Sunday, 16 June 2013

One coffee large double double

In this age of globalization, few things can be said to be uniquely Canadian. Tim Hortons is surely one of them. This chain of coffee houses was founded nearly fifty years ago by a Canadian ice hockey player (as you might have already guessed) Mr. Tim Horton. After so many years and thousands of branches, its presence is still mainly Canadian. Very few people know about it outside Canada. It has become a part of this culture and the expression ’double double’ has found its way into Canadian English. By the way, this double double just means 2 cream and 2 sugars in coffee, which is double the amount of a regular one. Everyone seems so addicted to it that a conspiracy theorist even suggested that they might be adding some special ingredient to keep people hooked (like some roadside tea hotels on GT road in Pakistan). Even the Canadian mission to Afghanistan, requested a Tim Hortons to be opened in Kandahar and Canadian Government has to subsidize this outlet for five years at the cost of around $5 million per year.

I think its appeal mainly lies in the freshness of its coffee and baked goods. They always serve fresh and after a certain amount of time, if goods are not sold, these are thrashed or perhaps given away. So, as soon as I landed in Toronto, I searched for a nearby Tim Hortons and ordered one coffee large double double. At that time, they were serving extra amounts of coffee under some promotional scheme. As a result, I got an extra large cup of coffee instead of large one that kept me awake for nearly a day. Well, jet lag was partly to be blamed on this one.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Casa Loma - House on the hill

Story of the Casa Loma is a tragic one. This fairy-tale like mansion was never completed and its owner Sir Henry Pellat died penniless in the house of his former chauffeur in 1939. But let’s start from the very beginning. Henry Mill, son of the Scottish immigrants, was exceptional from the early age. During his educational years, he held the North American record for one mile run as an athlete. He enlisted as a Rifleman with the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada at the age of 18. Left his studies early to pursue commerce and by the age of 23, he was a full partner in his father's stock brokerage firm. As a financier and industrialist, he was visionary. He was among the pioneers to invest in hydro electricity and aviation in early 20th century. His company harnessed the power of Niagara Falls and brought electricity to Toronto. At one point, he was controlling nearly one-fourth of the Canadian economy. He was knighted for his military contributions and retired as a Major-General.

The Conservatory or Green house at ground level
The Nora Brodeur Garden
War Museum at first floor

Casa Loma, house on the hill, was his dream and a place fit for the residence of kings. But along the way, things started to go wrong. He lost money in some bad investments. His hydro-electric company was taken away by the Government on the pretext that electricity should be free to all like air and water (imagine that). His aircraft industry was also taken over as part of the war effort during the First World War. His financial difficulties left him nearly bankrupt and he was forced to leave his beloved residence which was still at an unfinished state. Henry died at the age of 80, but during his final years he was alone, miserable and poor.

The story of Sir Henry Pellat is heartbreaking, but he certainly left his mark and lived his life to the fullest. So here is my question to the reader of this blog. Given the choice, what would you select, a life like Henry with its meteoric rise and fall or a life of relative comfort and mediacy. Me? … I am still thinking.