Competition – winner!!!

Apologies for the delay in ‘Canada 3’. I have had difficulty uploading a picture of my third pair of pants, which were a sort of bluey-grey.

In the meantime, the competition winner is revealed as Nadia!!! Nadia fought off lots and lots of competition and entered first, so she is the winner, even though she has a bit of a foreign name which implies that postage might be alarmingly expensive.

Nadia, please email me with your details. I have to go now as I have a partridge in the oven for my tea. I shall return next week.

Canada 2.

Canada is a civilised country.

You know it is civilised, because the mens’ toilets are always utterly spotless and have baby-changing facilities, unlike in the UK where fathers with bladders are discriminated against on a daily basis. I ponder this as I stand at the urinal – everything is so fresh and clean and – well – nice. Even the toilets. Especially the toilets. You can tell everything about a country by the state of its mens’ toilets, and Canada has impressed so far. Some British people just moan at a country’s differences when they go overseas, whereas I am constantly filled with wonder and delight.

I return to my seat.

“It’s absolutely swimming with piss in there,” I tell the LTLP. “And the seat is missing.”

Her tired shoulders drop.

“Well I suppose I’d better take the Toddler,” she sighs. “Again.”

The LTLP disappears off to take the Toddler for her poo. “Perhaps they’ll be better in Montreal,” I call after her, before sitting back and taking a long relaxing swig of ‘Mikes’ coffee. (Note to UK readers – ‘Mikes’ is like Little Chef, but with food.)

I check the Lonely Planet for our next destination, but quickly chuck it back in the bag. You can tell when you are getting old because the Lonely Planet ceases to be a useful travelling tool and becomes a hilarious self-parody of student tightwadness.

‘Avoid the nice-looking restaurants with clean tablecloths and tasty food, and proceed to Mama Miggins’s on the corner of 17th and Bloor. Here, for all of two dollars, Mama will serve you a traditional and heartening meal of her own scabs, served in the old-fashioned local way, from a bag. Alternatively, rather than paying over the top in a touristy ‘cafe’ it is better value and nutritious to lick the sidewalk’.

The main problem with Lonely Planet Canada is that it is written by Canadians or people who want to be Canadians, and Canadians are too nice to write useful travel guides. This is borne out by the ‘thanks to’ section – everybody knows that any book’s interest to the general reader is in inverse proportion to the number of words the author allows himself to witter on about thanking people. The ‘thanks to’ section in Lonely Planet Canada goes on for 769 pages, and features every single resident of the country, namechecked individually. I may write to Lonely Planet to offer to write the next one; it will be shorter and contain more useful advice (‘go to the toilet! You’ll love it!’)

The LTLP returns with a beaming Toddler. The nice girl from Mikes’ gives us all a lollipop and does not charge us £9.99 for each breakfast. I am cheerful and ready to proceed with my holiday.

Canada: 1.

I gaze in amazement at the majesty of the Niagara Falls.

“They are really amazing and majestic,” I comment to the LTLP. The Toddler does not respond, as she is transfixed by a small fountain that is by the side of the street.

The Niagara Falls are like the Canadian version of the Norfolk Broads, but with more gravity and even more retired people. No matter how touristy the place gets, it retains an essential beauty that cannot be spoilt by expensive tat and hundreds of idiots taking photographs.

I take a photograph. I am pleased with my Norfolk Broads analogy. I love coming up with new analogies. Coming up with an analogy is like… I tail off, as I cannot think of anything suitable. As you stand leaning over the fence, you are able to look straight down to witness the thousands of tons of water sucked on and then crashing into the raging maelstrom far, far below. There is a sign. It reads ‘Danger – do not climb over this fence’.

Lots of people warned me ‘don’t go to Niagara Falls as it is tacky’. They are prejudiced. If you lived in Norfolk, YOU would realise quite how exciting it is to see a great big fuck-off fibreglass dinosaur atop a ‘Dinorama 4-D Dinosaur Experience’ attraction. We have nothing like that, if you do not count the small art gallery in the Village. In fact, the Falls are quite tasteful, once you get to them.

Standing in this very typical Canadian town, it is possible to realise how this sparsely-populated country produced more than its fair share of the great artists – Cohen and lang, Mitchell, Young and Shatner. There is an easy air that inspires one. But we are not in Quebec yet – we have been diverted. We head back to the PikeyLodge to continue our mission.

I watch Sky TV.

It is quite entertaining I decide, and nowhere near as expensive as people say.

Plus it is amazing how stupid and dangerous some drivers can be on the roads, especially when there are brave patrolmen around who will catch them and send them to jail, using video footage as evidence.

Desperately seeking a new way of keeping myself awake until at least the beginning of the evening, I take a stroll outside. “Chickens!!! Chickens!!! Hellloooooooo chickens!!!” I coo, wandering over towards their compound to tell them about my trip. We have lots to talk about, and I would like them to give me some advice on judging my competition, which was a roaring success with literally entries.

All is quiet. This is odd. Normally the lightest footfall on the gravel path results in a blur of chickendom, tumbling over each other to be first in the queue for elevenses. I reach the door and there is no sound.


No blur, no frantic pecking, not even a friendly cluck. The chickens are mooching around on Short Tony’s side of the enclosure, utterly disinterested in my presence. One raises a blase chicken eyebrow at me before resuming nosing around in dirt.

My chickens have forgotten me. I stand helplessly in the doorway, at a stroke having become one of the great tragic figures of poultry-rearing. And tragedy is the word. In fact, a man who is getting on a bit being coldly betrayed by his five chickens – it is uncannily close to the plot of King Lear.

I turn wordlessly away and fetch a small bite to eat for them. They cluck happily and remember me again. Chickens are shallow. It is a shame that King Lear did not have access to some cornflakes, as things would have turned out much better.

“Let me tell you about my travels,” I begin…