Category Archives: General

The Job

I’ve been working at the university for 15 years now. That’s my longest tenure with any employer. I’ll get my 15 year pin next year (not this year because my first year was on contract).

When I started I was working on the internal financial systems but a few years ago I moved to the newly formed “Content and Collaboration Solutions department” and became a web developer, working on the main university website and all the sub sites. Since then I’ve become a senior web developer.

Back then the website ran on a custom built CMS written in PHP. We still have a few sites running on that old CMS but the vast majority have since been moved to the Drupal platform; still PHP but with a more modern framework. We started on Drupal 6 and have just (almost) finished migrating everything to Drupal 7.

In a way the web group is the black sheep of the IT department. We are the only group to use almost exclusively open source tools and we are were the first group to practice automated deployment and continuous integration. We also have to stay at the head of the curve on the tools we use because the web world moves faster than any other area in IT.

We are also one of only a couple of teams using agile techniques in our work. We organise what we need to do into 3 week iterations and have daily scrum meetings to keep the team up to date on what everyone is doing. Agile isn’t for everyone, but it works really well for us for the most part. The key is to be not too rigid with the rules, or in other words, be agile.

Overall I really enjoy my job. The work is interesting and varied, the team I work with are a great bunch of people, and working for a university means I get a good amount of time off for that precious work/life balance.

Opus and Superstitious Behaviour

A few years ago I was lucky enough to spend two weeks working with four dolphins in Hawaii, studying their ability to learn language, specifically sign language. Occasionally the dolphins would exhibit behaviour which was not expected and they would start to repeat that behaviour every time you gave a particular sign. For example you might give the sign to nod their head, and the dolphins nods, but then also spits a bit of water. The spit was not required, but because the dolphin gets rewarded for the nod, they start to incorporate the spit. The staff at the lab called this “superstitious behaviour”. Doing something causes a reward to happen, so keep doing it.

All that to say that I’ve noticed some Montreal metro passengers have started exhibiting superstitious behaviour. We have new rechargable ticket cards which are used by placing them on a card reader at the turnstile. There is a small delay while the card is processed – about a second – then the green light comes on and you can proceed. But people are impatient; they place their card and nothing happens immediately, so they start waving it about and flipping it over. Eventually the green light comes on, they get their reward. Their primitive dolphin-like brains think the waving and flipping caused the green light to come on so they keep doing it.

That’s my metro observation for today.

The Sid and Patty Show

Patty, Aidan and Sid
Patty, Aidan and Sid

Yesterday we headed out to a downtown theatre with Aidan, his Bama and his bunny to see Patty and Sid on tour. Patty and Sid are the presenters of Kids CBC, a commercial free selection of shows for pre-schoolers shown every morning between 7 and 11.

Patty and Sid were joined on stage by Curious George and Bo from Bo on the Go and on video (presumably live via satellite) by Drumheller, the skeletal dinosaur from Alberta, Mama Yama, the animated yam/penis from Ontario, Saumon the french-speaking salmon from Quebec and Captain Claw, the old sea-dog lobster from Nova Scotia. Hilarity ensued as they collected the necessary pieces for Curious George’s surprise birthday party.

Aidan was a little overwhelmed by the whole thing, but still had a good time, and started getting really into it about 5 minutes before it finished. After that we lined up (luckily close to the start of the very long line) to meet Sid, Patty, George and Bo. When it was Aidan’s turn, he started by telling Sid and Patty about “Kerry and John’s Birthday Party” before eventually sitting down for a photo. Meeting Curious George had a slightly different effect though, involving Aidan cowering on the floor in terror. I managed to get him onto my lap for a photo with George and Bo, but his face was buried in my shoulder. The traumas we put our kids through.

Aidan has been talking about Sid and Patty ever since, including to the waiter at dinner last night. I guess they made an impression.

The New Job

I have a new job!

No, I’m not leaving McGill… Today I accepted a new position at McGill as a web developer in the Web Services Group, the team who look after the content of mcgill.ca and are involved in other web initiatives around campus.

It’s a step in a new direction for me. The WSG use mostly open source tools, which I’ve been playing with personally since I first installed linux on an old computer several years ago but I haven’t been able to use in a work setting. I’m stepping away from Oracle, the proprietary RDBMS that I’ve been working with for 20 years, to embrace open source technologies like PHP, Python and PostgreSQL. It looks like there might even be a bit of WordPress thrown into the mix.

I’ve had six good years here on the Finance IT team but I’m really looking forward to something new.

Wise Words

Some wise words the current “leader of the free world” should pay heed to:

…it is apparently necessary for me to state once again — not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end, where all men and all churches are treated as equals, where every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice, where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind, and where Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, at both the lay and the pastoral levels, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

…if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do likewise.”

— John F Kennedy, 1960

Have I ever?

Stolen from Blork

Have you ever . . . (bold means Yes I Have)

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink (ok so there were only 5 people in the bar)
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said ‘I love you’ and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped (chickened out in NZ)
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights (still trying)
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper(!)
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer (only two?)
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was shit faced
42. Had amazing friends (All friends are amazing, aren’t they?)
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe (in but not across)
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your cds (my wife has)
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Posed nude in front of strangers
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Had a one-night stand
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror.
96. Raised children. (well up to 8 months old anyway)
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Created and named your own constellation of stars
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over (ok, not just to start over)
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived.
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad – and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions (assuming there were any)
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language (kinda sorta)
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146: Dyed your hair
147: Been a DJ
148: Shaved your head
149: Caused a car accident
150: Saved someone’s life

Banned Book Week

It’s banned book week. Go out and read a banned book today.

The American Library Association has published a list of 100 most frequently challenged books. Here are the ones I’ve read:

  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine LEngle
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Which ones have you read?

History Bites

A meme over at her place inspired me to do this. I’m not following the meme exactly because it was only the first part that got me thinking.

20 years ago

I was living at home with my mum, stepdad, and half brother, just finished senior school (that’s high school for you North Americans) and about to start sixth form college. I had recently discovered beer and was enjoying it immensely. When I could get served. Which wasn’t often. My dad was running a pub, so I spent as much time with him as I could. I still had my ZX Spectrum, and didn’t know what a PC was.

15 years ago

I was living in Surbiton, south-west London in a dingy bedsit. One small room with a bed, a tv, a cupboard, a table, a sink and a fridge. I was working for a publishing company as a technical analyst (vague job title for a vague job), spending most of my time at work or at the pub across the road from work to avoid going back to the nasty bedsit. I was in debt, but still drinking too much. I was learning Unix voraciously.

10 years ago

I was sharing a flat in Surbiton with my friend Philip and his friend Shaun and very happy to be away from the bedsit. I was working as a programmer for an EDI company in Hampshire, and driving two hours a day to get there and back. I was drinking less but smoking more. I had also recently discovered the internet and multi-player gaming…

5 years ago

Jen and I had just bought a fancy schmancy loft-style condo beside the Lachine Canal on the edge of Point St Charles. I snuck in there on moving day before Jen with a blanket, candles, and champagne so we could have a picnic in the middle of our big new empty space. I’d been in Canada since the start of the year and only just got around to getting some consultancy work. We had three PCs next to each other in the condo, but still talked to each other over ICQ.

1 year ago

We had been in our new house in Beaconsfield for 1 year. I was discovering the joys of gardening and BBQing. In three days time I would start my blog. I like to think I started blogging early enough to not be accused of jumping on the bandwagon.

Yesterday

We went to Le Caverne Grecque on Prince Arthur for a meal on the terrace with the Toastmasters crowd. The food wasn’t fantastic but the company was good, and Little Penguin wine was on the table.

The Haircut

After over a year, yesterday was finally the day to get a haircut. I went to Mutt and Jeff, a hair salon on Crescent Street where a very friendly staff treated me well and my hairdresser did an impressive job with my difficult hair. During my cut, the three hair dressers and two other customers were having a detailed conversation about sex toys, which enriched the experience even more.

Here are the before and after pictures:

beforeafter

UPDATE: My head has been freezing all day.

The CBC thing

In case you didn’t listen in to CBC this morning, here’s the scoop:

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in the dentist’s chair, trying to listen to CBC Daybreak over the top of the buzzing of the teeth polishing gizmo. I heard mention of a de-clutter competition, the winner of which would win the services of a personal organiser for a day to clean up the messiest room in their house. I immediately thought of Jen‘s office, so when I got to work I sent an email to enter the competition.

Last week Jen got a call from Sonali Karnick to say we had made it into the final four contestants, and that she was coming over in 45 minutes to see the dreaded office. She arrived, explored the office, recorded us, paper noises, bubble wrap and the singing hamsters then went on her way.

This week they are featuring the four finalists, and today was our day. Jen has a great radio voice, I think she should get a job in radio. The singing hamsters made it on air too.

Approachability

Everyone talks to Jen. I’m not just talking about friends in social situations, I mean anywhere and everywhere. For example we went to the dep to get the Saturday paper at the weekend, and the guy behind the counter immediately launched into a conversation with Jen about the weather. If we’re in a bar and there’s an obnoxious drunk around, he will talk to Jen. We could be sitting in a restaurant eating a meal and someone at the next table will start talking to Jen. In line-ups, walking down the street, in shopping malls, on aeroplanes, at gas stations, in the cinema, in public bathrooms (so I’ve been told), in the doctor’s waiting room. Wherever we are, some random person will always talk to Jen.

Nobody talks to me.

So what’s that all about then? What makes Jen irresistably approachable and me so avoidable? Is it simply a gender thing? Does being female automatically make you more approachable? I think that might be partially true, but it’s not the whole story. I think Jen has an open and honest face. She smiles a lot and is completely non-threatening. She also probably maintains better eye contact than I do. When a conversation does start up, she has more to say than I do.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be like Jen, I think I would get annoyed very quickly if random people kept talking to me wherever I went. It would be nice though, occasionally, to be sitting somewhere and have someone strike up a conversation with me.

I’m an expert at projecting the “leave me alone, don’t talk to me” aura, which is very useful sometimes, but I’d also like to be able to project the “ok I’m a bit bored and wouldn’t mind a bit of a chat” aura. How does one do that?

Science triumphs

A follow-up to my previous post. This article illustrates my point perfectly:

A 10-year-old British schoolgirl saved the lives of hundreds of people in southern Asia by warning them a wall of water was about to strike after learning about tsunamis at school.

She learned the warning signs of an impending tsunami in her geography class. Predictions based on hard science leave the kooky stuff standing.

More holiday thoughts

My post the other day about what to call the winter solstice celebration got me thinking about all the other traditions I’ve grown up with at this time of year. How many of them have roots in Christianity? I dug around a bit and here’s what I found:

  • December 25th – JC’s birthday? Well maybe, but the evidence seems to say probably not. That date was chosen to coincide with the pagan festivals happening in Germany and other places in Europe.
  • Christmas Trees – The idea of hacking down a tree and putting it in your house also seems to come originally from those ubiquitous pagans, the only difference is the type of tree used. Regardless, the tree has no obvious Christian symbolism.
  • Christmas lights – Edward Johnson, an employee of Thomas Edison, was the first person to put (electric) lights on a tree. He was an engineer, and therefore probably just did it because it was cool; symbolism be damned.
  • Mistletoe – Yeah yeah, pagans again. Oh, and druids.
  • Santa Claus – He has many aliases, but they all point back to Saint Nicholas. Yes he was sainted, but it seems to me he was just a nice guy who liked to give stuff to kids. That takes care of gift giving too.
  • Holly – This one seems to be Christian; the leaves are the crown of thorns, the berries are JC’s blood. Oh well, we never had holly anyway.
  • Rudolph – This one was invented by an advertiser in 1939. Advertisers don’t do symbolism.
  • Yule Log – Burning the log gave eternal life to sun worshippers apparently. Maybe the ash had a high SPF.
  • Mince Pies – No idea where these came from, but they taste good so I’m going to carry on making and eating them.

So apart from the holly, nothing inherently Christian there. I don’t see any problem with having nicely wrapped copies of The Origin of Species under your beautifully decorated tree, or a menorah next to it.

November Monkeyness

Blork have announced the November Monkey, called “Border Stumbles”. I can’t decide which story to offer, so I’ll do both:

1) After a very eventful trip to Norway one December (which is another long and intriguing story in itself) we ended up in Calais, France, catching a ferry to Dover, England. We’d spent the past 10 days eating, sleeping, and smoking illicit substances in my friend Philip’s Golf GTI, so the inside of the car had an interesting aroma, and the two of us looked quite unkempt. Of course, arriving in Dover the customs man signalled us to pull over. As soon as I wound down the window, his nose wrinkled. He asked us where we’d been, and I reeled off a list of countries and cities. As soon as I said Amsterdam, he said “step out of the car please”. Four customs officers ripped our car apart, including tearing into a petrol soaked fruit cake (don’t ask) they found in the back. They then took us to separate rooms, and strip-searched us, with not quite the full rubber glove treatment, but close enough. After finding nothing they begrudgingly let us go.

2) Jen and I were driving down to Vermont for the weekend, and because I’m not a Canadian citizen, we had to stop at the border for me to get a visa waiver. The first weird thing to happen was when the customs officer discovered I was British and asked “Oh, do you like fox hunting?” Well of course, every Brit keeps a pack of hounds handy in case there’s a fox to tear apart. The second annoyance was that they had started charging $6 for the visa waiver. Neither of us had cash, so I had to walk back to Canada to get some from the duty free shop. Nobody stopped me from doing that by the way. The final oddity was while waiting for the one-finger-typist officer to enter my details (into an Excel spreadsheet no less), I noticed a small piece of paper by the keyboard with a list of words on it. I’m pretty sure it was a list of the passwords for their computer system…

Who influences us?

The recent political tragedy got me thinking about the influences that have shaped my beliefs. What brought me to my current beliefs? Am I an independant thinker or just another member of the flock?

First I need to look at what I believe. Politically I’m somewhere around the centre, leaning slightly to the left on most issues except perhaps economy. I’m a skeptical rationalist and a strong atheist. I believe people should be free to marry or not marry whoever they choose regardless of gender. I’m not a racist or a homophobe. I’m a strong believer in free speech and freedom of expression. I’m pro-choice. I’m a pacifist and see peaceful negotiation as the primary solution to conflict, but accept that war is sometimes inevitable.

So where did all that come from? My parents? Well I never really had political conversations with them. To be honest I’m not entirely sure where they stand either politically or religiously. They chose to have me christened, probably more out of a sense of duty than any religious conviction. I have vague memories of being sent to Sunday school, but that was probably just to give my mum a morning off. So no, I don’t think I’ve been significantly influenced by my parents.

What about my peers? I grew up in a very white neighbourhood, mostly working to middle class. The norm there was racism, sexism and homophobia but somehow I managed to avoid most of that influence. None of my friends were overtly religious, but they weren’t overtly atheist either. Politics was rarely discussed at all. Throughout my life I’ve had friends spanning the full spectrum of political beliefs but none of them have had a dramatic influence on me. I married a lefty liberal, but her political beliefs are very low down on the list of reasons I’m with her.

Is it society in general? Society has certainly become more tolerant in recent years (although the past few days feel like things are going backwards again) so has that made me more tolerant? If I’d been born 400 years ago would I be a racist homophobic witch hunter? I’m sure I’ve been influenced by society, by the media, by societal norms but obviously only certain aspects of it have influenced me. I can choose which parts of society I want to accept.

I’ve certainly been influenced by the people around me in some way, but I like to think I’ve been able to make my own independant choices. I left a place rife with racism with a bit of residual racism in me but I knew how wrong that was and I made the effort to overcome it. I examined religion and decided it wasn’t for me. Nobody ever said to me “you must be an atheist, it’s the only way.” Nobody has ever spent time indoctrinating me into believing there is no creator; in fact the opposite has happened more often. I made my decision on my own using the information I had at my disposal.

Busy Saturday

The garage sale was a mediocre success. We didn’t make enough to retire on but we did get rid of some junk. Tara and Cyler got rid of their big stuff, much to their relief as they weren’t looking forward to schlepping it all home.

After the garage sale (yes I had to wait until it was over) I went to the marche de l’ouest to get what I needed for dinner. Last time I was there it was winter, and the place felt like a bit of a dive, but it’s transformed in the summer into a delightful open air farmer’s market. I picked up some very good corn, a big box of berries and salad stuff before venturing inside to pick up some parmesan and sausage-meat. Sadly nobody there had pine-nuts so I still had to stop at Metro on the way home.

The evening dinner went very well, so here are some recipes:

Avocado and tomato dip: diced avocados, diced seeded tomatoes, juice of a lime, tabasco and seasoning to taste. (probaby could’ve done with some red onion too but I forgot that part)

Fiery limey corn: Corn on the cob with husks. Remove silks and rub the inside with a wedge of lime, cover up with the husks again, throw on the bbq for about 10 minutes, remove husks, sprinkle on a mixture of 1 part cayenne pepper to 4 parts salt to taste.

Tastie taters: boil some spuds, toss them in a mix of mustard, honey, soy sauce and seasoning, thread onto skewers, cook on the bbq until crispy.

Mediterranean sausage burgers: sausage-meat, chopped parsley, chopped garlic, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, toasted pine-nuts. Mix all that together, season well, make into patties, throw onto the bbq for about 6 or 7 minutes per side until cooked through.

After dinner Tyler and I snuck off to play Magic for an hour or so. He’s picking the game up slowly, but he still has much to learn and I beat him resoundingly.

2nd May 2003

Well it’s been two years since my last diary entry, so I doubt anyone is reading this any more, but I’ll try to resurrect it with a new look…
Here is a brief summary of what I’ve been up to for the last two years:

* Gave up on the flying to save money for other stuff
* Did lots of biking around Montreal
* Briefly went back to rock climbing, but then stopped again
* Joined McGill Toastmasters Club
* Got an analyst/programmer job with McGill University
* Went to England for Xmas 2001
* Got the condo painted (all white)
* Started going to pub quizzes in Montreal Irish pubs
* Had Mum and Graham visiting in October 2002
* Bought very cool down-filled sofa and chair
* Got re-engaged to Jen, Xmas 2002
* Started wedding planning for October 4th 2003

It was a shame about the flying, but it is a very expensive hobby. Maybe one day I’ll go back to it. Toastmasters is something I’ve become quite involved in. After joining the club, I became their webmaster, and then the Vice-president for Education. I’ve completed eight of the initial ten speech projects. My job at McGill started as a contract, but has now become a permanent position.

The wedding planning is coming along nicely, even though we suck at planning things this far in advance.

1st March 2001

I’m proud to say that my first Christmas dinner was a resounding success. I started preparations the day before, by boiling up the turkey giblets for stock, and making the stuffing. The stuffing was complicated slightly by the fact that Jen bought sausages instead of sausage meat, so I had to extract the meat from the skins, very messy! Apples and chestnuts as per Delia’s recipe, and I had a delicious smelling stuffing.

The next morning I prepared the turkey, stuffed it and put it in the oven, being very careful to follow Delia’s instructions to the letter. Several hours later it was ready, and the family had arrived for Christmas dinner. I was amazed that the turkey turned out so well, and I managed to prepare the meal without any major disasters (except some slightly black roast potatoes). Richard carved, as he’s the expert in that department, and Elisabeth bought her trademark turnip and cabbage dishes. It all came together perfectly for a delicious belated Christmas dinner.

After the apple pie and Tiramisu (shop bought I’m afraid) we opened our gifts and chatted until it was time for people to leave. We discovered that we are getting a sculpture from Dan as our Christmas present, which is very exciting!

The rest of the month has been spent trying to get some flying in, mostly unsuccessfully because of bad weather. Ground school is still going well, but I need some flying!

Last week I got the dreaded flu, which was complicated by a nasty rash. A six hour visit to the hospital revealed that I apparently had an allergic reaction to the flu itself! I was off work for a week and taking anti-histamines.

10th January 2001

It’s the new millennium, or it’s just another snowy January, whichever you prefer. I have flying, xmas and expensive purchasing stories to tell, so I’ll get on with it.

Flying is still going well, although I had to miss a couple of lessons because of bad weather. We did practice stalls, slowing the plane down to the point of stalling and then recovering from it straight away. The next lesson was to be slow flight, but the weather wasn’t good enough for that, so we did circuits instead. This is the busiest part of flying a plane, there is a lot to do when you’re preparing to land and I didn’t manage to cope with all of it. I’m sure with practice it will start to come naturally though. A few bumpy landings, and one nice smooth one later and the lesson was over.

I’ve also started the ground school sessions. The introductory session involved short introductions from everybody, and a lesson about the licencing requirements for the four types of Canadian aviation licences (Recreational, Private, Commercial, and Airline Transport). For the next 3 months I have two sessions of 2.5 hours each per week, and a lot to learn.

Shortly before Christmas, I discovered (thanks DT!) the BBC America website, where you can buy British food items for delivery in North America. I couldn’t resist that, and bought lots of goodies, including Mr Kipling’s exceedingly good mince pies, some Branston pickle, and some chocolate digestives and hobnobs. It was a tad expensive, but worth it.

Christmas was a lot of fun, even though it was just the two of us. After a breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup, strawberries and whipped cream, with coffee and bucks fizz (ok, mimosa for the North Americans) to drink, it was time to open gifts. We had done stockings, so we did those first. Mine was full of chocolate, which I’ll probably be enjoying for months to come, as well as two DVDs, Fight Club, and 12 Monkeys. Jen’s favourite present was her tiara, because she’s a princess. I also got her a princess mug, some smellies and some newcastle brown ale!

After that we opened our main presents. Jen gave me a steering wheel and pedals for the computer, and a funkly lofty-style toaster (because our old one broke), and a harry potter mug which holds about a gallon of tea. I gave Jen a book, some Pikachu slippers which don’t quite fit, and a small bottle of Baileys.

My Dad (and family) sent us a lovely Harrod’s gift basket of goodies, filled with tea, jams, chocolate (yes, more chocolate), snacks, a Harrod’s teddy bear and a jigsaw.

Mum sent me some Lynx (Canadians don’t seem to have grasped the shower gel concept yet), and more chocolate (Cadbury’s Whole Nut, my favourite!), and a very warm fleecy jumper thingy. Jen got a subscription to the BBC Good Homes magazine.

With present opening over, it was time to make some phone calls. I was just about to call Mum, when she called me. She seemed very happy with her present (2 tickets to see Eric Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall). After chatting there for a bit, I called Dad and interrupted their game of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? on their new laptop. Jen had a call from her Mum and Richard from Ireland, then she chatted to Dan in Vancouver for a while.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing. We had an untraditional Christmas meal of Mussels in white wine and garlic, then watched Fight Club (a surprisingly good Movie, and completely different from what I expected).

On Boxing Day, Jen’s Dad and family came to visit. We had a small buffet lunch, some nice wine and a pleasant afternoon. Jen got a very special present of a poem written about her by her Dad.

The last Christmas extravagance was a trip to the Nissan car dealership. We had intended just to look, but because of a special deal they had going, we came away with a Nissan Pathfinder! It’s a great big thing, but nice to drive. It also has a CD player, which meant Jen had to go buy a CD burner to make CDs for the car.

We decided not to do anything for New Year’s Eve. We watched the spectacularly awful ‘Rockin New Years’ on TV, spent some time in Chatgames, and celebrated the midnight hour with beer and pizza.

Jen’s parents are home from Ireland now, so we’re having a belated Christmas meal this weekend. I have to learn how to cook a turkey!

4th December 2000

Two entries in less than a week, aren’t I good?

Another flying lesson on Saturday. This time with my shiny new aviation headset. After a freezing cold aircraft inspection we jumped in and headed out to the runway. I did the elevator part of taking off, i.e. pulling back on the controls when we reached the right speed, and maintaining a good climb. Once we were up I practiced some course changes, then did some descents and climbs. Nigel seemed happy with my progress so he decided to do some ‘Touch and Go’s. This is flying the approach circuit, landing, then taking off again straight away. It was very nerve-racking, but I managed to land the plane succesfully three times. I now understand why I always crash landed in flight simulators, the way to land is not at first glance completely logical. The altitude is controlled by the power level, and the speed is controlled by the elevator controls. A useful lesson!

Yesterday we got our Christmas tree. We walked down to Atwater market, tape measure in hand. We couldn’t find one the exact height we wanted, so we got a 12 foot tree, and cut bits off the top and bottom to bring it down to the 9.5 feet we needed. Carrying it along the canal back to the apartment was a little unpleasant, but after discovering that putting it on our shoulders made things much easier it wasn’t so bad. When we got home we realised that we had cut too much off the bottom and it wouldn’t go in the stand properly, but we got it sorted out eventually. Spent the rest of the day draping lights and baubles all over it. It now looks lovely and festive, and puts me in the holiday mood.

29th October 2000

Does anyone actually read this? Email me if you do!

Well the big news this month is that I started my flying lessons. The first lesson was just an introductory flight, although I did get my hands on the controls briefly. I’m learning in a Cessna 152, a small two seater training plane, very stable but not too quick. My instructor is Nigel, who is quite young, and has only been flying for 2 years, but he’s been doing it full time, so I trust him!

The second lesson was a bit more involved. After the initial walk around, we jumped in, and I had my first go at taxiing, which was ok until it came to to stopping. To apply the brakes you must apply equal pressure to both rudder peddles at the same time, which I failed to do, sending the plan swerving to the right and almost off the runway. I managed to get it back to the centre though, ready for take-off. Nigel took over until we were airborne, then I took the controls and we did some attitude exercises, bringing the nose up, and down, and banking to the left and right. Nothing too scary, and I think I did fairly well.

The following weekend I didn’t have a lesson, as we went down to New York for a long weekend of sight seeing and visiting friends, starting on the Thursday. We met one friend at the airport, Charlie, and got a bus with him into town, followed by a cab to our hotel. We stayed at the Gershwin Hotel on E 27th and 2nd. The hotel has an art gallery, and pictures and photographs throughout, as well as some strange wiggly tongue shaped lighting fixtures. Although the hotel was interesting, our stay there wasn’t perfect, with a not too comfy bed, poor facilities, and awful message handling.

Our first engagement in NYC was a Blue Rodeo concert, at a tiny venue called the Mercury Lounge, which holds about 250 people, much more cosy than the other Blue Rodeo concerts we’ve been to! We sat close to the stage and watched the support band, Anna Fermin’s Trigger Gospel, who were very good, with a female singer who had a fantastic voice. We thought we had a perfect place for the concert, but as Blue Rodeo hour approached we got swamped by people and ended up a little way back from the stage. We still had an excellent view though. I think the audience was almost completely Canadian, with the odd token American here and there!

The venue was so small that the band actually had to walk through the crowd to get to the stage, which took a little while, but once they were up there they did an excellent set, great music interspersed with a few funny moments, like Jim Cuddy asking everyone where we were going afterwards!

Special mention must go to the insane person in the Roots NYC hat who screamed at the start of practically every song, danced frenetically, and topped up Charlie’s beer bottle for him when he was empty.

At the end of the concert we stood outside for a bit, and Jen spotted Greg Keelor coming out the front door, so she gave chase and cornered him for an autograph, which is now on our magnet board (“Hi Jennifer, from Gsquiggle squiggle”).

The next day we decided to do touristy things, so we went to the Empire State Building, up to the observation deck for some panoramic photos of the city. That’s the second time I’ve paid money to ride in an elevator, it’s becoming a habit. We followed that with a very long walk around some shops, and a visit to Times Square, where we bought Harry Potter merchandise and had a meal at “Playwrights” bar and grill.

On the Saturday we braved the subway system to get down to Battery Park, and jumped on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. While waiting in the ridiculously long queue for the ferry, we were entertained by some amusing street entertainers, who not only had great acts, but good messages about their city, and acceptance and tolerance.

We didn’t spend long on the island, a few photos of the green lady (we weren’t going to climb up that thing!), and it was back on the boat back to Manhattan. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the Soho area, and visited a disappointing modern art museum exhibiting some very odd stuff.

Saturday evening was our second main reason for visiting NYC, we had arranged to meet with a bunch of our friends from ChatGames. We met at a mussel restaurant called MarkT, with Nick and Deirdre, Stella and Harry, Roger and Grace, Charlie, and Rob (separately that is, they aren’t a couple or anything!). A good time and good food was had by all, despite a slightly gruesome conversation on the dangers of eating brains. Unfortunately PB was unable to join us, maybe next time…

The next day we headed home. We managed to get seats on an earlier plane, so arrived home a few hours earlier than expected.

Last weekend I had my third flying lesson. I was a bit shocked to hear Nigel saying “you’re going to help me take off today”, and even more shocked to hear him say “Now you’re going to land the plane” at the end of the lesson, but it all went very well despite being a little nerve-racking. While in the air we practiced straight and level flight, with some course changes and altitude changes.

10th October 2000

OK, so we didn’t manage to get the apartment painted before the cold weather set in, so we’re rescheduling that for the spring.

Neighbour Lady Lisa is now only a neighbour in a purely metaphorical sense. She left for England after a meal-in-the-dark experience at Ganges indian restaurant, when the power went out. Despite that minor setback, a good time was had by all, and Lisa received many fond farewells, and the odd present.

Last week I was sent to Edmonton, to see the users of the software I’ve been helping to develop. Edmonton is cold, and flat. It went down to -10 most nights I was there, and winter hasn’t even started yet. The view from the window on the 23rd floor of the office building I was in was stunning, as you could see for miles, with nothing more than a hillock to perturb the flatness. Made for some very pretty sunsets and sunrises (which I saw both of thanks to the interesting hours I was working). Five days was enough though, and I was glad to get back to Montreal in time for Thanksgiving weekend.

After watching the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday night (congratulations Mr Schumaker on a great world championship win), we headed up to the country with Jen’s grandmother for a delicious Thanksgiving meal prepared by Elisabeth and Richard. A perfectly cooked turkey, with all sorts of interesting accompaniments, followed by homemade pumpkin pie.

11th September 2000

We had a visit from Tristan this month, with his friends Ed, Keith and Alex. This was a multi-cultural visit, with Tristan from England, Ed from Wales, Keith from New Zealand and Alex from Australia. Luckily, we had our old apartment until the end of August, so they all stayed there. Keith was only around for a couple of days, before heading off on a long trip across the States, via Toronto. The remaining three managed to do lots of sight seeing, and still have time for a few dinners with us, both out at restaurants and at our place. Tristan only had to be carried home from downtown once (as far as we know). We had one night at the casino, where Alex won $25 from one bet on the roulette table, and Tristan broke even in blackjack. The rest of us lost miserably. After a week or so, Tristan and Ed headed off to New York for a last bit of travelling before leaving for the UK, and Alex went off to Tanglewood for the jazz festival (after much motherly advice from Jen!).

The rest of the month has been spent settling into the new place and relaxing. Casey had his feeding tube removed, and seems to be back to full health, with only a couple of bald patches to show for his trauma, so we do actually have free time now to enjoy our new lifestyle. We emptied the last of our boxes of crap, and stored our keepsakes in the basement locker. We’re currently looking for some new desks, to fit with the ‘loft’ style of the condo, so if anyone knows of any cool desk makers, please let us know!

We also had a few more garage sales, getting rid of large amounts of junk, and making a bit of money. Lisa the ex-neighbour lady got the great news that her application for a UK work permit was approved, so she also joined us and sold almost everything she owned! If you can sell two dried out corn cobs, you can sell anything (and we did!).

We’re planning on getting the apartment painted this month. I’ll post pics when it’s done.

9th August 2000

This month has been very busy. We moved into our new condo on the 17th, although we didn’t take much stuff straight away. I managed to smuggle candles, candle holders and a blanket out to the condo without Jen’s knowledge, and set up a little welcome home picnic with champagne and strawberries for our arrival. This was only spoiled slightly by the old owner phoning Jen and mentioning the champagne and strawberries she’d found in the fridge!

We’ve made lots of evening and weekend trips since then, gradually moving the huge amount of stuff from the old place to the new. We still haven’t finished! Luckily we have the old place until the start of September.

We’re settling in well though, all the furniture is more or less in place, and we should in theory now be shareholders in Ikea after the amount of stuff we bought. We had a minor debacle trying to get Bell Sympatico reconnected for internet access. Finally, we had enough of their incompetence and went for a cable modem, which was probably a good move, as it seems faster and more reliable.

When we haven’t been shifting stuff about, or putting together flat-pack furniture, we’ve been tending to Casey, the sick cat. He came through his surgery ok, and was pronounced cancer-free, excellent news! He now has a feeding tube, and has to be fed through it regularly. At first it was six times a day, every four hours, which was gruelling for Jen, but we’ve got it down to 4 times a day, with no middle of the night feeds.

One little bit of excitement occurred at about 2:30AM a week or so ago. We were enjoying some much needed sleep, when the phone rang. It turned out to be Tristan, who told us that he had just arrived in Montreal with his friend, a little later than planned! They were standing outside our old apartment, wondering where we were. They had only managed to contact us after Tristan called Dad in England, got Richard and Elisabeth’s number, woke Richard up, and got our new number from him! I drove over there, let them in, showed them the bed, then went home and back to bed.

I woke up exhausted the next day, and decided to take the day off work. I picked up Tristan and Ed, showed them around the condo then showed them around town. They were only in town for the day, so after a late afternoon pizza they jumped in their car and headed back to Maine.

The only other event worthy of note was the garage sale we had last weekend, in which we got rid of huge amounts of junk, and made 400 dollars, enough for more Ikea furniture!

The Condo

On 17th July 2000, we moved into our new condo, situated on the south bank of the Lachine Canal close to downtown Montreal. The building is an old ribbon factory, which was renovated and converted to condos about 11 years ago. We are on the ground floor, facing the canal, with views out to the downtown skyline.

Outside

These are some photos taken outside the building and in the surrounding area. The canal is being worked on at the moment, a federal and provincially funded project to restore the canal and open it up again for recreational boating, hence the signs of construction in some of these photos:

Inside

Here are pictures from Xmas 2002, after we had the place painted white:

Here are pictures of the inside from 2001 (with our furniture now!):

The following pictures were taken when we were first looking at the place, so all the furniture and art seen in them belongs to the previous owner.

10th July 2000

Blue Rodeo hold an outside concert every couple of years up in the lower Laurentians. We had tickets, and Jen’s mum was coming with us. We went to the farm first, and had lunch there, enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Then we headed out to Morin Heights, equipped with blankets, water bottles, floor chair thingies (very comfy) and cash for concert food and beer.

Arriving at the venue, we discovered the local car parks completely full (the concert had started a few hours earlier, with support bands) and were directed to car parks a mile or so away, where we boarded a bus to ferry us back to the venue.

We picked up Elisabeth’s ticket at the door, then headed through, but not before Jen got frisked and told to ditch the water bottles (they sell bottled water inside and don’t want people bringing their own, money grabbing swine!). We found a nice spot on a fake beach (not attached to any water), spread our blanket and settled in for the wait to Blue Rodeo – about 2 hours. I dashed off for beer and a burger just as Natalie McMaster appeared on stage dressed shabbily as her luggage had gone astray on a trip back from Seattle. She did a good job though, despite an apparent lack of interest from the crowd.

As the Blue Rodeo moment approached, the crowds got bigger, and our view became more obscured. When the moment arrived we couldn’t really see anything, but we collected our belongings and headed forward a little, to a spot where we had a great view of the stage, even though it was a still a bit far off.

The performance was great, although Greg’s voice was suffering from some over-indulgence the previous night (his 50th birthday apparently). The audience filled in nicely for him though. At one point I left Jen and Elisabeth and headed down to the front, getting almost up to the stage, with a huge speaker doing some serious damage to my eardrums. The weather stayed fine, the bugs stayed away, and overall it was a very enjoyable evening.

The following weekend, we headed back to the country for dinner with Jen’s mum, and friends Lesley and Jerome and two of their children (and a friend). The evening was supposed to end with some St Jean Baptiste day fireworks at Morin Heights, but big thunderstorms put a stop to that idea, so instead the next night we went into town and watched the Swiss entry in the B&H International Fireworks competition. Some of the best fireworks I’ve ever seen! Fireworks exploding into smiley faces, flowers and hundreds of stars all accompanied by load bangs and classical music.

The rest of the month has been spent getting ready to move into our new apartment (we own it now, after signing on Friday, and move in in the 17th), looking after our sick cats, and for me, getting settled in at work.

23rd June 2000

OK, so I’m trying to make it one entry a month now. Maybe that’ll make the entries too long and boring, maybe I’ll forgot what I did all month, but so be it!

After our trip out West, it was time to get down to some serious job hunting. It was also time to get the long awaited engagement ring for Jennifer. I was going to hang on to it for a few days longer, but we had an unpleasant weekend involving two sick cats, so I sprung the “surprise” that Sunday, and Jen was thrilled. If you like, you can go gawp at the ring.

Shortly after starting to seriously look for work (and getting seriously discouraged because someone told me it would be tough without knowledge of French), I landed an interview with CN, and got the contract! Six months, starting June 27th.

While the job hunting was going on, we also went to a few open houses, and discovered an apartment by the canal which we both decided we wanted. We made an offer, the offer was accepted, and it looks like we’ll be moving in the middle of July. Pictures of our new apartment will be appearing soon.

We went to the Grand Prix last weekend, our first ‘live’ grand prix. Jen had got us seats in grandstand 21, one of the silver stands on the eastern (Casino) hairpin. On Friday the weather forecast said rain, so we took an umbrella, but it turned out to be baking hot, luckily we had lots of water too. We watched the practice sessions, and I managed to survive it without earplugs. No big spins or anything, but exciting nonetheless. Saturday was much the same, baking hot all day (despite the weather forecast saying rain again). Schumacher snatched pole in the final seconds, with Coulthard next to him. Sunday was, of course, the most exciting day. We watched the support races, a Ferrari challenge with amateur and a new Beetle race with celebrity drivers (I’d never heard of any of them).

It was cloudy all morning, and when the big moment arrived, rain clouds were threatening. The race started, and everyone got away cleanly. I managed to follow what was going on until it started raining, and people were in and out of the pits so much that we completely lost track and had to try to catch snippets of information from the walkman in between the roar of engines. The race finished with a Ferrari one/two, and Fisichella (Jen’s new number one!) in third. It was a great race, spoiled only slightly by the weather (the only day we didn’t bring an umbrella..).

We headed out of the circuit, only to stop in a massive queue for the metro. After waiting 45 minutes, we ducked out of the queue and walked across the Jacques Cartier bridge to a metro station on the main island. All in all it was a great weekend, and we intend going again next year, this time with gold tickets!

Tomorrow we’re off to see Blue Rodeo at an outdoor concert, report on that next time.

The Ring

Just before Christmas 1999, while we were enjoying a few days in Florence, I asked Jen to marry me over pasta and red wine. She said yes! Now, five months later, I finally got the ring to go with the proposal. The ring is made with 18 carat white gold, and is set with an emerald cut sapphire and 2 small emerald cut diamonds. Jen loves it! Here it is:

The Ring
The Ring

19th May 2000

Hmm, seven months without an entry, unforgivable! This entry will probably be quite long…

After landing as a permanent resident, I headed back to England to finish up at work and deal with the various hassles of leaving the country. I put my house on the market straight away, but decided to wait to sell my car. Jen decided to bring her trip to England forward to the beginning of December, which not only meant we had a month in England together, it also meant I had some much needed help with last minute arrangements.

I finished at BT on the 10th December, which meant we had a few days to sort things out before Christmas. Jen organised a moving sale, a very North American thing, for a Sunday afternoon. We sold lots of stuff, although the bed and sofa still remained.

Before we knew it, it was time to head down South for our flight to Florence – Jen’s xmas present. The flight was uneventful, and we arrived in Bologne right on time. After fighting with the ticket machine for a few minutes, a helpful Englishman showed us which bus ticket to buy. 14000 lira later and we were on our way to the train station. After another fight with another ticket machine, we eventually had Eurostar tickets for Florence. We found seats and settled down for the trip, only to be attacked by a large Italian woman in a fur coat. Apparently I had stolen her reserved seat, but discovering I could not understand her, she gave up the fight and went elsewhere.

An hour or so later, we were standing in Florence train station. We decided to try to walk to the hotel, which proved to be quite exhausting after all that travelling. After trapsing through a maze of narrow streets following hotel signs which seemed to lead us in circles, we finally found our hotel. The building must be very old, our room was huge, with extremely high ceilings and massive double doors out to the hall and to our balcony. The bathroom was obviously added later, but was fine for a short stay. The bath however was tiny, about half the length of a normal bath, with just enough room to sit in while clinging onto the shower attachment which had no wall hook.

We rested in the room for a while, then went out for a stroll. The hotel was right by the river Arno, so we wandered along it into the centre and found somewhere for dinner, a small restaurant on the south side of the river where we had the first of several excellent meals.

The next day we went to the Uffizi, Florence’s most famous art gallery and explored it thoroughly, which took a good part of the day. As well as thousands of individual works of art, the Uffizi also has several rooms which have been fully decorated in styles of days gone by. Incredibly ostentatious and dazzling to look at. We stopped for lunch an impressive looking restaurant nearby, and were served by a surly waiter who didn’t say a word to us the entire time we were there.

We enjoyed a lunch of pizza in a restaurant on the Piazza Vecchio, then explored the myriad of jewellery stores lining the Ponte Vecchio. Finally we enjoyed another fine Italian dinner before retiring to our hotel and enjoying a meal at a restaurant called Bambino just around the corner. The waiter there demanded an order from us, even though we were still trying to translate the menu, but otherwise it was a pleasant restaurant with excellent food.

The next day, we visited the Duomo, a massive cathedral with incredibly ornate outer walls and of course the huge dome on top. Then we crossed the river to the Palazza Pitti, hoping to see the Boboli gardens, but they were closing when we arrived, so we went to an Edvard Munch exhibition in the palace instead.

After stopping back at the hotel, we went out to a restaurant recommended by the hotel staff. It was closed when we arrived, but they let us sit down and peruse the menu. After struggling for half an hour to translate the menu, the waiter came and asked if we would like English menus, so we put away our phrase cards. We enjoyed a fabulous meal, surrounded by people who appeared to be locals. At the end of the evening, over the last of our wine, I asked Jen to marry me, and she said yes!

The next day we travelled back to England, fairly uneventfully apart from getting the broken seats on the plane (broken footrest, broken table, broken recliner etc.)

We spent Christmas between Maylandsea and Stanford, and enjoyed both, gave and got lots of loot, so much that it was a struggle to get everything packed for our return to Canada! After borrowing an old suitcase from my Dad, we managed to get everything in and we were off to my new home.

We were met at Dorval airport by Jen’s mum and Richard, but we were too exhausted to be very sociable, so we went straight home and passed out.

Since then I’ve been settling into life in Montreal. I turfed out boxloads of junk from the apartment to make room for my stuff. We’ve done some decorating and rearranging. We’ve started a photo gallery in the hall. We’ve got new computer desks. I’ve been looking for work. After the car got sold I bought a new computer, and a bike, and a DVD player.

In April we went on a trip to British Columbia. The first half of the trip was to attend Jen’s brother’s graduation ceremony, in Nelson, which is an eight hour drive from Vancouver. Dan was at the art school there, studying Jewellery. After the main ceremony, a raffle and auction was held. We won a cool TV stand and a CD holder in the raffle, and bought a funky red table in the auction. Thanks to Dan for shipping it all home for us!

The second part of the BC trip we stayed with Philip and Doris. Philip is an ex-Brit and ex-co-worker of mine who emigrated to Vancouver a few years ago. Since I saw him last he’s shaved his head and grown a goatee, which was a surprise! While we were there he was busy transferring their CD collection onto the computer, which seemed like a very cool idea, so now we’ve done the same.

Finally, we headed down to Seattle to meet up with some friends from Chatgames, which was a lot of fun. We also took a day trip out to Snoqualmie, where Twin Peaks was filmed, and Roslyn, where Northern Exposure was filmed.

19th October 1999

Another trip to Canada, and I’m now a permanent Canadian resident! My full landing experience is documented here.

While I was in Canada this time, we had a great Thanksgiving weekend in the country, and Jen’s mum cooked an excellent meal. We also went to Kingston, Ontario for a night and a day, which is a nice little town on Lake Ontario. Apart from that we just relaxed and enjoyed our time together.

27th September 1999

Hmmm, over a month since my last entry, I’m slacking! I have an excuse though, as I was in Canada from the 1st to the 18th September. I went out there with my Dad, and we were met my Jen and my brother Tristan, who had arrived at Jen’s the day before fresh from summer camp. Mirabel airport has an observation area for people waiting for arrivals, so we felt like we were in a fishbowl going through customs, with Jen, Tristan and lots of strangers looking down at us.

We went straight up to the country, and spent the evening with Betty. Richard was away working, but Jen’s brother Dan was home for a visit, and it was good to see him again.

After spending Friday back in the city, we headed back to the country to spend the weekend with Richard and Betty. Tristan had an especially good time when Richard got out the motor-trike for him. We all had a go (all the ‘boys’ that is), and polluted the area with two-stroke fumes before putting it away again.

On the following Tuesday, Dad and Tristan hired a car, and headed off to do touristy things. I stayed with Jen, went out to work with her, wandered around some shops, and ate junk food and watched movies in the evenings.

We had planned to go down to New York the following weekend, to see Tristan onto his plane home, but after struggling to find accomodation in the city we gave up on that idea and went to Quebec City instead. The city has a European feel to it, and feels a bit like a seaside resort. We walked the 300+ steps up onto the promenade to see the view, then back down again and into a bar for a much needed drink.

The following day, we packed Tristan off onto a Greyhound to New York to catch his flight home. We spent the rest of the week relaxing and not doing very much at all, partly because it was raining a lot. We watched more movies, and went to the Montreal Museum of Fine Art to see the Cosmos exhibit.

It seemed like we’d only been there a few days, and it was time to go back to England again. We spent the last weekend back in the country, and were treated to a glorious sunny day on the last day. We ate coq au vin, with fresh vegetables from the garden, then headed for the airport, and England.

A quick Sunday lunch at Dad’s house, a wave to Philippa as she headed back to University, and it was time to drive home. I arrived home late that night, and discovered to my delight my Canadian visa waiting on the doorstep for me. I phoned Jen to tell her the good news, and started making lists of all the things I have to do before I leave the country. It was quite overwhelming at first, but I think I have everything in hand now!

This weekend I drove down to Sarah and Geoff’s house, and we went out for a nice meal with Ruairidh, who regailed us with stories of his recent theatre production. The meal was in a country pub in the middle of nowhere, and was quite excellent. Of course, it was washed down with plenty of wine!

I awoke late the next morning, and discovered that a cooked breakfast was about to appear on the table, perfect timing! After a surprisingly philosophical chat over bacon and eggs, Ruairidh and I both headed off, me to get home in time for the GP, and Ruairidh for another theatre appointment. We met each other again a few miles down the road after both getting lost, then eventually found our way to the main road.

16th August 1999

Not much has happened since Jen headed back to Canada. Philippa and Dad are both recovering well after their accidents, Philippa is already back on the boats. The plane tickets arrived a few days ago, so we’re all set to head off to Canada on 1st September.

The big event here was the eclipse last Wednesday. The totality was down in Cornwall, but we had 99% coverage here in Shropshire. I drove up to Lyth Hill country park and sat in the car watching through eclipse viewing glasses. It was quite amazing, despite the clouds rolling in about halfway through. It didn’t get completely dark, because of that 1% still uncovered, but there was a strange kind of half light, different to dusk or heavy cloud cover. The temperature dropped considerably too. I was lucky I arrived early, because the park became crowded with people and the tiny car park soon filled up. Down in Cornwall they had thick cloud cover, but apparently the totality was still a fantastic experience, plunging the area into almost complete darkness.

6th August 1999

On Saturday the 24th July, I headed for Manchester Airport to meet Jen. She arrived on time, after an apparently very pleasant flight (business class, I’m very envious!). We headed home, spent the afternoon grocery shopping and the evening relaxing in front of the TV.

The next day, we headed up to Ironbridge for a walk, following the route I walked on 10th February 1999. Jen wasn’t very impressed with the steep climb, but enjoyed the woods at the top. After arriving back home and grabbing a bite to eat, we went out to The Fox pub for Jen’s first experience of a real life Pub Quiz. It was a lot of fun, and we came third thanks to a well placed joker card.

I was back at work for the rest of the week, so Jen spent her days relaxing at home, or shopping in town.

On the Monday evening we went to see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, which was very enjoyable, if a little corny. I think you need to be a kid to enjoy it fully! Tuesday and Wednesday evenings were spent relaxing, and on Thursday night we went out for a drunken time with Pippa.

Friday was my sister’s 21st birthday, so we had arranged to drive down there for her party. The drive took nearly 5 hours, thanks to some very nasty traffic, so we arrived at my mum’s house at about 5 to drop off our wedding clothes for the next day. I phoned Dad from there, only to discover that everyone was at the hospital, after Philippa had been hit by the boom while sailing. She was in intensive care, and heavily sedated, so we decided not to go to the hospital and to go to Dad’s house instead. We had drinks with Dad, Clare, Manda, Hayley, Liz, and some of Philippa’s old school friends who turned up expecting a party.

The next morning we went to the hospital. Philippa was still in intensive care, but she was awake and talking, if a little groggy. She had tubes everywhere and looked terrible, but at least she was conscious.

As Philippa seemed to be on the road to recovery, we decided to head off to Scott and Natasha’s wedding, which started at 2. It was a very traditional ceremony, and reception, with lots of my old friends acting as ushers and bridesmaids. A good time was had by all, despite the small risk of people expiring in the stifling heat of the marquee (especially during the hot vegetable soup course of the meal!).

We went back to Dad’s the next day, and then back to the hospital. Philippa was looking much better, and was moved from intensive care to a general ward. We left her to settle in to her new surroundings and went back to Maylandsea for some dinner and drinks.

We had planned on going to Bath on Monday, but decided instead to go to Cambridge, which is much closer to Essex. Cambridge is a very pretty city, especially along the river, with the old college buildings lining the waterfront. We rented a row boat for an hour, and had a fun time dodging incompetent punt pilots and trying to find a way through the throng of boats. My first rowing experience went remarkably well (and Jen was good too, but she’s had lots of practice)!

After a meal and a wander around the shops, we headed back to Shrewsbury. We arrived back late, and went straight to bed. The next morning I discovered a letter from Canadian Immigration on my doorstep. It was my medical forms, so I immediately booked an appointment with a doctor in Birmingham.

I called Dad, and discovered that Philippa had been sent home from hospital. That was the good news. The bad news was that my Dad had been sent home from work after falling off a ladder and hurting his hip! He’s now using a dining chair as a zimmer frame, and hobbling around the house. I expect Philippa is having a good laugh…

We had planned to go to the seaside for Jen’s last day here, but the weather was being cruel and we ended up staying home. We watched Sliding Doors, and generally did nothing, but lazy days at home are good sometimes.

On Wednesday I took Jen to the airport and we said our goodbyes. It’s now four weeks before I head off to Canada and see her again. I hope it goes quickly!

Yesterday I went for my medical, which was very successful. Find out more on my Canada Immigration Page.

14th July 1999

Two quiet weeks with not much happening, hence the lack of diary updates. Last weekend I went for a drive out to Lake Vyrnwy, a reservoir and nature reserve about 30 miles west of Shrewsbury, which is a very pleasant place for a stroll. From there I headed north a bit to Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall, which I’ve since discovered is one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Wales’. You can walk right up to the edge of the falls, and it’s not surrounded by gift shops and amusement arcades, so it’s a nice little spot.

I seem to have drifted away from Chatgames since I stopped hosting, but I want to try to get back into it. I wouldn’t like to lose any of the friends I’ve made there. Having to struggle through netsplits and server crashes doesn’t make it any easier though!

Jen arrives a week on Saturday, for 10 days, which will be lots of fun, and hopefully the resulting diary entries will be a little more entertaining!