Thirty-three years ago I moved to England, after I got married. It was a depressing time. The weather was grey, England was grey, the apartment, where it was not brown, was grey, the tea, congealed by my bedside, was also grey (you seriously drink this stuff – in the morning? – in bed??). The people were incomprehensible – I couldn’t understand their words on the telephone nor their behaviour face-to-face. I wish now though that I had lifted my head up, watched more closely and written, not necessarily about the grey, but about the differences that there were between living in England and living in Canada then. It was an interesting time, after all. Mrs Thatcher was about to take England into a war with Argentina over the Malvinas/Falklands. No Canadian prime minister – then or now – would instruct the Canadian people to ‘rejoice’ at a war where thousands of young men, english and argentinian, lost their lives or were injured. Irish terrorism was a reality in London streets and, later, closer to home in Warrington and Manchester. Football hooliganism was shocking and, subsequently, lethal. England was emerging from its reputation as ‘the sick man of Europe,’ but kicking and screaming.
So now, we are about to reverse the experiment and we will come to live in Toronto for the summer. It will not be grey, and it will be different. But by how much? In 33 years, England has changed almost beyond recognition; London oozes wealth, and poverty. My bit – the NHS – improved throughout the 2000s, with investment approaching the European average of GDP. We’ve had a great time with our girls in West Kirby over all these years.
Here it is then – observations of an unwillingly adopted to english ‘girl,’ on an unfamiliar homeland in Canada. What am I hoping to find? Some humour. Some examples of good manners. A few people saying ‘I’m sorry’ reflexly when I bump into them on the street. Reasons to be pleased to be Canadian, reasons to tell the immigration officers at Heathrow why I didn’t ‘just get an English passport.’ Here goes! Might be bumpy!