A spring day in the nation’s capital, sunny and warm, everyone in short sleeves and the latest sunglasses, drinking beer on patios in the Byward Market and just showing off. I’m sitting in an old haunt called “Memories” on Clarence Street, in the shadow of the American Embassy that wasn’t here 12 years ago when I last lived in Ottawa. Beside me on the floor is a bag of Quebec cheese, some of which I am going to eat with my mother and father and sister on my mum’s birthday tomorrow.
Like every place I’ve lived in in my life, I really love this town. I especially love the feeling of it on a spring day like this, when the intense cold dark winter has released its grip and the whole place comes to life. Spring is the merest hint of a season in eastern Ontario, wedged uncomfortably between the last winter storm and the leaves coming out. Six weeks tops. The predominant odour is one of warm mud and the odd waft of dog poo. It’s not impressive and it reminds one of the flurry of disorganized activity that surrounds someone getting ready to go out to a party. That’s why its fun to be in Ottawa, a city that thrives on order, composure and protocol. In spring, the whole town and all its inhabitants seem to spring to life. Even the stodgy senior public servants and the overdressed political assistants are sporting yellow and light blue ties with their dark suits.
It’s a lovely, awkward and short-lived time. By the time the last piles of snow melt out of the shadows of buildings, people will have recovered their senses and switched to full on summer clothing, the leaves will burst out of the trees and the tourists will descend. Everyone here will recompose themselves and dutifully attend the bevy of free festivals and concerts and celebrations that last until the leaves start to turn and fall comes to put a stop to all the fun.