I grew up in North Bay, Ontario, a child of parents so English that the space on their passports for citizenship could only be filled in: British Beyond Belief. They had colorful accents and amusing habits and never allowed themselves to be influenced by Canadians. Consequently I lived in England at home and Canada at school.
Things were further confused by my growing up Catholic. British people aren't supposed to be Catholic, but I attended a Catholic boys' school called Scollard Hall where I was subject to the usual bullying and injustice. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Eventually, I negotiated a deal with my parents that got me into a regular school for grades twelve and thirteen. Algonquin Composite had actual girls in it and consequently my attendance improved.
The result of this peculiar background was that I never felt truly Canadian; I always felt like a visitor. Then, in 1980, I moved to New York City where I lived for the next 22 years. Americans treat Canadians in their midst with a sort of amused condescension that's quite touching. You know: "They come down here, they take our women..."
Living in New York gave me enough distance from northern Ontario to see it through a very long lens. I now visit North Bay and it seems exotic. It is exotic. It's ridiculous that anybody should live there, really, in the land of ice and snow. I mean, what kind of person comes to a hunk of rock surrounded by ice and pine trees and figures it's a good bet to settle down there? Okay, fur traders. But as soon as they have enough money fur traders head for Florida just like everyone else.