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Adam Hills

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Adam is one of Australia's most talented and widely-respected comedians, whose shows include Happy Feet and Go You Big Red Fire Engine. In the UK, he has appeared on Radio 4's Loose Ends and taken highly successful one-man shows to the Edinburgh Fringe.

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O Canada!

9th January 2005

It's official: I'm in love ... with Canada.

It's true that I have been harbouring feelings for Canada for quite some time now, but until recently it was always a harmless flirtation. Sure, we'd make eyes at each other across a crowded ocean, sometimes engage in a brief but innuendo-laden chat, and we'll both admit that there have been one or two occasions on which I was invited back to Canada's place - invitations I duly accepted. But something happened last week to take things a step further, plunging me headlong into love.

I arrived in Toronto on 30 December to attend a friend's wedding, which was due to take place on New Year's Eve. Although they are an Australian couple, they are also lesbians, and Canada is one of the few places in the world that conducts gay and lesbian weddings. As I witnessed them taking their vows and expressing their love for one another publicly, I felt silently ashamed that they were unable to formalize this love in their (and my) own country.

It was indeed one of the most beautiful ceremonies I have ever witnessed, and it was followed by a night of partying that saw myself and the wedding party serenaded by a six foot four drag queen with stubble who went by the name of Miss Conception. I ask you: where else in the world can you attend a lesbian wedding, drink Moosehead beer and watch grown men in ball gowns sing Going To The Chapel Of Love? Why Canada doesn't promote this liberal attitude in a tourism campaign is beyond me. At one point our host (or is that hostess?) suggested that the city's slogan could be: "Toronto: We're Fabulous and We're Equal!"

Canada flag
However, that is not why I love Canada. As I write this latest addition to my Ouch compendium, sitting in a hotel room in Toronto and gazing out at a sky that desperately wants to snow but seems to be waiting for permission, it occurs to me that Canada is - to use the vocabulary of a schoolboy crush - really cool. The Canadian government refused to back the United States in the war in Iraq; the majority of Canadian people are bilingual; and although fiercely proud of their country, Canadians fall short of the aggressive flag-waving associated with its more ostentatious neighbour.

But that's still not the main reason why I love Canada. I fell in love with this wonderful country over a silly, tiny thing; one of those little things that can be missed by some people, but to enamoured eyes can make all the difference. I fell for Canada because of one small act: Canada recently added Braille to all of its bank notes.

I was told this tidbit of information late at night over a few Moosehead beers. In order, my responses were as follows:

1. Brilliant!
2. Do any other countries do this? And ...
3. If not, why not?

Even now I'm unsure as to whether the Pound, the Euro or the Australian Dollar have a Braille imprint. Does the American dollar bill feature a raised indentation telling blind people exactly which denomination they are about to hand over? Can English people judge the value of a note by the number of dots on the Queen's forehead? And once again - why not? Surely there could be some system of implanting a Braille code in amongst the jewels on her crown?

What struck me the most was that I had never actually considered the need for Braille on a bank note before. But of course it's impossible for blind people to know exactly which note they're handling. I have perfect vision, and half the time I don't even know what I'm handing over, especially in a foreign country.

Well done Canada, well done indeed. In one fell swoop you have made life much easier for blind people, in a way that is simple and inclusive to all, and at the same time you have opened the eyes of those of us who, like me, overlooked an important issue of accessibility.

So I mean it; I'm in love ... with the most thoughtful, friendly and tolerant country in the world.

Where does this affair go from here? Well, I just don't know. I imagine I'll stay around for a few more days and enjoy what's left of a holiday romance, then head back home and eventually settle back into my day-to-day life. However, I'll never forget my deep love for Canada - the only country in the world where a blind French lesbian can get married, understand the locals, and know exactly how much money she is spending.

Maybe that's not such a bad slogan after all: "Toronto: We're Fabulous and We're Equal!"
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