Sunday, December 16, 2012

Corrigan School of Irish Dancing, London, ON

The Corrigan School of Irish Dancing presented their Christmas show Sunday at the Wolf Performance Hall in the Central Library in downtown London.

The dance troupe, mostly young girls, put on a great show. With taps loudly keeping time, they danced about the stage both to the music of the muscians and while tapping out music themselves.

Legs kicking high, hair and skirts flying, they kicked their heels and spun about the stage.

It was wonderful but no one was too astonished at the talent. During the year, many of the girls on stage travel great distances to compete in Irish dance contests right across North America and even occasionally in Europe.

When I used to work for the local paper, covering something like this was easy. I had a professional camera and fast lenses that let in enough light to shoot at the high shutter speeds action photography demands.

I'm retired. I shoot with two point and shoots: A Canon S90 and a Fuji FinePix HS10. Dance offers great picture moments but capturing these is tough.

The best bet, although it doesn't capture the all important action, is to wait until the end of the reel or the jig and grab a quick shot of the girls posing. This offers good form and almost guarantees a sharp picture.

I can't settle just for images of the girls taking a pose before leaving the stage. I have to at least try for action. Here it is very important to keep the camera steady. The subject movement will destroy almost all your images. Do not add camera movement to the mix. I found a steel post to steady my camera.

And sometimes, sharpness is not the deciding factor on whether a picture is a keeper. When my 3-year-old granddaughter performed a beginner reel with Nora Corrigan, sharp or not the picture was a keeper.

Still even a strong emotional attachment to an image doesn't grant it the right to be played large. It just doesn't have the quality. I upped the contrast of the image to hide a little of its defects.

I wish everyone reading this post, and everyone filing pictures to the City Daily Photo group, a very Merry Christmas and hope you all have better luck than I when shooting the difficult moving subject stuff for your blog.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Most homes do not last forever

It looks like it was a fine home not all that many years ago. Sitting on one of London's widest roads — a road that was probably just two, narrow lanes when it was built — today, the classic, little home sits empty of family, awaiting demolition.

I understand that most homes will not last forever. Still, it seems a shame when a home able to deliver many more years of shelter is forced to renege on the promise.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Yes, there are still Christmas pageants!

If you watch Fox News from the States, I can't imagine why you would, you have probably caught one of their mentions of the war on Christmas. Jon Stewart of The Daily Show has had fun poking fun at their seasonal paranoia.

I cannot speak for the U.S., but here in London, Ontario, Christmas is alive and well. (Although, I cannot say the same for my pocket book.)

Last night I attended a Christmas pageant at one of the local schools. The little ones sang Christmas carols, clapped to the music and at the end enjoyed a visit from Santa Claus.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

It's official: Christmas is on its way.

Saturday morning Santa Claus made his annual visit to the Hyde Park area of London, Ontario. Crowds lined Gainsborough Road from Wonderland Road to Hyde Park Road in anticipation of the red suited gentleman.

Floats, marching bands, dance troops and more preceded the arrival of Saint Nick. And then it was over. Once the kids got a wave from Santa, the parade was done for another year.

 . . . but for many, the shopping has just begun.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Children's Museum still a draw

Fiona, my granddaughter, loved "ice fishing" at the Children's Museum.
 The Children's Museum in London has been going for decades. At one time it was located in some pretty tight quarters on London's main street just east of downtown. It was popular even then.

Today it can be found in the former Riverside Public School which the museum modified for its use. Brilliant. The museum provides three floors of entertaining instruction for area kids, although it attracts children from far and wide. I've encountered children there who are from out-of-province and even out-of-country.

On our last two visits, my granddaughter has been particularly taken with the display featuring life in northern Canada. She loved the "ice fishing" set-up. It was very well done with lots of ice holes and lots of fishing poles. Children did not have to wait to sample the fun.

There is talk of moving the museum, again, this time locating it closer to downtown. If the museum moves I wonder what will happen to the present building.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fall: leaves turning, birds migrating

. . . and Londoners are taking pictures of it all. Yes, we are right in the middle of autumn here in London, Ontario.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

London: a culturally rich community

Randy Richmond of The London Free Press, the local paper, has been on kick about London, Ontario, being boring. Geesh! He's been on this kick for more than a year. Talk about boring.

When I read his rants, I think: "No town needs this — being bad mouthed in print and online by the local daily paper." Talk about not being a team player.

My granddaughter just turned three. She is a second generation Canadian but she still has strong connections to Ireland. Since the little girl loves to dance, it was decided to give her an opportunity to sample Irish dance.

It was soon clear London was the perfect city for learning Irish dance. Nora Corrigan, a former female principal lead with Riverdance — The Show runs a fine Irish dance studio right here in town.

Corrigan moved to London with her parents when she was just a little girl. She considers London her hometown but she knows the world well. She toured with the famous show, performing throughout Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. She has even appeared on Broadway.

It says a lot about London that when this young woman decided to settle down, she returned to London, Ontario.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Springbank dam reflection sparkles at dusk

The dam at Springbank Park in London, Ontario, is brand new and out of commission. It didn't pass its first test. A hinge jammed and the affected gate stuck. Now, the entire problem is stuck in the courts. Still, the dam makes for some interesting pictures. This reflection has been posted before but it never looked as dramatic as it does in this image.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall goes out with a blaze of glory

When I was a boy I had friends from Western Europe who told me the fall colours here were better than in Europe. In researching this post I learned they weren't kidding. There are more species of trees here than in Western Europe. Hence there are more hues to be found here.

Still, the flipping of millions of leaves from green to bright hues of yellow and scarlet is a world wide phenomenon, and one that comes and goes all too quickly. The trees in Springbank Park may be past their peak but Sunday was a rain-free day and the park was filled with strollers with cameras.

I added to their number.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Traffic calming

This new neighbourhood being built in North London is but one of many being built in an expanding London on former agricultural land. The curved entry slows traffic as it passes beside the suburban children's playground.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Western Fair

The annual fall Western Fair is now on in London ON. Attendance is dropping at the old agricultural event. I know one reason: cost. To take my granddaughter set me back $85. Wow! She is only three and so entered for free. I'm more than 65 and got in under the senior discount. Still, tickets for the rides and some fish and chips for dinner set me back a whopping $85. A visit to the fair is no longer a fun day for a struggling family.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Easy getaways another London plus

I found these guarding a neighbourhood temple in the Cotes-des-Neiges area of Montreal.
I love living in London, Ontario. One nice perk, which I have mentioned before, is how easy it is to getaway from London.

London is located on 401, the major highway running from the southwestern end of the province all the way to the Quebec border. Montreal is but a day's drive away.

In the summer there is Montreal and Quebec City beckoning. In the winter one can add the call of the many ski resorts in La Belle Province: Mont Tremblant, Mont Ste. Anne, Le Massive de Charlevoix, and more. Some of the highest vertical drops this side of the Rockies are found in Quebec.

But it was late August when my wife and I made our quick, short visit to Montreal. Driving a Jetta powered by a VW designed diesel engine, we made it from London all the way to Quebec without one stop for fuel. Coming home we drove from the Ontario-Quebec border all the way to London on little more than a half tank of fuel. Getting to Montreal was not expensive.

The Cotes-des-Neiges neighbourhood has tree lined streets filled with duplexes.
 We stayed with friends in the Cotes-des-Neiges neighbourhood, strolled the duplex lined streets and later took the rubber-tired subway system downtown to see a film shown as part of the World Film Festival. We dined in Chinatown, visited old Montreal and savoured Montreal bagels (we brought dozens home for family and friends). We enjoyed cafe au lait served in a bowl.

And everywhere we went the Quebec folk were wonderful --- sometimes too wonderful. I had a young man offer me his seat on the subway. I didn't know I was "that" old.

The Montreal Biodome offers everything from penguins to bobcats.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where the sidewalk ends

Click on image, enlarge, read the sign.
I changed this post after hearing from a reader. I'd forgotten the children's book, Where the sidewalk ends, by Shel Silverstein. They wrote to say I'd found the place made famous by Silverstein in his book and in his poem of the same name.

How I forgot the late Shel Silverstein's book and poem, it a question. He is one of my favourite children's book authors. I'll have to go to Chapters for a couple of his efforts.








Where the Sidewalk Ends 

by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Storm-water pond

It was barely daybreak when I drove by the new subdivision separated from a major thoroughfare by a wet storm-water pond. These ponds retain rainwater and act to prevent flooding. For more information on these ponds, which are very numerous in London, read the story in The London Free Press.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The growing city

New commercial additions are clearly in the offing.

Construction continues.
On land that was open farmland when I moved to London, a massive shopping district is taking shape in southwest London, Ontario. The plan is to make Wonderland Road a major and welcoming entrance to the growing city.

The major gateway I can see but the welcoming part may be a stretch --- unless rows of fairly standard box stores with acres of black asphalt is your idea of welcoming.

Still, it is a clean, modern area offering everything from groceries to banking to eye care and much more. Like an ice cream? It's here. Looking for wine? Or beer? Yes, these stores are here, too.

This area offered the city a wonderful chance to showcase the city's planning department. If the city was going for the gold, someone fumbled it, in my opinion.

It's a good shopping area but very, very ordinary. It lacks magic.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Orchids flourish in London, Ontario

An orchid blooming in a London, Ontario, home.
When I think of Ontario, I don't think of orchids. But they are found in the province. Mostly in stores and the homes of orchid lovers but they are also found growing wild. Gosh, I've got to go looking one of these days.

What got me thinking about orchids was the beauty blooming at a friend's North London home. I may be wrong, but I believe his wife bought it at Costco. It's a discount orchid, although I don't think that is its official name.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Painting a face doesn't paint over the problems

The young girl doing the face painting was very friendly. In fact, she was busy cleaning up for the day when I approached with Fiona. She didn't have to but she took out some paints and brushes and readily agreed to paint Fiona's face.

As she started I asked about the cost. "It's five dollars," I was told. Now, that's not that much but yesterday I paid something like $140 for a season pass to the park plus the right to unlimited rides on the merry-go-round and other park attractions.

For more on Storybook, click the link. Read the comment.
There's nothing like forking over a payment in the three digits to make one immediately aware of a park's shortcomings. Today I noticed that the operator wasn't playing the music during the carousel ride. The kids road the merry-go-round ponies in a quiet punctuated by the grinding of well greased gears.

One horse was broken, at least one seat was torn, and the entire ride looked generally poorly cared for.

When we rode the miniature train I noticed that the engine was covered in dust. One would think it only reasonable to give the little engine a wash and a shine now and then. The park didn't shout pride.

But as I paid my five dollars I thought I might shout: "Storybook! Get your act together!"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Storybook Gardens in trouble

Wearing a pink train engineer's hat bought in Ely, Nevada, Fiona was alone on the Storybook ride.
Storybook Gardens is located in Springbank Park in London, Ontario. Storybook is aimed at kids, little kids, but it is having a hard go at attracting crowds and this should come as no surprise to anyone.

The list of what's right with the place is offset by a list of what's wrong. Sadly, the wrongs trump the rights.

Decades ago the park was filled with classic storybook references designed by local cartoonist Merle Tingley, well known right across Canada as Ting. From what I saw yesterday, the majority of Ting art, if not all, has been stripped from the park.

The other thing the park was famous for was its small zoo. Small, '50s-style zoos are no longer in vogue --- and that is not a bad thing. Too few animals kept in too tight enclosures often resulted in too many sad animals. Today the exotic animals are gone. Just recently the last seals were removed.

So what attracted me to the park? Why did I take my granddaughter to Storybook Gardens? Well, for one thing I wanted her to enjoy the Pirate's Island toddler play area. Fiona loves a well designed kiddy park. Sadly, we discovered the Storybook Gardens park wasn't particularly well designed. The toddler area was closed due to safety concerns.

We did find some small amusement park rides. A pleasant young woman helped Fiona make giant soap bubbles with a huge oval wand. Fiona held a pretend little tea party in a children's play house. This entertained both Fiona and another little girl.

Fiona had a good time. She liked the park. She checked out the splash pad and today with the temperature climbing to a hundred Fahrenheit we will definitely be going back. But, we are not going back because of the splash pad. There are other pads almost as close to my London home as the one at Storybook.

We are going back because I bought a season entry pass for both Fiona and me. I also bought us both passes for the park rides. The fours passes cost $140! That's crazy. The only reason I bought them was that entry to the park for the day, plus the cost of tickets for riding the park train and merry-go-round would have come to about $35. That's even crazier.

I'll take Fiona back to Storybook at least four more times in the coming weeks. We'll ride the carousel and take the train throughout the summer. But the cost of this fun leaves me a little angry. These charges are way out of line. If the city wants to charge for a first rate park, a quality facility, charge for something special, the city has to provide more, much more.

With some of the highest unemployment numbers in the country, an awful lot of London children (those with unemployed parents or underpaid ones) are being essentially denied access to a park supposedly designed especially for them.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Seeing London with '60s eyes

The Daily Photo thing is about fun. Kaleidoscopes are about fun. When I found one of the cardboard toys in my basement on the weekend I immediately wondered what would happen if I tried to shoot pictures using the old thing.

The toy of the psychedelic generation pumped out some really neat shots. I learned that if you have an iPhone, there is an app for taking pictures that emulate my kaleidoscope. And of course, there is always Photoshop.

Still, there is something cool about using the real thing: a fun blast from the past.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Trees are dying while flowers flourish

There are a lot of dead and dying evergreens in the London area.

Evergreen trees are dying all around London. It is not uncommon to see entire rows of trees, both young and old, dying or dead. One theory holds that Southwestern Ontario is in the midst of a decades long drought. There may be wet spells but generally the years have been drier than in the past.

A good rain may make flowers bloom and even keep crops happy but trees need water for their roots. One good storm, or two, is not nearly enough. Trees are dying because Southwestern Ontario is in the midst of a decades long drought. Apparently the water table is dropping in many areas.

I first heard this explanation for the all the dying trees from the late Peter Geigen-Miller, a fine reporter with a deep interest in the environment. I chatted with Peter about the dying trees and managed to pique his interest. Peter called authorities he knew at the local conservation area, got answer and a story.

I googled his explanation and discovered Peter was probably right. The following is from a 2010 CTV story:

A Statistics Canada study of southern Canada's water yield – the amount of water that falls as rain, melts from snow and ice packs and flows through rivers and streams – found that it has declined 8.5 per cent since 1971.

Canada's renewable fresh water supply is shrinking, according to a new report which says the southern part of the country lost enough water to fill 1.4 million Olympic-sized swimming pools every year over the past three decades.

The CTV story is good but Peter scooped them by two years or more. Peter was one of the first to report this story in detail.

The recent rain has been good for my lilies but my evergreens are looking very thirsty. I've begun watering them.
Addendum: The drought info is accurate but I wonder if my art actually shows a tree that succumbed purely to the stress of insufficient water. Look closely. There are some weird lumps at the crown of this tree. I wonder if this everygreen was suffering from a disease.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Canada Day and the park is holiday-busy

The strolling paths beside the river are not usually this busy. It's Canada Day.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sculpture Heaven: A Vehicle for Departure, 1986

The art gallery in London sponsored a short walk around the gallery neighbourhood Saturday. A dozen people showed up for the walk and lecture. I was surprised by the very small turnout.

The work pictured stands on the gallery grounds. It is called Sculpture Heaven: A Vehicle for Departure, 1986. It was done by Stacey Speigel who described his work as "an urban prayer wheel" reminiscent of Tibetan Buddhist practice. The entire work can be rotated. I

Inside the piece, covering the floor of sculpture, are dried autumn leaves and pieces of acetate cut into leaf shapes. These plastic leaves were decorated by children with prayers from 180 different religious texts.

A lot of this explanation stuff runs completely counter to everything I was taught when studying art: First in Detroit at the Art School of Creative Studies and later at Ryerson in Toronto where I took a class taught by Ken Carpenter, a professor from York University and a well respected art critic with ties to Clement Greenberg. Carpenter was easily one of the finest professor I encountered during my years of art study.

Some day I will blog on why such lengthy explanations giving the why of a piece of art supplied by the artist are thought by many to be suspect. But today, I will simply share a photo of the piece with you and a little background.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Farhi name decorates London downtown

Note the name, both on the sign and on the building: Farhi. Landlord Shmuel Farhi may be the biggest landlord in downtown. He certainly owns the greatest number of buildings. This building, the old Bell building, is one of his and it sports his usual large sign designed to attract tenants.

The Farhi name decorates many downtown structures. If Farhi has his way these signs will not fade away after 210 days as the present city bylaw stipulates. The landlord would like to see a change in the city bylaw restricting how long signs like his may stay up, and how much time must pass before they can be reinstalled. The limit now is seven months up, five months down.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

One more look at an abandoned apple orchard

I don't know the exact reasons for this orchard in southwest London being abandoned but I do know that it is not an uncommon event. Growing fruit is tough. I understand it can be especially tough in Ontario where a warm early spring can encourage fruit trees to blossom only to be hit with a destructive late frost.

I believe we had more orchards when I was a boy growing up in Southwestern Ontario. I know we had far more canning operations back then. Today there isn't one cannery taking fruit this side of the Rockies. (I know this was true a couple of years ago. This info could now be out of date.)

This apple is for the birds and insect pests. No one will pick it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

It must be summer; The lilies are blooming.

At first, I thought these were tiger lilies, sometimes known as ditch lilies because they often grow wild in the ditches beside our Ontario highways.  But tiger lilies have small, dark dots and the petals do not have ruffled edges.

Still, they may be cousins to the  tiger lily. I don't know. Maybe someone will comment and clue me in. If they do, I'll add the info to this caption.

These lilies were spotted blooming along the riverside road bordering the Thames River in Springbank Park. Springbank is one of the finest parks, of its type, that I have ever encountered anywhere. Londoners seem to really appreciate the place. It is a love affair that has gone on for more than a century.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hens and chicks can survive almost anything

One of my most popular posts featured a picture of hens and chicks in flower. If you're curious, check it out. The flowers are most certainly weird.

Hens and chicks are native to southern Europe and yet they survive the Canadian winters in London, Ontario, and are not fazed by the hot, dry, Southwest Ontario summers. These plants are resilient. Heck, mine have now even survived being brutally walked on and energetically jumped on by my granddaughter. She meant no harm and no harm apparently was done. Amazing.
I love the way these succulents cover the ground with clusters of rosettes.  The largest rosettes are the 'hens' and the smaller ones springing from them are the 'chicks.' But these birds do produce flowers which sit on the top of tall, erect stalks that can tower up to a foot over the foliage.

My hens and chicks appear to be getting ready to flower. Each time they do this, I think, "Weird.

Friday, June 22, 2012

In the middle of some of the best farmland in Canada: An abandoned orchard

An abandoned orchard in South London

London, Ontario, likes to brag that it is situated right smack dab in the middle of some of the best farmland in Canada. Plus, we usually have ample rain keeping crops healthy and growing and our summers are long and hot --- very supportive of agriculture. Southwest Ontario is the ideal location for a successful apple orchard. Or at least it should be.

Sadly, fruit orchards right across the southern part of the province are being abandoned, bull dozed, ripped out, with the land growing its last crop: A subdivision.

The abandoned orchard shown is but five minutes from my South London home. When I moved here in the early '90s, there were orchards reaching for kms along Southdale Road. My wife and I used to buy fresh baked fruit pies from a couple of places that also sold the locally grown fruit.

Today many of the orchards are gone with houses occupying the land. Some of the other orchards are simply abandoned. The pies are but a memory.

Why there is no money in maintaining these orchards and reaping the bountiful crop of fruit for as long as possible is my question. Something is wrong. It is not just the pushing of the city into the surrounding country that is killing the orchards. More is at work here. Maybe the fact that there are no longer fruit canning plants in Ontario could have something to do with it. The market for the fruit may be as withered as the trees themselves.

I know that the last canned peaches I bought for my granddaughter came from South Africa. The last fruit cocktail I got came from China.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

One of the hottest days of the year

Today is one of the hottest days this year. At three o'clock it was about 33 degrees Centigrade, or more than 91 degrees Fahrenheit. And, as it often the case in London, ON, it was humid. This meant that the humidex number was much higher: 40 degrees Centigrade or 104 degrees Fahrenheit! If you were going to do something outside, the morning was the time to do it.

Splash pad picture from my files.
This young woman was spotted in mid morning taking two young children to the neighbourhood park. Both little ones had on wide brimmed hats and they rode to the park in a flag shaded wagon. My guess is that they had sun block applied to their bare legs and arms.

The city has been advertising that the splash pads are open providing relief from the heat and the wading pool at Springbank Park is also open.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lilies beginning to bloom

I know very little about flowers. But, a lady with whom I worked at the paper was a lily enthusiast. She sent me to a place northeast of the city called Horner Lilies. Wow!

I love my lilies; My wife loves my lilies; The squirrels love my lilies and I mean love 'em. They eat the tubers. They find 'em delicious. And me, I'm finding fewer and fewer of my bright orange lilies as the years pass by. I think it is time to head back to Horner Lilies and restock my flower garden.

Can't let the little squirrels starve.

Oh well, I still have my grass.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A British invasion: the British roadster

I still have my Morgan, bought in December of 1968 from Metro Motors on Howard Avenue in Windsor, Ontario. With Metro Motors the only dealer east of Sterne Motors in Burnaby, British Columbia, Morgans were more common in Ontario than in other Canadian provinces except for B.C. Metro Motors is long gone, as is Sterne Motors for that matter, but the wealth of Morgans in the southern Ontario region is a continuing legacy of those long ago days.

I believe there are at least half a dozen Morgans in the London area. I would be very surprised if there were not a lot more if one were to count them all.

Morgans are interesting in that the owners like to drive them and, despite their age, they do not like to tow them anywhere. Morgans are made to be driven and to be enjoyed.

Saturday the Morgan club held a party in Mississauga west of Toronto. Members drove their cars from all over the area to attend. But there were not just Morgans at the party. Check out the beautiful Triumph TR3 (below) that motored over.

Ah, how I smile when I recall the days when the British roadster ruled the back country roads. Cheap to buy and relatively inexpensive to drive, they were the favoured cars of a generation. When one says British invasion, one thinks of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and other British groups. But before the British rockers hit the North American shore, the English sports car was leading a British invasion of its own.

And a thanks to Paul in Powell River for letting me know my error. I always appreciate a good editor.