What do these two photos have in common?
Red brick architecture, wooden tree branches both nakedly shedding their red glory and clinging on to green. Grey cement and yellow paint. Banners, flags and vehicles. Two communities in different nations an continents that bear the name “Westminster.” One is old and one is new.
I would keep you guessing, if possible, which one is in the 🇬🇧 but I have to give photo credit for the first image: Westminstermd.life taken in the Westminster district of London, England.
The second image was taken on my phone in uptown New Westminster.
Forest and I had a conversation how many “news” are found in the places of Canada and US (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, New Foundland, New York, New England…).
We could start a whole conversation from that about colonialism etc…. Let’s just say I am grateful for the name Saskatchewan and I am glad that the Queen Charlotte’s are now called Haida Gwaii.
I don’t mind the name New Westminster as much though. Its nickname of “Royal City” and its royal charm has a way of pushing through my dislike of British names in the Americas. Maybe it is because Queen Victoria was fondly thinking of her favourite neighbourhood. I can relate to that. New Westminster is where I had exciting new adventures as a child. We used to take the skytrain from our East Vancouver neighbourhood to the sensuous market filled with cookies and smells and coloured banners. A bit of imagination took my siblings and I daring river cruises in the old tugboat- now turned playground. Today I watch my niece’s imagination soar as she turns the very same wheel. New Westminster is where we bought affordable shoes at the Army and Navy and watched a blushing groom get a mouthful of pink lipstick on the verdant manicured lawns of the quay.
New Westminster was a safe and happy place in my little girl mind. A place where the sun was always shining (we never went there on a rainy day) where my companions were happy and the sidewalk was made of wood.
These memories are all from downtown New Westminster. (Images of that to come) My image above of uptown New Westminster is a place that I discovered only a few years ago when I stayed with some friends in the area. I remember the first time my friend referred to “uptown” I felt very sophisticated. Uptown is where lovely ladies buy pastries from the bakery and stroll across the street to the library. I hopefully pictured myself as one of those ladies.
I remember driving uptown to the Royal City Mall a few months later and buying Tylenol. Not for a headache, but to rapidly ingest and then relinquish in an Emergency room, in order to somehow quench and express the profound pain in my head and mind. The fear that words could not express.
I remember packing my things and moving away from New Westminster to my parents’ home on the island. I remember not feeling sophisticated at all.
Almost two years later I remember walking through a neighbourhood hand in hand with a young man and commenting on how quaint and elegant it was with iron park benches and red brick buildings.
Shortly after getting a ring on my finger and a place to call home I remember walking by Royal City Mall and feeling absolute joy.
I now frequent that Mall and that drugstore. Every time I go there for potato chips, nail clippers or allergy meds I am writing a new story on top of the old. Joy flowing over the pain. Health over sickness. I love seeing the senior citizens gathering in the food court to chat and chew. Memories of home support work and being very involved in senior’s lives. My life is full of young people now. I love the vibrant energy of youth but, every once in a while, I long for the company of Elders. I was at the mall this morning and an elderly gentleman held the door open for me and wished me a good day. Guys, that is how you impress a lady!
I still don’t see myself as very sophisticated, sitting on my couch in old faded pants and a punky hairstyle, sipping hydralite because my gut is furious with something that I fed it…. but I do see myself as a Princess in a Royal City saved by Amazing Grace.
For a brief history of New Westminster check out this link https://www.hellobc.com/new-westminster/culture-history.aspx
Have a lovely day ❤️