Iam spending three weeks cottaging in Canada. This is now the 13th year that I have proudly made that same double-entendre in this paper after embarking on my annual summer trip to Muskoka, a series of three conjoined lakes about two hours north of Toronto.
We stay in a cottage on Lake Joseph, and I spend my waking days roaring around the lakes on a speedboat and watching my kids hurl themselves off increasingly tall cliffs. Normally the temperature hovers around the 30C mark, but Canada is having a bad summer this year and we currently rush out on to the dock to soak up the rare rays of sunshine that manage to poke through the dark clouds above.
Access to said dock, however, has been made trickier by the regular presence of a large black bear. We are not sure if the bear comes as part of the rental or is just up here on holiday himself. One of our kids spotted him first and ran into the cottage screaming that there was a bear on the dock. I'm ashamed to say that we did not immediately believe the story. The Joly family is well known for telling tall tales and I simply groaned and rolled over in bed. Some of the family was less incredulous and soon there were screams and much excitement from the upper terrace. As, technically, the experienced woodsman of the trip, I dragged myself out of bed and stumbled on to the terrace to observe, "Bob" the bear (my kids named him immediately) nonchalantly sitting on our dock and staring back up at the cottage in a curiously vacant manner.
He was very close to the boat and I briefly wondered whether the cottage owners took Bob for a spin around the bay every morning. Maybe we had not read the booklet properly? I quickly leafed through the literature – there was nothing about the cottage coming with a resident bear, nor anything about what he might require from us.
I have to admit to rather fancying cruising past the Lake Joe club with a big black bear plonked in the passenger seat. Muskoka is Toronto's answer to the Hamptons and everybody is constantly attempting to get one-up on each other with their water toys. Last year, it was all about the giant, inflatable, climbing trapezoid that people would anchor off their cottage. This year the toy of choice is the Lily Pad, a vast floating foam rectangle for kids to muck about on. Meanwhile, Canadian parents seem to have gone more spiritual and relaxed a little on the obsession with mega-speedboats. They now choose to look utterly ridiculous by either doing yoga on paddleboards, or cycling the lakes on floating bicycles.
I plead guilty to causing enough subtle wake with my boat to knock both these types into the water. This activity would be even more enjoyable if I had Bob the Bear honking the horn and giving them the rigid claw as we went past. I suspect that there might be some frantic calls to our landlord about terminating our rental, but it's hardly my fault.
What else am I supposed to do with the bloody great bear on my dock?