Friday, October 15, 2004

Can't think of a Title

Dial-up access here in Canada, is clunkier than in the U.K., and Internet access speeds have been diabolically slow in the evenings. This is the first time in days that I've been able to get to

Well, 1 week in the hell that is North America and I'm just raring to get back to living. Hmmm... Even desperate for making some levity.....

So let's start with this one: It is after dark, after suppertime, on the evening of the funeral. Sister Number 2 is talking on the phone in the bedroom, telling someone about my Dad's passing. Suddenly she shouts for Sister Number 1, who goes upstairs. Then I hear Sis1 talking loudly, " Hi Pa, how nice of you to visit. Don't go away. (natter, natter, natter..)".

I am wondering what's going on. On investigating, I find Sis1 is having a full conversation with the Bedroom ceiling lightbulb, which is dimly, spookily, glowing orange. (There is no dimmer switch). Apparently the lightbulb started flickering as though it was going to fail, and then settled into this dim and darkened state.

Almost as scary as the possibility of ghostly spirits, is the state of mind of sisters who start talking to lightbulbs. You HAVE got to laugh. Sis1 was insisting that we do not switch off the light.

Well, my job here is obviously to keep posthumous mourning within the bounds of earthly sensibility. Being an intelligent scientific kind of guy, I had to launch into an explanation of how, when a lightbulb filament fails, it could easily settle into a steady state where it has a high resistance constriction at the point where it starts to break. With this higher resistance it has a lower current, so the overheating effect that was causing the filament to fuse, subsides and the lightbulb will glow dimly and steadily. It is slightly unusual, but far from impossible.

And then I had to accompany this with a reminder that by all means keep faith with Catholicism if you must, but at least choose the good parts of the religion, while dispensing with the rubbish of miracles and apparitions.


On Wednesday to escape from this claustrophobic environment, I attacked Toronto. That is, I decided to buy a day pass and go wherever necessary to shop for a pair of trainers, and to try including shopping centres that were completely new to me.

Toronto is very boastful of its public transportation system, which in the Seventies, was still way ahead of many. The TTC, as it is known is still efficient, but nothing to talk about. An off-peak day pass costs C$7.75, which allows you to go anywhere by bus or subway train within Toronto.

So to cut a long story short, I went to Yonge & Sheppard, then I went to Yonge & Finch, then I went back to Yonge & Sheppard, then I went to Yonge & Eglinton, then I went to Yonge & Bloor. Finally I took the Spadina line up to the Yorkdale shopping centre, which I've never deigned to visit, and I finally found a pair of Reebok trainers at a clearance price at Sears.

Throughout this entire journey, I saw nothing worth looking at in Toronto. Nothing new or of note. Nothing that I would recommend to a tourist for sight-seeing. Very few interesting people. Nothing worth buying that is not sold in every city in the world by the International Corporation of Chain Stores.

Toronto has been a very uninspiring place for a lot of its history, but especially in the last decade and some years, it defies description. It is a good city for eating out in restaurants, and driving everywhere in straight lines.


The weather has been ridiculously warm. Fall/autumn is almost four weeks behind normal. Today is overcast but very mild. There have been warm sunny days during this week which were suitable for sunbathing topless.

Global warming? Oh for god sakes, yes. Climate change? Well, this is not the normal pattern of weather in Southern Ontario, so climate change, yes certainly. And while the daft intellectualizing pseudo-scientists are bent on assuaging their egos to console themselves against their failures, Humanity continues to fuck Mother Earth.


Oh never ever allow a funeral home in the North American style to be exported to your country, wherever you live. Six Feet Under was produced in a very timely fashion.

The architecturally bland Seventies style building in North Toronto was typical. Neither a home, nor a temple, nor a church. Just a place of business. Its "chapel" had a ceiling height reaching nearly 3 stories, but was such a plastic place: clean, neutral colours, finished everywhere with varnished oak trim. This is the North American aesthetic for "quality interior"? The music playing throught the speakers was a loop tape with only 3 poorly performed versions of "religious classics". Even Classic FM plays better versions of these works. The rendition of "Pachelbel's Canon" was disgraceful, as was the "Ave Maria".

A few "organ pipes" were mounted on the wall as a decoration! Six foot wide by 5 foot high, painted in silver or something, sitting above one of the wooden box speakers. Fake, fake, fake. This is North America. The Las Vegas effect, some would say.

The fabulous oak casket that my Dad lay in was quite impressive. Hard to believe that such a fine piece of cabinetry was going into the ground.

He was withered beyond belief. I had last seen him in July. Now he looked like he was mummified. Skin and bone only. Not because of anything the funeral home had done. This was how he was in his last week. People tell me this is normal for people who die of cancer. It was amazing that my other family having watched his decline, seemed unable to predict that he had little time left.

It didn't trouble me terribly, because I knew he was dead now. But some people need to see the body in the casket, so that they can be convinced that it's time to let go.

All the hoohah about "In five minutes, I will be closing the casket for the last time, so any of you who wish to pay your last respects should do so now..." This all orchestrated by the master of ceremonies, a spotty, spotty man barely out of adolescence, who somehow very successfully trod the tightrope between professionalism and funereal gravity.


The Catholic monseigneur giving the service must have been having a laugh. His sermon ended up being an anonymous dirge on amateur CELL BIOLOGY. "The uniformity of life, the mitochondrial soup, the DNA, the Golgi bodies, blah, blah, blah... Humans are like ants, they farm fungi and they raise aphids like livestock..."

I was astounded, and wanted desperately to burst out laughing. I looked around at my niece, who being in high school, is studying this stuff right now, and we just registered our incredulity.

So a Catholic priest has finally got around to reading what first appeared as Seventies Popular Science? It was certainly an effective distraction from grief, in any case.


Into the hearse it went, in the funeral procession to the cemetery. A very austere cemetery worthy of Puritanical churches. Into the vault, and then left to go into the ground by the cemetery workers. Again, for people who need to be convinced that the Death was final, and it's time to let go.


And now, I'm bored, and waiting to go back to England. I'm more worried about having a job, and living. And whether to fruitlessly chase my own dreams, or come back here and be of future help to my Mom. Life goes on until it goes off.

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