It was not unusual for the railway companies to build their railways along side the existing canal, and that is what happened along the Kennet and Avon. Wherever we go, there is the railway, whizzing commuters to their jobs and home again. A parallel world to mine, but one that I have ventured into quite a few times during my time here in England. I have been to London three times by train so far. Because distances here are shorter between towns as compared to Canada, using trains makes a lot more sense than city to city planes or traveling by car. In fact there is great reliance on trains here and great grumblings when there are delays and cancellations that seem all too common. Luckily it has not affected me to this point. The last time up to London was for the Peoples Vote march on Saturday March 23rd.
,Mary volunteered us to hand out leaflets to get people to text that they were present so we were kitted out with tshirts and stickers and leaflets. I now have two new nightshirts. Mary, on the left, Sarah, on the right, a friend from college in 1968, and Suzie, likewise a friend from college, and I, did it together.
It was quite surreal walking through some of the poshest real estate in London, The Ritz, St. James Palace, where the Queen Mother lived, Pall Mall, on a protest march. The mood was very low key, didn’t see a policeman or policewoman all day except when they were accompanying the Horse Guard Parade. Lots of kids, and dogs, which I would have left at home, poor things. The excitement began on the bus from south east London when it was clear that there were people like us going to the march. It grew on the tube as more people were clearly going, and when we got out of the tube (subway) the place was packed with people streaming to the starting point.
I don’t think I have marched with 1 million people before! It really seems like the Tories are holding on as tightly as possible to get their Brexit through, but the mood is changing. People are fed up with the machinations and want to turn their attention to other issues, and are beginning to feel that they will be less well off under Brexit. They are twisting this way and that, now taking over the order sheet in Parliament to get other options voted on and Theresa May, bless her, is like a Jack Russell terrier with a bone. She will not give up but has no credibility at all. They all look like a bunch of jack assess to me. Hopefully, if they have a second vote it will be more decisive.
Spring is a leisurely season in England, unlike our speeded up version in southern Ontario where one week you turn off the heat, and the next turn on the air conditioning. We had snow drops in January, then crocus, and then an extended daffodil time, saw some today. Haven’t seen any tulips but the forsythia is now in bloom and the magnolia, and the fruit trees. And the green buds on the trees are getting greener every day. There are no sheep around the Kennet and Avon Canal so I am not seeing any more lambs unfortunately. We were seeing lots of male mallards chasing female mallards on the canal, but now only the males are around. Took me a bit to realize that the females are sitting on the nests. Will see the chicks soon. The spring is unfolding in its own sweet time and according to it’s own rhythm.
This trip keeps on bringing me back to a mental theme I have running in my head. How many of us actually consciously choose where we live, and how many fall into it. Falling into it can encompass any number of reasons. It is where we grew up, it is where the job is, or the partner. Or is seemed like a good idea at the time. When I was teaching at Centennial College on the border of Scarborough and Ajax on the eastern edge of Toronto I was always surprised at the number of students who had never considered moving any where else. Not even into Toronto, which seemed big and overwhelming to many of them, but was just down the road, or trainline, or subway. I arrived in Toronto for one year when I was 19, and have now been there for 42 years. The laws changed during the first year and allowed me to claim Canadian Citizenship through my Mom who was born in Toronto but married in England. Prior to Pierre Trudeau and his government in 1977 only the children of male Canadians living abroad could claim citizenship. He leveled the playing field. Mom, a proud Canadian, was all over it. She got citizenship lined up for all her 5 children. Sally was presented hers by Paul Martin Sr. who was the minister that drafted the law. It was in Durham Town Hall (see previous posts for pictures of Durham’s Town Hall). Mom heard that he was going to be in town and got it arranged. So Sally got her Canadian citizenship in Durham Town Hall. He said that although he had had a hand in the law it was the first time he had officiated at a ceremony. I was already living in Canada so it meant that I did not have to leave at the end of my intended one year. So I fell into Toronto. Wherever I travel the thing that stands out for me is that people are just getting on with their lives. Going to work, making a comfortable home, seeing friends and family, participating in their communities. And there are so so so many places to live. I would love it if we all really consciously chose where we wanted to live. Canada is a land of immigrants, and first nations people. The college that I taught in was the most multicultural college in Toronto. It was touted that over 80 languages were spoken there. Many were there as children of people who came to Canada for a better life for their children, others were international students. International students are a form of immigration.
The students pay amazingly high fees, three times the Canadian fees, because there is no government subsidy. After they have completed their studies they can work in Canada for a period of time, and many use that time to apply for residency. Canada has it made. They get Canadian trained young professionals as new immigrants who can get gainful employment. Quite a neat trick. Canada is not the only country doing this of course, many do, including England. In countries with falling birthrates, such as Canada, new immigrants are needed to keep the economy going, and to help pay for our retirement by paying taxes into the system. I finally saw a narrowboat with a black crew the other day. London is pretty multi-cultural, and there are lots of eastern Europeans here, but it is pretty bland overall in comparison to Toronto.
As I was teaching the above students I never ceased to be amazed at their courage. Young men, but also young women, traveling half way round the world from places like China, India, South Korea starting new lives in Canada. Some had family, but that is not always a good fit. Some not. I also taught students that were in Canada to escape the events happening in their own country. I had one student who was born in one country and her family fled to another in south east asia. I don’t remember the details, but they had a different calendar. She had no original papers, and did not know what her birthday was in the new calendar. I think she was maybe 5 feet tall, and petit, and finding her way on her own in Canada. She looked just like any other student in the college, but like so many, just under the surface there was a whole different story.
Our pub tonight, The Golden Swan in Wilcot. My first thatched pub. Stayed for dinner, Beef and Stilton Pie with mash and veg. Yum, and nowhere near weight watchers ideal.