, and none of the Canadians cared.

Oh, you got fussy rye whiskey drinkers who insisted on 12-year-old Crown Regal and  Bloor Street manners, but a couple of highballs into the evening and it all went to shit anyway. I suppose you can get wine drinkers now that Australia and Croatia export the stuff to the dominion…but those of us who learned to sneak nips from the sideboard in the 50’s and 60’s generally ignore it.

If you want to codify wine for Canadians:

a. Drink red wine with things that you shoot with a rifle.

b. Drink white wine with things that you shoot with a shotgun.

There may be a bit of confusion when it comes to 12 gauge deer slugs in a pump action, but you can always fall back on CC and Molsons and really it all works out even in the end. If you are wondering what you should drink with stuff you have shot with a slug in a .410, you would be better off with a white wine spritzer…

Dominion Day, 2017

Well it is that time of the year again, when all loyal Canadians assemble to make sure the Americans know that we exist. We have been dancing up and down, in our modest sort of way, for the last 200 years to make the point but no-one seems to care. But at least the people who kick-started Ottawa way back when did one thing – they made us a national holiday that is three days before the Yanks’ day and we can get in a little glory before it all rolls over us and swamps us for another year.

Here in Wet Dog we are going to have the traditional parade up Pearson Street ( formerly Diefenbaker Street ). Since the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces and the closing of RCAF WET DOG as a serving station, we have fewer Air Force personnel available for the march, but this year we have organised a fly-past of two Ansons and a Canadair Sabre at 12:00. Apparently they will be in tight formation for only a very brief period of time, so shutterbugs are advised to get their cameras set well before noon. Refreshments at the RCL Lodge 123 Hall will commence at 12:01 and continue until the mounties break it up.

This year we are going to have visits from First Nation representatives and the deputy vice-speaker from the Societeé Nationale de Francais from Chicoutimi, so be sure to give them a great big warm Wet Dog, Alberta welcome. But make sure you don’t get caught.

The July special down at Mangina Motors is snow tires and chains. 50% off if you have them fitted before August. Better safe than sorry, eh?