Thursday, 31 October 2013

SMILE


Canada has some wonderful foodstuffs once you get beyond the processed crap that has 'american loads' of sugar in it.
Unfortunately, at least in supermarkets, cheese is not one of them.



There are some good delis and markets where a comprehensive selection of imported (on quota) and local can be had but these are few and far between.



The local brands are a lot like the American brands, in fact a lot  of them are American brand names.



These are usually like a rubbery compound and of garish, often bright orange colours. It pays to avoid asking for cheese on hamburgers and in toasted sandwhiches because the result is this nightmare .....





....followed by this nightmare while trying to sleep.




Wednesday, 30 October 2013

IT'S NOT JUST ME, SURELY...

...there must be others out there who are pissed off with panhandlers.


Not this


Nor this


But these

In Auckland over the last couple of years these jokers have multiplied. See Here

 In Toronto they are in your face everywhere.

We have a standing direct debit for payment to three charities in New Zealand. These are charities that have meaning for us. I don't see any reason to shell out money to tossers who stand there demanding it.

I do occasionally drop money into a buskers music case but usually only if they are playing anything decent. I see no reason to reward them if the racket is offensive. It does make me laugh though when I see some joker with a couple of thousand dollars worth of saxophone or whatever, begging for money from hard working people who are probably in debt up to their eyeballs.

Sometimes I ask the panhandlers for a loan, like the other night when I came out of a winebar and this guy came right up to me and said that he needed a top up on his benefit money. I told him that I haven't earned any money for four months so maybe he could help me out from his benefit money. He looked a bit nonplussed and moved away.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

ACROSS THE CULTURAL DIVIDE



Richard (of RBB) has been a bit up and down with his gigging recently. Maybe he'd be better off putting a band like this together. His Budhism experience could come in handy.

Monday, 28 October 2013

FROM THE SUBLIME TO THE .....WELL SUBLIME.

We had a musical weekend.

On Friday night we went to La Boheme put on by the Canadian Opera Company.
The Old Girl was in heaven. She didn't particularly like Peter Grimes which we saw last week but Puccini's tunes were more to her liking. I must admit myself that I like this opera. It's lively and captivating even if the story is sombre. The most memorable tunes portray a love of life even when poor and hungry. The finale, as usual is powerful with the final strains of the music coming as a jolt. Excellent.

We last saw a performance of La Boheme in Auckland a couple of years ago. As usual the NZ Opera Company's sets were better. Simpler but more creative. This was done in a contemporary setting (the writer using a laptop instead of pen and paper). The Candian performance had gretaer depth of talent but I think the New Zealand one was better directed.


Last night we went to see Eric Burdon. Well, I was looking forward to a good performance but man, this was even better than expected. Burdon at 72 looked a bit like the Old Girl's elderly Scottish aunty as he shuffled about on stage but when he sang that powerful and surprising voice belted out the songs just like when he was a young man.


The set was fairly long and thankfully started on time with no support act. The band was excellent playing just loud enough to remind you that this was a rock/blues concert but not too loud to overpower the singing (as if) or to be uncomfortable.

The production was great with several of the songs seguing into each other which provided stylistic links.
We were impressed. We loved it.

 House of the Rising Sun

Thursday, 24 October 2013

I LOVE MY LEATHER JACKET



I bought a nice leather jacket the other day. I got it from a brand clearance/discount store named Winners. It's the Canadian version of USA's Century 21 where top brand names are sold. The items are usually end of run stock and can be a lot cheaper than normal. The jacket I bought cost me $190 and the price tag said $500. OK, OK, I know not to trust what retailers say is the 'normal' price but I checked on the web and the cheapest I saw the same jacket was $400 (marked down from $550 USD) so that makes me feel good.

The jacket is a great fit, very comfortable and is made from New Zealand lambskin so is very soft.

I'm going to enjoy wearing it in the colder months as we are going to New York in late November and spending Christmas and New Year in Aberdeen. The beauty of a (lined) leather jacket is that it is warm but not cumbersome.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

BOILING

I don't think I'll like winter here in Toronto.
It's not because I don't like the cold - quite the opposite in fact. I've always preferred too cold to too hot and love the snow and mountains. When it's cold you just dress accordingly.



I've got a store of winter clothes, some brought from NZ and others purchased here which I'm looking forward to wearing.

The trouble is that in cold cities people tend to overcompensate in public buildings. Shops, train stations, trains, buses and commercial buildings all have heating going full blast because it's cold outside. This makes no bloody sense as it is generally heated to way above it would normally be in the other seasons and everyone coming inside already are dressed for the cold. On arrival the layers of clothing topped off by coats, gloves, hats and boots tend to make people overheat.




Already (Autumn) the buildings are hot to the point of tee-shirt and shorts being required. I'd rather put up with the cold outside and dress for inside conditions. This unfortunately won't be feasible in winter when it's double figures below zero so I'll just have to stay outside a lot.


Saturday, 19 October 2013

MELODIOUS?

....... or malodorous?

We went to Peter Grimes last night. This is Benjamin Britten's opera set in Suffolk, written in the 1940's and still fresh and alive. Stunning.

Peter Grimes

I like this kind of music - visceral, almost off-key with an edge. It reminded me of Weill/Sondheim's Mahogonny

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogonny

The Old Girl prefers her music to be a bit more lyrical and I guess melodious. She didn't like Peter Grimes but that's OK, plus ca difference n'est ce pas?
Next week we are off to see La Boheme which we both like (Puccini) and her choice, Cosi Fan Tutti in January. This will balance things out as I'm not a big fan of Mozart opera.

We differ in our music tastes. I like that "crap from the '70's" and, according to her, she likes good stuff including a lot of modern music. This always gets me as a lot of the 'modern' music that I like she hates.
An example is Scott Walker's album Bish Bosch which I love but she can't be in the same room when it's playing.

Bish Bosch

It has some similarities to Britton's and Sondheim's music in the discordant tunes. Edgy, freaky and immensely satisfying.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

SNIPPETS

PLUMBER

Her: "Don't forget that guy is coming to fix the plug system in the bathtub this morning. Clean it with Vim after your shower"

Me: "OK"

Her: "And clean the hand basin as well"

Me: "OK"

Her: "And don't glob toothpaste into the basin after you've cleaned it. He doesn't want to see bits floating in it"

Me: "He's a plumber. He's seen worse.

Her: "I don't want to be the subject of dinner party conversations about my housekeeping".


Me" (thinking) "What the fuck! He's a plumber"

Me: "OK"




BOOTS

Her: "It's raining. All the women will be wearing their gumboots today, I wish I'd bought some"

Me: "I'm sure there's a Para Rubber-type store somewhere, I'll get you some".

Her: "Para Rubber?"

Me: "There's a place named Canadian Tyre. I'm sure they'll have some"

Her: "Canadian Tyre!"

Me: "Yes, Red Bands or something similar"

Her: "Stupid man"




Thursday, 10 October 2013

PUSSIES

I've been worried about Willow my pussycat I left back in New Zealand. I've been hoping that she is in good health and that the tenants are looking after her.



I was relieved to hear from the tenants yesterday that Willow is thriving and is going about her business as usual which invariably means following the sun around the house and, uncannily, appearing in the kitchen at 5pm to wait for her dinner.




There are pussies here in Toronto too.
We live next to a High School/college which has a good sports field.




When the High School/college isn't using it for soccer, hockey and football the community uses it for casual sports and recreation.

I've been watching the college kids practising and playing some intercollege football games. What a laugh. The 'jocks' (16 to 18 y.o. guys)swagger around in their football gear trying to impress the girls. They are kitted out in sprigs, helmets and those ridiculous shoulder pads which make them look like Jack Reacher albeit with skinny legs.


When it comes to running they invariably fall over at the first touch of a tackle. Remember that this is American football where the runner with the ball has several teammates running ahead blocking tackles from the opposition. It should be easy. They have two teams each side. Really. An attacking team and a defensive team (keeps everyone employed i suppose). When the game shifts in direction they have time out and change all the players (it's painful to watch as we went to a major league one when we first arrived and we buggered off after a couple of hours - life's too short to hang around while the umpires prance about with flags and keep stopping the game. A normal play period is about 10 seconds!

Anyway, back to the college stuff. Last week when the college was playing the visiting team brought their own cheerleaders. Picture about twenty 15 to 17y.o girls (yes with skinny legs) in short skirts going through the pom pom ritual. It looks ludicrous.



A hero would be announced if he evaded tackles and ran for about 10 yards before the game stopped and they all changed teams.

It made me think of playing rugby in the 7th form (I played soccer up to then). Our coach, Cosgrave I think his name was, was a mild-mannered priest by day but absolutely fierce on the field. He would drive us on to all forms of mayhem and slaughter " nail him" he'd say, "take his legs out. Crush him". We did and were the only unbeaten school team that year at St Patricks College.
These American football types are pussies compared to the average NZ rugby team.





Wednesday, 2 October 2013

DIFFERENT BUT GOOD


I'm living in a high rise apartment, on the 16th floor. In another life it would seem like a shoebox but I've been acclimatised by having spent some time in our Auckland apartment which is smaller. I used to joke with The Old Girl that if we had to live together full-time in the same small apartment then one of us would be dangled over the balcony by their heels sooner or later. Fortunately this hasn't happened (yet).

The views are good, looking out East over the quieter parts of the city (there is a cemetery in the distance) with views to lake Ontario. To be fair lake Ontario almost encircles the city so it's possible to get views of it from any direction except North.


The building is superb with 24 hour concierge service, guest suites, communal BBQ areas and a decent gym.



A 'weights' room



The 'aerobic' room





One of the best things about living here is the surrounding area. It's a bit like living in Ponsonby in Auckland or Newtown in Wellington but with more cafes, restaurants and small shops. The bigger format shops are a short subway ride away closer to Downtown but here there is everything we need. If, in the middle of cooking dinner there is a missing ingredient the supermarket is a few minutes walk away and,like last night when I was installing a new computer and realsied that I needed a different sort of UBS cable the computer shop was a couple of minutes walk away and it is open (like most shops) until 8PM - retail is usually later to open with the norm being after 9 and often 10AM. Makes sense to me.

Today was a good day. For Autumn the weather is still lovely and warm and I had some chores to do 'downtown'. On returning I shopped for dinner (conveniently at the supermarket in the local subway complex) and made my way home. This was about 3.30/4PM - you know, normal civilised hours for a layabout like me. As it was hot I stopped off at one of the local pubs. This one was a 'sports' bar that I hadn't been in before. There was a football game being televised (Chelsea vs some Rumanian team in Barcelona which apparently was am important decider in one of the European cup challenges or whatever. There were a few vocal supporters but otherwise it was quiet.

There were no annoying pokie machines or juke boxes in sight. I had a Heineken off tap. Fresh, lovely and from Holland. One of the things I've noticed here is the plentitude of beers on tap. In addition to local Canadian and USA brews there are many European, Irish and British beers that are fresh and bloody good. All off the tap. Second, you would be in hog's heaven.
The Sports bar

I sat and watched the closing of the game (Chesea won 4-0) enjoyed my beer and toddled off home.





View from the sports bar to home (the building obscured by the red sign)


FOR KING AND COUNTRY?


And St George?

I've just finished reading Robert Littell's book "Young Philby" which is an excellent read. (Littell is the father of Johnathon Littell who wrote the very good and controversial "The Kindly Ones").
Young Philby recounts Kim Philby's early years by using actual and fictitious observations by his friends and KGB and HMSIS handlers.



It's a great insight into Philby and his motivations which were several. The book explores what makes a traitor and what is he a traitor to? His country? Or was he being true to his beliefs? There's no doubt that Philby and others of his ilk were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of agents and innocents along with changing the shape of history maybe for the worst. They believed in a Socialist/Communist/Russian utopia that was sadly a myth and, when having to flee there in 1963 Philby saw it for what it was - a hollow shell where he found solace in alcohol not ideology. Littell's book however suggests that Philby was in fact a triple agent ultimately working for HMSIS and his defection to Russia was planned all along.
To be fair, Great Britain of the 1930's had an aversion to Socialism and change and were more akin in policy to Franco's, Mussolini's and Hitler's fascism so it's no wonder that the free thinkers gravitated to Socialism and its mutant Communism as an alternative.
Whichever way it's looked at Philby, Burgess, McLean and others must have died as sad, bitter and disillusioned men, maybe wondering if they'd made the right decisions.

In 1972 I had a crisis of belief versus loyalty. It was the year that I was turning 20 and New Zealand still had national conscription into the army. This was into a territorial army and was done by way of ballot. The Labour party (not in power) had vowed to abolish conscription if elected. At university I was, like most of my fellow students, anti the Vietnam war and New Zealand's involvement. I would attend rallies and go on marches to show support albeit in a small way. The conscription ballot was done by birth dates and in 1972 my birth date came up. (I wonder if Richard of RBB's date came up? A moot point really as insanity would have ruled him out). Good friend T's birth date came up also. T to my great admiration registered as a conscientious objector.



I thought about this for a while. I was against the Vietnam war and New Zealand's involvement. I had no love of the then government (National led by 'Piggy' Muldoon). I had no love of monarchy and the Queen. I had no great desire to do territorial service. But.....I had family to consider.

My dad had served in WW2, had been on active duty in all of New Zealand's European and North African campaigns and had been wounded in Italy. Although no rabid militarist and he usually refused to attend RSA pissups with "those useless blowhards" I knew that dad would have been disappointed in me if I had registered as a CO and had not "done my duty". On both sides of the family we had uncles and aunts who had served in WW1 and WW2 in all branches of the forces and there were MM's and other 'awards' scattered about.

Family opinion won the day and I don't regret this.

In the end it became a non-event as in 1972 Labour stormed to victory and abolished compulsory military service which has never been reinstated.

BOTHERHOOD

Well Richard seemed to like my music suggestion in my previous post. I guess that means that he's open to suggestions and recomendations...