Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Not as easy as it looks

I saw this fellow moving smartly down Colborne St. heading south. I made a U-turn but got stopped by a red light. He crossed Dundas Street and, by the time I was almost close enough to get a picture, he turned right onto Horton. He made peddling one bike and controlling another look easy. At Wellington Street I got a quick picture off before he darted through the stopped traffic to head south. Totally illegal, this is the type of picture that The London Free Press would never run, and for good reason. The paper would be accused of make dangerous conduct look acceptable. So let me just say this, "Kids, try this at home (and not on the street.)"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

London Soap and Cosmetic Company

In 1985 the oldest surviving soap factory in Canada was destroyed by fire. Today this is all that remains. How very, very sad. This was a interesting plant, and with some imagination it could have been a really cool museum with a great location beside the Thames River.

According to the plaque, from 1875 until 1984 the factory on this site produced a profuse variety of soap products. For the last four years the property was owned by the City of London and the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority.

The rusting artifact is a toilet soap milling machine that mixed soap flakes with different fragrances to produce bars of fine soap. The flakes of soap are long gone and in their place flakes of rust are appearing on the massive gears.

In the coming days, I am going to be running pictures from this core London neighbourhood, a neighbourhood under stress. More has been lost in this neighbourhood than the century soap plant.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Annual London Arthritis Walk was Sunday

Iota Chi Chapter: UWO sorority sisters from Alpha Omicron Pi cheer on the walkers at the 1 km. mark Sunday. AOIIs are committed to improving the world and to that end the chapter supports the battle against juvenile arthritis.
The Second Annual London Arthritis Walk was held Sunday morning with supporters gathering at Springbank Gardens, the former Wonderland Gardens, for a five km walk along the paved Thames River pathway.

Laff Guard Bill Paul starts walk with Nick Paparella, left.

Arthritis Walks are being held in communities across Ontario this Fall. This was the second one for London and already the society is building on this year's success to stage a bigger and better fundraiser in 2010.

Doug Roberts, of Tai Chi for Arthritis, led the participants in gentle, fluid, yet effective, exercises prior to the walk. Tai Chi has been used in China for centuries by those dealing with arthritis.

Depite battling arthritis, this woman,
accompanied by her daughter-in-law and young grandson, jogs ahead of the main pack of walkers .

Supporters: The young lady on the right has arthritis, but she also has supportive friends to accompany her on the walk.
Winning Team: These five raised the most money of any team. They got a lot of help from the lady second from the right. She won the award for bringing in the most contributions of any walker Sunday.

Chris Bentley, MPP for London West, with Libby owned by Angela Bertin of the Arthritis Society. Libby obviously has good taste in men as she takes a ready shine to Bentley.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Move over Marcel

Marcel Duchamp's ready-made urinal was voted the most influential work of art of all time by 500 art experts back in 2004. Well, it is 2009 and it's time for Marcel. Duchamp to step aside. It was so long ago, 1917, when he shocked the art establishment by taking a urinal, calling it Fountain, signing it, and putting it on display. It was a brilliant addition to avant garde art. Oops! I forgot to sign my art. Aaahhh!

In 1915 Duchamp coined the term "readymade" for these found objects which he chose and presented as art. His first readymade, an inverted bicycle wheel mounted on a stool, was presented in 1913 and actually predates the term.

Jane McIntosh tells us on her blog that Fountain was an example of Dadaism, which was not art but anti-art bent on rejecting traditional culture and embracing chaos and irrationality.

Hey, that's me — irrational, chaotic and rejecting of just about everything; why stop at culture? (For a more in-depth look at "Is it art?", please check Rockin' On: the blog.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Black-eyed Susan

I knew it was called Black-eyed Susan but when I googled it for more information it appeared on the Ontario government's list of weeds. According to the government site, Black-eyed Susan is a native plant in the Great Plains but was introduced into Ontario where it has spread aggressively throughout the province in meadows, pastures, edges of woods, river valleys, lakeshores and roadsides. Clearly, like most who move to Ontario, Susan likes it here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Red dress draws attention, smile keeps it

I don't imagine many photographers could stand idly by while this young woman walked past. The bright red dress, the large purple sunglasses, both work to attract attention. But it's the smile that keeps the attention and says don't miss this.

I didn't.


Addendum: pictures that work because of a smile are usually best when we can see the eyes, eyes with bright catch lights. This smile has enough sparkle to be successful all on its own.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dog days of summer past, unless you're a dog

While walking through Victoria Park, in downtown London, Ontario, I caught sight of this dog sleeping at the feet of its owner. I crawled under the park bench for the picture but I worried pooch would awaken and be upset having a camera tight in its face. There was no need to be concerned. This dog was out and I didn't have to explain myself to a curious pooch. Now, explaining myself to a curious owner, that was another matter.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Skateboarders are cool

No matter what you think of skateboarders prowling downtown London for challenges, skateboarders are cool daredevils. I rode a skateboard, once. I started at the top of a hill and rode the borrowed skateboard to the bottom, where a low-hanging rope blocked my way. The skateboard went under the rope, I jumped and went over, landing with numerous stumbling, forward-lurching steps; I wasn't cool.

The skateboarder, left, was going airborne in order to land at speed on the edge of a stainless steel topped concrete bench. He then slid some distance along the metal edge before wrapping up the trick with a leap to the pavement. Cool!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cliché, but this too is life

I had to be on the campus of the University of Western Ontario (UWO) yesterday. It brought back such memories, and I didn't even go to the "U". It seems some things really don't change — a few hundred miles of distance plus a few decades — and still I felt at home. Amazing! I showed these pictures to my wife; she said, "They're O.K. pictures, but they're so cliché."

At first, I was disappointed. Then I realized she was right and that that was the strength of these shots. — not posed, the scenes not tampered with in any way.

A young man strums his guitar, quietly singing, accompanied by a friend on an African-style drum. Two girls listen, one distracted by her notebook computer. (O.K. No one was ever distracted by their notebook computer when I went to school.)

I included the top picture to appease my wife. The shot is cliché but it still has a hint of art. The following picture is the one I like. Can't you just feel the warmth of the weakening summer sun?

Simpsons Clouds

Yesterday was a perfect Simpsons clouds day in London, Ontario.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Be vewy vewy quiet . . . "

"Be vewy vewy quiet . . . ," and you might get the picture of the rabbit on the porch. I wasn't quiet enough, and I didn't.

Oh well, maybe I can get a picture of the groundhog living in the decorative flower island in the middle of my front lawn. I've got grass stained elbows from stalking that critter.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


If I walk east from my home just a few steps, there is a field overlooking what was a gravel pit when my wife and I bought our home. Today that field is thick with weeds and pictures are everywhere. This isn't the best shot of these weeds at sunset but I must get back soon if I'm going to capture a better and more artistic image.

For now, this one will have to do.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

London's annual Terry Fox Run

Terry Fox first appeared in London, Ontario, on July 17, 1980, running down Dundas Street on his Marathon of Hope. The street was lined with thousands of adoring Londoners. Less than a year later, Terry passed away at age 22, taken by an aggressive form of cancer.

But Terry was back Sunday. Terry knew before his death that there would be annual Terry Fox Runs in communities right across Canada. He chose September for the events as this was the month he was forced to end his run; Terry stopped but Canadians started.

Many thousands turn out every year to participate in Terry Fox Runs. London is no exception.

London Terry Fox committee member Paul Cox said in The London Free Press that local donors gave $365,000 in 2008, $1 for every Londoner. That total includes money raised by area schools and the University of Western Ontario.

Organizers hope the main community run this year will raise about $150,000, pushing the total collected since the London event began to $2.5 million.

Runners gathered Sunday at Springbank Gardens, formerly Wonderland Gardens, and ran, walked, biked, or skateboarded around either a two km loop or a five km loop. Some groups ran the five km course twice, and others made three loops to complete a run of 15 km --- almost ten miles.

Families ran the course together, single runners ran the course to meet their own personal goals, mothers and fathers covered the distance pushing strollers. Much of the course was run on London's Terry Fox Parkway. Very fitting.

Terry Fox would be proud of us. And us? We're proud of Terry Fox — a true Canadian hero.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

UWO Shinerama (Terry Fox Run Pics Mon.)

Give this fundraiser a thumbs up as the University of Western Ontario (UWO) is number one. Yes, London's UWO, with the largest orientation week in Canada, runs one of Canada's most successful Shinerama campaigns. The UWO and Sir Wilfrid Laurier University typically battle for for first place in the annual campaign with Carleton University in Ottawa taking the third position. Since joining the Shinerama initiative in 1968, Western has raised over $2,000,000, the most of any university.

This weekend London was swarmed by a huge horde of young people on the prowl raising money to fight cystic fibrosis. These three canvased my street and posed for a picture in return for a donation.

Shinerama is Canada`s largest post-secondary school fundraiser with more than
25,000 college and university students at more than 60 campuses across Canada participating. Since 1964, students have raised more than $13.1 million!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The little train that could and still can.

The present Springbank Express is a simple little train with a surprisingly rich history.

The following is based on information from CEC: Closed Canadian Parks: In 1920, a miniature steam railway was put in Springbank Park in London, Ontario. This was a streamlined train built by Louie Haddad, Bob McKewn and Bill Shearme — it supposedly only operated for one year. Apparently eventually ending up at Port Stanley Amusement Park in 1942. Where it was from 1921 to 1941, is not known.

A second train was then put into service at Springbank Park. It is believed the start-up of this second train may have been in 1923 but there is a possibility that it was actually the third miniature train to be used in the park.

It seems that Ernest George Yeates, the consulting engineer involved in developing London's water supply was also the miniature railway builder for Dundurn Park which had opened in 1888. Reportedly, that ride came to Springbank Park at some point. Perhaps it was a second train and operated in the park in 1922. This would make the 1923 train yet a third one.

This third train was a 381mm gauge steam engine built in Scotland. It ran until 1965 when it was bought by the Supertest gasoline company as a gift to the local Lion's Club whose members wanted to run it as a fund raiser. However, it was difficult to find someone to run and maintain a steam locomotive, so the engine was converted to either a diesel or a gasoline engine

The converted train ran as the "Springbank Flyer" until 1998 when a new train known as The "Springbank Express" was placed on a new 350-meter track layout and a new station was built. This was all donated by Sifton Properties as part of its 75th Anniversary celebrations.

If anyone notices any errors in this history, please make a comment and I will correct the copy. I do want to get this story right.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fall's on the way

Take a stroll through London, Ontario, and it may only be early September but leaves can be spotted turning bright yellow or red. Fall is on the way. Some whine about the cool summer but not me. It was a great summer and now I'm pumped for a great fall.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gravel pit right in town

The Byron Gravel Pit, the sixteenth-largest gravel pit in Canada, is found in the southwest of London, Ontario. At one time, it was impossible to get so much as a glimpse of the pit but the trees blocking the view have been cut down. Now, one can see a bit of the pit from Colonel Talbot Road. The pit is on the western end of the Ingersoll Moraine, a mix of silt, sand and stony soil (till) deposited by a melting glacier about 13,000 years ago. Some estimate that the pit may remain open for another couple of decades but housing is appearing on the edge of the pit. I feel it will not be all that long before the NIMBY (not in my backyard) fight to close the pit, and put an end to the dust, begins.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Framed by colour

At first, I thought it was the colour, the green, the purple, the flashes of yellow and blue. I was on my way to the Central Library when this lady walked by. Immediately, I thought "picture." She had her head down, struggling with heavy bags in each hand. She was a green hat, wide brim hiding eyes, a bright purple top, necklace, and smile. When I saw the image, I realized that it wasn't the colour that made the picture – it was the smile.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What me worry?

It doesn't last long but at the moment Fiona gives the impression of not having a care in the world. Then again she is a little queen. Enjoy it, kid. Like I said, this moment doesn't last.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Windows Pose a Constant Danger to Birds

We heard the loud thud on the glass and wondered what had happened. Nothing was amiss outside but then we noticed the kitchen window; there was a large dusty mark in the middle of the large pane - a bird had flown into the window. Was it injured? We don't know but as there was no sign of a bird outside, it was apparently able to fly away.

The large, white, dusty spot in the middle is the body, while the wings are the diagonals. The wing tips, spreading into individual feathers, are clearly defined by the dust.

From FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program)
: "If you believe that windows in general pose a serious threat to birds, you're perfectly right. Daniel Klem Jr., a biologist at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, conservatively estimates that every year over 100 million birds die as a result of hitting glass in the United States alone. Dan's studies show that glass in any form - large windows or small, in tall buildings or modest homes, even a car windshield - is a potential killer."

Friday, September 4, 2009

Monster Homes Once Called Mansions

As our daughter waited patiently to give birth, I went for a walk. The hospital, as old as it is, has some features worth photographing. But, I didn't. Instead, I walked over to Wellington Street and down Wellington to Oxford Street. This is a gorgeous street. It is one of the nicest in London. The sizes and the architecture of the homes say "story." When I read about monster homes as if big houses are something totally new, I thought of neighbourhoods like this and thought "no." The difference, and my wife agrees with me on this, when we were young we called these homes mansions. I know that my friends and I thought these big homes were cool and we wanted one. So why is it a surprise when many of those kids, and many of my childhood friends have accomplished it, grew up to own their own McMansions?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

She here and she's perfect.

Not much is perfect in life. In fact, I am not sure that anything has ever seemed perfect before. But Fiona is perfect. She is just such a beautiful sight. I'm too tired to write much and will fill this out tomorrow. Tonight, I am going to be content to share with you this picture of my granddaughter taken just minutes after her birth.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fries 'R' Us, St. Thomas

[Since writing this I have been told I was right and I was very, very wrong. The picture shows the actual fries I was given and on which I based my post. Please read the comments for updates. Also, this chip wagon may have moved.]

The London Free Press has a history of running excellent, quirky little pieces, like Staycations or Our Five Your Five. I took careful note of the the OFYF article Five Great Places to Get a Bite on the Run. I learned about Fries 'R' Us in St. Thomas from that piece. Driving from London, the red wagon is on the left, at the top of the Talbot Street rise leading into the city. [ . . . or at least, was.]

I thought the fries were good last year but they were even better today. Freshly cut potatoes fried to a crisp golden glow, crunchy on the outside, white and almost creamy on the inside. Was I just lucky? I don't know, but I do know that the business was recently sold and the new owner was in the kitchen.

I just must go back and research this topic some more.