Oh Canada!


It was a strange way to return to the UK.  After spending two weeks in Ottawa, I switched on the BBC to find William Shatner not only hosting Have I Got News for You, but singing his  own post-structural version of Oh Canada, as a way to spur Ian Hislop, Paul Merton and company to identify a Canadian story that had been in the news.  Following a mortifying whoop from some gormless Canuck in the audience, comedian Charlie Brooker cracked something to the effect of, ‘Canadian news story?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?’  None of the guests had a clue and likely for good reason – the story was about some artist who had painted a nude portrait of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  I hadn’t heard the story when in Canada – riotous Montreal and Ryder Hjesdal were justifiably garnering (Garmining?) the headlines instead – but it was just the type of idiosyncratic story that would make headlines in the UK about its most awkward colonial offspring.  If it’s not some guy beheading someone on a Greyhound in Manitoba or Vancouver rioting over their Stanley Cup failures, it’s the decision of someone at Travel Alberta to sell the idea of visiting Alberta by using pictures of children on a beach in Northumbria (sigh, hadn’t they heard of Lesser Slave Lake?).  Maybe someday Canada will have a debt crisis or another charismatic (and hopefully fully clad) prime minister or something, but until then, I suppose we’ll just have to tolerate being slightly bland and occasionally bizarre.  A little like Belgium, another one of my favourite places.