Adjustments

We landed at Heathrow about 8:45 on Wednesday morning. Thanks to e-passport readers, we were through immigration in about five minutes, picked up the bags with a two-minute wait, and waited perhaps ten minutes for the bus to the car rental location. Another fifteen minutes and some paperwork, and we were on the road.

We’ve done this so many times. Forty minutes or so north-and-and east on the M25, the London Orbital, and off the motorway at South Mimms for coffee and breakfast at the services there. Back to the motorway for a short time, and then swing north on the M11, then the A11, then the A1065 and the B1112 to Lakenheath RSPB Reserve by late morning.

Here we’ll walk for a couple of hours, shoving North American birds to the back of our brains and retrieving the British ones. So many adjustments these first few days: the birds, the money, the side of the road to drive on (BD is expert at this, whereas it takes me a few days); names of things, behaviours. We finish our walk, eat our lunch, and make the last leg of the journey, an hour or so into the village and our little rented bungalow, home for the next two months. We retrieve the keys from the lockbox, open the front door, say hello to the house. Back out for quick shop for enough food for dinner and breakfast; tomorrow we’ll do a proper shop. Jet lag is kicking in, but the house is familiar; there are no surprises here. We know where everything is in the kitchen and how the stove works.

Am I home? Or am I home in Canada? We’ve lived with this duality all our lives: two citizenships, two passports, two countries to call home. I’ve stopped trying to answer that question, because both places feel like home, in different ways. Our families’ roots are deep here, shallow in Canada; our personal roots are deeper in Canada, shallower but getting deeper every year here. Unlike for some people with dual citizenship, there isn’t a deep moral choice to be made: both countries are democracies, both have universal human rights, universal health care and reasonable social support. Canada has better state-funded schools, probably. Britain has better public access to land for walking. Small differences, those last two, but huge for us. We preferred our teaching careers to be in Canadian schools; we prefer the access to the countryside here. And that no-one thinks birders are odd. And the weather: it was -18 C the morning of the day we left Canada. It’s 8 degrees C here.

Our life is smaller here. The bungalow is much smaller than our house. We have only one car. We shop more often, because the fridge is half the size of the one in Canada. All of this is ok. There’s a good library, a good butcher with local meats and game, a good little grocery store. The market town ten minutes away has everything else we need.

So, yes, I’m home. (Except I miss the cats, but they are being well taken care of by our long-term house/cat sitter.) I can love two countries: I loved both my parents, after all. It’s pretty much the same thing.

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