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Anything about Canada

Edmonton is becoming the new Holywood

Edmonton is fast becoming Canada's answer to Hollywood. We had just got over the excitement of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's visit to West Edmonton Mall when up pops another showbiz celebrity eager to associate himself with the glamorous capital of Alberta!

I managed to take this one photo before being knocked to the ground by his minders and escorted out of the mall by several goons in suits. It's about time these celebrities understood that it's the fans, like me, that put them in their privileged position.

Mickey Mouse at West Ed

There was no sign of Minnie, which is bound to add fuel to the recent rumours.

Feeding the ducks in Edmonton

The best place to go to feed the ducks in Edmonton is Hawrelak Park. The park contains a big lake, officially named Hawrelak Lake, but known to the locals as 'Duck Lake'. There are even special duck food dispensers to encourage would-be duck-feeders to leave their bread at home (bread makes the ducks constipated causing them to sink).

Mrs Toque and I popped along on Sunday hoping to get some duck-feeding action but were disappointed to find that all the ducks had gone. So to had the duck-feeding dispensers, presumably taken down so that the ducks wouldn't stay into the winter and get frozen into the ice.

There were however hundreds of honking geese. And seagulls.

Canada Geese at Hawrelak Park

Note to English Tourists. In England, where it is the custom that only the Queen is permitted to eat swans, as it is here in Canada where only Paul Martin is allowed to partake of Canada goose meat. Also, if you are coming to Canada for the ducks remember that, unlike in England, they don't overwinter here.

Canadian Sports No.4

Last Friday I continued my exploration into Canadian sports by going to see Edmonton Oilers vs Dallas Stars. I had been assured by everyone that I had talked to that it wouldn't be as boring as Canadian Football, and everyone was right, it wasn't boring by any stretch of the imagination. In fact it was quite exciting.


The big difference is that hockey has atmosphere. It's a charged atmosphere, people go to enjoy themselves and see a fight. The hockey is almost incidental.

As with the football the stadium goes to great length to whip up the crowd; there's a lot of flashing lights and pyrotechnics as the Oilers take to the ice to a banging rendition of 2Unlimited's 'Get Ready for This'. Strangely this was one of two of 2Unlimited's appalling eurotechno anthems played during the night. The only other artists to be honoured with having two of their tunes played were Brian Adams and Gwenne Stefanni (if anyone at the stadium wants to offer me the job of DJ, and God knows you need one, then my e-mail address is at the top of the page).


According to Dave the Dallas Stars are a boring defensive team that don't fight much. Nevertheless they beat Edmonton 2-3. Dave is right though, they don't fight much. There was a bit of fighting - what we in England would refer to as 'handbags at ten paces' - but nothing to make you look up from your popcorn.

On balance, despite not understanding the rules, I enjoyed the hockey, and would recommend it as the best Canadian sport so far (better than log-rolling, pie-eating or Canadian football). It could be made better though. The puck is very small and easy to loose sight of from the peanut gallery. It should be made bigger, perhaps made of white leather, and ball-shaped for easier identification. Obviously this minor modification would negate the requirement for ice, ice skates and hockey sticks; further negating any requirement for helmets and body armour; and would allow the players to simply kick the ball into the net. Just a suggestion.

Speaking Canadian

Recently it has been suggested, by two people, that I am beginning to sound Canadian. I fucking hope not.

Here's why.

1st Canadian: He's like sooo boring, y'know?
2nd Canadian: Riiight, totally.
1st Canadian: I'm like, sitting there, and he's like talking, or whatever, and I'm like 'what the fuck', right?
2nd Canadian: Yah! It's not like I don't like him, he's just so.....y'know.....'duh'.
1st Canadian: Yah, totally. I'm like, why do you even bother?

If I ever speak like that please shoot me.

It's not the pure idiocy of the language that is my main bugbear though. What really gets on my tits is the rising intonation that makes each and every mundane sentence sound like a question. Honestly, I have to restrain myself from punching the offenders repeatedly in the face. Fortunately this rising intonation isn't too common in Edmonton and seems to be an affliction peculiar to youngsters and people from the East.

And if I ever speak like that please shoot me twice to make sure that I'm dead.

Sir Frederick Banting

For reasons best known to themselves John and Daniel have used my post on mice to justify putting up pictures of family members. John wonders whether "we can kick off an Old Family Photo blogging style Mexican wave. The less politically correct the better but anything will do."

How about Sir Frederick Banting - winner of the Nobel Prize in 1923; knighted by George V in 1934; and one of the top ten Greatest Canadians?


Today diabetes is once again big news; big in the sense that it often affects big people, it's the new lifestyle disease. But prior to 1922, for the 1 in 400 children develop type I diabetes (juvenile diabetes), when the pancreas just suddenly stops producing insulin, it meant wasting away, coma and then death. The prognosis for these children was certain death within one month to two years. For late onset diabetics the prognosis was not much better: blindness, limb loss, kidney failure, heart disease....

Then along came Frederick Banting who discovered insulin by depancreatising dogs and then treating the resultant diabetes by injecting the dogs with their own pancreatic secretions. The magic ingredient of those pancreatic secretions was insulin, and within months insulin was isolated and put into mass production. Banting won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1923 and was knighted by George V in 1934.

About the time insulin was being developed, treatment of diabetes was centered on starvation. Frederick Allen, the leading American diabetologist, believed that since the diabetic's body could not use food, perhaps limiting the amount of food allowed would reduce the strain.

Allen's treatment was rigid, verging on cruel. But his results were better than ever seen before. In retrospect, it is easy to see why outcomes were good in patients with what we now call type II diabetes, but for those with type I, death from "inanition" was not uncommon. Fortunately, Allen's treatment did allow a number of young people to survive to become the first insulin users.

One of Allen's and later Banting's best known and most beloved patients was Elizabeth Evans Hughes. She was the daughter of Charles Evans Hughes, governor of New York, later America's Secretary of State, and eventually a distinguished Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

When Elizabeth developed diabetes in 1918, Dr Allen quickly put her on a diet of 400 to 600 calories a day, which he later raised to precisely 834 calories daily. Elizabeth hated this "nightmare" and the people who imposed it. But she clung to life until Banting agreed to see her in August 1922.

Banting was astonished that this charming girl, who weighed only 45 pounds and was scarcely able to walk, was still alive. He began insulin at once, injecting 1 mL twice daily and increasing her calorie allowance by 100 calories each day. Her recovery was hailed around the world as a true medical miracle, and Banting's standing in the medical community and among the general public immediately reached heroic proportions.

Elizabeth went on to live a happy and productive life, although once the initial publicity died down, she told no one about her diabetes. (Even her future husband didn't know until after they became engaged.) Elizabeth probably had had about 43,000 insulin injections before she died suddenly of a heart attack at age 60. Postgraduate Medicine

Today, especially in the UK, any animal testing is seen as politically incorrect; even if it has the potential to alter the lives of many millions of humans, as the discovery of insulin did. Indeed if Banting were alive today, and performing his work in the UK, who is to say that he wouldn't be having his relatives exhumed by terrorists. Most probably he would be forced to leave the UK to practice his science in a country where legislation surrounding the use of animals is less tightly controlled; where people respect humans more than animals; and where the government gives adequate protection to scientists. I often wonder how many animal rights terrorists are diabetic, or how many are alive today because their predecessors received drugs invented through animal research? A moot point perhaps, but it would be interesting to know. But vivisection is not the only reason Banting can be seen as politically incorrect:

In the 1930s, war was looming in Europe, and Banting was alarmed by the rise of Nazi Germany. He started several war research efforts, including playing a major role in the creation of the first production G-suit, which would be used by Royal Air Force pilots during the war. He was also involved in research in biological weapons, both in terms of countermeasures and methods for mass production of anthrax, although the exact nature of this research remains unclear even today.

At the pinnacle of his brilliant career, Banting was killed on February 21, 1941, when the Lockheed Hudson patrol bomber he was travelling to England in crashed shortly after takeoff from Gander, Newfoundland. The exact purpose of his flight to England remains a mystery, but it appears likely he was going to meet with counterparts in an effort to convince them to produce biological weapons as a last-ditch weapon in case of a German invasion of England. Wikipedia

It's not everyone that can say that they are related to a Nobel Prize winning, germ warefare-advocating vivisectionist knight. I'm proud to say that I am (sort of), though only because I am married to Mrs Toque.


Yesterday morning someone held the elevator for me at work, and before I could stop myself I blurted out the word 'Ta'. I kicked myself. Internally of course, actually kicking myself would have heightened my embarrassment.

I've been coming to Canada regularly for four years now, and have now lived here for five months, yet try as I might I can't stop myself saying 'Ta'. I have trained myself to substitute 'trunk' for 'boot'; 'truck' for 'lorry'; 'elevator' for 'lift'; 'soccer' for 'football'; and 'zucchini' for 'courgette', etc. in order that I am more readily understood by Canadians, but try as I might I cannot eliminate 'Ta' from my vocabulary.

Mrs Toque has been quite animated about it in the past:

"Stop saying that; people don't know what you mean. You sound like an idiot!"

Well, for all those Canadians that don't know what it means: 'Ta' means 'Thank you' in the dialect of the common Englander. If you should happen to hear it spoken around Edmonton then it's possibly me, and I apologise for sounding like an idiot; there's little I can do about it, a fact that Mrs Toque will readily attest to.

According to this site it is an Australian dialectal word. But I'm not Australian, so in light of that, the explaination on this site seems more plausible; apparently I'm Danish:

A slang word for Thanks.

The word is a result of the heavy Danish influence on the English language. Most people do not realize that the English language roots are really Danish or Jutland. Equiped with this knowledge this word is easy to decipher.

The Danish word for Thanks is tak. In Scotland and upper England it was common to drop the k at the end because of the way words were pronounced during the time of old English and Middle English. Hence the slang word "Ta" which should actually be pronounced "TA-k" but over time became "Ta" is really Tak meaning "Thanks"

Person One: I will give you a ride to the post office to get your check.

Person Two: Ta

The online American dictionary, Merriam Webster, has a different view, placing 'Ta' in the etymological category of 'Baby Talk'. The site provides a hilarious audio clip as a guide to pronounciation of 'Ta' (it's hilarious because I've never heard it pronounced like that).

I can't say that I heard the word used at all in Scotland, but I did spend my five Scottish years in Edinburgh, which by their standards is considered posh. Scottish readers (if I have any) may be able to enlighten me as to where ta is used in Scotland.

In the past I have been accused of being posh, not because I am - I'm as common as muck - but because I have a home counties English accent. The word 'ta' is usually used not by 'posh' people like me but by common types from the north of England. Canadians that are familiar with the word 'ta' will probably be fans of Coronation Street, a street populated by common northern types. The fact that I cannot stop myself from uttering it presumably comes from the fact that I am of northern stock. Either that or the word is an Anglo-Saxon mote in my biological memory, so innate that I cannot erase it. I'd like to think so.

Inuit Folk Tale

I have just been watching the video 'Canada - A People's History'. It's very good.

Volume 1: When the World Began.

One story shows what the Inuit valued most: A stubborn will to survive, and the ingenuity that went with it.

An old man was left in an igloo with two dogs and little else as his family moved on. But he wasn't ready to die just yet. He fashioned a knife from his frozen faeces, and with it he killed one dog to feed the other dog and himself. From the skin he made a coat; from the bones and guts a sled.

Then he hitched up the remaining dog and made off to rejoin his family.

Having just walked to the video store to return the video, and having seen frost on cars at 9pm, I can empathise with the old fella a little better. I'll be shovelling snow next. Still, I guess it's better than making a knife out of my own shit.

Welcome to the Great White North!

Canada Word Association

Sitting here supping a Sleemans and waiting for Mrs Toque to get back from IKEA, on a Friday night no less, I decided to try word association for Canada.

A. Alberta
B. Bare Naked Ladies
C. Cowboys
D. Donut (yes, that's how they spell it)
E. Eh?
F. First Nation
G. Gay marriage
H. Harvey's
J. Just for Laughs
K. Klein
L. Lacrosse
M. Macaroni cheese
N. Northern lights
O. Ogopogo
P. Perogie
Q. Quebec
R. Red necks
S. Snow
T. Tim Horton
U. Ukranian
V. Very cold
W. Wayne Gretsky
X. Xtremely cold
Y. Yukon
Z. SpitZ

A few of those are more applicable to Alberta than Canada - I won't say which to protect me from a slap around the chops - but, hey, it's a big country and I haven't seen enough of it.

That's how I sum Canada up in 26 words and phrases and I'm sticking to it.

The word 'noblest' enters Edmonton lexicon

Little Man in a Toque has been honoured with 'Quote of the Week' by See magazine's 'The DEW Line'.

Quote of the week

Thanks DEW

INCOMING NEWS: Apparently the word 'lexicon' has just entered the Calgary lexicon!

Edmonton Bloggers

I have been accepted into the Edmonton Bloggers blogroll. Naturally this is some cause for celebration, and so, to mark this auspicious occasion, and without further ado, I give you these photos of Edmonton in celebration of our beautiful city.

Edmonton skyline

Edmonton skyline 2

Edmonton skyline 3

I am also obliged to slag off Calgary, so I have adapted an English maxim about the Scots for this very occasion:

"The noblest prospect a Calgarian ever sees is the high road that leads him to Edmonton."

Fellow Edmonton bloggers, I beseech thee; this should be our motto!

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