Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Row of heritage homes may be coming down

A row of six homes on Oxford Street just west of Wharncliffe Road look like they may be nearing the end of their lives. The first two homes are boarded up on the first floor and the windows are broken on the second floor.

I will miss these homes. If I were a developer, I'd spiffy up all six, complete with the stained glass in the front windows, and then I'd erect a low-rise behind. I might even add to the row with more homes in the same style. The entire block appears threatened.

It would make for some dense housing, excellent for the university students who choose to live in the neighbourhood. Yet, it would help the street retain its older, residential feel. And this row of homes is, I believe, unique in London. It will be a shame to lose them.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Reg Cooper Square: a failed placemaking attempt

I find this shocking. This is a picture of Reg Cooper Square located behind the London City Hall. The black structure jutting out from white wall of the City Hall is the council chamber.

Reg Cooper Square was going to be a wonderful people place. It was an attempt at placemaking. There was a fountain and attractive tiled planters along with benches. The fountain sat dry for years and today has been filled with dirt in order to support greenery. The tiled planters are gone, replaced by some standard planters but only standard planters. There are no plants inside.

Weeds grow between the large concrete pavers. When a pad was damaged, a small slab of concrete was poured to fill the hole.

If this is what London calls placemaking, it is all too sad.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A fawn with its mother

A nursing fawn with its doe in the cemetery where it was born just hours earlier. This event is not surprising as a large number of white-tailed deer call London Ontario's Woodland Cemetery home. The usually timid animals are easily sighted as they are becoming almost tame. Although the cemetery people are trying to dissuade people from feeding the deer, the request is widely ignored. as a number of bucks have been seen in the cemetery as well as a good number of does, the birth of the fawn was not unexpected.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Magnolia trees in London, Ontario, in bloom

The magnolia trees in London, Ontario, are now in full bloom. Last year the flowers lasted all of about one day before a frost struck and put an end to the displays. This year, despite the super cold winter, the blooms have escaped being hit a second year in a row by a killer frost.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

London Children's Museum

My one granddaughter, Fiona, 4, loves the Children's Museum in London. The other day she insisted that we visit the museum immediately after school. She drove an Inuit dogsled, standing at the blackboard she taught in an old school classroom, she made like an ant crawling about in a hollowed out tree. She did a painting using a balloon instead of a brush to apply the paint. She was one busy little girl. The museum it so popular that it is looking to into a larger facility, possibly closer to the downtown. My graddaughter, and lots of other kids in town, will give such a move two thumbs up.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring is here. Potholes are growing everywhere.

The winter was tough -- much colder than usual and far more snow. Now that winter is fading, the cold is easing and the snow melting, potholes are appearing everywhere. The problem is so severe and so wide spread that it is a nationwide story.

These holes in the pavement are wide, long and deep. On the good side, the large sizes make many of these monster hard to miss. On the bad side, hit one at full tilt and a tire can be blown or a rim destroyed.

In London, Ontario, the city is busy filling the holes with a cold, asphalt mix but the cold nights is making the patches pop free.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Neighbourhood kids to the rescue

Winter is back and so are the neighbourhood kids. It is common knowledge on our little court in Byron, a suburb on the southwest edge of London, Ontario, that I have a heart condition. When it snows, it pours kids -- at least at my home. They show up en masse with shovels and scoops and even a snow blower. My drive and walkway are soon clear. Gotta love 'em.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Kingsmill's closing after 148 years

This is three days old. I made an error when posting. Oops! Oh well, better late than . . .

Paper covering the windows at Kingsmill's is removed prior to the store opening.

After 148 years the Kingsmill's department store in downtown London, Ontario, is closing its doors. The store remains popular and profitable but the family no longer has any member ready to take the reins controlling the long-running retail operation.

Many Londoners, like my wife and I, are sad to see the old store closing. It was stocked with good products at fair prices. Today is the start of the going-out-of-business sale and only customers presenting invitations are being allowed into the store. All prices are marked down 25 percent for the event.

I expected hordes of folk arriving early, eager to be among the first into the store. When my wife and I arrived there were not a dozen people waiting at the store's front door. The numbers swelled prior to opening but the numbers were no where near those attracted to suburban stores on Boxing Day.

Personally, I think there should have been a way to maintain the department store experience. The old store is an important component of the downtown retail experience. I wonder what would be the problem with six or seven retailers taking over the store with each managing a different department. The iron beds area would be one retailer's section, while the china shop would be operated by another.

When I moved to London there were three downtown department stores: Eatons's, Robert Simpson's and Kingsmill's. At one point the Bay moved into what was then the Galleria mall where Eaton's was also located. Today all four are gone from the core.

The number of shoppers swelled in the moments before the store opening.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A mountain of snow

How much snow has fallen in London this winter? Lots! The other night the city sent a front-end loader to move the snow plugging the court our court into one big mound and it is big. It has to be something in the neighbourhood of 15-feet high.

If the Southwestern Ontario area gets hit with a sudden spring warm spell, getting all the more likely as we move into March, and if the warm weather is accompanied by rain, the resulting snow-melt will cause massive, spring flooding.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mouse tracks

Mouse tracks! Oh, my God! I fear what I may find come spring.

The first time I saw smooth snow broken by rows and rows of mouse tracks, I thought it was rather pretty. I had some passing concerns for the little mice dragging their naked tails through the awfully cold ice and snow, but that's all.

My concern for the mice has turned to concern for my plants. The tracks one sees on the surface of the snow are nothing compared to the little tunnels running under the snow. And if the little rodents are not sleeping, they are eating. Come spring, I assume I am going to have a lot of plants sporting damage from being nibbled repeatedly over the winter.

I pray none of my young trees have been girdled. If they are girdled, the young trees will die.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The location deserved better

I find this a head-shaker. Reservoir Hill was the site of a military skirmish during the War of 1812. The hill was possibly the location of a short battle at the point of the deepest penetration by the Americans into what would become the country of Canada. It has taken some four decades for the developer and the city to agree on the present $20-million, 12-storey apartment building now being going up on the historic site.

After more than four decades of on-and-off discussions, one would have rightly expected a more interesting, imaginative apartment building. The view from the 12-floor will be great. It should be a quite the spectacular view of the Thames River and the distant downtown. Sadly, the view of the building itself from ground level will be less than breathtaking.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A dangerous place for rabbits

It is not uncommon to see rabbit prints in the backyard snow. Rabbits are very adaptable and have learned to live within cities. Still, it can be a deadly dangerous place for a rabbit to live. Cars are bad but cats are worse. Last week I found a large rabbit dead in the snow. Its head was completely ripped from its body. It was gross. Cats left to roam free take an awfully large toll when it comes to wildlife. Rabbits, chipmunks and birds are the main targets but they take the occasional groundhog too. My granddaughter has never stumbled upon one of the bodies and I am dreading the day that she does.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Snowbanks make crossing the street dangerous

Snowbanks make walking difficult. To cross a street one must find a break in the wall of snow and then take care that drivers see you before you enter the street.

This pedestrian was crossing at a light when hit by a car making a right turn. Both the pedestrian and the car driver had the right light but the pedestrian had the right of way. The height of the snowbank hid the walker from view until the driver was well into the turn.

After being struck, an ambulance was called. I understand the pedestrian was lucky and may have suffered only a broken leg.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Thick fog yesterday

I had to take my granddaughter to her Irish dance lesson yesterday. The thick fog amazed her. She couldn't understand why the air seemed so thick with smoke. Cars passed us, disappearing into the mist. Oncoming cars, lights ablaze, appeared first as just two dots in the mist. She thought driving in this was dangerous, and she was right.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rain, fog and flooding

Today, just days after breaking out of an extended deep freeze, the snow in London, Ontario, first it was thick fog followed by a heavy rain to wash away the remaining snow. I'm sure the area creeks and rivers will overflow their banks. The flood plain in the city core will be under a foot or more of water, no doubt.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Bone chilling cold one day; warm drizzle the next

Just 24 hours earlier it was bitter, stop the school buses cold. Today, it is warm drizzle and gentle fog. This is what is both right and wrong about Southwestern Ontario. Those who hate winter, who hate the cold, think it grand that the intense cold is often delivered in short bursts. Those who love winter, love the cold and enjoy the outdoors, for instance, London, Ontario, has a decent little ski hill, find the warm spells trying. The snow on the slopes melts, the toboggan runs turn to mud and any outdoor rinks without under-the-pad cooling pipes become shallow pools.

Tomorrow will be worse. It will be weather that pleases no one: Heavy rain.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A traditional '60s and '70s neighbourhood

When my wife and I moved to London, Ontario, the area around the Hunt Club, a private and very exclusive country club and golf course, was among the best places to live in town. Today it is still a fine place to live. The homes are beautifully maintained and the neighbourhood still has that upscale '60s or '70s feel.

It may be called suburbia by Londoners but this area is only about fifteen minutes from downtown. I could, in a jam, walk from this home downtown.

Whenever I drive through the Hunt Club area, I always feel I am in a neighbourhood that Beaver Cleaver would have loved. I'm sure Ward and June Cleaver, the Beave's parents, owned a home similar to these residences.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Schools open but some school buses not running

It has been so cold in London, Ontario, that area kids had snow days but not because of snow. It was the cold. It was simply too cold.

Today, Wednesday, the schools were again open but my granddaughter's school did not have its fleet of school buses running. The kids had to be driven to school in the morning and then picked up at the school in the late afternoon.

The street in front of the school was plugged with cars, as were the side streets in the area. The school parking lot was jammed with the overflow spilling onto the street.

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's winter right across North America

The news is filled with stories of winter. Aircraft skidding off runways, wind chill factors dropping to -50 degrees, entire cities (like St. Louis) shut-down on account of snow, high winds and freezing temperatures.

London hasn't been badly hit, so far. But the cold arctic air mass moving east is pushing into Southwestern Ontario. The temperature is dropping, the wind picking up and snow is falling. It is not going to be as bad in London as in other areas far west of here but it will be cold. By tomorrow morning it should be around twenty below. That's Celsius, of course.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Around Woodholme we now find . . .

New homes now sit near the gated entrance to Woodholme.

Yesterday I featured a picture of Woodholme, the home of the late Col. Tom Lawson and his deceased wife Miggsie.

The Woodholme Estate, with its concrete castlelike home dating back to the late 1880s, was a special residence in London, Ontario. The grounds were extensive. Before Col. Tom past away, he and his wife donated a large track of land to the city. Today that land is known as Lawson Park.

At one point, tearing down Woodholme for redevelopment was discussed. For the moment, the home has been saved. The land surrounding Woodholme has been subdivided and upscale private homes have been built.

Woodholme is still sitting in a pretty nice location in the expanding city.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Woodholme: Col. Tom's London castle

This castle-like home in north-west London, Ontario, is Woodholme. The residence of the late Col. Tom Lawson and his now deceased wife Miggsie. Woodholme has quite the history and it may even have a future. Time will tell.

Built in the late 1800s, Woodholme is showing its age. It's a cool home to look at and I'm sure it would be a cool home to live in. Very cool. Downright drafty and cold, in fact. While working as a newspaper photographer I had occasion to visit the place. If it had not been for the engaging, eccentric design, I would not have been impressed. I kept my coat on all the time I was there.

My wife attended the 50th wedding anniversary party held at Woodholme for Col. Thom and Miggsie. She had a lot of the same feelings about the place that I did. The best thing about the old concrete castle was Col. Tom and his wife -- especially his wife. Miggsie was at home in Woodholme.

When my wife and I were married, we got a card from Miggsie. My wife worked in the charity world and thus worked a little with Miggsie. Miggsie did not forget friends nor acquaintances. My wife was acquainted with Miggsie but she was certainly not a friend. Still, Miggsie sent a card with a short, handwritten note.

In 1983 the Lawsons put Prince Phillip up in their London, Ontario, castle. The prince came to town for the Royal Canadian Regiment 100th anniversary celebration.

Today the grounds have been subdivided for upscale housing and a residence for seniors. A ravine to the north and the land around it was donated to the city by the Lawsons some years ago. That area is now known as Lawson Park.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Water vapour envelops home during cold wave

Last night it got down to something in the neighbourhood of -22 Celsius in London, Ontario. That's cold. This home, heated by natural gas, is enveloped in the resulting water vapour being exhausted at the back of the home. This cloud of vapour is causing frost to form on the roof and eaves.

To read a warning about the use of insulating window blinds, see my post with pictures. We are always surrounded with water vapour but during the coldest days and nights of winter, this water vapour becomes briefly visible.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

London, Ont., has rare eight-day garbage pick-up

January second and finally my neighbourhood has its garbage bags picked up and recycle bins emptied. It has been twelve full days since the last pick-up -- a long time.

London, Ontario, is the only city I know of that has garbage pick-up on an eight day schedule. If the pick-up is Monday one week, it is Tuesday the next week. Then it moves to Wednesday. Holidays can really stretch out the time between pick-ups. It get so confusing that the city distributes a calendar with the garbage days clearly marked.

The city claims this approach saves money. A lot of folk, especially in the hot, summer months, don't think it is worth it. Garbage tends to, shall we say, ripen in the heat. City council may bring back weekly, same-day pick-up but I wouldn't hold my breath -- not unless its the summer.