I just spent three days in Montreal at the home of one of the friends who visited me in England. The other one came too. You may remember them as Aphrodite and Venus from my London blog of last fall, the ones with whom I went to plays and Hampton Court and pubs and oh . . . anyway, it turns out Montreal is the next best thing. Aphrodite’s house is in the heart of Outremont, one of the oldest sections of Montreal. She lives a block away from the St. Urbain Street of Mordecai Richler’s writings. The area has a strong Chasidic presence, with black-hatted men and boys with payes or curls of hair bouncing down their cheeks and women pushing two toddlers in the stroller with a baby on their hip. There are people of all kinds of races coexisting with them along tree-lined streets and bagel shops and terribly chic restaurants filled with terribly chic people. More evidence that Canada is the global village.
Hear French spoken all around you and the French snoozing deep within your memory wakes up and tries to stretch its syllables. This is a good thing as long as you’re not terribly attached to your fluency, cleverness or eloquence. I would say something in French, the waitress would reply in English, Aphrodite would look at me and begin speaking far better French, and damn if French words asking for a glass of the water or the potatoes of the earth didn’t come out even when I knew better. It’s okay. We know the Quebecois have an affectionate view of us anglos, and are so forgiving.