Thursday, July 30, 2009

Canada II: Only happy when it rains

Looking at the nonplussed faces in the crowd, it was clear that Montreal ("Mon-ray-aaal") was no cheer-topia. While the kids formed human pyramids and doled out rictus grins and hi-Mom waves the people brought their hands together as if to clap, then thought better of it, and hugged their handbags closer. They'd dutifully gathered to watch the parade which marked the last day of the Just For Laughs festival, and I wanted to poke them all with a giant spirit stick.

The next group were a film club, and had made an ingenious travelling scene where a middle-aged couple sat on cinema seats watching a love scene being shot. Between takes the actors skulked at opposite ends of the rowing boat, checking their messages and submitting to the attentions of hair and make-up. The man who was resting his belly on Chris' back said that it was Very Clever. He managed to make the words sound vaguely disapproving, as if ingenuity was at heart morally suspect.

Watching the faces of the young performers as their tightly choreographed performances were met with polite blankness wasn't funny. It made me remember the last - and surely the only - time I took part in a parade: the Awa Odori in my Japanese suburb. There families arrived hours early with picnics and plastic matting. When the performers dance they whooped and cheered and clapped and danced along for the full three hours of the festival. Then they rolled up their mats, threw away their rubbish and within ten minutes the streets were pristine again.

There is a distinct lack of whoopage here. Ripples of enthusiasm get smothered by the low-key masses. It's all very polite... that is until the heavens open. Then, all at once, the streets are full of children, shrieking and running and laughing. It's like a summer downfall is the best show they've ever seen.

Huddled in a bus shelter I have a front row view of the action. Couples hold hands as they careen down the streets. Whole families give up on dryness and turn their heads to the skies. Quite the finale.

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