Thursday, 24 May 2012


my one true bicycle love was my dahon d8 speed folding bike. ok, it let me down twice with near fatal accidents due to the parts not being tight enough and the bike falling into complete dissarray, but other than that. pure love. it was easy and light and beautiful. it could be stored in my miniature London flat without the constant worry of vandal or more likely theft by eleven year old.

cycling to Leslie Spit on May 24

when i cycle in Toronto, on my piece of crap bike that i've already fallen off on in the minefield that it otherwise known as the streetcar tracks, i feel blissful. there are trees everywhere, the streets are paved and wide, other commuters give you a nod here and there (not an annoying real conversation on the way to work, let's be serious, that's plain hazardous), and there is a blistering inferno of a beautiful sacred sun on your back. 

when I biked to work in London i tried to take back roads for the most part but i always had to endure the six lane roundabouts of Blackfriars Bridge, and the tree free streets lining the Thames. but in Toronto, oh glorious Toronto..... trees galore abound at every turn. downtown is pretty much twenty min max from anyone living in town. okay the taxis are still deadly, but it's a city.

the one terrible detriment of Toronto cycling is the number of poorly paved roads just waiting to give you a little bounce. i would start on Ford here but i hate him and don't think such a wonderous description of my journey to work can handle the taint that is the one fat man mayor. 

i still miss London a lot for various things, but when i'm cycling in the city in the sun of Toronto, i do think how lucky I am. 

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Hot Docs

Toronto has a big film scene. TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) is huge with hundreds of thousands swarming the city to see the year's best films and is deeming the second biggest and best film fest after Cannes.

Over the last few weeks another film fest has Toronto buzzing - Hot Docs. Featuring documentaries from around the world, Hot Docs is North America's biggest documentary festival. Hot Docs has re-opened Bloor Cinema for this year's Hot Docs, and will continue to show only documentaries at the 800!!! seat theatre. 

Which is where we saw 'Ping Pong' today. A look at octogenarians representing their countries at an international table tennis tournament in singles and doubles +80 and +85 age categories. The film followed a few competitors in the lead up to the tournament and in the six months that followed. Like any great film, it was emotionally charged and had you immediately connected to the central figures (other than that American woman who was a little die hard for my taste, asking what the 100 year old Aus was doing at the tournament 'she can't even move'!). The film left me contemplating what it really means to be old, the fight between mind and body, and also the general experience of watching a film in a theatre. 

We're incredibly lucky in Toronto to have a theatre dedicated to documentaries alone (apparently there's  one other doc only theatre Worldwide - an 14 seater in Zagreb). Not only do documentaries give life to unique and interesting stories, which typically result in learning something new about a culture, event or idea, but the reality of these stories gives you a much stronger connection to what you're seeing. I feel very lucky to have the collective experience of the movie cinema on my doorstep to be able take advantage of this beautiful idea, without having to succumb to the banality of  reality TV (of which there is also plenty here). 

Friday, 23 March 2012

The post-winter pre-spring summer

chillin in the sun at Christie Pitts

Toronto in the summer time is absolutely brilliant, full patios, bright blue skies, warm breezes, lots of skin and smiles. It's amazing how much weather really does make a difference to a person's general well-being. I went from living in rainy Vancouver, to rainy Hamburg to rainy London, so living under the vast blue skies of Toronto is pretty grand, and the last week it's been absolutely summertastic. Between 20 and 25 for a week. Record highs. Last night at 1030pm, chilling on my patio, the temperature was 22. An absolutely perfect July evening. Summer dresses and sandals have been out. 

For you non-Torontonians, March is typically a winter month. It's often still below zero and snowy. This last week has been a complete freak of nature. It's hard to feel bad about beautiful summery days and sipping cold beer on patios all over town but the truth of the matter is this is climate change and it's scary. 'Amazing but scary' is how I've heard the last week described by most. 

Today, the weather shifted and now, after a week of summer, we're back to the beginning of Spring, and we'll probably be sitting in the teen degrees for the next two months. I just hope summer hasn't passed us completely by with a week of fun in March. 

For accurate information on climate change in Canada check out the Pembina Institute 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Top 5 things I love about Toronto today

  • Wunderbars
  • great, yet cheap, take away sushi at lunch
  • people saying their phone numbers in the same 3 3 4 rhythm
  • the sun is there when I wake up and is still up when I leave work - and it's March 1st
  • my bf and I have already kareoked in the city (and at different times, go Koreatown

Top 5 things I miss about London today

  • people make tea for each other at work
  • there are some sort of after work drinks everyday no matter what
  • my lunch time gym break
  • bowling in Finsbury Park
  • Pret a Manger's artisan baguette with prosciutto

The local Pret at my work in London

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

El banco

Ok, the banks in England have certainly had their setbacks. The crash was bad, bankers were allowed to do stupid things so they could become rich (or richer). All that is true and there is no defense. Canadian banks were praised for their rules and general noncrashability. In general, the Canadian system is set up in a very similar way to the British system - a few large national banks rule the industry. When the Canadian system held up in 2008 and on, I was proud.

But today, and really everyday, I have a beef to pick with Canadian banks. Several beefs in fact. Maybe a cows worth.  Lots of Canadians probably don't know that British banks operate like this but

  • there are no monthly fees no matter how much money is in your chequing account
  • you can easily transfer money from one bank account to another online and for free
  • if you use an atm that belongs to another bank it's free
My top three beefs with Canadian banks are:

  • monthly fees of circa $8 - for just having an account
  • the easiest way to transfer money is by setting up an email transfer ($1 fee)
  • atm's that aren't your banks cost you around $2.50 from that bank, and probably another $2 from yours, every time.
I'm not a person with lots of various investments going on. For me, my bank account is simply the keeper of my money. Where I can retrieve money, and send money as need be. So the fact that my Canadian bank account charges me for every single of the three things I do with it - have an account, draw money, send money - drives me mad. Mostly because I know it doesn't have to be like this. Let's face it, RBS didn't need to be bailed out because they were letting the average Joe people get cash from a Barclays machine for free, they had to get bailed out because of bad policies and greedy insanely rich people.

I think that banks in England might have such good customer product policies for the layman bank user because of Nationwide Building Society - an institution run by the people who bank with them. The only downside to Nationwide is you can't become a member unless you've lived in the UK for over three years. Joyously however, Barclays doesn't charge me to use Nationwide atms.

Monday, 27 February 2012

The Local - Toronto styles


Because my last post was about London locals, and I happened to skip into a lovely little pub in Roncesvalles last night called The Local, I had to share with you that proper locals - chilled out, lots of character, friendly bartenders, not fancy just people sitting around drinking a pint - are available in Toronto. It's just that the crucial element of the local is actually being a hop skip away from where you live.
For my Roncey matey, this is true (and The Local really is lovely, read this review to get some more info). But for me, my nearest watering hole is 1km away (there are a few options at that distance), and that's just too far for a local in my opinion. In comparison, the 3 flats I lived in in London had great locals at 88 metres, 65 metres, and 102 metres.  It's not because I live in the sticks or in some bizarro industrial area. For confirmation, within a hundred metres of my flat in Toronto there's a corner store, 2 coffee places, a bank, 4 restaurants, 2 yoga centres and a smattering of shops. There are 3 groceries stores within 2 blocks of me. And yet no local pub. It's just a different kind of life here. If you happen to live close to a local pub and you're in TO, consider yourself lucky. If you aren't, check out The Local in Roncesvalles and their amazing Freddie Mercury portrait. 

Friday, 24 February 2012

The local

The Faltering Fullback in Finsbury Park - my local for 3 years and probably the best pub in the world. Hands down. 
(photo from

The local must not be underestimated in London. Friendships are kept in a local. Friendships are made in a local. Pints are drunk. Whole rainy afternoons are spent idly sipping cider to nurse a hangover from the previous evening out on the town. The local and everyone's locals are what I miss most about London. It's the social glue of the entire British culture. It's not for drunks and vagabonds (though of course they'll be there too), but for the everyday folk to spend time with friends or a good newspaper (ideally the Sunday's Guardian) unwinding.

When I first moved to London I had the impression that most Brits were drunks. This was the result of three incidences that happened within the first month of arriving in London. The first two were at pubs in Finsbury Park.

The first:
(photo from

The T-Bird. A middle aged gentleman breaks his face open by falling forward on the wooden table in front of him from a standing position (ie passed out). Blood everywhere. The guy staggers up (smashing your face will wake you up) and starts dancing. Good reggae will get anyone dancing I suppose.

The second:

(photo from

The Worlds End. A 40ish year old man in a nice suit and shiny black shoes is passed out in a drunken stupor outside the door of the pub. It's 700pm. It's a Wednesday. I'm getting home from work. His friends come outside and laughingly try to help him get up. Because that's what friends are for.

The third:

The Devil's Juice - Snakebite

The central line, westbound. After experiencing my first taste of Snakebite - typically reserved for university students, courtesy of my amazing hockey team's first team night out, I arrived at Sheppard's Bush attempting to go to Finsbury Park from Loughton. Of course non Londoners have no idea what I mean, so in Toronto that's like leaving from Ajax to go to Bloor and Spadina and finding yourself in Oakville.  It was my first week and I had no idea where I was or really where I was going. Thanks Snakey B! Luckily my taxi driver could speak Spanish. 

These three incidences would I think, clearly lead anyone to think that Brits are drunks, but these still stand out as rare occurrences that just happened to all be some of my first pub experiences.  After that, I found out that visiting a good local was great for friends mingling and hanging out. I think if you work at a place with lots of young people in London you will easily make new friends because of this common and celebrated part of life. And that's what I miss the most today about London. By the way, I never found myself asleep on the tube again (with the obvious exception of every single weekday morning on the commute to work. those local pubs will tire you out!).