Mrs Toque and I went dog-sledding on Spray Lakes the other day. Physical exercise in minus 20 temperatures, at altitude, and dressed like the Michelin man is hard work, but I recommend this to anyone - you can always just sit in the sled and let others do the work. However, if you're not the one in the sled then you should be prepared to run alongside the sled, uphill through snow, in heavy snow boots, to help the dogs out. Did I feel it in my legs the next day? Err...Yes.
Tuesday was my last full day in Edmonton; a sad day for both myself and landlords of various local pubs and bars.
What can I say? I'm still not a convert, I like to live in places that you can enjoy on the hoof (Edmonton's greatest fault lies in it city-planning and reliance on the car), but I have warmed to Edmonton in the twelve months that I lived there. It has its moments and the people are genuinely friendly, which counts for a lot. I can truthfully say that it began to feel like home.
Thanks to the Alberta and Edmonton bloggers who welcomed me into the fold - in particular to the individuals whose blogs I have read, and who occasionally comment upon my ramblngs (you know who you are).
On my last day we took the opportunity to visit Speedrat at Westmount School. Regular readers will be pleased to know that he seems happy in his new home, and became happier still with the delivery of veggie lasagna, pistachio nuts, spitz and biscuit that we brought him.
Naturally I am very excited to get back to England, my excitement heightened by the fact that the nation is gearing up for the World Cup. But spare a thought for Mrs Toque. She is an Oilers fan, and looks likely to miss the Stanley Cup final unless we can find somewhere, or some channel, that shows the games in England. If there are any Canadian Expats that can give us any information on where we can see the games in England.
So here I am back in England. What was all the fuss about; what did I miss? Well, how about views like this taken from the balcony this morning?
I have been referred to as a hooligan on several occasions in Canada. Not because I am (everyone knows that hooligans are Irish) but because I am English, and that's the stereotype.
Talking of hooligans, I shot this video last night down Whyte Av.
There's a moment when the crowd disperses, backing away from the fire, booing and throwing bottles. The object of their contempt was the guy up the lampost. Not sure what he did, but I don't think he'll be doing it again.
Pictures to follow.
|Have your left breast augmented, then pop downstairs for the second cup.|
|Koch are one of Edmonton's best known car dealerships. Germans may be surprised to hear that Edmontonians pronounce 'Koch' as 'Kotsh'. Little wonder!|
|Who should I see down Calgary Trail? Why, it's none other than Edmonton's premier soccer celebrity 'Soccer Steve'.|
I'm not a hockey fan (ice hockey, for all those outside Canada, is called just 'hockey' here) but watching the Edmonton Oilers take on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks has been quite an emotional thing. You don't even have to be a Canadian to be moved by a scene such as this.
Remember, this is a club game, and not the Canadian national team that is arousing these passions. Remember too that this is Canada; a nation, though proud, not renowned for overtly patriotic fervour; a nation, it also has to be said, not renowned for the quality of its national anthem. Yet here we see the lusty fans of the Edmonton Oilers belting out O'Canada for all they are worth. Imagine the same happening in England, imagine the barotone in the middle holding the mike up to the FA Cup crowd for them to sing God Save the Queen. Difficult isn't it?
I don't think Canadians are any more patriotic about their country than we are. If anything they probably have more of the healthy cynicism towards overt displays of patriotism than we do in England (it comes from living next door to the dewey-eyed star-spangled Americans). The difference is that they get to sing about their country and display the pride that they have for it, whilst we in England sing in dreary monotone about God and the Queen, not England.
Let us know what you think we should be singing in the anthems poll.
It was the day we had been waiting for; our long anticipated tour of Cheemo's perogy factory in Edmonton, and the leaden skies and drizzle did not dampen our appetite.
Perogy making, you see, is big business in Canada, and the good people at Cheemo must be ever vigilant to ensure that details of their specialist perogy-making machine does not fall into the hands of competitors such as Naleway Perogies of Winnipeg. These reporting restrictions are paramount in order for Cheemo to retain their competitive edge, and to continue making the very finest perogies, frozen. I am sworn to secrecy, I hope you can understand.
I can however bring you this shot of the potato peelers.
Cheemo is Canada's largest perogy maker. Exclusively based in Edmonton, Alberta, they are one of the province's unsung manufacturing heros with a growth rate of 15% a year. Albertans eat an average of 3.3 lbs of frozen perogies every year, cheddar and potato being the top-selling variety. Frozen perogy sales in Canada are in excess of a staggering $40 million a year.
The question is: "If perogies are so good why can't you get them in England?"
It seems an obvious question. Perogies are ideal for England. Traditionally they are served with English staples such as sausage or bacon, and HP sauce provides the ideal accompliment. Moreover, they are basically potato encased in dough, good old-fashioned stodge - like chips, only healthier. And they are fast food - pan to mouth in under 10 minutes - and incredibly versatile, going with practically anything that you would normally serve with mashed, boiled, baked or chipped potatoes. So just why can't I buy frozen perogies in England? It was a question that I put to Cheemos. Basically we don't have them in England because of the cost of shipping them over there is prohibitive given that there isn't a large enough market for them. A tragedy, for me at least, and possibly for the millions of English men and women - living or as yet unborn - who will never know the tase of a good perogy.
So as not to end on a sour note I should inform you that I left the factory with six complimentary bags of perogies (two of which were my favourite 'Pizzarogies'), a perogy recipe booklet and, appropriately enough, a Cheemo's toque.
As a kid I was mad about dinosaurs. Most of my spare time during the summer holidays was spent agitating for a trip to the Natural History Museum in London to see the dinosaur and fossil exhibits, and to spend my pocket money on the dinosaur figures in the gift shop.
With this in mind you can imagine my delight when Mrs Toque offered to take me on a road trip to Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park: The Alberta Badlands - the dinotastic centre of the known universe.
Highlights of this slideshow include the crazy landscape of Dinosaur Provincial Park, Big Things (the Stettler Canada Goose, a giant cactus, the world's largest dinosaur - 4x bigger then a real Tyrannosaurus Rex), Mrs Toque's Oilers tattoo, and some daft photos of the exhibits inside the Tyrell Museum.
|Coming soon: A visit to a perogy factory in Edmonton!|
On Easter Friday it was 18°C in Edmonton with not a cloud in the sky, the snow had melted, the ducks had arrived, and the geese were departing. Two days later the snow is back and the tantalising glimpse of summer seems more like a dream.
Edmonton on Easter Sunday - snowflakes as big as your fist
And to think that Mrs Toque complains that the English weather is chopsy.
Anyway, mustn't grumble, we're off to Thailand for four weeks this morning and there should be summer in abundance there. See you when we get back.
Oh, and a happy St George's Day for the 23rd.
My shoulders are sore from sweeping, and that can only mean one thing - Little Man in a Toque has been curling.
Given the fact that curling is Scottish (and generally considered shite) you might be expecting me to really take the piss out of it. But no. I loved it. And not only that but my darts and pool skills obviously stood me in good stead because I was actually rather good at it (even if I say so myself).
Here's a rather blurred photo of me and the team just to prove that I did it.
I didn't quite have the grace of some of the more experienced curlers, and on delivering the stone I favoured the unorthodox 'sliding-on-knees-technique' but that didn't seem to matter because I seemed to be able to hit the target. And one of the most important aspects of curling is the drinking - whether from the bar or hip-flasks on the ice - which I was also, perhaps less surprisingly, good at too.
The funniest thing about curling - even funnier than when people fall on their arse - is just how competitive Canadians are about it. It's hardly what I would call a macho sport but some of the guys (and girls) were getting really pumped and giving it the 'big-un', if you know what I mean. Chillout guys, aggresion in curling is like sledging in a flower arranging competition.
Curling - definately a game to play rather than watch but don't knock it 'till you've tried it. You can learn all about it from the Canadian Curling Association