This year, to celebrate Canada Day, I will be going to my office and siting through several meetings where neither beer nor burgers will be on offer. This is because I live in England and as you can well imagine, it hasn’t occurred to them that I might like to have the day off (and not have to take a holiday-day to get it).
I will not be sitting on The Mom’s back deck, drinking beer and complaining about the fact that nobody bought me the ice cream that you cut with a knife as though it were a loaf of bread that has a red maple leaf in the middle. Nobody will be telling me they have not done this because I don’t actually like ice cream and won’t eat it anyhow.
The smell of BBQ and freshly mowed lawns will not be in the air. In its stead will be the usual exhaust fumes that are chocking central London. It probably won’t even be warm and sunny and nobody else will be wearing red.
Though, some of my American colleagues have been stopping by my desk and asking me what the Canada Day Celebrations in nearby Trafalgar Square are about. Normally, I would chastise them severely for not knowing what Canada Day is, but in this instance I start yammering on about maple syrup and pancakes and horrible beer and people dressed head-to-toe in Roots branded clothing.
I feel a strange pang of homesickness on Canada Day when I am here in London. To explain it to the British is a strange and somewhat difficult thing to do as there is no such thing as England Day. There is St George’s day, in England, but nobody really celebrates it because that level of national pride is unseemly. The English don’t really get excited about anything like that. They will if there’s a good bit of complaining to be done, so if there was a national Complain About How Awful Things Have Got day, I suspect they’d be well up for it, but actually, having considered that momentarily, I do believe that’s actually most days.
They’ll do Canada Day sorts of things, but the English version, for the Diamond Jubilee. Get the bunting out, have little street parties but they’re not quite the same.
There is a robustness to Canada Day that just doesn’t translate. The idea – and this may be tinted by my rose-colored glasses as I look back across the Atlantic – that one would be outside in the fresh air and sunshine, doing a bit of yard work maybe, or swimming, or maybe going on a family nature walk, seems very un-English to me. Which is not to say those things aren’t done or enjoyed here, it’s just that, as far as I’ve seen anyhow, they’re always accompanied by a trip to the pub. Whereas, though I would very much have a beer or two or three on Canada Day at home, it would be after a day of fun in the sun and more wholesome activities.
The idea that you would happily enjoy a day off, spend it with your family or friends, and just chill out in the backyard, slowly drinking some beer and watching the world go by is at odds with this place. I think it’s the pace of things. Everything here, by which I mean London, not England, is go go go. If it’s a bank holiday weekend, then everybody fits in as much partying as possible.
But that’s not how we roll at The Mom’s. I wish I was there for the annual washing of the hounds, the dithering over whether or not we’ll go en masse to see the fireworks (which The Mom claims can be seen from the back deck, which is in no way true), the cajoling of people into the swimming pool, the homemade burgers on the BBQ, the slice of supermarket cake someone will have been forced to go and get me because I was complaining so much about the ice cream. I suppose what I miss most isn’t the Canadianness of the whole thing but rather, that the day properly sets the tone for the summers that, as a perpetual student, I got quite used to having.
The long, hot, sunny days, shuffling about in a swim suit and shorts, watching the world go by. So this year, instead of that, I’ll put on my best red shirt and wink to the other ex-pats rushing toward Trafalgar Square.
I did make it to Trafalgar Square, to see what was what, and at the merchandise stand I found this: