Skip to Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map

Daily Archives: December 4, 2015

Postcard (scratch that)….. Progress report from Toronto

Many of you know Andy.  Over the years she has helped many a PhD student earn their chocolate fish.  Anyway she has escaped from the clutches of GRS (only for a year, mind you) and has very kindly provided us with a progress report.  Thanks Andy  – we miss you!!!

Yes, I’ve been in Canada for just on six months now, so it looks like my first progress report is due, in the form of a GRS blog entry.

I was lucky enough to have been granted twelve months away from work for good behaviour – I think GRS secretly just wanted to get rid of me for a year to give someone else a chance to steal the coveted title of Best Female Ten-Pin Bowler – to indulge in that time-honoured Kiwi pursuit known as the Big OE. Better late than never, right?

Destination: Canada and the United States. Goal: ostensibly a working holiday, but my focus was always more on the ‘holiday’ part… Sadly there was no travel budget available for sending Panda along with me as chaperone, but I’m keeping an eye out for a giant stuffed raccoon to bring back for Claire though.


One of Toronto’s many fine ‘beaches’; maybe a five metre wide strip of imported sand on a wharf at best…


 A lovely Edward Mucha reproduction street art piece at Kensington Market, a stone’s throw from where we live


 So our photographic efforts didn’t capture this very well, but I was standing in front of Duncan Street in the Entertainment District, the name of the street I formerly lived on in Dunedin, maybe without quite the same ‘entertainment’ designation

As much as I love doctorally administering to you all, part of my self-imposed ‘rules for making the most of the Year of Adventure’ included not being allowed to get an office job. Trying new things and all that… This is probably just as well, given that many such jobs over here seem to require you to be both bilingual and able to drive (yes, my parents were right, a driver’s licence and continuing with high school French would actually have come in handy after all).

Despite an offer to work in an axe-throwing business (this is a thing! People come and drink beer and throw axes for fun. I have no idea why the relative stranger I’d just met thought I would be a perfect hostess for this), I went with the slightly-less-bizarre-but-still-out-of-left-field job as a production assistant at the Lush factory. Dunedin has its own Lush store in the Wall Street Mall, so I’m sure many of you are already familiar with the glorious, fragrant and – most importantly, ethical – bath and cosmetic products they sell. On the other hand, for every ‘Lushie’ I know, there is another person who can’t walk within a hundred metres of the store without gagging….

I’ve long been a fan though, and this may be the closest thing to being a real-life oompa loompa as I’ll get. I work in the Bubbles room, where I shape and mould solid bubble bars with names like ‘Rainbow Fun,’ ‘Candy Mountain’ and the seasonal – if somewhat creepy – ‘Peeping Santa’ (which on internal-only labelling I’ve seen changed to both ‘Peeing Santa’ and ‘Perving Santa’). I’m constantly covered in glitter, and have had strangers approach me on two separate occasions to ask if I work at Lush because I smell so good. Perhaps the biggest downside is that they’ve already made noises about bringing in Christmas music to play, and it’s still November. In addition to my oompa-loopa-ing, I’ve been keeping myself out of trouble by getting some art done, and have already had two paintings in a group show, with another one coming up next week. Disappointingly, beer at art openings over here is not free like it is back home though…

I haven’t managed to keep away from universities entirely; I’ve found myself living in the heart of the University of Toronto campus on Spadina Avenue, although I can assure you all that it’s a lot quieter than Castle Street, and I haven’t seen a single couch fire. Come winter I may resort to lighting one myself; Torontonians love regaling with me tales of the four feet of snow and temperatures of -40 degrees that are supposedly just around the corner. On my way to the subway each day I walk past Graduate House, the equivalent of Otago’s Abbey College, and our local dive bar has a regular weekly spot featuring U of T music student bands.


The view from our front porch. Streetcars and autumn leaves…


Graduate House. It may look a little austere from this angle, but they have a very nice cafe in the left-hand bottom corner…

I’ve ticked the requisite number of tourist boxes – the CN Tower, Graffiti Alley, Toronto Islands, Casa Loma, Niagara Falls – and have stopped viewing riding the subway as a remarkable event, but I still get unreasonably excited every time I spot a squirrel. Some days the temptations of Canadian big city living are enough to make me consider staying (everything is open all hours! Oh the number of gigs! And poutine! Where is your poutine, Dunedin?!) but then I remember how much I miss my cat, and I look at my ever-dwindling bank account in dismay. Toronto may have a lot going for it, but cheap living is not one of those things.


Tourist box tick one: Graffiti Alley on Queen Street West. Someone needed to step in between Tom and Jerry……


Tourist box tick two, Niagara Falls. It impressed me more than I thought it would. My only regret is not getting around to taking photos until it was dark…

On that note, I’ll be back at GRS from mid-May, getting to grips with the new eVision system and reacquainting myself with staff happy hour. Apologies in advance if I mistake your freshly submitted thesis for some kind of bath product and attempt to sprinkle it with glitter…