Dom Joly: Life looks different when you've got beavers to grill

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I am in Canada, way up north in a lakeside house full of in-laws. The heatwave here disappeared the moment we stepped off the plane. If I hear one more relative tell me that we should have been here earlier as it was so hot, I'll strangle the family chipmunk.

As it is, I can sit and watch satellite TV tell me about people croaking in the heat in Vancouver, swimming in the only fountain in Winnipeg and sleeping with their cousins in Saskatchewan (which happens whatever the weather).

But what is dominating the Canadian news channels is speculation about whether they might be next, following the bombings in London. Toronto has had several false alarms, with buildings being evacuated in the financial district. An expert finally came on CBC and said it was highly unlikely that Toronto would be a target as the terrorists (I can say that since I'm not working for the BBC any more) were only interested in high-profile, iconic targets. Toronto, he continued, did not fit that description.

There was national uproar. Was this man really saying that Toronto was too obscure, dull and insignificant to warrant a bombing campaign? People started popping up everywhere, in newspapers and on television, to persuade Canadians that they were indeed worthy of a terrorist attack.

Some even went so far as to suggest possible targets, as though trying to persuade a potential bomber that this was, indeed, the city for them. What about the CN Tower? OK, it's not the tallest free-standing building in the world any more, but it is still in the top 10.

Then there's the Air Canada Centre, where some of the world's most important acts have performed. Her divine majesty, leader of all the children, JK Rowling, even deigned to give Toronto youth a reading there from her latest opus. What about the Eaton Centre? It's the fifth biggest indoor shopping mall in North America. Right now, there's probably a Canadian tourist board representative somewhere in Pakistan giving a lecture on Canadian tourist spots to a cave full of rapt jihadis.

This whole debate is so typically Canadian: they are generally anti-American and yet they get very chippy when they are seen as a second-rate neighbour. If you look at a map of Canada that highlights any area of population with a red dot for more than 100,000 people, you'll see a line of dots along the border with the US with the occasional one up in the wilderness (if you count grizzly bears and beavers as part of the population).

If the bombers do come, they'd better get their outfits right if they want to blend in. I thought the London bombers' choice of rucksacks to carry their explosives in was a curious one. Having grown up in the Middle East and travelled round the Indian subcontinent, I haven't often seen locals sporting rucksacks. It's just not their thing. Rucksacks are the preserve of the middle-class gap-year traveller, complete with beach mat, flip-flops and home-made bong hanging off the back.

The only nationalities who do use the rucksack as an almost obligatory piece of luggage are New Zealanders and Canadians. These two countries both suffer from inferiority complexes towards their larger neighbours, Australia and the US. That is why you never see a Kiwi or a Canuck without a flag stuck to their rucksacks. They want to make it very clear where they come from.

Fortunately for me, these are all worries for the city dweller. Up here in the wilderness, I've got real concerns: there isn't a Starbucks for 300 miles and a bear has just punched its way into my kitchen and stolen a prime rack of ribs I was going to have for lunch.

I might have to go on a beaver hunt. Apparently, they are very tasty flame-grilled.