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December 2019
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Family Canoe Camping

IMG_0291After a bit of persuading, I managed to talk Jo and the girls into a canoe trip back in May. Four days paddling in Algonquin park, the plan was to drive to Rock Lake, portage into Penn Lake, find a campsite for three nights before returning back the same way – it was a simple introduction for the family and our friends Craig, Christine and Pippa.

Algonquin is an awesome place to paddle, with so many lakes linked together by short paths (often created many years ago by moose and other animals walking between the hundreds of lakes). It is so large it is possible to quickly get away from the hustle of everyday life , and with just a loaded canoe, there’s not much that can beat it.


IMG_0151The paddle in was good once we had split Millie and Sophie up. A quick portage and then time to find a campsite. At this point the heavens opened just to coincide with setting up camp. Luckily it did not last and then we had the excitement of seeing a mother moose and baby no more than 100m from our camp site.

The portage takes a bit of planning, get everything unloaded and piled together. Then pick up what you can, and carry it to the next lake. In our case, we made two trips, so we came back and collected the canoes and the last few things. Once you are used to it the easiest way to carry a canoe is for one person to lift it up, upside down and carry it resting on your shoulders.


IMG_0122We ate well, with fresh brownies for breakfast, thanks to the camp oven.  I will say though that Jo and the girls refused to rely on catching our own supper, so it meant packing in all of our food and packing out all of the trash.

The weekend also introduced Jo and Sophie to backcountry toilets – the Thunderbox! A wooden box on top of a hole in the ground. The openness makes it an experience everyone should enjoy at least once, there’s something very calming about sitting out in the middle of the woods.


IMG_0275Saturday and Sunday were spent paddling, collecting wood, and a bit of fishing/ moose watching (the mother moose did not move from her spot on the lake whilst we were there.

Then Monday was time to break camp, and head back. Once again, just as we were packing up the heavens opened so we packed hurriedly before paddling back to civilization.



Belize – March Break

Just trying to catch up on a few posts that should have been made some time ago.


Our Cabana at the Tropical Centre

Back in March, we had a wonderful week in Belize with Island Expeditions on their ‘Glover’s Reef and River of Caves’ trip. It was an opportunity to get some sunshine after one of the coldest winters in Montreal. We flew to Belize City and then meet up with our guide who took us along with the rest of the group to the Tropical Centre for two nights.

On our first evening, we were treated to a night tour of Belize zoo. It was quite different seeing and hearing the animals – jaguars, howler monkeys, tapirs etc in the dark and when they are more active. The noise of the howler monkeys was incredible, and easy to see why it had been used for the T-Rexs in Jurassic Park.

Day 2 saw us heading into the jungle, with a trek through caves and jungles until we got to a river. Along the way we saw Mayan artefacts, and enjoyed the humidity of the jungle. then it was time to grab an inner tube and float down the river through some more caves back to the start.


Glover’s Reef

Day 3 we headed to Dangriga, a small town on the coast, where we picked up the boat to Glover’s Reef. This was Jo’s worst nightmare, a small fast boat bouncing off the waves for an hour as we headed out to the atoll, but once we were there… that was a different story. We were based on a small island with white sand and coconut trees in the middle of the turquoise green ocean. We quickly dropped our things in our tents (well, canvas cabins with beds) before a lunch of fresh fish and salads. The afternoon saw an introduction to sea kayaking, all made so much easier by the bath warm water!

The rest of the week was spent kayaking, snorkelling, standup paddleboarding, kayak

A glimpse of Paradise

A glimpse of Paradise

sailing, fishing, and relaxing – so good. Jo had arrived apprehensive about anything to do with water, and had no intention of putting her face in the water, but thanks to the patience of two of our guides by the end of the week Jo had overcome her fear of water and was snorkelling around the patch reefs and able to enjoy the amazing variety and colours of fish that lived on the reefs. The names and numbers are too numerous to remember, but we saw rays, and sharks, amongst the huge number of fish.

One thing we enjoyed was the food, which was fresh and tasty. All prepared on the island, with fish caught that day, or milk from the coconuts growing on the island. It was nice to have food that was not full of chemicals or genetically modified ingredients.

The girls enjoyed themselves, Millie especially liked the paddleboarding, and Sophie took to the snorkelling. I got the chance to go out on a fishing trip, although the much anticipated flyfishing for bone fish had to be postponed until next time as it was a bit on the windy side.

IMG_5778All too soon it was over and we were bouncing off the waves on the way to the mainland and the long flight home.

It was a great vacation and well worth going. Now we just have to decide when to go back.

What a Winter!

We’re just coming through our seventh winter here in Montreal. I think it’s true to say that not one has been the same and we still can’t work out the “typical” winter. Snow came early this year – we saw our first snow settle towards the end of November. However, some mild weather just before Christmas meant that it was all gone for the festive season. It was our first “green” Christmas here!  But things were about to change…

Just after New Year we had an ice storm. It snowed a little, the temperature rose and so it rained on top…then the temperature plummeted and everything turned to ice. And the freezing temperatures stayed. Our driveway was covered in ice inches thick, and was treacherous. The temperatures were too cold for rock salt to work on the roads, so the cities had to use crushed stones instead.

We are used to having the odd day that is -20C or below, or even a few days at a time…but not weeks on end. February turned out to be the coldest on record.

Thankfully, over Christmas we decided that we would need some warmth for March break and arranged a holiday to Central America (more about that in the next post!) and, boy, did we need it! We came back to Montreal refreshed, missing the ocean, but feeling like we could now cope with the last few weeks of Winter. However, today I’m not so sure…it’s 4th April now and it’s STILL SNOWING! Yesterday was a wonderful +10C, the sun was out and it felt like Spring. The snow was melting and we were beginning to see the (albeit dead) grass peeping through. We woke up this morning to more white stuff.

Bring on the Spring and warm weather!!!

Against all odds

There’s something special about being a parent of twins. I wanted to capture how I felt at this morning because it is something that will get lost in the mists of time. Maybe I need to explain the context before I go further.

Yesterday, against all odds, Millie’s ringuette team won the BKRA tournament. In fact it is only the 2nd, 3rd and 4th time they have won all season. I don’t think many would have laid money on them before the tournament, but they played amazingly and it all played out well in the end, but more of that later. As an assistant coach, you would think that I would be absolutely over the moon at the result, and in many ways I am for Millie, but there’s something holding me back – I’m thinking of Sophie, Millie’s twin sister.IMG_5010

You might think that being twins they would be on the same team, in fact at one point at the start of the year they were, Sophie as the goalie, Millie as a skater. But then things got messy with Sophie being pushed from team to team and in the end quitting her home association to play for Pointe Claire, one might say, the local rivals. But Pointe Claire welcomed her with open arms, and have made her feel wanted and part of a team. But Sophie spent the weekend watching the team that, at one point, she thought she would be part of win the tournament.

In the end, who knows whether the team would have won with Sophie in goal, it’s impossible to say, especially with the knock in confidence that Sophie received at the start of the season. Only now is she starting to get back to where she was last year with a shut out win in Monday night’s game, and then a win over Mile End on Saturday. Playing in goal, is a technical position, but more than that, maybe 80% or more, it’s mental. Knock the confidence of a goalie, and it’s a long road back, and it’s difficult, especially when you are reminded week in, week out of what might have been by watching your twin sister play.

You may think from this, that Millie and Sophie get on fine, all the time, never fight – some chance. They will fight over the silliest things, but when push comes to shove there is an inexplicable bond, that makes them stand up and fight for each other, and when one is dumped on, the other has always stepped up to support her. Millie would have quit BKRA to support Sophie, if it hadn’t been the first year she had the opportunity to play at the ‘B’ level. I guess the biggest learning topic for this year, is that decisions affecting one twin, have major consequences not just for her, but for her twin sister, and then the parents as well. It’s been a tough year from a ringuette point of view.  I guess you need twins to really understand the impact, decisions can have on them.

And so back to the final, it was an awesome game.  BKRA were down 5-3 with 4 minutes to play. Any other game and their heads would have dropped, but no, they clawed back to 5-5. it went to sudden death overtime, BKRA got a penalty, and were down to 4 players, they were trapped in their own end. And then a breakout, a couple of passes down the ice, a weak shot, a save, a rebound and then a goal, 20 secs left on the clock – they had won! They had won the Benjamin B final.

So as I left the bench to join the girls on ice for the medal ceremony, I hugged Millie and then looked to the stands for Sophie, knowing her time will come.


Summer’s Here

Things finally seen to have started to calm down a bit this year, and now in the height of summer. From a personal point of view, two things have dominated. (1) hitting my head back in March, and suffering the lingering effects of a concussion ever since, and (2) trying to deliver a huge project at work, which has taken up more time then I would have liked as it has impacted upon Jo and the girls.

The concussion, or post concussion symptoms have been more of a frustration than anything else. It has limited what I can do, it has meant no hockey or real exercise since March. That has resulted in feeling and getting less fit, which has led to more frustration. It has ended up being a balance between trying to recover and trying to get some essential things done, all the time knowing that any brain activity slows down the recovery. So hopefully if work gets easier that will help the recovery. One of the things I really noticed though, was that if I tried to do too much, my body just said stop and that meant rest and sleep. It was particularly hard when the Habs were in the playoffs, and Liverpool were vying for the Premiership title, as watching sport on TV didn’t help my head at all. especially if the game was exciting or stressful.

One thing I have found I can do with little impact is canoeing so I’ve tried to get out when I can. Together with Millie and some friends, last weekend, I headed up to La Verendrye for a weekend of canoe camping. It was nice to get away from the city, and escape to the wilderness, of lakes and trees and loons. It was Millie’s first time canoe camping and I think she enjoyed it, even with the bugs!

The weekend was a great opportunity for Sophie and Millie to spend some time apart, and some one on one time with Jo and I respectively. It is something we have realised that they might need a bit more of. As far as work goes, the project which has kept me busy for nearly two years now is the design of the New Bridge for the St Lawrence. In late June, the images of the new bridge were released by the Minister for Infrastructure in Canada, an the next phase of procurement begins. It has been a fun project, if a bit manic at times due to the accelerated timescale involved. So while Jo and I work, the girls are enjoying their long summer break after successfully completing their first year of secondary school at College de Montreal. They have grown more independent, and certainly more fluent in French and are now completely bi-lingual. The girls are enjoying the local pool most days, when they can put down their ipads! Hopefully we can find time to enjoy the rest of the summer, and all the good weather that goes with it. We’ve got a few weeks away as a family to look forward to, so a cottage on Georgian Bay with canoeing and fishing for me, books for Jo, it could be what the doctor ordered.

A new day

As I got to the station this morning, despite the grey skies and a bit of rain, there seemed to be a spring in everyone’s step. There were more smiles on the platform and more conversation on the train. As I walked towards my first meeting, there was a warm feeling of satisfaction that those who were able to vote last night got it right.

For those of our friends and family who might read this in the UK, then the following might be a bit hard to understand. But for the past 18 months we have suffered with a Provincial Government that has appeared driven by a desire to divide the people of Quebec, to alienate the minorities, to rally against the wider Canada. All their efforts have been to try to legislate a greater use of the French language, or to impose restrictions on ethnic minorities, why? It was all been a thinly veiled attempt to play on feelings of insecurity and an attempt to generate a political majority so the PQ could drive for independence. All of this being at the expense of the real issue of the economy, jobs, educations and health etc – i.e. all the things that really matter.

The end result is that you start to question whether Quebec is a place where you want to live, and bring up children. Jo and I even went through the hypothetical scenario that the PQ party actually got a majority, and then heaven forbid got to push for independence. Would we stay or go? The actions of the PQ party really caused many people to feel alienated.

But on the flip side, there are so many good things about Montreal and Quebec, the French language, the mix of French and English, the culture, life on the West Island, friends, etc etc. I consciously put French first on this list because it is a real attraction to living in Quebec. Millie and Sophie, and even Jo and I to some extent would never have been bi-lingual if we had stayed in the UK. I, for one, am determined to crack it, and get to the point where I truly feel comfortable speaking French. But if the state tells me that I have to do it, I’ll rally against it, why should I be forced to have to speak French and be told to forget the use of the English language! From the work I do, there is more than enough to encourage me that I need to learn French without extra laws forcing me to do so.

I’m thankful for all those who could vote yesterday, and took the opportunity to make the right decision by voting for the Liberal Party. Hopefully as Philippe Couillard said in his acceptance speech, now is the time to bring everyone together, and to rebuild the economy to provide the jobs necessary to make Quebec

If I had one more request it would be for Philippe Couillard to go one step further, and reopen the agreements with Canada, and make the necessary amendments to recognise Quebec as a distinct society, but to fully integrate Quebec into Canada, thus reducing the possibility of future divisions. But maybe that’s a step too far for now.


The Olympic Barometer

In Trafalgar Square, London in front of Canada House

In Trafalgar Square, London in front of Canada House

Jo commented last night that she’s noticed a transition in her loyalties over the past 5 years. When we first arrived she was 100% behind all things British, but that has changed, to the extent that during the Sochi Olympics her loyalties are now firmly behind Canada. For myself and the girls that transition happened sooner, we were there four years ago with the Olympics in Vancouver.

Even with the London Olympics, whilst there was a desire for team GB to do well, it was more because the Olympics were hosted in London, and we wanted the UK to feel the same spirit that we had when the Olympics in Vancouver. It was actually strange to think that geographically we were almost as close to London as we were to Vancouver, yet the spirit that filled Canada at the time was impressive, with everyone celebrating the success of all Canadian athletes. When we were in the UK over the Christmas holidays, we took time to get photos in front of Canada House, and the photos with the red and white flag of Canada flying in the background are ones that say Yes Canada is now home and we’re grateful for that opportunity.

There’s also been a change in emphasis with the sports that seem important, anything to do with snow and ice are ones we can relate to, far better than we ever could in the UK. There does seem to be a recurring theme for these sports, which is that speed is good, so throw yourself down a steep snow slope, slid at breakneck speed down an icy track, skate harder and faster than anyone else. We’re lucky to have had the opportunity to try a number of these sports, albeit that the closets we’ve come to those crazy sports of luge, skeleton or bobsleigh are limited to fly down a snowy slope on Allen’s Hill. But only yesterday I was cross country skiing, around Beaconsfield Golf course just a kilometre or so from home, Jo spent two years curling before a career ending injury has limited her ability to play. We can head 30mins from home to go downhill skiing, and then there is the Hockey and for the girls, Ringuette.

Hockey goes to the heart of Canada, and is a sport that we’ve come to love. Sophie has her favourite players, Millie less so, I’m playing twice a week, and it is the most hotly discussed topic across Canada. It was great to see the star players at the Olympics, and let’s hope they are there in four years time.

So the Winter Olympics come to an end, and hopefully by the next winter Olympics we will have been able to complete the citizenship process, and be able to say ‘ Nous sommes du Canada!’

Too long since the last post

Time to devote a bit more attention to the blog, it’s been too long since the last posting, so having found a few minutes I thought I should add a quick update. Sophie wrote the last post way back in the summer, when she was enjoying swimming at the pool, and the warm weather. A few months later, not a pool in sight as the snow has arrived and give us a white carpet across the land, all the more beautiful when lit up with the holiday lights.

As I write this, I’m sat back in Solihull (UK), our first visit for 2  1/2 years. There’s a sense of familiarity that returns, but also a number of changes. The faces we see are older, children have grown up, all seem about a foot taller than before, but the rhythm of life beats on. But one thing we have really enjoyed so far is the opportunity to catch up with friends and family. Jo got her first hugs with our ‘new’ niece Daisy who is only 2 years old now. On Sunday night, we met up with some great friends, some of which we had not seen for 15 years, but it only felt like yesterday when we were heading to Snowdonia to camp at Capel Curig for New Year, then making a seige assualt on Snowdon, taking two days to climb it after the effects of trying to keep warm in the pub the night before! A flying visit to Bristol enabled us to enjoy some time with Marsha and Jon’s tribe yesterday and saw us do battle with an assault of wind and rain that grinds the UK to a halt, but we’ve now come to accept as a late fall day in Montreal. We hope to share the delights of a Canadian summer with their son, Alex next year, if we can arrange for it to happen. The holiday is only just starting and we have many more friends to catch up with, and so little time to do so,if we miss someone it is not intentional but just a lack of time.

We’ve had the chance to introduce Millie and Sophie to real curry. How lucky, the UK is to be an open multi-cultural society with all the diversity it brings. If only the minority in Quebec could be the same! If  Quebec put as much effort into its infrastructure, education and healthcare as it does into creating political capital out of what should be non-issues, it could dream of roads like the UK!

That said, the UK can learn a lot from Canada, we love the life we have in Canada, the ability for Millie and Sophie to really enjoy their childhood, the availability of sports, the wonderful games of Ringuette and Hockey. The winters are wonderful, if embraced and A large part of me is disappointed I missed the extra dump of snow over the past week. Note to self – Must find time to ski, snowshoe and skate more outside this winter!

And finally drawing on some inspiration from a columnist in the Montreal Gazette:

The Heros: Lifelong Friends, Family, Carey Price, PK Subban, Luis Saurez, clear english road signs, english beer, Multiculturism, Openness and Tolerance, the snowclearers,

The Zeros: Quebec Charter of Values (or lack of), Pauline Marios, Boston Bruins,

Have a great holiday season, and celebrate it in the way that suits you and your beliefs best,


Hot Hot Hot!

So this week we have been having a big heat wave. It has been reaching 40°c each day with the humidite. but worst of all the air con is broken!!! We are all trying to keep cool. But it is not easy. Scarlett and Mr.Jinx are feeling it worse than us, they have big furry coats. We have just found out that Scarlett is suffering from Heatstroke. Sophie had heat stroke yesterday. So now Sophie and I have had to fill bowls of water all over the house. Last night we all had trouble sleeping because of the heat. Got to go the pool is calling for me.

Swim Team

So for the summer Millie and I have joined the swim team at the local pool, Beacon Hill outdoor pool. So we are the Beacon Hill beavers. We have made lots of friends and have two very nice instructors, Nick & Samara. Each week we have a swim meet against another pool. Each swim meet everyone does 2 races, we have the choice of doing Freestyle, Breaststroke, Backstroke or Butterfly. We swim against a different pool each week. Here is a chart of our results:



Against who







Western Lachine(1)







Western Lachine(2)







Riverside (1)














Lakeside (1)














Baie d’Urfe




3 Breaststroke

Baie d’Ufre




 5 Backstroke