Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Of Maple Leafs and Long Queues

Perhaps I should say "long lines?" Now that's a culture conundrum. Is a queue still a "queue" if it's made of Canadians waiting for that most Canadian of institutions, Tim Hortons? Somehow, it just felt a lot more like a "line."

Oh, yes, my loyal readers (all two of you), Timmy's was in London. Amidst the hustle and bustle of a gorgeous summer day in the Big Smoke there were flashes of red everywhere on Friday. Canadians were out in force with their flags, maple leafs (again, this just feels more right than "maple leaves"), hockey jerseys and all manner of Roots gear. Nowhere were they more apparent than in Trafalgar Square. London has the largest Canada celebration outside of Canada and, on this 144th birthday, Canadians and London were in it to party!

I took a walk to Trafalgar and arrived at about 2:45 in the afternoon to find the party in full swing. The two enormous bars were serving Sleeman's Honey Brown and Canadian, people were snacking on bison burgers, buffalo wings (actually American) and psuedo-poutine. I say "psuedo" because it was made with grated cheese not cheese curds, which, as any good Canadian will attest, is just cheating. And if you talk to anyone from Quebec they'll insist that the cheese curd squeaks. If it doesn't squeak, it's not worthy of the name "poutine." However, the crowning glory, as evidenced by the enormous line, was the (cue the choir of Canadian angels) Tim Horton's tent. Oh yes, real Timmy's coffee and donuts.

The glorious Tim Hortons tent
How far away I actually was at the end of the line
I joined the hoards and began the wait. About five minutes in, some event workers walked by wheeling a basketball hoop. The English guy in line in front of me asked the Canadian girl he was with, "Why do they have basketball? That's not Canadian!" She triumphantly and a little smugly, if I'm honest, said, "Actually, it is! The guy who invented it was Canadian. I can't remember his name. Neville...something like that. He was Canadian anyway!"

Now, as you all know I have a compulsion to share obscure pieces of trivia so I couldn't help blurting out, "Naismith. The inventor of basketball was named James Naismith." They were a little surprised that I just burst into their conversation, I think, but she was thrilled to have some back up. I didn't like to burst her Canadian bubble, so I left out the part about James having invented it in Springfield, Massachusetts. Not sure what that means about the sport of basketball. Is it Canadian or American? To look at the Raptors, you'd have to say American, but surely they can't have that much of an influence on the entire sport. Basketball seems to me like a child of an immigrant; born in America, but Canadian too. Naismith was a native of Almonte, Ontario (a suburb of Ottawa, today) and received his Bachelors of Education from my dear McGill University.

"But" as Dr. Carroll used to say, "I digress." I got talking to the couple after that fail safe icebreaker. **Note to the non-Canadian readers: Should you ever travel to Canada or just wish to make friends with any Canadian, you would do well to learn some of the many talented people the country has produced. They just love a good game of "Oh, s/he/they're Canadian!" And they particularly love it if people generally think that person is American.** Again, I digress. They were two very nice people and had a very, very important piece of information for me. Canadians, listen up. This is, in fact, so important and exciting that it deserves its own paragraph.

There is a REAL Tim Horton's in London.

I kid you not. It's apparently, on Regency next to a Sainsbury's or in that general location. Joy abounds.

Joy also abounded when about an hour later I was at the head of the line. Gladly paid 6.50 for five donuts and one small coffee - not quite the same pricing structure as in Canada, but still, with that line, they really could have fleeced us!

After a hurried goodbye to my line buddies I scurried off through the streets of London with my cup of Timmy's coffee and backpack filled with donuts. I could tell the Canadians that I passed by the way they gave themselves whiplash doing a double take at my little brown cup as I speed walked past them. As other people paused to take pictures on the Mall, at St. James' Palace and Buckingham Palace, I was taking the largest, quickest steps I could without scalding myself or, more importantly, wasting a drop of that dark brown nectar so loved by Canadians, especially my own Canadian.

One text later and my Canadian met me in the lobby of his building where he collected his coffee and chose some donuts (only enough for one person, otherwise he'd have to share!). A delightful afternoon snack and just as much fun, if a bit stale, on Saturday morning!

All in all, a great Canada Day! You just can't beat a little Timmy's and that oh so evident Canadian national pride. The type of pride and inspires them to wrap themselves in flags, wear t-shirts that say nothing but "eh?," eat fake poutine and, of course, queue for an hour for overpriced coffee and donuts, just because it's Timmy's.

Happy Canada Day - hope you all celebrated in true Canadian form. I'm sure Donald Sutherland did.
**Bet you didn't know he's Canadian!**

1 comment:

  1. Disappointing update:

    For those of you who found this post because you searched for "Tim Horton's in London" - The Spar on Haymarket, which used to have a small takeaway counter of Timmy's coffee and a limited selection of donuts is still there, but no longer carries Timmy's. I have heard a rumour of a Tim's in Canary Wharf, but have never had this confirmed. There are, however, several petrol/gas stations in Ireland with the beautiful brown logo in their windows.

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