It’s Canada Day, the day where we celebrate our (kinda) independence from Britain 145 years ago. That means it’s been 20 years since I saw the Queen’s hat bobbing by over the heads of the crowds at Parliament Hill (she was in a carriage). I don’t think my foot-shorter (actually) cousin saw a thing. It also means it’s been 8 years since I thought I was going to die overseas.
I was living in Birmingham and pretty frickin’ broke (as usual). But I scraped fifteen quid or so to head down to London for the day to hit up events at Canada House and go to a recording (free) of…well, I’ll be damned, I can’t remember the name. It was a nominally history-based program hosted by Clive Anderson, during which (not surprisingly) Gyles Brandreth was showboating to the point of exhuastion. The Propellerheads ‘History Repeating’ was the theme. As if Google isn’t finding this.
ANYway, I went to Canada House and had enough beer there to enjoy the nearly funerary rock music going on and to think having a slice of Canada flag-embossed cake was a good idea. I watched four London-based Canadian opera singers sing ‘O Canada’, then attempt to sing the theme song to ‘Hockey Night in Canada’. Then I made my way to the Drill Hall (near my favourite-named Tube Station/street), but decided that several beers and (seriously, yo, so ill-advised) cake was not enough to get me through a recording, so I went and got a curry. Then went to the Drill Hall. I started to feel funny, but thought it was just the crowds and excitement of the day. Not so much.
It turns out that they were recording two shows that day and halfway through the first one, the lights started making me dizzy. I was nauseated (but am, unfortunately, someone who doesn’t throw up easily – so I just stay feeling toxic). My head was pounding. I had to leave. I thought I would after the first show and closed my eyes for long periods of time (you’d think this would have lead to a lifelong hatred of Mr Brandreth, eh?). But then I started to feel a bit better and decided to stay. Of course, as soon as the second recording started, I felt worse, and tried to leave. Security tried to stop me. I never heard the show back, so I don’t know if the disruption was caught on the recording or not. I told the teenager trying to block my path that I was about to throw up on him and he let me go. Of course, I ran to the loos and couldn’t throw up. I decided to find water (lots of it) and make my way to Euston to catch my train back.
I can tell you the worst place to be if you have a light-sensitive migraine: Central London. At this point, I thought back and realised what a fucking moron I was; I am allergic to red food colouring, something I’ve known since I was 9 years old and had my first migraine from drinking Freshie Fruit Punch. You know what colour dominates a Canada flag cake? Red. By far. Curry and beer were definitely not good chasers.
After I left theatre, I got increasingly dizzy and disoriented and got utterly lost (which shows how busted I was – the station is more or less straight up Tottenham Court Road). Because I was a broke person, my return ticket had a definite return trip on it, on the last train of the day. I started to cry in the middle of London, but because of where I was, no one stopped to help. Thanks, London jerks. I couldn’t afford to find a place to stay in London either, so staying wasn’t an option. (A hospital might have been a good idea, but sounded too complicated.)
Eventually, I squinted through the increasingly blinding lights and saw a sign pointing my way to Euston. I found my train and got on it, wondering if I was going to die. Worse, despite having been in Britain for the better part of 8 months, the only local identification I had was my temporary NHS card. I had my passport with me, but that didn’t have my Pritchatts Park address on it. It would have been difficult for anyone to help me if something more major happened. I thought about pinning a note to myself saying ‘If found passed out, please contact Suzan McLeod (my mum) in Ottawa’, but I couldn’t even summon the energy to do that.
The train to Brum takes about two hours, but it felt like eight. I tried to sleep (it was the quiet carriage), but couldn’t for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Eventually, I started to relax (a bit) when I saw Birmingham in the distance. But then, of course, we stopped at the NEC, where every single teenager from the city got on the fucking train and couldn’t have been more loud. (Again, my memory is failing me and I can’t remember who was playing – I had enough going on, y’all.)
I started to cry again, quietly, to myself, but no one noticed. Thanks, Brummie jerks.
We got to New Street Station and I, being broke, had to get a local train to University Station instead of catching a taxi (cabs were always tricky, because cab drivers rarely understood my funny pronunciation of local street names), which, of course, was running late. Walking home from the station, I started to feel a bit better, and once I trudged up to my flat, I was able to eat some jaffa cakes and a cup of tea. I fell asleep for about 11 hours. Not my best day.
Nowadays, Canada Day is about sitting outside, enjoying a tasty beverage (or three), and not bothering about hectic parties or bright lights. My backyard is a good venue. A patio where one can see the Parliament Hill fireworks out of the corner of one’s eye is also good. I have made cupcakes with red icing (well, pink), but that’s from raspberries, not a lab. I don’t care if it’s boring or low-key, it is a much better way to spend the day. Excitement isn’t always good, kids, so take care of yourselves.