Sounds: the ubiquitous whirr, rumble or roar of air conditioning, the clank of trams, the strange polytonal mournful sound of a railway whistle, just like in the Westerns.
Smells: fried food from a thousand different cuisines, moving from one to another along the street. Arome de Tramp—there seem to be an inordinate number of beggars.
Sights: apart from those already described, what has struck me is the sheer number of people just sitting around on porches, on the side of the road, on steps… Are they all unemployed, or on benefits, or on drugs, or simply enjoying the fresh air? I don't know. Lots of them aren't begging, or even looking depressed or downtrodden. They are just sitting there, mostly looking perfectly content. And most of them are friendly. When I went out walking yesterday towards the city centre, this cheerful man sitting on the ground held out a bag of some sort of cooked food (chips?) and invited me to tuck in. 'No thanks' I said, smiling. 'Go on, man' he said 'the smell is jes' delicious'. Just walking around near the Oratory, I have been struck by how many times I have been greeted by complete strangers 'hi, Father'. It speaks volumes for the work the fathers here at the Oratory have done in the locality over the last years. It is very easy to strike up conversations with people. Massive trucks (not lorries) with big gabled engines. So large that, apparently, they often fall over going around corners, or going on to motorway slip roads. Black squirrels. Where are all the famous North American greys? I ask. The answer? Over in the UK eating all the native red squirrels! Vietnamese people, Chinese people, Tibetan people (I found a Tibetan restaurant—closed—yesterday: I'd love to try it, but don't suppose I'll get a chance). Bilingual signs everywhere: French is a much bigger reality than I expected.
Tastes: ketchup, coke, ketchup, peanut butter, ketchup, mayonnaise, ketchup. The Serbian cook here at the Oratory is actually very good.
But most refreshing of all is the attitude to things. Today we had a visit from the youth ministry team for the Diocese of Toronto. It was a sort of day of recollection, and there was a chance for confession, rosary, talks on the spiritual life, and—take a deep breath—an extraordinary use Mass. I was asked to give them a talk to prepare them for the Old Rite Mass. Only one had ever attended one before, and they listened most attentively, and seemed very open to the whole idea. I want to reflect on all this, and may well have more to write later on. That'll do for now.