Going (to my second) home

Posted Jul 6 2018, 1:45 am in , , ,

If, like me, you’ve spent half your adult life living outside the country of your birth, “home” is flexible.

Although “home” for me is wherever Tech Guy and English Rose are, beyond that, I often picture myself straddling a little island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, one leg stretched towards the UK, the other in the direction of Canada.

I’m happily settled in a small town in Eastern Ontario, Canada (an area where my family roots extend to 1819), but by virtue of living in England for so many years and holding dual Canadian/British nationality, England will always be my “second home.”

I haven’t been back to the UK since 2016, but in a few days, I’ll kiss Tech Guy and English Rose goodbye to fly to Manchester to spend a week in the north of England to attend a writing conference and visit friends.

Although I love Canada, I love England too and for reasons that go beyond its built heritage and pretty countryside, literary sites, fabulous fashion and shoes!

British reserve

As an introvert, I’m supremely comfortable in a country where chatting to strangers in public isn’t expected and indeed may (politely) be frowned upon.

And when chatting does take place, there’s something oddly reassuring about starting a conversation by talking about the weather. 


Along with understatement, self-deprecating British humour is one of the things I miss most about my adopted country.

People in the UK have mastered the art of sarcasm and irony, and also find humour in the foibles of everyday life in ways I haven’t experienced elsewhere.


Along with packing my suitcase and pulling out my British passport (in its pretty pink holder, a present from an English friend), I’m also dusting off the British vocabulary I don’t use in Canada except with my immediate family.

From being “gobsmacked” (astonished) to having something go “pear-shaped” (go wrong), British English brims with words to delight a wordsmith like me.

During my travels, I plan to visit several “shops” (stores) to buy “bits and bobs” (odds and ends), including stocking up on some favourite “sweets” (candies).

If the current UK heatwave continues, I may even have an “ice lolly” (popsicle) or a “99 Flake” (a vanilla ice cream cone with a melt-in-the-mouth crumbly chocolate bar).

The seaside

When I lived in England, I lived almost as far inland as it’s possible to be in an island nation. 

Yet, when I’m in the UK, and no matter the time of year, a trip to the seaside is one of my favourite ways to spend a day. There’s something about walking on a pier with the gulls wheeling overhead, a book tucked into my bag, and the smell of fish and chips on the breeze, that nourishes my soul.

Two countries and two identities coexist in my life. But when I step off the plane next Tuesday morning, the British part of me will once again and, if only briefly, be “home.”  






22 responses to “Going (to my second) home”

  1. Anne Kinch says:

    Have a wonderful time and a well deserved break in England! Although I haven’t lived there, I’ve enjoyed visits and having English ancestors including one set if grandparents being born there I’ve always felt it could be my second home too. Have fun!!

  2. Beth Tilbury says:

    Oh, Jen, I can relate so well. One of my favourite books is “Notes from a Small Island” by Bill Bryson, precisely for the reasons you mention; he is constantly delighted by the Brits’ quirks and language peculiarites. Wish I could squeeze myself into your suitcase! Have a “99 Flake” for me too, please.

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      I enjoyed that book by Bill Bryson too, Beth. I’m happy to have a “99 Flake” (or two!) for you. Internet access permitted, I hope to post a few trip pictures on Facebook in the next week.

  3. Jennifer Wilck says:

    Sounds wonderful. Have a great trip.

  4. Lally brown says:

    Lovely blog, made me smile Jen … I’d never thought of myself as you see us Brits, but I’m hugely flattered and happy to be slightly quirky! Though my hair does get cottery and my poggers do get cold in winter! Wish you could call into IOW and we cd eat fish and chips on the beach one evening! Safe journey, have fun xx

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      Thank you, Lally. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I have great affection for British people so I’m glad you’re flattered too! And thank you for introducing me to some new and wonderful words! I wish I could visit you on the IOW too. xx

  5. A gorgeous blog, Jen. It must have been strange living away from Canada for such a long time and it can’t always have been easy, but how wonderful to fly across the world to another country, knowing that it will feel like home. Very much looking forward to seeing you and to that “Croeso y Gymru” (Welcome to Wales) moment.

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      Thank you, Susanna. Living away from Canada for so many years was a life-changing and growing experience and yes, although difficult at times, it’s one that has shaped who I am and I wouldn’t change it. I’m very much looking forward to seeing you too and visiting Wales.

  6. Bon voyage …. as they say in Manchester

  7. Heidi Vanstone says:

    Bon voyage! I hope your time in the UK will be refreshing and rejuvenating. Enjoy the change of pace…and enjoy some Jaffa cakes for me, please!

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      Thank you, Heidi. I’m looking forward to this trip for so many reasons. And yes, I’ll indeed enjoy some Jaffa cakes for you! I’m hoping to bring a box home with me!

  8. Kirsten Hesketh says:

    Have a wonderful trip – I’m so sad I won’t get to meet you this time xx

  9. Lydia says:

    I hope you have a wonderful trip!

  10. Lynn Folliott says:

    Lovely blog post, Jen! You’re going to have a wonderful time. At some point we Canadians who just happen to love the UK, will have to meet for fish and chips, with our British friends. Sound like a good plan…Have a great time, Jen xo

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      Thank you, Lynn. I’m now back home and had a wonderful time in the UK! I like your idea of getting together for fish and chips with our British friends. I had a small “taste” of that when I had fish and chips with our mutual friend, author Susanna Bavin. xo

  11. I have a long shopping list at the ready…Neal’s Yard, Marks & Spencer, and definitely a .99 with a flake!

    Hope you have a great time, Jen!

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