Successful Brits in Toronto: Alexander Nathan


This bloke used to make macarons in primary school. Could have made a fortune in Toronto!

The chap above may look a tad familiar. (No, he’s not the ruthless sleeper in Paris you call when Jason Bourne is in town.)

Cast your minds all the way back, if you will, to October 13, 2016. We featured a profile of Under The Cosh, a football blog and podcast.

Alexander Nathan is one-fourth of the brains behind that venture — and he’s a Brit to boot — so we wanted to delve deeper and find out his thoughts on Toronto.

And he also does some good work with a sporting not-for-profit, so grab a nice cup of tea and enjoy …

What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?

I was actually born in Toronto, and my mum is from here. My dad is English and we moved to London when I was a baby, but we’d come back to Toronto for family holidays and to visit my grandparents. It was always in the summer, of course, but I loved it and felt that I might return at some point.

When I was 18 and it came time to apply for universities I applied for five or six in the UK and one here, the University of Toronto (UofT). Once I was accepted here I made up my mind pretty quickly. It felt time for a change.

I didn’t plan a permanent move, but I also quickly took to Toronto and after a couple of years the thought of moving back to the UK didn’t seem as attractive. Especially once Cameron and his lot got into power.

But during my fourth year in university I also met my partner, who is Canadian. If there were any doubts, meeting her put an end to them — and having dual citizenship made staying here very easy.

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

I now work at UofT, but the very first job I had in Toronto was at a bricks and mortar audiobook store. Obviously they don’t exist any more because, you know, the Internet … but I had a little bookstore experience, the interview was pleasant and informal and I got the gig.

They promptly asked me to try and sell their small collection of BBC audiobooks, thinking that people would buy them if they were recommended in a British accent. It didn’t work, often. Their customers were very set in their ways!

What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?

It’s a cliche response I know, but Toronto’s diversity is fantastic. It’s not as if London isn’t also extremely diverse, but it feels different here.

To me London always felt on edge, as if multiculturalism was fine as long as everything was going well. As soon as problems arise, fingers start being pointed. The same is true in many places, I’m sure, but in Toronto tolerance and multiculturalism feel innate and are points of pride rather than simply tolerated.

I run a football website and podcast with three mates who are Nigerian, Egyptian and Indian Canadians. There aren’t many places in the world where the four of us would have come together, but this is one of them.

I also love how manageable the city is in terms of getting around. It doesn’t take long to get anywhere, despite people’s complaints about the TTC who I think do a largely excellent job despite being ridiculously underfunded.

The worst: Snow is rubbish, as is city governance of late. One less serious thing that annoys me is that Toronto is a bugger for a culinary fad, no questions asked, especially if it’s “artisanal.”

For example, recently macarons got really popular for some reason and a number of places started selling them in a variety of colours and flavours at silly prices, and people got really excited. Bit bizarre. I just thought, “Mate, we used to make these in primary school.”

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?

I don’t, really. I’m always happy to meet other Brits and it tends to happen mostly when I go to a pub to watch football.

Actually, I’m doing some work with a not-for-profit called NUTMEG. We provide free football coaching for 6-12 year-olds, but one of the founders is British and a Norwich fan. The first top flight game I ever went to was Norwich vs. Spurs at Carrow Road so it was fun to chat about that.

In terms of a recommendation, I’d say follow Davy Love. He’s the chef who owned The Bristol for years and recently made a short-lived attempt at an English pub on College Street called The Old Laurel. It was brilliant in there — dark, great food, sold Twiglets, showed football — but maybe the location wasn’t perfect for it.

I haven’t been yet but Davy is now the chef at a place called Janie Jones, so I’m looking forward to trying it out.

Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.

I would suggest listening to a fair bit of BBC radio to keep your accent in shape, leave your weekend mornings free for watching football, and switch your English driver’s licence for an Ontario one soon after moving here.

I’ve quite literally never used mine, but it’s good to have especially as most places don’t accept a health card as ID.

Other than that, I suppose try to wean yourself off Marmite because that looks like it’s about to become even more problematic to get hold of.

Totally biased product review by me — Chef Bombay Beef Vindaloo


Didn’t really live up to our expectations, this one

Really silly busy day running around in the warm sun (luv it!) and picking out our pubs for the Champions League and Blue Jays. Didn’t have time to cook up a proper lunch, so decided to give Chef Bombay Beef Vindaloo that we picked up in Loblaws a try.

Yuugggeee mistake! The photo above is what we discovered upon opening the box. NOT what it looks like in the photograph on the front, trust us. It was a really tiny portion too.

But taste is king, so we threw it in the microwave and Googled Jose Mourinho looking glum just to pass a few minutes while we waited.

We thought the rice was a bit stuck together and the meat was a little congealed.

It was quite spicy though, but that wasn’t enough to elevate this particular curry past a Brits in Toronto 1/5 stars.

Successful Brits in Toronto: Jordan Thelen


Next time you see this man, whisper: “Pssst, are you a Trickie?” and get access to a very exclusive group in Toronto

“I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one.” Ahhh, you gotta love the late Brian Clough, one of the best football managers to grace the beautiful game.

So Brits in Toronto was pleasantly surprised to learn that there’s a small but burgeoning Nottingham Forest fan base in Toronto. They call themselves “Trickies” and Jordan Thelen is one of those. (Not to be confused with “Trekkies” who hang out at science fiction conventions and such.)

Luckily for us, Jordan is also a Brit, so thus, by deduction, is eligible to be featured as today’s Successful Brit in Toronto.

He also has a sporting request at the end, so scroll down for the action if you have no patience.*

What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?

I was pretty lucky moving to Toronto really. My company has recently launched a new offering in Toronto similar to what I was working on in the UK, a program has been created to send people over on secondments to help build the practice so I managed to get selected to come over for that!

I initially visited at the end of February “for just three months” before going to the Euro 2016 Football Championships in June … but enjoyed my time so much here that I have now transferred as of July until the end of next year before I decide whether to permanently move here or go back to London.

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

Luckily, the “Canadian experience” didn’t hamper me as I simply transferred from the UK firm so I was pretty lucky having a mobility team support the whole visa process etc. and carry on where I left off (despite an interesting encounter at the immigration desk at Pearson).

I simply had a couple of calls with the management in Toronto, then some discussions during my three months, before singing my new Canadian contract.

What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?

– How friendly the people are in general around the city
– The diversity of cultures from Chinatown, Little Italy to the Financial District
– The city is as busy as London with less than a third of the population
– Rooftop bars and patios with #viewsfromthe6
– How far the British accent takes you and how my British accent has improved since moving
– Timbits (particularly Salted Caramel)
– Pubs and bars aren’t as crowded as those in the UK
– The support of the same sports team by all in the city whether it be Leafs, Jays, TFC or Raptors
– Watching football all morning in bed at the weekends and still having the afternoons for other activities
– Summer!

– Groceries are so expensive
– Phone bills, Internet etc. are really expensive
– Driving through the city on the wrong/opposite side of the road
– Streetcars and lack of coverage of the subway
– Adding tips and tax to basically any price you see
– I’m told that winter isn’t a highlight of the year
– Getting lost on the Path
– The lack of a Sunday Roast (any recommendations, please let me know!)

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?

My work team is around 50 per cent British so naturally had some British friends as a result. But as a Nottingham Forest fan, I reached out to a few fellow reds on Twitter which has resulted in having a group of us that meet up to watch games, grab a drink etc., which is awesome. If there are any more Trickies fans in Toronto, please reach out!

I hear that the British meetup group/forum is really good. They hold quarterly quizzes so definitely looking forward to going to the next one for the first time.

I would say that everyone is really friendly here so there really isn’t a need to seek shelter with fellow Brits; some of my best friends have turned out to be Canadian, including my new flatmate!

Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.

*If anyone is looking for an extra player on their 5/6-a-side football teams, please let me know!

For anyone who wants to contact Jordan, here are his Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts.

Behind the scenes of … a football blog and podcast


Left to right: Rishay, Alexander, Mohaned and Bernie ponder over some top-notch banter in the Coshcast

Back in March 2015 we started a series of articles themed, “Behind the scenes of …” with the aim of finding out what goes into particularly British things. We profiled a fish and chip shop and then never did another one for some reason. Until today!

We found these lads and really liked the cut of their jib. They are passionate about the beautiful game and created a brilliant football blog called Under The Cosh and weekly podcast called the Coshcast to back up their knowledge and opinion. It’s very funny.

There’s a Brit in the group — Alexander — so we sent an e-mail and probed him harder than Sergio Aguero in a West Ham defence. Here’s what he told us about running a football blog and podcast …

Firstly, why the name Under The Cosh?

There are so many football websites that we wanted something unique. We also wanted something British because it was the British game that we all grew up watching.

“Under the cosh” is a phrase used only by British commentators. Admittedly, not many people here know what a cosh is, but they tend to love the phrase once explained to them.

If I recall correctly, a couple of other candidates were “Into Row Z” and “Two Banks of Four,” but given we do a podcast, the “Coshcast” just seemed too perfect.

Please introduce yourselves, where you are from and how you got together? Any Brits in the team?

There are four of us: Mohaned (Egyptian), Rishay (Indian), Alexander (British) and Bernie (Nigerian).

All of us are Canadian citizens but also Anglophiles at heart due to our long-held love and interest in English football as well as growing up in British colonies (all is forgiven). Only Alexander is a true home-grown Brit though, growing up as he did in North London.

We all moved to Toronto in 2006/2007 for school and attended the University of Toronto. That’s where the group was formed, though we didn’t start the website and podcast until 2013 after we’d all graduated. The four of us now work in different industries but football runs our lives.

We actually bonded over the shared experience of dragging a laptop over a sleeping significant other at 7:00 a.m. Canadian time in order to watch a noon kickoff in the UK. Pretty sure that’s a standard British expat experience now.

How much time a week do you put into creating content for the blog?

The podcast is the one constant recurring chunk of time on a weekly basis. With the preparation for it, the travelling to get together, recording, editing and uploading … I’d say we spend about seven hours a week on that.

After that there are the articles that we publish — whether original or submitted by guest writers — and writing or preparing that content for publication is probably another four or five hours a week. Of course, there’s also being on Twitter all the time …

How do you decide what you’re going to chat about on that week’s Coshcast?

We have categories that we almost always cover; the English Premier League takes up half the podcast, with the other half split between news from the other major European leagues, a Toronto FC update when MLS is in season and two lighthearted segments: the football quiz which is named after a new player every week (Quiztophe Dugarry, Santi Quizorla etc.) and Mumu of the Week.

“Mumu” is a Nigerian pigeon slang word that Bernie taught us, meaning “fool,” “idiot” etc. So for Mumu of the Week we find the funniest or most ridiculous off-pitch stories from the world of football and have some fun taking the piss.

Last week for example we had a right laugh at Ryan Giggs for claiming that Swansea couldn’t match his ambitions, and a Norwegian manager who wants to use sperm from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo to produce a world-beating team in 20 years. You can’t make this stuff up, Clive.

In May, I believe, we plan on awarding the season’s biggest mumu the Bellend D’or.

Preparation goes on throughout the week, though. We have a Google document that acts as the agenda and we fill it up as the results and stories roll in.

Obviously Brits love football, but what kind of reaction do you get from your Canadian audience to the beautiful game?

The local appetite for football coverage is definitely growing and we know that a good portion of our reader and listenership is Canadian, which is great … but of course there is still a huge difference between here and the UK.

In Toronto I am still surprised and delighted if I overhear a conversation about football, whereas back in England it’s just innate and constant. What we’re trying to do is provide the level of depth, passion and humour with which the game is talked about in the UK to the Canadian “market.”

I think there’s some quiet dissatisfaction with the mainstream coverage of the sport here. The level of debate, analysis and even personality or humour that you get on Canadian TV leaves a lot to be desired. Craig Forrest seems like a lovely bloke but, let’s be honest, it’s the West Brom of punditry.

That said I suppose we can always be grateful that Sportsnet haven’t hired Robbie Savage or Michael Owen yet.

The Canadian football-supporting scene is a fascinating one. Given Canada’s urban diversity, a lot of people move or grow up here already supporting teams from elsewhere.

For example, the Canadian-Italian community has a great presence online that is very strong on its support both for Toronto FC and for various Seria A clubs, or if you go to a Toronto Arsenal Supporters Club event you’ll find a group of passionate young people with truly global backgrounds.

I think our content probably speaks most to this urban population who grew up with the Premier League or European football but are also pleased to have a local team to support.

Equally there is a base of Canadian national team(s) supporters who have fought hard for a long time to promote and popularize football in this country, and support for Toronto FC has been first class from the club’s first day with the stadium packed full of people desperate for local football.

We would dearly like to produce more content aimed at Toronto FC and Canadian national team fans but it’s a question of hours in the day. Our first love is British/European football and we’re always likely to have more fun discussing the expansion of Steve Bruce and Troy Deeney’s waistlines over the expansion of MLS, as sad as that might be.


The lads having a bit of a giggle on their football pilgrimage to Europe

Spill the beans on your upcoming Football Trivia Night. And do you organize any other social events for Brits or football lovers to hang out?

We’re really excited about this! For a couple of years we’ve thought that a football trivia night would be fantastic, so we’re looking to merge the traditional British pub quiz with Toronto’s massive appetite for trivia and our perceived encyclopedic knowledge of the beautiful game.

We’re working on questions that will make this a lot of fun but also a really good challenge for those that reckon they know their stuff. We’ll cover the Premiership, European leagues, World Cups, we’re planning visual rounds and “identify the commentary” sections. It should be a good laugh!

The first event is taking place upstairs at Betty’s (King and Sherbourne) on Wednesday, November 2 from 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. It costs $10 to play, we’re aiming for eight teams of four and there is a substantial cash prize for the winners! Betty’s has a good beer selection and food too so I can’t think of many better options for a good evening.

You can sign up on the Facebook event or, if you don’t use Facebook, feel free to send us an e-mail at underthecoshblog AT gmail DOT COM.

We’re putting the night on in partnership with OpenSports which is a great, locally-designed app that allows you to create or find and join games of pick-up football (or many other sports) going on around Toronto.

Feel free to tell us anything about Under the Cosh or running a football blog that Brits in Toronto readers should know.

If you’re a Brit in Toronto and into football then we strongly believe this blog is for you. We cater to the Premier League as already mentioned, but are also supporters of the local side Toronto FC. The club couldn’t have grown in the way that it did without the support of British expats who set the tone for football fandom here.

We also aim to highlight football at a grassroots level and the main players in that area. We’ve interviewed former players like Paul Stalteri, Nolberto Solano, Danny Dichio, Kanu and Bruce Grobbelaar who are all invested in youth development in Ontario.

All in all, running a football website and podcast is the best thing we’ve ever done. It led us to travel to Europe on a football pilgrimage that we documented and we’ve met legends of the game. Well worth it.

All feedback is welcome and if there are football-related events you’d like to see happen in Toronto, get in touch and let’s talk about making them happen.

The British Isles Show is back and looks bloody brilliant!


“Hi. I’m Ryan Thomas. You may have seen me in such soaps as Coronation Street. I’m heading to Toronto”

We’ve covered The British Isles Show for the last few years on Brits in Toronto — you can search for it in the “Find The Good Stuff!” box to the right of this page.

This year it’s taking place as part of the ZoomerShow from October 29-30, 2016 at the Enercare Centre on the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. Very easy to get to.

There’ll be the usual mix of British goods and performers, including Ryan Thomas who played Jason Grimshaw in Coronation Street. (We met Curly Watts at one of these in times past too.)

Over 200 exhibitors, five stages and 20 performers. Tickets are $12 at the door but you can save some wonga by buying in advance on the website.

It’s a good time, a chance to chinwag with other Brits and stock up on the Curly Wurlys. (We’re not sure of the plural because you’re probably going to buy more than one. So maybe it’s Curly Wurlies or Curly Wurli. We’ll check into that grammatical conundrum and update it here at some point.)

The Toronto Blue Jays moving on


It’s just not cricket!

We don’t profess to know much about baseball, but we do know that we chose to live in the City of Toronto, and thus, by default, support the local teams.

One of those is the Toronto Blue Jays and they did bloody brilliant last night in a tight game that ultimately finished in a home run to take them to the next round against the Texas Rangers. (They don’t really get on, as the photo above shows.)

We were all here last year and the campaign really brought the city together, so looking forward to the same buzz this time around.

The first game in that series is TOMORROW in the afternoon, so book a *cough* “dentist” or “doctor” appointment now.

Let’s go Blue Jays!

Totally biased product review by me — Knorr Hot Curry Sauce Mix


Don’t feel you have to ladle on the sauce like in the photo, you can never do it that precisely anyway unless your ladle has the little pouring spout thing that usually comes in the more expensive ladles

The Brits in Toronto crew love to cook. OK, it’s easy to head to the nearest curry house for a Ruby Murray, but it’s also good to buy the ingredients ourselves, get a sauce and hope for the best.

So we jumped in the motor and headed to one of our favourite British shops A Bit of Home to see what they had. After picking up some Monster Munch and Heinz Chunky Classic Ploughman’s Pickle, we spied Knorr Hot Curry Sauce Mix.

After a bit of cheeky banter with the owner, we paid for the goods, gave a hearty “Cheerio mate!” and off we jolly well popped back to the office.

Emeril Lagasse once told us, “Bam! When you make packet curry sauce, I recommend using less water than stated on the packet thus making a slightly thicker sauce. Bam!”

We had to agree, so took Emeril’s advice and made the sauce a little thicker. Good move.

Threw in some peppers, onions, chicken, tomatoes, minced garlic and ginger … simmered for 20 minutes … and Bob’s your uncle, chicken curry for lunch.

(There were also “mild” and “medium” choices for this product, but we went all out for the “hot” option.)

Have to say it was pretty delish actually. The flavour was great, not burn-your-laughing-gear heat but a nice kick to it. On the tissue scale, we only had to use one to blow our runny nose, so not too bad.

All in all, pleasantly surprised and we give Knorr Hot Curry Sauce Mix a Brits in Toronto 4/5 stars.