Jack Knox: Stepping back, Harry? You’ll fit in nicely here

Dear Prince Harry — May I call you Prince? Probably not. You’re not a golden retriever.

Sorry, this is new territory for us. If your just-finished North Saanich holiday left us unfazed, the news that you might be relocating here semi-permanently sent us into a flutter. (“Great Trudeau’s beard, they’re coming back!” I exclaimed. “You polish the corgis, I’ll hide the empty beer cans under the porch.”)

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We don’t even know how (or whether) to greet you should we end up in line together at the Sidney Bakery. Curtsy? Fist bump? Probably best to avoid repeating that episode where Mr. Bean head-butted the Queen while trying to bow.

Speaking of your grandmother, we understand she’s miffed about your decision to “step back” from the family firm and spend more time on this side of the pond.

Never mind. Stories such as yours are common here. Should you move to Vancouver Island, you will find no shortage of people who, despite the little choking noises emitted by their parents, chose to “step back” from medical school/Bay Street/the Vietnam War in favour of a promising career in batik-based fashion at the Moss Street market, or whatever.

In fact, making a conscious decision to jump off the escalator is pretty much a prerequisite for relocating to our edge-of-the-world paradise. If you want to rocket to the top, go to Toronto, the centre of the (Canadian) universe. If you want to pick a bucket of blackberries, come here instead. For all the rah-rah of those who want to portray Victoria as a high-energy, high-tech hub packed with people rushing around in suits so hip and stylish that they appear to have been made for a slightly smaller man, to most of us it’s still a provincial backwater, tucked away in the lower lefthand corner of Canada like a stray sock forgotten in a drawer. That’s its greatest attraction.

This is a place for those who come from somewhere else, looking for something else. History has brought them to Vancouver Island in waves: Spanish sailors, British traders, Chinese labourers, California gold miners, Finnish Utopians, ’60s dropouts, American refugees escaping the Trumpistan madness. Gulf Islands thrift stores glitter with the designer labels and corporate climbing gear (shirts, ties, shoes, pants) that their owners have shed in favour of Gore-Tex and gumboots.

True, as an outsider, you will at first have many questions about your new home:

“Why do we have pints of beer but litres of gas?”

“Why does no one own a snow shovel, even though it snows every year?”

“What is a two-sailing wait, and why should I be upset about it?”

“Why is Ice Road Truckers on the History Channel?”

Don’t worry, you won’t take long to fit in. Just as no one waves a Maple Leaf flag as vigorously as an immigrant (22 per cent of Canadians were born outside Canada, BTW) no one embraces the Island lifestyle as passionately as those who opted to come here from another place. After a year, you’ll think the Royals are a hockey team. After two, you’ll eat kale on purpose and think the Greens have a chance of forming government.

Now, perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. To be honest, there is little evidence, aside from the game of Where’s Waldo/Meghan currently playing out on the Saanich Peninsula, that you plan to replant yourselves on Vancouver Island at all.

There is a solid case to be made for making this your North American base, though. It’s safe, secluded, leafy, enjoys a moderate* climate (*ignore what happens next week), is part of the Commonwealth and, best of all, is 7,662 kilometres from the kind of unrelenting, invasive scrutiny from which anyone would want to shield those they love.

Jeez, if you needed validation that you made the right choice in fleeing the circus, just look at the reaction you’ve been getting from the clowns since making your announcement.

Even as an ardent monarchist (I can tolerate Canadian republicans; it’s not their fault that they are totally dead inside) I am aghast at the vicious treatment you have been getting from British royalists. We haven’t seen that kind of over-the-top, bile-spitting indignation since Victoria began building bike lanes. You’d think you were defecting to North Korea, not bunking in North Saanich. Yet they wonder why you would want to come here, far from the baying hounds.

Anyway, welcome. You’ll fit right in among the rest of the people who decided to “step back” into the life they want.

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