A-Z of Canada: D is for dandelion, Dollarstore and ‘due diligence’


I’ve neglected my A-Z of Canada for long enough having only got as far as C *ahem*, so here’s my entry for D delivered with a renewed commitment to make it to the end of the alphabet… eventually.


Where Dandelion is a dirty word

Bruce WillisThe grass is different here. It’s the ‘outdoorsman’ of the cultivated groundcover world (a mixture of Kentucky Bluegrass and Perennial ryegrass for the curious). Coarse and hardy, it grows in densely packed tussocks making for bumpy and uneven terrain. Much like a Hollywood action movie hero – I‘m thinking a bruised but belligerent Bruce Willis here – adapting to the extremes  has made it a little rough around the edges.

Nigel HaversOur Canadian lawn is a lumpy mattress compared to our green English eiderdown, whose refinement is perhaps best reflected in the polished Englishness of actor Nigel Havers. Back home bare feet were caressed, in the cool, verdant equivalent of a sandy beach, by perennial ryegrass and fescues (the fine grasses on golf courses and bowling greens). Hmmmm… fescues – even the name sounds elegant:

“Permit me to introduce Sir Tarquin Fescue.”

Canada’s taught me to keep my shoes on however inviting the carpet of green looks, thanks to the proliferation of ninja thistles.

Come winter, temperatures plummet and the ground freezes hard and unyielding as concrete. The grass turns brown and dies, its ugliness interred for weeks at a time by a snowy mantle. March and April bring the thaw with its urgent gurgle of snow-melt and quickening of new life. After months of scanning the land and seeing nothing but brittle, rasping switchgrass and colorless scrub, I love it when the fresh green shoots burst through, a balm for the eyes.

Walking to school on early May mornings, we’re cheered by the sunshine reflecting from the buttery blooms blanketing the verges. The Dandelion – that intractable foe of gardeners everywhere – is our first floral arrival after the long winter, and like an unwanted houseguest, it quickly makes itself at home, sprawling everywhere as though it owned the place.

2009 saw the province of Ontario ban garden pesticides, deeming the use of chemicals to control weeds and insects for purely cosmetic reasons an unnecessary risk to families and pets. Since then dandelions sniffed victory and have gone into overdrive. Every year people swear there are more of them; their expansive leaves crowd out the grass so that if you don’t pull them up when they’re small, you’ll have a bare patch when you finally get around to wresting that deep taproot from the ground. My friend blasts them with a mixture of vinegar and boiling water in her homicidal thirst to expunge them from existence. Neighborly good terms are quickly soured by a neglected lawn seeding evil on next-door’s patch of unblemished emerald perfection.


The maintenance men are out, tidying roadsides and pruning trees in the sub-divisions, so we only have a small sliver of time to enjoy the sheer shag-pile volume before they’re chomped and macerated by the mowers, beetling along with their noses down like bloodhounds on a scent while the nonchalant guy with the strimmer follows on behind.


Inflation killed the Five’n’Dime & gave us… Dollarstore!

Back in the UK we had Pound shops but thanks to their boring assortment of quick-to-fall-apart household tat they weren’t an established High Street feature. Here, we have the Dollarstore (it’d be the 64p shop in the UK – can you even get a chocolate bar for that these days?). It’s a similar deal as far as the household tat goes, but there are diamonds to be found among the rough. Everyone knows it’s where you go for giftwrap/greetings cards, batteries and kids craft essentials. Where else can you get a pack of 4 AA batteries for $1? The cheapest price I could find for the same back home was five pounds – that equates to $7.82 here. Why are Brits so ripped off when it comes to batteries? Answers on a postcard please!


I’m not a numbers person but I make an exception for figures of speech

And finally, my chance to get my own back on all those who’ve laughed at my quaint British turns of phrase (what’s so amusing about ‘bits and bobs’ anyway?), because in my eyes at least, Canada has it’s own quaint turns of phrase.

‘Due diligence’ is used by broadcasters, realtors and housewives alike to refer to undertaking prudent, responsible research. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as ‘Reasonable steps taken by a person in order to satisfy a legal requirement, esp. in buying or selling something.’ But when an adult talks about doing their ‘doo diligence’, there’s something so Boyscout-ish about it I just can’t help thinking of shorts and knee-socks and ‘Dib, dib, dib…’


How ridiculous do you look?


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By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. Nigel Havers has just finished a stint on Coronation Street playing a suave gigolo! He cheated Gail out of all her cash. He certainly showed due diligence in the process. By the way, you can get batteries in a pound shop but don’t expect them to work 🙂

    1. Bugger! Just finished a lovely reply then skipped off to another page without sending – suffice to say, it mentioned the predictability of Gormless Gail, enquired whether Sally still yells “RAWSEH! SAWFEH!” all the time, mentioned I hadn’t seen Corrie or Eastenders in eons and mused on the improvement in quality of life the absence has resulted in 😉
      Good old Nige though – typecast to the end…

  2. These little oddities are so fascinating aren’t they! I should do one for Jamaica. This post made me laugh out loud! “Due diligence” must be an old colonial throwback, because it is a very popular phrase here too… I absolutely adore dandelions (we have a smaller tropical version) – always remind me of my childhood, like stinging nettles. I don’t know why people would want to kill them. I wish we could ban pesticides here. Jamaicans go mad with them! Looking forward to the letter “E”!

    1. Hi Emma! You SO should do an A-Z for Jamaica – that would be wicked! Yes, childhood – dandelions, stinging nettles, dock leaves, lying on my back in the grass cloud-watching, and dandelion & burdock! Did you ever have that? Loved that stuff!

  3. You nailed it with you description of dandelions. Personally I’ve decided that they are too bright and cheery to worry about. Also I live across the street from a huge park where they grow with gay abandon so I don’t really have a choice. I did buy some organic dandelion greens today for salad tomorrow. Even though I don’t spray the ones in my yard, they look too rugged to eat!

    1. Haha! Exactly! Life’s too short to sweat the small stuff 🙂 I’ve never tried them in a salad – I suppose the taste the flower stems left behind on my hands as a child put me off eating the leaves. Curious now though…

  4. Love this! I need to tackle ‘D’ next. Totally agree with the dandelion thing, I swear the men in my neighbourhood are obsessed with dandelion removal, where I think after a long winter of brown grass a little splash of colour is a good thing 🙂

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