Yesterday I went to West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping mall on planet Earth and possibly also its most ghastly place (now that the Gulags are no more). That's not to say that the mall - or'West-Ed', as it is commonly referred to - isn't worth a visit; its sheer size inspires awe and everybody that comes to Edmonton should visit it just so they can ensure that a similar carbuncle is not erected in their own community.
Here are a couple of shots of the sealion display that I captured yesterday:
The sealions were bought to replace the dolphins which, fortunately for them, but unfortunately for the newly incumbent sealions, died.
Anyway, after being entertained, I traipsed several miles through the Mall, past the lifesize roaring dinosaur head, to HMV where I intended to buy Royksopp and Mr Scruff's new albums. As it turns out Mr Scruff's 'new album' was a rerelease of his 1997 album so I came away with only the Royksopp album which I listened to in the car as I sped homeward.
But something was wrong. I was listening to the Royksopp album but for the life of me I honestly couldn't tell whether it was any good, or even whether I liked it. What was wrong with me? Had living in Edmonton turned me into a soul-less cretin with no musical ear? Later I confided in Mrs Toque: "We need to go out dancing, I haven't danced for so long".
It was true, I hadn't danced since I was in Vancouver over two months ago. It's not that I hadn't been anywhere in Edmonton to dance, we go out regularly, it's just that the music is so shit here so I had never heard anything worthy of dancing to. The 80's retro revival has not reached Edmonton because Edmonton has never left the 80s, its not uncommon to hear the likes of Bon Jovi, Dire Straights, New Order etc. on a night out or, if you should be unlucky to turn on the radio, a combination of 80s pop, 80s-style rock and country music. In fact the only respite to this god-awful 80s aural assault is the dreary and tedious R&B and hip-hop played in the those establishments that help fulfil the desire of Edmonton's backward and baseball-cap-wearing white youth to connect with black American gangster culture. I had lost my rhythm and my musical-ear had atrophied with all the soul-less garbage that I was being subjected to. Help! I needed therapy, so I turned to the internet and found this. It seemed unlikely, but it was worth a shot!
Expectations weren't high when we entered Stolli's but hi-balls were $2 and everything else was $3 so at the very least we could get rat-arsed on a budget. However, our negative energy was dissipated when this guy took to the decks:
Quite simply, he was brilliant. Playing a mix of house, electro, trance and funk he cut everything up expertly and never missed a beat, and he dropped in new stuff so fast it sometimes seemed like he had three decks on the go. I had to pinch myself to reassure myself that this was Edmonton. I danced, unsurely at first, not sure if my legs still worked, but I soon picked up the beat. Not many others danced, strangely the Edmontonians seemed to be holding back.
Mr DJ - whatever your name is - thank you. You have restored dancing motor-function to my legs and restored my faith in music.
His set was followed by another DJ who beat-mixed banging techno tune after banging techno tune, but not quite seemlessly, in a monotony of boring tracks, without a hint of funk or anything remotely off-beat or interesting. The crowd went wild, the Edmontonians loved it, and began dancing like chimpanzes on hotplates without a hint of self-conscience at their abominable dancing. I could have shrugged and muttered "When in Rome...." and begun to dance like a monkey myself but I decided not to lower myself, or put myself at risk of a crippling back-injury, so we watched and laughed as we drank up and walked to the door.
The highlight of the Canada Day parade down Whyte Av was, for me at least, when the guy in the bear suit tripped and fell......because it's damn hard to get back on your feet when you're in a bear suit.
Believe me, these Canadian are very anti-smoking, and the policy of putting horrific pictures on cigarette packets seems effective to me.
But as yesterday's trip to the drugstore at Fort Edmonton Park revealed they weren't always so anti-smoking.
More pictures of my day out at Fort Edmonton Park here
Back in England I used to manage a womens' naked water-polo team, it passed the time and kept me off the streets. Finding myself at something of a loose end in Canada I decided to get a team going here so I produced some bill posters in order to attract some fit girls to manage. I thought office birds might be game so I went downtown with my bucket of paste and my bill posters to find some suitable posts to stick my bill posters to.
Decorative fucking pole! Are you serious? I've seen some decorative poles in my time and that ain't one of them.
Is it only Americans that don't understand irony? Do Canadians do irony so well that they stick 'Decorative pole' posters on totally undecorative poles?
I'm confused! I feel like an outsider again, is this an inside joke?
With the new football (the game played with the feet) season around the corner, and with the mighty Chelsea kicking off the season against newly promoted Wigan Athletic it is comforting to know that just down the road from my house there is an English pub where I can watch the games.
Pictured on the left is Bass Pale Ale. Bass & Co enjoy the distinction of having the first registered trademark in England (the red triangle), which also happens to be the oldest registered trademark - that exists to this day - in the entire world. And as if that wasn't distinction enough the home of Bass Breweries is Burton on Trent, the place where I was born.
UPDATE: In comments Alfie has directed me to this painting by Edouard Manet - the barmaid could do with cheering up.
The fun in coming to somewhere new is, of course, in meeting the people and interacting with them. Canada is much like England but there are differences and these differences can be a delight.
I was walking down Edmonton's bar and club strip - Whyte Av - with my good lady when we happened upon some tramps loitering at the corner (Canadians: for tramp read 'bum' or 'vagrant'). Immediately cautious, as one is in unfamiliar surroundings, I was thinking that I’d give these ne'er do-wells a wide berth when one of them, a short plump surly weather-beaten fellow that had clearly seen better days, jumped out into our path, legs parted like a line-backer, giving me the Winston Churchill victory salute. He grinned menacingly, and with a voice like thunder asked "How come you get such a pretty one?"
I thought about running, after-all maybe it was Mrs Toque he was after and she's much slower than me...... there was still time to safe myself, but the fight or flight response didn't seem to be working so I did all that I could in such a fix and nodded courteously to the fellow whilst maintaining a forced happy-go-lucky grin. As we approached he stepped aside and I turned back to look at him in time to see him throw his hands up in the air and shout "When I can't even get a fucking ugly one!" before doubling up under the weight of his undoubted comedy genius.
Everyone in the street, tramps and shoppers together, began to laugh, and we giggled about it all the way home.
Another such situation occurred in Shoppers Drug Mart. I was in line at the checkout when the young checkout girl commented upon the slogan on my t-shirt, "What does 'I don't do mingers' mean?", she asked. There were three of us present; the checkout girl, myself, and a right old minger - the sort that has not just been severely beaten with an ugly stick, but cowed into submission by it. I decided on death or glory over tact: "Minger is Scottish slang for someone that is extremely ugly or dirty".
At this the old minger suddenly became all animated and said "I find that if you get drunk enough everyone looks good", and then she looked at me and said "You should try it sometime".
Game, set and match to the minger.
It sounds like the Queen has been having a lovely time in Canada. Yesterday she visited Edmonton where an alcoholic Alberta Premier Ralph Klein welcomed the Queen to the legislature by remarking on Canada's ties to the United Kingdom. The Queen then went to the Provincial Museum of Alberta which was rededicated to become the Royal Alberta Museum in her honour.
On Alberta's 100th birthday she said:
"May God bless you on this happy 100th birthday and I send you all my warmest good wishes for the years to come."
And the good people of Edmonton did cheer.
It all sounded a bit formal, especially for Prince Philip who had to go north of Edmonton to meet some rig-pigs. This was in stark contrast to their trip to Jasper where the Royal couple were able to enjoy a damn good belly-laugh at the sight of a wounded toddler.
Brynn Noble falls over at the feet of the Queen and Reverend Victoria Matthews, to the delight of a laughing Prince Philip, far left.
The Royals have that affect on people in the colonies. Just look at this badly behaved Sasketchewan child who immediately stopped crying and stood to attention when presented to Her Majesty.
I'm very pleased to be moving to a nation that shows respectful deference, clumsiness and dumb-struck awe in the presence of royalty.