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Canada and the UK aren’t really that different, but there are a few things that separate the two countries, beyond a common language.

The first is volume. North Americans don’t have really quite the same adherence to an indoor voice as people living in the UK do. I say this as a North American who is also frequently loud. And as one who was told, in her first couple of years in this country, to please speak in a softer tone of voice, at home, and in the office.

As we were travelling from Gatwick to King’s Cross, The Mom was happily chattering away, blissfully unaware that the other passengers o this very packed train were mostly silent or if they were having conversations, they were doing so in quieter tones. But The Mom was happily chirping along, her volume raised no doubt to reach my slightly deaf ears over the sound of the train. I appreciate of course that she was thrilled to be visiting, and had much to say, however I doubt very much that the other passengers found her rather detailed account of her journey as amusing.

Later, when we were travelling back to Bristol, I had accidentally booked us on the Quiet Carriage. IF you’re unfamiliar with this most wonderful of things, it’s exactly what it sounds like: it is one carriage on the train where there is no talking, no music, and generally people read or sleep. It is my favourite way to travel. I didn’t realise the train company had saved my preferences, and so when I picked up the tickets I found that we were to be seated in Carriage A. Nevermind, I thought, The Mom will probably be tired and enjoy looking out the window watching the scenery go by. It was a packed train – if you didn’t have reservations, you were standing – so I was glad I’d thought to book. Unfortunately, we weren’t seated together. Some kind young man offered to change so we could sit together. And then The Mom proceeded to narrate the entire journey. Again, I was thrilled at her delight, however, each time I shushed her she looked more indignant.

I seem to remember long car rides when we were children when she pleaded with us to just shut up. It would appear that the tables have indeed turned.

The other thing is that you don’t leave any of your belongings behind, ever. I learned this is London. You don’t ask the person sitting next to you to watch your stuff while you go to the bathroom like you would in Toronto. You don’t ask someone to watch your drink. And even if it’s just a jacket, you don’t just leave it there with no one watching it while you prance off to the toilets.

The Mom and I had been in Exmouth. A fairly sleepy seaside town. I had to nip to the shop to grab a couple of things, and left The Mom in the restaurant where we were eating lunch. She said she’d visit the ladies and then we’d meet up and carry on. I came back in rather good time, and looked at the table where we’d been sitting. No sign of The Mom but sure enough, she’d left her jacket behind. I ran over to get it, wondering what exactly was going through her mind. I ran into her outside the bathroom and handed it back to her, crossly.

“You forgot this at the table,” I said.

“No, I left it there.”

“You left it there? Why would you do that? Someone could’ve taken it!”

“I left it so you’d know I’d just gone to the bathroom.”

“I knew that because you told me what you were doing.”

“Who’d want to take my jacket?”

“People! We do not leave things unattended!”

She gave me this look like, too much paranoid TV for you, and also please calm down. But I know of what I speak. True enough, I nearly had my jacket stolen in London some years ago. Granted, it was London, but if The Mom thinks it’s okay to do something in one place, she’ll extrapolate and then she’ll have no jackets left.

The only saving grace is that she listened to me about not having an open flappy shopping bag as her purse. Because look, pick pockets and that sort of thing. Crowded tubes, trains. I was taught this by a friend who kept admonishing me to get a better bag or at least wear mine at the front because people would steal my stuff otherwise. In order to prove his point, he’d frequently relieve me of my notebook, wallet, and whatever else, returning it after we’d got off the tube. I learned. Thank goodness I didn’t have to teach The Mom that.

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