Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas Preparations

My thought patterns have been encountering 'dry periods' of late and I have been at a loss as to what to write about. Sometimes while I have been walking - or riding on the transit - I have had ideas but have not written them down. Later I have wondered what they were but could not remember.

As I was walking home this afternoon I encountered a man and his young daughter walking towards me - they were carrying parcels which caused me to remember an early 'preparation' for Christmas while I was still a child. If you have read my 'Neighbors' blogs you may recall my mention of the elderly couple - the Barletts - whom we lived next door to for a year or so. A week or so before Christmas they were making a trip into Vancouver and they invited Mom, Alda and I to come along.

Mr Bartlett drove an older car from the 1920s or early '30s - one that needed to be cranked for the motor to come alive - and that was what we rode in all the way into the city and back.

At that time (in Vancouver) there were three department stores to be found in the downtown area. At the corner of West Georgia and Granville Streets was the Hudson Bay Company outlet.  About six or eight blocks north and east was the David Spencer Department Store - later to be purchased by the Timothy Eaton chain - on Hastings Street West. Another six or so blocks east of Spencer's was the Woodward Department Store and we visited Santa Claus in each of those stores. Huh? How did Santa get from one store to the next before we did? I don't remember seeing a sleigh traveling through the air overhead!

Each store had a special item to grab the attention of the younger shoppers and the one which I remember the best was the 'Fish Pond' at David Spencer's. We were each given a pole with a hook on the end and the 'hook' was magnetized so that any of the metal items on the bottom of the pool could be 'caught'. All these years later I cannot remember what I 'won' - but both Alda and I won something!

Yesterday - as I observed preparations being carried out by others - I was put in mind of  Christmas preparations at home too and remembered how Alda and I became involved.

For the celebrations in our early years I do not remember any involvement on my part -  not until we had moved to Dawes Hill.  One Saturday afternoon in December 1943, Dad took Alda and I out shopping. We walked down to Maillardville and went to "Joe's Handy Store" which  was like a '5 and Dime'. Once in the store Dad stood still  in one spot while Alda and I browsed past the displays of goods in each of the aisles - but not in the company of each other.

Counting Dad and Mom, our maternal grandparents and each other, we had $2.00 each with which to purchase the five gifts. I remember my difficulty with Alda being nearby - how was I going to be able to buy a gift for her with her close by and - maybe - watching my every move? I  do not remember clearly what I bought for her but I believe that it was a box of cloth handkerchiefs.  I cannot remember at all what she bought for me!

Back home we went with Dad to where there were a number of young evergreen trees growing beside the fence and on the Crandell property. One was chosen, chopped down - and carried home. We were still too  young to do any of the decorating so that was left to Dad.

This is the tree in Alda's home in 100 Mile House, B.C. for Christmas 2005 - it is very similar to the one we had each Christmas while we were growing up. The woman in the photo is Alda's youngest - Karen.

In the meantime, Mom was baking. She made a couple of 'Christmas cakes' - how I love fruit cake! - and some cookies. Going by what we ate in later years, I would say that the two prime cookie recipes were shortbread and overnight cookies (so named as the dough was fashioned into loaves, covered by a damp tea towel, and left in a 'marinade'  until the next day when Mom sliced these loaves putting each slice on a cookie sheet and baking them in the oven).

As well as the cookie mixtures there were two large bowls filled to near the top with various dried fruit, flour and other ingredients. The contents of one of the bowls became Christmas cake and the other became Christmas pudding. When Dad was growing up in Ottawa that part of the family had a 'Christmas Pudding Eating  Contest' and - by over gorging on the pudding - he became ill so Mom never made a 'plum pudding' but a 'carrot pudding' instead which was served with a vanilla sauce. I loved it!

After being baked Mom would make an icing to cover some of the cakes. This icing was hard, tasted like almonds, and was white with the trimmings in green and red.

The Christmas turkey was stuffed with a dressing of Mom's own recipe and, as soon as she was up on Christmas morning she put 'the bird' into the oven so it would be ready for the dinner which was always in mid-afternoon and it was very rare indeed if the only people at the dinner table were solely members of our immediate family.

As soon as we kids were up we would 'have the tree' after which would come a breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast. As well as our maternal grandparents - who were usually with us (or we at their home) - there would be others at dinner time.

                                           Lacasse Family Christmas Dinner (ca 1958/59)

As we grew up gradually the Christmas tradition morphed somewhat and the gifts which we exchanged  became more sophisticated. That tradition continued until Dad died and Mom moved into a senior's complex. When Alda married Leo we would try to spend Christmas with them and our nieces and nephews. However, the menu for Christmas dinner remained the same as it did in Babs and Hubert's home.   

For these past few years I have enjoyed two Christmas dinners. The first is in the Social Hall at church - a potluck but with the usual turkey and vegetables - and the second at the condominium of a friend. This friend is of British descent and the dinner is always very English. What do I contribute to these dinners?

For the potluck at church I always bring the 'nibbles' which we enjoyed at home - cut celery with 'cheese whiz'  in the contour of the stem, olives and pickles.

For my friend's dinner I usually bring a box of chocolates. This year something special will be added - my favorite coffee shop now sells Belgian truffles and I will be taking a box of them with me!!

Thursday, 28 November 2013


Canada is a democracy and - as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations - follows the British system of governance with one exception. As we do not have an official aristocracy, we do not have a House of Lords - however, we do have a Senate which is supposed to be the Chamber of Second Thought. While we elect our Members of Parliament - as well as the members of our Provincial Legislatures - we have no say so in the selection of Members of the Senate. That privilege is left to the Prime Minister's Office but scandals involving some of the most recently appointed Senators quite possibly could cause that to be changed.

A term as a Member of Parliament is usually for four or five years when the current Prime Minister will call for the House to be dissolved and for we - the public - to go about the business of electing a new Parliament. Occasionally members will resign - or die - and bi-elections will be held to replace them. As the sitting Member of Parliament for Toronto Center resigned his seat due to health problems we - along with three other areas - voted in bi-elections on this past Monday, November 25th. As I am a member of one of the main 'parties', I was invited to be a part of the election campaign.

In August I attended a nomination meeting on a Sunday afternoon and voted for whom I wished to represent me in the election. The person nominated was not the one for whom I voted but I was happy with the nomination and agreed to a request that I join her campaign team. While I am not comfortable with telephoning strangers - nor knocking on doors - I am comfortable with leafleting on behalf of the candidate. This is how I spent most days over a period of about three weeks. As Toronto Center has numerous apartment and condominium buildings within the boundaries of the 'Riding' I volunteered to visit many of them with bundles of leaflets extolling the virtues of the Party and - especially - of the candidate.

The building management at each apartment and condominium expected to be visited and so were cooperative. Actually, it is written in the Canada Elections Act  that nominees and their 'agents' be allowed access to all electors.

I used the term 'Riding' so - for those of you who do not reside in the British Commonwealth of Nations - I will define the word. It is a holdover from the earlier days of elections to the House of Commons in Great Britain and refers to how far a person could ride on horseback within one day. Although we no longer use horseback riding as the chief means of covering distances, that term remains with us.

I am now a Senior Citizen so the weight of bundles of cardboard announcements was quite onerous. By using a backpack to travel from the Campaign Office to the selected delivery site I was able to manage - but the weight was still quite heavy. Two fellows who worked in the Campaign Office chose where I was to go with the load and gave me a transit pass to use so I wouldn't have to take money out of my own pocket in order to complete my task.

I have a system that I use in buildings. As I am expected to go to the door of every unit, I take the elevator to the top floor and then walk down from floor to floor via the fire escape stairway  - that is a heck of a lot easier than having to walk up from floor to floor!

Usually I saw nobody during my visits but I did have some amusing (and at least one disturbing) encounters. I will write about the pleasant ones first.

In one of the condominium buildings I encountered three dogs. The first one was a Standard Poodle. As I love dogs I have learned how to approach animals (who do not know me) safely - I hold out my hand towards the animal and let it approach me. The poodle - who recognized me as a 'friend' - licked my hand and then I patted his head. There was one aspect of that dog which I found unusual. I am used to encountering poodles which are jet black or chocolate brown in color. That one, though, was white with large black spots much like a dalmatian. While a dalmatian has short hair this poodle's fur was fairly long and coarse. Of course he wagged his tail!

The second dog was a jet black 'Scottie' who - like the poodle - was friendly and gave my extended hand a good licking before going off with its master for a stroll outside.

The third dog was a grey whippet. It also licked my hand. I did meet a few people while walking the corridors of that building but I do not remember them as well as I remember the dogs!  

There was one woman whom I did encounter who was difficult. The building was enormous (possibly it had been a warehouse) and had about 24 units per floor. Some of the entryways were in cul-de-sacs as was this particular one. A well dressed younger woman approached as I was leaving leaflets on the doors. I noticed her and so I asked if the door that I was approaching was to her unit? She nodded so I asked if she wished me to leave a leaflet? She said, "No!" quite emphatically so I walked on.

Later I saw a security guard in the lobby as I was about to leave. He told me that a resident (a younger woman) had approached him demanding that I be ejected from the building. In response to this the guard  told her to read the Canada Elections Act and - particularly - the section about the freedom of access for the agents of the candidates!

I was inside a number of buildings and that was the only negative encounter that I had.

My final assignment was to leaflet town houses in a fairly new residential area called Scadding Court. I found that neighborhood to be quite pleasant and I did meet a few of the residents. One was a Scottish gentleman who was quite friendly. First off he challenged me about my age claiming that he was the older of the two of us. I told him how old I am and he looked at me in astonishment - he is seven years my junior!  He had worked in the shipyards in Glasgow, Scotland and - according to him - had helped to build a few of the famous ocean liners.

It was cold outside and the weather threatened but - all-in-all - it was a pleasant afternoon in Scadding Court.

I have been the Deputy Returning Officer at a few polls within this building so I was asked by Elections Canada to repeat. This Monday past was a long day but a satisfactory one. The candidate whom I was backing did not win the 'seat' but the day was successful. Did we balance right off? No - so we were asked to bring the box to the Returning Office where an official found our error and blanced the tally for us.

I finally got to bed after 1:00AM and slept until 11:00 AM on Tuesday morning. Do I mean that Toby allowed me to sleep in? Yes - he did but did insist once that I go to the kitchen and top up his food bowl before going to take my morning shower!    



Monday, 7 October 2013

A Cat, A Dog and a Streetcar - a Surreal Experience

According to the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, the Feast Day dedicated to St Francis of Assisi is October 4. In this year of 2013, that date fell on this past Friday. The church that I attend is not one that follows the Roman Catholic calendar - however, we do honor the pets which have entered our lives  so a weekend day and time is set aside for the blessing and that day was yesterday, October 6.

Toby, my kitten, is now approximately sixteen months old, weighs at least twenty pounds and is quite rambunctious so I worried about how I would get him to the church for the blessing. Upon the advice of a friend, I moved the cat carrier to the middle of the floor, left the door open and put his 'treats' inside it so he would have to enter in order to retrieve them. That worked well and there was no fuss when the time arrived. I expected some loud protests from him but he accepted me closing him into the carrier as the time came for us to leave for the church.

I caught the city bus at the stop outside and rode in it down to College Street in order to transfer to a streetcar. That vehicle was nearly empty so I sat in the front seat. A woman was sitting in the next seat and I could tell that she was lame. Obviously she was curious about what I had in the carrier so I turned it to face her and we began chatting.

The next stop along the route is at Yonge Street and the connection with the subway. More people boarded there and the operator carried on across Yonge and onto Carlton Street which heads southeast for a few hundred feet and then makes a sweeping curve to become a truly east - west route. At  the end of the curve there was a car in the middle lane while the driver tried to parallel park. I am assuming that the operator of our vehicle thought that he had room in which to safely pass. Not so - there was a crunching and screeching sound and then the crashing as the side mirror on the automobile fell to the pavement. Our driver stopped the streetcar and we passengers began to leave. In the meantime the lady who was sitting behind me lost it and began blubbering hysterically. I - and the streetcar driver - tried to soothe her but she was too traumatized.

The time I had left for me to get Toby to the church for the service was diminishing so I hopped off and walked back to Yonge Street and the subway station. In those situations I tend not to think logically and - therefore - I did not think through the options. Instead  of taking the subway south for one station to Dundas  and transfering to the Dundas streetcar, I opted to go two stations north to Bloor and then east on that subway line to Broadview and transfer to either of the two streetcar routes that go south and passed Simpson Avenue. This wrong thinking caused Toby and I to be fifteen minutes late and the service was already underway.

I had thought through how I expected Toby to react to the church environment but I was completely wrong. Instead of him reacting to an alien situation he relaxed upon the pew and seemed to doze off. I was asked to introduce him to the 200 or so congregants (not counting the four-legged ones) which I did and then settled back and into the service.

When I walked down the aisle to where there was a vacant pew I had walked past other people and  their pets. Shortly after I had settled into the pew a golden retriever appeared from behind me and he put his snout on my lap. As far as I know I had never encountered him before nor even noticed him in the aisle so I suspect that he picked up upon our - Toby and my - upset. Neither the dog nor Toby seemed to notice each other so no hissing nor snarling occurred. The dog remained beside me in that position until it was time for Toby and I to go forward for the blessing and the photographs. I have no idea where the retriever went to as I did not see him again.

                                          Toby as he looked last January (seven months old).

After the service we returned home and without any other upsets. A number of photographs were taken and - when they do arrive - I will post some of them here.

Yes - the entire afternoon was a very surreal experience - but a blessed one!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Bad Habits - Smoking

I imagine that most of us have one or more bad habits. While there is something about the habit that is rewarding - and which either delays or prevents us from correcting it - it is still a bad habit. One of my bad habits was smoking and that habit remained with me for 38 years.

As I entered my teen years I was struggling with who I was. Because of the illness I suffered while still a baby my true identity was very confusing. Where we lived was a 'blue collar' neighbourhood where most of the men worked in the nearby lumber mills and practically all of them smoked. My Dad smoked cigarettes and my maternal granddad a pipe. To me - trying to overcome the trauma of stays in hospitals and striving to be the 'Young Man' that I thought that Dad wanted me to be - what was 'masculine' was not clear. For three years we lived on the brow of Dawes Hill but, when that rental deal became untenable, we moved to another neighbourhood. While we were still within  walking distance of the former, our new 'hood was quite different. Up on the Hill there lived many boys who were around my age but - down beside the highway - there were a number of girls and very few boys.

One spring a crisis arose in the public school system and we students were put on a 'swing shift' which meant that I was home in the afternoons but there were no other boys in my age grouping nearby. Above the house was the forested ridge and - along it - ravines where creeks tumbled down the slope. When I had no chores to attend to, I spent every afternoon up in those woods.

Mom and Dad accepted a distant relative through marriage as a boarder and he worked at Capilano Timber as Dad did. This was Hubert Brown Gibson who eventually became one of my brothers-in-law. Hubert smoked so I would steal cigarettes (or rolling tobacco and paper) from him. I took these items with me up into the woods and 'learned' to smoke.

By this time Alda was dating 'Happy' Crandell of the family where we had purchased our milk while we still lived up on the Hill. Happy was a rebellious sort of kid and - while younger than I - he was already smoking. One Sunday afternoon he had been down at the house visiting Alda and - when he left to walk home - I tagged along. Once out of sight of the house he took out his package of cigarettes and lit one. I steeled myself and nervously asked if I could have one as well? He was surprised but quickly got over his shock and gave me one.

We rode on the same bus to school each morning. Before arriving at the high school the bus always stopped at a nearby elementary where some of the older high school kids got off in order to walk the last few blocks. As I alighted there with my buddy there was a yell from some of the other boys on the bus, "Hey!!! Ernie is smoking!" (They all knew that Happy did so they put two and two together).

It was not long after that that Mom found something in one of the pockets of my pants which clued her in so she told Dad. He confronted me about what had been found and expressed disappointment that I had not come right out and asked that I be allowed to smoke. I guess that some kids would be bold enough to do that - but not me!

At the same time Alda and I would catch the country bus into New Westminster on Saturday morning in order to attend our music lessons. I don't remember if  it was on the following Saturday or not but the bus was full except for the rear seat. I walked back there and found $.75 in change lying on the seat. There was enough change there to cover the cost of a package of cigarettes so I went to the newsstand in the tram/bus depot and bought a packet.

Back home again Dad was working under the house digging out what was supposed to be the basement. I went down there and offered Dad a cigarette from my package feeling that I was - at last - one step closer to being an adult.

I smoked fairly steadily from there until the autumn of 1989. A health issue was being broached already but it was still years away before it became a universally accepted principle. All the offices in which I worked - including church offices - had ashtrays on the desks and I imagine that the air often was blue from the smoke!

As an active churchman - and especially from those who held more fundamentalist beliefs - I did receive 'digs' about my habit.

In 1989 I moved to Toronto where I found employment in the office of Stamm Economic Research. The Office Manager was Judy Stamm - the wife of the principal - and she was allergic to tobacco smoke so no smoking was allowed in the office. At that time I walked to and from work each day - about 3/4 of a mile each way - and smoked as I trudged along. I began noticing that I was  wheezing and coughing a lot. It was time for me to quit - but how would that be accomplished?

On one Saturday morning I walked down to my favorite coffee shop at the corner of Church and Wellesley. Out front was a young man who was handing out brochures and I took one.

The brochures were for the services of a company called 'Smokenders' which would be holding a clinic in a room at one of the downtown hotels. I signed up and payed $365.00 for the six week course. That was a lot of money! Therefore - and at that price - the program had better work!

At each session we were told to register the brand of cigarettes which we were smoking, look at the small print on the end of the packet and note the tar content (a percentage figure). When we needed another packet of cigarettes we were to purchase a packet with no more than half the tar content than what we had been smoking. This went on for six weeks and I began to think that I was drawing on air and that I would never succeed.

When 'quitting day' arrived - would I be able to stay off of nicotine?

That was 24 years ago and I have not smoked since!

Ric loves cigars and I thought that I would join him in that indulgence but he flatly forbade me from doing so. Cigarette smokers inhale while - for the most part - cigar smokers do not. Ric is worried that - as it was my habit to inhale - I would fall right back into that habit and become addicted again.

I am happily giving that advice the benefit of a doubt!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Hot Springs

When I was about 5 years old neighbors took our family with them on a drive east to Harrison Hot Springs. That location is about the last community situated on the north side of the lower Fraser Valley.

The hotel is in the left foreground and the building was erected over the springs. Whereas the majority of the 'Railway Hotels' are castle-like structures, this one looks like an apartment building.

Again - and with many thanks to Michael in Vancouver - here is a photo of the public beach at Harrison Lake. If my memory is correct, the hot springs are to the left of this photo.

I have been to Harrison Hot Springs half a dozen times with the last visit being with Linda Humchitt and her daughter. I met Linda during the summer that I worked at the Namu Salmon Cannery in 1968. She is a First Nation person of the Bella Bella people who visited with Mom on a Sunday for lunch after which we went for a drive to Harrison.

I remember being in the hot springs pool during the first visit as a child and again when I was with Linda and her daughter.

                Three photos of Harrison Lake and its glorious setting in the Coast Mountains.

What are 'Hot Springs'? Mostly they are found near volcanic mountain ranges and are 'escape valves' for the steam and hot water created by the volcanic activity beneath the surface. In the hotel at Harrison there is an enclosed pool into which the hot water is pumped ('hot' is somewhat misleading - the water is warm and has a sulphuric smell but it is not really hot - however, bathers are cautioned not to remain in the pool for too long). On the way to the hotel entry there is a pipe beside the paved walkway where water falls into a pool. One can feel the water - quite warm, and - using a cup placed nearby - sip some of the water to taste it. No - it is not the cold and crystal clear water that one finds in the usual springs.

In the days when the great transcontinental railways were constructed resorts found along the route were developed. Harrison is one of them.

Michael W. of Vancouver visited Harrison and managed to shoot this incredible photo of an osprey (also known as a 'fish hawk') flying away with a live salmon. The Pacific salmon swim up the rivers and streams in spawning season to lay eggs in the stream in which they were hatched four years before. That accomplished the salmon will then die. 

My second visit to a hot springs was over Hallowe'en weekend in 1970. The Men's Fellowship of the United Church of Canada hosted a gathering at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta and we theologs were invited to come along.

The conference was over three or four days and one aspect of it has remained in my memory.

This was during the Vietnam War and many young American men (who did not wish to be conscripted to fight in a conflict far from home and in the jungles of southeast Asia) fled to Canada - often with family consent. People from the United Church of Canada were in the forefront of those welcoming the 'draft dodgers' and a couple of these young men had been invited to the conference.

The idea of war and guns has always been anathema for me so I - and most of my younger compatriots - gave our sympathy and support to these young men. Not so some of the delegates from the more conservative Prairie Provinces - many of whom were veterans of World War II - so the debate did become heated.

On the Saturday evening a pool party was organized. The pool was one where the water was from the underground hot springs and what an experience to be cavorting in that warm water in the outdoor pool while snow flakes from an early October snow storm were falling!

In the mid 1980s much of my ministery was to the men and women who were stricken by the virus which led to HIV/AIDS. Some of those people I knew already while others were complete strangers.  One of the members of the congregation which I served notified me of a young man in St Paul's Hospital who was ill and, as he was from out of town, he would appreciate a visit from me.

He was a man in his 30s or early 40s and lived in an A-frame cabin outside of the small interior town of Kaslo. I visited with him fairly frequently over a few weeks and then he was discharged. My roommate, Cam, and I were scheduled to attend the Western Canadian District Conference of the Metropolitan Community Churches in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We decided to drive there and via southeastern B.C. The route would bring us close to Kaslo so I planned that we stop there. A few miles southeast of there is Slocan Lake along the shore of which are a few hot springs. One of them is named Ainsworth and our new friend led us there not once but twice!

This was neat as - unlike at Harrison and Banff - the springs were largely undeveloped. There was an admission fee and a place to change into bathing suits before stepping into the pool and then walking to the actual spring. This was in a grotto in the mountain and that was quite a spooky experience!

The tunnel was not straight but a crooked horseshoe to where it exited into a second pool. Because of the crookedness of the route it meant that part of the walk in the warm water was in complete darkness. Because it was such an unusual experience we went back on the following day for another visit.

My three visits to hot spring spas! 

Friday, 6 September 2013

Vancouver's Stanley Park

Throughout the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries the British monarch was represented by a British Royal or Noble who assumed the role of Governor General. It was his - or her - task to sign all legislation into law through the debate and vote of the Parliament of Canada . Towards the end of the 19th Century the Governor-General was Lord Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby. While many Canadians (including myself) could not name most of his predecessors - nor those who came later - we know and remember his name.

I would say that practically all Canadians know of Lord Stanley's Cup - the symbol for supremacy in the game of ice hockey.

Also, the citizens living on the West Coast are familiar with the isthmus of land extending northwest from Vancouver's West End  to a bridge connecting with North and West Vancouver. That isthmus is named Stanley Park and is the 'crown jewel' of the magnificent setting of the city.

Vancouver - In the foreground is the Cruise Ship Pier and - in the upper right - is the isthmus that is Stanley Park

Growing up in the Fraser Valley I was familiar with Stanley Park and eagerly looked forward to summer excursions there for visits to the zoo and picnics. Many years later I lived in the West End and enjoyed many a walk into the park and, especially, into the forests that clad much of the area.

From the very early days of settlement, West and North Vancouver were linked to the city by ferries then, during the 1920s, the Lions Gate Bridge was built as well as a causeway allowing vehicular traffic access to the city.

A causeway through that beautiful park would seem to be a shame but the roadway encroaches upon only a small area when compared to the total acreage of the park.

The Lions Gate Bridge at dusk - Stanley Park to the left and North Vancouver to the right.

The Vancouver end of the bridge is at Prospect Point and, to the east, is Brockton Point where there is a cannon which is fired every evening at 9:00 PM. The cannon points across Coal Harbor and eastward along Burrard Inlet. Naturally, real canon balls are not used in that gun but the sound of the 'BOOM!!!' can be heard for miles. For many a child within earshot - and especially on summer evenings - that is the signal to come inside the house and to get ready for bed.

Near Brockton Point is Malkin Bowl and, during the summer months, musicals are presented from the stage. When I was a teenager I attended a number of those performances. Not only do the cast members have to contend with the sound of the cannon but, also, the 'barking' that the sound of the cannon illicits from the seals in the nearby zoo.

One summer - during the 1950s - there was a lot more rain than usual. During that particular summer Alda and I were enrolled in swimming lessons in a park in New Westminster. Due to the inclement weather, both our swimming lessons and the performances at the outdoor Malkin Bowl were cancelled.

Vancouver city transit service to the park terminates at a loop beside the downtown entrance. While there are vehicles which take visitors further into the park, most people walk across a viaduct which spans an estuary that is named Lost Lagoon.

Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park with the north shore mountains in the background. This - and many of the other photos which I will display - are thanks to the generosity of Michael W. who lives within walking distance of the park. Also, I am posting a few photos from my personal collection - you will notice the difference in the quality of the images!

                        A view from the opposite side of the lagoon to the West End towers

While I lived in the West End of Vancouver, the only creatures inhabiting the lagoon were water birds. However, Michael has shown me that now there are others. 

                                                               Some tortoises

I do not intend to offend those who lived there first so here is a photo of some mallard ducks.

A walk which I enjoyed more than once is the seawall which completely encircles the park - but down by the edge of the water. The length of that walk? Seven miles! At high tide the gentle waves lap the side of the seawall while, at low tide, there is the aroma of salt water and of seaweed. When wearing sturdy footwear one can scramble over the rocks and look for minnows, kelp and little creatures like sea worms - not to harm but just to look (besides, sea worms have pincers which do hurt if used upon a finger!). Mussels and kelp do not have the ability to pinch - they just smell wonderfully of sea water.

Beginning at English Bay - or at Coal Harbor - one can walk to the other end in a couple of hours.

English Bay Beach looking around to Second and Third Beach. Where the residential towers end is where Stanley Park begins.

On the southeast side of Stanley Park is Coal Harbor with marinas, more condominium towers and a sea plane base - one can (or could) fly from there to the Inner Harbor in Victoria or to Nanaimo.

                                                                   Coal Harbour

This photo confused me when I first looked at it - and then the penny dropped - this is the Vancouver Rowing Club. In my orignal text I erred by identifying this as the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club as well but the latter is at some distance from here. However, some members of the Yacht Club do moor their boats near here. The following is a photo  of their moor-age. I wish to thank Victoria for pointing out my error to me - and to thank Michael W. again for the following photos. 

                                                       The Vancouver Rowing Club                    

                   Moor-age for boats belonging to members of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club

Earlier in this blog I mentioned the forested area on the west side of the park. The following are photos of the well-maintained trails that pass through there.

               One of my photos taken by Ric when he and I visited Stanley Park in February 2002

Another photo which was taken by Michael.

Below where we were when the photo of me hiking along the trail was taken is Siwash Rock - sacred to the First Nation peoples.

Siwash Rock. The promontory seen in the left background is Point Grey - the site of the campus of the University of British Columbia

 A cruise ship leaving Vancouver probably on its way to Alaska. In the background is West Vancouver and Hollyburn Ridge which is one of the local ski locales.

The boundary of West Vancouver - left - and North Vancouver - right. The bridge in the left foreground is crossing the Capilano River and, near there, is the reservation of the Capilano First Nation. For you movie buffs - that was the home of the late Chief Dan George who received an Academy Award nomination for his role in the movie "Little Big Man".

                                              The totem poles standing at Brockton Point

A single totem pole. This art is NOT whimsical but tells a legend from the First Nation culture.

At that point we encountered another visitor - only it was not there to view the scenery but to beg for food.

Instead of retracing our steps along the trail, we cut across the park and, by so doing, we went past the Stanley Park Pavilion.

The Stanley Park Pavilion which is the site of High School Proms, wedding receptions and other celebrations.

The Pavilion is set in beautiful formal gardens - and the following are a brief look at them.

                         Obviously this photo was taken during a visit in the Spring - tulips!

                             The gardens with some of the West End towers in the background

This final photo looks like it was taken at a Westin Hotel and not in the park but because of the vivid colors, I am adding it.

                        Stanley Park - I hope that I can revisit there in the not too distant future!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

On to U of T (The University of Toronto)

I think linearly so - when I approach a subject that is not linear I can be lost momentarily.

When I set out to walk to the U of T campus I follow a set route (along St Mary Street, across Queens Park past the statue of King Edward VII, through an underpass under Queens Park Circle West and up a slope along Kings College Circle to Convocation Hall). However, if I follow that here I would be skipping photos and comments that I want to share.

So - if I turn south at Queens Park Circle to Wellesley Street West I am taking a short detour but passing other interesting sites. First is a photo taken along one of the neighbouring streets during an autumn walk.    

As I approach Queens Park there is a statue of Queen Victoria among other statues depicting some of the prominent men of Canadian politics during the nineteenth century.

                                 Queen Victoria on guard in front of the Legislative Building

As you may have noticed, this walk was in the autumn and near the representative of the monarch were these trees and shrubs effectively obscuring a view of Queens Park.

Looking south from the front of Queens Park is a view of University Avenue. The wall of windows on the right is the Toronto Hydro Building. The two larger buildings past the Hydro are the Princess Margaret Cancer Hospital and Mt Sinai Hospital. Across the street from those two hospitals are two more - Toronto General and then the Hospital for Sick Children (colloquially known as 'Sick Kids').

The statue seen in silhouette is of Sir John A. McDonald - one of the Fathers of Confederation.

Returning to the north side of the Legislative Building is the underpass beneath Queens Park Circle West. Continuing up the slope is the common and, on the other side, Convocation Hall.
Limos like the white one are a common sight during Convocation Week. If this had been then there would have been a large marquee tent in front of where I was standing in order to take the photograph.

As I walk up the slope from the underpass across another common is King's College.

To the west of Kings College is Knox Hall - the Presbyterian enclave.

A few blocks further west is the new Jason Robards Library. Recently I was reading an article in a magazine where I happened upon something written by an American who had conducted some research at this library and claims that it has one of the most extensive collection of historical books and documents to be found on this continent.

                                        The new Jason Robards Library on the U of T campus.

As I close I am sharing photos of a romantic lane on the campus - Philospher's Walk. There are three photos.

If you visit the University of Toronto Campus look for this pathway to the northeast of King's College.
If you approach the campus by walking west along Bloor Street to the west side of Koerner Hall (Toronto School of Music) it will be on your left.


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

My Toronto Neighbourhood

In my blog about moving to Toronto I did describe - and posted some photos of - the city.  This blog is about the neighbourhood where I have lived for the past 17 years. With my initial blog I did post a photo of the building in which I live. As that photo is not clear, I am posting another here.

I live in the shorter of the two buildings in the foreground (the one in front of the white condominium building) and on the third floor of twenty (each floor has twelve apartments). I live in a bachelor of which there are two on each floor. My view is east and - as my unit is towards the south end of the hallway - much of what I see is the other building. However, when I look down I see the plaza the southern end of which faces St Mary Street - a short cut to the University of Toronto as well as two church based colleges and, therefore, a very busy pedestrian route.

Probably the best known intersection in Toronto is where Yonge and Bloor Streets cross each other. My residence is one block west of Yonge and an equal distance south of Bloor. The photographic tour that I have planned is east for two blocks, south for seven, west for approximately 4 blocks and then back here.

Diagonally across the intersection from my apartment is one of Toronto's largest apartment buildings (the Manulife Center). It is obvious that this photo was taken at around Christmas with a lit tree in the background and fresh snow in the foreground. By the condition of the cleared walkway across the plaza you can see that it is subject to a lot of foot traffic.

In that building is a fair-sized supermarket, a pharmacy, one of Toronto's leading retailer of electronic equipment, the flagship of a national book store chain, and a movie Cineplex. Also, there are underground walkways which lead to other shopping centers and to the Yonge/Bloor and to the Bay subway stations. 

                     Charles Street looking east to Yonge and, a block further, Church Street. The building in the distance with a pointed green roof belongs to Rogers Cable - one of the larger media companies.

                  Church Street at Charles looking south to the heart of the Gay Village

Next summer - 2014 - Toronto will host International Gay Pride. This is generating excitement and preparations are underway. The above photo was taken two or three years ago so it does not show the latest street improvements. There are a number of restaurants along this strip and - in front of most of them - there is no parking and the sidewalks have been extended to accommodate more patrons (outdoor tables and nice planters between celebrants and the motor traffic).

Three blocks south of where I took the above photo is the 519 Community Center, Cawthra Park and the AIDS Memorial.

The AIDS Memorial. On the reverse side of these pillars are plaques (one for each year since the epidemic began) on which are the names of those who passed away during that year.

A part of the large crowd which gathers on the Thursday evening of Pride Week for the Memorial Service.
                                            Solemn magic descends as the candles are lit.

Moving further south the heart of the 'Gay Village' is the intersection of Church and Wellesley Street East.
There are Gay owned businesses north of Wellesley Street but most of them are found south of this spot.

Two and three blocks south of the above spot are Alexander and Wood Streets respectively which are named after an early settler who came to Toronto from Great Britain - Alexander 'Mollie' Woods. His land grant was in the area that now comprises the Church/Wellesley Village. A few years ago, the local Business Improvement Association commissioned a nearby artist to create this statue which is much admired. Yes - he was notoriously gay!

                                                          Alexander 'Mollie' Woods
Wood Street passes along the north side of the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens (the south side is on Carlton Street). Maple Leaf Gardens was replaced by the Air Canada Center a number of years ago and it is situated closer to the lakefront and near the Skydome/Rogers Center. When this occurred many of us were left wondering what would become of the old building? The answer was to turn it into a Loblaws Superstore (for non-Canadians - the country;s largest supermarket chain.).

                                                           Maple Leaf Gardens

I am now returning to the building where I live and will go west and south from here.

On the south side of the complex - in which I live - is St Mary Street which extends from Yonge Street to the gates leading into the grounds of Victoria College/University. At the time of this writing, the south side of St. Mary Street is a mass of construction (a large condominium and town house complex). Past the construction is St Micheal's University/College while, on the north side, is Loretto College which is a residence for female university students. 

                                               Loretto College clad in winter snow.

                    St Michael's College and the spire of St Basil R.C. Church covered in snow.

The grounds of St Michael College have many lovely trees - especially when they are displaying autumn foliage.

                            The end of St Mary Street and the gate to Victoria College/University

The main building at Victoria College/University which is/was the setting for more Gothic movies than I can count! This property belongs to the United Church of Canada and is the locale of Emmanuel Theological College. 

Toronto's seemingly quixotic naming of streets has led to there being three differently named sections to the road on the west side of Victoria University/College. To the north it is named Avenue Road, where it splits to go around Queens Park it is named Queens Park Circle and, south of College Street, it becomes University Avenue. Except for a few flower gardens near Queens Park (the legislative building) the entire park is given to lawns and trees - and the odd statue.

In the center of the park is the statue of a mounted King Edward VII - Queen Victoria's eldest son.

For a while I looked after a friend's golden retriever. On one of our morning walks we encountered two women walking a large dog. My friend's dog - Napoleon - was not neutered so I was very careful while near other male dogs. The other dog completely ignored Napoleon and began barking loudly at the statue. One of the women noticed my perplexed look so she told me that her canine usually ignored other dogs but barked loudly at all horses - real or a part of a statue!

The trees in Queens Park are a haven for numerous squirrels. Here is one of them panhandling from the limb of a tree.

North of Queens Park  - and on the west side - is the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum).  The next photo is of the original entrance.

A few years ago the museum sponsored a contest for the best reconfigured entrance to the museum. The result is shown in the following photo - admired by some and despised by others!

So far I have not shown photos of the University of Toronto campus (another part of my neighborhood) but will save those photos and description for the next blog.