An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 14.

On Tuesday evening, my girlfriend and I had planned a low-budget date. I would cook a delicious meal for us at home and then we’d enjoy a leisurely walk to a downtown cinema. We would take advantage of the citywide Tuesday discount by enjoying Christopher Nolan’s new psy-fi blockbuster for 5$ (Take that, Nolan). Someone had also told me that the cinema’s popcorn counter stocked a rare flavour of “Timbit”—a nasty Canadian doughnut snack, of which I have become extremely fond much to my girlfriend’s amusement—so I was rather braced with anticipation.

Alas, things didn’t quite work out as planned. Torrential Montreal rain scuppered the walking element of the plan so we caught the bus instead. I’m becoming less and less inclined to take busses: it took over 40 minutes to reach the cinema by bus and I know I can walk there directly in 50. Even an excellent municipal bus service is no match for a good walker.

When we got to the box office, we found that every screening of Inception had sold out. It seemed that everyone else behind us in the line also wanted to see this film but would be turned away. I overheard a girl trying to console her own date: “Have you seen Despicable Me?” she offered, which seemed to add insult to injury.

We didn’t want to see any of the other films on offer so we decided to make the most of being downdown, since we had both invested a bus fair to be here. Of course, this was easier said than done: the object of the evening was to enjoy a low-budget date but we couldn’t walk around because of the rain, and neither of us wanted to eat or drink since we’d already done that at home. We had to be inventive!

First, we practiced my girlfriend’s wise philosophy that “shopping is free until you buy something” and visited a large bookstore, mercifully open until 10pm. We looked at the biography as science sections for inspiration for the embryonic Issues Five and Six of New Escapologist. We then went and enjoyed the humour section. I was initially surprised at the British influence on the humour section of this Canadian retailer. Present were various worlds according to Clarkson and two versions of the quite wonderful Mighty Book of Boosh. They also had several copies of a spin-off title of Tony Hawk’s Around Ireland with a Fridge: the fact that it was a spin-off and not the original iconic title suggests that the original book was so well-received in Canada that someone saw fit to invest in a spin-off (or that the person in charge of acquiring stock from Britain didn’t know that this was just a spin-off). It was also a pleasure to see Tom‘s three Idle volumes on sale there. My girlfriend suggested that I sign a couple on his behalf. (I refrained). I was very proud of my girlfriend when she made a little note saying “Rubbish” and propped it up against the Jeremy Clarkson books.

I also chanced across a book called The Walkable City. That I became so excited by a book about urban planning is probably a sign that I’m getting old, but it looks truly great. It details the ways in which cities were redeveloped to become car-orientated and what we urbanites lost as a result. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Montreal is a great city to walk around: fairly pedestrian-friendly and with lots of nice architecture to look at. There are still mistakes made here in terms of urban planning though (I call them “the suburbs”), which make it difficult for human beings to get around without a car. Still, this is nothing: when I lived for three months in Stoke-on-Trent (any longer would have been suicide), I was surprised to find large city-center districts with no pavement at all. I’d either have to walk in the road or climb up onto muddy embankments in my suit and nice shoes. A disaster area.

After visiting the bookstore, most of the other shops and attractions had closed for the evening. There were some minutes to spend before the bus was due (it was still raining hard), so we went into a late-night fast food restaurant to use the bathroom and to pick up a snack. Much to my delight, they stocked the elusive chocolat a neige Timbit, which I had been hoping to score at the cinema. I think this means I’ve now tried every flavour of Timbit the Baby Jesus saw fit to grant us (after an out-of-town mission to find the similarly elusive jam-filled Timbit, which actually proved too disgusting for words – it is like eating a septic eyeball). In case you’re wondering, chocolat a neige was no disappointment.

We made it home, relatively undrenched. We decided to have a fin du monde party in which we spend the night as if it were the last night on Earth: eating gourmet food in the bathtub, playing favourite records and pretending that the Triffids are on their way.

Do buy the brand-new Issue Four of New Escapologist from the shop.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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