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Red Nose Day – March 18, 2011

February 27, 2011 1 comment

For the last 25 years Comic Relief has been raising money to combat poverty in the UK and around the World.

Chrissie Hynde, Cher and Neneh Cherry get some nose action in 1995. Image source: http://www.comicrelief.com

In 1988, the organization launched its first Red Nose Day. I’m old enough to remember it. They’ve been doing it every other year, ever since. It’s a telethon with a twist. It’s funny. That’s the twist. Brits will know all about it. Basically, a bunch of British comedians come together for a few hours on TV, make people laugh, and raise money for charidee mate. They even rope in some major celebrities from the worlds of film, music, politics and sport. You can see some clips – including a guest appearance from Johnny Depp, here.

On Red Nose Day, people are encouraged to wear… (can you guess?)… a red nose. Of course you’re supposed to buy the official plastic ones, but I confess to making my own with a ping-pong ball, a pair of scissors, and some red paint courtesy of my Airfix modelling kit that first year. We were poor. It hurt – scraped my nose. And everyone at school made fun of me. I bought an official one in 1989.

Red Nose wearing antics ensue on this special day. Across the UK, people can be found sitting in a bath of cold baked beans, or participating in an egg and spoon race dressed as clowns. All to raise money for the cause. I once wore a skirt for the day. But, back to Comic Relief.

The England football team sport red noses in 2009. Image source: http://www.comicrelief.com

If you are a student, you can take part in a Comic Relief event right here in Montreal this year. McGill University’s British Appreciation Society (BAS) is hosting its first Comic Relief Pub Quiz at Gerts’, McGill’s student bar, on Saturday, March 5. Students only unfortunately. To find out more, click here.

For the rest of us, we can cut out the fun bit, and donate directly right here.

Happy Red Nose Day!

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The Last Day Walk

February 18, 2011 6 comments

Skyscraper view from Place du Canada

Yesterday was my last day at my current place of work. For the last 10 months or so I have traveled to my office in the heart of downtown Montreal every day.

The thing I will miss most (apart from the extremely rewarding work and wonderful people, obviously), is the walk I take to and from the train station. The train journey itself is nothing special, and I have many gripes about the train service that I’m sure will become evident in future posts. But, after half an hour on the train, I have a 10-15 minute walk to the office. Days of -30 C with wind chill excepted, I have loved that walk.

When I get off the train at Lucien-L’Allier, I am immediately thrust into an area adjacent to the Bell Centre that celebrates the centenary of the Montreal Canadiens (in 2009). In the morning, I join hundreds of others as we jostle into the city through this area, which is adorned with statues, plaques, and engraved paving bricks.

The view from the corner of Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montreal and Rue Peel. Place du Canada is in the foreground, the Sun Life building to the left, and Place Ville-Marie juts out from behind the Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde.

Then I turn right and pass the beautiful Windsor Station building. I know nothing about architecture, but it looks gothic in its style, to me. The St George’s Anglican Church comes up next on the left, and beyond it Place du Canada. From here, at the corner of  Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montreal and Rue Peel, I can see the tall buildings of the Marriott Château Champlain and 1000 de La Gauchetière to the right, the Queen Elizabeth Hotel pokes out from behind the Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde in front of me. And the Sun Life Building is to the left. Other skyscrapers, including  Place Ville-Marie jut out from behind this sky scape. It is one of my favourite views in Montreal.

In the evenings, as I take the return journey, I get a front-on view of the Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, dressed in strategic lighting. And, as I pass all the aforementioned buildings in reverse, they too are lit to good effect.

I have rarely taken this route without appreciating its beauty. But, just to make sure I don’t forget, I was compelled to take a camera with me on my last day of work.

The Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde. 1000 de La Gauchetière is peaking out behind.

Multi-national Mash-up

February 16, 2011 11 comments

When I got my first job after University, it was in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. It’s a lovely place. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I worked at one of the town’s largest employers – a glass works. There had been a glass works on that same site since 1751. I will resist the temptation to suggest that many of the folks I worked with had probably been there since the opening day. But, there was a history of generations of families earning their living there. I worked with people whose Dad had worked there, and their Dad too.

Basically put, the majority of the workforce were local – from Rotherham, Sheffield, Barnsley and Doncaster. As a native of the Black Country, I was definitely the ‘exotic’ one. This type of local community was one that I was familiar with. Most of the folks I went to school with were from within a couple of miles radius. I suspect that things may have changed a little since I left the UK, but in my day, when you entered a community, you usually found yourself with locals.

Canada is made of immigrants. And they emanate from all corners of the globe. Montreal is a melting pot of diverse nationalities and cultures. In my first job in Canada, I remember working with 1st generation Canadians with Italian, Indian, Greek and Israeli heritage. Added to that, bona fide, just-off-the-boat immigrants from Sri Lanka, Ireland, Scotland, Poland, Lebanon and myself from England, and it was an extremely multi-cultural environment. I’m not talking about folks scattered throughout the company. These were not people I’d bump into every now and then – these were my closest working colleagues, sitting within yards of me every day.

Typical Canadians... kinda

At the moment, I work directly with two Iranians, a Japanese, a Filipino (spelled correctly, I checked), an Armenian, an Italian, a Venezuelan, and a couple of Canadians… not to mention the South Korean and the Frenchman I occasionally engage with, and the recently departed German.

I suspect that the UK is becoming more diverse too. When I speak to my old friends back home, they talk about the people from eastern Europe currently living their lives in the cities and towns of Britain. On my last visit, I was served coffee by a Czech, I was waited on by a Pole, and an Albanian cleaned my table. Three different venues between breakfast and lunch. And, they all seemed pretty Indian in Shimla Pinks (I recommend this Indian restaurant if you’re in Birmingham – and they’re not paying me to say that).

The Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: November 2010, seems to support the theory of a changing demographic in the UK. The report, published by the UK Office for National Statistics, shows Poland as one of the top suppliers of immigrants for the year up to March 2010, joining more traditional immigrant providers such as India, Pakistan and Ireland.

Source: Office for National Statistics, Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: November 201

I’m not sure that the Brits are as comfortable with this type of diversity as the Canadians are, yet.

UK. Great Britain. British Isles. England. What’s the Difference?

February 13, 2011 3 comments

This is a question I have been asked more than once. It’s a complex subject. These are concepts that even the British struggle with, never mind Canadians and the rest of the World. People are further confused by the insistence of the Scottish in particular refusing to acknowledge they’re British and correcting anyone terming them as such.

As I researched the subject (yes, I did have to research this subject) it became clear that it was even more complicated than I first thought. I had written 7 paragraphs (about 500 words), and I was confusing myself. Then, up popped a tweet. The Difference Between The United Kingdom, Great Britain and England.

The tweet had a link to a video, which fully explained the differences and relationships between the UK, Great Britain, the British Isles, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Not only that, it also did a pretty good job at outlining all the commonwealth countries, crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories. I could have used that tweet a couple of weeks ago – before I started writing!

So, I highlighted my 7 paragraphs, pressed the delete key, and posted the link here instead. Click on the image to see the full explanation. It’s a good 5 minute watch, if you can keep up with it.

After watching this, you do have some sympathy for non-Brits feeling a little perplexed.

The Difference Between the UK, Great Britain and England - courtesy of Grey's Blog

Yorkshire Puddin’

February 6, 2011 10 comments

Egg, milk, flour. Mix it up. Pour it in a baking tray of some kind (one of those shallow ones with a bunch of little cylinders punched out to hold your mix). Stick it in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes at 375°F. Voila – Yorkshire Puddin’. If the English can cook it, anyone can. Can’t they?

Now, let’s pretend you’re an American, and pretty handy in the kitchen. Your man loves your food. It’s his birthday. You want to do something ‘nice’ for him. He’s English… proper English, from England, accent, loves football, bad teeth – the works. He often talks about Yorkshire Puddin’. In fact, he goes all misty-eyed when he recounts his favourite Yorkshire Puddin’ experiences. What better? You’re a good cook. How hard can it be?

What a Yorkshire Pudding should look like

What a Yorkshire Pudding should look like

So, you jump on the interweb thingy, Yahoogle “Yorkshire Puddin’ Recipes”, and as if by magic, you’re on your way to creating a masterpiece which will not only make your man a very happy year older, but it will also feed you both.

A word of caution here: if you are an American (or any other nationality for that matter), and you are trying to make a Yorkshire Puddin’ without having actually seen one before… (you know where I’m going with this don’t you?)… make sure the online recipe includes a picture of what it’s supposed to look like.

Fast forward a few hours. Your man arrives home after a hard day of drinking coffee and browsing the web at ‘work’. You greet him with a hug and a smile that looks like you’ve borrowed Jim Carey’s mouth for the day. Your excitement is obvious – and why shouldn’t you be excited? Your man is gonna LOVE this.

“What is it?” he enquires with a puzzled look. As you deflate faster than a whoopee cushion under a Sumo wrestler, you reply: “it… it’s… a… a…Yorkshire Puddin’… I made it for your birthday.” A moment of silence is pierced with a roar of laughter. Birds launch themselves from tree branches, rodents scramble underground, forest animals scatter.

My wife has since seen, and tasted Yorkshire Puddin’. I think she understands my mirth now. She hasn’t tried to make this fine British delicacy since. Five years later, I am finally allowed to share this:

Kerri's Yorkshire Pudding

Please share your Yorkshire Pudding disasters to help my wife feel better.

 

The First Post

February 3, 2011 7 comments

Welcome. Bienvenue.

This blog is for Brits living in Canada, Brits considering moving to Canada, Brits visiting Canada, Canadians with British heritage, Canadians with an interest in British culture, people who have watched Coronation Street, lovers of Fish and Chips, men, women, and anyone I’ve missed out. Including Americans. Yes, even Americans are welcome here.

Although using the British – Canadian experience as a backdrop, this is a place for humour, commentary, discussion and opinion on a whole bunch of topics. If I think something is worth reading, I’ll publish it – even if associations with the UK or Canada are tenuous, or non-existent. Hopefully it will be interesting, and occasionally, maybe, amusing.

My motivations for writing the blog are numerous. I’d love this to entertain and engage fellow ex-pats, or pending immigrants. I hope, through my posts, those who have lived through similar experiences will find some familiar stories, thoughts, and feelings to nod their heads to. Or will have some contradictory anecdotes to share. And, maybe, those that are considering the move will learn a little more about the types of adventures they are about to embark upon, from a very personal perspective.

Personally, the blog is an opportunity to experiment in fields I work in, and have an interest in, namely; writing, marketing, communications, and social media. Comments, critiques, opinion and advice on how I’m utilizing these disciplines within the blog are welcome.

Looking up at a Mountain

A metaphor for the feeling I had before penning my first blog post

I have been thinking about starting this blog for a long time. I have run out of excuses to support my delay lately. As someone whose job involves a lot of writing, I have been asked by colleagues and clients if I write anything else (aside from the press releases, brochure content, web copy etc. that pay the bills). Of course, I have always had to reply in the negative.

The final nudge that prompted me to get this thing off the ground came from an unlikely source. An old friend back in the UK, who I had barely spoken to in 15 years, sent me a message through Facebook. She asked me what Canada was really like, as she and her husband were considering emigrating. I was half-way through a one sentence reply directing her to my blog, when it dawned on me that I hadn’t actually created it yet. It was my final confirmation that I should. So here it is.

Tell me what you think about Brits, Canadians, their quirks, food and weather – and anything else that comes to mind. And, tell me what you want me to write about. Post your comments – I’ll leave anything that is not abusive up there, whether it’s positive or negative.

I hope you find something here to interest, educate, or amuse you. If you enjoy what you read, please leave a comment, share it through whichever social media you use, or tell your friends.

Phew, first post done! (The first one is the hardest… right?)

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