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From an old website, Alien in Montreal

So it turns out that my home-made apple wine is a tad stronger than I suspected.

I had drained some off the gallon or two in the kitchen a few days ago, for a friend to taste. Since then, a bottle of it has been sitting in the fridge, leering at me every time I open the door to take out the cheese, or milk.

Yesterday I gave in, and had a glass with my lunchtime curry. It was good. So good, in fact, that I had another, and then later, another, and then before I knew it, the stereo was playing hardcore techno at a very loud volume and the bottle was empty.

Time to go out then.

I was meeting the wife at 8pm, so had some time to kill in town. I decided to head for the first bar I came across that was new to me, as I walked west from McGill. On Metcalfe Street I stumbled upon The Dominion Pub, which I walked past until I remembered my own promise to myself, and so walked back to peer into the window.

It looked a little bleak -- mostly empty (with two men sitting at the bar), brightly lit, TV screens showing hockey, gambling machines flashing away. Ah. Oh well, take a deep breath and enter.

On my way to the bar I pass a table of men, all speaking English, so when I get to the bar I'm ready to go 'en Anglais'. I'm thrown then, when the barmaid rattles off a lengthy sentence in French. I'm also a little drunk, so my brain doesn't function as well as it should. I freeze and simply stare at her for a few moments before spluttering out.

'A pint of Rickards, oh, Rick-ards, isn't it? How do you say that again? Rickwards?'

She stares at me as I babble away.

'You want twenty ounces?'

'What?'

'You want twenty ounces?'

I don't bloody know, I want to say. What is this, cookery? How would I know how many ounces make up a drink? For me, ounces refer only to solids, or powdered things. For liquids we use pints, litres and millilitres.

'Err, twenty, yes.' I say, obviously unsure.

She starts to play the 'big glass' 'little glass' game with me. 'Twenty is like this, you want it like this?'

I peer at the distance between her hands. It looks like a pint.

'Yes.' I say.

She takes out a very small glass and walks towards the pump. I manage to stop her and finally get a pint glass, but a rather tall, unstable and ornate one that I suspect they save for the strangers and tourists that come into the pub.

I drink, and smoke, quietly. I don't take any pictures, or even get out my notepad. It isn't the kind of pub where you would sit and write, or play with electronic gadgets. Unless the electronic gadget is a p0ker machine that is.

Behind me I hear a Canadian-English accent wail, 'Voyons donc!' It is the lament of a P0ker Machine player, losing.

Everyone laughs, and I smile.

The barmaid catches my smile and comes over, staring at me.

'English or French?' She demands.

'Urm, well, I am English.'

'But you understand Voyons donc?'

'Ha ha, yes. Voyons donc,' I say, then, as she continues to stare at me I say it again.

She walks away and the man behind me wails, 'Voyons donc.' Again.

It is becoming rather surreal.

Then a man comes up to me, looks at the hockey game, and then says to me, 'How old is he now anyway?'

I realise he's talking about a hockey player. I stare at the screen for a few moments. 'You're asking me?'

He thinks about this and says, 'Oh, I suppose your game is soccer? Eh?' He says soccer in a way that implies that it doesn't really count as a sport.

I say that it is, and he walks away.

I drink up and leave.