Thursday, 24 July 2014

THINGS I DON'T LIKE ABOUT TORONTO

Following on from the last post NOT THIS but THIS, I thought I'd better balance it out by griping about some of the things that have pissed me off.

Beggars and panhandlers

I accept that in any society and in any country/city there will be people who fall between the cracks and that they need to be supported. Even in Toronto which has an excellent health and welfare support system there are a few souls who for whatever reason end up not having a roof over their heads and need food and shelter.
But...
There are a hell of a lot of bastards who take advantage of the good nature of Canadians and make a living out of begging (or panhandling as it's known here). On every street corner there is a chancer with a sign, a cup or a cap out asking for money



The variations are endless with claims of needing money for family, for food, for medical expenses (Ontario health system is free) or made-up stories like "I'm stranded and can't get home because...".
It's all bullshit. I watched a video made by a newspaper with a reporter 'panhandling' for a week undercover on the streets of Toronto. In his secretly recorded chats with real beggars they told him they were pulling in from $150 to $750 a day. One bastard who made himself up to be older and more infirm than he was carried a (unplayed) guitar and had a dog (for sympathy) said he 'worked' three days a week, playing golf and attending gym/martial arts classes the other two - weekends he kept separate. This guy said he averaged between $500 and $100 a day with his best day being $2300! To me c***s like this are taking money away from those who deserve it.

Additional taxes

When buying anything in Toronto (except for grocery items and wine) the price you see advertised does not include GST and Provincial tax. This is so fucking annoying. Even when buying a cup of coffee the $3.50 advertised becomes $ 3.99 or something when you pay at the counter. It is archaic and smacks of petulance on the part of the business owner .."hey it's not us charging you this extra it's the government ..". Get over it. In New Zealand we had the same issues in 1985. We sucked it up. OK?

Tipping

What the fuck this is about I can never understand nor get anyone to properly explain it to me. You are expected to tip in restaurants, in taxis, getting a bloody haircut etc. Why? Can't the management or sole trader work out their pricing properly?
In a restaurant or bar it is bloody galling. You order a meal or a drink based on an advertised price and when the bill comes it has this price plus GST and a Provincial tax and then you are expected to tip on top of all that. 15% is seen as mean apparently and 18% is the new norm with 20% seen as 'caring' Well fuck me, I'll be glad to get back to New Zealand where good service is part of the job not a grovelling for a bit extra.

Cheese

It's crap. Sure there are 'boutique' cheeses, mostly European imports that are OK but they are hellishly expensive. The 'domestic commercial' cheese is a rubbery and strange coloured concoction that has no taste other than the artificial additions they inject (smoke, caraway, salmon etc). It doesn't grate properly, congeals instead of melts and basically ruins any dish it's added to. To add insult to injury it's not even packaged sensibly. Instead of the nice and user friendly blocks we get at home some marketing wanker has decided that it's best that this stuff is packaged in thin slabs so that when you cut a slice it is about an inch high (maybe they know it tastes like shit and don't want anyone discovering this by eating too big a chunk)


I'm looking forward to getting back to good old Mainland 'Colby' and other styles.

Potatoes

It's pretty hard to find good potatoes in Toronto. Whichever type is bought the result whether mashed, boiled, roasted, baked or 'chipped' is a pale imitation of what can be made at home using the valiant Agria potato (note spelling Dan). Potatoe?


Wine choice

Canada has a state-controlled liquor system and Ontario's version is named LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). It's like the old Licensing Trusts system in New Zealand (where only a pocket of them remain). The theory is that the state can control liquor consumption (health benefits) and return profits to the community (social benefits). The reality is a great and unwieldy monopoly system. As the single biggest liquor retailer in the world the LCBO can put great pressure on suppliers and can arbitrarily choose what wines it wants to stock. No real consumer choice here. If a supplier (read multi-national producer like Diageo, Constellation, Pernod Ricard etc) can stump up enough cash (sorry 'marketing support') then their brands/products can be reasonably continually available. If a smaller supplier has a good product (that the consumer likes) it has to go through a submission process (twice yearly) to be accepted. If the brand/product sells through in a year or 6 months that is no guarantee of further acceptance. The submission process has to be gone through again. This is why a consumer, on finding something he likes has no guarantee that it will be available the next time he/she visits the store. By the way the only liquor stores in Ontario are LCBO ones or wine shops owned by Constellation (which only stock Constellation's Canadian brands). Some choice huh?

(to be continued)

THINGS I'LL MISS ABOUT TORONTO

I'm leaving Toronto tomorrow to return home.
It's been  a good 12 months experience but now I'm ready to go.

There have been many good things and bad things about living in a different city. Here are some of the things I'll miss.

TTC

The Toronto Transit Company with its integrated subway, tram and bus system. This is a great way of getting around the city and stations also link with non TTC bus and train systems like GO. For $3 ( less if you buy bulk tokens or passes) you can travel for miles. A bus or tram ride is included in the payment when exiting the subway. This is a great system and one which New Zealand cities should have created years ago.

Pedestrian crossings

All controlled intersections (and that is nearly all intersections) have pedestrian countdown timers that can be relied on. When waiting to cross you can view the countdown of the cross-traffic and know exactly when you can cross.
At non-light controlled crossings almost every car simply stops and gives way to pedestrians. This is great when you are on foot but must be frustrating for drivers.


In New Zealand the average driver would just plough on through.



Health system

Simply brilliant.
When you have a health card - applied for showing permanent or temporary residency, you can go to doctors fro free. Drugs are also free with a small charge paid to the dispensing chemist. Specialists and consultants are also free and there is not a long delay in getting appointments. In NZ we have paid for Southern Cross Ultra Care in order to get what is provided here for free. In NZ we were paying something like $10k a year.




Size matters

Toronto is a large city. While a lot of it suffers from 'sameness' I know that when I return to Auckland I'll view it as being a bit provincial. I know, I know, this shouldn't matter as most of the time we only go from A to B and stay in a close area around our homes and our workplaces but, like London, New York and other big cities there is a feeling of excitement about 'possibilities' or things that might be there if we bothered to seek them out.

The condominium

We own an Auckland apartment in the CBD which is very nice and conveniently located but the 'condo' we are renting here is a cut above. The building is a bit swanky with residents theatre, BBQ area, gym, pools and saunas, 'party room', 24 hour concierge, snooker room etc. I'll miss it.

Yonge and Eglinton

The area we live in which is a hub formed by the intersection of two major streets - Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue. This is just north of the CBD area and therefore a bit quieter but still close to the 'action'. It kind of reminds me of Ponsonby- cross- Parnell in Auckland or Oriental Bay-cross- Mount Victoria in Wellington where a lot of the younger set (young to me anyway as they seem to be in their 30's and 40's) - what used to be Yuppies. We've christianed them Young and Eagers which at least makes me laugh.



Cleanliness

Toronto is a very clean city. This is very surprising given the size of the place and the very, very diverse population made up of many ethnicities.
Sure the council provides a great many sensible and comprehensive litter bins (separating rubbish, recyclable and green and generally foot-pedal activated) but I like to believe that Torontians actually care more than most people.




Politeness

Canadians are polite. They are into the 'sorry' thing, queueing, holding doors etc and are famous for it. The politeness apparently doesn't apply to other drivers when driving but they do seem to give way a lot to pedestrians - even stopping when some idiot ambles across a busy road. This of course might be due to a fear of being sued.




Entertainment choices

A bigger population means that there is a lot more going on with a lot more choices. Almost every weekend there is some sort of festival happening ( not in the prolonged winter however).
We've been to lots of opera, concerts, art exhibitions, sports event and, if The Old Girl hadn't been working and had time on her hands like me we would have done a lot more. The proximity to NYC has been great as well and we've made a few trips there going to - opera, concerts, art exhibitions.....

The big outdoors

 Canada is a big country with some dramatic scenery. We've hardly scratched the surface of this but enjoyed Niagara Falls and the St Lawrence River. It'd take a lifetime to really see this country.




Odds and sods and weirdness



Big machines waiting to start on yet another Toronto condominium

Chap just sitting around in downtown Toronto




Colourful chappie in the local library


Shop that sold nothing but wooden willies in Montreal

Filming event downtown Toronto





Tuesday, 15 July 2014

GYM ETIQUETTE

I'm going to miss the excellent gym that we have in this condominium.

It has three large rooms: - bikes and running machines; weight machines and free weights; stretch, yoga and exercise room - as well as a pool, a sauna, and some other steam type room I haven't used.

Our apartment in Auckland has a gym but it is much smaller with fewer machines and  amenities.

When in the gym this morning I was thinking about gym etiquette. Most people conform to approved behaviour but others just don't seem to care.

Here is my take on what should or shouldn't be done:

Televisions

Sure, they are there up on the wall in front of the running machines but unless you watch them with the sound turned off or have a bluetooth earphone set don't have the bloody thing blaring away. Some people march into the gym and immediately turn the TV (s) on which invariably are showing North American brainless crap. I have asked them to turn it down on occasions and, when these noise junkies leave for the other rooms I get up from my bike and turn it off.

Music on earphones

A great idea but just don't fucking well hum or sing along tunelessly to what you are listening to. 999 times out of 1000 it's not Miles Davis or Mozart you're listening to but more likely Mylie Cyrus or Mos Def which sounds like crap in the original and definitely worse when you, you tuneless fucker sing along to it


Machine sitters

Some idiots love to hog exercise machines, sitting on them for more than 30 minutes. This is OK if the gym is empty or if the person is actually using the machine properly but today a woman on the bike I wanted to use sat on it for over 40 minutes pedalling so slowly that The Old Girl said "Jeez, I could lose more calories drinking a glass of wine than what that woman's doing"

Cleaning machines after use

Yes this condominium for the well-to-do has umpteen Filipino cleaners who are forever sweeping and mopping the gym and all public areas but this doesn't mean you can drip your reeking sweat all over the bikes and machines without wiping them down afterwards.
Note: This is shangri-la for bicycle seat perverts.




Counting the repetitions when using weight machines or free weights

Should be done in your head or very quietly but if you are say up to 18 and an attractive woman walks in it is permissible and understandable to immediately adjust the count, out loud, to 59.



Note: ideally said woman will smile appreciatively and move on but if she stays nearby you just have to keep going to at least 100 (unfortunately)

Adjusting the weight machines for gorillas

When you see one of those over-muscled gym junkies hovering around when you are using one of the weight machines set at say 9, when you are near finishing your 40 repetitions and he is looking the other way, quietly reset the machine to setting 19 before leaving it (after wiping the handles). Watch said hunk struggle his way through a noisy 10 repetitions knowing that he can't reset it to a lower setting because you just happen to be watching.


Farting

Enough said



Monday, 7 July 2014

GIVING IT ANOTHER GO


VIEW VIDEO CLIP HERE




 Looks like I'm coming back - to NZ and to work.

I've been offered a job with a wine company starting in August.
This means that I'll be back in Auckland at the end of July. The job is sales, marketing and export so fortunately things that I know how to do.





It'll be good having money coming in again but more importantly having exciting things to do to keep busy - in an industry I love.

The Old Girl still has another year on her contract in Canada to complete so she'll have to stay here. This is OK, we'll manage unless she runs away with a Mountie:


or a lumberjack:


or worse still a Mountie-lumberjack:




The strange thing is, that after a year of no work offers, on Sunday when I got the wine job offer I received an offer of a business brokerage job at home half an hour later.

When it rains it pours:


Which is apparently happening in Northland at the moment. I hope the new roof is on and secure.