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Ice-skating, for the English, can be rather tricky. Although our little country does occasionally freeze over, we don`t, as a general rule, immediately strap thin steel blades to our feet and then try to get about on the ice. I contemplated this as I stood in the middle of a frozen pond (safety propaganda from my youth told me this was dangerous) as six-year-olds skated backwards around me, laughing at me.

A good ice-skating analogy: Imagine someone had given you a highly unstable and dangerous car as a gift. If you sat in the seat incorrectly the car would veer off the road and flip over several times. Once you`ve worked out this you discover that the steering wheel is reversed, and yanking it too hard causes the car to crash again. Pressing the accelerator too quickly, or the brake also causes high speed crashes... Next week I may be going cross-country skiing which is like down-hill skiing, but on the flat. I can`t work out how anyone gets anywhere without much sweating and swearing, personally.

Canada ha also been good for giving up smoking. When it is -20oC outside and you have to decide if you`re going to put on your socks, boots, jumper, coat, scarf, gloves and hat to go outside and freeze whilst trying to smoke a cigarette held between jumbo sized, glove enclosed fingers, or, stay indoors and have a cup of tea instead, I often decided upon the latter of the two.

The other day I was told that there would be freezing rain today.

'Ah,' I said knowingly, 'what you mean is "hail"'

But no, they actually had rain which falls as a liquid and then freezes on contact with anything it lands on. After a brief shower of this the world is covered in a half an inch thick layer of (very) slippery ice... everywhere. And this, dear friends, is why I kept on falling on my arse on my way home on New Year`s eve, and not because of the beer...

Anyway, enough of that. No job and no apartment of our own yet, but we`re working on it. All is well, if a little chilly. I know I promised no more of these emails, but this is one for old time`s sake. And now to two final points of business:

1. Addresses. In case of massive solar flare, etc, and loss of email in the world. You can reach me through the following care of addresses (also good for xmas cards): [redacted]

2. Publishing. I`m in the middle (a third of the way) through writing my first novel and would appreciate anyone`s insider knowledge of / contacts in the publishing world. (You never know).

Well, take care all. I can`t get to the internet very easily at the moment, so won`t be emailing with any frequency for a while. Much love,

Ralph.