Monday, June 27, 2011

Paul Di Libero: Bike Medic

Print out this post, present it to Di Libero, receive $10 off your first bike tune-up.
The doctor makes house calls; The bike doctor that is.

Paul Di Libero is a bike mechanic. He is also a fourth year student at King's University College at The University of Western Ontario. With college out for the summer, Di Libero is turning from books to bikes.

The London philosophy student perfected his bike repair skills working at the Missing Link on Commissions Rd. W. in Byron. The cycle shop was a fixture in downtown Byron for more than a dozen years. Rising rent coupled with diminishing sales forced the closure of the small, locally-owned store. Clearly not just downtown London is suffering from the growing number of big box stores.

Thanks to funding from the provincially sponsored Summer Company 2011 program, Di Libero has been able to open a mobile bicycle repair business — the Bike Medic. Saturday he was spotted cycling about Byron, his shop/trailer in tow, distributing flyers throughout the suburban neighbourhood.

Specializing in tune-ups, flat tire repair, bike cleaning and maintenance, the experienced bike mechanic tows his cycle-shop-on-wheels to the customer's home. Naturally, Di Libero tows his shop behind a bicycle.

The Bike Medic, Paul Di Libero, can be reached by phone at 519-615-9135 or by e-mail at

With one of his flyers, Di Libero is offering $10 off on your first tune-up. The Bike Medic has graciously agreed to give anyone presenting a printout of this London Daily Photo post the same deal.

Now, forgive me, I've got to go and call the Bike Medic. Oh, and make a print of this post.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Has someone slipped chipmunk genes into the little girl? No one is talking.

Canadian scientists in Guelph, Ontario announced they have created a mouse-pig by splicing the rodent's DNA into a pig's.

This is true. Honest. According to John Miner, writing in The London Free Press, the researchers have submitted their data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Canadian government. The data are presently being evaluated. If this latest FrankenFood wins the required regulatory approval in Canada and United States, soon the mouse-pig could be on a dinner plate near you. (Question: Does it taste like chicken?)

A lot of people have expressed concern when it comes to the genetically modified Canadian porker; I have other worries closer to home. I'm worried my little granddaughter may have been slipped a little chipmunk DNA. I can't say for sure but there are signs. The scientists in Guelph aren't talking.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One Dog a Leaping

Dogs love to play catch. And some of them are awfully good. It is difficult to get an excellent action shot at dusk. I came close but excellent it is not.

Someday I'll get a fine picture of one of the neighbourhood dogs in action. For now, this image will have to do.

The best lawn in Canada is no more

Once the London Life lawn would never have had even one weed, yet alone dozens.
It was once known as the best lawn in Canada. It was incredible. It was unbelievable. It was a golf green unmarred by a hole and cup. It was the London Life lawn in downtown London, Ontario.

The London Life lawn is patchy not perfect.
The insurance company's grass was a brighter green. It was finer, denser, shorter. It was so short that a special drum lawn mower — the kind usually reserved for trimming golf greens — was used to cut the grass to a height of 1/8 inch. London Life must have had a full-time greenskeeper. Amazing.

But all that came to an end a few years ago. According to The Londoner the look could only be achieved through the use of chemical pesticides. When the province banned lawn pesticides, the death knell sounded for the famous London lawn.

Greg Sandle, London’s pesticide education coordinator, told the Londoner that folks have to change their perception of what constitutes a perfect lawn.

“There will be dandelions, there will be weeds. But we want people to just relax, they’re only weeds."

If you look carefully at the London Life lawn, you can still see remnants of the former lawn, fine and dense.

The new grass is hardier. It doesn't demand all the pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer and water of the golf green variety. You might say that, despite appearances to the contrary, the new lawn is actually "greener" than the old one.

Old and new: patches of the old, perfect lawn are still visible.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A walk on the suburban side

There are a lot of myths about North American suburban neighbourhoods; Like all myths, there is a bit of truth in what people say — but there is also a lot of folklore. According to popular mythology suburban streets are wide and designed with cars and not pedestrians in mind. There are few trees in suburbia. And the streets are often ugly, their appearance marred by the presence of all the garage doors.

Bunkum. At least it's bunkum when one looks at many specific suburban developments. The suburban street this 21-month-old little girl is strolling is very quiet when it comes to vehicular traffic; the street dead ends in court. Fiona has found that it is more heavily traveled by people out walking their dogs than by cars.

The traffic is so light that there are no sidewalks. It's mostly folk living on the short street that use this section of road. The street has no speed bumps nor does it have any other annoying, traffic-calming measures. The road itself is somewhat narrow and gently curved, this design acts to slow traffic down.

London, Ontario, is called The Forest City, and this neighbourhood is an excellent example of why the moniker fits. The large trees near the curb are trimmed and maintained by the city. The evergreens and other trees closer to the homes, like the Japanese maples with their deep red coloured leaves, are the responsibility of the individual home owners.

Fiona likes this street. Farther up the road, there is home with a rock garden instead of a lawn. She loves it. She thinks that rocks instead of grass is pretty cool.

She also loves that she can reach the court by strolling down a long walking path that starts opposite the park where she sometimes plays. I say sometimes because there are three parks in the area that have playground equipment for young kids. Fiona likes to mix 'em up as each one is a little different from the other two.

Just because a court is a dead end for cars does not mean it is necessarily a cul-de-sac for strollers.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why Hamilton?

Recently, the local paper has made a number of references to Hamilton, Ontario as if Hamilton has it right while London has it wrong. Hamilton is deep into the "creative city" stuff.

My wife and I found ourselves in beautiful, downtown Hamilton the other day. We didn't aim to be there, we blame our GPS. But, the moment I saw the entrance to the downtown, I knew it was time to get out the camera.

London has a number of one way streets downtown. These one way streets are constantly nattered about. Cool folk hate 'em. Note the main drag in Hamilton; It's one way!

And, immediately to the right as one enters downtown there is a coffee shop; It's run by the Salvation Army. I guess in Hamilton, it's move over Timmy.

I wasn't too impressed with the Hamilton downtown. It reminded me of home, of London, or of any of hundreds of hollowed out downtowns in the core of North American cities. As we left the core, I grabbed one last picture; a once grand hotel, now boarded up. Oh well, at least Hamilton hasn't demolished this fine, old structure.

Maybe Hamilton does have a leg up on London after all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's closed; It's empty; But, it's interesting.

It's closed; It's empty; It's the former McCormick's biscuit and candy plant on Dundas St. E. in London, Ontario.

According to the London Public Library, years of study went into the design of the 1913 biscuit bakery and candy manufacturing plant. The plant was one of the largest, most modern and most sanitary factories of its kind in North America. The exterior was finished with white enamel terra cotta. There were so many windows, it became known as the Sunshine Palace.

The McCormick's factory was meant to be a model facility. Not only was the plant itself an amazing state of the art bakery and confection plant employing about 1000, producing 135,000 lbs. of candy and 100,000 lbs. of biscuits every working day, but it was to have a baseball park, bowling greens, a tennis court and croquet grounds for the enjoyment of the workers.

In 1854, Thomas McCormick opened his biscuit and confectionery manufacturing business. In 1926, McCormick's purchased its London competitor, D.S. Perrin and Company Ltd. In the 1940’s McCormick's itself was taken over by George Weston Ltd. In 1990, the business was acquired by Culinar Foods of Montreal. In 1997 Beta Brands Inc. took control. In 2004, McCormick was sold to Sun Capital Partners, a Florida investment firm.
  • In 2007, Sun Capital Partners closed McCormick's, cut 275 jobs and denied workers severance, vacation pay and pensions.
  • McCormick's workers fight two years in court to win vacation pay and have to pay their legal bills from the winnings.
  • One 48-year employee now earns a pension of $300 a month.

Today, the Sunshine Palace sits empty. Its glow dimmed. Its white terra cotta soiled. Inside it's been gutted of its bakery and confection making equipment. The next important date in its more than a century and a half of history might well be its demolition.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Life is Good!" at Winter Wheat

Shelters allow visitors to relax, sip a coffee and enjoy each other's company.
"Life is Good!" at Winter Wheat.

"Life is Good!"
Winter Wheat is the inviting home of Canadian folk artist Lucy Ogletree and her husband Mike Roberts. The five-acre property, filled with whimsical art, is open to the public for much of the year. Check the website before going. The grounds and shop make a perfect destination to explain a drive in the country.

According to the Winter Wheat site:

"Folk Art is created by ordinary folks who express what they are feeling in their hearts by creating imaginative things. Often times the expressions they create are extremely exuberant, witty or humorous."

Morgans leaving the parking lot in Sparta, Ontario, Sunday.
Sunday the group of Morgans touring Southwestern Ontario stopped in Sparta, the village just north of Winter Wheat. They proceeded down Quaker Road to Ogletree's oasis of creativity. The group, mainly from the Toronto area, was impressed.

To reach Winter Wheat, take 401-exit-177 and head in a southerly direction on Hwy 4 towards St. Thomas. At the edge of St. Thomas, turn right, staying on Hwy 4, now also known as Sunset Road. Turn left at Union and head east on Sparta Road. In Sparta, turn right onto Quaker Road and head south for about 2 km. Winter Wheat is on the west side of the road. Watch for the property dense with trees and the fence posts decorated with angels.

Winter Wheat is an amazingly welcoming place.
Ogletree's studio and her home are nestled among the tall pines and spruce trees, along with a country store filled with her beautiful folk art paintings and whimsical creations.

Visitors are encouraged to not only stroll the store but to wander the grounds. There are a couple of shelters where one can relax with a coffee and some friends.

The sculptures dotting the property are brightly coloured with a whimsical, upbeat quality. For Ogletree, everything is art. Brooms? Art! Funnels? Art! Keys? Art! . . .

The richness of Winter Wheat means everyone has a slightly different reaction to the place. I find the spot inspiring. I wander her gardens, stroll down her flower-bordered paths and smile at the merriment added by her sculptures. It all leaves me wanting to do something with my yard. So many times backyards are nothing more than a barren, sterile patch of grass.

The easiest answer is to buy some of the yard sculpture for sale at Winter Wheat. Mix some Ogletree sculptures with your day lilies and when the blooms are done, the sculptures will continue to brighten your garden.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bud Light Lime crew at Crossings

Morgan owners snap on the tonneau before dinner at Crossings Grill Pub.

The British Sports Car of London sponsored a car show Saturday at Bellamere Winery in the northwest end of the city. Morgan was the featured marque. Morgans were driven from as far away as Windsor, Toronto and Welland area to enter the show.

Events like this are good for a city. They generate revenue a little revenue and a lot of good PR for the city. Many of the visitors arrived in London Friday evening and left Sunday morning. In between they dined, they shopped and of course they all had rooms in local hotels.

Despite the views of the local paper, all the visitors that this blogger chatted with enjoyed their stay in London and plan on returning. They found it a good city and certainly not boring by any measure.

Saturday evening the members of the Morgan Sports Car Club of Canada had dinner at the newly renovated Crossings Grill Pub. The members were asked to park their old English roadsters in a long line on the front lawn facing Hyde Park Road.

Bud Light Lime, a new lime flavoured brew from Budweiser, is in the midst of a big promotion. Saturday evening the BL van and crew visited Crossings, giving sample bottles of lime brewski and BL hats to the car club members.

The Bud Light Lime crew made everyone smile as they gave out samples of the brew.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Another press club about to be shuttered

Two photojournalists enjoy brewskis at the London press club prior to its closing.
The London City Press Club is one of only two fully functioning press clubs still operating in all of Canada. At one time the club was located immediately across from the paper and the reporters, photographers and editors would all go to the club after the paper was put to bed. Those were the days when journalists often were the hard drinking and hard living figures portrayed in movies and novels. Ah, do I have stories . . .

But at the end of the month the London club is closing. The membership just isn't what it once was. The present club is a couple of blocks from the paper. The former digs got too expensive as staff cuts at the various media outlets slashed the membership. The industry shrinkage has continued and now even the new press club cannot be afforded.

The stand alone press club will be history.

Bill Sandford, left, a retired shooter for the Toronto Sun, and George Blumson, right, a retired shooter for The London Free Press, were spotted recently at the press club reminiscing about the "good old days" as they quaffed a couple of cool ones.

Note the pictures on the wall. All pictures in the club were shot by members including the photo of Diefenbaker that can be discerned behind Sandford.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fiona prints her name in sand

Kids in Canada are fast learners. It is clear that my young granddaughter, not yet two, has learned to spell her name before being able to say it. And if you believe that, I have a bridge you might like to buy in Brooklyn.

But Fiona is a certified ham. That's no lie. She may be young but she can follow instructions. I thought she did an exceptional job with this shot. But she only cooperates to a point; When she's certain I've got some shots, she insists on seeing them on the back of the camera.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Geek Dinner

Decisions. Decisions. Damn menus.
The Geek Dinner in London, Ontario, is held the first Wednesday of every month. For Londoners who have encountered a problem blogging, for instance, the Geek Dinner is a good place to fine an answer. I know; I have. It is also a good place to grab a meal, a draft and a little friendly chit-chat.

I'm almost completely deaf on my left side and suffer from severe tinnitus. Crowded restaurants have a lot of background noise and that makes it difficult for me to hold a conversation. I only stay long enough to grab a meal and get a little education.

Gigs Grillhouse, where the dinner is held, often has live entertainment. I always say I lost my hearing at an April Wine concert some decades ago. According to the geeks, the live music at Gigs is better than the stuff for which I sacrificed my inner ear and it may not even leave you deaf.

Another plus!
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Sunday, June 5, 2011

It's a good life.

If you're a Canada goose, it's a good life. Folks feed you, predators don't eat you, and come winter you can just stay put. You can forget the long migration south because you can remember folk feed you.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

London, Ontario: The Forest City

London, Ontario, has been known as The Forest City for about 150 years. Originally it was a bit of a joke and a gentle put down. Folks outside the city would refer to London as that city in the woods, The Forest City.

But over the years the meaning changed and Londoners took the nickname to heart. When folks say The Forest City today they are describing a beautiful, tree-filled city. This may be over stating the case a bit but a recent survey rated London number two among Ontario cities when it came to the amount of urban tree coverage. We were bested by Oakville; Very fitting, wouldn't you say.

I think my picture, taken almost from my door step, confirms that The Forest City is well named.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A toady post

Found hiding in my London, Ontario, flower garden.
Not being a naturalist, I think of toads as out of their natural territory when I find them hiding in the foliage of my flower gardens. In truth, the American toad is quite comfortable some distance from water and is commonly found in urban gardens, especially after a rain or in the evening. American toads are one of two toads native to Ontario. The other is Fowler's toad and it keeps closer to water.

According to the Toronto Zoo Website the male toad's call is a long, uninterrupted fifteen to twenty second trill that can be heard over some distance. The lower the temperature, the longer the trill. If you'd like to hear a toad's call check out the Zoo site; They have a short recording posted.