Sunday, 22 April 2012

April 18th / 19th Toronto -- "War Horse"

Quotation of the day: Michael Morpurgo ~ This one isn’t just any old horse. There’s a nobility in his eye, a regal serenity about him. Does he not personify all that men try to be and never can be? I tell you, my friend, there’s divinity in a horse, and specially in a horse like this. God got it right the day he created them. And to find a horse like this in the middle of this filthy abomination of a war, is for me like finding a butterfly on a dung heap. We don’t belong in the same universe as a creature like this.

And so off i went to Toronto on Wednesday morning, to see the stage production of "War Horse" at The Princess Of Wales Theatre with my friends Julian ( and Andrea ( My train left bang on time, arrived in Toronto 15 mins. late, around 11.15.  Not bad....

I wasn't meeting Julian & Andrea 'til 5.30, and i hoped to go to the cinema in the afternoon, to see "Coriolanus."  So the first thing i did was to get a local paper and wander up to The Wolf & Firkin (my fave Toronto pub) to read the movie listings (and have a pint).  Alas, it was no longer playing :o(  No other films really took my fancy, so i decided to go for a ramble.  For one thing, i wanted to make sure i could find the pub, The Elephant & Castle, where i'd be meeting J & A later -- i'd never been to it before.

It was a great day for walking, too: 11 degrees, sunny, a bit of a cool wind.  As i wandered around, i realised i needed to pee.  Fortunately, there's a pub near City Hall i've been to before called The Duke Of Richmond, so i stopped in there (and of course had another pint...). It's okay, not a favourite pub but it's all right.  (Contrary to popular belief, i have not been to every pub in downtown Toronto, although it may be close!) And then ambled off along King Street towards where i thought The Elephant & Castle was.  Not only did i find it, i also found The Princess Of Wales Theatre, where "War Horse" was playing, just a block or so away.  And i took its picture:

So, now that i had my bearings, i decided to have some lunch.  But where?

After some further rambling, i came across a place that i'd been to before but forgotten about: The Friar & Firkin.  (The Firkin pubs are a chain [], i wish there was one in Stratford.)   Their food is very good and i was most pleased with their ham 'n' cheese macaroni.

Anyway, back to my holiday diary.  After my lunch at The Friar & Firkin (here's the view looking south from their patio):

i still had a couple of hours to kill before meeting up with Julian & Andrea, and so i spent the time roving the streets, thoroughly enjoying myself and seeing sights the average tourist misses.

And then to The Elephant & Castle for dinner.  It's another chain of pubs, there's one in London, Ontario and at least two in downtown Toronto.  I never go there normally (because they don't sell my brand of beer!) but that didn't matter by then because i'd already had, what, four beers and had switched to virgin Caesars.  Frankly, i wasn't too impressed by the food, either: i had shepherd's pie with salad.  I make better shepherd's pie myself, the gravy was obviously made from powder and the salad was just bland.  Oh, well....

And then to the Princess Of Wales for one of the most brilliant pieces of theatre i've ever seen.  (I'm not a regular theatre-goer, mind you -- it's a bit pricey for those of us at the lower end of the income scale.) Singer Melanie Doane, whom you may have heard of, was in it, providing the fiddle, accordion and vocals, and the songs were written by John Tams, once of The Albion Band, one of my all-time favourite English folk groups. The war horses are made of wood. They're puppets!  The brilliance of the production is that you become as emotionally involved as if they were real.  Hell, they are real.  When Topthorn (the other main horse besides Joey) dies from exhaustion, well, i'm weeping buckets now just remembering....And i had tears running down my face at the end, i was overwhelmed with emotion.  Here's the trailer from the London production:

When it came to an end, as all good things must, it was straight back to J & A's house (where i was staying the night), where i finally met their cat Didjit (so-called because she has an extra digit on each foot).  Apparently she doesn't like strangers but she warmed up to me immediately.  We chatted a while, they lent me a DVD, a documentary called "Making War Horse" and so to bed, well after midnight....

Woke up Thursday morning feeling fine and perky in spite of the, for me, late night. (I'm usually in bed by 9 o'clock.)

Julian had an early meeting and Andrea was sound asleep when i left around 9.30.  I decided to do some more "sightseeing."  Apparently, National Geographic once named the Queen Street line as one of the most fascinating streetcar rides in the world, and i decided to give it a try (instead of spending the morning walking).  I bought a day pass for the transit system. I took the subway to Queen Street an hopped on the street car.  The line crosses the entire city from east to west (15.4 miles!) and i headed east, through parts of town i'd never seen before.  But there was no way i had the time to complete the trip -- i also wanted to visit my old neighbourhood before i headed off to meet Paul & Imogen. So i disembarked from the streetcar, headed north to the subway, and thence to the part of town where i used to live. Spent maybe an hour at my old pub, The Duke Of Kent, then went to meet the gang for lunch.

Imogen had chosen a relatively new place virtually next door to The Wolf & Firkin called The Queen & Beaver (stupid name!).  To my dismay, it wasn't pub-like at all, more like the lounge of an upscale hotel.  And they didn't sell my favourite beer, grr. I was the first to arrive but i was soon joined by Anne, an old friend and a woman i've had a crush on for maybe thirty years. (Very undignified in a man of my age, i know, especially as i've pretty much given up on relationships, but my, she has both brains and beauty which means she's approximately 100% wonderful.  Don't tell Astrid i said that!)

Next in was another old friend, Dave, then Paul & Imogen, and the company and the banter was tremendous.  But the food, er ....  Imogen loves the place for the food and the ambiance, but my very ordinary BLT with (really boring) freshly-made potato chips cost $17! With all due apple-polly-oggies to Imogen, it was too upscale for a simple bloke like wot i am, a man of simple tastes.  And after lunch i got thrown off the patio for smoking! Sorry, but isn't that what patios are for...?

There's really very little left to tell about my Toronto adventure.  After lunch i went over to the HMV store, bought the new CDs by Florence & The Machine and Judy Collins,  then wandered down to the lake and it's so beautiful there, i love all that water. 

And then i just wandered around some more, had a couple more beers in pubs, although i don't recall the names of the places, they weren't anywhere i'd been to before, then off to the train station in plenty of time and had some streetmeat (spicy sausage on a bun) from one of the vendors outside the station and was home by nine o'clock.

I love Toronto, i should go more often, but it's so damned expensive....

All of my photos from my visit are now up on my flickr page. It's


anymusicmania said...

I really enjoyed reading your day Freg. I didn't realize Melanie Doan was in it. :-)

Gloria said...

Loved reading the comments Richard, but some of us don't know the exact story of War Horse! Thanx for telling me a horse died!!! I mean what little I've read about it I could guess, but, didn't want to hear it. Put the word SPOILERS in next time. I like the Elephant & Castle having eaten there lots of times. Glad tho you had a good time. I'm in London right now with the family. See you in June! Love Gloria xox

Freg said...

I hope i didn't spoil it for anyone. Untold millions of horses perished during World War I and it can't be expected that a play about these horses wouldn't touch on the subject in some manner. Plus, i supposed that everyone but me would have seen either the play or the Spielberg film already.

Wrong again!

Anne said...

At least you didn't tell her it was the butler wot killed the horse:)I agree with you about the E&C. The food is only OK. I too have eaten there many times because of its handiness to the Royal A and POW. I did like the Q&B both the food and the atmosphere, especially after that weird leprechaun went away. Was it something we said - I hope so.

Freg said...

Anne, dear, i think the Q & B is a bit too upscale for a simple person like me, although i know Imogen loves it. I really wasn't impressed by the $17 BLT. The Firkin pubs are more my speed.

Those weird leprechauns are everywhere!