For the last six months, I’ve known how I would look and feel when I arrived in Toronto: chic and Europeanly sophisticated, of course, and calmly excited by it all. After all, this is not my first time in Canada – I spent five days in Quebec in 1999 as part of a press trip. I was positively an old hand at visiting.
Come 1 April and it wasn’t quite like that. It wasn’t my fault – I was fully prepared with a handbag full of make-up to add those finishing touches. Sadly, security at Manchester Airport wasn’t quite as au fait with the logistics of looking chic and sophisticated as I was and insisted on putting my lippies through the scanner a second time only this time in a plastic bag instead of the glossy Ted Baker make-up bag I was using (so determined was the woman that my lippies had to be put in a see-through bag to make them less of a security risk that she totally ignored the tube of face cream I later found at the bottom of my handbag).
But even though half of my make-up bag was now descansed into a placcie bag, I certainly looked the part as I swanned down to the airport gate, coffee cup in hand, ready for the flight. Three hours later, I bore more resemblance to Ena Sharples than a jet-setting celebrity. A security alert meant we were left stranded at the gate and my calm demeanour had rapidly changed to an arms-folded, sighing-bosom-heaving stance.
And then, four hours later, Matt Damon happened. No, not in real life. Turns out one of the onflight films was We Bought A Zoo and that, combined with having being travelling for 12 hours straight on top of two weeks of moving around from family to family, left me leaning over Ged to look out the window and hide my desperate sobs. The woman next to me, on her way to see her first great-grandchild and present him with a teddy that played music and moved its head, very Britishly ignored me.
And so I stepped onto Canadian soil, arriving in Toronto with reddened eyes and a shiny face after mistakenly using night cream to hydrate my skin instead of a normal moisturiser. Nice.
At least there was no waiting around. The owner of the Comfy Guest House (left) where we were staying had, unasked, come to the airport to pick us and another couple up and we shot straight off to Toronto, me asking bright, intelligent and ultra-sophisticated questions to make up for my dishevelled appearance. See, I’m not really mad. I just look that way.
I stepped into the guesthouse ready to put the 17 hours it had taken to get there behind us and dazzle with my old-world Europeaness when the owner told us: “I don’t allow shoes past this point. You can borrow a pair of slippers to walk around in.”
Yup, we had to remove our shoes at the door and either put a pair of well-used flip-flops on or tread in socks. I opted for my socks. A small hole had developed in the toe. The owner then charged us $50 for the ride home.
There was only one thing to do. Go to the pub. Sod being a European – I’m a Geordie. A Geordie in Toronto. Better watch out…