Posts tagged ‘Canada’

Oh Canada…Happy 145th!

I am Canadian! I like beer and canoeing and playing Hockey (that’s ice-hockey for my European friends) and frolicking in the snow.  There are only two types of dress – I am either wearing flip-flops and shorts, or a toque and a parka. And, I like to say, “Eh?”, eh?

And while the Canadian stereotype is funny…it’s so true!  We are polite.  We say please.  We open doors. We say, “How’s it going, eh?” instead of the typical international “passing each other in silence” with our heads down.

And there are so many things that are just uniquely Canadian – things that, unless you have been to Canada, you won’t get it.  Things like suicide wings, mittens with an idiot string, Canadian Tire, “tabernouche”, a double-double and an apple fritter, a wrist-shot, bumper-shining,  poutine, Crown Royal, “Oskee wee wee, Oskee wa wa”, HNIC and Double OT,  “nine-six-seven…eleven, eleven”.  We can say Homo Milk without offending anyone.  And evidently we say aboot and hoose…and we call it a zed (not zee)…

And because we are humble and unassuming , nobody knows that Canadians have influenced sport and music and film and art and science FOREVER…if you don’t know what I mean, here’s just a short list:

Steve Nash  Mike Meyers, William Shatner, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Peter North (yes, that Peter North), Oscar Petersen, Hank “I’ve been Everywhere, Man” Snow, , Bachman-Turner Overdrive…who are always Takin’ Care of Business, Lorne “Bonanza” Green, Mordecai Richler, Leslie Neilsen, Keanu…ummm…uh…Reeves, Kiefer and Donald Sutherland, The Group of Seven, Peter Jennings, Morley Safer, John Candy, Scott Goodyear, Gordie Howe, Bronko Nagurski, Norman Jewison, Lorne Michaels, Pamela Anderson, Fay Wray, WP Kinsella, Margaret Atwood, Jim Carey, James Cameron,  Alex Trebec, Sir Frederick Banting, Stomping Tom Connors…the list could go on and on.

And if that is not enough, Canada is just so beautiful…from “Bonavista, to Vancouver Island, from the Arctic Circle, to the Great Lake waters” (you can sing it if  you want)…Urban beauty and natural wonder hand in hand; a land full of natural resources, of open spaces. Of crystal blue lakes, of hiking and skiing and boating, cottage country – and BBQs!

And what does it mean to be Canadian? It means peace making and peace keeping. It means supporting the weak. It means helping friends. It means never backing down from a fight, and never giving up even if you are the underdog. It is a multicultural mosaic, not a melting pot.

It is Spanakopita on Toronto’s Danforth, Dragon Boat races at False Creek in Vancouver, a midnight ski run in Banff, watching the Blue and Gold on a sunny, but absolutely frigid -40*C afternoon in Winnipeg, kissing the Puffin in St John’s, having a few glasses of Québécois Caribou at the Winter Carnival, racing Chuckwagons in Calgary, the Maid of the Mist at the Horseshoe Falls, or a sun that never sets in Iqaluit.  It is home.

So on 1 July, I will join about 35,000,000 fellow Canadians as we celebrate our nation’s 145th birthday. Our party will be a couple of hours earlier than back home, as we party in Trafalgar Square at the largest Canada Day bash outside Canada.  Not a bad gig, eh?

To all Canadian home and abroad, I wish you all a fantasticly Happy Canada Day, eh?  For our troops in dangerous places, be safe and know we are thinking of you.

“Oh Canada!…The true North strong and free!”

PS And just so you know I am not a calloused, curmudgeonly fellow, but that I am really a softie, it is not just Canada Day…it’s a “double-plus good” kinda day. It is also my third wedding anniversary! Doesn’t get better than that!



Happy Diamond Jubilee, Your Majesty…

The Queen, née Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, is celebrating her 60th anniversary on the throne.  Most people would be retiring at 60 years of age, yet alone six decades on the job…but Her Majesty, however, appears just to be warming up!  Now you may say what you want…you may be a republican, or you may be an anti-Monarchist.  But I bet regardless of your age, if you ever have the chance to meet any of the Commonwealth’s Royal Family, you will probably regress to a bashful young child.  I did…

I have always been part of the Commonwealth – my parents are from British India, I was  born in Britain and finally, I am a Canadian citizen – and I have only had one Queen. I have lived in what I guess historians will call the Second Elizabethan Era.  As a child, I remember watching the Royal Christmas Day Addresses…it just wasn’t Christmas without the Queen saying, “I wish you all a Happy Christmas.”  And when I joined the Service, she symbolised my commitment to Country and Duty; she is the Colonel-in-Chief of my Corps, the Royal Patron of the Canadian Military Engineers.   And I have met her…transfixed and tongue-tied as I was, as I half-bowed and muttered a confused reply to The Question, “And where might you be from?”.  I recall grinning ear to ear and looking like a complete idiot. “Er…ummmm…Canada, Ma’am (rhymes with “jam”)…you are my Colonel-in-Chief”…as if she did not know that…very insightful and witty banter from a guy who considers himself well spoken.  I suppose everyone reacts like that.  Or at least I hope so…

And how popular is The Queen?  To me, and many others, Her Majesty is an icon. Queen Elizabeth is Britain, and Canada, and the Commonwealth. She is the fight against tyranny – having  served during the War. She is proper British diction and High Tea. She is the stiff British upper lip in the face of hardship, criticism and strife.

And sadly, like all of us, She has felt pain. She suffered through occasions of tragedy and death, and the annus horribilus, full of scandal and strife.  It is the stuff closet-skeletons are made of and things that most of us would desperately try to keep private from prying eyes.  But because The Queen lives in the public eye, her pain and discomfort have become fodder for the tabloids and the critics and she has persevered.  Not many of us could survive that kind of scrutiny and still function – not only function but keep up a diary that would have most collapsing in fatigue. And I can only imagine the small talk she must entertain and endure while fulfilling her obligations…

And like most that serve the public, she has been the object of parody and satire.  Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious wrote an Ode to Her Majesty – not a fawning one either – and She has been parodied in bad Hollywood Movies.  Helen Mirren has played her on film – showing her human side, as has Emma Thompson who has depicted her calm response while dealing with an intruder into her Palace bedroom.

She has been on every coin I ever collected as a newspaper boy.  I have affixed her image to my letters, and I have dusted the Silver Jubilee plates that my Mother placed on the mantle.  She, or her likeness, have been ubiquitous.

She has travelled the World.  Aboriginals from many nations have danced for her and lit peace pipes or shared other ceremonies. Republicans have dropped their opposition and shaken her hand.  First Ladies have hugged her, and Presidents have blushed. She has won over countries that do not even have Royals – unless you count baseball playing ones in Kansas.

And true, she has her detractors. But yet, She and everything she represents, endure. Like everything else that survives for a long time, Her Majesty has evolved; some say the face of the Royalty has changed and that it is more in touch than ever before. The British Monarchy has even embraced Facebook. And with 60 years on the throne, she is still going strong.  I don’t know many other figureheads that have done the same – at least not in my lifetime. And whether you like the idea of a monarch or not, you still have to admire Her Majesty’s dedication and service and longevity. It is leadership by example.

With her colourful hats and her matching coats and frocks, she walks among her subjects and others; wherever she goes, Her Majesty becomes everyone’s Queen.

And even if you are not a Monarchist or a citizen of the Commonwealth, take a moment to enjoy the history of the Day. For my part, I will enjoy the Jubilee. And as I am lucky enough to be in London for the Jubilee, I will raise a glass and toast my Sovereign and my Colonel-in-Chief.  And I will sing the second verse to the Anthem – as surprised as I was to learn there was one! Even if you do not know it, do not fret.  You can send your best wishes with four simple words…

God Save The Queen.

Happy Diamond Jubilee Ma’am (rhymes with “jam”).  Long may you reign.



I hate moving….

Orders are in.

Time to move again.

After finally settling in after three years, it is time to pack up the tent and load up the wagon. As we used to say in the Army of the West, “Feathers”.  Forget that I have finally got the internet to work in this house, or that I now understand how UK central heat works (or is supposed to work) and that I can figure out which channel is which on the TV…I  guess the roots are starting to grow vertically instead of horizontally, so it is time to go!

Moving…aaaah moving…

Moving is a double-edged sword.  I love living in Europe and will miss it a lot –  but I have missed Canada and Canadians and I am happy to go back to a place where I am not immediately asked if I am from America…

And a move means a new town, with a new job, a new house, full of new adventures and new challenges – all very exciting.

But a move also means a whole lotta moving nausea:

Piling, sorting, discarding, keeping, inventorying, packing, cleaning, cursing, disconnecting, closing out accounts, deconstructing,  disassembling, dismantling, unhanging, repairing, polyfilling, cursing, loading, shipping, travelling, redecorating, painting, opening  new accounts, cursing, reconnecting, unloading, adjusting, cursing, fixing, reconstructing, renovating, re-assembling, reconfiguring, re-hanging, cursing, rearranging, organising, reorganising, cursing…I am already tired just thinking about it.  Add in the beauty of  Customs and Borders – and a federally contracted global relocation specialist who is really only worried about the dollar –  and it just does not get better. Oh wait, I forgot to factor in the unknown about the shipping agent and the quality of the movers – and the worry that the sea container that will transport all your belongings is going to smell like fish.

And that is just the beginning.

Think of what happens when I hit the ground…the pain of adjusting to a new routine in a new place.  Facing the joy of discovery – learning how to recycle anew, when to put out the garbage, where the nearest “best of everything” is – coffee, breakfast, ribs, wings, movies, pints, pizza, chinese food,  grocery store, post office, drug store, dry cleaner…whatever.  And then having to find a suitable dentist, doctor, vet, kenneler, physio, optometrist, orthodontist, chiropractor, bartender,  banker, barber, hairdresser…looking for a car dealer, the best cell phone deal, interesting clubs; starting up the weekly paper delivery, changing the magazine subscriptions, sorting out utility deposits, providing references.

And don’t forget meeting the neighbours – trying to figure out which ones to keep seeing, which ones have the snow-blower, which ones will be simply a mutual driveway wave each morning, and which ones are just not for you.

And all the memorising…a new address, postal code, phone number, e-mail address, licence plate, combinations, which key opens what, which drawer the cutlery is in, which cupboard holds the glasses, the dishes.  Figuring out what days and times the stores are open, when the beer store closes…wait, I am not moving to Atlantic Canada, so the timings should be convenient!

I want to be Jeannie Genie from I dream of Jeannie, or Samantha Stephens from Bewitched (stay pure people, stay pure… okay I wish I had the powers of Jeannie and Samantha), and could just fold my arms or wiggle my nose, and find that I have been magically transported into my new house – sitting in my favorite chair watching the game on my high-definition flat screen, while drinking  a cold micro-brewed beer with my charming new neighbour –who owns a  cottage and a boat and  a box at the local stadium and enjoys the same taste in music and sports as me – as we wait for our pizza and wings (ordered on my high-speed internet connection).  I”d settle for the chair, TV and internet part of that …but how happy would I be if it just happened. I don’t mind moving – I just don’t want to have to do it.

But that ain’t the way it works.  So just as I waited impatiently for the official message telling me to pull up stakes and leave nothing but a memory where I have lived for three years , I must now accept that I must kick into gear, and get organised.  Time to get ruthless and start rifling through the house – a house that my parents, who haven’t moved in over two decades, think is lean and streamlined – but for a seasoned transient is just a little too “hoard-ish” and a little too full.  It is time to do what the Army is pretty good at – time to move quickly and efficiently and without too much fuss. (Note that there is no limit on profanity…)

But I am pretty sure that this is the last time…next house, I am cementing the garden gnomes into place (If i can find the ones below!). And then,  I guess I’ll just include them in the house listing if I ever move again!

So wish me luck…and to all my friends who are moving this Summer, I hope it is not too painful.  Safe travels this Summer and see you when we see you….



They don’t make commercials like they used to…

I was multi-tasking recently, surfing the net and listening to TV, when I glanced up to see another bland, unimaginative commercial hawking the latest in video games.  Now don’t get me wrong, like most guys, I like video games – I have spent more than a few hours with my Xbox – and the game play footage was spectacular.  But as a commercial, it sucked.

Then it got me thinking.  While I can remember a handful of commercials I have seen in the past few years, it usually takes someone to ask, “Did you see the last Brand X commercial?”  and some careful cajoling, like, “C’mon you remember.  The car one; the one that had the girl with the big….”,  before I remember.

But, you know which ones I have never forgotten?  Yep, the ones from the heyday of commercials – the 1970s. The 70s were a happy time full of promise and optimism and great fashion.   I still look back at those days with a great deal of fondness – even if no one showed up for my 7th birthday. Life was  simpler back then; I was a simple boy who enjoyed simple things.  I was not worried about iPhones, or iPods or iPads or any of the things that vex kids today.  I would play street hockey until I was numb with cold; I would have great fun shouting “Olly Olly All come in free-oh” when I gave up the seek; I would stay out all day and my parents never once felt anxious about my safety.

And I remember the commercials – the bread that sandwiched the peanut butter that was great TV shows. Shows that had manly characters like John Gage and Roy Desoto, or Steve Austin and Oscar Goldman. Holy Childhood heroes, Batman – that is a topic that could lend itself to a whole other blog!  Great TV shows…note to self.

Let me get back on track…

The products, like the commercials, were simple too.  Some would say cheesy, but really, wasn’t the whole decade of 1970 cheesy? I mean we listened to songs like “Muskrat Love” by the Captain and Tennille (enjoy the muskrat fart solo at 2.25).  But, I liked cheesy – I remember cheesy; cheesiness had a charm.

So, in honour of the period and as a backlash against the sophistication of today’s adverts, You Tube and I will offer you a few of the classics. If you are my vintage, I am sure you will be saying, “I remember that one, I loved it!”

Canadian Tire had lots of great icons…Funny Money that still passes as currency in other parts of the world, Teddy Ruxpin and Playmaker Hockey equipment are but three.  And they have had some great advertising campaigns, “Albert, Albert, Albert” and the always annoying Canadian Tire Couple who owned every Canadian Tire product imaginable (and who probably made their monthly mortgage payments in Canadian Tire Money).  The first one is a cheat, as this was from the mid-1980s, but it is still one of my favorites…Give like Santa, save like Scrooge (PS check the system on offer!). This ad was smart; and how perfectly Canadian – thoughtful and cheap – the classic Canuck combo.  I have no doubt that the ad exec that came up with that slogan is rolling in the dough.

To channel Mr Spock, “Now Captain, with that temporal anomaly dealt with…”, how more 1970s Canada can you get than good old Pop Shoppe soda pop – with 26 great flavours such as non-alcoholic Lime Rickey, black cherry, blue raspberry, pink “something-or-other” and my favorite, ginger’s ale. With refillable glass bottles, and the crate deposit, it was so ahead of its time. (You may be happy to hear it is making a comeback.) It is funny how the strangest of pitchman made deals to become the face of the products.  And one of the most memorable tag lines from my childhood came from The Entertainer himself – Number 23 in your program, but number one in your hearts, ”Clear the Track for Edddddddddddddyyyyyy Shack!”…and “do I have a nose for value!” (Was he drunk?) With the cool kids in their Detroit Red Wing wannabee uniforms and the smokin’ cashier with the Dorothy Hamill hair  (remember I was only 8), I so wanted to be in one of those commercials drinking free pop.

Now while that commercial was Mom and Poppe (forgive the pun), there were some expensive and slick commercials, too. Take for example, another soda classic…this company had more money, a better ad company and offered a subtler and more idealist notion that never really said anything about the product, but it was still very cutting edge and memorable. I bet you even remember the words – c’mon, sing them with me…

“I’d like to buy the world a home, and furnish it with love…buy apple trees and honey bees….”  (Bet you’ll even sing the unwritten lyrics )

Got it?  “What is the Real Thing? for $200, Alex”, is correct.  Now if that commercial wasn’t flower power and a symbol of everything that the 70s was – globalism, multiculturalism, bad clothes-ism – I don’t know what was…

Well, thinking about it, maybe there was one thing that was more 70s…before Kyoto or Save the Seals or Ban the Tar Sands, there were the Hippy Environmentalists who were telling us we were all headed down the path to destruction.  We were evil consumers who just didn’t give a shit about Mother Earth…and even though Society had moved all the First Nations to the Reservations, and I had never seen a birch bark canoe in Toronto, nothing quite conveyed how much sadness I felt than when I watched The Crying Brave.  The sound track alone was epic!  Shame on us…I am so glad we have mended our evil ways since then.

Now at the start of this long blog, I mentioned it was a video game that got me thinking. But, before the game console, or the internet or the AAA battery, we young kids had to rely on good old kinetics and physics to play our games.  Think of all of them, Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots, Bing Bang Boing, Pop-o-matic Trouble, the list goes on and on.  But as a boy, I was like most – I had a fascination with cars and destruction and mayhem and collisions…what better than the Goler-themed Smash Up Derby commercial to appeal to my XY chromosome? How many hours did my brother and I play that game, feigning Deep South accents and calling each other names like Billy Bob and Jeremiah? All i can say is that when that SSP Smash Up Derby is coming on to you like that, what’s a feller to do?

Ahem…moving on then. Another area that ads perfected was the art of pushing kids’ breakfast cereals.  All those sugar-coated confectionaries were guaranteed to send kids into insulin shock or spinning around the house bouncing off the walls. Frosties, Cocoa Puffs, Cap’n Crunch, Honeycomb, Alpha Bits, Apple Jacks are just a few off the top of my head.  But my favorite was the Monsters – Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo-berry.  I just loved the names…they were so cool!  Now don’t get me wrong, I never got to eat any of these cereals – well maybe Frosties, as they were only sugared corn flakes – but the commercials offered the promise of so much kid joy, how could you not want them?

I am now guilty of droning on, so it is time to finish off this blog. Happily, I have saved the best for last.  I must admit that my most favorite “commercials” had nothing to do with selling a product. These ads were probably the start of what we would now call “edutainment”, the precursor to the flash card.  In retrospect it was subliminal teaching of A Clockwork Orange proportion…and it was something all kids enjoyed watching mixed in with the entire Saturday morning gang – Scooby Doo, The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show, Josie and the Pussycats.  In hindsight, the ads were cleverly insidious: a classroom lecture right in the middle of my Count Chocula cravings.  And dammit, I sang along! Surely you remember Schoolhouse Rock with great ditties such as  Conjunction Function , My Hero – Zero, Three is a Magic Number….aaahhh good times!  Of all the “commercials” these were the most brilliant. It was the medium being used for good – and we did not have a clue we were being schooled! Why couldn’t real school be like that?

So if you have stuck with me for this long, I hope you found looking back on the commercials of our kid-hood as much fun as I did.  If you are like me, all the commercials dredge up a lot of happy memories.  When I think about it though, maybe it is isn’t the commercials that are any better; maybe it’s the nostalgic warm and fuzzy feeling I get when I watch them that makes me think they are better than today’s .  You know the feeling… the sense that I was safe and cared for and that life was pretty great.  Perhaps that is it – I was a happy kid and these commercials remind me of that.

I hope that my kids will remember that feeling when they are my age, too.  Perhaps in 2040, they will feel the same about the Grand Theft Auto 3 commercial, the Axe Body Spray spots or the Calvin Klein underwear ads  Sadly enough,  comparing the ads of yesterday and today,  I do not think they will.  And that is just kinda sad.

Looking forward to hearing about your favorites!  Drop me a comment and share a thought.