Thursday, 11 September 2014

Born In The U.K., Eh?

Sometimes, i really do wonder who i am, where i belong. When i was a teenager (and younger), growing up in post-war England, i wanted more than anything to be American. We had rationing and although i can't really say i lacked for anything, except maybe chocolate (and i've never really developed a taste for it), Americans seemed so much more interesting, and so well-off. Of course, this impression came from television -- i still remember the ad for Nescafe, saying that it was "America's Favourite Coffee," although obviously at that age i didn't drink coffee. And one of the first television programmes i remember, was "I Love Lucy." And i wanted to live there. Somehow, though, i wound up in Canada.

The first American city i ever visited, was Buffalo, New York. No, really. And i remember that i was so proud and happy to have American food in my stomach and American dirt on my shoes.So i went to the States as often as i could -- tours up and down the east coast a couple of times, Boston once, Detroit twice (to see concerts by The Kinks and David Bowie) New York City many times -- i actually lived and worked there for a little while and in fact i still think of it as being my spiritual home, it's just so dynamic, so much energy, so much going on.

But then something happened. Actually, Margaret Atwood happened. I read a couple of her novels, which were delightful, but more than anything, her non-fiction book "Survival" -- a brilliant look at how Canada and the USA, sharing one vast land mass, developed very different cultures and how Canada's climate and topography influenced its national identity. I was fascinated, started to read more Canadian writers (Robertson Davies, Mordecai Richler, Marie-Clair Blais), became interested in Canadian history (the doomed Franklin expedition haunts me, and find it hilarious that the Canadian Civil War was basically a bar fight LOL) (The Battle Of Montgomery's Tavern.) I started a bachelor's degree program at York University called "Studies In Canadian Culture" and was enthused, threw myself into it. This country has nothing to feel inferior about (although feeling inferior is a national characteristic). It was a Canadian artist (whose name i forget, but he was one of the Group Of Seven) who first painted shadows on snow as being blue. Well, they are blue! But no one had ever depicted them that way before...

But then something else happened, in 1977 or thereabouts, and it was a pub, it was The Duke Of Kent. It was an English-styled that opened in my neighbourhood, and i there met such a great bunch of ex-pat Brits, and it was there that i started to recall my English heritage. Some of the people i met there were so great -- and i remain friends with a few of them to this day -- i began to re-embrace my Englishness, and i was proud of it.

Now, though, after many years of listening to British music almost exclusively, reading books by British writers almost exclusively, i have entered the autumn of my years and have reverted to my younger self in a way, and have begun to recall my earlier Americophilia.

A couple of years ago, i was complaining to my friend Dave that my morning radio station -- to which i had been a devoted listener for years -- had changed ownership or management or something and had gone into the toilet; it had become unlistenable. Dave, who lives in St Clair, Missouri, suggested i might like a station called KSHE from St Louis and i checked it out online and ... thereby Dave changed my life.

I have written previously about how much i feel attracted to St Louis, an attraction that was kick-started primarily by KSHE and solidified by my own research into the place  -- and here's something that will gratify my Anonymous commentator -- i am planning a trip for next year -- but here's something else. Through Dave, i have become friends, on Facebook, with quite a few people from the St Louis area, and they are a wonderful bunch! I'm really looking forward to meeting them and i'm starting to feel American again.... So. Full circle?

p.s., i'm posting this on September 11th, a day on which we are all of us, every one, Americans.


M.K. Cox said...

Thank you for that! It's a privilege to have such a wonderful perspective from someone fortunate to have lived, loved and embraced more than one culture in one lifetime. Your final sentiment brought me to tears. Is it now time for you to come home? God bless you.

Freg said...

Maybe it is. Bless you, too, Kit.