Did you call? Sorry if I wasn't in, I just popped out for a minute to go to Canada.
Specifically, I was in York University, Toronto, for the IRSCL - where I gave a paper comparing the UK and US dubs of [The Secret World of] Arrietty
with Ghibli's Karigurashi no Arrietty
, and indeed The Borrowers
Anyway, that all went well, and the conference was good - I saw a lot of familiar faces, and quite a few new ones, and there were some excellent papers (I think my favourite was by Robin Bernstein, which dismantled Jacqueline Rose - not for the first time, God knows, but in a particularly interesting way, through the medium of Go the Fuck to Bed
). I'm not going to go into details of the whole event because it could easily become a list of names that most people here won't know, but imagine me on a pleasant campus, and socialising as pleasurably as it's possible for an introvert to do in the company of other introverts, and you won't be far wrong. And although my prosopagnosia was a source of anxiety, a gratifying number of people lanced that boil in advance by introducing themselves with "You won't remember me, but you [edited my article/ examined my PhD/ met me in Ueno, etc.]" - and with that clew I was able to find my way.
The return journey was pretty dire, though. The flight from Toronto was delayed by 2.5 hours, due to a) a thunderstorm followed by b) a strike (industrial, not lightning), which meant that I missed my connection to Bristol in Brussels. The later flights to Bristol were full, so they rerouted me via Frankfurt. However, the flight from Brussels to Frankfurt was then itself delayed by 2 hours, which meant that I missed that connection as well. Eventually, I got another flight from Frankfurt to Bristol, but arrived here 12 hours later and much better travelled than planned. I know John Cabot would scoff at me complaining it took 24 hours to get from Canada to Bristol, but I'm made of weaker stuff. Gallingly, I flew directly over the city on the first flight, and had to suppress an impulse to say, "Driver, can you let me off here?"
The other adventure was the afternoon we spent in downtown Toronto. York University is an isolated campus out in the suburbs, so I was pleased to have a chance to see the city proper, especially as I had the company of University of Toronto alumna intertext
. She rather tempted fate by pointing out that Ontario drivers were particularly considerate, and may also have said something about the low crime rate, although perhaps I'm adding that in with hindsight.
Anyway, we were waiting to cross at an intersection. The traffic was coming from our right, and I noticed that a car was trying to turn left, into the lane occupied by a motorbike. The car caught the bike, and the bike took the bumper off the front of the car. All this was forty yards away. However, had we but known it the car had taken out the bike's brake pedal, so while the car limped forward to rest more or less beside us, the bike shot across the intersection directly to where I and intertext
were standing. By chance, we were right next to the pool surrounding a some civic fountains. I leapt to the ground to one side, but poor intertext
, possibly getting entangled with my airborne legs, fell backwards into the pond.
She was unhurt, and everyone (bystanders, motorcyclist, car driver and driver's passenger) was very solicitous - and indeed the whole thing was sorted out with a politeness that can only enhance Canada's reputation (had the incident occurred south of the 49th parallel, several people would of course have been shot dead even before insurance information was exchanged). intertext
herself pointed out that on a hot day, a dip into a cool pond was actually very refreshing, and that this was almost the only way she could have come by it without attracting disapproval. However, she was concerned for the possessions in her now-soaked bag. We found a bench and laid them out. Her iPhone looked okay, but she didn't want to turn it on in case it fried. Having talked for a while, we went over to a snack bar - but unfortunately the iPhone was left on the bench, whence it was swiftly spirited by person or persons unknown.
Afterwards we met up with Mikako and had a nice meal in Chinatown, but it just goes to show that even Toronto has a Dark Side: