How the world sees Canadians (Update: seal clubbing content inside)

Behold the whiskey and gin section at the local Sainsbury’s (large grocery store, picture of the facade here).

Canadian whiskey is made from Rye, giving it a more mellow taste.  It’s something that shows up in American movies and TV shows from time to time (Don Draper drinks Canadian Club) and CC advertised itself on its international presence for years (commercial).

Well, after 2 months in London this is the closest I’ve found.  No one at my workplace has heard of Canadian Club.  Sad but true.

UPDATE: Canadian Club whiskey commercial, obviously not aired in the Canadian market.  Note accents, weather stereotypes.



It’s a Bank Holiday here in the UK, which means banks and government institutions are closed (most touristy stuff and retail is still open, however).

In Toronto I converted my bike from a 5-speed with caliper brakes to a single-speed with a rear coaster brake.  The thought at the time was that one gear could be enough for flat terrain and a coaster brake would work better than a caliper brake in wet weather.  I took the parts from an old CCM Elan and put them together on my Elite, later exchanging the rear 20-tooth cog for a “faster” 17-tooth cog.  It also looks a little like a fixed-gear so I think there is built in indie cred.  Maybe not.

In London this has worked well so far given the 17-tooth rear cog is just low enough to let me climb up Highbury Hill on the way home.  The coaster brake is tested to the max heading down the hill on my way to work.  I’m sure I’m pushing it further than a 40 year old recreational brake should be pushed, but it had been holding up well so far.

Today, 50 meters away from the flat, the whole cog came loose.  It turns out just the c-ring had come loose.  A few minutes in my kitchen with a wooden spoon and a butter knife, and we’re back in business!

One thing about London is that people wear colorful socks.  I don’t know why.  Marks and Spencer has racks and racks of rainbow colored men’s socks, and apparently people buy them:

I’m a navy and grey guy, myself.  Socks match the pants.

Above, ready made pancakes.

When JB’s shirts start going on sale you know his star is fading.


I like his jaunty cap.


I don’t have a twitter account.  If I did I think it would be easier to post a lot more updates especially given blackberry/mobile integration.  And when I get home sometimes I forget what I would have tweeted about, or decide it’s small news and just write a longer post about something else.

A few new Arcade Fire songs have been released ahead of their upcoming album (via Andrew La Fleur, timer of markets and realtor to the stars).  Available here if you scroll down to May 27: .  One of the songs is called “Suburbs” which makes me think of “Subdivisions” and “YYZ”.  I am now homesick for the 905 which isn’t right at all.

EDIT 1 – actually, the new album is called The Suburbs.

EDIT 2 – The car on the album is a mid-70s Mercedes 280.

The Long Good Friday

OK, London just got twice as cool.

If you have 5 minutes, check out the first 5 of this youtube clip from the film voted Best London Film Of All Time.  Great shots of malaise-era Isle of Dogs, with a cockney gangster basically explaining its significance.  While London is a top city now, as recently as the early 1990s it was debatable whether it was really the dominant city of Europe (Paris being the top challenger).

The film is screening for free this Sunday and I’m pretty sure I’m going to check it out.

Highbury to Canary Wharf

I took a huge cycle tour on Sunday, starting in Highbury (actually a bit further north from my flat) all the way to the Isle of Dogs, mostly along the Regent’s Canal.  The round trip was 25km, 90% of which was along the canal.  I took the slow cruiser bike rather than my road racer.

500 meters from my flat there’s a building by Daniel Libeskind, the same guy who designed the ROM Crystal.  The building itself is part of London Metropolitan University.  While it’s easy to link this building to the Crystal, it’s actually much smaller and less ambitious.  It’s the Crystal’s Mini-me.

Above, Mini Mini-me.

Typical street iny my neighbourhood, heading down to the canal.

Variation on the theme: a council estate being demolished, going to be replaced by a mix of market rate, market ownership, and subsidized housing.  Mini-Regent Park.

Ramp over the canal, and down to the canal.  To get to work I head up and over; today I’m taking a left to head East.  Bonus: can you spot the Gherkin in this picture?

Gasometer and boats on the canal.  People live in these boats.  You can rent them for about GBP150/month week, about half of what a 1 bedroom flat goes for.

Distant view of Canary Wharf.  The tallest building with the peaked roof is One Canada Square.  At  52 stories it’s the tallest building in the UK.  If it were in Toronto it’d be about #6.

Does stuff ever fall into the canal?  For sure.  Here’s a motorcycle that looks to be recently dredged up.

Getting closer.

Upon arrival, I spent some time (2+ hours!) at the Docklands Museum.  The history of the Docklands is fascinating – the Port of London it survived centuries of change, and a major war, only to be made redundant by containerization by 1980.  Efforts to redevelop the site were controversial, but by all means quite successful.  I’m going to tackle that topic another day.

One last picture to tide you over – a shot of the City of London (old financial district) from Canary Wharf (new financial district).  Click to make it bigger – note the Gherkin and kids playing on the south shore beach.

That’s all for now – stay tuned

Pub Crawl

Last night I attended a Canadian expat event (basically a once-a-month drinking club).  We toured the West end around Oxford Circus, ducked in to a few of the better places.  Well, 8 or 10 of them.  There’s something really corny about walking around about down with a stuffed moose (below) but after 1.5 months of trying not to look like a tourist it felt great to talk to other Canadians about how Gordon Brown = Paul Martin, or the merits of South Cabbagetown.