Concerning Links

Aside

Just a small thing, but I’ve noticed via the various methods I can spy on anyone who reads my blog that the links I frequently build into my ramblings virtually never get clicked on. I don’t know if that’s because people just don’t give a shit (which is fair enough…except I’ll hate you for life if that’s true so…y’know.) or that many of you don’t realise what it means when my writing suddenly turns orange.

Orange means link, link means something relevant to what I’m talking about, relevance means fulfillment. Win!

What the Fudge is Hockey

Seriously now. I’ve just got back from seeing the Toronto Marlies Vs the Hamilton Bulldogs, and I’m not sure if I just seen a Gladiatorial Arena, a boxing match or the most flagrent attempts at advertisiting ever witnessed by this sphere of Creation.

I just…I…what was that? There were aspects of it I enjoyed, sure. I liked how it seems to be a full contact sport, and I enjoyed the heavy rock and metal music they’d play at the slightest opportunity. I must admit whilst I felt rather distant for most of the game even I started to get drawn in towards the games conclusion, as the Marlies finally broke the 1-1 tie to pull ahead. It was the everything else I didn’t get.

First off, the constant fighting!

Fisticuffs eh?

Now I appreciate that every sport has moments where the testosterone flares a bit too high, and everyone collectively loses their shit. However as far as I’m aware this is not exactly a common occurance in sports such as Football, Rugby, Baseball, etc etc. Apart from Millwall, because seriously, fuck Millwall.

About as Millwall as it gets.

But this game I just watched, which as I understand it wasn’t even a major league game (this is like, the league before the major league? like division 1 in football? Except division 1 doesn’t even exist anymore in football apparently so uh…fuckit.) had at least seven separate fights! At one point two opposing plays seemed to start a fight literally out of nowhere, just taking off their gloves and chucking them onto the ice, then gliding side by side in fighting stances like some kind of permanent-motion Street Fighter. They were throwing punches at each other over the refs shoulder! In another one, a player had the other pinned up against the wall and was pounding him in the face multiple times. And the crowd? Cheering them on! What the shit?!

this episode of the Simpsons makes so much sense now.

Although I think the fights may have just been to add some catharsis to a game which is stopped literally every two minutes. Now I have seen on TV a couple of times American Football being played, and how they stop constantly for a tactics debate, advert break, or just because they fancy it. Likewise, when I saw the Toronto Blue Jays play baseball shortly after I arrived in Toronto, I was bemused by how much of the game involved people standing around missing the ball a hell of a lot, with twenty minute intermissions every ten minutes to try and sell you some piece of crap or another.

But surely Ice Hockey, supposedly one of the roughest, most tumbliest of sports this side of Aussie Rules Football won’t come across as a merchandising machine?

You bet your ass it could!

Advertising in and of itself isn’t a problem of course. I mean its kind of obnoxious and a reason why I miss the BBC so much, but it’s how the commercial world spins so what are you gonna do? What I’m talking about here is that in this match I just watched literally every two or three minutes, play would stop and they’d just start spamming adverts all over the place! booming over the tannoy with, by the way, the worst announcer ever. Her voice could make cats leap five feet into the air out of sheer surprise. Or we had some chatter SPONSERED BY BLAHBLAHBLAH or do this for DOODITYDOO and please come here and give us all your monies for WAKKAWAKKAWAKKA. I just, ugh, can’t I just watch the game? Please? Adverts in the half time break is one thing, but when the sport already has three half time breaks that are twenty minutes long anyway, do we need this crap going on during the actual game as well?

Our survey says yes!

Well I’ve tried all the cornerstone sports over here now bar Basketball and Lacrosse, and I can’t say as I’ve been all that impressed by any of them. Hockey showed the most promise, during those fleeting moments when people wern’t either knocking seven hells out of each other or trying to sell me crap, but they’re all too…I dunno, whats the word I’m looking for here? In your face? Commercialised? Not enough actual sport? I’m not exactly a sporty guy, and I appreciate this may come as a shock to you for a seventeen stone guy to say that, but when I do take it upon myself to watch something sporty I wanna do just that! I don’t want it to be stopping constantly! I don’t want adverts in my face! I don’t want people with incredibly over the top American accents booming some irrelevant crap into my ear-drums at some sonic-boom rivalling volume! I just want…the sport!

Well at least New Zealands national sports are Cricket and Rugby, where stuff actually happens. Albeit with cricket, perhaps a touch slowly.

I've been at this ALL FUCKING DAY.

A Small Update

As you may have gathered from my ‘post’ the other day, I haven’t just dropped off the face of the Earth. It’s just that, since returning from Kirkland Lake, absolutely nothing has happened. I’ve gone to work, gone home, gone to work, gone home, gone to work…the ‘tourist’ part of my tourist Visa seems to be falling to the side lately. We’ve tried a couple of times to do something, but either lousy weather or a lousy weather FORCAST which has in fact lied to us harder than Michael Fish have prevented us from doing so.

So I still don’t really have much to report. I’ve finally applied for my New Zealand visa, which is good at least. It’s interesting how the application process for Canada involved literally around 12 pages of forms, duplicates, a police check, passport photos, postage to the Canadian Embassy in France (why not England? because FUCK ENGLISH thats why!) and a wire transfer payment that had to be done in a rediculously arcane manner and a three month waiting period.

The New Zealand app took ten minutes of filling in an online form and should take about five days.

I’m also trying so very hard not to just turn this damned blog into a video games and movies review thing, because all I’ve wanted to do lately is go off on a ten thousand word essay about Mass Effect 3 and it seems that almost every other post has nothing to do with Canada at all. Which isn’t exactly the modus operandi of this blog.

Coming to a Crossroads

I’m writing this from my bedroom at Chez Hetherington in a place called Kirkland Lake. Alas no relation to the great Captain himself, this place was named after some administrative woman in the Canadian government back at the turn of the last century. It’s cold up here, but the massive lack of humidity compared to Toronto means that it actually doesn’t feel as cold as it did down there, the chill doesn’t snake into your bones quite as quickly or as fiercely as it does when in proximity to the heaving mass that is Lake Ontario. It’s a slightly surreal place. Surrounded by abandoned mines – the town is a receding gold mining town – and masses of forest and frozen over lakes, I see echoes of Gavle and the journey through northern Sweden I did with my friend to his mothers house around this time last year.

It’s a cool place to see though, a real window into that rural and rugged Canada I often imagined when back in the UK (I would put up some pictures but I’m having issues with my cameras memory card, so that’ll have to wait). Toronto is extremely multicultural, a blend of a thousand different ways of life, and whilst that doesn’t make it a bad place at all it doesn’t exactly echo that pure Canadiana that I was hoping to glimpse. So this has proven to be a worthwhile trip so far, giving me both huge piles of snow to be blinded by (since the winter here has been so extremely mild Toronto has barely seen any) and a look at that more stereotyped side of the country.

It’s also been nice to just generally get away from the city for a while. I know to some it will seem like I have taken a holiday within a holiday, but that’s not really the case. Most of the time I’m working, and we don’t exactly have a lot of spare cash going around to make this a 100% fun-time event. So it’s good to get away from things and take stock of things as they are so far.

It’s a rare thing in life to see a crossroads approaching before you’ve already taken the turn, but I have this not entirely enjoyable pleasure right now. I can see literally two entirely divergent paths in front of me not entirely unlike when I moved back up to Kent from Devon, setting my life on such a wildly different path to the one I would have walked had I remained behind. This time the paths involve potentially returning to the UK to follow a potentially lucrative opportunity – if I was very lucky anyway – or pressing on with my travels and striking out to New Zealand.

AMIRITE

I’ve spoken to several people about this, and ultimately as my mother told me it’s simply a case of having to decide what it is I really want more. Which is pretty obvious but in practice but actually quite a hard choice to make.

Anyway, bolstered by the fact that I finally got a hefty tax rebate from the UK, a pay-rise, and a chunk of unclaimed holiday pay I’ve decided that whilst I could risk a load of money flying back to the UK for a fluttering chance at a nice job I’d much rather continue this current path of exploration. This trip to Kirkland Lake only reinforces this desire. When I’m sat back in my room in Toronto for ages not really doing anything other than working, eating and occasionally walking the city I do find myself getting somewhat wistful for ‘home’. However when I actually start doing stuff like this again, I’m reminded of one of the main reasons why I left for this journey in the first place.

So I’m going to go to New Zealand. I have the finances, I have a couple of ideas as to how I’m going to go about things and with any luck Dan will be able to come along as well. Because if I don’t do this now, I literally will never be able to go again due to the age restrictions on the Visas. And when it’s a tossup between possibly getting a job tangentially related to my dream employment scenario or the guarantee of fulfilling my life goal scenario of seeing more of the world it feels almost like I actually have already taken that turning. I just haven’t quite realized it yet.

Tintin & Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Thoughts

Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to Me! Happy Birthday to Meeeeeeeeee, happy Birthday to ME!

Yes, quite. Well anyway, as you may have gathered I have now ticked over to the ripe old age of 27. However since two days ago I sliced my foot open on a nail, with all the wonderful things that such an event sounds like it would entail, I couldn’t really get out and do much. Not that I’m really in much of a position to do anything exciting anyway but hey, that’s life.

So since the local and wonderfully cheap cinema was showing both Tintin and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I thought I could just about manage to hobble down to see those instead. Both were good, but for utterly different reasons.

First up, the Adventures of Tintin. Reception to this seems to have been mixed, though more leaning towards the positive than the negative. I have to say however that if you watch Tintin and say you don’t like it, then you officially don’t have a soul.

Sorry mate, but it's just a fact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t even know where to start with this.  I suppose the first and best place to start would be with the animation. Spielberg and Jackson decided to go with a quasi-realistic form of computer generated animation, eschewing Pixar’s more cartoon-ey designs for something more akin to The Polar Express or Beowulf. There are still echo’s of it’s cartoon-based nature of course, half the characters have rediculously large noses for one, but largely the environments and people lean more towards realism than charicature. Where it could have failed with this is to walk down the Uncanny Valley like the Polar Express did so badly, where everyone looks like they’re some sort of terrifying doll come to give you sleep-depriving nightmares for the rest of your existence.

Everywhere you look I'm there, waiting. Watching.

Tintin however manages to completely avoid this. By endorsing the slight cartoonish ‘tick’ to the characters, they are able to avoid this disturbing almost-human look by not really trying. Combined with some otherwise fantastically detailed imagery and this is certainly a film that is kind on the eyes.

The level of attention to detail paid to each scene is utterly fantastic as well. Here you can feel Peter Jacksons hand on the wheel. Where in Lord of the Rings with each viewing if you look around the varying fight scenes you can see all sorts of choreographed stuff happening incidentally in the background, so it is with Tintin. A particular standout scene towards the end plays out almost like you’re watching a Where’s Wally book in motion – dozens of different moments happening behind the main characters whilst they speed through an exotic Arabic location.

The voice acting, always a key part of animated movies, is also particularly fine. Andy Serkis is fantastic as the perpetually drunk Captain Haddock and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost team up yet again this time as Thompson & Thompson practically becoming caricatures of themselves at this point. Toby Jones also turns up again. What is it with this guy? Since he was on one of the best Doctor Who episodes of the Matt Smith era Amy’s Choice I’ve seen him in Captain America, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and now this. Guy gets around certainly.

As for the story, well obviously I won’t go into too much detail. I will say that I found it to be fantastic, with great pacing, comedy moments and some wonderfully imaginative action sequences that take full advantage of the sort of things you can do when none of the shit you’re filming actually exists. The characterization of Captain Haddock was probably my favorite, replete with many jokes that will go straight over kids heads but everyone else will be smiling wryly. A moment where he manages to restart the failing engine of a seaplane by breathing heavily into it with his extremely alcoholic breath was a particularly inspired moment.

All in all it was a lot better than I had expected by some margin. As a child I had read the occasional Tintin book, but having always been more of a fan of Asterix I tended to steer clear of them. As such I may be immune to some of the complaints of the Diehard Tintin fans out there since I was never particularly closely attached to the source material in the first place. So from an outsiders perspective all I can do is thoroughly recommend it to everyone. In the world. Ever.

Moving on!

At the opposite end of the spectrum we have the intensely dark and slow-boiling crime thriller adaptation of Stieg Larssons phenomenally popular novel ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘. When I first heard this was being made I found it utterly bizarre, since a very well received adaptation was already made in it’s country of origin, my lovely Sweden, literally just two years ago! However as proved with ‘Let the Right One In’ where literally the same thing happened, it would seem that Hollywood has an appetite for the growing popularity of the ‘Nordic Noir’ genre but only if it’s all in English first.

The films pacing seems a bit wonky at times. The first act hops between following journalist Mikael Blomkvist portrayed by Daniel Craig and Lisbeth Salander played by Rooney Mara with no obvious link going on until they are pulled together in the second act. The tone between these two segments couldn’t be more different if it tried. Mikael’s sections are basically all detective story, whilst Lisbeths mostly involves being raped repeatedly and generally being subjected to shitty behaviour by everyone she meets. It does a good job of setting the tone and introducing the characters certainly, but I did find myself wondering where this was all going for a little while.

The thing that makes this film even more weird is that it’s still set in Sweden. Typically with Hollywood remakes of this type they go all the way and transpose everything to an American setting, often with hilarious results.

This though chose to remain in Sweden, if only to taunt me with the fact that I’m not going to be able to visit it this year. As a result it comes off incredibly authentic in that regard, and with mostly Swedish (or at least Scandinavian) actors this also helps. However the casting of the lead characters to two decidedly not-Swedish actors, who in Danial Craig’s case doesn’t even bother to try and affect an accent deciding to take the Sean Connery approach to accents, you have to wonder exactly what David Finch was thinking when he mapped all this out.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that it all feels rather pointless. It’s a good film, don’t get me wrong. It takes off spectacularly later on, and the performances are by and large very good, but I guess I just don’t understand why. Well actually I do understand.

Money!

The Girl with the Dragon tattoo has sold around 15 million copies worldwide, which is not exactly a small number. Couple that with English-speaking nations general distaste of any film that’s not in English (so yes, I’m not just blaming America for this) and you have an instant way to make an extra stack of shiney, shiney monies. It seems to have worked too.

Also one of the main locations looks just like Sodertuna Slott where I went to see my Swedish friends get married back in 2010. I don’t know if it is or not, though apparently it was in the original film, but the resemblance was uncanny.

And Now Back to our Scheduled Broadcast

Alright so the nerd thing last week was a bit much for some of you. Well, I’ve got news for you peeps. My parents got an Amiga Commodore 500 when I was about three years old or something, and I’ve been playing games ever since. Wrap that up with my mother brainwashing me with Star Trek as a child, and a gamut of nerdy friends who’ve introduced me to the world of comics, and I’m sorry to have to spell this out to you but I am a N.E.R.D.! So deals with it, yo.

I think this picture sums it up nicely.

I like to think I walk that fine path between Geek Squad Nerdery and actually having a fairly normal life though, what with the long list of jobs and relatively non-nerdy interests on the side. As such, I’m going to bring the blog back in line with it’s intended focus and try desperately to find something Canadian to talk about.

Well things still haven’t really livened up much. We set off to explore the northern side of the part of town we live in, and found to largely be a run down semi-squalid dive, so that was nice. The 1930’s art-deco architecture was a bizarre touch though. I’m guessing this must be an older part of Toronto to a lot of it or something, because I felt like I was walking onto the set of some sort of film noir thing.

Is she breathing fire? Or something? What is this I don't even

I also went to see Mozart’s Requiem played at Roy Thompson hall which was interesting. I’m not exactly known for my love of classical music, typically leaning more towards an eclectic range of metal/rock/indie/techno/dance/D&B. However I do occasionally have my moments and even if you’ve never intentionally listened to a piece of classical music in your life you will have at least heard some stuff from Requiem as it gets sampled in film and TV on a pretty regular basis, being one of the most famous pieces of classical music out there.

There’s also our increasingly desperate attempts to try and give ourselves some variety in our diet. Our kitchen here is pretty woeful, consisting of a cheap electric oven where only the hobs work (and not very well), a small microwave and the worlds least effective Toaster oven. This has had a pretty damned restricting effect on what we eat, as all the toaster oven is capable of doing is producing soggy chips after they’ve been put in there at full power for half an hour, so basically everything has to be fried/boiled/steamed. How the shit I’ve lost over three stone in weight with those options since I got here I can’t help but wonder.

I'll have three please!

We’ve tried a few different things to be sure, but almost every meal consists of one of the following:-

Stir Fry.

Curry.

Bolognese.

Burritos/Fajita’s

Salad.

Now sure, you can create a fair bit of variety in there by changing up the sauces or whatever, but since we’re both trying to lose weight and Canada has a shitty range of food sauces compared to the UK (and those they do have contain about three times the fat content of a UK sauce) our options are pretty damned limited. So we’ve been branching out. Trying ‘other things’.

Behold!

It looks like...y'know, I literally have no words for this.

Now to be fair I’ve had plenty of cooking cock-ups since we got here, but this one was Dan’s and he’s not been quick enough to photograph any of mine so sucks to be him I guess. Food experimentation is rife with potential disasters. I still can’t cook rice. RICE! A foodstuff that the world consumes around 500 million tonnes of a year! And still I can’t get it to be anything other than Crunchy or Soggy. And then you want me to add some variety by doing some wacko thing like egg fried rice? Get the fuck out of town! I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing! I follow instructions to the letter, only to get ‘slightly pan-seared fish mind the frozen bit in the middle’. Dan is far more experimental than me, and he is largely more successful than me. But then he spends about two hours meticulously planning and preparing every meal, and fuck.dat frankly.

Why take your time when there are such classy options available in a fraction of the time?

It is more satisfying to be preparing almost all my meals from scratch though. When I think back to my time at Uni, or any time since really, I begin to realize more and more how the hell I managed to get to Twenty-One stone through all the crappy pre-made meals and takeouts I kept getting. Yeah that’s right. I’m gonna toss that one out there for the public to know, now that I can be all smug in my vastly improved physical state. Before I came here, I was 21 stone, or just shy of it anyway.

Behold!

Before...

...and After.

That first picture was taken literally just a few days before I flew out to Canada.

Now I’m still not a slim man by any means, I still have a long way to go. At the time of writing I’m at 17 stone 10 pounds atm, but it’s still going down. I feel pretty good about that though, oddly enough. I was never light – even when I was a skinny bastard I still weighed around 15 stone or so. And yes, once upon a time, I was a skinny bastard. Look I even have evidence!

Though I never let family bonds get in the way of me and my PS2.

Alright, that’s enough photo’s of me now. Though it’s a funny thing, the less fat I get the less bothered I am about having my picture taken. Can’t imagine why. Some guy in the store today said he thought I looked a bit like Hugh Grant, but alas I think my accent must have dazzled him into submission because there’s no way in hell I’m quite there just yet.

Anywho, other than that there’s nothing more to report really. New Zealand might be happening after all. Or it might not. I basically give up trying to predict this shit now, because I literally have no idea. But it seems like it could be happening, although we’ll be going to Wellington rather than Auckland if we do because why not. Oh and we’ll be spending around three days on a coach beforehand.

OH GOD.

OH GOD NO!

Star Wars: The Old Republic Thoughts

I’m going to go in a different direction with this post as not a huge amount has happened since my last one but I want to try and keep with my roughly one a week thing lest I lapse into one a month again, which would thus render this blog somewhat inept at the actual ‘blog’ part of the description. So as you may have gathered from the title this one is going to get just a wee bit nerdy so if that’s too much for you, run away now.

FLEE MY PRETTIES

As a result of the restrictions on what we’re doing due to a combination of money and weather issues, finding ways to pass the time between working and sleeping have been getting a bit fraught since we don’t even have a TV here. However the internet shall provide, and so I finally cracked and bought myself Star Wars: The Old Republic which was released just before Christmas.

If you've seen one piece of Star Wars boxart, you've seen them all.

If you've seen one piece of Star Wars boxart, you've seen them all.

How will this help me pass the time beyond the usual 15-20 hour lifespan of your average video game? Well this is Star Wars second foray into the MMO genre – that’s Massively Multiplayer Online for the non-gamers out there – and Bioware’s first. Those familiar with MMO’s will know that that’s basically another way of saying “this shit never ends” so hey, at least there’s plenty to do!

You may be familiar with Bioware if you’ve ever played a game on a PC for the last twenty or so years as they are responsible for everything from the Baldur’s Gate series, to Jade Empire and the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series, among others. Most importantly for this though, they were also responsible for the original Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic back in 2003.

Set 4,000 years before the films, this basically gave Bioware Carte Blanche to do whatever the smeg they wanted with the Star Wars canon knowing that it can all be nicely handwaved away in terms of its effects upon the films, barring a few bits of the Expanded Universe set around that era.

The Old Republic is itself set around 300 years after Knights, which gives it almost as much freedom as they originally had whilst keeping it close enough to their original title to allow them to pillage whatever they wanted for continuities sake. I could explain the setup to you, but really all you need to do is watch these absolutely fantastic mini-CGI movies created for the game.

Seriously, if these guys had made the new trilogy it would have been so much better. Anyway, the game borrows most heavily from World of Warcraft, whilst liberally stealing the best ideas from several other MMO’s and then adding a few of their own. The chief of which, that I’ve come across so far at least, are the Starfox-esque space combat sections which are awesome (though I suspect the novelty will wear off after a while) and also the decision to fully voice damned near every single piece of dialogue in the game.

“But Alex, what’s special about that? Most games have spoken dialogue!” yes non-existent reader, they do, but MMO’s tend not to do that due to the sheer amount of writing that goes into these things. You have to bear in mind that MMO’s are designed to last for years, and so to keep your attention they put in a lot of things to do. We’re talking entire libraries worth of text people. And Bioware have decided to voice almost all of it.

Technically we’re talking over 200,000 lines of spoken dialogue, and that’s just at launch. The thing with MMO’s they’re adding to them all the time, case in point Bioware have just added a bunch of new content to The Old Republic and it’s not even a month old! However they were determined to place a much larger focus on story than MMO’s usually do, and they felt that this went hand in hand with the increased production values that voice acting can provide.

And largely it kinda works. At the very start of the game you choose a side to go for, Republic or Imperial, and I went Imperial because WEE LIGHTNING.

How do I turn this off?!

The fun thing with voice acting for the Imperials is that they remembered that in American movies, all the bad guys are English, as was the case in Star Wars. So virtually everyone is rocking some dialect of English accent, and they’ve even branched out and stuck some Welsh and Scottish accents in there too because hey we’re all in the same place so we all must be pure fucking evil, right? It’s a nice touch though, and gels nicely with the movies. The quality of the voice acting is good, which is pretty handy when you’re hearing it all the damned time, and the sheer diversity of it is fantastic. After having played some games where the voice cast is so limited you have people literally talking to themselves in different bodies, I don’t think I’ve come across the same voice more than once or twice so far and the voices for your character are also pretty good.

So you get to choose four ‘classes’ based on what side you chose, conceived around the classic Star Wars archetypes. So after some deliberation I went with a Sith Inquisitor because WEE LIGHTNING!

I believe we may have covered this already.

It starts off brilliantly, with the classic Star Wars text crawl thats specifically about your character, and then you’re flung into the Universe to follow a story specifically crafted for that class of character. That means that this massive, bottomless game based around one of the most popular IP’s in the world has eight freakin’ individual storylines to work through if you wanna see it all. On top of that, there are all the companion characters you can pick up on your journey that join your ships crew, the lightside/darkside deviations in the storyline that can dramatically change the path and tone of your story, and probably all sorts of crap I haven’t even thought to write of yet. I know it’s a subscription game, which some people balk at, but seriously if you got this you’d never buy another game again. Well, probably.

What I’m getting at is that this is really good. So long as you like fairly formulaic RPG’s that  go on and on and on and on and Ariston anyway. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it has a lot of fun playing around with the design. I dare say as I progress there will be things that will bug me, there certainly seem to be a few issues with the latter parts of the game so far, but the sheer breadth, diversity and quality of the game up to this moment in time more than make up for it. Chuck in the fact that it allows me to play with my friends back in Europe, and it provides a more interesting method of keeping in touch with people.

Oh and as a side note, that SOPA thing that’s been doing the rounds in the news a lot lately? Well if that had passed, I could have been sued into Oblivion just for half the links I put here, let alone the pictures, and then WordPress would be liable as well. A sobering thought.

Fission Mailed

So it’s been a pretty eventful week, where basically everything went wrong all at once. Yay!

Alright, so that might be overselling it a touch. There were two basic Fails of the WeekTM, one more comedic than the other so I guess I’ll start with that one. Last weekend I took a long weekend off because fuck it I wanted some extra time off. I don’t get paid holiday here so I basically don’t get holiday since I cant afford to not be paid, but I was allowed to swap a bank holiday around so yay for me. However since Dan is virtually destitute at the moment and I’m just a tight-ass, it occured to me after deciding to do this that we couldn’t actually afford to do smeg all.

Maybe I should have gone here?

So in typically pre-planned fashion I looked at a map of Toronto and found a bit that looked vaguely interesting and said “let’s go there!” What could possibly go wrong?

EVERYTHING!

So we set off in the freezing cold, deciding that we would walk to this random place on the lakeshore of the city from Downtown because hey it doesn’t look far on the map! And we walked, and walked and walked past some truely fantastic scenery.

This rusting beauty sits at the very beginning of Yonge street, one of the longest streets in the world and former member of the Guinness Book of Records to that effect. Yes that’s right folks, let’s mark this prestigious piece of human engineering with some sort of tacky, rusting fish restaurant. That’s the way to do it.

Anyway, we must have walked for hours before we finally made it. Past all sorts of wonderful sights and oh wait I’m lying. It was covered in factories. just rows and rows of factories. I mean, I’ve read that Toronto until fairly recently essentially almost tried to pretend the lake didn’t exist, but it’s still surprising to see how close to the city these miles of factories stretch all around the edge. There are pollution issues with the lake although I guess I’m not one to talk considering the state of the Thames and at least we’re both trying to fix our respective crimes against nature.

I digress however. We finally managed to find this damned park I’d decided it was such a great idea to go to, only to discover that it was not only mostly closed to the public (thanks Google Maps for letting me know that!) but also so desolate it wouldn’t have been out of place in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

I guess there is a kind of rugged beauty to all this, but still it was pretty disappointing. I chose this spot because it juts out quite far into the lake, and I was hoping to be able to get some distance shots of the city or something, as well as an angled look at the series of islands that sits just away from the city. No such luck however.

All this is merely an irrelevant waste of time. The other Fail is of somewhat greater import. The short version is that as of this moment, barring some drastic change in fortunes or someone waving a magic wand or some shit, I’m probably going to be back in the UK by August.

Long story is basically this. When we came out here it was with the intention of spending two years in Canada, chaining one Working Visa with another, building up/maintaining a supply of cash whilst we worked our way across the country before moving on to either New Zealand or Australia. I even spoke to the guys at BUNAC, the organisation we’re travelling through, to confirm we could do this and got the all clear. Then about a month ago I went to confirm how we wen’t about doing this only to be told that we cannot in fact chain two visas together.

I suspect this meme more than most is going to see a lot of traction on here.

So then it became an emergency scramble to see if we could at least make it out of Canada after just one year instead. Based on some hope, maths, hope, planning and also hope, I figured that we could probably make it out to New Zealand if we worked pretty constantly until the end of our visas in August and gave up the idea of actually seeing much of Canada outside of Toronto. I admit this does kind of miss part of the point of coming out here but, thems the breaks.

This relied on, among other things, recieving a nice and juicy $1-1.5k tax rebate that BUNAC stated I would get at the end of the tax year, based on a pro-rata assumption of my ‘tax-free personal allowance’. Are we sensing a theme here yet folks? Yes that’s right, BUNAC were full of BULLCRAP!

So I don’t get my tax rebate. Apparently I have to be classed as a resident to receive a tax rebate, and even then have earned 90% of my yearly wage in Canada or I basically just get the local tax back, which adds up to about $200 if that. So I’m now massively off target with seven months left to go, and Dan is still job hunting.

So yeah. From a viewpoint I must admit I’ve looked from myself, it could well seem like this may have turned into a bit of a waste of time. I mean, I gave up my job and home and all that stuff to travel the world right? And here I am facing down the barrel of going home after just a year. Yet, I find myself striking up a surprisingly optimistic viewpoint on all of this.

Ya rly!

Y’see, even if this has only been for just a year I really really don’t view it as a waste of time. For a start it got me out of a job that made me fucking miserable. I mean I’ve had crap jobs before. I’ve worked for refuse cleanup, I’ve worked in heavily competitive commission based jobs, in fact considering I’ve only been working on and off for just over ten years now I’ve had quite a few jobs. But none were as soul-crushingly awful as my previous one. Now I must full-disclosure this statement with the possibility that some of my former collegues may in fact be reading this. To you I say – Tell me I’m wrong. On the face of it you might all say its not that bad, but privately all of you bemoaned the constant never ending in-fighting, the complete ineptitutude of our boss, the catastrophic mis-management from head office, the awfully obnoxious customers and the stiflingly oppressive work environment. Tagged onto that was the fact that I left a job I relatively enjoyed (if only it hadn’t been in Dartford town center!) on the hope of forging this great Graduate Management career only to get stuck in this Den in Woe for nearly two years.

My point is that this trip giving me the impetus to get out of that place before it literally killed me cannot ever be undervalued. The pervading misery I felt at that place coloured my outlook on everything and I found myself drawing inwards more and more. Now I’m free, unfettered from all those issues as well as the financial and logistical issues of having a flat with tonnes of furniture and associated crap that I’ve carted around the umpteen different locations I’ve lived in, and a return to England can be viewed almost as a second chance.

Well that’s my hope anyway. But if I do come back, I’ll say this here right now so it’s in print for now until the Death of the Internet. Family – oh family. Be it in Devon or Kent, I really need to spend more time with you guys. Less sitting indoors all the time, being miserable and playing videogames. More getting out there and DOING stuff.

It’s the way forward. Yo.

 

VAMPIRE UMPIRE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING

imagine hearing this collection of words over and over and over and over. Basically for the full length of a journey to work. Welcome to my morning.

I’m not going to go on a rant about the Crazy People in Toronto, as I’ve already done that before, but it’s still a pretty damned jarring way of starting your day.