Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

The annual New Year's Eve bash was held at the London Regional Children's Museum Tuesday. Well attended as always, the balloons dropped at 12-noon to much cheering and tooting of horns and popping of balloons.

The museum, in a former public school in London, Ontario, has outgrown the building and is now on the market. On being sold, the museum will be looking for larger place to call home. The goal is move the museum to the core of the city, if possible.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

One maybe and one why

Garlic and tomato bought recently in London, Ontario.

When I was a boy growing up in Southwestern Ontario, this was farm country. We grew so much. Summers were a time of abundance with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables available in the stores and the farmers' stands that lined what were then known as the King's highways.

The King's highways have, for the most part, been handed off to the counties and townships. And much of the fruit and vegetable business is either gone, going or threatened.

In December I can understand tomatoes from Guatemala but garlic from China? Garlic producers in the province have been just about driven out of business by the cheap imported garlic from China.

Essex County, to the southwest of London, was once the home of the biggest ketchup making plant in possibly North America -- certainly Canada. A few weeks ago it was announced that that plant, owned by Heinz, was closing in the new year. Many tomato growers in the county are threatened.

In the fifties, folk in Ontario were far better at eating locally produced food. It can be done -- even in a country as far north as Canada. Sadly, we are paving over our farmland and if the time should come that we will want to return to growing our own food, it may be difficult.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ice storm hits Ont.; Misses London for most part

An ice storm has struck Southwestern, Ontario. A quarter of a million people in the Toronto area alone are without power. Some subway lines are closed. It is a mess. Supposedly it is the worst ice storm to ever hit Toronto.

There was concern in London, two hundred kilometers west of T.O., but London was not hard hit by the storm. By the time I took a picture, much of whatever ice there had been overnight had begun to melt. I was in such a hurry to get off a shot, I didn't use a tripod: A bad decision.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Corrigan School of Irish Dancing Christmas Show

4-year-old Fiona continues dancing as the afternoon comes to an end.

Nice shot but poor quality
Today was the annual Corrigan School of Irish Dancing Christmas Show. Nora Corrigan, the director, performed with Riverdance for five years. Touring and performing for hundreds of thousands around the globe.

Corrigan returned to her hometown of London, Ontario, to teach Irish dance and to pass on her skills to a new generations of Irish dancers.

The event is always well attended. The audience almost fills the Wolf Performance Hall in the Central Library located in downtown London.

The young dancers are amazingly professional.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

More pictures from the Santa Claus parade

Here are some more pictures taken at the annual Santa Claus parade held in northwest London. For a little community event, it is quite a lot of fun with lots of involvement by both kids and adults.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Winter has arrived

Snow sits deep on the bird bath in my backyard.
London, Ontario, is located in a long, narrow snow belt runs northwest from the to Lake Huron around Grand Bend and Bayfield. The snow squalls develop over the open water and then dump their snowy load on the London area. The Byron subdivision in the southwest of the city often gets the most snow of any place in town. A recent snow storm left just a few centimeters of snow at the London International Airport but it buried Byron under anywhere from 55 to 75cms of white flakes, depending upon where one lived in the subdivision.

On the upside, and there are lots of upsides to a snowfall, all that snow brings out the good neighbour spirit. The people living across the street dug out the older gentleman living in the home to the west of me. But, the snow was so deep that clearing it left the good Samaritans too tuckered to dig out their own driveway. I lent them my snow blower and soon they had their place completely dug out and mine too.

And the moment my granddaughter arrived, it was time to build a snowman.  She even brought a carrot to use for the snowman's nose.

I like living in the Byron snow belt where winter is a vibrant season filled with unique pleasures.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Santa visits London

Santa waves to children lining Gainsborough Rd. Saturday at the annual parade.
The annual Hyde Park Santa Claus Parade was well attended this year with the temperature climbing above the freezing mark for the Saturday morning event.

The parade, organized by the Hyde Park and District Lions Club and the NorWest Optimists, had some 55 entries this year. The Lion float may have been the crowd-pleasing favourite — not counting Santa, of course.

London has two Santa Claus parades, one is held at night in the core of the city and the other is held a few weeks later but during the day and in a northwest London suburb. Many people that I know prefer the suburban parade.

The event has a nice Christmas feel with a lot of local kids participating. Kids marched, kids played instruments, kids wore costumes and threw candy to other kids — the ones lining the parade route. This event has a great community feel and it is fun.

The Hyde Park Business Association collected winter boots; The NorWest Optimist Soccer Program collected toys. For the first time, canned good were collected, too. Like I said, this event has a community feel.

Many little kids seemed as much in awe of "Wendy" of fast food fame as of Santa Claus himself.

For more on the parade, check The London Free Press  coverage.

Hank Daniszewski, a reporter with years of experience, covered the event for the local paper, both shooting the picture and writing the story. There may be no paper Sunday, but the news story has already been posted to the Net where it can found right now.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Growing season just about done for year

Thomas Brothers Farm Market, south of London on hwy 4

It used to be that my wife and I would drive outside the city to buy fresh Ontario fruits and vegetables. Today we don't have to leave the city. The market we go to has not moved but some years back the city boundaries did. The result is that some stands are now inside the expanding city, some stands have been closed and others have disappeared completely, replaced by housing.

I've watched the loss of precious southwestern Ontario farmland to industry and housing for decades, ever since I was a little boy. The acreage that has disappeared is astronomical. It is equal to the area of the province of Prince Edward Island and then some.

Today we get a lot of our broccoli from California, our asparagus from Peru and our peaches (canned) from South Africa. Peaches are no longer canned in Ontario. The water tables in the agricultural areas of both California and Peru are dropping. The day may well come when many of the areas shipping massive amounts of fresh vegetables today, will be unable to continue tomorrow. Starved for water the distant farmlands will be brown with withered crops.

This is no way to treat our space ship: Space Ship Earth.

I was amazed to find locally grown corn still available at the roadside food market.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

New park fails to impress U.S. architect

This little park would benefit from some better planning, a little imagination.
Over the weekend, I took a visiting American architect for a tour of a new development in the southwest London. He had some interesting insights -- insights that should be of interest to those taking part in the ReThink London process.

For one thing, he was not impressed with the large park in the new Talbot Village development. Yes, it did attract kids. Yes, it did provide a place to play. But it could have been so much more. As it is, it is simply an open chunk of land trapped inside a circle of roads. It does feature some playground equipment -- a plus -- but it could have been so much more.

This small park in Montreal is a beauty.
When I was in Montreal recently, I walked to a park near to where I was staying. It was beautiful. Well treed and featuring a large pond fed by a small, rock-edged, meandering stream. A paved path through the park made good use of the little stream.

The park in Montreal was a neighbourhood focal point. The surrounding homes all faced the park unlike this new park in London. The London park seems ignored. Almost forgotten by those living nearby.

Think of the squares of Savannah, Georgia, or The Green in Dover, Delaware. For inspiration, Londoners actually need look no farther than the city's own Victoria Park in the city core. I am not suggesting that a small suburban park needs to be as grand as the large park in the core. I am only suggesting a small neighbourhood park can easily be more than what has been delivered in southwest London.

Both the Montreal park and the homes nearby benefit from their interaction.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hawk Cliff

© Ken Wightman
There is a place, overlooking Lake Erie south of London, known by locals as Hawk Cliff. Each fall migrating raptors are sighted here in the tens of thousands as the raptors migrate south ahead of the approaching cold winter weather.

Some of the birds are lured into a net at Hawk Cliff and banded before being released to continue the flight south. On at least two weekends every fall local birders are allowed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to put on display to instruct interested people in the ways of raptors.

This Kestrel Falcon, captured this morning, was banded and then shown to a small group gathered to learn a little about these wonderful birds. At the end of the talk, the Kestrel was released.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Another greenhouse, another picture

I love greenhouses. The plants make such great subjects.

With the summer season coming rapidly to an end, the local London greenhouses are now stocked with houseplants. I passed on the purchase and contented myself with a photo. The plants should thank me. Under my care, they wouldn't have lived till Christmas.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Minimalist photography makes my day

My wife and I had to head off to the garden centre today. My wife needed tulip bulbs. Unfortunately, tulip bulbs don't make a picture. That said, I discovered lots of plants that do. Especially when one is looking for a photo in the minimal photography style.

I loved the image I was able to coax out of a close-up of a succulent.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Another look at London's southern gateway

I have featured shots from the Wonderland Road South entry into London, Ontario, in the past. Today I am featuring yet another shot. It is not a bad stretch of road, lots of stores and a couple of small apartment towers, but it is certainly not a wonderland.

The London city council likes to talk about this stretch of roadway, which brings traffic into the city from highways 401 and 402, as the city's new gateway. Talk about putting your dullest foot forward. This stretch of road could be in any one of at least a dozen other communities. Rows of box stores, acres of parking and apartment towers visible behind the commercial development.

Being critical is not enough. There is no shortage of local folk to bad mouth this development. To be a successful critic, one must supply an alternative. Think of the The Market Common Clarendon.

The Common is not just another power node. This development in Arlington, Virginia, is an urban village of retail, apartment living and townhouses presented in an imaginative mix.

If you have a car, not to worry. The Market Common has 1,420 parking spaces.

Sadly, London has more developments like the Wonderland gateway waiting in the wings.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cotton candy a fall fair pleasure

It's big, it's blue, it's sweet -- but it isn't as bad for you as you might think. There are approximately 200 calories in this spun bundle of cotton candy. An hour of running from ride to ride, of climbing rope ladders, and struggling up climbing walls, and kids can have this fall fair indulgence burned away.

When it comes to junk food, there is no place better than a fall fair. I have to confess that I love fair food. I think Bubba's Butterfly Chips are among my favourite sinful fair treats. When I googled these I was mildly surprised to learn these are popular across North America. Hmmm.

Weight Watchers would not be pleased.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Old homes showing their age

Took in the fair the other day. It was fun. The fair association does all right and it is not because of the fair. That's only about a one week affair. No, the fair association does just fine thanks to being home to the OLG Slots in London. The fair folk call it gaming income, others tag it gambling. When I was a boy it was called illegal. Funny how things change.

The area around the fairgrounds has not done as well over the passing years. These three homes, once examples of the very nice housing available to working class Londoners, are all showing their age today.

East London, where these homes are located was a manufacturing hub decades ago. I imagine many of the workers who originally lived in this area walked to work. Others would have taken the nearby streetcar. Today the streetcar service is gone but little matter. The jobs are gone too.

It is sad to see a row of three such lovely little homes in such questionable condition.

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's fall fair time in southwestern Ontario

It is fall fair time and Western Fair in London, Ontario, is open for business. For ten days every September the fair grounds, so quiet for most of the year, come alive. There are rides for young kids, rides for teenagers. There's gloriously high-calorie fair food: bloomin' onions, fresh made potato chips, back-bacon on a bun, pizza, Belgium waffles, fish and chips and much more.

For instance, there's entertainment. The high-wire family, the famous Flying Wallendas, are one of the acts appearing this year. And of course there are lots of farm animals for city kids to see. Some things haven't changed.

(Note: This was shot with a point and shoot. I blurred the background to lessen the incredible, and very distracting, depth of field.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

One perk of living near The Great Lakes

Swimmers enjoying the surf at Port Stanley on Lake Erie.

One perk of living in London is being centrally located between two of The Great Lakes -- Erie and Huron -- plus Lake St. Claire is but an hour away.

Port Stanley on Lake Erie is about forty minutes from London. Grand Bend, an even more popular beach for families and teens, takes about the same time to reach.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunflowers awakening in the early morning sun

Fields of sunflowers are now in bloom around London, Ontario. I noticed a local photographer had posted a picture and this alerted to me to what was happening just outside town. Having worked for years at the local paper I knew immediately where the sunflower fields could be found southwest of my London home. I grabbed a friend and we both grabbed our cameras and we were off.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Safety: Something Londoners take for granted

Londoners are lucky. They have lots of parks and they are all safe.

Recently I've been thinking a lot about Detroit and how unsafe that once marvelous city has become. Many of that city's parks are closed and the remaining open ones may be unsafe.

When I was downloading this image from my camera I thought how wonderful it is to live in London where our parks are safe. Londoners can stroll from the southwest end of London, where I live, all the way to the downtown and beyond and never worry about entering a "bad part of town."

One hears so much about what makes a good city. I think safe parks should rate high on the list.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The little engine that could

I've shown this little train before but yesterday I was doing some tests shooting RAW with my little Canon S90 and I shot the train.

Each ride on the little train outside Storybook Gardens is but one large loop. Little kids love it but I believe more could be done. Ideally, it should go somewhere and then return. It should be transportation and not just a simple ride.

I posted more on this topic when I ran the original post. Here is a link: Simple rides, simple pleasures. This is something ReThink London needs to address.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Is this a Queen Anne bungalow in EOA?

I found this home is in what is know as the EOA neighbourhood in London, Ontario. EOA stands for east of Adelaide.

EOA was, and still is, a working class neighbourhood. It epitomizes all the best of the working class aesthetic in years past. Many of the homes in the EOA area are beautiful, little jewels. Stained glass windows and ornate wood trim adds real pizazz to these homes. Clearly the early owners took pride in their little bungalows.

The present owner takes great pride in this home. It is one of four almost identical homes in short row and it is easily the nicest home in the group. That said, all four homes have their strengths. One has a full, covered porch. The large porch on the front of the one home makes one wonder what the other homes may have lost over the intervening years.

I am not an expert but I will hazard a guess that this is a small, working class bungalow in a variation of the Queen Anne style applied to a small folk cottage.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An Ontario vernacular bungalow, maybe

The home shown today sits across the street from the cottage featured yesterday. This home looks a lot like a classic Ontario cottage but it may be an example of a vernacular bungalow.

The simple shed roof doesn't feel right to me but maybe it's original. My guess is that it was added when the house was updated and upgraded.

On the plus side it is a well maintained, heritage home. It is located in one of the finest neighbourhoods in all of London. It should continue to be well maintained and it should not just hold its value but appreciate nicely over the coming years.

The amazing thing about these little places is how roomy they are inside. Usually the door leads into a long central hall with a living room off to one side. There are usually two bedrooms. The kitchen is at the back of the home and there is a small dining room. Many folk put an addition on the back of these and enlarge the living space.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Ontario Cottage

This particular Ontario cottage is slightly different than most. Traditionally the door is in the middle, right below the central small gable breaking the roof line. Here the door is off to the side with the window displaced to where the door usually is found.

The question that immediately comes to mind is, "Has the door been moved some time after the home was built?" I don't know. It is possible the door was always at the far right. These little place were built and owned by working class families who followed tradition but were not adverse to bending the rules a little.

For more info on Ontario cottages try these links:
A Field Guide to Building Watching
The Ontario Cottage: The Globalization of a British Form in the Nineteenth Century

Monday, July 29, 2013

Horses south of roadway, homes north

Home building is getting closer and closer to this pasture and the day is coming quickly when the horses found on this land will be gone. Apple orchards, pasture land, crop land, all were to be found south of my home when I moved here just a little more than twenty years ago. All is now threatened. This should come as no surprise as this picture was taken not fifteen minutes by car from the London, Ontario, city centre.

Friday, July 26, 2013

St. Joe's Hospital getting a new face

The St. Joe's hospital complex in London, Ontario, has a rich religious heritage. As the old hospital is being updated, a new skin is being applied to the aging, yellow brick building -- yet, it's connection to Christ is still evident. Note the cross at the bottom right in this picture showing the new look.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Byron: 7th in a series

This modern home has the garage turned 90-degrees so the double, lifting door is on the side and not boldly facing the street. This answer to the hide-the-garage riddle demands a wide lot. I rather like this home and from inside I imagine the large windowed front is quite spectacular.

There are not a lot of homes like this one. I can see the day in the distant future when this home will be quite admired for its design and its rarity.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Byron: 6th in a series

I was posting some images of homes in my neighbourhood. Then I took a short break. Today I return to the topic of homes.

This home, a very common style of home in London suburbs late in the last century, has a lovely covered porch. The critics of suburbia often moan about the loss of the front porch. Clearly these critics have not spent much time in suburbia.

The lots in this Byron neighbourhood are wider than many lots today. This extra width allowed the builder to put the garage on the side of the home rather than jutting out from the front.

But what makes this place for me is the landscaping. The home has a wonderful in-the-park look, don't you agree?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Old attraction demands more attention

Springbank Park and Storybook Gardens are two aging attractions in London. The merry-go-round is in the park just outside the gardens. The merry-go-round is loved by many children but needs more maintenance than the city seems willing to give.

Note missing reins.
Today my son-in-law took my granddaughter to the park to ride both the carousel and the small train. While Fiona was galloping in circles on her black-painted steed, another child pulled on the reins of her horse and the reins broke. Merry-go-rounds are not dangerous but broken reins are. This is unacceptable.

I looked about and noted that possibly more of the painted horses were missing their reins than had them. Fiona told me that she always looks to see if the pony has reins before asking to be assisted onto the saddle.

The city is talking about putting in a multi-million dollar swimming pool and artificial beach at the Forks of the Thames at the edge of the downtown core. And in recent years city council has been on a hold the line on property taxes bent.

Note the broken mirror and missing light bulbs. Sad.
If the city goes through with the pool and the beach, I'd say they were practising a little of the rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul approach to budgeting. This is not a brilliant approach.

In the end the city will have simply have an expensive attraction in need of expensive attention.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

You say you see a Blue Whale?

Fiona, 3, saw a Blue Whale floating above the trees as we did some cloud gazing.

I never saw anything wrong with the Road Runner cartoons of my youth. I didn't learn violence from watching Wylie Coyote getting smucked time and time again. I'm using smuck as it was used in the '50s and not as it is sometimes used today. A lot more has changed than just children's cartoons.

That said, my granddaughter learns a great deal from today's cartoons. She picked up the game "cloud gazing." I'm in my mid 60s and I didn't know there was a proper term for lying on one's back with a friend, the two of you sharing impressions of passing clouds.

And when I was three, I certainly would not have seen a giant Blue Whale, the largest animal that has ever lived according to Fiona, floating above the trees. But my granddaughter did, thanks to the Octonauts.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Byron: 5th in a series

A storm rolled in over London this afternoon. It threatened to be a bad one. There were warnings of possible tornadoes, heavy hail and winds gusting to 110 km/h. My wife and I moved our car into the garage, just in case. Then I walked across the court to watch.

As the storm roiled above I looked down. The light was lovely and the wild flowers beautiful. I shot some quick pictures.

Then I wheeled around and fled for home. As I walked quickly under a neighbour's tree lightning cracked above me. I thought: Not a good place to be; I'm on a high point of land under a tall tree.

I ran across the court, my wife was standing on our small, low porch looking quite concerned.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Byron: 4th in a series

The above home is one of my favourites in the neighbourhood. I believe it was painted a few years ago and it looks even better today than when I moved into this suburb more than two decades ago. The garage is a little more dominant than on some of the other designs but this doesn't detract from the home's attractiveness.

As you can see, this neighbourhood is not filled with cookie cutter designs. The developer was very creative.