Toronto / London Comparison

It’s been two weeks since I left Toronto. Already I am moving towards the next target in my life, which is to pass the accountancy exams in a week’s time. Revision has been tough. There’s a constant feeling of inadequacy at the sheer volume of syllabus that is unknown. I’m going through past paper questions with a stopwatch but the stress is getting the better of me. Morale is low.

I’ve been reading a book called “Killing Rommel” by Steven Pressfield. It’s a WWII fiction about the exploits of a crack British unit. There’s a line which says that the most important factor in winning or losing a war is morale. Yes, I am comparing accountancy exams to armed combat. I’m bloody hacked off and I feel like waving the white flag.

So I’m impelled to take a break, regroup and finish writing this long overdue blog post.

All great cities are situated near some natural water feature. Beijing goes against this by being in the middle of a desert, but is still a great city. London has the River Thames and Toronto has Lake Ontario. Both are equally polluted. So the only way to judge which is better is to time how long you would survive a swim. In the River Thames you would be instantly killed by the River Boat. I’d take my chances against the radiation emanating from the nuclear power plant on the shore of Lake Ontario.

London 0 – Toronto 1

2009_08_02 Canada 81

Number of Chinese People
For some reason, vast numbers of Chinese have made Toronto their home. The Chinatowns of both cities are pretty dire. However, Toronto wins because they sell cheaper bubble (tapioca) tea. 

London 0 – Toronto 1 – Liverpool 1 (because we have a better Chinatown with a much bigger arch)

Bubble (tapioca) tea

Toronto’s roads are designed in an idiot-proof grid system. London’s roads require a Tom Tom to navigate, or a well trained black taxi driver. All Londoners moan about the tube, but the network is so extensive that two different shades of blue are needed for the map. Toronto has three lines and is crap.

London 1 – Toronto 1 – Liverpool -1 (I’ve just remembered how bad Merseyrail is)


Seriously? London hands down.

London 2 – Toronto 1 – Liverpool 0 (European Capital of Culture 2008 remember)

Global Warming Prospects
How would each city fare if the crackpot prophecies came true and the ice caps started to melt?

  • Liverpool – floods
  • Toronto – Also floods, and you will be attacked by radioactive moose
  • London – Floods, unless you keep working in the office on the 17th floor while civilisation collapses around you. At least there won’t be a cooling problem on the Underground
  • Beijing – is safe! Those ancient Chinese City planners were actually geniuses.

Final score

London 1 – Toronto 0 – Liverpool -1

And a million Scousers demand a recount.

Long Hot Weekend

On second thoughts, the weekends are not long enough, which means I try and do too much. I end feeling totally unprepared for the week ahead. Subsequently, blog posts are delayed and have no coherence.

The weekend was beautifully hot, which was perfect for receiving two friends from my ex-life in Tianjin. So, instead of entertaining them, I reflected upon my time in Tianjin.

Life is a lot different now, but I still try to squeeze in too many activities in my free time. I used to teach English, learn Chinese, work on the website and try to get to church on time. Now, I’m run around Greenwich park, play badminton, update this website, overuse my Oyster Card and write long rambling emails. I occasionally go to work and I’m always late for church.

Do I miss anything about my life in China?:

  • The strong exchange rate – used to be 14 to 1 but that’s now gone
  • Friends – mostly gone. But most of them turn up in London to see me.
  • Teaching English – Audit is my true calling. That last sentence seemed strangely unsettling…
  • Learning Chinese – I do miss learning Chinese a lot. It’s the statisfying pen strokes of a Chinese character. Or it’s the repressed childhood guilt of not knowing enough Chinese. Either way.
  • Chinese food – I can cook this myself. I just have to live with the horrible taste

What I miss can never be re-lived, which seems like a sign that I should move on and live a life of audit.

On a completely unrelated topic, a big white ship came to my office near Canary Wharf carrying cheap Christian literature and pirates.

Logos Hope

Logos Hope

I told you it was unrelated.

Posted by Wordmobi

June – 8 Short Stories

There were no over-riding themes in June. Just more busyness, activities and a realisation that my time in China was coming to an end.

I had a kimbab making lesson. Kimbab is the Korean equivalent of sushi but with meat and rice substituted for seafood. Excellent for the person with a seafood allergy. Read about a recipe here.

2008_06_29 Kimbab Making 01

The Firm asks me to read the ethics manual again as a condition of my third revised contract. I’m still grateful that they allowed me to defer my start for 2 years. But the time is coming where I must wear a suit + bad shirt instead of jeans + bad shirt.

A party was organised for the British expats in Tianjin. There would be the usual fare of tea, cake, singing the national anthem and discussing the weather. However, I got caught up in the China vs. Qatar World Cup qualifier game. I had to walk the last half mile. I made the most of the situation by buying a red souvenir T-shirt which read: "China Wins!" China lost the game 1-0.

I needed to buy a water bottle desperately and one for 18 RMB. I bargained down to 16RMB but the seller refused to go any lower. So I walked away. I spend the next week in persistent need of a water bottle. I return to the same shop and buy it for the original price of 18 RMB. My students tell me that I got a terrible deal. The other teachers tell me that the Korean characters written on the bottle are nonsense. I still use the water bottle.

I scratch the site of a van while riding my bike. I end up handing over 100RMB to placate the driver. I can’t afford to buy any more water bottles for the rest of the year.

fuse The flat continues to have electrical problems as the fuse can only support 2 out of the following devices out at any one time:

  1. Washing machine
  2. Air-conditioning
  3. Water heater for the shower
  4. Microwave

The fuse wire blows and I fix it using a pair of chopsticks. My health insurance is invalidated.

I make another trip to "Computer Street" to buy 5 hard drives. Computer Street is a geeks dream. There are hundreds of shops selling any kind of gadget and computer equipment. The shops range from clean glass displays to dark slime pits. I wonder how these places make any profit – it turns out that they are more solvent than the average Western bank.

There is a wedding in the park. Beautiful and touching.

2008_06_14 Beth and Jeremiah's Wedding_015