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