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Christmas Letter 2015

We said we’d be more organized this year…we’ve failed! It’s now past Christmas as we start trying to put the last year into words…

Life in general

After having the coldest winter in history, we finally started to thaw out in April. At the end of April we sat our Canadian citizenship exam and all became citizens the very same day. It felt quite strange having to swear allegiance to the Queen – after all, she’s always been our Queen, but there you go. We are now all fully fledged dual citizens. It doesn’t make much difference to us, except that it makes travelling into the US much easier now…and we each have to keep two passports safe!

As a result, we were able to vote for the first time in Canada, which felt like a big milestone. In our opinion, it was a good result, Justin Trudeau seems to have started out in a positive manner so far, and making Canadians proud to be Canadians once more. While it may be a bit slower than planned, his commitment to help give 25,000 refugees a new start in Canada, has gone down well with many people, and once again sets Canada apart from the USA. The madness of the USA gives Canadian comedians, hours of material that you just could not make up if you tried – Trump! Guns! the list goes on… It’s interesting to see the difference between Canada and the USA, we saw an image recently that asked what’s a Canadian – Well, it’s like an unarmed American with healthcare.


We’ve had a couple of amazing trips this year. The first was back in March. We decided to escape winter for a week, and spent March Break in Belize. Two days in the jungle, followed by five days on Glovers Reef 30 miles offshore. It’s difficult to put that trip into words…best just watch the videos. it was an awesome way to unwind from the daily routine of work and school. But the real highlight of the vacation was when Jo overcame her fear of putting her face underwater, and managed to snorkel – it opened up a whole new world to her.

The second was our trip back to Europe in the Summer. Both sets of parents/grandparents were married in 1965 and so this was the year for their golden weddings. We travelled back at the end of the July, giving the first weekend over to Doug’s family and the last weekend over to Jo’s. We also arranged a catch up with friends, hiring the Mill pool at 1st Solihull for the day. It was great that so many were able to come along, even travelling as far as Berkshire and Stirling! The kids all had a ball, and we ended the evening with a campfire (in true scouting style)…but we had to have s’mores too (bringing along our bit of Canada).

In between the two events, we took ourselves off to Italy – Expo in Milan, Rome (Colusseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum, Vatican – we did it all!) and then finally a few days of relaxation in the Italian lakes. Sophie was fixated on the Roman Forum and couldn’t get enough of it. It was nice to travel around Italy without a car, we used the high speed trains between Milan and Rome, and did not really need a car. Even in Stressa on Lac Maggiore, we had enough to do without a car, although Doug did look longingly at the snow capped mountains in the distance, and think maybe he could escape for the day.

In May, post ice melting off the lakes, and pre-bug season we went canoe camping for a long weekend. It was a fun weekend, we saw good and bad weather, portages, moose, even caught a trout!


The girls continue to play ringuette, and Doug continues to coach. Since September, for this season we’re lucky to have them back on the same team, which definitely helps family life. We started the year with Millie’s team winning the 2015 BKRA tournament, much to the surprise of everyone around. We’ve finished the year on another high, with their current team being runners up in the City of Ottawa tournament. We are very lucky this season to have an amazing team of girls, who all gel so well and the atmosphere is wonderful in the changing room. It’s just a shame that the teams have to change every year.

This summer, both girls chose different activities. Sophie decided to try out softball for the first time, whereas Millie went for rugby. Jo still can’t work out the rules for softball (doesn’t seem to be anything like rounders) but at least she understood the rugby side. Millie really took to it and in time will learn to tackle. We’re not sure about Sophie’s experience – she got more exercise cycling to her softball games. We took both girls to see the Canada vs USA rugby match in Ottawa just before the start of the rugby world cup, to put it in context, it would be a bit like seeing an international Hockey game in the UK in terms of size of stadium and number of fans, but it was a fun event and good to be close to the action.

Doug hasn’t been so lucky. After recovering from his concussion last year, he joined the gym in the Spring and got himself a personal trainer so as to make sure he followed the post concussion protocol properly. Unfortunately a few minutes with a skipping rope was his downfall, symptoms returned and he ended up taking around 6 weeks off work. Luckily, though, we managed to finally get a referral to a rehabilitation centre here, who gave us reassurance that no real damage was done (although Millie and Sophie would argue differently)  and he’s now back at the gym. Just got to see how long it takes before the hockey arena calls…

Doug did take Sophie on a what should have been a weekend of whitewater canoeing, but got curtailed by a concussion induced ‘getting the start date’ wrong. That said, they did get there for the Saturday evening and paddled all day Sunday. Sophie will never admit to liking it but she did really well, and did say it was ‘ok’, so we’ll take that. The weather was perfect, it was hot, the water was warm, just ideal for learning to go in and out of big waves.

Jo doesn’t do sport at the moment. Having now being diagnosed with arthritis in her feet now as well as knees, we’re trying to find some sport/ exercise that will work for her. She tried Tai-Chi earlier in the year, which was great, but timing was difficult with all the travel for work and long hours.

School and Work

The girls are still at College de Montreal and are now in their third year; in August they started learning Spanish in addition to French and English – still can’t get our heads around learning a third language from your second language, but they are doing it. Their next big decision will be whether they continue in the French school system or move back to the English for CEGEP (translation for Brits: 6th form college!).

Doug and Jo are still working for Arup, although Jo is still self-employed as an Independent Contractor. Doug has just celebrated his 25 years working for Arup, and got a trip to LA last week for a slap-up dinner with the regional board just before Christmas. Doug managed to improve his French to get a full license to be able to practice engineering in Quebec, so can now talk about roads and bridges in French, but hasn’t quite mastered the rest of the French language.

Christmas and Next Year…

Having said that we had the coldest winter on record earlier in the year, we’ve now gone the opposite way – no snow for Christmas! This is the first time since we arrived back in 2008 that there’s been no snow. Hey ho…

We had no family with us this Christmas either, so we had a quiet holiday and had friends join us for Christmas Dinner.

Next year…well, we have a trip to New Zealand to look forward to. It’s been 20 years since Doug visited, and we all can’t wait to see the family there.

That just leaves us to hoping you all had a very Merry Christmas and have a very happy and healthy 2016.