Jamie has had an allergic reaction to David Cameron. He is feels like he’s going to throw up he says, he is pale and drawn, moving slowly like a man of 90. We are checking for rashes and for any difficulties in breathing. So far there is no swelling but we are waiting nervously just in case.
It begins after a smoosh of goodbyes, passport control and painful jaw clenching. We watch three films each on the flight with a great sense of luxury and are, in turn, delighted by and angered by our meal choices. Jamie has chosen the Asian vegetarian option and is spoilt by an uncommonly well made chickpea curry with rice and fruit salad and general health. Forty five minutes later I am given some fried rice with a wreckage of tired vegetables loitering on the top. For dessert I am generously bestowed a single square of fudge and not a tropical fruit in sight. I shoot my thimble of warm wine a puzzled glare and the flight attendant agreeable comments that there is indeed some wine in there somewhere if I look harder.
Before we have time to moan about embollisms in our calves we are swept off the plane and through customs eventually touching ground again some kilometres from the airport at the cargo warehouses in a wasteland of highways and blank patches of concrete. We irritate the forklift driver with requests to take the large crate outside and becoming increasingly aware of our daft English mateyness which serves no purpose with this hard working grizzle of a man.
Finally though, it is front of us. A huge cardboard and wooden box peppered with agreeable stickers saying OK TO GO which I peel off ready to grace the panniers when we are indeed, ready to go. A range of cheerful men come to watch us as we remove the lid. I comment that the box would make a good sized apartment in London but noone really gets it so I unscrew something useful and finally the bike is revealed in all her gaffa taped, sheepskincoated glory.
Jamie makes an enormous mess of spanners and bags and bits and I hover about using my knowledgable face dropping washers. I am saved from my idiocy 45 minutes in when we hear a car draw up from which Maggie appears, our angelic host for the following 2 nights. She has brought her friend Bryn who smiles with a delightful Canadian pleasure at the sight of our ludicrous machine and asks a myriad of enthusiastic questions. We are bought fizzy pop, hugged and photographed before we realise that the bike is ridable if not exactly well packed and begin to get ready to depart. The last thing to do is keep vigil waiting for a poodle hairedlady with $ signs in her eyes to lock up the office before we dump the crate in their skip for free.
Maggie and Bryn guide us on ther highway (the most dangerous road in Toronto we are cheerfully informed later) and wave us off as they head to a conference and we head to her house on the other side of the city. We take a left and join a mad squirdge of drivers to whom the concept of fast lanes and driving lanes is rather distant and make several vast and confusing loops of Toronto, unable to get safely in to the lane with right turn off. Moped riders squint at our license plate and shout HAVE A GOOD TRIP to us and motorcyclist give us the special club nod. Glassy buildings soar above us, people clamour and slurp in busy restaurants and then soar above us and slurp again as we make our way through town a second time.
Finally, the air cools and we reach vast Lake Ontario whose pale edges merge with the sky in the distance. 15 minutes later we are stowing the bike behind the house and gratefully consuming all the beer in the building whilst eyeing the hot tub in the garden. We spend a long time convincing the dog we aren’t murderers and then, when we can conceal our yawns no longer we drag ourselves to bed and sleep fitfully to the sound of a single bird repeating the same snatch of a song all night.
Reluctantly drawing ourselves downstairs in the morning we greet Maggie and her friend Sue who are making frittata with English muffins slathered in salty melted butter and mugs of cappuccino. We listen rapt to stories of Sue’s huge farm full of giant horses, bee houses and sleighs in winter and as we finally clear the dishes, Maggie breaks the news….oh, the Conservatives won the election she says. What!? I accidentally shout and Jamie breaks out in a sweat.