Wednesday, 20 February 2013

In contemplation of brown spirits

Goddammit, I'm sick! After walking about seven kilometres yesterday through the Plateau District, then on to Downtown and Chinatown, I've succumbed to a cold. Given that we received a nice dollop of snow last night, it's probably best I stay indoors rather than traipse around town as I was hoping to do, but when you want to be adventuring, being sick is a frustration.

One of my favourite home remedies for a cold is the old faithful: hot lemon and honey. Even if its benefits are purely psychological given the destruction of the lemon's vitamin C by the boiling water, I'll happily take that placebo effect. I usually add thin slices of fresh ginger if I have it handy, which is probably the most useful ingredient. And on the occasions when I have some joint pain (as I do today), well, then ... my secret ingredient is a generous shot of some variety of brown spirits. Joint pain? Gone!

Brown spirits—whisky, whiskey, bourbon, brandy, dark rum, etc.—are not, in general, a favourite of mine. I've just never been able to get into them. White spirits—gin, vodka, even white rum in a well-made cocktail—are fine by me, but brown spirits have either failed to appeal or drawn outright disgust. After hearing many a friend extol the virtues of a cheeky snifter in the hot lemon pot, though, I tried it and had to concede it was rather helpful. It is the only time I drink such stuff.

I am, however, exceptionally curious about whisky, particularly single malts. As a lover of food and wine, ever interested in regional variations and the impact of 'terroir', I'm intrigued by the range of flavours reported. I also love smoked foods; Lapsang Suchong tea; a properly made, smoky babaganough; smoky pinot noirs ... so the prospect of a peaty, smoky-flavoured spirit appeals greatly to me. I also have this curious fantasy: Hopefully in the northern Fall, when I have moved to Montréal permanently, Charles and I will take a road trip to the Gaspé region. There, in my mind, it will be blowing a gale and be suitably autumnal. We will stay in a B&B with lace curtains, eat lobster rolls and seafood chowder, wear cream Aran fisherman's sweaters, and I will enjoy drinking whisky as we laugh in the face of the cold. You see, my fantasies are pretty innocent, really. The only catch to this scheme is my current aversion to brown spirits.

Of course, I have a plan to overcome this. My friends Jane and Chedy are big lovers of Scotch, Laphroaig being their favourite. I am going to visit them at their Northern New South Wales multiple occupancy community (no, it's not a commune!) in April, so I shall take a bottle of Laphroaig with me and, by hook or by crook, I will enjoy the damn stuff by the time my long weekend stay is over.

For now though I see that it has passed the hopefully-acceptable time of 10am and it is still snowing in big, fat flakes. So I am off to make a pot of hot lemon and honey with a little dash of something extra. Santé!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Welcome to our Messier home

Our new apartment is in Rue Messier and we had been discussing it as an option and going through the tenancy application process for a couple of weeks before I looked at the street name with English language eyes and smiled to myself at how apt that was probably going to be. So, here I am and here I've been for almost the last two weeks: Montréal, my future home. I have found myself surprisingly busy, so is it a case of today I make much-needed time to write? Or does the day's bright sunshine belie the frosty conditions outside and I am wimping out on leaving the apartment? I'm pretty sure it is the latter. Today would be an excellent day to take photographs, but given that at 2pm the temperature had just clawed its way up to -9°C, I don't think I'm willing to suffer that much for my art! Even Charles says it's cold, and you've got to listen to the man when he says that.

From our street corner (above), in one direction you can see the Olympic Stadium, and in the other the Mont-Royal, the centre of the whole city. I have been having a great time exploring and I've done a lot more reading up since my last visit - wow! - nineteen months ago, so I have been crossing off a few places on my to-see list. I am also more familiar with the map of Montréal and where neighbourhoods and points of interest are in relation to each other so the whole experience is making much more sense. There is an interconnectedness, rather than simply a series of random, slightly bewildering stops. Last week I even helped a little old lady change buses and then get off at the stop she wanted, I felt proud as Punch!

I also caught up with a dear acquaintance whom I hope to one day be so bold as to call friend - Vera, an 84-year-old ceramicist who has lived in or near Montréal since 1949. She took me on a driving tour of her Montréal, which is chiefly the 'Anglo' areas on the west side that I haven't had much to do with previously. Not only did she show me what is here now, she also told me what used to be in certain places: gigantic bakeries that are now apartment blocks; the sites of many a wild party; shops, homes, theatres and restaurants that have given way to redevelopment. It was fascinating, if a little overwhelming.

And this capacity for change is what both excites and daunts me about the coming move: so much is happening here that my becoming a full-time wife, part-time step-mother, co-habiter, Francophone, changing career focus and dealing with that cold is but a small part of the change that will surround me. Here's hoping that helps me to keep things in perspective.

The rest of this week is forecast to be 'much' warmer - around about the 0°C mark. I never thought I would be able to differentiate between 0°C, -10°C and -20°C, but let's just say that belief has gone out the window in the last two weeks. However, the slightly warmer conditions mean I hope to have some more photos for you by the weekend as I get out of the house again, but for now I must prepare to rug up and go pick my dear step-son up from after-school activities. I need to leave in just over an hour, so if I start getting dressed now, I might just make it! I'll leave you with some fleeting images: a building at the corner of Rue Saint-André and Rue Cherrier, an apartment block on Ave Coloniale painted my favourite colour, and one of the kids' sweet treats - it's not even real maple spread, but gosh, what great packaging!