My Canadian Experience
14th July 2005


I guess part of my settling in experience in Canada is taking in a Highland Games and that was what I did last weekend in Chatham. Actually the park where they have it is a good venue... down by the river with lots of trees and as it was a hot and sunny day the shade from the trees was most welcome.

Met lots of interesting people at the event and I think this just goes to show that the Scots descendants sure enjoy games and lots of others also like to get involved with us from all ethnic mixes. I have said this before but Canada to my mind has one of the most tolerant ethnic mixes of any country I've visited and it's real nice to see.

You can see the pictures I took at the Tartan Sertoma Supreme Highland Games in Chatham.

I was in Toronto for the Scottish Studies board meeting and we are looking at the possibility of doing a Scottish & Celtic seminar. The idea is to bring in some of the top historical professors and researchers to a several day meeting where they'd give talks, present papers and otherwise be available for meetings. We want to attract the top people and make this a really massive event that will attract world wide interest. This should be a great event to publicise Scots and Scotland as well as being a prestigious event for Toronto to host.

Mind you this kind of event will likely take a couple of years to organize so a lot of work to do and I guess we'd be looking at Aug/Sep 2007 as the earliest time scale.  I think this also demonstrates the kind of activity that the Scottish Studies Foundation and Society consider that will benefit a wide range of people. Authors also attend these events as they get good background for books both fact and fiction and so we more ordinary folk will get to read these further down the line.

The following day I had a meeting with Alasdair MacPherson and we did some business together and you'll likely see something new appearing in our left border in the next few days as a result. We were very in tune in decrying Scotland's business and tourism organisations. Alasdair was over with his family for a couple of weeks holidays and as we'd been emailing each other for the past couple of years and had never met face to face this was a good opportunity to find out more about each other.

We both felt that the web isn't being used properly by companies.  Many feel when they have a web site that's the work done with perhaps a few banner adverts to attract more people to visit.  Problem is that often the web sites themselves don't do a good job about communicating their business to visitors and they rarely get updated. The owners of the companies often think they've got a great web site because it looks good and often don't realise that while looking good they are not easy to read and often fail to communicate any decent information.

I myself fail to understand why the vast majority of company web sites don't communicate well to the visitor. It's as if they are scared to talk to visitors and so prefer to hide behind a brochure site.  I mean how many times have you seen the words "personal attention" and then fail to find the names of the company owners on the site? 

We were also comparing notes on how important clans are to folk from North America and yet when you go to Scotland you never see signs saying.... "you are now entering the clan lands of X".  For that matter I also discussed how this wasn't actually a particular Scottish situation. While in Nova Scotia I never saw anything about clan lands and yet so many clan people settled in Nova Scotia and there are lots of areas that have significant gatherings of clans in a particular area.  It's as if we are so familiar with our own areas that we just don't consider that others won't know what we know. In fact it was only when I first started doing Scottish History that I found out about Nova Scotia.  That might sound really ridiculous but at school we never got anything on that area of Canada either in Geography, History or for that matter Economics. All I can remember getting was stuff on the prairie provinces.

Considering the sheer amount of Scots and Scots Irish that have settled in North America you never see any tour companies offering Scottish ethnic tours in North America.  The story of Scots descendants in North America is quite fantastic and you could easily fill many books with such stories. Yet to my knowledge not one tour is offered in North America. Nova Scotia or for that matter PEI could do something significant on this front. So I guess that I'm saying is that tourism organisations that look after countries or regions really should do better.

Marketing companies and departments seem to be very lacking in coming up with new ways of promotion. In fact just the other day I was discussing TV advertising as being ridiculous. I think I'm right in saying you now get around 9 minutes of programs for every 30 minutes of air time. I was watching Homes on Homes the other day. What you now seem to get is once the adverts are finished you get a summary of what went on in the last segment before you get anything new to watch. They probably figure that after watching so many adverts you've probably forgotten what you were watching so they need to remind you... and thus even less new program information.

It occurred to me that if you watch that Homes on Homes program you are likely interested in renovations.  It was watching that program that made me say to my contractor to get a leaf guard over the gutters. On that program they were discussing this new gutter that was on the market but they went so fast through that item that I didn't really follow it all.  Now if they'd included say a 2 minute advertising item about the gutter and where you could find it that would have been of great interest. Also there are lots of other items he brings up in the program so if we could do away with the advertising slots and just include more information on items discussed on the program would that not be of more use to us and probably get far better results than the obnoxious number of standard adverts they serve up to us? 

I did read an article the other day in a Canadian business magazine where global brands were being discussed and they actually sited the top brand marketing people as saying "we all know the 30 second TV advert is dead". I mean generations of us have grown up with these adverts and over a couple of generations we've all found ways to block out advertising by either going for a cup of coffee, muting the adverts, channel hopping or any of umpteen other ways. Even when you do watch an advert they are often totally lacking in information and if you mute the adverts at least a quarter of them you'll have no idea what they are about or what they are trying to sell you.

I also note a new development that tries to trick you into watching an advert. When I was watching the National Geographic channel I saw an advert come up for the channel and as these types of adverts used to be at the end of the traditional adverts I thought... good they are coming to the end and toggled off the mute button only to find there were two more adverts to watch before we got back to the program. They have of course also added on "This program is sponsored by" just before you get back to the program. So the only novel ways of adding more advertising is to take yet more time from the actual program.  Does this not tell you just how dumb these media companies are and does not that also say something about ourselves that we actually sit through them all and not object?

Considering you are watching all this in your own home in your own time I consider this advertising to be an invasion of my privacy.  I stayed with a family for a wee while who never watched TV but had over 500 DVD's and that was all they watched on the TV.

Companies like Toyota have been very successful but you just know they are on their way out when sending in an new idea to promote the brand they tell you they don't accept unsolicited emails. That is a sure sign the company is failing to innovate and expand and is now relying on past success. I sure won't by a car from them as they're obviously living on past success.

Anyway... you can tell I'm mightily fed up with all the adverts.  I guess this is because I come from Scotland where we had the benefit of having the BBC that don't accept advertising. On the whole you could always find something interesting to watch on their channels and so TV advertising didn't seem so invasive as it is in Canada. I admit we had to pay something like 120.00 a year for a TV license but frankly to avoid advertising I was more than happy to pay that.

Perhaps some new and  innovative media company will buy up some TV stations and try out a new way to accept advertising.. one can only hope.  Or of  course we could change attitudes by resolving not to buy anything that gets advertised on TV so when companies see their sales actually fall when they advertised they will start to insist on finding new ways to get their advertising out and force media companies to do better advertising that is more acceptable to us.

Of course during this past period we had the London bombings and this setup a new discussion on TV about how it's likely to harm tourism not only for London but elsewhere in the world.  I've personally never had time for people canceling trips or putting them off just because a terrorist bomb has gone off somewhere in the world. I admit I wouldn't head for Iraq right now but I would have been perfectly happy to have gone to Spain or the UK. People that decide not to travel due to there terrorist attacks are just giving these people more encouragement to do it all again.  If you count up all the people that die in these attacks it's only a tiny fraction of people that are killed on our roads. It was the same in Toronto when the SARS virus was here. Many people stayed away and yet the actual numbers infected were such a tiny number. I really can't understand it. Of all the people that are persuaded not to travel due to these things you'll find that more of them will die due to road accidents than would have died if they'd traveled.


Abadan, Iran, Xmas 1946

And so having got all that off my chest on a lighter note I found this wee picture when unpacking another box. If you click on it to enlarge it you'll see the face is made up or humans and animals. I'm not sure where the folks got this but probably from Iran. Also not sure if this is a one off or perhaps part of a larger production.

As I got back from Toronto last night I found that a wee bit of my porch deck had been painted outside my front door so guess we're now getting to the final stages of the paint job :-)

I got an invite in this week to become a member of the Knights Templars (The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem) here in Toronto which I am going to join. The investiture takes places in October in Toronto so will tell you more about that at a later date.

I also finally got my membership of the Toronto Press Club which is based in The Ontario Club which you can read about at www.ontarioclub.com

I'm still debating about becoming a member of the Royal Canadian Military Institute. My only reservation is that they are not always open for lunch and sure as fate it will be one of those days that I am in Toronto. I've actually been there several times and have enjoyed it on each occasion and at the moment it is unique in that you can smoke in any of the rooms apart from the dining room :-)

I'm also going to see what I can find in Chatham that might be interesting to join and will hopefully get out and about a bit more in the weeks to come.

This was also the first time I've actually had to purchase a prescription since leaving Scotland. Got a bit of a fright at the price for my blood pressure pills which was just over CAN$200.00. Mind you I worked it out that this was really six months supply so around $35.00 a month so guess that wasn't too bad. It will be another month before I need to purchase my other diabetic supplies so will be interesting to see how much they are going to be.  Back in Scotland you don't pay for prescriptions when you are a diabetic but of course in Canada the doctors visit is also free so a lot better than down in the USA.

So.. that's my report for the past week or so.


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