Flash Fiction #191

Vacation

PHOTO PROMPT © Ceayr

AM I BLUE? NO!

Ah, to be a Canadian Snowbird in South Carolina, for a week in October. Not really Snowbirds – snow hasn’t actually fallen in Southern Ontario – yet. Warm like summer at home, but not yet crowded with boorish, Speedo-wearing Quebecois.

The beaches are delicious – tanning and soaking up sun. It’s easy to tell tourists from townies. Canadians are frolicking in the surf, while the natives are dressed in down-filled coats, like Canucks will be in a month, when they have to shovel that snow. They stare, wondering why we build sand-castles, and not igloos.

Nobody in Canada owns a powder blue villa. 😀

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

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CANADA D’Eh?

Canadian Flag

July 1 is CANADA DAY!

In celebration, I slept in till after noon….wait, that’s my regular schedule.  In any case, it took me a while to get my mind firing on all three cylinders, steal research the following fascinating information about my great country, and get it out to all my foreign followers.

ARE THE STEREOTYPES ABOUT CANADA TRUE?

It’s always winter here

False. There is, almost always, a stretch of several weeks between the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs and the start of curling season when it is warm enough for mosquitoes to thrive. This is when we go camping. In fact, according to Environment Canada the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada was on July 5, 1937, when it reached 45 C in Midale and Yellowgrass, Sask. You know where else it reaches 45 C? The Sahara desert. Saskatchewan: the Morocco of the North.

We say “eh” after every sentence

False.  A lot of sentences end with “Stanley Cup,” “puck,” or “sorry.”

We’re all very polite

See previous item. Actually, a poll by Angus Reid last year found that 56 per cent of Canadians reported using profanity on a regular or occasional basis, higher than both Brits (51 per cent) and Americans (46 per cent). But are we more profane or are we just less likely to hang up on pollsters? In fact, Canada had 554 murders in 2010, according to Statistics Canada. That’s 1.62 homicides per 100,000, compared to 4.8 in the United States, 13 in Russia, 18 in Mexico and 78 in Honduras, the deadliest country in the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

We all play hockey

False. There is a rumour that several people somewhere in the Metro Vancouver region do not play hockey or understand what offside and icing are, and the relentless mocking of neighbours and co-workers has so far failed to convince them to pick up some skates and get with the game. According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, Canada is the hockey-playingest nation in the world, with 572,411 registered hockey players, male and female, which amounts to 1.68 per cent of the population.

We drink a lot of beer

False, it seems. According to statistics compiled by Ranker.com, Canada pulls in at 21st among beer-swilling nations, swigging a meagre 68.3 litres per capita annually. That’s well behind Hungary, at 75.3 litres, and just ahead of Latvia, at 68 litres. Czechs more than double the pitiful tippling of Canadians, downing 158.6 litres of beer per capita per year. Ireland wins silver in the quaffing World Cup, at 131.1 litres per person. Per capita consumption of beer peaked in Canada in 1981, at 99.69 litres, says Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

We hate Americans

Wrong again. We share a language, a culture, a lot of television shows and 8,891 kilometres worth of border across land and water. We have the largest bilateral relationship of any two nations on Earth, and aside from the beer thing and burning down the White House in the War of 1812, we get along quite famously. According to Statistics Canada, they’re our best friends and we, theirs. The federal agency says more than 24.5 million Americans came to Canada to say “hey” in 2010, compared to 4.5 million visitors from other countries, and almost 20 million Canadians went to the U.S. to say “eh,” compared to the 1.4 million Canadians who went to Mexico, our second bestie.

We speak French

Mais oui. Un peu. In the 2006 federal census, 17.8 million Canadians identified themselves as speaking English and 6.8 million as speaking French, while 98,625 said they spoke English and French. Almost 300,000 others said they spoke English and/or French and another language. Overachievers.

Igloo

We live in igloos

We wish, because igloos are very cool, but the truth is that the igloo is the ingenious invention of the Inuit people of the Arctic. While Inuit traditionally used hide tents for their summer homes and sod homes in winter, they also built igloos for shelter when they were out on the land in winter. Igloos are built of blocks of snow stacked one atop the other to form a dome. They’re easy to construct and warm inside, offering fast and secure shelter in one of the harshest climates on Earth.

Modern Inuit – of which there are more than 50,000, according to the 2006 federal census – have settled in permanent communities throughout the North and live in houses like their southern Canadian cousins, but many continue to keep their hunting and fishing traditions alive.

We ride dogsleds

While riding public transit at rush hour can certainly evoke feelings of being at the mercy of a pack of rabid dogs, there are some subtle but important differences.

One: Sled dogs are actually quite well-behaved, or they wouldn’t be sled dogs. They would be dogs who chew shoes and chase Canada Post employees.
Two: Public transit smells bad, and while sled dogs themselves aren’t exactly a breath of fresh air, you do have to be out in the fresh air to be driving a dog sled.
Three: A dog team can run up to 32 kilometres an hour, says the International Federation of Sleddog Sports, while buses at rush hour rarely reach those kinds of speeds.

There are many differences but most importantly, mushing is a rural sport while riding public transit is a predominantly urban sport, and according to the 2006 federal census, of the 31,612,897 residents of Canada in 2006, only 6,262,154 of them lived in rural Canada. The same explanation stands for canoeing, although many Canadian city dwellers do venture outdoors, ignoring their common sense and overcoming childhood memories of summer camp to undertake such foolhardy activities as camping in tents, swimming in non-chlorinated natural formations and kayaking. A survey by Statistics Canada found that in 2004 alone, 13.6 million trips were taken by Canadians to visit national and provincial parks, and 8.2 million trips were taken to go boating, including canoeing and kayaking.

We all wear toques

Much to the chagrin of Canadian fashionistas, this one is true. And when the mercury drops into frostbite territory, many go full-out voyageur and pull the toques down over their ears.

Canada Kicks Ass

#475

 

Digging in – Digging Out

Snowplow

 

 

 

 

The recent ‘lake effect’ snowstorm which buried poor Buffalo, yet again, has served to remind me of a similar piece from my past.  Lake effect snow is caused by (relatively) warm winds blowing across still-unfrozen water, and then over much colder landmass, which causes the moisture to condense and freeze.  Once the Great Lakes freeze over completely, snowfall is greatly reduced.

In November and December of 1957, Lake Huron, warmer than usual from a hot summer had not yet frozen over.  Storm after storm came rolling across the lake from Michigan, so that we could blame the Americans, as they often do Canada, for the terrible weather.  A 150 mile swath of lakeshore and inland towns were buried under feet of snow.

Now being bused to a high school five miles away, I experienced my first ‘snow day’ on a Wednesday, when the bus couldn’t get through.  Before our days of television, I was at home with my mother, when we heard on the radio that the roof of an arena in a town 50 miles southeast had collapsed, killing several children and a skating coach, and injuring several others.

On Friday afternoon, as we dismounted the now-running school bus, the town’s Police Chief informed several of the members of the Boys’ Club, that there was a BYOS party being organized.  At 10 AM Saturday morning we were to bring (Y)our own shovels, and assemble at the town’s (natural ice) arena to shovel snow off the roof to prevent a similar disaster happening in our town.

Before the advent of aluminum scoops and shovels, snow was moved with heavy, awkward, steel garden spades, or square-mouthed coal shovels.  The next morning, about 25 of us showed up with an ill-assorted mix of tools.

I hadn’t thought about our task, or the reason given for it, until I arrived at the arena.  The collapsed one down the road had a low-domed roof, which allowed the accumulation of a significant snow load.  Our arena had a 90° roof, with a 45°slope on each side.  Snow just didn’t accumulate.

After it had been built, a two ice-sheet curling rink had been added to one side.  It was this annex, with its 7° roof, that we were assigned to save.  Not many school-kids at risk here, but many of the privileged members were also the well-off citizens and business owners who donated to, and supported our club.  That was as good a reason as any.

Snowbank

 

 

 

 

The snow on the roof was 3 to 5 feet deep.  It needed to be cleared off.  A ladder was leaned against the side of the building.  If it had been up to me, I’d have sent one guy up to reduce the weight, and clear a space for another shoveler, and so on, and so on.  It wasn’t….so the Police chief went up, kicked his way into the snow and called the rest of us up to join him.  Soon we had 25 teenage boys, and two adult men on the roof.  If it was going to collapse, this is when it would have happened.

My fisher-boy schoolmate attacked the piles of snow like a Tasmanian Devil, his sharp steel shovel and snow flying in all directions – except actually off the roof.  He was a safety hazard, not to be got too close to.  Within five minutes, he rapidly tired, and really accomplished very little, but he was the one who impressed the Game Warden enough that he was the only one mentioned when the tale was told, for years.

The rest of us soon organised a much more efficient system.  Starting at the roof edge we cut 2 foot square blocks, like for an igloo, and slid them off the smooth roof. Then others would move up and cut more blocks, and slide them down, to be pushed over the edge.  Soon we had several crews cutting, pushing and dumping.  The roof was cleared and our civic duty done by noon.

The side of the building that we dumped snow from was a town works-yard, with piles of sand and fine gravel that crews used to cast concrete water culverts, as well as dozens of finished units.  By the time we were finished, these were all covered, and there was a 20-foot high, 50-foot wide pile of snow about the same slope as the now-clear roof.  I don’t know if they did any water work before June.

Do those of you who live in snow country have white horror stories?  Will those of you who don’t, stop snickering!

What Canada Isn’t

Canada is a great country, whose one identifying characteristic is, that it doesn’t have an identifying characteristic. Those of us who deal with non-Canadians, spend great amounts of time and effort explaining to the rest of the world, what Canada isn’t.

We are like the middle child in a family. We have to explain to the Americans, that we are not English. We have to explain to the British, and the rest of the world, that we are not Americans. We explain to the French, that even the Quebec portion isn’t French. Vive le Quebec libre somewhere else, monsieur DeGaulle. De gall of dat man, heh?

We are not a colony anymore, and we are not ruled or led by a European county. We are an independent democracy, but we are not Jingoistic about it. We provide socialist support for our citizens, but we are not communist. Although we are a country of large geography and small population, and have acquired the reputation for being a well-mannered Mr. Niceguy, we are not a pushover. Anyone who saw the movie Argo, viewed a piece of American-made hype, but got that message.

We aren’t equipped with a huge set of Armed Forces, but we aren’t afraid of getting our hands dirty, and the job done, to the point that we aren’t often called on to prove it.

One of our home-grown comics, who moved to The States because we aren’t rich enough to afford to pay our best performers what they deserve, said that Canada is a subtle flavor – like celery. But remember, celery is strong and crisp, with lots of fibre….and so are we.

Some of our Provinces, Territories and areas have their complaints and demands, as the siblings in any family do, but we are not coming apart at the seams as the Balkans, and other SSRs did. Canada is not a country which imprisons, executes or oppresses social, ethnic, political or religious minorities.

Canada is not perpetually covered with ice and snow. It is not inhabited by toque-wearing lumberjacks, living in igloos. Canada is not an exporter of wars, aggression, terror or ideology. Canada is not a bucolic backwater, because Canada is not afraid or incapable of adapting to rapidly changing, social and technological climes.

Canada isn’t a troublemaker, or a creepy neighbor, partner, or ally. All in all, what Canada isn’t….is a bad place to live, work or visit. Y’all come now, y’hear?

Canadian Flag

 

But ……………………………Canada Kicks Ass

The preceding political message has been brought to you by a Citizen and booster, as proud of the many things that Canada isn’t, as the many exemplary things that his country is.