After 24 hours travel – and the complete failure to find a Net connection in all that time – I have arrived at the ICANN conference in Vancouver. With a healthy dose of jet-lag.
Here's a blog of snippets en route:
En route to Vancouver
Toronto is – or rather was – the main airport hub for Canada. Like Chicago and Dallas, like London and Paris, it is the place where you end up for a few hours, just in time to realise how tired you are, before you have to head off on another plane to your final destination.
There should be a book about these airports, called, simply Hubs. Since they exist in their own competitive space, the book will encourage healthy competition between them worldwide. You could rate the facilities, the comfort level, the politeness, the simplicity etc etc – all the things that make an aiport just that little bit more bearable or unbearable depending on the level.
Toronto would come pretty high on the list. It's a modern, clean, comfortable airport, clearly signposted, with lots of toilets and small coffee shops. It is however, losing out to Ottawa. According to posters all over the place, the tax on passengers through Toronto is double that of elsewhere, and it is suffering as a result. Ottwawa, Toronto claims, picked up an extra $1 billion directly from previous Toronto customers last year – and all because of the tax. It wants it reduced.
I'd have more sympathy if Toronto had a single wireless Internet point in the airpoint.
It's an odd thing but the Internet and email provides a very useful settling mechanism when you're travelling. My most common form of communication with friends now is email, so it may be 5am your time, you may just have been squashed into a twisted ball trying to get to sleep for the past eight hours, but if you receive an email from an old friend and reply to it, somehow life seems more tangible and comfortable.
Plus it gives you something to do.
But not in Toronto airport. Another absolutely maddening thing about all aiports – why aren't there any big comfy benches to sleep on? Why? They have designed the furniture to prevent you from sleeping. Clearly the idea is that people might miss flights, but for christ's sake, is it not a touch masochistic to actually devise ways to make sure people are as sleep-deprived as possible.
While dropping in and out of consciousness at between 1am and 5am in Toronto, I successfully designed an entire new market for travellers – a specialised area where people are given top-notch professional advice about jet-lag and comfort while travelling for a very small fee, and then allowed access to facilities for varying amounts.
I can honestly say I would have paid Â£40 for a bed just for four hours this morning. And I would have paid Â£5 extra for a shower. And I'd have considered a Â£20 massage to get my back and leg working properly again.
Somewhat bizarrely I have arrived in Canada for the first time in the middle of a political crisis. As I understand it – and this is based only on one TV report, two newspaper reports and two lumbering locals that I engaged in conversation but who most definitely were not political analysts – the government (Liberal Party) has been voted out in a motion of now confidence because if a report that highlighted endemic corruption in the party in the past.
The Canadian political system appears to very similar to the UK one at the moment, except swap Liberal for Labour, and SNP(?) for the LibDems (the Conservatives are the Conservatives). Basically, a two-party system with a strong-ish third party and other also-rans.
The politicians are the same though. Liberal leader (sorry, terrible with names) is clearly very good but clearly up to his neck in it. The Conservative leader has a beady and untrustworthy face and is clearly just insanely hungry for power. And the SNP (something like that anyway) leader talks alot of sense but doesn't have the killer instinct.
Anyway, the election campaign has started, will break for Xmas, and the election will be held in January. So far all I have seen of the campaigning is the old political cop-out of men in expensive suits addressing crowds of bused-in supporters and yelling about how great the country is and how much they love the country to much whooping and hollering. Style over content. Mindless nationalism over reason.
No one seems to have any idea how the election will actually turn out. I will ask Vancouverians this week and gauge their feeling on the matter.
Vancouver and Cananda
Have just arrived at hotel in downtown Vancouver. And I have to say the first thing that struck me was how exactly like Canada Canada looks.
It's similar to the strange feeling you get when you visit the US for the first time – you've seen it in the movies so many times that sowhere completely alien feels oddly familiar.
Canada had the same effect. It was overcast, and there is a very particular light that I ascribe to Canada. Plus everything is in dark hues. The roads are semi-glistening with melted snow, it's a bit cold, and it's like a less in-your-face version of America.
I like it. And the people are – as nearly all Canadians appear to be – quite friendly and helpful. I have to admit though I was surprised that my cab driver was a Sikh. In fact, Canada, apart from its indigenous Indian population, does seem to have alot of immigrants. Loads of Indians on the planes I've been on. Very similar to London in some respects. But for some reason I didn't expect it in Canada.
What also made me laugh is Canada has the same obstreperous, ludicrously attired black youths as most cities in the UK – even down to the fake Jamaican patois. To everyone else, they're just buying a coffee and being difficult to understand; to them, they are living on the mean streets of Kingston where respect is everything.
I have unpacked and found the missing item this trip. No matter what I do I always forget something simple. Last time, it was my toothbrush. This time, it is my shaving gel.
So I best get some snaps of the panaroma from my hotel room balcony, get into a shopping centre to get some shaving stuff and then finally head into the ICANN conference – the whole reason I am on the other side of the world after all.