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November 2019
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Christmas Letter 2011

Our year ends as it began with Ringuette, Ringuette and more Ringuette. There is a difference though, in January it was only Millie and Sophie playing, now it is all of us.

Before I continue maybe it would help to explain what Ringuette is for those who have never heard of it. It is a game played on ice with some similarities to hockey. Two teams each with five players and a goalie on the ice and a similar number on the bench. Each player has a straight stick with which they spear, pass and shoot a ring, the aim being to score more goals than the opposition. It is a game for girls and was invented in Canada and played mainly by Canadian and Scandinavian girls. At the highest level, the skating is frenetic and said to be faster and more technical than hockey. It is popular throughout Canada with a large number of teams playing in and around Montreal. The teams are organised in to year age bands, so last year Millie and Sophie played in ‘Novice’ which is for 8 and 9 year olds. This year they are in Atome, for 10 and 11 year olds. At the older ages, the age bands get much larger. Within each age category they are split into ability with C being a mix of new and developing players, then B, A, and for the older categories AA and AAA. September/ October is preseason, the main season runs from November to February with playoffs in March. The following link might help explain it a bit further,

So the year started with the girls still learning to skate and playing with the Novice C ‘BK Penguins’ team. They won a few games but mainly just enjoyed playing together and having fun with their friends. Millie took the losses harder than Sophie, but then Millie played in nets half the time, and felt the weight of the world on her at times. Jo felt it too, but from the bleachers. Doug had become an assistant coach for the team, even with his limited skating ability and knowledge of the game, but really enjoyed it. Millie and Sophie loved it so much they went to Ringuette camps through the Spring and Summer breaks and then played 3 on 3 Ringuette during the summer as well.

The Atome C “Skittlebombs”

Before we knew it September was upon us, and the season loomed large. This time Millie and Sophie had moved up to Atome, but with extra complications. Millie had decided to be a full time goalie which through a series of events meant she ended up playing on the B team (while skating for the C team when she is available), with Sophie in the C team. So on any given weekend, you often find us in one of the local arenas, from any time after 7am in the morning. With practices or games often at 8am and it can take a good half an hour to get the girls equipment and goalie pads on, there’s few opportunities to lie in at the weekends.

A limited number of Atome coaches meant that after one year Doug was deemed an experienced coach and became the head coach of the C team. Jo had volunteered to be the webmaster for the Beaconsfield Kirkland Ringuette Association and one of the C team managers, and has joined a ‘Ringuette for mums’ group playing on Thursday mornings. After a few games, Sophie decided to play in goal as well, so we now have two goalies on two different teams, Jo will be a raging alcoholic by the end of the season, if not before! Both the B and C teams are fairly weak this year so once again the focus is on developing skills and having fun, if we win it is a bonus. To help coach the C team, Doug has joined an adult “learn to play hockey” session on a Sunday evening, which has improved his skating and ability to demonstrate some of the drills on the ice. Some of the Ringuette for mums sessions have been opened up to dads as well, so Doug has attended a few of them too. On top of all this, we’ve got to see some high level Ringuette games as well at various local arenas which is a chance to see how fast the good players are, their skill and some of their strategies.

The C team had their first tournament at the beginning of December in Pointe Claire, which was a lot of fun even if the results went against us. Onwards and upwards…

So what else has happened to the family Balmer?

A Jo mastercake

The two big pieces of news are that Jo gave up work in the summer, and has been enjoying the time at home and the chance to spend more of it with the girls. Jo wasn’t happy in her role and we decided that it was better for the family, if we took a large amount of stress out of all our lives, and for Jo to have more time to do things she wanted to like play Ringuette or decorate cakes. This has taken a huge leap forward, with Jo attending a couple of cake decorating courses which has resulted in some masterpieces (which then have to be eaten!).

The second big decision was to apply for permanent residency in Canada. Doug managed to pass the required French exam, and we have been accepted by Quebec. We are now waiting for the federal part of the process to be completed, which will hopefully happen during next year. We’ve decided that we would like our future to be in Montreal despite the bureaucracy and allegations of corruption. Montreal is a place that takes a hold over you; it has a character and quality of life we could only dream of in the UK. So we will have to see what happens at the end of Doug’s project assignment, whether more work comes up or whether it means a change in project, career or maybe employer.

A consequence of our decision to stay in Quebec, was that Millie and Sophie changed school. They left their 50% English, 50% French school to go to Ecole St Remi, a 100% French school. We were worried about the change but they have really enjoyed it and gradually as their French improves, their grades are coming up too. What started as Cs and Ds at the beginning of the year and starting to appear as As and Bs when they understand what the question is, and how to write the answer. Hopefully they will be teaching us all better French soon.

Un table pour quatorze, s’il vous plait

Lizzie & Melv’s wedding

In other news, during the summer we headed to Chamonix in France for Doug’s cousin Lizzie’s wedding to Melv. We had a fantastic five days with family coming in from around the world, and to top it all we were in the mountains, and the weather was fantastic.

We managed some hikes with the girls, a good time.

Steve and Liz

Family Balmer

Then it was on to the UK, to catch up with more friends before Jo’s brother Steve got married to Liz. Again it was a great chance to catch up with lots of Jo’s family and other friends. In the middle of that Millie and Sophie had six days with Granny and Grandpa in the Isles of Scilly enjoying the time together despite the feeble British summer weather.

At the end of the summer, we headed six hours east of Montreal along the St Laurent valley to Tadoussac and stayed in a cabin by a lake, and played games, fished and read and relaxed. Whilst we were there we went whale watching, seeing Fin whales, Minke whales, a Humpback whale, and Beluga whales all in the space of a couple of hours. It was an amazing experience getting so close to such large animals.

As the year draws to a close, it is hard to believe we have been in Canada over three years. It is home now. As we spend Christmas here in Beaconsfield, we will be thinking of all our family and friends around the world, wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Great New Year.

All the best,

Doug, Jo, Millie and Sophie

Must be time to get a tree…

Cutting the Christmas Tree at Quinn Farm