Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
During my recent Toronto visit, I stayed at The Bond Place Hotel. I had a fairly negative experience there so, in case anyone else is thinking of heading to Toronto and staying at that establishment, I thought I’d give you a warning and advise you to check out the myriad of other hotels in the city, which are no doubt better than this one. Here’s why:
Wednesday, August 17th, 2011
As I prepped for my trip to Toronto, I put word out that I wanted to meet the movers and shakers of the city; the designers, bloggers and generally cool creatives who make the city tick. Time and again, the name Biko came up. I did a little research, discovered it was a jewellery label and I instantly said a little prayer for my bank balance as I rapidly fell in love with damn near everything in the collection. I made a point to meet up with the designer Corrine Anestopoulos while in town to hear the story behind Biko and her plans for world domination.
Sunday, August 14th, 2011
I’m in Toronto right now on a trip to talk to some designers, bloggers and all around cool people in the city as there seems to be a really exciting movement going on here right now. I would say one of the labels at the forefront of this excitement is Juma – a unisex clothing label that’s been making real waves in North American fashion circles these past few years. Mention Canadian fashion and Juma is a name that most likely comes up first and with Nicki Minaj recently spotted wearing their garms, it looks like the rest of the world is just catching up. When I was invited out to Toronto, having admired their work for so long, I knew Juma was a must-have interview for me, so I caught up with Design Director, Alia Juma to find out how it all began, how Toronto influences her and what the future holds.
Thursday, September 9th, 2010
At my leaving party in Toronto with blogger, Casie Stewart
One year ago today, I moved back to England. Looking back on my year, I can honestly say, coming home was the best decision I ever made.
There was years worth of build up to it, of course. I left England in January of 2004 for New York where I’d been offered a couple of internships. I lived there for a year and a half, struggling every day, living a hand-to-mouth existence, clinging on for dear life because I fell in love with that city the second I got off the plane and didn’t want to leave. When I finally came to the realisation that I’d run out of road, I came back to England, applied for jobs at every magazine going, got rejections from every single one and had no clue what I was going to do with my life, until I was offered a job teaching in Japan.
In October 2005, I boarded a plane for Tokyo, with no knowledge of Japanese and zero teaching experience. To say that my year spent living there was a learning curve, would be the understatement of the century. When my contract there was up, I decided to move to Canada. Having been born there, I have dual citizenship and it just seemed like an easy move. I went to Montreal first, then realised two months in that without being able to parlez the Francais, I wasn’t going to get anywhere there. So, I moved to Toronto.
And there I stayed for three years. I spent a brief eight months in Halifax, Nova Scotia (where I was born), with my extended family, but went right back to the TDot as soon as I could. This blog was born in Halifax, as I tried to figure out a way to get my writing to the masses and my incredibly supportive boss, Joanne David, at the jewellery store I worked at, believed in me enough to let me get this off the ground while I worked. When I moved back to Toronto, I came up against wall after wall when applying for PR or media jobs. So, I got a job as a travel agent to pay the rent.
I hated it. You’ve probably gathered from the tone of this blog that I may not be the best person to put in a front line customer service role. I couldn’t stand that I couldn’t be creative all day. I had to master all these different computer systems, be nice to people and actually care about where they were going, when all I wanted to do was blog.
After a year of that, I woke up one day and said ‘I don’t want to be here anymore’. I called my parents and said ‘I want to come home’. Once I said it, it was like a giant weight had been lifted off me. I’d been trying to make it work for so long, but I was a long way from home to just be surviving. It’s not like I was living the dream.
I quit my job and spent the summer in Toronto just enjoying the city and my friends as I prepared to move.
Now I’m back, everything just makes so much more sense. Having the support of family and old friends around me has been invaluable and spurred me on in a way I could never quite find in Toronto. And the blogging community here in the UK are something else altogether. I’ve met so many wonderful people since being back.
I’ve always been the person who will dive right in and see what happens. I’m not rich, far from it. Money has little to do with my experience and what I want to do in life. It’s all about drive. As long as you have that, you make it happen. What I learned from the whole experience was to make as many changes as you need to, to make your circumstances right for you.
Who knows if this is it for me? I go where the wind takes me. Wherever the next opportunity comes up, I’ll go. I don’t feel tied to any one place, which is the great thing about travel – the world is your home.
Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
Yesterday, I took advantage of the nice weather and went shopping.
This particular shopping experience led me to a meltdown, which I documented on Twitter. After two hours of trailing the streets, going in every damn boutique I saw and being beyond disappointed every time, I have finally admitted what I have wanted to admit since I got to this city: I frikkin’ hate shopping in Toronto!
It sucks balls. Big, giant donkey balls. There is no originality in this city at all. Believe it or not, some of us actually want to wear things other than leggings and loose, flowing tops. How are you not over this shit yet Toronto? Seriously.
I went into several ‘independent boutiques’ (all of which are on the same street, I might add) only to find at least four of the exact same dress styles in each one. I would think, before you go through the trouble of opening a store, you would do a little research on what lines other stores are carrying. Apparently, that’s not how people roll in the TDot.
I have often been left speechless, baffled and befuddled at the fashion choices of people here. The abundance of Crocs, the leggings, the being seen in public in your pajamas, the working out at the gym in motherbitching Crocs – and after yesterday’s shiteous shopping experience, I now understand: these poor bastards don’t know any better.
Let me ask you, when were clunky Camper shoes for women in fashion? Apparently they’re all the rage here in Toronto, because every second shoe shop I went in had an extensive collection of clodhoppers. The only people who wear Campers are white people with dreadlocks – that says it all really.
So no wonder people think it’s acceptable to walk around in sweatpants and sports jerseys. They have lost all hope. And I can’t say I blame them. If I owned sweatpants, I would probably be ready to start wearing them myself right about now (with heels though, of course).
The irony of Toronto’s shitty shopping though, is that Toronto has a fashion week. No, really, it does. It likes to put its shitty style on display and try to convince itself that the world gives a shit about it’s poor sense of design abilities.
If you work in the fashion industry in Toronto, I urge you, in the nicest way I know how, to pull your fucking finger out and sort this mess out!
A diva like me needs more than leggings and frikkin’ Camper shoes to make it through! Fix up!
Monday, March 9th, 2009
The urban jungle provides many moments of entertainment.
My morning commute is usually pretty dull. The only excitement I get is from the playlists I make every day, seeing if I can musically one up myself on my twenty minute journey. Somehow, I always manage it. You can find me plugged in, zoning out to whatever is blasting through my earphones, maybe reading a book at the same time and generally ignoring everything and everyone around me.
The other day though, some unexpected excitement came along. The Whispers had just come on my playlist and I was congratulating myself for such a stellar choice in sound when all of a sudden I could hear a kerfuffle. My first thought was, I should probably get some new earphones, I shouldn’t be able to hear shit, outside of the musical stylings of The Whispers. I looked up and saw everyone around me looking down the train carriage. I took my earphones out and heard some crazy screaming going on. Real, bloody curdling screams.
For a moment, horrible things flashed through my brain, like what if this woman was being assaulted or some dude was trying to rape her. I leaned forward and cautiously took a look at what everyone else was gaping at. I saw a woman, shouting at the top of her lungs at two girls who were standing near the doors.
“Get the FUCK away from meeeeeee!! Don’t you speak English bitch?!! Get your fucking hands off me! Get away from me!!!” She was screaming this over and over. “Get the fuck out of my face!” Everyone around me looked confused. And so they should have been. No one was in this woman’s face, except for maybe her imaginary friends. The two girls she was shouting at were looking increasingly uneasy.
See, here’s the thing: Canadians are so damn reserved that when they do actually lose their shit, I take a ridiculous amount of pleasure in it. It takes balls to be crazy in Canada, so I kind of applaud it. I just sit back and watch the show. Sure, it’s a little awkward watching someone who is clearly a sandwich short of a picnic, but it’s funny seeing peoples reactions to it.
Unfortunately, this was all going down just a couple of minutes before my stop. She had some powerhouse lungs and kept up her screaming non stop. When the train finally pulled into the platform, the girls she had been shouting at hightailed it down the platform and into another carriage. People were practically saying ‘run like the wind!’ as they dashed away from her.
Crazy lady was not deterred though. She got off the train and just stood on the platform to continue her nonsensical ramblings. I could still hear her when I was almost all the way out of the station. That high pitched, crazy wailing may never leave me.
If only these moments happened more often in Toronto to spice things up a bit. who knows, one of these days in the near future, I just may be the one doing the screaming for your entertainment. Feel free to sit back, enjoy and even make donations if you feel so inclined.
Monday, September 1st, 2008
Labor Day, I decided to take a nice, peaceful, relaxing bike ride along the lakeshore to soak up the last bit of summer. Unfortunately, approximately three quarters of the population of Toronto had the same idea.
It was utter madness down there. There were kids and bikes and strollers and rollerblades everywhere. Battle of the wheels. And you damn sure know I wasn’t gonna lose. Forget having a bell on my bike. I’m thinking of adding an air horn. If I told these motherbitches to get out of my way once, I told them a thousand times.
Amid this clusterfuck of Labor Day insanity, I made a couple of observations:
Men in rollerblades
Clearly, some fellas didn’t get this memo yet, so I’ll spell it out loud and clear: rollerblading for men is about the gayest thing you can do. I lost count of the number of shirtless, sweat drenched, iPod headphoned, cargo short wearing rollerbladers I saw. If studies were done on this, I think they would show that men who rollerblade are one Cher record and a couple of drinks away from anal penetration. And why are they always speed skating? Because they’re in a hurry to get home and watch that Margaret Cho DVD? Yeah, I thought so.
Listen, I know it’s all part of being a man. A few tufts of hair sprouting from the chest plate is passable, but if your chest looks like a shag pile carpet from the ’70s threw up on you, you need to put that shit away. Who told you it was OK for you to take your shirt off in a public setting? If we women have to wax our bikini regions, you can get rid of that unsightly mess. I’m going to start carrying wax strips with me and if I see a guy with a chest rug, I will hold him down and forcibly remove it. And no, I’m not joking.
I hate anyone not on a bike
Motorists, pedestrians, babies in strollers; I can’t stand any of them. Cars want to kill me, pedestrians are determined to get in my way and babies, well I guess we just have to blame the parents. But even more than babies in strollers, I hate four year olds in strollers, with their feet scraping along the ground and that smug look on their face. Get those lazy bastards up and make them walk! What the hell is wrong with you? Those are the kids who will still be living at home at 25, with no job prospects, smoking weed and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. And don’t even get me started on when they get that motorized scooter in their late thirties.
Despite all the obstacles, human and otherwise, I went for the longest bike ride of my life. I just kept pedaling. Through the heat and the steady transformation of my hair from flat ironed loveliness, to the Irish girl afro, I just kept pedaling. Through the screaming kids and rows of hotdog stands, I just kept pedaling. Past the guy with the body of an adonis who was jumping rope and dripping sweat, I stopped pedaling and damn near hit a tree, but that’s not the point. I wanted to take in every last bit of this summer, because it has been a great one. I pedaled so much, I think I ended up in upstate New York.
For most, Labor day symbolizes the end of summer, but you know what it means to me? Time to start shopping for my fall wardrobe. Happy days!
Thursday, August 21st, 2008
My gypsy blood keeps me moving around. I love Toronto, but I do miss the other cities I’ve lived in, for various reasons. If I could combine all the best bits from these cities to make one big mega-ridiculously-cool city, well, then I’d really be onto something.
Here’s what I miss about my homes away from my current home:
Things I miss about London
- My friends.
There’s just no one quite like them.
- Portobello Market
I love the sights, sounds and smells of this place. Rarely did I miss a saturday here. Start at the Ladbroke Grove end and wander through the streets to finish with lunch at Manzara in Notting Hill. Perfect way to kick start the weekend.
- Marketplace on Thursday nights
Great music, great people. great vibe. And the cheapest night out you’ll ever have.
- Roti Hut on Shepherd’s Bush Road
Roti for £2.40! And it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. I recently had a roti in Toronto that cost me $8. What kind of shit is that?! I realize it was Caribana, but c’mon Toronto, that’s just wrong.
- The ‘don’t be a sinner, be a winner’ guy
This dude would stand at Oxford Circus with a mega phone, trying to preach to passersby. ‘Don’t be a sinner, be a winner.’ was his line of choice. I always intended to get that printed on a T Shirt.
Can’t even reminisce about this one too much – it brings a tear to my eye.
Things I miss about New York
- 110th Street
and all the craziness that came with it.
- The Holy Trinity
Me, The Koom and Nat Nat – three in your face British chicks. We toughed it out together through thick and thin, when no one could understand us and when we just couldn’t get our heads around Americans. I don’t know how I would have made it through without them.
- Crazy people
New Yorkers are balls out crazy and I love it. People in Toronto preserve their crazy. If we had a higher proportion of craziness here, it would give Toronto a lil more zing. Let the crazy go!
- The Vibe
can’t be explained. It is what it is.
- The summertime
and the guys who play basketball on that court by West 4th, oftentimes shirtless – thank you.
- $2 pepperoni rolls in Coney Island
worth the 2 hours and price of a subway ride to get there.
Things I miss about Tokyo
- The hilarious situations that ensue from the language barrier.
Like one of my students who told me he was going to ‘eat out’ his wife that weekend. Several embarrassing moments later, I realised he meant eat out with his wife.
My partner in crime. It just wasn’t the same after you left homie.
- That certain someone.
He knows who he is.
My favourite area to just roam around in.
- The 7th floor of Tower Records in Shibuya
The only place to get english language books and magazines. It’s like Mecca when you first move there.
- The peace and quiet of temples and shrines
Proves that religion has nothing to do with it. I had some fairly profound moments in Japanese shrines.
- Heated toilet seats
Best. Thing. Ever! I fully intend to import these bad boys. With how cold it gets here in winter, a heated toilet seat that warms your tush and plays music could be just what the doctor ordered.
- Being a celebrity
Being a foot taller and ten shades whiter than the rest of the population garnered some attention. People would stop me in the street and take my picture, or sneak one on their camera phone while on the train. Frankly, I’m disgusted I don’t get the same treatment here in Toronto.
When I get ‘home sick’, I think about all these places, people and things. And I guess I’m pretty lucky I can.
Monday, August 18th, 2008
A few weeks ago, I met a guy called Greg when I was waiting for the streetcar. He struck up a conversation with me. Ahh, finally, I thought, a man with balls. As we know, men with good testicular action are a rare breed in this here land of Toronto. He was a fine looking man too. I’m talking 6 feet 4 inches of straight out of GQ magazine fineness. And lets face it, a pretty face always holds attention longer. Even though he wasn’t initially going in my direction, he boarded the streetcar with me and rode along Queen street to my destination. He waited with me until my friend came. As we stood outside the bar, conversing, he finally got around to asking for my number. Sure! I said, as I waited for him to pull his phone out. Nothing.
‘Do you have a phone?’
‘Yes, just not with me,’ he said.
‘Ooookkkkkk. Do you have a pen?’
‘You really didn’t think this through, did you?’
‘Just tell me your number, I have a really good memory.’
This was warning sign number one. There was no way Mr GQ was going to remember my number. I knew there was a catch to him being that fine. I told him it, kissing the numbers goodbye as they left my mouth and drifted into the night air. My friend came and Mr GQ left to go about his original plans for the night. Obviously, I was never going to hear from him again.
My standard 48 hours came and went, along with my interest. Then, the following Saturday, a full week after the initial meeting, my phone rang. It was a blocked number. I have major issues with people calling me from blocked numbers, which I won’t go into here, but if you’re the kind of person who does that, you may as well change your name to Shady Shadester from Shadesville. Anyhoo, I answer the phone, already pissed off, to hear some guy with a weird voice saying ‘it’s John!’.
‘I don’t know anybody called John,’ I say.
‘John! I met you last week,’ this ‘John’ insists.
‘I’m sorry, you must be mistaken because I don’t know a John.’ I’m less interested in this conversation and more intrigued with the notion that I may be the only person on the planet who doesn’t know anyone called John.
Then the voice changes. ‘I’m just kidding, it’s Greg,’ he says.
I had zero desire to continue this exchange with this psychopath. Who pretends they’re someone else the first time they call you? I’ll tell you who; a jealous freak who wants to know if you gave your number out to anyone else the night you met him. Frankly, I could have given my number to twenty dudes that night (except for the fact that there aren’t 20 dudes in Toronto with balls enough to ask me for it) and it would have been none of GQ’s business.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, he tried to get over the awkwardness of that by spending the rest of the conversation asking if many guys hit on me the night he met me.
Umm, how about we fast forward a few months and wait till we’re actually in a relationship before you start acting like a jealous, possessive boyfriend?
Clearly, in this case, even if he had called in my 48 hour zone, we were never destined to make it to the first date. But one thing is for sure – it is frikkin’ amazing that he remembered my number.
Monday, June 9th, 2008
Firstly, apologies for my shiteous blog schedule of late. Last week I had some pretty serious crap happen. I’m not gonna go into it, suffice to say, it was dramatic on a Jerry Springer outrageous kind of level and if I were to tell you about it, you’d think I was making it up. I’m OK, in fact, I’m great, all things considered and I’m looking forward to reaching the point where last week’s chapter of my life is a distant memory that I’ll be able to look back and maybe even laugh about at some point.
Breathe. Shake it out.
Let’s move on.
I live in the gay village. The upside of this is there’s a nine out of ten chance that I’ll be called ‘fabulous’ at least once a day. Those are some good odds. The downside is that after 10pm, my street becomes Transvestite Prostitute Central. I’m not judging anyone for their life choices. I’m just saying, it’s a little embarrassing when you invite people over and they’re offered a $20 blow job on their way.
Some of these transvestites are good, some not so good. I mean, if you’re gonna go through the trouble of donning fishnets and a wig, at least get rid of the five o’clock shadow. There’s a few I’d like to give a make over, because I find their interpretation of womanhood quite disturbing. But I don’t think that episode of ‘What Not to Wear’ would make it to air.
Living in Transvestite Prostitute Central makes for some interesting moments. Take last sunday morning for example. I woke up bright and early and drew back my curtains to see a large, muscular black man, wearing a bra and cut off jeans. He’d (heretofore referred to as ‘she’ because girlfriend was really trying) thrown her heels to one side. I smiled in recognition, thinking ‘we’ve all been there honey.’ She had a mirror in one hand, a comb in the other and was brushing out her weave like her life depended on it.
Ordinarily, my street gets all red light between the hours of 10pm and say, 5.30am. Before and after those hours, the hood looks somewhat normal. But this was 8am. Business is well and truly over. And it looked like it had been a long, hard night for this diva. I wanted to go downstairs, give her a cup of tea, ask her to put a shirt on and let her know that no amount of brushing would change the fact that the weave was a hot mess.
For a good half hour, she stumbled around outside my house, barefoot, throwing her head around, brushing from every conceivable angle. And then, some dude came out of nowhere, struck a deal with her and they went down an alley. Maybe the blow jobs go down in price after hours?
Either way, I doubt I would wake up like that in any other part of town.