How to be a Canadian

I’m just back from a fortnight in Canada during which time my debut novel The Generation Game was officially published.

I’ve been to Canada several times over the last twenty-odd years and it has a special place in my heart. The vastness of it, the friendly people, the beauty, the bustle, Tim Horton’s. A country of extremes. And big, big, bigness.

I first went as a 17 year old to southern Ontario – the Falls were spectacular and the welcome huge. A kind relative offered to sponsor me so I could move out  there but I wasn’t brave enough to take that  big step over the ocean.

Canada has stayed at the edge of my vision, just out of reach, but never far from my mind so when I wrote The Generation Game it was easy to put in a chapter set in Toronto. Soon after I finished the first draft, my husband booked a week’s (surprise) holiday in the Great White North for my fortieth birthday. It was an amazing coincidence to be back in the land of my dreams.

We went back the following year with our kids who fell in love with the place – of course. And now we’ve had our follow-up family visit and although we packed a lot in, we only saw a tiny fraction of the country. But what we saw and experienced was awesome (true Canadian word). My first Mountie in Ottawa. A visit to the emergency in a Montreal Hospital (never to be repeated, I hope).  Lunch in the CN Tower revolving restaurant on a completely fog-bound day. A swim in a deserted lake in probably the most beautiful place in the world.

Thinking I should immerse myself in some Canadian literature while out there, I read a fab epistolary novel, A Celibate Season, a collaboration between Carol Shields and Blanche Howard.

This worked really well as they each took on the voice of a spouse in a marriage put on hold for ten months due to a work separation. I recommend it.

Then as a parting gift to myself I bought the book How to be a Canadian by Will and Ian Ferguson. It’s hilarious.

So as I prepare for the exciting world of interviews and book signings, I will try and plot my next novel so that it will be at least part set in Canada – then I’ll have to go back for research.


Niagara Falls

I first visited Niagara when I was seventeen, back in the day, the summer of 85. I returned there for my fortieth with my husband and again two years ago with the kids. We’re going back to Canada again this summer but there’s no trip to Niagara as we are planning to go to Montreal and Ottawa (like Wills and Kate) as well as Toronto, and an idyllic lakeside cottage belonging to family cousins. I feel a little sad as it is such an awesome sight, even with all the tackiness tacked on to it.

I hear that tourism has dropped there leading to talk of bringing back the tightrope walkers that used to lure tourists in their droves before such dare-devil attempts were outlawed.

Would this tempt me back? Or the honeymooners? I’m not sure, but I would like to return in winter where the spectacle takes on another look entirely.

I have a chapter in my forthcoming novel (The Generation Game for those of you who haven’t heard me mention it) set in Canada where my characters do exactly this.

But for us it will be the heat of summer. Air-conditioning and cool showers. Lunch in the revolving restaurent of the CN Tower, breakfast at Cora, doughnuts and coffee at Tim Hortons, white-water rafting on the Ottawa River, shopping, swimming, chilling in the mountains. Even practising our French in Quebec. Can’t wait.