Saturday, February 28, 2009

Foe thah rek-ard, I'm faking it

Screaming my order over the bar last night for the fourth time, I came to a realisation. The fifth time, I made a decision: I'm going to be nicer to Madonna from now on.

She had no choice but to fake an accent and join the ranks of Dick van Dyke when she moved to the United Kingdom. I'm going to be easier on myself about it, too, because the English resolve even managed to break Madonna, and she eats puppies for tea.

It's not that I'm trying to fit in (I am), or that I'm tired of being teased (maybe a little), but sometimes it's just nice to be understood. Sure, I know what you're thinking. You think I'm already making excuses for myself. And you would be correct.

Anyway, last night when the bartender delivered me a glass of white wine, and not a bottle with three glasses as I'd requested, I knew what I had to do. Leaning over the bar, I went Madonna on his British sensibilities, "A baw-ehl of whyte whyne with tha-ray glas-siz, plays."

I'd rather get what I want than not.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

So what if I do?

Today is the one-week anniversary of my arrival in the United Kingdom, and I'd like to celebrate the highly exciting milestone in a very English way. Hey, it was London's idea, not mine:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Good morning, Great Britain!

Seat 39K – the one beside the toilet at the very back of the plane and directly across the aisle from the gawking, randy middle-aged man with mustard on his scarf – was all mine.

The karma I'd generated in the departures lounge, by turning in a stranger's purse to the security desk, had apparently been lost in airspace. It had occurred to me at the time that I maybe shouldn't involve myself with the business of unidentified parcels in airports, but my heart was so strung out on adrenaline that adding accidental implication in a smuggling scandal seemed manageable. I carried the purse very conspicuously at arm's length, just in case.

On the plane, I hid under my coat instead of that karmic shield I’d wanted. And my scarf. And that other coat I didn’t have room for in my checked luggage. A stiff neck was all Mr. Mustard was going to get from his efforts, no matter how long the flight from Halifax to London, or how vivid or well-oiled his imagination.

I sniffed the air, because I was more concerned about a smelly washroom anyway. It seemed normal for a plane: heavy on the freezer-burn with undertones of armpit. Since the flight was only five hours long, I reasoned my misery would be capped at passing ladies knocking me lucid with their purses or, at worst, a little anticipatory flatulence from the queue.

Nothing so minor would distract me from my daydreams, I resolved. Finally Heathrow-bound and running on three months of anticipation, I was on my way to meet my frighteningly-too-exactly-what-I’ve-always-wanted-in-a-man-to-be-true English boyfriend, and I had a lot of theories about how that might go. I wanted to run though them all. The R-rated ones I replayed until I fell asleep.

Before long, a swift knock on the head with a sturdy leather handbag woke me to a pink horizon. The sun was rising over England and the wing pointed to the moon. Pre-cooked omelette wafted then flopped through the cabin, and it smelled relatively delicious.

Mr. Mustard, now fast asleep, missed all the good stuff. I snapped a picture, because I didn't want to miss a thing.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


When the going gets tough, laugh at the names of tube stations on the London Underground, like: Cockfosters.

I shit you not. It's near Harringay.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Today, I live in London

As soon as I figure out how to count quid, speak English, look the wrong way before crossing the street and wake up before the sun even considers rising in Montreal, then I'll deliver you a proper update. Shouldn't take more than a year...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Three, two, one...

It was already an hour into my going away party, and hours since I'd left the house for dinner at an all-you-can-eat sushi bar, before anyone told me my cardigan was on inside out. When they mimed the message from across the bar, I responded with the Mashed Potato until they gave up. I had other things on my mind – like leaving Montreal, my home of 12 years, for good.

And yesterday, I'd walked eight city blocks to the bank before I caught sight of my reflection. It wasn't the strange energy of a woman on the lam as I'd thought which had people giving me that look. It was my hat. Or, rather it was the torn Revenu Québec envelope stuck in its fold like a paper feather flopping from the side.

I'm leaving Montreal tomorrow morning. There's no time for the little details like sense and composure anymore. And so I turn once again to whatever reassurance I can get – like the National Post in the lunch room at the PR firm where my friend works. My English boyfriend's a Leo, and I know for a fact romance is on his horizon. That's the polite way to say it. And as for me, the Aquarius, I'm on top of the world. "Do what you will!" it says.

Oh, don't you worry. I will. No promise was ever more easily made.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Some signs can't be trusted

I'll admit it. Constant reassurance is ... reassuring. That's why I accept all signs I'm headed in the right direction in moving to London. Give me horoscopes; give me British comedy on North American airwaves; give me snow in England. All signs say "Go!"

Anything to the contrary, I ignore.

According to Jung's personality tests, I'm an Idealist. A very particular kind of Idealist – my peers comprise as little as 2% of the population. The Idealist in me wants that to mean I'm special, but really it just means 98% of the world thinks I'm a flake.

Still, there are occasional esoteric votes against my move to England my blinders can't obscure.

One's on Montreal's Saint-Laurent Boulevard, at the exact point I paused to hug my friend D after our good-bye breakfast. He was promising to visit me and offering that reassurance I so appreciated, when he noticed a new shop just across the street.

"London!" I yelled.

"Actually," he said, "it reads, 'London't.'"

Monday, February 02, 2009

Filthy perks of London

I have a lot of baggage, and I'll unload it on my boyfriend as soon as I get the chance.

When he picks me up at Heathrow, he'll help me haul my weight in luggage back to his flat – 120 lbs of my favourite things, the maximum allowed by Air Canada. My life in England begins with this simple recipe: one part each, person and parcel.

Empowered by Customs with an entrance stamp, I'll begin the travel equivalent of a Walk of Shame via the London Underground. My eyes will be red from the sleepless overnight flight and good-byes. Nothing about me will be especially fresh, and with politely peripheral glances, everyone on the tube will see I didn't exactly make it home last night. I won't be home again until I make a new one. But first, I have a few more things to purge, a long way to travel, and a job and a flat to find.

Fitting twelve years of living in Montreal into a duffel bag, a backpack and a rolling carry-on is proving challenging, and expensive. Everything I didn't pay to have shipped to my parents' house in Nova Scotia, I undersold to friends.

I'm going to do my best to forget about the moving company – L & B Déménagement et Entreposage, whose driver demanded $500 in cash when my shipment arrived two weeks past schedule, exactly 30 per cent more than I'd been quoted – because I don't want the fire-breathing dragon in my belly to incinerate the butterflies.

Besides, that was weeks ago. Since then, I've been camping out at my friend, Cathy's, and living among piles. A seismic heap of clothing is graciously smothering my enormous, unsorted stack of "important" papers, and I really hope they die.

Tomorrow, I'll carry another bag of donations to the vintage boutique, attempt to sell my printer, and store my bike in a friend's basement until I can sell it through Craigslist this spring. Then, I'll buy health insurance, say a few good-byes and drink.

That should leave plenty of time for panic.

I know I've made the right decision, and it'll be great living and working in a city where English is the first language for once. All that gooey love stuff I'm feeling will smooth the transition, and there'll finally be perks to monogamy. Filthy, filthy perks.

Meanwhile in London, my boyfriend's getting ready to incorporate me into his life. Beyond helping me pimp my CV, he's prepping his roomies for my arrival, and customizing our happy place – a bedroom oasis. Best of all, he's added an original Nintendo Entertainment System to his games corner, so I can play Super Mario Brothers when the fog and flurry of London is too much. I'm not going to pretend he bought the NES for me, but I'll enjoy it as much. We are, after all, about to switch to the ultimate two-player game.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

My "real" friends love me anyway

Pranking friends and mocking people from afar has never been so easy, now that Facebook is on the scene.

Cathy's never really pregnant like her status line occasionally suggests, by the way. She's just left her account open on the computer in the main room again. I'm sure she'll appreciate your concern and congratulations regardless, so don't be discouraged by the truth.

It's up to you whether to harness the power of social networking sites for good or for humour, but faced with an opportunity, my path is clear. What wasn't clear, was whether I'm allowed to heckle web-specific Facebook "friends" just the same as I do my real friends.

Last night, I tried it and now I know better.

Before going out to meet people refreshingly off-line, I checked Facebook for a totally legitimate reason – to find a phone number – and by compulsion, became distracted by my "friends" status updates. Several were posted by people I love, and others by those with whom I share some nebulous association – an acquaintance from a flight to Nova Scotia, a partier from New York, a hostel-mate from Buenos Aires, or the Home Hardware cashier who attended high school with my sister. Some are ex-boyfriends. Some know my ex-boyfriends. A few play in bands with them.

The status which caught my attention at that particular moment read:

[Bandmate-of-a-guy-I-dated] is cancelled [his lame band] show.

Reading the grammatical error aloud like the snotty third-grade bookworm I still am, I reminded Cathy we'd both dated this band's members. Then we agreed to never, ever speak of it again.

"Their show is cancelled? THANK GOD!" I joked to Cathy, and further mused, "I should write that as a comment on his update..."

"DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!" she said, vibrating a little. Good ol' Cathy; she's always got my back.

We laughed hard enough at the prospect that I forgot I wasn't serious. Surely, he'd see the humour, I thought. By the time Cathy left the room, I'd forgotten there was any reason at all not to comment, for just long enough to follow through. Laughing to myself, I typed in "Thank God!" and hit enter. I sat back and waited. As the page loaded very, very slowly, my smile faded. Contextual details oozed forth from the dankest sludge of my recent memory, and I began to panic.

For every great joke, there's an oh-no moment. It's the silence before the laughter, while the audience susses out whether you're funny or just another inappropriate effing a-hole. I had enough time to see I'd be the latter.

Before going for the jocular, I really should have taken into consideration just how much the band's head man is devoted to hating me – because it's a lot. Over time, he's penned volumes of personalized hate-and-blame email, especially for me.

Months ago, determined to wring some humour from the fiasco, I read excerpts of his impassioned, somewhat frighteningly obsessive work at an open mic night for love letter readings at a Mile End cafe. I got the shock-and-awe audience response I'd wanted. After that, I guess I just forgot.

Last night, I remembered. And I realized that not only would my comment not be well received, but I risked reigniting the rubber of the smouldering, molten tire which was the end of that noxious relationship. No one would read this tongue-in-cheek comment as it was intended. No one.

So you can imagine my relief, when the page finally loaded, to realize that while my comment posted successfully, I'd accidentally done it from Cathy's account. It was her smiling face, not mine next to this terrible comment – karma for having encouraged me. Now, not only is she "pregnant" on occasion, but she's a complete effing a-hole. That'll teach her to log out before she goes to the bathroom.