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:

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.