Montreal Mural Festival

When summer rolls around in Montreal, you can be sure of a couple of things: road works which send you off on complicated detours and festivals!

One of my absolute favourite festivals is the Mural Festival.

Two weeks to watch the artists at work and the murals emerge, and to wander up and down St Laurent without having to worry about traffic. And maybe visit the Breton crêperie or the Portuguese bakery or any number of coffee places or clothes boutiques, or the Enchanted Forest, a park taken over by yoga, dance, musicians and Lululemon for the duration of the Festival. I’d never realized before how very Continue reading

Montreal Grand Prix, French Lessons and Minis

I’m not a fan of the Grand Prix – the noise (pounding music, screaming tires, revving engines), the wasted resources (yes, I know, those tourist dollars coming into Montreal – but think of the taxpayers’ subsidies going out), the ‘vroom virus’ that infects even normally sedate drivers, making street crossing an extreme sport.

On the other hand, some of the doors are impressive.

Montreal Grand Prix 2017

What’s with the doors that open Continue reading

Montreal’s 18th Century Market

Montreal's 18th Century MarketI’d lived in Montreal for years before I discovered the annual 18th Century Market. Now I never miss it.

The market takes place in Montreal’s first market square, Place Royale, which is between the St Lawrence River and the Old Customs House (L’Ancienne Douane), built 1836-36.

Montreal's 18th Century Market

As the city is on the traditional territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) people, their Continue reading

150 Words For 150 Years

To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday (for Europeans of course, not for those who were already here) Atwater Writers Exhibition ran a writing contest: 150 Words For 150 Years.

Writers submitted from all over Canada, the U.S., and several other countries too, such as India and Serbia.

I wrote a non-fiction piece about two particular incidents, 86 years apart, involving my grandmother’s copper kettle.

The kettle was given to her in 1912, a wedding present, just days before she and my grandfather (six days married) set sail from England for Canada. My mother gave the kettle to me when Continue reading

Raising Charles Joseph’s Totem in Montreal

'Residential School Totem Pole' carved by artist Charles Joseph from Kwakwaka'wakw Nation, BC, being raised at the Montréal Musée des Beaux Arts 2017
I happened to be passing as the ‘Residential School Totem,’ carved by artist Charles Joseph from Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, BC, was being raised outside the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Of course I had to stop and watch even though it was Continue reading

The Challenges of Judging a Children’s Writing Competition

Even though I’ve graded any number of school and university students’ papers, exams and projects, I’ve never enjoyed it. That’s an understatement. I loathe grading!

So why did I volunteer to join a judging committee for a children’s writing competition?

I suppose I felt it was a small way to give back to the larger writing community. I’ve been so lucky to have wonderful generous mentors and friends who’ve taken the time to give me advice and feedback.

In any case, what could be so hard about helping judge a children’s writing competition?

Plenty, as it turned out! Continue reading

What is ‘Home’ for a Writer?

Bridge House, Ambleside, Cumbria, EnglandA writer friend who had recently moved to Montreal asked me where home was for me. Was it Montreal?

I was surprised how complicated it was to answer that. Yes, my home is in Montreal. I’ve lived here for years. But Montreal is not totally “home.” There are ways in which I’ll never feel I completely belong. For one thing, I only have to open my mouth and people know I’m not from here. I certainly don’t sound like a francophone Canadian. I don’t sound like an anglophone Canadian either.

Where are you from? I’m asked that at least once a week.

But where I came from isn’t home either. That country has changed so much that when I’m there, I’m definitely a visitor. I even have trouble working out which coin is what value when I get on the bus or go shopping.

So is home being with my husband? With my family? Or is it…

I’m clearly not the only one to have trouble pinning down the idea of ‘home.’

The panel discussion “What is Home” at the recent Blue Metropolis Literary Festival, Continue reading