I have a confession to make…

Originally posted on my LSE blog, cross-linked here. Since that blog is international, all you Canadians just ignore the explanations of Canadianism.

With the cold-snap in full swing, I figure now is the best time of any to come clean. I know it make shock some of you, but here’s goes.

I am a winter person.

Yes. That’s right. The colder the better.* To me, few things can rival sitting all curled up reading a book, looking outside and seeing huge, fluffy white flakes slowly drift down past your window. I love that feeling in your cheeks, all rosy and tingly, after coming in from the cold. I love wearing coats, scarves, toques** boots, mitts… you get the picture. To me, nothing beats a clear, bright sunny winter morning, fresh and white. So crisp!

I love winter activities too, not just accessories. While at home, I took full advantage of skating outside, on our frozen river. Tobogganed at our cottage while cooking over an open fire. Made a quinzy (essentially a snow fort) in our backyard. The list goes on.

Padre hard at work.

Padre hard at work.


IMG_5803 IMG_5800

Enjoying the Quinzy life

Enjoying the Quinzy life





Dag, just look at sunset. Crisp.

Dag, just look at sunset. Crisp.

Now, being a winter person, one often comes up against some critics. I know many people, including many Canadians, who absolutely hate the winter. I even try to hide my adoration for wintertime. Sure, it’s acceptable around Christmas, but after about January 3rd, winter-loathing becomes almost a national sport. To my critics I say a plain, straight, simple: “WHATEVER, MAN.” I know my niche and I’m sticking to it.

Being a winter lover also comes with a certain amount of snobbery. Growing up on the prairies where an average winter day in Winnipeg can get – with the windchill – down to -40 degrees Celsius… (to my American readers, that equals roughly -40 degrees Fahrenheit). I’m hearty. I often brag to my other Canadian friends, not from Manitoba, about how I live through a real winter. I relish being able to scoff when reading the news and the BBC says it’s going to “plummet to -8″. Ha!

Family cottaging.

Family cottaging.

Yea, obviously we made bannock.

Yea, obviously we made bannock.

Nothing says family tobogganing like '90s winter-wear.

Nothing says family tobogganing like ’90s winter-wear.


Funny anecdote: I had a couple Canadian friends from Undergrad running a pub in Essex this past Michaelmas term. In early December, they told me that half of their reservations cancelled due to merely the threat of snow. And that one of their servers was 2 hours late because it snowed half an inch. (She lived five blocks from the pub)…

When I was first getting to know my classmates, I mentioned I was from Canada. One of my classmates asked about the cold and the snow, and being from Ireland, was shocked to learn what a ‘windchill’ was. (Basically, the wind gets so cold that it can literally freeze your skin in less than ten minutes exposure).

All this being said, I have a second confession. I hate the winter here. Absolutely despise it. It’s gray (where my winter is sunny). It’s damp (where mine is dry). It’s foggy, and dreary, and rainy, and lumpy, and just plain cold. Bones are chilled going outside. I’m OK with cold on the surface, but what the garbage, this dampness sucks! So, after seeing the news about rail closures, people freaking out about a measly 30 cm of snow, you know what, I get it. I feel the collective pain of living in a maritime climate where you know what? Winter does suck.

So for those of you potential international students thinking you can beat the weather in the UK, you can’t. It will just slowly whittle away at any love you had for the season called winter…

And that’s coming from a winter person.



*Within reason, of course. No windchill thank you.

** I’ve learned from my non-Canadian cohorts that apparently no one in the world but Canadians use the word toque… Essentially it’s a winter hat or a beanie I guess. Normally knitted. Sometimes with a pom-pom. Mostly they’re knitted by your grandma and are a little too big, but you love them all the same. Mine, for instance is royal blue with a pompom so big my gram still worries if it will ‘fall off’ – she made this five years ago… See relevant NHL sports team version here.


There’s Always Time for Turner

It can be pretty easy to forget you’re actually living in a city like London when you’re studying your Masters. Papers, hundreds of pages of reading, presentations, discussions all manage to take up the vast majority of one’s valuable exploration time. I’ve found that I really need to constantly tell myself things like

“Natalie, maybe Tuesday nights before your Wednesday morning course aren’t the best time to grab multiple pints at the pub”


“Natalie, maybe you shouldn’t go to a third concert in one week.”


“Natalie, maybe you should do your readings and not just walk around your neighbourhood in a dreamy, happy stupor”

Yet, I feel as if I have found a way to properly manage my school/life balance, or at least a small way to de-stress while taking advantage of London’s cultural highlights…

How you ask?

Why evening museum trips of course![1]

I’ve decided to try this theory out at least once every few weeks and so far, it really has been a fantastic way to spend a few hours unwinding and exploring. My first trip was to the British Museum – which is normally packed during the day – but was beautifully empty, quiet and serene. Being alone with the Elgin Marbles or Rosetta Stone is quite the privilege.

This week’s trip was to the Tate Britain. Being kind of an art junkie, I have already visited the Tate Modern about 40 times[2] since moving here so I chose to explore its older twin. One thing I will say is that maybe hold off on visiting the Tate until the spring because it’s undergoing a lot of renovations and some of its permanent collection isn’t on display. That being said it was a fantastic way to spend an evening, wandering around the nearly empty museum, simply relishing the amount of Turners the collection holds. To have a break from the crowds and to be around some fantastic art is never a bad choice and so far it’s helped me keep my head firmly on my shoulders.

Well that and those pints at the George IV.

[1] London pro-travelers tip #1 – Don’t go to museums during the day. Wait till the evenings they’re open late and relish the small crowds!

[2] This is of course a gross exaggeration as I have been twice, but you get the point.

This blog post first appeared at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/studentsatlse/


Way back when in October, I made the trek back to the native homeland with the significant other.

Image copyright of Jo-Anne Douglas, via http://www.flickr.com/photos/jojodouglas/6464310961/

I was still trying to get used to Canada after my summer in Europe, believe it or not, and probably one of the things I missed about Canada was – forgive the stereotype – the open space! I mean sometimes I even miss the open space when living in Ottawa. I KNOW I’M A STEREOTYPE. Embrace it. I have. When you grow up in a province with a population density of 1 person per 2.2 square kilometres you’re used to some space. Also the sunsets and sunrises are really unlike any other… But I digress…

With all last summer seriously lacking in anything to do with nature, I was determined to go on a hike near my cottage. Yet, the odds were not ever in my favour. (Hunger Games reference, anyone? Anyone? Timely.)

Rain. Of course. Unbeknownst to me, my parents had been to an old Anishinaabe sacred site. Instead of carving or painting figures into the landscape, these peoples instead laid out rocks, both big and small in different forms – like turtles, snakes, fish, birds. Thank you mum for taking us here instead!

It was a really surreal experience to say the least. You’re standing on a huge open granite rock slab with hundreds if not thousand year old stones. They also really discourage anyone tourist from walking in the woods nearby because apparently a bunch of people have gotten lost. It’s like a different time there.

The central ceremonial area was beautiful.

It’s still a sacred site that’s often used for spiritual ceremony and you find signs of this all over, especially with the strips of fabric and tobacco that are remnants of past ceremonies.

Adventure time with family!

Also, here’s a montage of my dad’s horrible, awful white sneakers…

Sneakers with a snake!

Sneakers with a fish!

Sneakers with a turtle!

Sneakers with a something!

Sneakers on an adventure!

Also, we found a giant overturned tree, roots and all. Naturally we put our faces in it.

More cool shit about the ‘forms. Click!


*All other images courtesy of Conor M. Smith