Dom Joly: It seems I come from the land of Chim Chim Cheree

 

Share
Related Topics

I am happily ensconced on the sunny shores of Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada, and enjoying the first holiday I've actually deserved in a very long time.

For the first week, we're staying with old friends at their wonderful cottage on Bruce Beach, a holiday community set up in the early 1900s by vacationing families of Scottish descent. This is still very apparent, with the Saltire flying over many of the cottages. There is even a mysterious bagpiper who appears over the dunes and pipes out the sunset – although he seems to turn up only if and when he fancies it. It is about as perfect a summer destination as exists in the world and we are blissfully happy.

There is, however, one problem. The couple we are staying with happen to be both of English descent although neither has lived in the UK, as quickly becomes clear when talking to them or any of their triplet offspring. Sadly, like most North Americans, their view of our fair land and how we plough our daily existence seems to derive almost entirely from Mary Poppins and the bastardised accent promoted by Dick Van Dyke in said musical monstrosity. Every time they lapse into a "British" accent to tease us, the words "guv'nor", "old bean" and "old chap" are never far away. However many times we try to persuade them that nobody has used the term "jolly good show" for decades, or that none of my children works as a chimney sweep, we are roundly ignored. It is astonishing how they view the UK as some kind of Victorian playground, full of bad-toothed ladies and gentlemen who will call a "bobby" at the drop of a top hat, should trouble be in the offing.

This reference to British police as "bobbies" is a favourite across North America. If I'm ever describing an incident that required official assistance I am invariably asked whether I called "the bobbies". This will normally be followed by an inquiry as to whether our "bobbies" still use "truncheons". This is always done to show me and anyone listening just how familiar the speaker is with Britain. Before I can reply, they will turn to any nearby third parties to announce, "The British bobby cannot carry guns. And did you know that they only have three TV channels?" Because shows such as Geordie Shore or the UK version of Big Brother never air over here, they are left with an extraordinarily rosy view of the UK.

The only properly modern references Canadians have of us are either the recent royal visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (an atypical British couple if there ever was one) or gross distortions on shows such as The Simpsons or Family Guy. When the Simpsons came to the UK who can forget the toe-curlingly awful appearance by Tony Blair, playing up to our uber-polite, squeaky-clean image?

The irony is that Canadians are the politest, nicest people imaginable, but they still look to Britain – the land of Jordan culture and the grumpiest service industry on earth – as some kind of fairy-tale idyll.

Back on the shores of Lake Huron, I return from an early-morning stroll on the beach to be welcomed back with a curious "Top of the morning to you, guv'nor" from one of the triplets. I try to explain that "top of the morning" is an Irish, not British, cliché – and that nobody uses it there, either – but it falls on deaf ears. Two of the girls shout "Pip, pip, cheerio", and cycle off to the Sugar Shack, a local candy store where they will load up with sweet things in an attempt to develop "British teeth". It's all very depressing. Somebody needs to beef up our PR, and fast.



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
William Hague, addresses delegates at the Conservative party conference for the last time in his political career in Birmingham  

It’s only natural for politicians like William Hague to end up as journalists

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'