Tag Archives: Toronto

It’s not what you think . . .

Today we became Canadian Citizens!

For those who may be unsure, this does not mean we have to renounce our British Citizenship. Dual citizenship blesses us with considerable freedom of movement in both Europe and North America, as well as consolidating our status here in Canada and giving us the right to vote (and hold office). There is also something important to me about embracing the full responsibilities of a citizen – we feel very fortunate to have this opportunity and would like to play our part in helping to make Canada the best it can be.

To honour the occasion, I thought I’d reflect on some of the misconceptions we have come across about Canada and Toronto!

  • Toronto is not ‘the far north’ – it lies way south of the UK, at the same latitude(43 42’N) as Nice and just south of Florence.
  • Average July temperatures are 3.3C higher than in London at 26.1C, though of course the winters genuinely are colder. Temperatures usually hover much of the time around -1 to -5C, though this year we have dipped on occasion to nearly -30C. But we get 2066 hours of bright sunshine on average a year compared with just less than 1500 in London. And that little bit of extra cold actually takes away some of the dampness.


  • Despite the recent glare of publicity on the less than savoury exploits of our mayor, Toronto is ranked the second most reputable city in the world, by the Reputation Institute, the world’s leading Reputation Management Consultancy.
  • As far as crime goes, Toronto’s rates are just slightly lower than London’s.


  • ‘Canada produces wine?!’ Yes, and much of it is very good! In Ontario, there are three notable wine areas; Niagara, Prince Edward County and the North Erie Shore. I am enjoying becoming increasingly knowledgeable about Ontario wine – it is fun to find winery tours so accessible. And, just for the record, in 2013, the Decanter World Wine Awards judged a wine from the Okanagan valley in British Columbia, Mission Hill’s Pinot Noir, as one of the World’s Best Wines! Echoing Napa Valley’s breakthrough moment, this could herald increasing interest in Canadian wines.

And on that note, it’s time to raise a glass to the country we have chosen to call home.

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Ice Ice Baby – Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Beauty and brutality . . .

It just looks as if it is raining – as Brits, we know ‘cold, wet and miserable’!

But this is rain that freezes on contact, ‘accretes’ on branches and leaves, on Christmas lights and baubles, on roads and side-walks, on cars, on road-signs . . . . on anything it touches.

At first it is just a fine layer, but the layers build and build until all is encased in crystal.

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Eventually, the rain stops. If you venture out, safely clad with ice-grippers, there is a magical beauty, everything robed in clear ice that can be three or four centimetres thick. As the breeze shifts iced-branches, they sing an unearthly song, though for anyone who knows, there is a frisson of fear. When branches are weighed down like this, there is a risk that they will simply shear off.


Many areas of Toronto looked like a war-zone. We have lost around 20% of our urban tree canopy. Falling branches mean electrical wires torn loose. Over 300,000 homes were without power for anything from a few hours to over a week through Christmas and even into the New Year. Our power flickered through Saturday night and was gone by 6 a.m. on Sunday. It came back on at 8.30 a.m. on Tuesday, two hours after we left for Christmas in Quebec City. It is estimated that the clear-up will take two months and cost $75 million.

The pragmatism of Toronto’s people has been awesome, as well as the outpouring of mutual support. I can’t speak highly enough of the efforts of Hydro (Electricity Supply Board) workers from all over the country who put aside their own family Christmas celebrations to help. A priest I know spoke of a Hydro worker who positively glowed with the pleasure of restoring power to a church on Christmas Eve.

The last major ice-storm to affect Toronto was in 1998. I was mesmerized by the beauty inherent in the experience of an ice storm, but my heart goes out to all those significantly affected by it and I am heartily glad that past records suggest that we shouldn’t have another one too soon!

 See all our ice storm photos in our gallery!

Nuit Blanche 2013

I seem often to hear people questioning the attraction of  Nuit Blanche.

For me there are two main strands.

One is a kind of sensory re-awakening. Each year there are many weird and wonderful happenings and just one or two pieces that really engage me at a deeper level, staying with me. But the overall impact heightens my experience of the everyday – leaves in water, light and shadow penetrating our home courtesy of a street light as we open the front door to a darkened room. It reminds me to see, to hear, to notice.

The other is the incredible openness of the crowd – a glorious diversity united in an ability to connect with childlike delight.

(You can see bigger versions of the photos in our gallery)

Birthday Shoes!

Happy birthday Paul!

A joyous start to the day; meeting our lovely daughter Jess on Skype for a tour of her new home.

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Blue, blues skies and clear golden light – a perfect day for the lunch cruise that was part of a charity auction package we bought at the recent BuskerFest Ball.

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We were reminded how lovely our city is when viewed from the water (as is so much of Ontario); the CN tower‘s inescapably commanding presence; the relaxed greenness of Toronto islands; the exuberant to-ing and fro-ing of every kind of water-craft, revelling in this patchy summer’s last hurrah.

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We got our culture fix from a couple of hours at the Gardiner, Canada’s national ceramics museum – so much to delight us! If we had to pick one piece, I think it would be a huge modern bowl called ‘Playa’ by Steven Heinemann, its interior like a parched surface on which is superimposed a giant fingerprint.

[Not a valid template][Not a valid template]As always in Toronto, there were unexpected pleasures – a quiet conversation with a studious statue; a birthday kiss; a swathe of skateboarders swarming down University Avenue to a meetup in Queen’s Park.

Finally, a detour to the Distillery District to buy birthday shoes.

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And, at home, cake (of course)!

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(There are more photos from Paul’s birthday in our gallery)


City Solitude

I still get a real kick from the discovery of wild, solitary places in this urban sprawl.

We hiked 11.5 km at the weekend along the shores of Ontario’s shining waters, first down the ravine bounded by a tumbling stream to Bea McCowan’s sculpture Passage; then along an empty gravel road beneath the bluffs and then back up to the cliff top, through woodland glades jewel-studded with wild-flowers. A lovely walk – very hard to believe that we were still in the city.

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[Route: The Doris McCarthy Trail, along the shore and up through Guildwood Park, following the cliff as far as possible before cutting through the leafy streets to Sylvan Park and back to our starting point]

More photos in the Scarborough Bluffs Gallery in our Toronto Album