Sunday, January 22, 2012

A little snow angel

Fiona has watched Max and Ruby make snow angels. If you don't know who Max and Ruby are, well, you clearly don't have little ones. Max and Ruby are rabbits, rabbits in a cute cartoon for kids.

For the past few weeks Fiona has been making floor angels. We haven't had much snow. She did get out once to make some real, snow angels but just once. It got warm and it rained. The first snow was washed almost completely away.

Well, this past Saturday was different. We had snow and Fiona had her snow suit, mittens, a warm hat and new, cozy boots. That's her word for warm boots: cozy. She was ready to hit the snow.

And she does hit the snow. She let's herself fall backwards, hitting the fluffy, light white powder with a bit of a thud. I try to stop her from pulling the stunt where the snow is a light dusting over paving stones. She doesn't protest.

We walked together all the way to the park, with Fiona dragging her sled behind her. Sleds are great fun to pull. It's even more fun if the sled is filled with snow. And if one is pulled in one's sled, it is just the best if a bed of soft, cold snow cushions the ride. If you don't know that, well, you clearly don't have little ones.

We searched the neighbourhood for fresh, unblemished snow. Nothing. Everywhere we went other kids had been there first. Everywhere that is, except for the slide in the park. No other kids had the will, or stick-to-it-ive-ness to struggle through the snow to the top of the slide. But that snow, as untouched as it was, was not suitable for snow angel making.

Fiona slogged through the snow, climbing to the top of the slide. Carefully positioning herself at the top of the snow-clogged slide, she then eased herself down. She moved forward --- slowly, pushing snow ahead of her as she gradually descended. "Again! Again!" she said with excitement and satisfaction. She made five climbs up, each one easier than the last, and five slides down, each one faster than the last, until fully cleared of snow, the slide was open for use.

The challenge met, we headed home.

And at home we found it: unblemished snow. It was in Gugga's backyard. (Fiona has christened me Guggga. Her other grandfather is grandpa Bill. But I'm Gugga; Her buddy.) Finally, Fiona made her snow angels. She made lots of snow angels. And then, she spent a little time admiring them.

I took these moments to do something similar. I admired my little snow angel: Fiona.

Lockout of workers entering fourth week

A local locomotive plant (but always American owned) was purchased two short years ago by Progress Rail, a subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc., and is now facing the threat of possible closure. The approximately 425 unionized workers were given a "take it or leave it" offer; they decided to pass. But, and this is important, they did not decide to strike. When they made it clear that they would show up for work after the strike vote, the company locked them out.

Saturday a rally in support of the locked out workers was held in Victoria Park in London's downtown. The mayor spoke and both provincial and federal representatives were on stage showing support. Although, all the federal Conservative MPs were absent. It appears Prime Minister Harper has put out the word to his minions: Stay clear of this dispute.

I posted more images and a story on the Digital Journal news pages.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Neighbourhood devolution

The Spot restaurant on the right burned the other day.
I don't mind seeing homes converted to businesses. It is possible to do this in a way that respects the former homes. Done properly, these conversions can make for a very pleasant street, lined with heritage properties.

All too often, this is not done in London, Ontario. If an addition is necessary, it is often simply a boxy mass slapped onto the front or the side of the structure. Ugly.

Down the street from The Spot, the residential feel is intact.
A restaurant/apartment complex in the core burned the other day. It is always sad when a building suffers a fire, especially a residence. People can be injured, or killed, and treasured, irreplaceable stuff is lost. When a business is involved, the expense to the owner can put the business out of play permanently.

All that said, maybe the fire that gutted a restaurant and several attached apartments in London's core, causing an estimated $450,000 in damage, can be turned into a positive.

Maybe the restaurant can be rebuilt in keeping with the architecture of the older building. Let's blend the commercial smoothly into the residential.

Let's make this old, heritage structure evolve rather than devolve. Let's honour the past, the present and the future.

Many of the residences in this downtown neighbourhood date are circa 1880.
 All images screen grabs from Google Maps.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Locked out EMD workers facing Hobson's choice

The short story is that the Electro-Motive Diesel plant that has made locomotives in London, Ontario since 1950 has locked out its workers. The CAW, Local 27, members were asked to accept a 50 percent cut in wages, have their benefits chopped and sit by while their pension plan got gutted.

The workers are now out on the street 24 hours a day in shifts. So far the company has not tried to get replacement workers, at least ones who would be there to build locomotives, across the line.

I blogged the whole story with my guess as to its outcome here. [But, I so hope that I am wrong and that the workers win this one. A cut of 50 percent in salary is impossibly large, especially when you consider that Caterpillar, the ultimate owner, is making a bundle even in today's economy.]

Monday, January 2, 2012

An historic battle unfolds in London

A battle pitting a giant American multinational against a small group of organized workers in London, Ontario, is presently unfolding in this Southwestern Ontario community.

When the workers would not agree to having their wages cut by half, their benefits slashed and their pension plans gutted, the company, Electro-Motive Diesel, locked out its skilled workers.

The EMD name may not be known to you, nor the immediate owners of the EMD, Progress Rail Services. But the big name behind it all is Caterpillar Inc. Caterpillar is infamous for its union-busting tactics and for its willingness to close and move plants to avoid collective bargaining.

Last night, I visited the locked out workers on the picket line and this morning I checked in with them to see if any replacement workers had yet crossed the line. I reported all to the online newspaper Digital Journal out of Toronto.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Heritage homes overlook the Thames River

At least one of these homes had an historic plaque visible beside the front door. I should have taken the time to read it. I have been unable to find anything on the Internet about Riverside Avenue in London, Ontario.

The name of the street say it all; These homes border the Thames River. They both look like wonderful homes and I'm sure they both have interesting histories. There is a certain similarity to these two places and I wouldn't be surprised that they are in some way historically connected.

I took this picture yesterday while walking back to my car from the London Children's Museum. It is interesting, to me, how neighbourhoods evolve. The museum is in the former Riverside Public School. It was a pretty, three story school in local, yellow brick. If the school hadn't become a museum it would most likely have become a memory.

As children grow up, the enrollment at area schools declines. The city does not mothball under-used schools. They demolish them. This leaves a neighbourhood without a school. It is no wonder that families do not repopulate the neighbourhood with the passing of time.

These two homes hint at the elegance that was once Riverview Avenue. But what sits across from these two grand, heritage homes today? A Salvation Army complex.