He has served me often, but today, asked me, as I ordered my latte, “Are you Irish?” I nodded, smiling. “I’m Welsh. He is English and she is Scottish”. I was among friends! “Where in Ireland are you from?”, the Scottish lady asks, “Donegal”. She laughs; her mother lived there too.
As yet, I have only met one Irish family in the Prairies, who emigrated here 30 years ago. In response to this dearth of Irish-ness, I now embrace the entire British Isles as home, and that sometimes extends to Europe, especially when we discuss the difference in politics.
When I first planned my adventure, I received welcomed advice from an Irish immigrant settled in Vancouver. She warned me, you may now feel that you want to escape Ireland, but when you arrive, choose a place that has an Irish community to support you. I scoffed. Me, old independent me on a fresh journey? Give me new people, new backgrounds, new accents. Arriving in the Rocky Mountains, the melting pot of eclectic internationals, I relished the differences. Anzac day and Australia Day, Remembrance Sunday and Thanksgiving, Christmas across the world, food, drink, pastimes and words, our politics, our values, our clothes.
Now, I understand my predecessor’s advice. It isn’t that I resent or tire from people asking about Robert Burns’ night (Scottish), or their disbelief that the Queen is not my Queen, though I am very happy for the Royal Pregnancy. I don’t really mind explaining the Troubles, how much things have settled, or current tensions. I enjoy the opportunity to explain my culture, my history and heritage. But, oh how nice, for there to be no explanations required. Remember when different meant those from Dublin, or Kerry? Great Britain was a whole other island. Now those accents sound like home.
It seems to me that is by being far away from home, we stop concentrating on that which divides us, and instead look for the familiar. Here, I look for what is the same, sounds the same, tastes the same. The Welsh, English and Scottish don’t just know Eastenders and Coronation Street, they know Brookside and Emmerdale, and are lucky enough to not know about Fair City. They know too what the 80s were like and the effect of the current recession. They know what crisps are, appreciate Cadbury’s and good tea. They too can cope with 7 days straight of rain.
In the end, what warms me, is the connection. Here is the Irish, the Scot, the Welsh and the English. So, it turns out, not far from my Canadian home, there is a little place I can go to that feels, just a little bit, like my home on the other side of the Atlantic.