Opinion: Victoria – not so much a slice of England

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A new store, Limey, has just opened opposite Capital Iron town center, and it’s packed with English fare like Marmite, Hobnobs cookies and Yorkshire Tea, plus plenty of English sweets, including selections from Christmas Cadbury.

They always bring more stuff and there is a board where you can write a product that you would like them to bring. The board is chock full of requests. In my case, Schweppes diet bitter lemon, a drink that still evokes happy memories and puckered lips. You can take the boy out of the country, but not the boy’s country, as they say.

I found it a bit odd that a shop selling exclusively British food would find a market in Victoria, a city that is becoming more and more cosmopolitan and less and less of the passing day English stereotype.

Of course, there is always tea at The Empress, but Marks & Spencer and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Madame Tussauds – where you can admire waxworks of the Royal Family and replicas of the Crown Jewels – and countless countless tearooms (or shoppes, being Olde English) and confectionery and tartan shops have all but disappeared.

I guess Craigdorrach Castle and Government House suggest some Anglishness, but I’m not sure promoting Victoria as a little piece of England is a good idea in these times of anti-colonial sentiment.

Some even the names Victoria and British Columbia evoke a colonial past. Then again, London was once called – under the Roman conquerors – Londinium and no one has really changed it much since they left. Maybe one day we will move to Vic West – the whole town – and the province will become Lalaland. At least we would know where we are. Sort of.

But that’s a bigger question. And one, more seriously, that we might have in the future. But I am not yet ready to enter this debate.

For those purposes, the least question is British food, which has one of the worst culinary reputations on the planet, and why we always flock to get it.

After all, you can get a selection of British food at Fairway Market – as well as Portuguese, Chinese, and Dutch dishes – and a few items at Thrifty’s. Orr’s, the Scottish butchers of Saanichton, has a large selection of British imports such as mashed peas, Irn Bru soda, Cornish wafers and Walkers crisps. As well as, of course, the Ayrshire bacon.

Limey’s, on early indication, identified a market. And not just because we’ve been a Little English stereotype for so long. The original Limey’s has been operating in Kelowna for many years, which is not a hotbed of expatriate English.

So good luck to them. And the Indian, Japanese, Polish, Thai, Chinese, Ukrainian and French food stores in the city. The more – and the more diverse – the happier.

And when Mr. Kipling’s cherry pies and cakes arrive in Limey later this week, as they tell me, then I’ll be back – looking for a souvenir.

Ian Haysom is Consulting Editor-in-Chief at CHEK Media Group


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