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Archive for March, 2011

British Apathy?

March 26, 2011 2 comments

Have you ever noticed that whenever you get Italian or Chinese migrants coming together, a community evolves? You get a China Town or a Little Italy. We have both here in Montreal. They’re usually small hives of activity brimming with cultural trinkets, cafes and restaurants, shops and places of worship.

Chinatown Montreal

The China Town gate in Montreal

But what happens when the Brits become ex-pats? Well, they usually seek out a British pub, to drink a British pint, watch British sport, and moan to other Brits about… well, Britain.

Other than that, we seem a pretty apathetic bunch. Not exactly over-enthusiastic about coming together to support each other’s causes are we? Don’t get me wrong, to call all British ex-pats apathetic would be a broad and unfair generalization, but barring important sporting occasions, we don’t seem to quite unite as other nationalities resident in this foreign land seem to.

Maybe it’s a security thing. Maybe we don’t HAVE to stick together to get on and be successful in Canada. In the majority of of the country, we can get along just fine in our mother tongue, and our Canuck cousins are not all that dissimilar, culturally speaking. Hell, we even have our Queen on their money. We shouldn’t exactly feel insecure should we?

I can’t help feeling that we’re just a little bit lazy when supporting each other.

During a conversation a couple of years ago, one, not so young English fellow (name withheld because I can’t remember it) told me that he moved over here to “get away from that lot”, and questioned why he would seek out in Canada the very people he was trying to get away from in the UK. You could question his choice of immigration destination if the objective was to avoid his compatriots, I suppose.

So why do we not see the same sense of ex-pat community among the Brits as we appear to with other nationalities here in Canada? Is it apathy? Is it that we don’t feel the need for that type of security? Do we just not like each other very much? Or, have I got it completely wrong, and we’re as connected as any other community? I would love to hear other Brit perspectives.

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Happy Red Nose Day!

I wrote about Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day a couple of weeks ago. But, today is the day, so I thought I’d share one of my favourite clips from Red Nose Days of recent years.

You can donate here.

Happy Red Nose Day!

The Changing Face of My St. Paddy’s Day

March 17, 2011 1 comment

Montreal's St. Patrick's Day Parade. Image source: CTV

The location: St. Catherine Street, Montreal. The event: the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It’s a Montreal institution.

Many in Montreal would have you believe it’s the longest-running St. Patrick’s Day Parade in North America (the first one was in 1824 apparently), although some folks in NYC might dispute that. Regardless, the 187th Montreal Paddy’s Day Parade will go ahead on March 20, 2011. And Montrealers just love it.

I’ve seen various attendance estimates – anything from 300,000 to 500,000 line the streets to watch the parade every year, depending on which article you read. Exactly how they count is beyond my comprehension. Let’s just say a lot of people show up.

They wear tacky Irish themed hats, paint their faces green, and pretend they’re from the Emerald Isle for the day. The irony that St. Patrick was born in Britain (England or Scotland depending on which legend you subscribe to), that the colour originally associated with him was blue, and that his name was probably not Patrick at all, is undoubtedly lost on most. Still, why let facts spoil a good party?

For many, the Paddy’s Day Parade signals the end of winter, but you can still be standing in snow, freezing your arse off watching it. For others it’s a day of too much green beer.

I used to partake in the green beer fest. But, alas, time has caught up with me. The pubs are just too busy for me now. Too many people, standing on too little floor space, drinking far too much beer that they had to wait too long to be served. Somehow this was fun in 2002, but now, it’s not for me. I have work the next day. Yes, I think I am old.

But, I will be there on Parade day. As always. This time I will be with my young boy. We will clap our hands as the marching bands pass, wave at people dancing on floats, and point at inflatable objects. We’ll have a blast – and be home for nap time.

The Worst Month Ever

This is not a post about personal challenges, or drama. It is quite literally about the worst month in the year.

The calendar year comprises 12 months. Most have something about them that makes them tolerable – even enjoyable to live through. But one – well, one I really struggle with. It has no redeeming characteristics at all. And, we are in it.

June in Montreal brings the summer. It’s festival time in July. October offers those striking fall colours, and Halloween. December has the first real snow, and the holidays. The month of January boasts the most important day of the year (my birthday). And, February is mercifully short. Thank you for that February.

But March? What does March contribute?

I’ll tell you what: it contributes slush, grey and black snow, and the smell of de-frosting garbage and dog poop. And, it’s still minus freeze-yer-bits-off-degrees. There is nothing good about March.

By this time of the year I’m done with winter. Really done with it.

We kid ourselves that March is the end of the winter. But, as Montrealers were reminded yesterday, we all know that we have a few more heavy snow falls to come, and we know our ears and noses remain subject to frost bite.

March is cruel. It teases you with the odd day of sunshine, and balmy temperatures around freezing, before bringing on a snow storm and -19C the very next day. March, you’re not funny.

**** you March. **** you.

Swearing Allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen

Ma'am

It was a strange day when I had to swear allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. It was a day at the back-end of 2005 (or one of the first few days in 2006. I can’t remember, but my Citizenship Certificate says 2006/01 on it). The location: a hotel in downtown Montreal (The Sheraton, I think – but don’t quote me on that either). And the reason? To become Canadian.

Now, doesn’t it strike you as a little odd that I didn’t have to say as much as “old Betty’s alright by me” to be British, but I did have to promise my loyalty and devotion to her to become Canadian? Yup, it does to me as well.

The actual oath of citizenship goes like this:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

I raised my right hand… or maybe it was the left one, and swore allegiance to the Queen. Shortly after, I half-mumbled, half lip-synced my own illegible lyrics to the tune of O Canada! And, I was in.

Standard procedure I suppose, but I still find it a little difficult to get my head around.

Maybe Canada should have one citizenship process for the Brits that skips this irrelevance, and one for the rest who obviously can’t be trusted not to commit treason without swearing an oath. Just a thought.

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