My series of ‘How to..’ guides has achieved almost legendary status here on WordPress. Here’s the very first of them from last year.
Since I’ve been to Montreal, and I’m writing this, you can safely assume I know what I’m talking about.
1/ Do not fall in the St Lawrence.
It’s wide, it’s deep, it’s that grey colour you expect from very very cold water from melting ice and snow. Yes I know it comes from Lake Ontario, but it still looks like meltwater. And for such a wide stretch of water it’s astonishingly, violently fast moving. If you wanted to play Poohsticks here, you’d need to use railway sleepers. Anything smaller would be in Newfoundland by the time you’d crossed to the other side of the bridge.
Fall in and they’ll never find the body, and the obits would say ‘Lost at sea.’ Without being too specific about which bit of sea.
2/ If you hire a bicycle, remember to ride on the right.
I mastered this in a straight line, but every time I turned right at an intersection I automatically headed for the left-hand side as if I were back in Blighty.
Montreal has the most polite drivers I’ve ever encountered. No flashing headlights, no horns blaring, nobody flipped me the bird. Everybody just stopped, and smiled and waved when I recovered my navigation skills.
I’m pretty sure I went the wrong way down a one way street too, though I can’t be sure about this, since everyone was too nice to tell me.
3/ Do not go to the Botanical Gardens and sit and look at the Zen Garden unaccompanied.
You’ll starve to death. It’s astoundingly beautiful and tranquil, and I sat for hours and hours in deep calm rapture. One of the garden staff had to shake me awake when the Gardens were shutting, or I’d still be there.
4/ If you get roped in to an act by a street entertainer on a BMX, make sure he knows what he’s doing.
Having avoided death by 16 wheeler, I ended up in one of the many parks and rest areas down by the Seaway. There was a large concrete area surrounded by food and drink stalls, so I grabbed a drink and sat nonchalantly on my bike, one foot on the ground, trying to look cool as some BMX Bandit showed off and did tricks. Then he suddenly yelled, ‘Hey. You with the bike!’
I looked round. I was ‘Hey you with the bike.’
‘Hi. Look I need a volunteer. You look like you like bikes.’
‘Best way of covering ground in a strange city.’
‘I guessed you weren’t from round here. Where you from?’
‘Manchester. Near Manchester. In England.’
‘Someone hold his bike for him, and let’s have a big hand for the Brit.’
What had I let myself in for? When will I learn to keep schtum?
‘OK my Brit friend, all you have to do is lie down, and keep very still. Got that. Just don’t move, OK.’
So I lay down on the concrete, arms by my sides, legs absolutely straight. By rolling my eyes I could see what the trick cyclist was up to.
He rode round me a couple of times, as if measuring me (for a coffin?), then pulled a wheelie and rode round me on just the back wheel. So far so good.
Then he rode some distance off, and hurtled at me at full speed. Oh my. Then pulled a stoppie about an inch from my head.
Next, a wheelie approach, and he hopped the BMX over my head. I didn’t move anything apart from my eyeballs. Even my respiratory muscles were paralysed.
Then a relatively straightforward full speed approach, and a jump over my torso, landing on both wheels. Again, landing only on the rear wheel. Again, landing on the front wheel.
‘OK, my friend, this one’s the tricky one. Don’t move, OK.’
This guy then pulled a wheelie, and dropped the front wheel. This was one side of my neck, the rear was the other side of my neck, and the chainwheel was about half an inch off my Adam’s apple. Then he jumped the bike off me, from a standstill, and landed to one side of me.
‘Well done!. A big hand for my friend here people. Take a bow.’
‘I’ll take a 10% rakeoff from whatever you just made.’
‘Hahahahaha. That British sense of humour. I just love that.’