The quest for lightning….

Play this video while reading…

I’m a huge fan of thunderstorms. There’s something strangely primal about seeing nature’s fury play itself out over your head, completely out of control. I’ve seen lightning on the horizon from up on Edgewalk before, something which is truly spectacular, but even more amazing than this is seeing lightning hit the tower itself. (Not from Edgewalk of course!!) I’ve seen it a few times, but never managed to capture it on film.

Enter my new camera, a Sony A5000, that my parents helped me buy for my birthday. It’s not the flashiest/feature packed/expensive thing you can buy, but ideal for my amateur uses, and aspirations of taking cool pictures.

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It’s a proper camera

Capturing the lightning itself though has turned out to be quite tricky. The tower is struck about 75 times a year, so it’s easy to find a vantage point, but Mother Nature is an unpredictable beast, and a tease. In the lead up to writing this post I’ve spent many evenings flicking between other stuff and lightningmaps.org, watching storms developing to the west, hoping they hit the city, and gained a reputation at work for rambling incessantly about whether the next storm is going to hit Toronto.

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Its been burned into my retinas…

It’s taken some dedication, besides the late nights of Internet watching I’ve gotten up at 5am in the pouring rain, only to find the tower wrapped in rain and cloud, and lighting hitting on either side of it. I refer you to the video above….

Finally after 3 months of this I was finally gifted an opportunity. I was supposed to be going out with workmates, but with a big system approaching I packed a bag full of the usual waterproofs, camera in a dry bag, and lightningmaps on my phone. I got to the pre-drinks and after informing my workmates of my growing excitement, I was surprised to find them on board with what I was planning! Katie and Colin (whose apartment we were drinking in) took us upstairs to another room and a load of us sat down and watched the flashes coming in from the west. The pressure was slightly on me at the point; I’d essentially highjacked the night out, another “strikeless” evening could have made me very unpopular! Fortunately Mother Nature delivered the goods: 5 hits each more spectacular than the last, 4 of which I captured on video. Here’s the highlights below.

It turned out to be a great evening, it was really great to have everyone behind me, even though we didn’t make it to the bar (Sorry Romina!) I did a bit of crude image capturing from the video and got this picture. Something I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life.

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Simply awesome…

As I write this the next system is tracking this way. Who know’s, perhaps tonight will be the big one….

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Me, Canada, and Whisky…

So my quest while I’m in Canada is to see, smell, taste, and experience as much as possible, and being into scotch, this includes the local spirits of course! Whilst I’ve been here I’ve been keeping an eye out for interesting whiskies from local producers to get a flavour for what the best Canadian whisky is like.

The quintessential Canadian whisky is Rye. Grown in the sprawling plains of Canada, rye is a cereal crop used mostly to make rye bread, but also whisky and vodka. Alberta is the world’s biggest producer of rye whisky and exports quite a bit to the US to be mixed with Bourbon or sold as 100% ryes. A 90% rye – Crown Royal’s Harvest Rye, was declared the best whisky in the world for 2016!

CR Rye_Trade Ad_Mech

I should probably try it….

Obviously then, I’m keen to try as many ryes as possible, and bring a bottle or two home. But how do I make my souvenirs special, make them mean something? A lot of the trinkets I’ve collected have meaning, tickets from ball games, my paddle from Algonquin, etc. Well why not age my own rye!? “Impossible!” you say, “whisky takes years to age and you’re only in Canada for another 12 months”. Well that’s with a big barrel, I’ve procured a tiny little 1L one. And that means I can fast age my spirit of choice over the summer!

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Ready for fill No 1.

To acquire my little summer project, I travelled up to the Toronto Distillery Company  and got to hand pick my barrel in their distillery, and try some of the things I could put in it. There was a wheat spirit and a corn one (the corn had a real “blow your face off” moonshine feel to it), but I wanted the pure rye experience and picked up 3 small bottles to age in my apartment over the summer.

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Me and my little bundle of joy!

I heard on a distillery tour a few years back that 98% of a whisky’s flavour comes from the ingredients and 2% comes from the marketing spiel from the distillery: The waves crashing on the distillery, the sheep itching their bums on the barrels stored outside, the earth of the riverbank where they collected the water, etc. This is the bit that most people clutch at in those tasting notes you read around. I’m hoping my 2% will be a flavour of time here in Toronto, perhaps there really is something in the air on Queen Street West.

Arriving in Toronto and The Hunt. (for a place and a job)

Arriving in Toronto felt well and truly like the beginning of a new life. The fun and games in New York and Niagara seemed a world away and now it was time to get down to the serious business of finding a place to live, and a job. Well sort of. There was time for a day or two of fun and a baseball game with my friend Michelle first and then the serious stuff began!

Charge!

Charge!

I began by canvassing the nearby climbing walls, and the CN Tower’s Edgewalk, with my CV (Resumé as they call it over here), as these were my priorities, the places where having a job would simply be awesome. After that I started to keep my eye out for other places, kitchen work, outdoor shops etc, places where with a bit of training, or drawing on my previous chef experience, I could be useful. I’d read that the tactic of meeting potential employers face to face with a resumé would be quite effective, and this tactic paid off when a meeting with senior staff member resulted in me landing a job the first wall I went to!!

Hunting for houses on the other hand proved slightly more tricky. Based on experience in London, I’d allowed 6 nights in the Toronto hostel for finding a room and a job, but this ended up being extended to 8 as I grappled with using Craigslist and Kijiji (Canada’s 2 most popular classified websites) effectively. As is the way with these kinds of sites, places are not always quite as clean and welcoming as they appear in their adds, so it took a few days of searching to go through lots of places until I came across one in the right place with the right balance of cleanliness and nice people. Thankfully the stress of sorting that all out is now over and I can start earning some money and enjoying summer in the city! Whilst I’ve been typing this I made a time-lapse of the water front near the CN Tower. Its a surprisingly tranquil place given its proximity to the city, if you like planes that is. If you don’t like planes, you might want to take a tram further down the Lakeshore!