Monday 11 February 2019

Postcard from Toronto

I landed in Toronto on Saturday afternoon, having read furiously for seven hours. Beside me sat an old white-haired hippy, who may not have attempted a chat because I read Standpoint from cover to cover. On the other hand, his accent was Canadian, so perhaps he was too polite to try.

This is not foolproof. An elderly hippy with a north-of-Toronto accent on the Bathurst 7C yesterday attempted to chat up a young Russian-looking woman with a small child, and I shut my eyes in local horror as I ramped up the volume on my mobile phone.

I was listening to Assimil Deutsch. The easiest way to cope with the Babel that is Toronto, I find, is to  think in not-English, also. That way I am in solidarity with the majority of Torontonians who grew up speaking not-English. Monolingualism is just not cool.

It was snowing when the plane landed, and my father warned me at once that all the snow on the ground was covered with ice. It's cold, but it's a dry cold: a sentence as Canadian as "Let's get a coffee at Timmie's."

My teenage nephew, known to readers as Pirate, is now taller than me. I brought him a new Celtic football jersey from Glasgow Airport. He still has the one I gave him last year or the year before. I couldn't remember when I gave it to him. At any rate, he still wears it. However, he didn't mind getting a new one. He thinks his fellow high school students think it shows allegiance to the Boston Celtics basketball team.

Pirate harrowed up the souls of his elders at the Sunday dinner table by bragging about how little he and his classmates study. He did mention, with a note of reproof, that he had been surprised that his new teachers don't quell classroom noise. I was unsure as to whether Pirate was teasing us or making a general confession. He says his friends are Russians and they don't do drugs. I said I was very glad to hear this. I had given him the "Marijuana is dangerous if you're under 25" speech.

Note to self: try to get Pirate interested in learning Russian.

I spent Sunday morning with dear friends and their adorable children, including my Goddaughter.

"You have no respect," I told my Goddaughter. "You don't call me Godmother, you don't kiss my hand."

Goddaughter isn't yet two, so presumably she'll learn.

We all went to the TLM together in a minivan. The three boys sat in the back, and Goddaughter and I sat in the two seats in the middle. Goddaughter stared at me in an interested fashion. I told her that she was very lucky to have such excellent brothers. I suspect the boys enjoyed this. I asked the eldest of the boys how he would arrange the family hockey team, and there was much animated discussion of who would play goal, who would be forwards, who defence. Their father has built them a back yard hockey rink.

"Greater love hath no father than this, that he would build a back yard rink for his children," said I.

"It's bumpy," said one of the boys.

"Shhhh," said their mother.

"All natural ice is bumpy," I said.

The children are permitted screens on very very limited occasions, just DVDs at a grandparental house. As a result (I suspect) the boys bounce off the walls, draw lots of pictures, collect hockey cards and develop an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of Canadian hockey. They play floor hockey at their super-orthodox Catholic private school.

The new-to-me organist and choir director seems to be on a mission to educate the congregation. After well-rendered chants and Benedictus Appenzeller, the congregation was suddenly startled during the Offertory by the cacophonic shrieking at the beginning of Judith Weir's Ave Regina Coelorum. Oh, how moderne. Ultimately, as the celebrant began to pronounce the Last Gospel, we were plunged headlong into the postlude, a (the?) Maurice Durufle Toccata. Gorgeous, but it drew attention not to the Last Gospel but to its thunderous self. Speaking as a person-in-the-pews, a quiet Marian anthem until the altar party had left would have been more apropos. Then the organist could rock our socks and send shivers up and down our spines.

The Toccata was beautifully played, I must admit.

After Mass I went to the Hudson's Bay Company, inter alia, to buy some suitably Canadian clothing. The taxes were added at the end--I hate that, and I always forget. I was also annoyed that the Hudson's Bay T-shirt I bought was not included in the 40% off sale, but I bought it anyway because it says "Canada" is emblazoned with a canoe and has the HBC stripes on it. Despite minimalism, I have inadvertently begun a Canadian T-shirt collection.


  1. Marijuana is *more* dangerous if you are under 25. Still dangerous if 25 or older. Not for all, but there are no guarantees with drugs, especially if family history of mental health issues (for any family).

    Teens may not want to hear that (or act like they don't) but it helps if the message is delivered with empathetic discussion of what things draw us closer to, or further away, from God. For boys, emphasise whether they want their little sister (if they have one) to use that drug, hook up with that guy, etc.

    Life is challenging for youth today; more so than a generation ago. God bless them, and those who guide them.

    1. Good point! I promised B.A. I wouldn't buy and smoke it myself while I was in Toronto. It's legal here now: goodness me!

  2. I remember doing a training placement in an acute psych ward as part of my general nursing degree. There were young men (late 20's and early 30's) working as psych nurses absolutely militant against cannabis, more than the older nurses. They were frustrated and angry about the young men coming in with newly diagnosed schizophrenia and suicidal ideation post smoking cannabis. That stuff is lethal.

    I love Standpoint too! Why is Daniel Johnson stepping down though? I loved his Catholic view of things interspersed with the Jewish point of view. I think it will be a great loss. I stopped subscribing as it seemed to change with the new look last year. I still buy it in the newsagents and I'm glad for if it goes downhill under a new editor it would have been an expensive subscription to keep up to Ireland.


  3. I wondered about Daniel Johnson leaving, too. I hadn't bought an issue in a few years. It's expensive!

  4. Aye, and I have noticed a change in the tone of the magazine, a titch insular somehow and less meaty on current issues. I am glad Toby Young wrote this month and would love to see more of Julie Burchill and the like, a gathering of folks from across the spectrum to defend the West and yahboo to your opinion on Brexit.

    I ought to add to my earlier comment that cannabis, like cocaine, has its uses. There have been some clear improvements in people with Parkinson's Disease, MS and epilepsy who take cannabis as a medicine under supervision. Like all meds, if you don't have such a problem then count your lucky stars and stay away. Over and out!