There is an Ominous Noise.
I am pushing the Toddler in her snazzy pink buggy, down Montreal High Street. The sounds of the street are all there – cars, chatter, roadworks, Ominous Noise. The Toddler gazes up at me from her carriage, with a fearful look in her eye.
“What’s that Ominous Noise, daddy?” she asks. (I paraphrase, as I cannot remember the exact words).
I am a bit stumped by this, and am a bit hesitant to bring up the monster that lives in the ice-cream store one more time. The fact is that I do not know, which is an odd feeling for me. I know the answer to every question she asks me, or can be quite convincing, but even I am starting to feel a little uneasy. This could be that poignant moment for her when she finally discovers that her father is not the infallible, reliable, unerring rock that she takes him for (if you do not count the time when I walked into the glass doors on the way out of the delivery room).
We turn the corner and are confronted by some people.
It is a demonstration!!! There are people demonstrating, and marching, and carrying placards, and waving, and shouting. Before we know, we are mixed up in it. I sort of try to pull over to the side of the pavement, but I keep getting in peoples’ way, so I get sucked in further to the morass. I look round in some alarm, for the 1000000th time wishing that I’d paid more attention in French lessons.
I know that they are not shouting ‘Open the Window’, or ‘Mr Marsaud is in the Garden with the Dog’ or reciting the lyrics to the second verse of ‘Sunday Girl’ by Blondie. I search my mind frantically to try to work out what ‘Death to America’ would be in French, as demonstrators who shout ‘Death to America’ tend to be ill-disposed towards English people as well, even though I am a bit Australian and my grandmother was possibly sourced via the Irish Catholics.
For all I know, they could be shouting ‘Death to Slightly Portly Blokes Pushing Buggies’, in which case I am stuffed. I do not want to die on the whim of demonstrating Canadians. I could be the only person in history to meet his end at the hands of a reasonable mob.
As they flow past me, I notice one thing – many of the demonstrators have re-used their placards from previous events, simply reversing them, badly painting out the old slogan or poster, and daubing a fresh one on the other side. This reassures me. They are clearly general demonstrators, with nothing particularly personal against me or my ilk. After a while, I quite get into all the drumming and stuff. We demonstrate with them for a while, to show our solidarity with whatever is going on.
I am pleased with our participation. If anything major changes in the next year or so (end of global warming, no more poverty, reprieve for baby seals etc) then I will be able to hold my head high and say ‘I was there’.
Until then, it is time to go. I have greatly enjoyed my holiday, and would like to go back one day, perhaps with a different airline. For all that you have given me, Canada – I thank you. Please come and visit the Village some time.