“In an underdeveloped country don’t drink the water. In a developed country don’t breathe the air.” Jonathan Raban.
“Very little is known about the Canadian countryside since it is rarely visited by anyone but the Queen and illiterate sport fishermen.” P.J. O’Rourke
It will likely be a surprise to most of my readers but, on occasion, my brain starts to work and when this momentous event last took place, I found myself remembering driving a car across the U.S. of A. What had struck my beloved and me was the vastness of the place, the great stretches of unchanging scenery and, a surprise to both of us, the pleasantness of the Americans that we encountered. These locals were quite unlike the types we’d met in Europe. They were affable, quietly spoken and not at all boastful about being American.
We had brought no camping gear so we had to stay in small roadside motels and eat in local cafes. It was a surprisingly pleasant experience. We’d started in Detroit, skirted the Great Lakes, but avoided Chicago; we travelled the countryside.
The point of my maundering on like this is that a certain Ms Holly Chabowski and her friend, who stole some news headlines — and went viral — recently, should have made a trip like ours when they visited Canada. They whimpered that they’d found ‘the cities of Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa and Halifax to be dirty, noisy, with the smog of exhaust pipes and the honking of horns’.
Well! The two women made a huge mistake; they insisted on visiting cities. I, personally, spent a whole year in Toronto one Wednesday.
Ms Chabowski and her friend came from Denmark which, apparently, is somewhere in Europe. I must have missed it in my travels because it is, I am informed, a flat peninsular (sticky out bit) and a few islands, almost attached to Norway and sitting on top of Germany. The locals almost certainly speak foreign.
We here in Canada have parks bigger than Denmark which, I am assured, is so small that, with a brisk Westerly wind blowing up the English Channel, a person can spit right across it.
I am told that the lady’s letter complained that Canadians rely far too much on motor vehicles. She appeared to be quite surprised to see Canadians in cars. However, I did read an advertisement on the internet that stated ‘Bring your car to Denmark’. This is probably because they don’t have any of their own there.
Well, Holly! Canada isn’t about cities which, in my humble opinion, have always been the blights on any nation. Personally, I’ve always been delighted to flee from cities that airlines have imposed on me. I couldn’t wait to get out into the countryside where I could meet some genuine local people, not city dwellers.
In the small town outside London, where my parents struggled to bring me up, the sidewalks (pavement) are now blocked by parked cars and nobody can walk. Paris is a honking bedlam, Istanbul a mental home for deranged drivers, and Rome untenable. I’ll leave Bangkok out of it: ten lanes of traffic all aimed deliberately at any daring pedestrian.
The fact is, I have always been happy – delirious even — to fly home into Western Canada, climb into my car and drive almost unimpeded home to the Kootenays. However, if I’ve been forced to land in Calgary, I’ve always avoided travelling home via the traffic jammed plague called Banff.
No, Miss Chabowski and her friend should revisit Canada someday soon and, after escaping the chaos of the airport and the nearby adjacent metropolis, hie themselves to the provinces, the prairies, the mountains of the west, the territories, the Yukon and possibly the arctic islands. There they’ll almost be sure not to become embroiled in too many traffic jams. There they might even meet genuine Canadians and then stop whimpering.
Of course automobiles are a necessity in Canada. After all, we’re known world-wide — even in Denmark — for the initials R.C.M.P: Royal Canadian Mounted Pedestrians.