Category Archives: UK

Tell Us About Your Favourite Funny Video

There are some staple questions asked during interviews. “Why do you want to work for us?”, “Tell me your greatest strength”, and “What do you know about our company?”.

Recently, I was asked “Tell Us About Your Favourite Funny Video”, which took me a while to think about. I figured out pretty quickly that it wouldn’t be right to choose a video that has a victim. While it might be secretly satisfying to watch someone get maimed while performing the Ice Bucket Challenge, or for a toddler to fall on their arse after being sprung by a fat cat, it might come across as a mildly psychotic choice.

Then I remembered Fenton. The video of a dog that surfaced way back in 2011 (full title: Jesus Christ in Richmond Park).

The video is below. You must watch it, even if you have watched it a thousand times. I am now going to explain, in painstaking detail, why this video is so funny.

An idyllic park in England. Deer graze.
Poor quality, blurred and ultimately mundane footage destined to never be watched again.
The peace is shattered by a man. But not just any man. A British man. A British man, forced to consider his very core values and the very real prospect that he just might be about to make a scene. It’s not fair. For Brits, this type of internal struggle between public decorum and outrage is normally reserved for terrible mistakes in restaurants..
I am familiar with this, because every time Tim Hortons gives me a triple-triple when I ask for a double-double, I drink it anyway while I pretend that I couldn’t be happier – out of politeness.
But seriously, who drinks that much sugar?
“Fenton!”, he yells.
“Fenton!”, he yells again.
And again. But now there is stress in his voice.
A fifth and six time, and there is some serious desperation. He is letting go.
Now a cry for “Jesus Christ!”.
This man has completely forgotten his properness in just 10 seconds inside a serene park. Something that took me 9 years of living in Toronto and taking the TTC to achieve.
A herd of deer tear across the screen, Fenton in hot pursuit and a mortified man…. far behind… but not quite sprinting.
There are no victims in this video.
Some deer get exercise, a dog is thrilled to make some new friends and there is a man who comes of age.

England Trip 2014

I just enjoyed 10 days in England and, while there, I was told a few times that I need to post more pictures of my day-to-day shenanigans. In turn, I began to think that I really ought to blog a little more. This is about the 5th reprise of this site. Hello, again.

Last time I visited my home-country was in 2012 and that was for my brother’s wedding. This time I was going to visit my new-born niece, Aliya, but there would also be a little more time to be a tourist. And I do feel like a bit of a tourist in England now. I’ve been in Canada for seven years. Time flies.

Landing in Birmingham was a little hairier than I was previously used to, as Hurricane Gonzalo was dissipating, but still making its presence felt. The plane was banking from side-to-side in gusting winds just feet from the runway. I’m usually pretty comfortable flying, but I did grip the arm rest a little extra hard. The touchdown ended up being incredibly gentle, and there was a little muted applause from other passengers.

My first day back in England was mostly relaxed. I popped into my old home-town of Kidderminster to buy a UK simcard for my phone, mostly so that I had data without paying through the nose for roaming. I got a simcard for about half the price I pay in Canada and got more features – just sayin’. Later that day, I got to meet my new niece, Aliya. She is tiny, at 6 weeks premature, and looks startlingly like by brother.

Day two was a visit to Merry Hill. Shopping in England is generally done on the high street, but there are shopping malls and Merry Hill is one of them – though it is affectionately known as Merry Hell to many. My Mum was terrified of buying any clothes for my upcoming birthday, so she patiently followed me around dozens of shops, many revisited, while we searched high and low for the perfect jacket. I didn’t even know what I wanted. I think I drove her and my wife completely nuts by the time we were done. We stopped off at an ASDA Cafe (Walmart type store which often includes a cafe) and had some pretty dire food. I had a burger for £4.50 ($8) which is cheap, but the patty was so dry, I think it may have been found on the floor. But then, ASDA Cafes aren’t aimed at me. They are aimed at old people who have lost their sense of taste and like to sit together at table and reminisce about the good old days of rationing.

imageDay three consisted of a long walk from my Mum’s house, along the River Severn, to my step-grand parents and then back again, via Stourport town centre. The River Severn is the longest river in England and it’s a great place to spot birds… though maybe less so at this time of year. We did see a Kingfisher, though. The River Stour and The Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal also both run through Stourport, so there are lots of canal boats/narrow boats. Interconnected canals and rivers mean you can get pretty much anywhere in the country in one of these, and some people even live in them.

imageDay four was spent with my Dad in Worcester, the county town of Worcestershire, as you may well intuit. It is home to an impressive cathedral (which we didn’t visit this time) and Worcester Guildhall, the local government building (which we popped into). The walls are lined with paintings of Worcester’s past mayors. The weather wasn’t so kind, so after grabbing a few bits and pieces, we were on our way.


imageOn day five, we attempted to go for a quick walk behind my Dad’s house. He has long garden that stretches back, descends several levels and eventually comes out, via a wire gate, into some woods. It reminds me of The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett. There are fresh water springs in the woods, wooded areas, ponds and openfields – but it had been raining and has become a little overgrown, so we didn’t have much look. Later, we went in to Birmingham City Centre, had a greasy breakfast, did some shopping, visited the new Birmingham Library and stood around like tourists taking pictures of Birmingham City Hall.

On day seven, we took a trip from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth on the Severn Valley Railway, a heritage steam railway line still decorated in a Victorian style. We enjoyed a market in Bridgnorth, but the point is the train experience which is, of course, a peculiarly British thing to enjoy.

Day eight was my birthday. It began with another walk along the river and then another through Wyre Forest, one of the largest ancient woodlands in Britain. Not the best time of year for animal/bird spotting, be mostly saw a variety of tits (relatives of the chickadee and titmouse). We went to a local pub for my birthday.

Day nine, we travelled into Wales to go Red Kite spotting. We took a scenic route that would take us through the Clee Hills in Shropshire, near the Worcestershire border. Sheep roam freely and there are good views of patchwork green, even in the drizzly rain we had.


Red Kites almost became extinct in The UK because of poisoning, nest destruction and egg theft, but have made a comeback thanks to conservation efforts. We went to a farm where these birds have been fed meat for a number of years. It was pretty startling to see so many, though we missed the bulk of the action due to a cock-up based on daylight savings time changing a couple of days earlier!  Note: not my photo.

Our remaining full day in England was spent re-visiting Kidderminster and Worcester to try to pick up a few bargains on clothes, which are generally cheaper in England… at least at value end of the market 😉
I spent a bit too much, I expect… based on having to mess around with my case at the airport, to get it down to the correct weight.


Things I’ve Embraced About Canada

Maple leafThere are harder places to move to, from The UK, than Canada. They speak English, have a culture influenced by colonial rule and there aren’t any wars right now. It was still a big step for me, though. I spent some 25 years living in Worcestershire. In the small town, near the field. The one with the horse in it, next to that tree.

There are a few aspects to life here that took some getting used to. There are a few aspects that I am still not used to. Thankfully, there are a few aspects that I have embraced.

1. Halloween

When I used to go Trick Or Treating, it was always with a bit of guilt and the whole experience usually ended up being less fun than anticipated. None of the adults we encountered, as we knocked on doors, were very pleased with it. Much of the generation that came before mine believe Halloween to be a horrible celebration from That There America. The words “Trick or Treat” were taken literally, as a threat. For the most part, doors were opened and sweets dispensed with annoyance – or doors were never answered.

What I used to prefer about Halloween in England was that dressing up in fancy dress (American English: “costume dress”) involved dressing as a ghoul, monster or other scary creature. In North America, it is common for people to dress as some kind of random character (eg. nurses, school girls, superheroes etc…). This is now becoming more common in Britain, but is still more of a North American thing.

mad hatter

I definitely prefer the way Halloween is celebrated in Canada. It is a festival that everyone looks forward to, but there are a few customs that help make Trick or Treating easier for residents and kids. First of all, Trick or Treaters only go out on Halloween night. In England, they are around every night for the best part of a week. Secondly, there is an accepted signal – the porch light. If it is switched on, Trick or Treaters are welcome. If it is off, don’t knock. Thirdly, kids are usually accompanied by parents at the end of the driveway and only tend to visit their own neighbourhood. These behaviours make a massive difference to everyone. Kids dressed in costume with their faces hidden are not seen as a threat.
The last Halloween that I worked (at a bookstore), I dressed as The Mad Hatter. I’m not sure if there’s much in life that is more awesome than that, even if I did intimidate several children. It’s all good.


2. Apple Pie

I never really got this. Those North Americans with their rich foods. You just don’t need it, when you have Custard Cream biscuits and, on special occasions, a trifle. It certainly didn’t resonate with me when Jason Schwartzman had sex with an apple pie. That isn’t to say I didn’t have the occasional Apple Crumble made by my Mother, but it wasn’t usually a song and a dance. Apple Pie has taken on a life of its own in North America. Especially at Thanks Giving…

3. Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, in Canada, is similar to harvest festival in Europe – giving thanks to God for the harvest. In The United States, it can also be considered giving thanks to the Natives who helped the English Colonists of Plymouth Colony (Captain John Smith – the whole Pocahontus thing, remember?).

The dates of Canadian Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving vary, but both involve having a big meal amongst family on the kind of scale normally reserved for Christmas. And Apple Pie (or sometimes Pumpkin Pie).


4. High Fives and Fist Pumps

I have no idea where this came from, but one day I simply woke up and realised that I had started giving out high-fives. Especially at work. Admittedly, it is with a massive sense of irony. Just managed to survive an encounter with a particularly “intensive” customer? High Five. Couldn’t decide what to buy for lunch, and end up returning to the store with a filthy McDonald’s Big Mac? High Five. I’ve actually got a few people giving each other ironic high-fives. Quite a feat for a country that invented the Alanis Morrisette version of irony.

5. The Words “Cart”, “Dessert” and “Tronna”.

Is it on the trolley?Rather than the word ‘trolley’, Canadians favour ‘cart’. For example, ‘shopping cart’. Since my job involves endlessly searching for books, many of which are hidden amongst book carts, I had to quickly let go of the word trolley. It led to blank stares. From time to time, I will yell at my colleagues “IS IT ON THE TROLLEY?” in the futile hope they will laugh at the vague reference to some long forgotten comedy from 1985 Britain that even I shouldn’t be able to remember. I was 5 years old for Christs’ sake. Why would my Canadian colleagues have a bloody clue what I am on about? Doesn’t stop me doing it, though.

If I asked for Pudding instead of Dessert, I would keep getting mousse when what I really want is the world’s biggest chunk of cake.

Tronna is how people here pronouce Toronto. People think I’m pompous enough as it is, so I have quickly learnt to drop the second “T” sound.


I’ll next write about some of the things I’m too stubborn to embrace 😉


Just a quick post, as I’m heading away for a few days soon – more on that to come. This is a hodge podge of predictions I am making, that will probably be wrong and will make me look a fool. But here goes.

Within 18 Months, Android will be the Dominant Mobile Platform

Apple will lose much of their market share, itunes will become second to the Android Marketplace. Apple will be reminded that customers prefer an open system.

Conservatives will take a Hammering

There are local elections in The UK tomorrow (5th May). Due to job losses amongst the working class, who tend to be labour voters, The Conservative Party is likely to take losses. Public sector jobs are also at risk, and these workers tend to have trade union backgrounds, much like the old-school pre-Blair Labour party. Many people are angry at The Liberal Democrats for breaking promises, but many are likely to also realise that the Lib Dems probably got concessions from The Conservatives as part of the coalition government. I wouldn’t be surprised if Liberal losses are minimal.

Alternative Vote Will Lose

I think it could be tight, and I’m going out on a limb, but I think the referendum for Instant runoff voting or Alternative Vote will be a ‘no’ vote. There is no doubt that AV would be a fairer system in The UK where most parties are progressive and somewhat left-of-centre and where most votes placed are votes for socialist, leftist parties. However, AV would be bad news for The Conservatives. As one of the only (if not THE only) legitimate right wing party, there is all the more reason and motivation for right wing supporters to get out and vote ‘no’ for their own self interest.

Ken Livingstone to be London Mayor in 2012

There is a mayoral election in May 2012. I think Boris Johnson will be defeated. Partly by a wider anti-tory feeling and partly because he is a bit of a tit, anyway.