O O O that CA-CAnadian Rag

Whisked off to Toronto last week to talk to W Networks about a possible new show out there in the Land of the Freer.

I’d forgotten how much I like Canadians. I’ve been out with two of them so I like to think I’m a bit of a connoisseur but a few summery days on the shore of Lake Ontario reconfirmed my feelings.

Toronto’s a great summer city. North American grid but like a lower-slung, decaffeinated version of Manhattan. Great restaurants. A beach (though all Torontonians gasped the same slack-jawed “You did what?” when I said I’d swam in the lake.) And everywhere a complete lack of the smugness that can make New York so irritating. Having such a big brother down South, it’s like the Canadians are those long-suffering, smilingly-pliant but secretly-always-winning younger siblings with whom I so empathise.

It was also lovely being in such a luxurious limbo for a few days. Nothing to do but head from meeting to meeting, chatting. Alone but busy. It’s a beautiful state sometimes. I pottered about up and down Yonge and Bloor drinking bubble tea, trying on summer suits, sniffing round Sam Sam for new records.

My absolutely favorite band of the summer has been The Hidden Cameras, a Canadian combo with beachy, almost evangelical guitar strumming and a innocent-little-boy voice who is actually singing about full on gaysex and the intricacies of SM love. Lyrically in the same vein as the Mercury-winning Anthony but much, much less doomy. I absolutely love them. The album “A Smell of Their Own” has barely been off my iPod all summer.

I found a solo album by one of their number Gentleman Reg which I didn’t love so much. But also the rather groovy New Pornographers and the much-hyped Arcade Fire. Apparently they’re better live… though they have a little too much of the Polyphonic Spree for my taste.


  1. Eric

    September 7, 2005 at 6:51 pm

    Its too terrible that you’re missing the film festival starting this week – would surely have been a grand time!

  2. Draco

    September 7, 2005 at 11:31 pm

    Never been to Canada nor date any canadian!
    One of these days… one or another… or maybe both!

  3. Emmett

    September 8, 2005 at 1:18 am

    Yay! Alistair in Canada! Sure, it may be off in Eastern Canada as opposed to where I live (out west), but I’ll feel smugly pleased regardless (though not in the irritating New York way, ha).

    Just wanted to pop in and declare myself a fan, Alistair. Out here we get both Cash in the Attic as well as House Doctor and you’re always a reason to watch either show. I have to admit that stumbling across your blog and discovering that you’re not only gay but both thoughtful and articulate as well has made this Canadian’s day.

    Here’s to hoping we get to see some more work of yours out here. All the best to you and yours!

  4. seb

    September 8, 2005 at 2:13 am

    If it takes two Canadian ex-boyfriends to make a connoisseur, I guess that makes me a demi-connoisieur; maybe I get some credits for a Quebecois grandfather. Maybe I get some more credits for that time on the rooftop above Leicester Square, I think he was Canadian but I could be wrong.
    A delightful boy, was he, but a little chippy (proper ex, not roof boy); had v low tolerance of some of the, how shall I say, rangier manifestations of the English/Oxbridge psyche. (Like Alistair, English at Cambridge, though two years behind Mr A. I suspect though that we did share one or two supervisors – Mr J.L. at his college, he of the glorious mullet, was sans pareil for barnet alone).
    Perhaps it is as our correspondent says – it is the intolerance of smugness that sets Canadians apart. Yet despite the decaffeinated (so well put) charm I cannot but feel that as a corollary there is something amiss in the soul of the land of the freer; a discomfort with the louche, a distaste for the opulent negligence of the fin de siecle, the Belle Epoque, which is half life’s charm.
    What has been on my iPod this summer I hear you ask. Had I such a device it would have been resounding to the richness of Haydn String quartet opus 54 no.2 (doomy); the Walton string quartet (louche and exquisite, with a smell of its own); and Mendelssohn overtures (pure caffeine).
    I was son enrapt by Cash in the Attic on tv the other day that I made myself late for my friend’s wedding, missed my train, was last to go in about two seconds before the bride’s entry, and STILL didn’t find out whether they got the 3K for the garden. (?)
    Enough already, Seb x

  5. Todd H.

    September 8, 2005 at 9:04 am

    Bravo Alistair. I have really been quite surprised by you and your incredible desire
    to explore the world. Who knew.
    This coming from a black/cuban american who may sometimes be leary and not so
    quick to buy someones person journal.
    Beautiful man, so well spoken/written and very entertaining. I guess this is the time to
    say how much I have liked your work on the BBC’s Cash…(that’s the American in me, to l
    lazy to write out the whole title) .as well as house doctor.
    Your pictures of Brazil were wonderful and I hope to one day be able to actually see the
    documentary and how you were able to spiritual, culturally, humanly connect with your
    surroundings and peoples. To really dive in and submerge yourself. All the best with your continued journeys, and developement.
    Say a prayer for todays crisis and hope humanity will take advantage of the situation and
    bloom with care and love for our ownselves which will in turn able us to truthfully love, respect
    all others.

  6. rhino75

    September 8, 2005 at 1:50 pm

    I’ve never seen Cash in the whatever it is and never dated a Canadian. But you know, somehow, I still managed to “relate” to your post :)) Well, apart from the bit about “bubble tea”?? Wassat? And am not FULLY convinced by some of those music choices. But it’s good to see another post so soon. I don’t feel such a mug for subscribing now. Keep it up!

  7. rhino75

    September 8, 2005 at 1:53 pm

    Oooh and Seb, are you for real?? Keep it up, I LOVE it, very deuxième degré. 🙂 (I KNOW smileys are childish but I like them.)

  8. seb

    September 9, 2005 at 1:29 am

    Le deuxieme degre et l’absurde sont les meilleurs amis et assurent une defense implacable contre la betise humaine.

  9. julesnemo

    September 9, 2005 at 2:12 am

    Glad you enjoyed your visit.

  10. Anthony C.

    September 9, 2005 at 5:40 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed your visit, too, although next time you’re here you’ll have to see more than just Yonge and Bloor Streets. There are so many other interesting parts of Toronto, although many of us think this is a nice place to live, but can’t imagine what visitors see in it. If you swam at the mostly nude, mostly gay beach at Hanlan’s Point, then there’s really nothing to worry about in terms of water quality. Anywhere else, and you were taking a bit of a chance.

    I met you when you were here. Perhaps you remember. I was with my boyfriend and another friend. We stopped you as you came out of Zelda’s Diner on Church Street, in Toronto’s gay neighbourhood. Pouncing on celebrities is something we try not to do here, which is why all the Hollywood stars who film here and come to the Film Festival enjoy Toronto. But pounce we did, I’m afraid, although after peppering you with all kinds of questions, you still asked us where we were off to. We said we were going home. You were all alone, and perhaps you wanted company. In retrospect, I suppose we should have invited you for a pint or a coffee, but we had bothered you enough as it was, and at any rate, it was true, we were on our way home. Oh alright, who am I kidding? We completely forgot our manners because we were utterly discombobulated by your twinkly blue eyes. Or at least I was. It’s alright, my boyfriend knows. Anyway, next time you’re in town, (hopefully the folks at the W Network will want you back) by all means, drop us a line. We’ll take you for that pint or coffee, and we promise not to be the dumbstruck idiots we probably came across as that night. Cheers.

  11. S.

    September 9, 2005 at 9:07 pm

    You should check out Stars. They’re poppy and lush.


  12. mike

    September 12, 2005 at 4:58 pm

    A Smell Of Their Own is indeed a great album – but the follow-up, Mississauga Goddam, is even better. (Favourite track: “Builds The Bone”.) Wonderful live act, as well.

  13. Hello

    September 13, 2005 at 12:58 am

    Just noticed you misspelled Younge and Bloor, should be Yonge and Bloor. Great piece. I am so glad you like Canadians! We are a friendly bunch! I hope you will work with the W network. So eexcited you were in Canada!

  14. Bonnie

    September 13, 2005 at 7:47 am

    You should visit Western Canada sometime. Vancouver and Victoria are both great cities and the people are even friendlier than in Eastern Canada!

  15. David Ferguson

    September 19, 2005 at 5:36 pm

    How I wish I had “bumped” into you on Church Street. But, alas, as a characteristic Canadian, I too would likely have just gawked and later kicked myself for not talking to you. Perhaps when you are next in Baghdad-on-Humber …

  16. marc

    September 25, 2005 at 6:17 pm

    so glad that you loved toronto and,canada,wish i icould have seen you.we like to consider that we are the “better part of north america”.take care

  17. Lexis

    October 12, 2005 at 5:35 pm

    Yah, us Canadians sure are nice lol! Okay, time for you to come to BC then, eh? Yes I said “EH”…more for dramatization, cuz I’m good at that ahaha. BC is alright. Kinda like England with the climate and all. Although Vancouver kinda does suck, I’m sure that you’d enjoy it 🙂

Leave a Reply