12 April 2012

Year 2, Day 103 (Guest Blogger: Julie Mollins)

New World v Olde Worlde: a stranger in a familiar land

If my calculations are correct, I’ve moved 31 times.

I’ve moved as a resident between Britain and Canada four times, and between the United States and Canada twice.

I’ve lived in 10 different places in Toronto, where I was born. I’ve also lived in various places in Ottawa, Stratford and Gananoque, Ontario, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In each of Washington, D.C., and Edmonton, Alberta, I had only one abode.

I consider myself fortunate to have moved about so much, although each move has resulted in both gains and losses. Without a doubt, returning to Britain in 2008, where I lived as a child, has been the most disorienting move of all. For some reason, almost everyone assumes I’m an American citizen.


The weirdest thing of all about moving to London has been that I’ve felt more alien in this familiar place than in any of the unfamiliar places to which I’ve moved in the past.
I had been with Reuters for three years when I applied for a position in 2008 and was transferred to work on the online desk in London.
My earliest memories are here.
My mother is from a small village called Grayshott on the Surrey-Hampshire border. As a child, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents in their home, Bidston, on Crossways Road.

To me, a person without a proper root in any particular geographic location, Britain is a home country, but no one I meet realizes it because of my Canadian accent.

It’s perhaps not so surprising that almost everyone in Britain assumes I’m from “America” because of the similarities between certain U.S. and Canadian English-language accents.
What seems truly funny is the disdainful treatment I receive due to my supposed “American-ness” by the citizens of a country so economically, politically and militarily tied to the United States.


My mother is English, her parents were English and Welsh, and so on up the generations, as far back as I know. My father is Canadian.
My father’s father was born just outside Boston in Melrose, Massachusetts, but lived most of his life in Canada.

During the First World War, my grandfather served from 1915 to 1918 in Horsham, England, and on the battlefields of France as an artilleryman with the 2nd Canadian Siege Battery, which was later incorporated into the 98th Canadian Siege Battery.

His parents, my great-grandparents, were Canadian. Their ancestors, who emigrated to New Brunswick in 1813, were also English, from the region now known as Cumbria. We can trace my Canadian grandmother’s ancestral presence in the New World -- to New England in the United States -- as far back as the 1700s. As Nickersons, Armours, and Sowerbys, we think they were Scottish and English.


Of course, sounding like a foreigner in a society which places a premium on accents -- see George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play “Pygmalion” in which the upper class Henry Higgins teaches Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, to speak “proper” English -- can have its benefits.

Very few strangers can “pigeonhole” me accurately.

There’s a certain amount of freedom in being an alienated, passport-carrying, classless stranger in a familiar land.

The opinions and viewpoints expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of her employer, nor any other professional entity with which she may be affiliated.

Julie, aside from being a London-based journalist working at Reuters (AlertNet) with an interest in the arts, also has a couple blogs of her own: one of various posts & articles she has written, and one of her photography. Clearly, she's a very busy woman, which makes me even more honored that she agreed to cover for me. She can also be found on Twitter, either on her professional (AlertNet) account, or her personal one.

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