Showing posts with label Quebec. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quebec. Show all posts

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Strange Days


Black clouds breathe in our ears all day,  squirting great hot drops on us just as we think we are in the clear.  They are squirting at 3am when I wake up and squirting four hours later when I drive through puddles to the Methodist Church to vote.  I am unaccountably upset by it all, coming home to England after eight years in Canada to find that everyone has gone mad, and when I put my cross in 'remain' I find that I am crying. As I walk out I announce to no-one in particular that I have exercised my democratic right not to be an idiot, and I don't stay around long enough to see if anyone has heard.

Later, going to work, the trains are slow. We crawl through Cambridgeshire waterlogged and heavy, cursing silently as the windows snap shut too late to stop the great drops from soaking onto bad-tempered newspapers.  In, out? Where is the weather coming from? You wouldn't know it was summer. I wish I'd never come back from the Canaries, but we've got a week in September, too and do you know, before he met me, my boyfriend had never even been on a plane, and he's 42.

Before I go to work, a Welshman with an unruly moustache cuts a thing off my leg in Harley Street. His nurse is from Lachine, just outside Montreal, so we speak our strange French to each other, the nurse and I, and the doctor sings "I'm Henry The Eighth, I am" while he circumnavigates the thing to carve it off and cauterizes it. I smell of pork and burnt hair, and leave with a slice of the thing in a jar for my husband. "You keep him off that for a week or so", says the doctor, nodding at stitches that I can't see. The nurse gives me a spare dressing. "Ben, là, docteur!", she says. Annie Lennox is outside, and she is as beautiful as you would think she is.

The clouds follow me down Wimpole Street. I talk to a friend who is on a balcony in Cannes and am standing on one leg laughing when the drops start up again.  The cab driver's got an "Out" sticker, so I don't look at her; at the office, we open and close the windows all afternoon because what's worse, the rain, the heat, or the drilling?  We can't decide, but we are glad we have all voted just to make sure we stay European because that, we all agree, is what we are.

My husband misses his flight back to Canada, where he is completing on our house. He has sold it because we have moved to Britain, which is where I am from, and on the whole he thinks this is a good idea because I am happiest here and he likes our friends and my family,  and it's green, and the weather is better for gardens, and it's prettier and on the whole, the people seem nice and open. And after 49 years he's fed up with Quebec (even though he's from there).

I wanted to come home because I was fed up with Quebec.  I hated the separatists and the language police; people shouting at women wearing the hijab on busses; casual daily racism, even at work;  the insularity and the lack of interest in the outside world; of not wanting to be Canadian, when being Canadian is a magnificent thing to be. But a version of this is exactly what I have come home to. It is strange and sad.



Sunday, June 08, 2008

Day 689: I Wonder About Toast Racks

I am attempting to give myself an immediate and cheap 'permanent' hairstyle by sticking a knife in the toaster. My PopTart* is stuck!!!

Some time later, I am seated at the breakfast table of our palatial Quebec mansion. Sundry toasted goods are strewn over the table like so many pieces of flotsam and jetsam; crumbs loll on the carpet; tiny patches of steam gather on the table where the toast has fallen; slowly, it becomes soggy. A dog barks in the distance; someone, somewhere, is playing Genesis' "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)". (Me, I'm just a lawnmower.)

The pathologist with whom I share a house (and occasionally toothbrush, if we are on a journey and I have forgotten mine) sighs as he watches me bend my toast backwards and forthwards. "We need a toast rack", I say.

Suddenly I am in every British hotel everywhere. It is the morning and we are sitting in the 'restaurant'. There is a big window, and through it I can see the sea; it is probably Bournemouth. Old ladies and men are walking up and down the front in macintoshes and their umbrellas are being blown inside out. They would like to be sitting inside a tea shop drinking cups of tea and eating macaroons, but they are not.

A lady in a burgundy uniform approaches: do I want tea or coffee, and do I want my toast white or brown?

I know what is coming next!!!!! There is a pot of tea, and there is toast. It is in a toast rack. It is cut in triangles and it is going cold, but cold in a non-soggy style; it is becoming chewy. On it, you must put butter and Marmite or jam or marmalade from a plastic pod. You will eat it all, and the lady will come with your scrambled egg and lone sausage, and she will put it down and she will say: "more toast?", and you will say, "yes". One hour later you will still be eating toast.

"A toast rack?", says the pathologist. I push the cat off the table, where she is trying to make sweet love to the cheese. "You can't get those here. When I think of England, I think of toast racks. I don't think I've seen them anywhere else."

"When you think about England you think about toast racks?", I roar, wiping jam from my eye. "You could be thinking about all sorts of things, like the Queen, and Shakespeare, and Gordon Brown's glass eye, or our newspapers (which are better than yours) or Nigella Lawson's bosoms, and you say toast racks?"

The pathologist looks unmoved. Over the following months, I visit a great many shops looking for a toast rack. There are none. I try and find on the line in Canada; there appear to be none, unless on a ghastly 'British Fayre' web-site. My mother asks: "is there anything you want from England?", for she is coming to visit. When she arrives a week later, she brings with her a toast rack, and my father.

It is helping a very great deal. Despite its many practical benefits (holds toast and prevents it from becoming soggy), it also helps alleviate the constant confusion generated by the fact that petrol stations do not sell Ginster's Cornish Pasties, or that it is impossible to buy a good newspaper or knickers that fit: in short, my toast rack is alleviating my homesickness (whilst providing an excellent practical service). What a boon!


*I am not really making PopTarts. Do not worry. I am toasting bread that I have made with my own hands from straw and the dust from the cat litter tray. Or that, at least, is what it tastes like.

In other news, I offer you some film of Genesis performing I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe). "What the cocking hell is Peter Gabriel doing, and why are you suddenly so very interested in early Genesis?", I hear you cry. It is a long story, my friends, and one that is not without some embarrassment.

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