Tag: toque

Pies and Prejudice

(Titled borrowed from  Stuart Maconie’s very funny book about Northern Britain)

Canadians don’t tend to write dates backwards like Americans do. (ie: 03/04 would be the third of April, not the 4th of March). However, they do celebrate PI-Day, the 14th March (“3.14”). So, we had a potluck lunch at work on 14th, and my contribution was Pi-pie.

Pi-pie. Next time I will make it in a casserole dish and call it Pie R Squared.

At least this time, people got it! What they didn’t understand though was my love of savoury pies. That one was Caribbean style with beef and loads of peppers and I confused them all before when I made a giant Cornish pasty. Here, pies are sweet, and bakeries only serve doughnuts. I miss Greggs!!


This is Hilary and I. Yes I am dressed as a drunken mountie. Hils was being a pirate.
This is Hilary and I. Yes I am dressed as a drunken mountie. Hils was being a pirate. A normal Saturday evening.

Best news ever: My MAD geeky friends are coming out to visit!! Hilary and D, those sarcastic folk from London famous for Lego, working at the BBC and naked sauna parties, and who made comments about us being insane for moving somewhere so cold – they are voluntarily coming here. Not until October unfortunately, but YAAAAAAAAY anyway.

As soon as I heard this news, I wrote them a postcard, to prepare them for their arrival in this alien culture. It said something along the lines of:

“We will get cold watching the hockey, eh? But we can eat maple doughnuts and roll up the rims on our Timmies double-doubles, while somewhere nearby (about 5 hours away) a moose will nod appreciatively. Don’t forget your toques!”

Believe it or not, that was not (just) an exercise in ‘how many Canadian stereotypes can I fit on one postcard?” – I genuinely believe they will have NO IDEA what “Timmies,” “toques” or “double-doubles” are. They don’t measure distance in hours, and I’m fairly confident that D will think “rolling up the rim” is a sex act. He still hasn’t got over the concept of the Regina Farmers’ market, poor boy.


Last week I was sitting nervously wearing a 10 year old suit jacket and feeling like a complete berk, having a very high pressure discussion about my future job prospects. I faced the usual questions relatively well, or so I thought – research skills, can I do quantitative?  Why Coffee? Why Regina? yadayadayada. Then came the question that threw me off-guard. “So, you’re an anthropologist; what cultural differences have you noticed here?”


Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many cultural differences between here and the UK, and probably even quite a few between Saskatchewan and other parts of Canada, but explaining them eloquently under pressure without offending anyone was beyond me. I made some awfully vague comments about everyone being friendlier, and fortunately managed to sidetrack the conversation away by pointing out how everything is designed around the car here. Which is true, and something I am acutely aware of and can’t seem to get used to, but it is certainly not the most striking cultural difference. The devil is in the details as they say. Things like not eating savoury pies, the innate apology-reflex and the adorable national obsession with a gimmicky competition designed to flog cheap coffee.

Some of the stereotypes do ring true. Canadians are very polite, but it’s not always a good thing. You can be deterred and unnerved by politeness, or lulled into a false sense of security. I didn’t get that job, but the woman who interviewed me sure as hell wasn’t going to tell me that. She was too polite. In some ways, that is even more infuriating.

On the surface, everyone is very friendly here, courteous and considerate – and they know they are, hence the “I’m sorry we’re so awesome” memes after the Winter Olympics! It is also much more classless in comparison with the UK. Back there, no one was too fond of claiming what ‘class’ they fitted in to, but it was constantly in the collective consciousness. There were the usual references to ‘middle class Guardian readers’ or some posh toff politician claiming to come from a “normal working class background”. Yes, I’m sure you did grow up on an estate, Cameron… your family just happened to own it…. Here, however, there is none of that. I’m well aware that I live in a nice comfortable middle class and lefty-liberal bubble, but very few call it ‘a middle class area’.

That is not to say that ‘classism’ or other forms of prejudice don’t exist though. I recently had an eye-opening discussion with a friend about our local schools.  As of yesterday, Connaught school where Miranda went to pre-kindergarten, is officially no more. http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/Saskatchewan/ID/2339282560/

It will be closed in June, and then knocked down. (This topic deserves a blog post all to itself but it makes me so angry that it’s taken ages to start writing, and each time I do, something else happens to make me need to rewrite!). Anyway, there has been outrage in the local community, and the school board couldn’t have handled it worse if they’d tried. In what passed for “public consultation”, the parents were given different options of what should happen next – where the kids could go in the interim between the school being knocked down, and them (hopefully) building another one. To my mind, none of the options were remotely plausible – and as it turns out, futile too, since the eventual outcome completely disregarded the views of the parents anyway. One option, which the school board finally decided on this week, was to bus all the kids over to Wascana school, which is currently standing empty. The Wascana school kids are now in the brand new Seven Stones school. At the public consultation meeting back in February, this idea was suggested, and shouted down with boos from the parents. I confess ignorance here: I didn’t know where Wascana school is, and I didn’t know why it was empty. As the name suggests, I thought it was some school near Wascana lake, and I thought it was empty because it was falling down or something – and that was why it was an unpopular choice.

As it turns out, Wascana School is nowhere the lake. In fact, it is above the train tracks from here, in the North Central neighbourhood, otherwise known as “the hood”. I’ve mentioned it before on here. Before we moved, I was warned by several people not to move to that area. Now we’re here, I have had other parents aghast that I took Miri to Scott Collegiate for the Early Years Family Centre there, because it involved walking through the hood. I never had any problems whatsoever up there, and I always felt far, far safer there and more comfortable than I did just walking between my house and my own business back in Darlington. But no, apparently, these polite, courteous, laid back, liberal and classless Canadians won’t send their little darlings to a school the wrong side of the tracks. And their reasoning, conscious or otherwise, is worthy of another blog post all to itself because it is even more disturbing!


Feeling Local


LOOK AT IT. Just LOOK AT IT! That is not including the windchill. If it’s windy, it feels 10 – 15 degrees colder than that!

Anyone outside Saskatchewan would go “Brrrr!” or, more likely “You must be insane”

Canadians say, “Oh look, it’ll be sunny at the end of the week, eh?”

I am having the same issues as I was last winter, only last year the truly ridiculous temperatures didn’t really hit until January. It’s earlier this year. Maybe January will be WORSE. Anyhoo, my issues lie more in the fact that I am still walking to work. Out the door we go at 8am, having fought Miranda into about 14 layers of clothing to carry her three blocks to the daycare, strip her off again, kiss her goodbye then leg it to work where I usually arrive thawing messily all over the lifts, elevators with precisely 2 minutes to spare. I am usually carrying my insulated, ceramic travel mug full of hot coffee in thickly-mitted hands. Three times in the past fortnight two weeks, there has been a layer of ice on the top of my coffee, inside the mug.

Note frozen coffee dribbles on the top (the inside had melted again by the time I reached my desk on 6th floor!)

My eyelashes freeze, my hair freezes, my breath freezes on the inside of my scarf making it all crunchy and weird. The gap over my knee between the bottom of my coat and the top of my boots goes numb. We are all permanently red-cheeked from windburn. BUT, it is always survivable. And it’s a great excuse to wear silly hats, sorry, “toques”. And it’s pretty and wintery and Christmassy. Everyday that I struggle through the frozen wastelands to get to work, I feel proud of myself for just attempting the journey and making it into the office unharmed. That feeling puts me in a good frame of mind to start the work day at least!

As usual, everyone else is just getting on with things. They plug their cars in, they wear their toques and snow mits, and the streets are scraped very quickly and efficiently. When the postie mailman can’t get through on a weekday, he delivers on Sunday instead!

We had our office Christmas party last week, which was a fun night. We all dressed up, but as far as I know, no-one photocopied their arse or got up to mischief in the stationary cupboard, so it was a little disappointing in that respect. (Admittedly, I’ve never been to an office party before, so my expectations were based on a very vague stereotype!). Now, Sam gave me a lift there, and Fay drove me home afterwards (Thanks!!) but this is what I wore:

Sparkly Sparkly!

I had equally purple 4″ heels on underneath, and yes, unsurprisingly IT WAS FREEZING. The snow is now over the height of my heels anyway. BUT I SURVIVED!!! We had a great night anyway, and there were obligatory group photos, none of which I will share on here after plaintive begging from a friend who HATES photos….

The other news is, I’ve now finished my compulsory 6 hours of driving lessons, and they didn’t actually go too badly. It is a lot easier not having to worry about clutch control (ie: everything’s automatic!) Plus, once I’d got used to everything being on the wrong side, and stopped trying to change phantom gears with the door handle, Saskatchewan driving is fairly easy because the roads are so much wider and there are considerably fewer things to hit. (Though to be fair, I didn’t have to worry about hitting Moose in the UK!) No hill-starts either.

What I did have to contend with though, is driving on packed ice. Carl is saving up to get winter tyres (yes with a Y!) for the car, but annoyingly Revenue and Customs have only just, just paid him his tax refund, (we sent it off in March, FFS!) and they’ve decided to disallow half his claim for no apparent reason, meaning his refund was a lot smaller than we’d anticipated.  GAH. So the tyres have yet to materialise. They make a bit of a difference, apparently, but whatever you do to the car, you can’t avoid the fact that we won’t see concrete for quite a few months yet. Once the ice is there, it stays put, and the street clearers just remove the loose snow on top of it. (Very quickly and efficiently, I should add.) Carl finally, reluctantly let me drive down to the supermarket last week, and I skidded a bit when stopping at a junction intersection. Well, it was that or run a red light on my first outing! Skids aren’t uncommon, but on my last lesson, the instructor made me parallel park, and I could actually hear the ice crunching as I turned the wheel. I thought I was doing something horrible to the car!!

Never mind… I suppose this is actually the best time to learn: it’s got to be done, there is no escaping the winter conditions so I better learn to cope with them, as the locals do. That goes for most other issues too!


Remember, remember, something about November

My Novembers always seem to be busy, and hold some sort of significant event. I don’t know why, maybe my self-inflicted stress of Nanowrimo heightens my senses and makes everything else seem more poignant. I am Nano-ing again as usual; this year I am attempting a semi-sensibly ghost story and so far (4 days in!) it is going well and I am up to date with the daily word count for the first time in my entire novelling career!

Last November, I’d just started my little coffee consulting business, and all our stuff – all the furniture, books, corsets and other essentials finally, finally arrived on the boat from the UK.

November before that, I was actually in Regina, but just at the hostel, in those two mad weeks where I discovered what a sad joke Ken from Kave Haz was, got what I thought would be a great job at 13th Ave Coffee, and met the wonderful Tamara just after her birthday. I also started this blog – I got a WordPress “Happy Anniversary” the other day!

November 2010 we’d just got back from South Africa, and were frantically rushing round insanely trying to get my cafe open.

In 2009 I was freezing on my coffee stall and scooting to Nano write-ins on Binky (the much beloved heap of crap, otherwise known as my scooter), and throwing up on a daily basis thanks to incubating Miranda.

And in 2008, I’d just arrived in Nicaragua!

So, I like Novembers. This year I am feeling unnaturally positive too. For the first time in years I have a Proper Job (as the Mother would call it) which could actually turn into a career if I chose. I may be slaving over a hot scanner still, but I am enjoying it.

Unlike last November, it has only just started snowing. Carl and I battled our way to work in it this morning, but I was still in my cowboy boots rather than the Giant Canadian Snow Boots. It’s only single-digits below zero and apparently it may even melt again by the end of the week. The view from Floor 18 looked very wintery this morning though:

2013-10-21 12.36.28Weather forecasts suggest that this winter is going to be a lot shorter with less snow, but apparently, even colder!! I dread to think how that is possible, I am still traumatised by the -49 degrees Celsius of last  January…. Fortunately this year my walking commute to work is about ten minutes shorter, and there is the minutest possibility that at some point soon I may be able to drive as well. I’ve had 3 hours of lessons driving an automatic on the wrong side of the road in amongst the Monster Trucks, and it’s not quite as terrifying as I’d feared. Mind you, my last lesson was before the snow started. It is going to take A LOT of courage to drive on ice for the first time. I suppose we ought to invest in winter tyres too.

Nevertheless, in a strange way I am looking forward to Proper Winter. I got me boots, and me “toque”.


"I am Canadian!"* *kinda
“I am Canadian!”*

Learning lots

Regina does seem to be Where It’s At at the moment, though what It is remains to be seen. House prices are rocketing, the rental market is moving so fast that the few places we’ve looked at haven’t even been advertised on the internet yet because they’ve not been free long enough to post the ad! The place is booming, and many people we meet are being encouraging saying there is a lot of work going at the moment.

Found another apartment this afternoon that would do at least temporarily, though I am not keen on apartments. It is just a case of getting something affordable and comfy until we get ourselves sorted.

But in silly news, we went round a Christmas craft fair this morning and I bought a Canadian Christmas spider. yep, a Christmas Spider. Also got Miranda her first ‘toque’. That is, a bobble hat; it has penguins on it! No idea why they are called Toques (pronounced ‘tooook’). It just about stayed on her head, that is until she woke up properly, pulled it off, dropped it and Carl had to retrace his steps for 3 blocks to go and collect it again! Because of this delay, we missed our bus. However, frantic waving and dejected expression accompanied by my Awesome Gorilla Hat meant it actually stopped again to pick us up. The driver said “I couldn’t not stop for a toque like that.” – this made me Very Happy.

Tried a pint of Regina IPA today. Very nice stuff it is too! We had tried to go to a “slow food pub” but they wouldn’t let us in with Miranda, despite us wanting food as well, and it being 3pm. Grrr.

I had a “buzzsaw” coffee at Roca Jack’s this morning – that is, a strong Americano, but instead of topping the espresso with hot water, it’s topped with dark roast filter coffee, if that makes any sense. Suffice to say, it was very strong and very good indeed. I like this place. Here is an arty pic of their roaster:

Roca Jacks