November 20th 2000
Hollywood Directors love the use of autumn colours when it comes to those soppy love scenes that they insert in movies. When they need to depict some aspect of forbidden or lost love, there in the background are the vibrant colours of Fall.
You know the type of movie. Most males have had to suffer through the angst in an effort to show that they were in touch with their feminine side, in order to impress their current object of desire. All the while listening to the explosions from the movie next door that they would much rather be watching. Fervently wishing that the hero would intrude and put the wimp in this movie out of his misery. Except that the blood wouldn't show on the leaves on the ground!
I must have picked up some subliminal message from these films though. Maybe it is because the movies never really did justice to the true splendour of Fall. Either way I really enjoy this time of the year when there is an explosion of short-lived colour.
The reds, yellows, orange and brown of the changing leaves around here provided a spectacular show this year. Walking down the path along the local river I suddenly decided to go back home, pick up a camera, and come back to take some photo's of the display. At this stage I became aware that I wasn't the only one seized with this urge to record the colours. At the bridge over the river there was a veritable convention of middle-aged men snapping away. Panoramic views, Long shots, close ups, single tree studies. All aspects were mulled over and snapped for posterity. Other areas where different shots could be taken were discussed. Directions given. Advice given. I got so caught up in the general goodwill that I suddenly discovered myself down at the local harbour snapping away and then by the local Golf Club and then driving around looking for new vistas to conquer. A few hours later I came home with two cameras full of pictures. I never did get to ask the other guy's how many chick flicks they had suffered through in their youth.
Even the lonely Maple Tree that dominates my postage stamp sized yard decided to play its part and make an effort to impress me. Until I was supposed to rake up the leaves that is, when I was a little less impressed. This year I was helped by a sudden windstorm that whipped up and transferred the carpet of leaves to another yard entirely. I think that the owner of that yard had just spent a good few days being obsessive about their yard and was not as impressed as I was about the new additions. Nevertheless they dutifully swept up all the new leaves and added them to the pile outside.
At which stage I discovered that I have never really grown up and there was this irresistible urge to dive into the pile. You can do this fairly safely in Canada because they don't pile up the leaves around rocks and fire hydrants. Might be something to do with litigation or children's rights. It could just be that raking up leaves is seen as a male thing and as most men are still boys at heart they realize the need to let the local boys, old and young, indulge a little. Anyway let me tell you that one of the fun things in life that I missed out on in my youth, is slowly falling backwards into a huge pile of carefully stacked leaves. They have a feel, a consistency and a smell all of their own! I also discovered that, contrary to popular cartoon theory, you don't spray them back all over the yard. They stay in the pile. Squashed slightly, but still there acting as one of natures more comfortable beds. It took a lot of effort on my part not to immediately stroll around looking for more piles to use. Canadians are exceptionally polite when it comes to the cultural differences of immigrants but even they must have a break point sometime.
As I write this the show has stopped, the trees are bare and even the leaves have been taken away by the local municipality. The temperature has dropped down to single digits.
In a month or two we will be under snow again. A totally different beauty entirely.
Oh dear! I think watching all those movies had an effect on me!
November 27th 2000
Because of the current `Bore and Gush' road show taking place to the South of us, many people in the rest of the world are unaware that Canada is currently engaged in their own election this month. Not quite as world dominating as the States it is nevertheless fascinating to watch this from the eyes of an interested observer.
There are many Parties contesting this election, including the obligatory Green, Marxist-Leninist and Communist parties. Democratic tolerance in the West being benevolent I suppose. My personal favourite is the Marijuana Party. Shades of the Soccer Party there! At the moment the major players are confined to the five strong contenders. In other words they get more than the real fringe vote above.
The major party is the Liberal Party, which is currently in power. Despite having another year to govern, an election was called for a variety of reasons. The kindest is that they have a program that needs to be implemented and require a mandate to do this. This program seems to involve promises that will only be implemented IF the Liberals are returned to power. Considering their past history of breaking their promises once elected this seems an outside reason to vote for them. The real reason this election was called is more complex and is probably a combination of three major causes.
-A new political party called the Canadian Alliance is rapidly gaining ground and calling an election before they are fully equipped to fight it, is a reasonable strategy.
-After the wave of media induced hysteria over Pierre Trudeaus' death there is a residual goodwill toward the Liberal party and Chretien is playing up the mantle of “Trudeau's successor” for all it is worth.
-Lastly, and perhaps the real reason, there is a strong move to oust Chretien and replace him with a person more attuned to the electorate and less prone to “foot in mouth” disease. The term “power corrupts” apparently describes a lot of his actions rather well. Behind the scenes muttering would appear to hint at a palace revolt. Canada being a “peacekeeper”, elections are seen as a better way of shoring up support than the American Presidential style of declaring war on small countries.
The Liberals power base is mainly in Eastern Canada and even then it is strongest in Ontario. If the Liberals win Ontario seats they are almost certain to regain power. The most astonishing part of this election is that the Liberals probably will be returned despite a total reversal on a prominent promise made by them to do away with the GST last election and some very prominent misuse of public funds since.
The Canadian Alliance is a new party slightly right of center that was formed this year out of dissatisfied Tories and Reform Alliance members. Its power base is mainly in Western Canada. Western Canada distrusts Eastern Canada (with good reason sometimes!) but this party is spending a lot of time campaigning in the east to stop the Liberals getting a run away majority. Their Leader is a rather flamboyant fundamental Christian who never misses an opportunity for the “action man” photo opportunity. They tend to suffer from some very slick propagandising on the part of the Liberals and their tame media mouthpieces.
The Progressive Conservative Party (now there's an oxymoron if I ever heard one!) was once one of the most powerful parties in Canada and managed to throw it all away during the time that their current Leader Joe Clark was in Office. The Progressive part moving them solidly away from the conservative part, most Canadians decided that they might as well vote for the Liberals as there was little difference between the two. Joe Clark who is fondly referred to as “Joe Who?”, astonished the electorate by actually keeping to the electoral promises he made during the campaign and as such was ceremoniously thrown out of office. Probably for being honest. Canadians are not used to honest politicians. No one actually believed that the weird election platform that the PC stood for would actually be followed through, and when it was, all hell broke loose. Watching him debate I think he is probably the most honest of the bunch but their most prominent draw card for this election has actually been his daughter who at least has added some beauty and style to an otherwise motley bunch.
At the bottom end we come to two parties that are secular but at the very least entertaining.
The earnest left-wing nanny party is known as the New Democratic Party. I sometimes wonder why it is always the far left-wing parties that need to use “democratic” as part of their platform given how extremely undemocratic they usually act. This party wants to give money to every “worthwhile” cause, tax the rich, stop private healthcare and implement a whole host of other feel good causes. Headed up by Alexa McDonough the main thrust of the campaign so far has been decidedly anti-male. McDonough making a sexist comment that if it had been uttered by one of the other male party leaders would have created a tidal wave of approbation! Luckily most Canadians tolerate fringe parties and probably like to have them around to act as a conscience once in a while. This is probably the true heir to Trudeau's actions and like Trudeau would ruin the economy if they ever did get into power.
Lastly we have the Parti Québécois. Headed up by Gilles Duceppe its sole aim is to gain enough support to secede from Canada and have an independent French speaking Quebec republic. I rather like Duceppe for his outspoken belief and the way he sticks to his guns at all times. Having once headed up a political movement that called for independence for Natal I am also a bit envious of the mass support he has in Quebec. For obvious reasons there is no support outside Quebec. The Parti will be the overall in winner in Quebec though, which gives it a good few seats in Parliament. Interestingly the amount of Prime Ministers coming from Quebec over the last few decades has been out of all proportion to their power base. As has the need to appease Quebecois. The whole language issue reminding me ever so much of South Africa over the last few decades.
Some of the campaigning that has taken place has raised my eyebrows somewhat and next time I write I hope to bring the more hilarious or pathetic to your attention.
December 4th 2000
One of the TV shows that I have grown to like here in Canada is a half hour political satire called “This Hour has Twenty-Two minutes”. They have the uncanny knack of being able to get local politicians to mock themselves. Too my surprise, on many occasions it even appears that the politicians are actually enjoying the whole process of being sent up. Watching the leaders of the main parties singing along to pop songs is particularly funny when you take their age, and total lack of interest in the youth vote, into account. Perhaps I should qualify that, as, to the best of my knowledge, I have yet to see the Prime Minister indulge in this frivolity yet. Unless you call snarling at the camera partaking that is!
The reason I bring this up is as a result of an action the show took last week. The Canadian Alliance has the stated aim of holding a referendum on any issue that has been brought to their attention by way of a petition. They said that it only needed about 3% of the electorate signing the petition for it to be acted upon. As I said earlier the leader of the Party is one Stockwell Day. Last Monday “This Hour etc.” put up a petition on its website and then asked people to go there and sign it. The petition?
“That we call on the Government of Canada to force Stockwell Day to change his name to Doris!”
At last a valid reason to vote Alliance!
Within a day over four hundred thousand signatures had been obtained. In a week over a million! Apparently this is well over the required percentage and growing. If the Canadian Alliance should get in to power this petition would be handed over. It should be interesting to see the outcome of that one. Interestingly, on being told about this bit of cheek, Stockwell Day apparently replied `Que Sera Sera' and was filmed singing Doris Day's most famous song during a press meeting on his jet the next day. Which leads me to believe that he either has a good sense of humour or really good spin-doctors.
During a recent problem that forced his jet into an emergency landing he was heard to comment “it's always the Left wing isn't it?” I am not quite sure if this was a joke though.
This week the show revolved around another platform of the election. For some reason, and despite the fact that it already exists, Two-Tier Healthcare has been the major issue in this election. I won't go into why this is a fudge issue but it really is ridiculous to debate this when there are so many other issues that are more important. This Hour obviously feels the same for they have decided that the main issue should be “Two-Tier Hair care”. Given the styles, or lack thereof, that adorn the aged heads of the incumbents, male and female, this is a wise choice and once again appears to have struck a chord with the electorate. Any of the parties that can address my fear of hair loss has my vote! We demand free implants for all. Down with McDonaghs matronly hairstyles!
My favourite story at the moment is the one about the Candidate for the Marijuana Party not being allowed to canvass at night because he is under house arrest for possession. As such from dusk to dawn he has to be inside his own abode. Should he be elected at least we will know that he has the right credentials for office. Given how many RCMP investigations the current Prime Minister is the focus of; I feel that he too should be forced to undergo the same treatment. Lock him up at night and let CBC TV have a break from having to record and show every utterance from His Masters Voice. Shades of SABC. Propaganda déjà vu I tell you!
Sadly this election has been more vicious than funny with some very serious attacks taking place. The major proponent of the more nasty remarks have been candidates from the Liberal Party who have been handed the opportunity to do so by the fringe element attached to the Canadian Alliance.
I don't class McDonaghs comments about men, and including the line “an overload of Testosterone”, as being anything other than typical feminist claptrap from a person trying desperately to get attention for a dying party. All it has done really is to show that certain sectors of Canadian society can indulge in hate speech and be tolerated more than others. As can Cabinet Ministers apparently. The Minister for Immigration making some very sweeping statements about the Alliance. She is the incumbent in North York, which has a large Jewish population. Due to her inept handling of her portfolio her seat is one that is shaky. True to good politicking she accused the Alliance of supporting and being a right wing, nazi,anti-immigration bunch of bigots. The reason being that one of the supporters, a lawyer, once acted for an anti-holocaust supporter. Rather like accusing Einstein of being a Nazi because he was Austrian! This was supposed to gain the Jewish vote. Except that her Alliance opponent is also Jewish. Even more amusing is the heavy South African accent he has. Hmm. Maybe he's an immigrant. Listening to him having a full go at her on TV was quite good fun.
For all the muttering taking place about the anti-immigrant policies of the Alliance it was interesting to note that in the Greater Toronto Area the Alliance had the most candidates from visible minorities while the Liberals had the least. So much for following enlightened liberal policy.
So we wait with baited breath for Monday's results. No doubt life will go on. None of the promises will actually materialize. None of the returned politicians will make any difference. The wheels having been greased keep turning. Gee it's just like Home.
December 11th 2000
If I was an alien keeping tabs on that blue coloured third rock from the sun I would probably wonder why every 10 months or so the northern part seems to get brighter in parts of the dark patches.
Thanks to many of the American movies that have Christmas themes, most South Africans are aware that every year at this time there is a concerted effort to put enough lights on the outside of the house to light up a small airfield. In some cases enough lights to light up a small African country. This depends on whether you live in a street where every neighbour is named Jones.
About three seasons ago a new type of light was introduced into Canada. Called “icicle” lights they are really an outdoor version of those twinkling lights you get to put on the Christmas tree and which always seem to have one dud bulb in the most inappropriate place. After you have carefully strung them on the tree of course. And you have discovered that there are no spare bulbs.
Anyway these lights are supposed to give the effect of icicles hanging from the eaves. Something that they succeed in doing remarkably well. The strings of tiny lights hang down on hundreds of wires of different lengths, which do make it look like different shaped icicles dripping off the roof.
Mostly white, this year saw two different versions. Blue lights, which I like, and which give a really pleasant effect to the house, and multi-coloured. The multi-coloured are in the standard red, green and white. The “colours” of Christmas I suppose. I guess having Smarties and M&M's in seasonal colours sparked a train of thought in a product manager somewhere. These I don't like. I really don't have a reason except that I have got to like the standard white and odd blue icicle effect on all the houses around. Bearing in mind that most houses in Canada are actually very big the effect of hundreds of tiny lights cascading off the eaves and gutters is very pretty. Obviously over the years the owners have added to the original one or two sets and this year it is fairly common to see this effect all around the house as opposed to the front only, as in the past.
The first week in December seems to be when most people put up their lights and so this last week I have spent some enjoyable moments finding new ways to drive home every evening so that I may assess different neighbourhoods. As it is already dark by five, by the time I start the drive most houses have put on the lights.
At least it gives getting lost a more esthetic aspect.
Another of the sets currently on sale is a “net” that has lights attached in concentric circle. This you are supposed to throw over small bushes. Or the leafless remains of small bushes. At night what was a branch and a few twigs regains it's splendour and the full outline of the bush is lit up. In some cases small coloured spotlights are strategically placed to light up areas of the house or surrounding garden. Driving down streets becomes a treat as you rubberneck from artistic attempt to overdone overkill. Some people just don't know when to leave well enough alone.
In a particularly affluent area closer to the town there is a street of Jones' that have gone all out this year to outdo each other in opulence. The central stunner being a house that has every available edge decked out in red lights including the obligatory icicle lights, which drip off every conceivable overhang. Even the outline of the garage doors is delicately picked out in flashing red lights. Obviously attempting to help the eggnog imbiber back to the landing strip. I am tempted to wait around and see whether they have a “complaints” guy to wave them into the parking area. You know. As van der Merwe say's ….”The ou wot waves those lights at the airplane and goes “kom planes…kom planes” when they're parking”! Talk about lighting up small landing strips indeed.
Mind you the full Santa landing in a sleigh, with total reindeer accompaniment, on the top of the roof should even be seen by any low flying satellite, never mind any passing ship out on the lake. It has to be the biggest display around and in majestic flashing lights as well. I can only speculate at the electricity bill come January.
In an attempt to join in the spirit I went out last year and bought a set of blue lights for the front porch. Well I like the blue effect you see. As blue was a new variety last year and we were the only ones around to have them up I was most impressed. This year I had not intended to purchase any more as I was satisfied with my artistic endeavours. Those of you with daughters will sympathise if I merely say what a complacent stupidity that was. We now have white icicle lights up and the blue ones are apparently passé. Ah well at least it was her money that was used to add all the new effect.
Come the day that I have merged into the economy enough to actually own a house here I am hoping that we will have collected enough passé decorations to make a tremendously kitsch attempt of our own.
So as we move closer to the turkey-fueled season I wish everyone out there a Merry Christmas and in the spirit of good Canadian political correctness Happy Holidays.