Living On a Canadian Commune Has Made Me Hate the UK
“It’s just work, pub, drugs, work, pub, drugs, and football.”
Johnny Thorpe hates being back in the UK. Photos via Government of Canada/Dave Ehrenreich
Recently, we put out a documentary on Poole’s Land, an enchanting, strange commune in Tofino, BC.
One of the characters, Johnny Thorpe, a 28-year-old musician from London who sings in the band The Comfortably Sauvage, recently went back to the UK. He’s lived at Poole’s on and off for a year and a half but he’s worried because his tourist visa runs out on April 2. He wants to become a permanent resident of Canada.
In short, he said being back home in Southend-on-Sea, England “fucking sucks.”
VICE caught up with Johnny to ask why re-acclimatizing to the UK has been tough, and why he loves commune life so much.
VICE: How has it been being back in the UK?
Johnny Thorpe: It fucking sucks. Everyone is so angry, they are all the kings and queens of their own castles and they are mad about it. They work too hard to buy one of everything, or a TV in every room in most cases. They are mad that they have to work so hard for all of these little things when they could just go without certain things. They don't share (which would mean working less), they have no recreation. It’s just work, pub, drugs, work, pub, drugs, and football. They don't spend quality time with their kids. There have been a few stabbings since I have been back and everyone just accepts it like the Americans when a school gets shot up. They blame all their problems on immigration instead of their leaders. They are old fashioned in their thinking, don't appreciate culture, or nature, or softer minded or artistic people. They are tough, and stuck. The weed is $15 a gram and still illegal, which don't make sense as Canada is already way in front with this.
What made you go to Poole’s?
I joined in May 2017. We were told to go there by [manager Michael] Goodliffe when we stumbled across the Tofino open mic. it was serendipity. The nature and way I was treated made me stay. [My friend] Harry and I built a cabin because Harry had a concussion.
What were you doing when you lived in London?
I lived above and ran a pub. I was not the same person I am now.
Why are you back there?
I got back on November 24. I'm in the UK for 10 weeks to promote my music before I head back to Canada and try and secure my residency. I will have one month left in Canada to make it so, as my new tourist visa runs out on April 2.
What do you miss about Canada and Poole’s?
I miss nature, I miss culture, diversity, space, and isolation and I am going to do everything in my power to get back to Canada and stay there. Although I have no money and no education and music does not pay, so I'm pretty stuck. I miss my friends, I miss the forest. Oh, and it rains just as much as the rainforest here but with none of the beauty. In short, it's pretty damn bleak. I wish people would care for each other more here, I wish they would all drive across Canada to show how small this country really is and how driving the hour to see you family, friends, and dying relatives isn't that difficult, even if you have got bloody work in the morning. Basically, we are very good slaves here and instead of community values of raising our kids together and growing and eating healthy food with good company we are all just trying to pay for our ridiculously expensive houses and cost of living. It’s like $2.50 a litre for gas, when everywhere is basically within walking distance.
So you want to be Canadian?
I always wanted to be Canadian, and if I ever hear a Canadian say that they are having a bad time of it, I suggest they come to England. There are a few places to retreat, it’s the same places the native Britons have retreated to for thousands of years: Cornwall, Devon, Wales, Highland Scotland, and the outer islands. The rest of the place is a boiling pot and one days it will boil over into civil unrest. I am certain of it.
Do you think things can change in the UK?
There are people like me for sure who want change but they moan but don't change anything, and I have not the energy to keep explaining that there is another way to live. We make fun of people who are different in this country and we have no time for mental health issues. ‘Get over it’ would be the normal response to these things. Quick to anger, slow to see a different way. I don't think I can waste my breath on these people any more, they just ridicule me.
What is your hope for the future?
I intend to become the manager of an intentional community centred around a bar on the beautiful Gambier Island [in BC]. It will be the only bar there. We will have workers like the Pooles Land workers and staff accommodation. Hopefully we will have 20 Pooleslanders working there. Basically Poole's Land and in particular Michael Goodliffe has made this all possible. He has constructed a little crew over the years of the Pooligans he can trust and now wants to progress with them. Rags to riches style. We want money so we can escape society if that makes sense.
Interview has been condensed for style and clarity.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.
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