Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas from London, Ontario, Canada

Fiona got lots of gifts and their value ranged widely. But one gift that got lots of attention cost but $2 at the Dollar Store: a simple xylophone. A toy with a history going back a hundred years was easily able to compete with her other favorite toy: Mom's iPhone.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from London, Ontario, Canada

Merry Christmas
and a 
Happy New Year
to all!

. . . and now to go and watch Fiona unwrap her gifts. Maybe I'll post some pictures. I do hope you are all having as wonderful a Christmas as I am. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

More on the upside to snow

A family enjoying the deep snow on the long, steep hill near Lookout Crt.
Families can often be found taking advantage of the steep neighbourhood hill running for hundreds of yards behind dozens of suburban homes in the Byron subdivision in the southwest of London, Ontario.

It's a bit of a climb back to the summit.
The hill is so long and steep because it is what remains of a very deep gravel pit that was closed and rehabilitated.more than a decade ago.

The runs are fast but the climb back to the top slow can be slow, especially when the snow is deep and fresh.

Although few wear helmets, they would be a good idea, especially here. When the snow gets shoved aside by all the sledding, sometimes a rock will jut out of from the slope.

If you're dressed for it, one can simply rest in the snow.
One thing we learned from the unfortunate death of actor Natasha Richardson was even small falls pose big dangers. Richardson died after taking a tumble on a beginner hill at Mont Tremblant, Quebec.

Every year thousands go to the hospital with injuries sustained playing on slopes. Helmets are a good idea, even if they're not popular.

It can be difficult seeing where you're going with the snow flying.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The upside, the upside downside, to snow

This boy knew just where to aim his sled. He took to the air on each descent.
I live in the suburb of Byron in southwest London, Ontario. At one time there was a gravel pit across the court from my home. Today the gravel pit is filled and there is now a park there. In the spring it's a great place to fly a kite and in the summer it has a well maintained diamond for baseball. But it is in the winter when the former pit really shines. It has a long, steep slope that is easy to reach and great for sledding, tobogganing, or even snow boarding, if you don't mind a short, fast run followed by a long, slow climb.

Glasses aren't much good when you have your eyes closed.
Today I noticed more than the usual number of cars in our court. This could mean only one thing: The slope is snow-covered and perfect for sledding. The word was out.

I grabbed my camera and headed into the snow. I followed the last group to arrive down the path behind a row of suburban homes until we reached the crest of the toboggan run.

. . . or when they are covered with snow.
The countryside surrounding London is quite flat. Oh, there is the occasional small hill but I do mean small hill.

The are only two ski hills in the area and one is quite close to where I live. Boler Mountain has a vertical height of a hundred feet. That's correct: A hundred feet. It is better known as the Byron Bump.

Now you understand why the small hill across from me is so popular. Heck, when I was a boy we took our toboggans to an overpass on 401 in order to find a slope.

Making it all the way to the bottom is a challenge.
Close to the ground is good. Less distance to fall.
More pictures to follow tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

300 stranded, OPP asks military for help

By mid-afternoon the severe weather was pounding London, Ontario.
Early Tuesday Search and Rescue technicians (SAR) and air crews from CFB Trenton began airlifting stranded motorists who had been trapped overnight on Hwy. 402 between London and Sarnia by a severe winter storm.

Capt. Annie Morin, public affairs officer for 8 Wing Trenton, confirmed that by 5:00 p.m. the military had rescued about 70 people. The OPP, assisted by local volunteers, together rescued a further unknown number. Designated locations have been set-up in Sarnia, Strathroy and Wyoming to receive the evacuated travelers.

By 7:00 p.m. CBC News was reporting: "All stranded motorists have been rescued, and police are now checking each vehicle to be sure no one was left behind."

Capt. Morin said two Griffon CH-146s and a special search and rescue configured Hercules CC-130 were dispatched from CFB Trenton just after midnight Monday at the request of the OPP who sought their assistance with the rescue of 300 motorists and their passengers. They were trapped in their vehicles along Hwy. 402 by a fierce winter storm .

Looks can be deceiving. West of here it was winter hell.
"The weather was not cooperating and our crews had to land in London for a few hours before taking off again. They reached Highway 402 at about 7:00 a.m. this morning (Tuesday)," Morin said.

The Hercules is equipped with portholes through which spotters peer to sight stranded motorists and guide the Griffon helicopters. The Hercules circling overhead also acts as a flying communications platform for the rescue operation.

The stranded motorists were not dramatically airlifted from the scene in baskets. Instead, the Griffons landed near the snow-trapped vehicles but far enough to not endanger anyone unfamiliar with helicopters and the dangers posed by the spinning rotors. The people were then able to walk to the helicopters, where they were strapped in to be airlifted to one of the designated areas.

The SAR technicians are prepared to handle medical emergencies but Morin had no word on the state of health of the evacuees.

A truck sits idle, as its driver waits for Hwy. 402 to reopen.
The winter storm that had closed Hwy. 402 Monday from London to Sarnia and kept it closed through Tuesday has now worsened, earning it the moniker "Son of Snowmageddon." It was just days ago that London suffered through a storm that dumped an almost record breaking amount of snow on the area.

Lake effect squalls have closed the Bluewater Highway heading north from Grand Bend to Port Elgin.

Check out the video from My Fox WJBK Detroit that is embedded into my Digital Journal story.

Click on the link.

Blowing snow at the 402 Lambeth exit hints at the conditions west of London.

Photojournalist Morris Lamont, reporter John Miner and others from the local paper, The London Free Press, filed storm photos to Twitpics.

#whiteout a mom comforts her little daughter while stranded f... on Twitpic A stranded mom comforts her daughter.

#whiteout just got back from Strathroy covering the storm. He... on Twitpic It looked like this on Highway 22 at 81.

OPP officers brought in from Perth County prepare to head out... on Twitpic Perth OPP brought in to help Strathroy police.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cleaning up after snowmaggedon

Traffic backs up behind a snowplow in Lucan, just north of London, Ontario.
It is snowing again in London, Ontario, and region. It is going to be hard getting around the area at times again tomorrow. Ironically, if it isn't snow blocking your way, it might be a snow plow.

During the recent heavy snowfall in London, Ontario, it was reported by The Beacon Herald, the paper in neighbouring Stratford, that London expected to have about 160 pieces of snow-removal equipment on the city's roads, up from the usual 127. Now you know why the clean-up after "snowmaggedon" might be a $1-million-plus snow-clearance job.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Four day snow storm buries London

London is heading into its fourth day of heavy snow. With already about 100 cm of snow on the ground in certain parts of town, another 20 cm expected to fall over night and more hitting the town again tomorrow, London will be absolutely buried.

The University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College have both announced that they will not be open until Thursday. Banks closed early Monday and stayed closed today, Tuesday. All three major London Malls were closed by Tuesday afternoon. At the peak of the Christmas season, this is no time for the malls to be closed.

For more on this storm, see my article in the Digital Journal.

The snow banks at the sides of this chap's driveway are almost as high as he is tall.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ceiling or daddy long-legs spider

 Some books call this spider a daddy long-legs but I don't. The daddy long-legs with which I am familiar have different bodies. No, this is what we called a ceiling or a cellar spider when I was a boy.

The spider that I called a daddy long-legs is also called the harvestman and I understand it is not a true spider. I think the term daddy long-legs fits the harvestman more than the cellar spider and so I'm staying with my terminology.

There is a myth that a daddy long-legs (cellar spider) has the most potent venom of all spiders but because it is unable to pierce human skin, it is harmless.

This myth was tested on Myth Busters and it was busted — twice. It seems the spider was able to bite through Adam's skin but he reported nothing more than a very mild, short-lived burning sensation. Analysis of the venom proved it didn't approach the potency of the black widow spider.

Apparently one story isn't a myth. Cellar spiders do hunt and kill the dangerous-to-humans black widow.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Storybook Gardens Rink to Open

A few years ago the City of London put an almost kilometer long curving loop of concrete in Storybook Gardens. It's a fine place to stroll in the warm months but in winter it becomes a truly fine skating rink. The concrete ice pad even contains refrigeration pipes.

The rink would be perfect except for one thing: It isn't all that popular.

I think every Londoner should grab their skates, and with kids in tow, head for Storybook Gardens this winter. If support doesn't materialize for this project, I'm afraid it may come down to "use it, or lose it."

Last winter I took some pictures at the Storybook Gardens rink filled with skaters. If you are interested, check out Storybook Gardens skating.

For a little background on the photography for this piece and some direction and encouragement in shooting your own picture stories, check out Rockinon: Photography.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Muscovy Ducks

Muscovy ducks are native to Central and South America but a small population can be found in most Canadian provinces. I believe a small number have even migrated to Europe. Although the Muscovy Duck is a tropical bird, it can handle icy, snowy conditions down to –12°C (10°F) and if they're really hearty they can take even a bit more cold.

I believe these are females. To get a good look at a male, check out this earlier post on Muscovy ducks

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gone but not forgotten

Angelo's was a London fixture for half a century. Their original bakery and deli on Thompson Road was not just a store, it was a destination.

When they expanded into the north west of London, their second store was also a destination. They had some of the finest breads in London. And they carried some unique brands of cheese.

I knew someone who worked in their kitchen and after their first day they were bursting to tell me about their experience. I didn't want to hear. I worked in the food industry as a youth. But, I was going to learn about Angelo's kitchen, like it or not.

The kitchen was incredible, I was told. Spotless! And the ingredients were the freshest possible. If it wasn't fresh, it wasn't used.

Then Angelo's expanded to a third location. This time downtown. And sadly, they opened a fourth outlet. This one was in Southwest London, just a few kilometers from their second store. I worried at the time that they now had two expensive stores almost side by side. With the passing months the newest store carried fewer and fewer products and more and more of the checkout lanes stayed closed even during those rare busy moments.

A few weeks ago the entire Angelo's empire collapsed. Even the little diner downtown was taken down in the crash. Sad.

I had a friend who used to advise small businesses. He told me that one of the most common reasons for small operations failing was over expansion. Over expanding is fatal. I believe this is what killed Angelo's.

They will be sorely missed.
Jennifer O'Brien of The London Free Press did a fine take on the closing of the Angelo's chain.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

War Memorial Children's Hospital

In May 1900, the Children’s Pavilion of Victoria Hospital opened, funded by the local branch of the National Council of Women.

In October 1922, it was replaced by the War Memorial Children’s Hospital, which opened at the corner of South and Colborne Streets, and still stnds there - at least the building - to this day. The Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire spearheaded its development, with support from the Shriners, the Masonic Order, Women’s Institutes and other groups.

The children’s hospital moved to Victoria Hospital’s Westminster site in 1985, becoming the Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Metropolitan United Church

According to The London Public Library, the Metropolitan United Church was built in the Romanesque Revival style with a bell tower rising 170 feet. It could seat nearly 1,400 worshipers, though the congregation was then half that size. The cost of the site, the building, the furnishings and the organ came to just over $97,000, a substantial sum even for what was then the wealthiest Methodist church in London. At the laying of the cornerstone in 1895 the Free Press called it “Methodism’s Magnificent Temple.”

The new church was originally known as First Methodist Church until the congregation became part of the new United Church of Canada. This new denomination brought together Congregationalists, Methodists, and Presbyterians on June 10, 1925. The first service under the name Metropolitan United Church was on June 14, only four days after the union of churches had taken place.

Today, Metropolitan United in London Ontario may well have the largest congregation in the United Church of Canada and the oldest congregation in London.

This church is worth a second look and more than a second picture.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

London Life Insurance Company

There is a great story to go with this picture, but I'm not going to tell it. I'll give you a teaser from, and a link to, The London Free Press:

Bill Rudd: LFP photo by Sue Reeve
Meet the London ‘David’ who took on the life insurance ‘Goliaths’.

There’s an image of Bill Rudd that’s legendary at London Life.

It’s one of the former senior vice-president and chief actuary standing at annual meetings as a shareholder, addressing the board of directors, telling them bluntly they were breaking the law in their treatment of policyholders with regard to the company’s takeover by Great West Life.

They ignored him — at their peril, it turns out.

Read the full story, a good read by Free Press reporter Norman De Bono.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

South Street Hospital: Soon to fade away

The South Street Hospital, now part of London Health Sciences Centre, dates from 1875 when it opened as London General Hospital on Ottoway Avenue, now South Street.

The building above is at the intersection of South and Colborne Streets. In the picture, below, it may be the building on the far left, partially hidden behind the evergreen.

The hospital is on its way to being closed and may be gone in the near future. One stumbling block is agreeing on which government, the provincial or City of London, will be picking up the bulk of the tab for the demolition.

There are folk in town who'd like to see the old hospital converted into apartments but there are problems with asbestos and it may be more expedient to simply tear the old buildings down and build new.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Soho Home

This home on Colborne Street at South Street has an historical plaque hanging above the front door stating the home was built in 1898 for Ernest Wingsett, a tinsmith who worked for McClary Manufacturing. The McClary factory was a short walk away on Adelaide Street.

The neighbourhood itself is known locally as Soho, short for South of Horton. Horton Avenue being the northern boundary of Soho. At one time it was a very pleasant working class neighbourhood. Today Soho still has some pluses, one being that some of the residents are working together to bring the neighbourhood back.

A quick search of the Internet turned up this image of a McClary truck in the London Public Library Image Gallery.

"This photograph is featured on p.88 of Alan Noon's book: "East of Adelaide: photographs of commercial, industrial and working-class urban Ontario." His research describes how the photographer borrowed the truck from McClary's in 1923 to illustrate the strength of the Silverwood milk churns that McClary's manufactured. A similar photograph with a clearer view of the side of this Barton and Rumble truck can be seen in this image gallery under a similar title."

I could be wrong, but I believe the McClary company went on to make excellent kitchen appliances. The factory was still standing on Adelaide Street when I moved to London but has since been demolished.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hooded merganser

I'm not a birder. When I saw the hooded merganser at Springbank Park, I took lots of pictures and rushed home to google water fowl.

It turns out that this bird is one of the easiest ducks to identify, especially the males with their large white crests. If that's not enough, their eyes are bright yellow. The females, like so many female birds, get short changed when it comes to flamboyant colouring. Their crests are reddish-brown and their eyes are brown.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cold but still a great day for photography

Get your camera close: the pros do!
I spotted these two sisters with a photographer friend down by the Thames River doing a fun photo shoot. It was clear the photographer was more pro than amateur. Her gear was pro quality — far better than mine — but more importantly, so was her approach.

Overcast days are great for photography. The soft light is very easy to work with — no plugged shadows or burned out highlights.
This shooter, whom I later learned was a graduate of the excellent photo course at Fanshawe College in London, understand this and was taking full advantage of the soft but gentle bright light. She was also aware of the benefits of bouncing a little flash into the scene from white card attached to the strobe.

This trick adds a bit of sparkle to the eyes.

Then again, may be these two sisters didn't need any extra sparkle.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

London City Hall: beauty or beast?

This is the back of the London City Hall. The council chambers are inside the glass-faced bulge. A corresponding bulge at the front of the building contains the mayor's offices.

A lot of folk don't think much of the city hall building and the recent talk of doing extensive renovations has revealed a wide rift in people's thoughts about the marble-clad modern structure.

London Today has more exterior shots posted. And for some neat shots from about 2006 check out London Snaps, Part II (you will have to scroll down a ways to get to the city hall pics).

The blogger behind the London Snaps post contacted City Hall for some background information as was sent the following by Philippa Crawley of corporate communications.

The architects were Philip Carter Johnson and Patrick J. Coles and the contractor was Ellis-Don Limited. A 12-storey structure, City Hall was designed as a symbolic concept and consists on two interlocking buildings. A document from the year of its opening – 1971 – notes the following:

The base is a black granite oval-shaped section which represents the elected people. The northerly projection, overlooking the civic square houses the two-storey Council Chambers, while the southerly projection suspended over the main entrance, houses the Mayor’s Office on the second floor and the Clerk’s Office on the third floor.

The curving white administrative tower represents the administrators and other staff whom it houses.

Who ever posted the London Snaps stuff was very perceptive. Hey the post describes the city hall as "built out of a nice choice of materials and of a unique late modernist design." And the author goes on to add the following:

"I get the sense London has no love for its City Hall and may be plotting something new in the not-so-distant future."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day in London, Ontario

Thursday was Remembrance Day and in the late afternoon the cenotaph located in the southeast corner of Victoria Park near the London City Hall was surrounded with wreaths placed there in memory of Canadians who died fighting for the country they loved.

Photojournalist Sue Reeve, The London Free Press, documented the ceremony in pictures. Click the link to view her work.

Sadly, one doesn't need a long memory to remember those being honoured. Canadian soldiers are still dieing in war today, this time in Afghanistan. Like many Canadians, I have a yellow ribbon magnet showing support for our troops on the back of my car.

Near the cenotaph there is also a carillon. It was dedicated in 2006 as a musical tribute to Canadians from the Dutch community. It was erected to show the community's gratitude to Canada for the liberation of the Netherlands in 1944-45.

The plaque below the carillon says, "We will never forget."