Thursday, December 23, 2010

A missive to the man in red

Dear Santa,
After googling you and finding no website, Facebook page, blog or twitter, no email or postal address; and, seeing as my house has neither fire nor chimney up which I can smoke my letter to you, I decided to publish it in the hope that you read The Voice.

Mine is not a long wish list, nor pleading letter explaining away the things I’ve done that may be construed as bad and thus terminate your contractual obligation to bring me gifts. I don’t want for much at all. I have a loving wife and bonny baby boy. I live in a beautiful house, albeit with no chimney, and my new Canadian home is proving to be just as wonderful as dreamed of from my rat-infested billet in London.

I have just three things I’d like to discuss with you, Santa.

Firstly, I’m aghast at the complete disregard for festive period profiteering in my new neighbourhood. I drive into the village and park my car on the street alongside the parking meter only to find that it has been turned into a smiling snowman: the next one has bells on it and the third, a likeness of your good self. With growing panic I venture into a nearby store and ask how to pay for parking, “no charge” says the smiling proprietor. NO CHARGE! Has the world gone mad? It’s Christmas time for Pete’s sake!

And it doesn’t stop there. It was free to meet Santa at Camp Wanakita – but I assume you knew that, you being in attendance, and, my little lad also had his picture taken with you at the Minden Community Centre, again it was gratis.

Are these people deluded? Yourself excluded I hasten to add. Do they not realise that Christmas is the time for giving…everyone’s wallet a jolly good clean out. Back in Blighty they wring every last penny from our purses as we scramble to pay exorbitant prices to visit you in some bedraggled marquee hastily erected in the car park of a shopping mall. They drum up hysteria over the ‘must-have’ toys and gadgets ‘for this year’. They increase parking meter prices, too… OK, I don’t know about that last one but they certainly don’t make parking free. Lord no!

Next, I must apologise for the way these Canadian folk overwork you. What with parades at every town, village, hamlet and crossroads, plus appearances at art galleries, community fairs, youth camps, shopping malls, even the local hardware store, you must be absolutely knackered, if you’ll pardon my language.

I always wondered why as a child the opening of presents didn’t happen until after Christmas dinner in our house. Now I realise it was because the Canadians were monopolising Santa; you got behind in your work and you were late delivering to England! What I suggest Santa is that you turn some of these pre-Christmas gigs down. That, or press-gang one or two old fellows into donning Santa outfits and filling in for you. Believe me, there are plenty of white whiskered septuagenarians around here in need of gainful employment to keep them out of mischief.

Finally Santa, my plea for next year’s parade. When you’re making your list (of parade floats) and checking it twice, please be extra vigilant. At this year’s parade, in between the pony club, ballet school and marching bands were imposters of the lowest form. Disguised in yuletide costume, or worse still, driving along in slogan emblazoned SUVs, were an assortment of politicians. Three times my darling boy was handed a ‘gift’ and each time it had a political manifesto attached to it. Please be more scrupulous of whom you promenade with Santa. That, or issue rotten fruit for us onlookers to vent our angst at the offending interlopers.

All said and done, I ask not a lot of you, Santa. Just keep up the good work and keep an eye on the weird and wonderful winter world of Haliburton.        

Thursday, December 2, 2010

White noise

Finally, some snow. It’s about bloody time too!

Here I am, living in the home of the polar bear and Eskimo, sitting on a landmass that’s physically connected to the Arctic and what do I get but jibes from folks back in the UK, gloating because they’ve got more snow than me: so much snow that the schools are closed.

Where is all our snow, Canada? I was promised it when I applied for immigration. I’ve listened to many a precautionary tale of ‘the big dump’ (such an unpoetic description of a winter wonderland, don’t you think). I’ve seen countless Canadian nature programmes where cuddly polar bears cavort down vast banks the stuff. The ski hill has resorted to making its own snow, for Pete’s sake. That’s tantamount to Caribbeans using sun lamps or Egyptians cracking rocks to make sand. And yet, I’m sitting here looking out of my window and while there’s an icing sugar dusting of white, the grass is still poking through!

What’s more, I have a giant snarling beast sitting in my workshop that needs a run out. Bigger than my mother’s car and noisier than the plane I flew to Canada in, my snow blower stood brooding in the dark recesses of the shed until I started it up recently just to see what it did. My workshop now has doorways at either end and my kid’s mortally afraid of the garage monster.

But back to snowy England. I have to admit that the amount of snow required to trigger traffic gridlock, train cancellations and said school closures back in the land of my birth is approximately three inches. No kidding.

Our vehicles, you know the ones, those little lightweight autos that you smile at on the adverts and go “ahh ain’it cute” before stepping outside and clambering up into the cab of your pickup, well they slither and slide out of control at the merest hint of snow. As for winter tyres, I’d never heard of them before moving to Canada. Don’t believe me? Check out the Oxford Dictionary, there’s no mention of them in there and there’s nothing more English than Oxford, right!

Our schools, well they slam shut the gates at the first hint of a flurry for fear little Henry might slip, bang his lip and sue (thanks America). And our trains, oh our trains: they get cancelled in autumn due to leaves on the line, so an inch or two of snow is a signal to shut down the entire rail network, pronto.

But still, I’m getting those calls from smug English friends and you know what, I blame you Canada: you with your wasteful oil extraction from the tar sands; you with your gas guzzling pickup trucks that are larger than many a house in England; you, globally warming everything and sending snow to my homeland. Well, I blame you and the US and India and China and Russia and… Oh hell, there goes my argument.

This rant might sound crazy to you veterans of drift and blizzard, flurry and thaw. And, plenty of you have guffawed at my wide-eyed excitement at the onset of winter but I’m with the snow lovers. I’m looking forward to the snow, just as Hank and his husky chums are. I’m as excited as the crazy folks manufacturing the stuff at Sir Sam’s. I’m at my marks, lined up with the fellows in the ploughing business, waiting for that first real super duvet-thick blanket of white.

And anyway, you hypocrites you bemoaning the wintry weather: as soon as we’ve had the first ‘big dump’, you’ll all be gleefully heading for the garage, backing the super-sized SUV out of the way, squeezing past the ATV, trail bike and power boat to kick starting that snow mobile into life.

You know you like winter really.

PS: It’s a good job Canada extracts oil from tar. What would you all be like if we ran out of gas for your winter toys