Category Archives: Why Canada?

Ode to Winter

I love winter!

It seems to amuse people no end that I go in to work on a day like today exclaiming at what a beautiful day it is; -18, with wind-chill taking it to more like –25, but gloriously bright and sunny. What’s the problem, as long as you dress for it? There is something extraordinarily comforting and, in a strange way, sensual about downy coats and soft-furred hats.

Toronto Winter 2011 (29 of 35) Ice blue Toronto Winter 2011 (34 of 35) Swan and harbour ice Toronto Winter 2011 (30 of 35) Toronto harbour

I love the brightness of snow-light – Paul looked out of the window as he shut the blinds the other night and commented that, with the street and Christmas lights reflecting off the snow, it was almost as bright as a dark English day. In sunshine, it is dazzling.

I love the sharpness of the air against my face, a dry cold that invigorates and makes me feel very alive. When the temperature rises to near freezing I am reminded of the damp, English cold that I so disliked and wish for the mercury to fall again!

I love snow, in all its forms; diamond dust-devils that dance, dipping and diving and swirling; the powdered ice that skin-scours my face as the fast train speeds through the station; the feathers, floating freely, unhurriedly wafting; mesmeric mosquito motes that float on seemingly still air; crystalline glitter, dusting the days with magic.

Whether it swirls or hangs on the air, there is a meditative quality about falling snow that combines with the other-worldliness of the light and the deadening of sound to create something mystical – if you stop long enough to notice it.

Snow has its own special sounds, too; I knew it could crunch, perhaps even that it might creak as it slid from a roof, but I didn’t know that sometimes it squeaks scrunchily underfoot. And then there’s the inimitable sound of  skates shearing ice . . .

As we enter February, I am anticipating with some sense of loss the closure of the outdoor rinks at the end of the month. My evening walk from the station has already shifted from darkness to light. There is a part of me that wants to hold onto winter (better keep that to myself!), whilst another part of me awaits the new excitement of spring planting, the langourous beach-days of high summer, the richly painted landscapes of fall . . .

Beaches Winter 2011 (20 of 21) Glen Stewart Ravine - 5 minutes walk from where we live Toronto Winter 2011 (19 of 35) Toronto from the west Toronto Winter 2011 (1 of 35) Looking out from our house at snow-forts in the park

And then it will be winter again.

(For more photos of Toronto in winter, see our Winter gallery – the best way to view these is to click into an image and then find the arrow at the right-hand side that allows you to proceed through the collection. Currently we are having problems re-setting the thumbnails!)

Canada Day 2010 (1st July)

We celebrated our second Canada Day in Canada as landed immigrants yesterday! (Yes, I know we didn’t move here till October, but we were here this time last year on our prospecting visit and to go through the formal landing process). It definitely felt like a milestone.

Continue reading Canada Day 2010 (1st July)

Why Canada? (A quote from ideaCity)

Canadian novelist and cultural commentator Douglas Coupland was at a restaurant on Queen Street East a few weeks ago. He was invited to answer the question “what is the sexiest thing about Canada?”

His response was

That we have a future!

Although Canadians often seem quite critical of themselves and their country, living in Toronto I genuinely do have a very strong sense of a country with a future!

Red mittens (Olympic fever)

Red mittens are a Canadian ‘must-have’, no matter where in the world you live! Apparently people are queuing for hours in Vancouver outside the Bay for their pair. They have become a symbol of the huge upsurge of national pride that these second Canadian Winter Olympics have generated – by wearing them, you both signal your support and contribute (as official Canadian Olympic Committee merchandise, they help generate funding). As you can see, we splashed out on scarves and hats as well!

Olympic clobber Gina & Paul modelling their Team Canada merchandise! Olympic Red Mittens The Red Mittens

Canada has taken a lot of flak from the British press about the Olympics. I can’t help feeling this is misguided with London looming – talk about setting yourself up! We have felt considerable pride in our adopted nation, despite the glitches that are an inevitable element of any such event. I love that the Olympic torch travelled the country – the aim was that no Canadian citizen should have to travel more than an hour to witness its journey. What a wonderful commitment to the inclusive spirit of the Olympics! There is no doubt that this has contributed to the Canadian response to these games. It has also boosted national spirits in the wake of the 2009 recession. I am not alone in thinking that the ‘own the podium’ slogan got it wrong; I suspect it ultimately increased the pressure on Canadian athletes. More importantly, it seems to me to run counter to the Olympic ideal that what is important is participation. Perhaps ‘better than best’ might have captured this spirit better. Certainly we have cheered as so many young Canadians have exceeded personal ‘bests’, regardless of whether these have secured them medals. But we have also been moved by the spectacular performances the Olympics have drawn out of men and women of all nations. What does amaze me, though, is the level of aspiration. I know Canada is a ‘winter’ nation. But its population is less than that of California, just over half that of the UK and 11% of that of its neighbour (USA). As I write this, Canada stands third in the medal tables, with 15 medals, 7 of which are gold. Awesome! PS If any of our friends and family want their own pair of Red Mittens, we’ll do our best to acquire them – just let us know what size!

Eh . . .

As new arrivals in Canada, one is frequently told about the Canadian use of ‘eh’ at the end of sentences.  Although it is not as prevalent as this might suggest, it exists both literally and in spirit.

A Canadian we met in the UK just before we left suggested that ‘eh’ represents something fundamental to the way Canada approaches things. It seems to me that young Canadians are encouraged both to be well informed and to have and to express opinions and to carry these into adult life. However, they are also encouraged to understand that others may have different views and to listen to these.  I recently heard it said that Canadians are less inclined than many nations to see things in simple black and white.

To me, ‘eh’ represents the space at the end of any statement that allows for the possibility of a different view or reality, and, beyond this, the possibility of compromise.

Another reason for choosing to live in Canada, eh!