I didn't stop to consider whether urbanites with tattoo sleeves and beards would REALLY set up shop in a country town in South-eastern Quebec. But I knew there was something wrong when my brother parked and led me to the café. The markings on the windows bragged of having juices and sandwiches and other not-very-hipster-café stuff. Worst of all, there was not a beard in sight.
"I'm sorry, D," said Nulli, crestfallen.
The coffee was all-you-can-drink, as it is in no hipster café in the universe, and one cup was all I could drink because .... Still, it was a nice place to look at, and obviously both anglos and francos were welcome. (There are some mighty sketchy and tribal joints in the Eastern Townships.) The town is prospering because of the ski hills and the tourists.
"Who runs the artisanal chocolate shop?" I asked suspiciously.
"South Americans," said Nulli.
"Are they young? Do they have beards?"
Nulli didn't think they were young or had beards, and the artisanal bakery had closed, so that was it for Hipsterville--except for the amazing craft brewery. The presence of the brewery suggests that there are hipsters in town, but heaven only knows where they get their coffee.
We were home before the school bus arrived; this is THE deadline of my work-from-home brother's life.
This morning we dropped Popcorn off at a friend's house and took Peanut to a dojo at a nearby village. Both Nulli and Peanut were already in their white gi--karate outfits, which in Quebec French are called kimono, for some mysterious reason. The high school in which the dojo resides has 1,000 francophone students and 500 anglophone students, and they are not allowed to eat together.
Apparently this high school used to be fully bilingual, but the provincial government put a stop to that, divided the students by mother tongue, and cut funding to the English section. If that sounds like apartheid, welcome to Quebec! Fortunately, most of the people in my brother's village do not share the prejudices of the provincial government. But the grinding poverty and hopelessness of the unilingual English-speaking minority in the Eastern Townships are just awful. The drug of choice is heroin.
The woes of the poorest descendants of local United Empire Loyalists were not on display at the high school, and there is no lack of funding for the dojo, which has a beautifully sprung wooden floor. I watched with great interest as my brother and nephew about 30 other people did their warm-ups and kata routines and fought each other. The fighting struck me as a lot more dangerous than English-style boxing, for it was bare-knuckle. Interestingly, the students all wore shin-guards and pads on their feet, but not hand-wraps or padded gloves.
After the session, we went to Montréal. Popcorn had chosen to attend a village classmate's party; the rest of us celebrated the birthday of Nulli's friends' four-year-old daughter. This was a bilingual party, most adults and children slipping easily between English and French. As such a cheerful and unselfconscious mixing of les anglos and the francos is of relatively recent date, I have to admit that there has been a vast improvement in one area of Canadian life--or, to be more accurate, Montréal life--since the 1960s.
My train was late. Cheered by the sight of the queue still waiting in front of the "Toronto" sign, I found the Gare Central's Premiere Moisson ("first harvest") bakery and bought two croissants for the train. One of them is a chocolatine, so I will have to add that to my Sugar List, along with the chocolate cupcake I ate at the party. Sigh.