big ole bagel

City Cafe Bakery, at the corner of Victoria & Strange (!) in Kitchener has the best bagels.

I hadn’t been there for years. Last time was with Steve Izma (typesetter and BTL Books guru) and his family, who are regulars.

Being Scottish and consequently dough-addicted, CCB is heaven.

happy solstice

And we didn’t even need to sacrifice anything to bring the sun back. But don’t forget the old Scottish saw: “As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens.”

all the stars came crashing down

Saw the Decemberists at the awful barn that is the Kool Haus last night. The place was fairly busy, but not full. A scalper offered me a derisory price for a spare ticket, so I don’t think they sold out.
They were pretty good; great in parts, kind of tired and meh in others. Naughty Chris Funk lit up on stage; that’ll mean a fine for the venue. That’ll teach him not to play banjo on stage.
Sensitive wee Scottish folkie Alasdair Roberts supported. He was good enough for me to buy the CD.

what the tortoise taught us

Just finished Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, the fictional thoughts of Gilbert White‘s pet tortoise. Verlyn Klinkenborg has really captured the pace of the tortoise’s life.

The tortoise/taught us rhyme doesn’t work if you’re Scottish; we pronounce it tor-toys, not taw-TUSS. Lewis Carroll didn’t think beyond the RP.

In memory of Timothy, I’ve geotagged this post with the location of a bridge in a nearby ravine, near which a little turtle used to snooze in the sun.

a wee corner of Scotland at Ellesmere & McCowan

Serendipity: took a wrong turn coming out of the
federal building, and found ourselves in Scottish culinary heaven (which is not an oxymoron, I assure you). At the corner of Ellesmere & McCowan is The But ‘n’ Ben Butchers; they sell all sort of quality Scottish foods. So far, we’ve sampled and can approve their butcher’s pies, plain bread and empire biscuits. They’ve also got a supply of UK Heinz Beans, which knock the gummy North American beans into a cocked hat.
Next door but one is St Andrews Fish & Chips. They’re amazing. I think the chips (hand cut, of course) are deep fried in some unhealthy, but tasty, animal byproduct. And they have Irn Bru, too …

we’re shite and we … invented the modern world

(a rant for St Andrew’s Day)

It must have been great to be part of the Scottish Enlightenment. This wee country seemed to blossom, from a muddy backwater to a world leader in economics, philosophy, mathematics and engineering.

And yet, for the average Scot, all that was a long time ago. All it seems we can manage now is to churn out neds by the million. So how did we get from the place described (rather breathlessly) in Arthur Herman’s How The Scots Invented The Modern World to the place where the football fans chant “We’re Shite, And We Know We Are.“?

Urban disenfranchisement of the formerly agrarian workforce, perhaps? Who can say. We even chose the darkest, grimmest part of the year for our national day (hint: St Jean-Baptiste would make a smashing national day …). So, have a happy St Andy’s, get properly munted, and wha’s like us, eh?

a great place to be *from* …

[Bit of background here. I’m Scottish, but I live in Toronto. Canada is big, Scotland isn’t.]

There’s this thing I like to call The East Dunbartonshire Conspiracy. I used to live in Kirkintilloch in East Dunbartonshire. It’s a small central Scotland town, rapidly becoming another suburb of Glasgow.

Since coming to Canada, most of the expat Scots I have met are from East Dunbartonshire:

  • The LCBO guy in Toronto Union Station is from Kirkintilloch, about 100m from where we used to live.
  • Another LCBO guy on the Danforth is from Bishopbriggs, where I used to work.
  • The GO Train customer relations person who called me about the new proposed train station at the end of our street (yay!) grew up in Bishopbriggs, and has relatives I think I worked with when I was at Collins, the publishers.

So what’s this all about? Why are so many people leaving East Dunbartonshire for Toronto? Is it the horror of living at 56°N, with dark, windy wet winters? Who can say?