A few years back I worked in Canada's lovely capital Ottawa for a couple of years.
I liked it a lot - nice people (albeit a little odd. What's with that bizarre francophone vs anglo thing anyway?). I had a job in which I genuinely felt I was making a difference (despite having to deal with ten more layers of bureaucracy than anyone in Australia would tolerate, and that's not taking into account the bilingual thing). It was excitingly close to the political hot spots of the world - but with a health system, and without the level of random violence across the border. It's scenic, and has one of the world's greatest orchestra's in easy reach in Montreal. And Ottawa has a strong TLM community at St Clement's, conveniently near where I lived, in an apartment looking out on the canal and parklands. I even considered migrating...until winter came around again. As it does so quickly!
So I had to love this pilgrim encounter story from the SMH:
July 21, 2008
WALKING in Elizabeth Street on a glorious afternoon last week, I happened upon a Canadian pilgrim at a set of lights. I waved an arm at the sky and said, "Sorry that you had to come here in the middle of winter, but I assure you, this is as bad as it gets."
It was the only moment all week that I saw a pilgrim frown.
The episode gave me pause to reflect on our notion of winter, and how glad we should be that it gets just cold enough to grumble about (which we all enjoy), but not so cold that we have to shovel our way through five-metre snowdrifts for six months of the year.
How Canadians even exist is beyond me, and why they all haven't migrated is perhaps testimony to humanity's capacity to accept outrageous circumstances for no good reason.
For the price of heating a three-bedroom house in Saskatchewan, a family could spend Christmas on a Sydney beach and have cash left for beer and prawns. So why don't they?
Because they are weird. Canadians take a masochistic pride in living within coo-ee of the Arctic, of having polar bears trash their holiday cabins, of having to wear twice their body mass in insulation just to go out and top the car up with anti-freeze. But the rising price of oil (and polar bears) is forcing our boreal buddies into a lifestyle reassessment. What, they are asking themselves, is the bloody point of living in a First-World economy that spends half the year in a refrigerator?
It was this revelation that hit my pilgrim mate from Toronto on the corner of Elizabeth and Foveaux streets last Wednesday. He was rendered speechless, and was clearly digesting a new outlook on climate and nationality. His paradigm, as they say, was shifting beneath his feet, as he gazed at a winter sky for which an Englishman at Lord's would sacrifice his first-born to sit beneath in high summer.
I could tell he was juggling exchange rates, property prices, job opportunities. More to the point, he was mulling over whether he really liked all those relatives and foul-weather friends back home. He could apply for asylum, on the grounds no sane individual should be expected to endure another Canadian winter.
I could see all this flash across his perplexed face in an instant. But I knew he would go home, and shovel snow from November till March, just like every year. Why would he do this?
Because Canadians are weird."