Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Let It Snow

First snowfall! That deserves a blog post. Technically it was yesterday. I woke up, and everything was white! Only a little though, there was about an inch over everything.

--

So, I've promised to update more often with a few lines, and I found this draft I hadn't published from two months ago which is crazy! Since then there's been a lot more than an inch of snow, we had a few feet before Christmas but while I was away in England it calmed down a bit, and recently there's hardly been any. But we had another dump a couple days ago. Right now it's very very very cold, Friday was -9 and with windchill it felt like -33. Yesterday wasn't so windy.

I was hanging around outside the library by the washrooms, trying to get skype to work, and a girl asked me to watch the door to the loo because it wouldn't lock. I said sure, and she said, 'are you from England?' Turned out she's on a transfer from Manchester university, here for a term. She introduced me to her friend Helen, who's from Oxford as well! She went to Cherwell, across the road from OHS, and her dad lives around the corner from mum. Small world :) we went to a party last night, and she's great fun. The party was for the Daily, because they'd got a lot of free beer. I talked to the Culture editors about applying to be editor at the end of this term, and one of them said they were all hoping I would run, and a news editor said I should be on edboard, so all in all I'm pretty excited about it. I'll start doing more work in the office, editing articles, writing more, finding my own pitches, generally being resourceful... I have an article to write at the moment about nuns in Montreal, should be really interesting.

I've applied for a few jobs: an upmarket stationary store, a baker at Tim Horton's (really hoping for that one, if they need people!), layout on a student science paper, and a 'marketing' position which I'm finding out more about tomorrow. I don't think I'll do it though, it's going door-to-door selling paint jobs, and you get paid on commission and apparently it works out to roughly $10 an hour. Which is silly, because it would cost me $5 on the subway to get there, and spend an hour wandering around houses in the cold, and I'm not sure how good I'd be at it. But maybe I could do it a couple hours a week to supplement something else...

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

One Day Like This

Auntie Sarah came with Zoe on Friday! It was so great. I bumped into Emma right before they arrived at the Student Union building, so they met, which was lovely. We went for lunch at this Italian place (we just decided on a whim to go in). It was so yummy, but there was a mistake in the bill (charging $17 for a half portion of a $20 meal) so we made a stink about the bill and saw the manager and got a reduction and then tipped the waitress extravagantly.  Then we went looking for the really fancy department store Holt Renfrew.  We found it eventually, and it was bizarre being in a shop like that where sweaters cost as much as two months' worth of my budget... There were hilarious Christmas window displays, of swans in tuxedos.

The next morning I went for breakfast with them and the friends they were staying with - Sarah's friend, her daughter who's Zoe's age and her newborn son. It was delicious, I had blueberry pancakes, sausages and an apple pie smoothie which was insanely good. The restaurant was decorated like a 50s diner with the perfect amount of kitsch, I loved it. Then we said goodbye... and I really did nothing all Saturday. Saturday night was just regular, watching bad tv and walking for hours with Emilio, Emma and Mayumi looking for a bar. We got all the way into Mile End, before coming back to the Plateau. We ended up in a place called Barfly with a really amazing piano player, I haven't enjoyed live music so much for a while, and I'd forgotten how much I love ragtime.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Mowgli's Road

So I fully intended to study on Saturday. I got all my books together and went to the cafe attached to a funeral home, but it was all full up, so I wandered around looking for an empty place. But I couldn't find one, and ended up walking and walking and taking pictures, and I got as lost as it is possible to get in the Plateau (all the streets are on a grid, so you can always find a road you know and walk down it until you recognise where you are) and ended up at Parc LaFontaine, where Emilio and Blair and I picnicked back on Labour Day. The pond was empty, the trees were almost bare, the ground was orange...












Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Circus

Yesterday evening I studied in the library from 4-8, which drove me sort of insane. I chatted to Peter via facebook though, that was fun. He told me some very offensive jokes. I went home and ate more lentil/rice patties, then went over to Blair's house and we made smores under the broiler, and I met a couple new people from different residences which was great. We watched this movie: video
and then I went to bed. It's 9:40am now and I've had a very productive morning reading a whole novella I have to be familiar with for a test on Monday. It's sort of grey outside, but I'm going to go get some milk and syrup because I feel like pancakes.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Sweets for my sweet

Yesterday was Guy Fawkes, of course, so I brought the celebrations across the ocean :) I couldn't get hold of any fireworks. But Emma, Emilio and a girl called Kathleen with whom we've been hanging out more gathered in Emilio's kitchen and made toffee apples. It was quite an undertaking, hot melted sugar everywhere! My feet got really really warm because my aunt Marina sent me amazing sheepskin-lined boots, which are too cosy to take off, so I'm all set for the snow that isn't here yet.

Today I went to work in the Midnight Kitchen again, as per. These new people were in making Kenyan food, which was amazing, and I helped start a lemon and poppyseed cake that was not very good at all. We haven't made good cake in a while. It's hard without eggs or butter.

Now I'm off to study - a test on Monday and another one on Wednesday! It doesn't stop. But no big plans for the weekend.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

This is Halloween

My first North American halloween! It was a big deal. Saturday morning we went for a walk - a miserable walk, it was so rainy - and so many houses were full-out decked in cobwebs and pumpkins and stuff. We went to a great cafe about a mile away called Cagibi, because we had wanted to go to this jumble sale where you buy a bag for $3 and fill it up with anything you can find, but it wasn't on. Then I went to a second-hand store (called 'friperies' here) which had a special rental section open for costumes, because two friends needed them. One was the Picture of Dorian Gray, the other was Margot Tenenbaum. I went home via the grocery store and bought a squash because they were out of pumpkin :( but someone in my house had a pumpkin and gave it to me, so I made my mum's pumpkin pangrato recipe really nicely. It's such a comfort food.

1kg pumpkin or butternut squash
3 cloves of garlic
5 tablespoons of olive oil
a mild red chilli
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
the zest of half an orange
a handful of roughly chopped parsley leaves
4 handfuls of fresh white bread crumbs
40 g butter and a tad more olive oil

set the oven at 180 C/gas mark 4
Peel the squash discarding the seeds and fibres.
Cut the flesh into large bite-size bits and steam for 15-20 mins till tender (nb it never takes that long in the steamer)
Finely chop the garlic and put it in a shallow pan with the olive oil over a moderate heat (nb son’t leave the oil to long to heat up or it will be too hot and the garlic will burn on contact!)
Thinly slice the chilli and add to the pan with the rosemary and orange zest.
Tip in the parsley and breadcrumbs and stir while they colour lightly – no darker than a pale biscuit.
Put the pumpkin in a shallow baking dish or roasting tin, salt and pepper it, then add the butter in small knobs.
Tip the breadcrumbs over and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 35-40 mins until the crumbs are deep gold and the pumpkin meltingly tender.

(originally from here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2007/nov/25/foodanddrink.recipes) everyone in my house was really surprised I was making a savoury pumpkin dish, it's really more of a dessert thing here.

I got dressed up in my costume! I was Charmander the pokemon:


because Mayumi and I had found pokemon costumes at a halloween warehouse next door to a cinema when we turned up really early for the Keats biopic, Bright Star.

This is what we looked like:



We all gathered at Rue Clark and hung out for a while, eating incredible pumpkin cheesecake that Sheehan had made. Then we went out to a loft party but it was kind of dull, so I left and Emilio came with me but then he moaned for a bit about wanting to go back. I said he could but I wouldn't, and unintentional reverse-psychology seemed to work because he came with me. It was only 1am and we wanted to do something, so we climbed the mountain. Or rather, scaled, because we didn't use the path but hauled ourselves up a steep incline by grabbing on to trees and rocks. But we got all the way to the cross at the top, the first time I have, and we were the two highest people in Montreal because no building is allowed to be built higher than the summit of the mountain. The view was incredible. Here's me and the cross.



We came down after a while, and the hour had gone back (a week later than in England, yes) so we went to Second Cup for hot chocolate. Then we were tired, and went to bed.

The next day I set out for a walk because it was so beautiful outside. I really wished I had a camera. I walked to a second hand clothing store that was highly recommended, and bought a cardigan. There was a really nice tam-o-shanter, but it was $25 and I could knit it myself. When I mentioned this, the owner of the shop got really excited and started drawing up a business plan for how I'm going to make tons of them and sell them on campus. Whizzer. I sat in a square entirely carpeted with yellow leaves and read three chapters of my environment and culture textbook, and felt very virtuous. On my way back, almost right outside the friperie, I ran into Emilio and Emma. So we joined forces and went to a second-hand French bookstore and a really really yummy vegetarian restaurant where you fill up a plate at the buffet and they charge you by weight. After that, we hit up the army surplus stores. Lots and lots of funny hats.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Little Time

Hmmm. It's been over a month. How rotten of me.

Big events that need covering:

My Birthday! It was very low-key. I skype-celebrated with my dad over breakfast, then ran off to French at 8:30am. At 9:30 I had another class, but I have a friend in that one so it was nice because it was my first out-loud happy birthday. We cooked at the midnight kitchen, and they made extra-special effort with the cake and I got extra portions :) I don't actually remember what I did in the afternoon.
In the evening, I went across the road and everyone I actually like came over, so it was quiet and small and perfect. Emilio had made carrot cake, and it was so so good. There were balloons and presents and it was great.

The next weekend was Thanksgiving! Blair and I skipped our (non-obligatory) philosophy conference, and took the train (business class!) to Toronto. I had a gin and tonic and roasted tilapia, and it was all free. We ate brownies. It was grey and rainy outside but the trees were so beautiful. I arrived early evening and went for dinner with my godparents, then back to my grandparents' house. On Saturday morning I met Emilio for breakfast (I had pie) because he was visiting his family too. So I wandered around an area I'd never seen before which was really nice. We went back to my grandparents' house for lunch, and the conversation turned inevitably to immigrants but it wasn't a disaster, and then we dropped him off at the subway on our way to MUSKOKA! We arrived at Sarah and Mark's cottage before dark, in time for yummy Mexican food, and being around little kids again was really weird. I haven't associated with anyone younger than 17 in two months... Lots of playing, lots of watching Hannah Montana, lots of adoration :P

The next day, it SNOWED really and truly, and it was beautiful. I ran down to the lake and watched it blowing across the water and it was epic. Then I came back and sat in front of the fire and drank hot chocolate and really it was pretty perfect. Thyra and John came over in the afternoon and we had Thanksgiving Dinner which was the best thing I've eaten in a very long time, it was indescribable.

Sunday evening we drove to Thyra and John's island. Or rather, we drove to the dock and took the boat. The stars were so clear. We had samosa snacks and played Yahtzee and the quietness was great. Three little girls under 5 is a bit full-on! The next day was similarly quiet, reading and eating cinnamon rolls and drawing. We took a walk all over the (very small) island, and I went on the swing. We drove back to Toronto that evening.

The next day I made cookies, went to the grocery store with my grandmother, packed... I had moved my train to 3pm so I wouldn't get back at stupid o'clock. Seeing family was just what I needed, it was an amazing weekend. But I fell back into routine very quickly!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Fluorescent Adolescent

It's been far far far too long since I last updated. Sorry. Following on from where last post stopped...

I have a bike! It's blue. I found it on Craigslist for $65, and the brakes were rubbish. So I took it to Santropol Roulant bike collective - you pay $5 and you can use all their equipment and volunteer expertise to fix your bike, and they sell supplies too. So I now know how to replace a brake cable. Genius.

Two weekends ago was (oh never mind. I'm using names because I'm sick of establishing clever acronyms) Emma's birthday (Emma being the girl who joined Blair and Emilio (the across-the-road friends) and I at Parc La Fontaine last post). Emilio's friend was supposed to be throwing a party, but we never heard details, so we just went to Gavin and Sheehan and Clio's (the off-campus friends, sometimes called the Clarks because of where they live and their names being a bit of a mouthful, but it's not really sticking as a nickname) and before we knew it it was 2am. We wanted noodles. So we walked down St Laurent until we found a restaurant selling them out of their window, and ate them on the curb as Emma turned 19. Then we were advised to move along by community officers... so we went to a bar until closing time (not for long, because closing is at 3am). We were about ten yards from the apartment when these two crazy Quebecers jumped out of a car and started screaming at us to go away because they thought we were kicking their friend's Bentley. Then they insisted we had dented it, and 'called the police'. So we had to hang around trying to reason with them (or just shut them up) because every time we tried to go home they followed us. The police never came, obviously, and some time about 4am they disappeared. By that time there wasn't much point in going to bed. So Clio, Emilio, Emma and I decided to climb the mountain to see the dawn. Dawn came too early, so our dawn view was th ground-level view of the Montreal skyline:



(Blair took this)

It was chilly, we wrapped up in a blanket and climbed onto the roof of my house and lazed around there for a bit, then went to a breakfast restaurant called Chez Cora's. They have breakfasts for under $5 before 8am, I had french toast and bacon and hash browns and it was so good. Then I slept.

Last week passed so quickly, I can't believe it. My classes are settling into routine. We watched a hilarious video in Environment and Culture about hunting in the Northern Kalahari. Some men spent an hour of video time hunting one giraffe (occasionally killing a chameleon on the way, at which the narrator said 'the chameleon makes its best speed... but it is not enough' while the chameleon's foot moved about half an inch, very slowly). Finally they found the giraffe and spent a while throwing spears at it point-blank. Another jewel of narration: 'if the men are tired, it does not matter. For the giraffe is more than tired. It is already dead.' And the giraffe keeled over backwards. Sheehan and I were the only ones laughing, I think... or at least, suppressing hysterics.

I bought some bananas really cheaply (they were slightly green) and kept them in a dark cupboard for two days, and they went mushy and brown. Perfect excuse for banana muffins! Emma, Emilio, Sheehan and Gavin came round and we had a muffin picnic in my room.

The weather has been very wobbly. I always dress wrongly... yesterday was so hot and muggy, but it was raining in the morning so I wore a coat and tights. By the afternoon it was unbearable, so when I went out again (to Saint Laurent and St Catherine to help Emilio research a newspaper article for the McGill Daily) I wore shorts and a tshirt. Then it tipped down, heaviest rain I've been in for ages, and we got so soaked. We ran into a cafe and dripped on their floor and bought the cheapest kind of coffee and dried off with paper napkins. It was movie-watching weather, so we bought snacks and made pasta and watched Skins and The Fall with Emma. Clio came around (without Gavin and Sheehan, who were back home inventing a cult called Celestialism) and we stayed up very late doing not much at all.

Today was my second day volunteering at the Midnight Kitchen - a student-run vegan kitchen that serves pay-as-you-can lunches to 'combat the spread of consumerism through chain restaurants on campus'. It involves lots of chopping vegetables, and the people are great. The food is yummy too, but it always needs salt. They make the most amazing cakes from whatever fruit is donated by grocery stores.

This weekend will be busy - I have a paper on Aristotle due the Monday after my birthday weekend, so I want to get a good start on it. And I'm doing an article for the culture section of the McGill Daily, part of a sequence on bike tours around different parts of the city, so I have to go to the Town of Mount Royal. I'll post the article here as an explanation, once I've done it.

I hope that's a satisfactory compensation for almost three weeks of silence... :D

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A Sunday Smile

Let's see, this weekend... the weather has been amazing. And this weather coupled with Montreal being the sort of city it is means that there's been so much to do. I'm starting to realise how much fun it will be (how much fun it already is) living here - there isn't just one shopping street, with the same shops every time. We went down St Laurent on Saturday to go vintage shopping and found some really interesting one-off stuff. There's this place that piled high with so much stuff, a bit like Unicorn in Oxford but actually with some rails, and one room was empty with some chairs around the edges, a mound of junk in the window, and a really out-of-tune piano on which someone was playing La Dispute from the Amelie soundtrack. We kept on down St Laurent and got a massive craving for burgers and milkshakes, so we went to this really tacky diner called Nickel's that was actually very fancy. The sort of place with paintings like The Last Supper with Marilyn Monroe and Elvis instead of the disciples, and dogs playing poker. On the way home, we found exactly the same poster lying on the pavement, so my off-campus friends took it for their apartment. In the evening, we went to a rockabilly concert. It was the best fun!! The support acts were seriously country, so there was much fun dancing, and then the main act was these people:

http://www.myspace.com/thecockroaches

It was the sort of music I've never seen live, I've pretty much only heard it on the soundtrack to Grease and Back To The Future and stuff, so it was amazing.

Sunday was just more hanging out... we went to the tam tams again, and stayed longer this time, just lying on the grass. Then we went to a grocery store that imports things from Europe and I bought some chocolate hobnobs :D It was some big festival day for the Portuguese church (my off-campus friends (I'll capitalise that, it's becoming more of a moniker, O-CFs) live in Little Portugal) so we sat on the balcony and watched the brass band pass. In the evening my housemates held a party, which was fun once it got going. About midnight we went across the street to hang out on the deck, and the chain on which I had my room key snapped, and fell through the crack in the deck... so I had to sleep on their couch. And in the morning, I and a girl from the house made a paperclip chain and spent ages trying to pull it up. The other girl finally managed on her turn. She had it balanced on the paperclip hook but we didn't know if it would fit through the crack, so I went to get tweezers to help. When I came back the deck was empty, I couldn't see her, but I heard her shouting 'I've got it!' from downstairs so I looked and she was waving a key at me while being hugged by various members of her extended family, who had just arrived. So I pelted down the stairs and must have looked very odd still in my borrowed pyjama bottoms got my key. What a saga. So I'm going to bake her something because I was very happy! I went back to my room, had a shower, a nap, got bored, and went around to take the philosophy course outline back to an across-the-road friend (ah-ha. An A-T-RF). She was just sitting around reading Aristotle, and she texted the other friend, who came down saying 'Why did you text me? I was in my room!' and I said 'we should do something. Let's go for a picnic'. So we walked up to Parc La Fontaine. On the way we stopped at the O-CFs' place but they said they'd only just got up (it was 3:30pm) and needed to do laundry. So that was dull. We walked up this beautiful street Duluth, which hardly looks like a road because the pavement and the street are paved the same way with little red bricks, and the houses are so colourful and there are hardly any cars. We bought sushi, olives, hummus, pistachios, limes and tonic water, and all this coupled with my pitta, leftover Boursin and gin made an amazing picnic. We sat on the grass by the big pond watching the fountain, feeding squirrels pistachios, trying to chase away the seagulls and reading Nicomachean Ethics. Another girl joined us - we met her on Friday and she's started hanging out with us a lot, which is great because she's really lovely - and we sat around until about 6:30pm when we walked back. We stopped by the O-CFs and had impromptu vegetable chilli which was delicious.

Then we went out to study at a coffee shop. This is what I really love about Montreal, that everything is always open. In England, I'm not sure you could find a beautiful independent coffee shop reminiscent in decoration to the Grand Cafe that's open until 1am on Labour Day, with free wifi that's actually easy to connect to (without faffing around with BTOpenzone junk). We stayed until closing time, half-studying, half-watching infomercials for sunglasses and razors and the SlapChop! without sound. I got a moccacino, it was yummy.

I'm off bike-hunting today! I looked on Craigslist and have found some very promising bikes. I'm meeting two people today (or, maybe only one if the first meeting is successful), it's very exciting. I'll put up photos if/when I get one :) I'm really looking forward to cycling more, it's such a great city to cycle around and there's so much more to see by bike, you can go further. Although I've enjoyed walking a lot too. The problem is, it's all on the right here, so I'll have to practice a bit first on quieter streets.

I've got class in about 40 minutes so I'm off now to get some breakfast. I have no groceries...

Friday, 4 September 2009

Long Ago

I wrote the following posts when I was still in Toronto, and I've finally gotten around to posting them... :)

(The first one below is quite unnecessarily wordy, because I wanted to practice typing on my new laptop)

August 9th, 2009
I've done it! I've got a netbook! An Asus eee PC 1008HA. Unfortunately, it's Windows (:O) not Linux. Installing Linux sounded really complicated when the computer guy explained it, so I don't know if I will. But there's very little I can do at the moment on this thing; without internet I can't get Open Office or iTunes, so I'm typing in Notepad and it lets you save it as a .doc, which I was surprised about.

Anyway, here's the story of how I got it.
Grandfather drove dad, Porco Negro (Brother's new codename) and I to Downsview subway station, and we got the subway to St George. It was so hot, it's like the tropics out there today. The subway was not busy and not eventful. I started a new Dorothy L Sayers mystery, which I like simply by virtue of the detective being called Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey (about as good as Baron Maximilian Darock de Hildeban, whose main advantage over Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey is that he's real). Our destination: the University of Toronto bookstore and computer shop. They had no qualms about selling me a laptop despite me not being a student (whatismore, being a student of a rival university) which I thought was really lovely of them. A nice bald (by choice, I'm sure, he was quite young) man helped me to choose between this Asus and a Toshiba, which was nice and slightly thinner but had a mahusive hinge on the back, which I think formed the battery encasement. Porco Negro and I took it home on the subway (all alone, oooooh, my grandmother was convinced we'd get raped but we just played Bejewelled on the iPhone) and walked back from the subway station. It was like every hot summer tramp through overheated, gasping suburbia you've ever imagined, like Stand By Me with Queen Anne's Lace and prosperity, and I loved it. I almost thought we were lost, then I realised we weren't. I opened the box as soon as I got home to general ooohs and aaahs. It's Windows, so of course there's nothing on it, but notepad works fine for blogging. At least, I type the entries and I'll upload them later.

August 9th, 2009, 8:29pm

I'm in the car driving through northern Ontario to the cottage. Everything's so green, it was like England but the trees have changed now from deciduous to mainly coniferous, and there are outcrops of rock everywhere. We're on the Precambrian Shield, shaped by glaciers during a few ice ages, and the lakes are quite like the Lake District ones: long and thin, although it's not mountainous at all because the mountains got flattened down too, I think. We took a pit-stop and I had 3 inches of a Subway sub, my first of the trip, chicken and lettuce and red onion and tomato on wholewheat, shared with Porco Negro. It's neat using this for the first time on the move, on my lap in the backseat. We're not having the second thunderstorm we were promised, rather, it's a beautiful evening with a big red sun. It's a bit cool though, but perfect for a bonfire. My aunt's ordered pizza which will be waiting for us when we arrive. Pizza delivery in the middle of nowhere, just because rich Torontonians gather there in their masses every summer to zip around in luxury speedboats and wear Ralph Lauren and buy tomatoes for a dollar each, or something crazy. Staying in Muskoka equals living a different life for a couple of weeks, I love it.


Porco Negro made a background for my computer while I was out picking my dad up from Yorkdale, and there's a poem on it:

maybe im not the
summer sun on a
river in the wood.
But i do love you
quite a lot so i
hope this
background's as
good. (As afore
mentioned scenes)

I thought it was sweet. Its tone is quite reminiscent of my marvellous haikus.

We've taken a bet on when we'll arrive. Porco Negro says 8:45, dad says 8:54, and I'm on 9:11. I really hope I'm wrong; there's no prize for me to win, and I want to get there sooner rather than later.

At this point, this post is really just ramblings to keep me occupied and test out the keyboard, which is absolutely fantastic. Probably about 94% full size. But it's breaking my heart that the lid is picking up smudges so quickly. Right. Time to stop, since I'm sure you're bored, and I need to practise my mad Minesweeper skillz. I got down to 2 little squares, one of which I knew was a mine and the other was not, and I clicked the wrong one :(


August 17th, 2009
Rainy Night House

We went to town today! Not much of a town, just Bracebridge, of which I had already seen enough after driving through it three times looking for Indian Head Marina. But this time was better, because we had lunch at a Japanese restaurant called Wabora, which is where the G8 are going to eat in 2010, and they’re in for a treat. I got a beef teriyaki bento and it had beef on steamed vegetables, a mound of rice, shrimp tempura, potato tempura, squash tempura, salad, California rolls and a fancily-cut orange, each in their own little box, and all for $15. It was amazing. I want to eat there for the rest of my life. But maybe only once a day.

After dinner we sat on the dock and waited for the thunderstorm. We could hear the rain on the mainland and watched the wind build - the trees behind us were perfectly still, but beyond the shelter of the natural cove where the dock is the water was rippling. The rain came suddenly from behind, so the sky ahead of us was still pale blue tinged with pink and the clouds were white and wispy. Everyone else went inside when the rain got heavy, but Porco Negro and I stayed singing ‘Rule Britannia!’ and ‘Some Speak Of Alexander’, until my dad ordered us in. Then I exercised my right as an 18 year old, then he said ‘not while you live under my roof,’ then I said ‘I don’t,’ and he said ‘Nooooooooooooo!’ and I sat on the dock in the rain. But it was epically anti-climactic and stopped after only a couple of minutes. So I jumped in. It was the best swim of the summer, with the added bonus of giving me confidence that if I fall off a boat with my clothes on, I’ll still be able to swim perfectly well. I floated on my back and blew out my breath in bubbles, and my body started to sink. Try it (it’s best if you wear goggles) - it’s the creepiest feeling.

Then I had a shower and we watched The Secret Life Of Bees, which is really good because it’s one of the most accurate films of a book I’ve ever seen. Except I didn’t like the ending, it was too sentimental and came too soon after the climax, and missed my favourite bit of the book.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Ship Out On The Sea

I'm here! It's been ages since my last post because I've been so busy, but I've heard through the grapevine that I have some avid readers in East Boldon, one of whom is about to reach the grand age of 79. Many happy returns of the day.

Last week was 'Frosh Week'. That's Canadian for freshers. Of course it was completely manic, but far more organised craziness than I thought it would be. There was a pack every student got, with a tshirt and fliers and a beer mug, and you got put into groups to do activities. Well. I was supposed to be in group 37, but group 27 adopted me, then I joined group 25 because a friend was there, then I kind of abandoned the groups all together, and the next day I had no idea where I was, but most people were doing exactly the same thing. Here's the schedule, with annotations:

Wednesday August 26th
16:30-17:00: Check-in on Lower Field
17:00-18:00: Dinner on Lower Field (a misnomer, it was impossible to get food)
18:00-21:00: Pub Crawl around Montreal (I never want to visit so many 'Irish Pubs' again in my life. This mainly consisted of 100 teenagers squeezed into a room meant for 20, downing really cheap beer - well, free because we paid for Frosh, but cheap for the organisers - in 2 minutes before being hurried to the next bar.)

Thursday August 27th
9:00-11:00: Brunch and Games on Lower Field (I slept in and ate cereal instead, because I knew there wouldn't be any food)
12:00-14:00: Scavenger Hunt (I meant to do this, but I got distracted watching North and South)
14:00-18:00: Dinner and Carnival on Lower Field (my friends and I pretended we were Jewish because the line for kosher hotdogs was really short, and they were so yummy. There were bouncy castles as well, but no one was going on them)
19:00-21:00: Boat Cruise on the St Lawrence (this was completely the highlight of Frosh week for me. It was so much fun, hundreds of people on a really big boat going down this really wide river with beautiful views of the city in the dark, and a really good DJ)

Friday August 28th
10:00-16:00: Beach Day at Beach Club (I didn't go because you had to be on campus for the bus at 8am. So I went across the road to my friends' house where they have a huge deck outside, and we had our own beach party there. I went grocery shopping as well. It was really fun.)

My room is really feeling like my room now, it's lived in. I need to vacuum though, the carpet hides dirt very well and when I moisturised my legs, loads of gunk stuck to them so I had to go shower again.

I love living in a residence without a meal plan - I've been cooking so much. One of my friends from across the street is a bit of a fancy cook, and we roasted a chicken on Saturday because it was only $5 at Marche Lobo (the cheapest grocery store I've ever been in; grapes are $1 and garlic is 35 cents for 3 bulbs and big tins of tomatoes are 99 cents and lychees are $1.99/lb and etc.) and we made chicken stock on Sunday and made risotto, and then he made chicken stock again a couple days later with a carcass he stole from his housemates, and we made soup. We've also made scallops, and quiche, and really, it's very fancy. I haven't eaten dinner in my own house since I got here though, usually we (me, and my two friends from the other house) visit our other friends who live off campus on the Plateau, about 10 minutes away. It's much nicer there, because there aren't 17 people all trying to cook dinner at the same time with three hobs and one sink... Yesterday their flatmate made apple pie and it was incredible.

I've changed my courses around a bit. I dropped Italian - it would be far too much work for something that I was only taking out of mild interest, and it was at the same time as the French course I got put in (I had to take a placement test, which was quite easy but I was stupidly quick about it and could have done better if I'd just checked it, and read stuff properly). I'm also doing Moral Philosophy (I haven't had a class in it yet, my first one is tomorrow. I'm really excited because I know nothing about philosophy, and two of my friends are taking it too). I've had two Prehistoric Archaeology classes and they're so much fun, the professor is really good. I know three people in that class, one of whom lives with me and another of whom is my friend who came here from Oxford with me, which is fun. I've also had two Old English classes, and I like them but I'm not certain I'll continue because with French I might have too many classes (there's officially not a spot for me in French, but I'm going to try to get in anyway). And I'm doing Environmental Anthropology, which isn't just about climate change but also how people respond to their environment, I think. I haven't had a class yet, but I've bought the books and they look interesting. The textbook for my Prehistoric Archaeology class is over $100!! That's quite common here, but I haven't bought it yet because I need to do some mental preparation to make myself pay that much...

This weekend is a three-day weekend because of Labour Day. Genius. The weather is incredibly hot, so I think we'll have a picnic or something on the mountain, and there's a plan to go to the Biodome, which is like a zoo but all enclosed with different themed sections. I think. I haven't been before. I haven't felt homesick yet at all, but it's still all the excitement of beginning school. I think it'll hit me in a couple of weeks, maybe. But I'm glad - being homesick would have ruined these first weeks and I would have hated that.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Dancing Queen

My mum emailed me my exam results and I've been smiling like a crazy person all morning. I know it's not the done thing to say what you got (why not? I don't know). I got what I was expecting.

Yesterday, I went to Canada's Wonderland with Porco Negro and the two older Toronto cousins. It was so much fun! But really busy, since it was about 30 degrees all day. We went on four rides in five hours. The best of them was the Behemoth, this new rollercoaster that's just insane. The first drop is the highest in the park, I don't know how high exactly, but high enough that just when you think you can't take any more dropping, it doesn't stop.

I saved that post as a draft 3 days ago because I ran out of time. Now I'm in residence!! I picked up my key earlier than I thought I could, and moved in some stuff on Saturday. Then this morning I went to IKEA with my parents and Porco Negro (my mum arrived yesterday evening; we picked her up from the airport and got a sandwich at Subway and the server refused to speak to me in French, he kept replying in English every time I tried to speak French to him) and got lots of goodies and my room is like a real home now!! Here are some pictures.




It's 1:30am now. I've introduced the house to the joys of Pimm's and Angel's Delight (a hit with girls more than boys). It's so hot. I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Midnight Show

I dreamed that mosquitos were biting me, and I woke up and my legs were on fire. I plunged them under the cold tap and realised I couldn't sleep. It's 2:54am and I haven't been up this early in a long time. I've had a glass of water and two tomatoes and a peach and a cookie, and it's nice being up all alone.

The reason my mosquito bites are particularly bad is that I have at least 15 on one leg alone, and it's a similar case all over, because I went mountain biking yesterday in a very hot, very humid forest. I did not like it. I loved cycling on the flat where you could look up at the trees without getting clotheslined by a branch, or tripping over a tree root, but when it got all bumpy it was really not my thing. I fell over, which was embarrassing enough, but even more so given the fact that I was walking at the time. But I have a very impressive graze on my right arm.

Afterwards, we went to a Mexican-Japanese fusion restaurant and it was really good. I had a trout tempura sandwich and churros. My grandmother had a cardiac catheterisation yesterday to inflate a balloon in her heart (which I think is called and angioplasty), but she was out the same evening.

I would go outside and see if there are any stars if I weren't afraid of a raccoon jumping out and mauling me. Not really. I think I'll just watch tv. Maybe a season of America's Next Top Model will be showing back-to-back.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

My Favourite Things

Yes, I've changed the titles of my posts. Maybe you can see a pattern.

Two days ago we went to visit the family of the boy who works at the meat counter in the local supermarket and is going to McGill - in the end it wasn't as weird as all that because we went to their house and they were expecting us. Their cottage was beautiful, over 100 years old (rare for around here, I think, most of the old places are all wooden and they burn down) and really cosy. There were four girls there all younger than Porco Negro and me who took us 'clustering', a crazy version of tubing that they made up because their tube broke. They had tied a small plastic lifesaver, a buoy, a pool noodle and a half-deflated giant rubber whale to lengths of rope and you held on to one of these things and got pulled along by a motorboat until you fell off. It was insane. Then we watched Heroes; it was the first time I'd watched any from the beginning and I'm a little bit hooked.

Yesterday was spa day... it was so good. I had a massage, and there was a whirlpool and a sauna and steam room and free dried apricots. I went with my aunt, and afterwards we drove to Indian Head Marina to meet my uncle in the boat to visit friends. At least, we tried to find it but ended up in Bracebridge, twice, after driving past the sign, twice (the words were so tiny we didn't realise the marina was where it was). It took us about 2 hours. Hmm. It was a different lake, and it was so choppy like boat wake was hitting the dock constantly. And yesterday night, PN, my dad and I went for dinner at a really nice place for his birthday (which was actually ages ago) and I had scallops!! Which are my favourite thing right now. But they weren't the best I've ever tasted.

Tomorrow I'm off to my other aunt's island nearer Bracebridge for a couple of days, which will be really nice, to be honest, because it'll be so calm...

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Dancing In The Moonlight

The power's out until 10pm (it's now 7:50pm) so I should be quick because the remaining power on the laptop has to be shared. Today has been just a regular day in cottage-land, I drove the boat back from the marina went we got ice cream, which is always fun. It's easily as powerful as a small car (and fast - we usually go between 30-40mph), I've no idea why you don't need a license for it but I don't mind :) It's been so hot all day though, I'm really lethargic. Tomorrow we might go to Port Carling, where the son of a friend of my dad's older sister works at the meat counter at the IGA, and is going to McGill this year, and if my dad doesn't get a reply from this friend-of-a-sister, he's going to go to the meat counter and ask for her son and take it from there. I would find that weird. Wouldn't that be weird? If you were working at a meat counter and a guy you've never met comes up and says 'I don't know you, I don't really know your mum but my sister did, forty years ago'...

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Up On Cripple Creek

Turns out they have internet here! Who said that the true cottage experience should be a getaway from technology? The weather was a bit cold and grey this morning, but it's gorgeous now so I can sunbathe, score. I had really yummy pizza last night, with goat's cheese and roasted onions and peppers. So good, and I was surprised with myself :) Later we're going to get ice cream from the seriously quaint local town, either there or the marina, I'm not sure yet. Either is good, although with the latter I'll get to drive the speedboat! Photos to follow, and there'll be plenty more updates, including two I wrote on my laptop to test it out in the car yesterday, which I need to transfer to this computer. The only memory stick I have is the genius Take That-stocked one Jessie gave me; I hope there's room for a Word document on it, because I'm certainly not taking any of the videos off it :)

Cousin 2 has a splinter in her foot, but refuses to get it taken out. Much tears. I had a really good cocktail down at the dock - Smirnoff Ice, lemonade and pomegranate juice, or pomtini, or something. And the hot tub's working. It's so amazing outside I'm not going to hang around here any longer!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of


Having said I won't be able to post very often from now until I arrive in Montreal, I now find myself posting more. Not in a conscious attempt to compensate in advance, but because my dad insists on working more than I thought he would and there's nothing else to do. We left the house at 8am to get here (the 'here' still being my grandfather's office)- not exactly sure why it needed to be that early, but I was up anyway because of jetlag - and it is now 11:55am. I have read the entirety of 'The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily' by Dino Buzzati (highly recommended, but set aside a couple of hours in Borders to read it because it was 15 pounds. There's no sign on this keyboard for that.)

Here's an excerpt:

Now begins a hurly bur-
Ly, shrieks and yells and << Sauve qui peut! >>
One runs away, one leaps the ramparts
And falls into the ditch's damp parts.
All shout orders contradictory,
Pride has a fall and bears have victory.

It's not actually all a poem.

With glistening eyes, high dignitaries and important personages bare their heads in silence. Look, even Professor Ambrose's beard is quivering. Is there no hope for the young bear?

I also went netbook-hunting, and I think I'm going to get the ASUS eeePC 1008HA. But I need to find an electronics shop where I can try them out, as opposed to the small office in a giant building with a nice man who found stuff on the internet for me, but didn't actually seem to have any computers for sale. Maybe I'll phone him later and see if he can order it in, so I can support small businesses.

Voulez Vous (The Visitors)


It's 9:07am and I'm in my grandfather's office in Toronto. We're going to my aunt and uncle's cottage this evening and I don't know when I'll next be able to get to a computer, so here's an update :)

My flight was fine, but there were no seatback tvs. I was excited when they said 17 Again would be playing, but they were wrong and it was He's Just Not That Into You, and I couldn't be bothered. I ate beef provencale and listened to Mozart's Requiem.

The weather here has been crazy. Yesterday there was an insane storm in the morning, one of those ones where it's like twilight outside at 11am, then there's a huge clap of thunder and the heavens open and the gutters are like rivers within five minutes. It lasted all morning, then turned really hot and sunny so it was like a sauna outside. Like breathing in soup (when I told Brother (he needs a blog codename, but I don't have a more interesting one yet. The Sister is Biscuit Johnson, on account of her smelling of biscuits and baby shampoo, but I haven't had a need to mention her yet) that, he said 'you look like soup'. And then, 'actually, there's nothing in the world you look less like than soup'. We tried to think of something, but even Chris Tarrant and fish are vaguely sentien beings). We went to the Art Gallery of Ontario which is great now they've completely renovated it. The whole basement is full of model boats. Then we went to see real art, and I have a new one-of-my-favourites painter, called Raoul Dufy (to whom thanks is due for the picture at the top of this post). His paintings make you feel like Audrey Tatou, or boursin, or Foux De Fa Fa, ie, really really French. Wikipedia tells me he's a Fauvist painter, but I've never heard of that movement. There was also endless, endless amounts of Cornelius Krieghoff, a famous Canadian painter who as far as I could see was able to paint three things.
1. Red carts with people in.
2. Yellow carts with people in.
3. Trees.
And mix those three things together in infinitesimal ways, adding snow for occasional variety. They all looked exactly the same.

The thunder in the evening was incredible. It made the windows shake, and the lighting was like a really bad son-et-lumiere show I went to in Malaysia. Lots of houses (not ours) are without power this morning. The guy on the radio was talking to the guy who coordinates repairing cables and stuff, and he said 'what can you say to the people who are waiting for their electricity to be restored? how long will it take?' and I thought (as I always do in these situations), what's the point of that? The people waiting for their electricity to be restored cannot possibly hear this.

I'm really looking forward to the cottage. My oldest little cousin is 5 now, so we can properly have conversations. She has the most adorable accent. I'll write again as soon as possible, and post pictures :)

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

One

Two more days left in Oxford. So much to pack! I'm trying to condense 17 years in Oxford into 89 kilograms or so. I'm watching something unbearable on the CBBC channel, all the characters seem to have bubblegum-pink hair, except for the one that looks like Ron. Now there's some toxic nuclear waste pouring over a city accompanied by a jolly 'let's all be friends!' type song, or something of that ilk. So I turn to Dave, thinking it would oblige me with a Top Gear triple bill, but noooo. It's Ray Mears. I give up. I'm going to watch bidtv and sulk.

I'm starting this blog because I love the idea of blogging, but I've never had much motivation because school life in Oxford was... unremarkable, I suppose, to anyone except me and the people I shared it with. Sorry, the people with whom I shared it. Now I'm off to university in Montreal, I want to write more of a documentation, of a time that hopefully will be more exciting.

Right now, I'm really just so excited. I thought leaving would be really hard, but I don't think it will be. Being there will be hard, after all the excitement has dissipated and I've only got work to distract me from homesickness. But it's university. I was always going to leave home. That in mind, why not go the whole hog and choose Montreal?