Back in England again (I’m making quite a habit of it), but this time with the whole family and a 2-week itinerary which includes visits to pretty much everyone we know, with some downtime thrown in.
So, I could go on and on about the beautiful countryside, the amazing food, the wonderful supermarkets, the great history and of course, our beautiful, amazing, wonderful and great family and friends who met us, hosted us, spoiled us and treated us. I could go into great detail about the golden sand of Bournemouth beach, the majesty of Worcester Cathedral, the pungent woods carpeted in wild garlic and the total nuttiness of the Dr Who Experience at Olympia, but it would all be too much.
Instead, as this blog is supposed to be about emigrating to Vancouver, I’ll focus on just one difference I have found between the UK and our new home. Forget the driving, the thickness of bacon and the price of wine. Let’s talk about Rules.
When we first arrived in Vancouver, we crept about nervously, waiting to get the hang of the rules. As Brits, we know there must be rules – Keep Off The Grass, No More Than 2 Schoolchildren in Shop, Exact Change Only etc etc. Sometimes, they are secret, unwritten rules, passed down from generation to generation (the category that includes most table manners, for example) and others that just apply to your town, your county or your family (the rules of Monopoly only become a problem when you try playing it with someone outside your immediate family). In time we learned to relax and accept that Vancouver doesn’t have rules, it has values. The city operates on the thought process which goes something like this; “You can throw down litter if you like, but why would you, when everything’s so pretty, and there’s so many groovy bins around?”
So our return to England was a lot of fun, and when we got bored we played the “Spot The Don’t Sign”; first one to see a sign which wouldn’t be seen in Vancouver, got a prize. My favourite was the washrooms on the pier at Bournemouth. They are hard to find (public washrooms are a precious commodity in England), but worth the search. You go down a staircase, divided in the middle with one side marked Down and the other side Up (there’s even a No Entry sign on the Up side). There are miles of beautifully tiled corridors before you eventually emerge into a huge cavern, lined with cubicles and a central stand of wash basins. On the wall was the best selection of Don’t signs including Don’t Wash Your Feet In The Basins! and No Changing In The Toilets!
Bear in mind, this is a public washroom on a beach. A glorious, golden sandy beach packed with visitors in the sunny weather. Somewhere where people will get sandy and salty and want a chance to shower off and change into fresh clothes before they decide to extend their stay in town and spend some of their touristy money at a local restaurant or theatre. In Vancouver, these washrooms would have showers, footbaths, drinking fountains and changing space, and be regularly cleaned. The signs would read “Wash Your Feet In The Basin”, “Shower All You Like, Plenty of Hot Water”, “Heck, Live Here If You Want To”.
Whilst on the subject of washrooms, the lack of them and the lack of cleaners for them, I should mention Gheluvelt Splashpad in Worcester. A derelict old paddling pool has been replaced with a wonderful, state of the art spray park which would not look out of place in Stanley Park. It is surrounded by green slopes for picnics, benches for watchful parents, and, guess what? No Washrooms! The washrooms are on the far side of the park – quite a trek with a dripping toddler. Stanley Park provides not just washrooms but a giant Kid Dryer, blowing hot air on children who, like mine, really believe they are not going to get wet if they just play around the edge… whoops, too late!
We had a wonderful visit, and it was reassuring to find that we love England for all her eccentricities, but mostly as the place where we will find the people we love. But this time, as the plane landed in Vancouver, I was glad to be home.