Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

I began to work on this blog a few hours ago. However, my fingers slipped on the keys and what I had typed disappeared - even to the draft! So I will try to be more careful this time!

Eastern Canada can be subjected to harsh winter storms and cold weather but this winter of 2013/14 is the coldest and harshest that I have experienced since moving here in 1989 - nor did I experience anything like this while I lived in Prince George, B.C.; Bell Island, Newfoundland; nor Ottawa, Ontario.

Not once but twice we have been beset by an Arctic Vortex - something that I had not encountered before! What is an 'Arctic Vortex'? I have heard two explanations.  The first was that more than one storm system developed and then merged over the north pole and then came south. The first of these systems was the coldest and it was felt as far south as Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. The second - while still cold - was not as harsh as was the first one.

The second explanation was that - instead of moving along the usual route from west to east, the system  (actually, in the end, there were at least three of them) formed in Siberia and then came over the North Pole and down upon us.

It doesn't matter which explanation is the correct one - they were all very cold!  

On Sunday morning a few weeks back  there was an ice storm too. This disrupted the street car service (the ice clung to the overhead wires) so I had to look for an alternative route to get myself to church. I decided upon the ride on the east/west subway to Pape Station and then to take a transit bus down to near Gerrard Street East. However - I forgot one salient point - the bus route traveled down a small valley and the streets leading to the church were all uphill.

I chose the busiest street but still the sidewalks were treacherous. I slipped and fell once and the walk took me at least twenty minutes which is twice as long as it should have taken! The attendance at the service was diminished by the weather conditions but it was still an uplifting experience. After church I returned downtown on the bus that had been put into service to compensate for the lack of streetcars. That vehicle got me to Church Street and brunch without mishap.

Some years ago city council passed an ordinance telling property owners and managers to clear sidewalks of snow and ice. The city owns a large fleet of plows for the roadways and smaller vehicles to clear the sidewalks. However - while the snow is pushed into banks along the side of the walkway, the same thing is not true for the ice underneath. It is still cold outside and - when I go for my daily walks - there are areas where I have to be very careful - there is ice there.

The picture postcard of snow scenes always show pristine white piles of the stuff. In the city the reality is that there is a mixture of salt and sand that is spread in an attempt to clear ice which makes the snowbanks look like piles of granulated brown sugar! 

I have no photos of the view outside during this month of January but I will post a few from other years. It looks pretty - but it is C-O-L-D!!!!

St Mary Street on the south side of this building looking west to Victoria University/College

                                           The courtyard on the south side of this building.

                    The statue of King Edward VII on horseback in the middle of Queens Park 

Michael in Vancouver - look what you are missing, my friend!

One of the romantic poets wrote the following, "When winter comes - can spring be far behind?" Some comic responded with this short phrase, "You bet it can!'


Sunday, 9 February 2014


I love the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Cats' which I watched again the other evening - and, especially, the singing by Geraldine Page of "Memory". This particular piece of music always resonates with me.

When "Cats" first began a 'run' at the Queen Elizabeth Theater in Vancouver, some of the songs - and especially "Memory" - were on the hit parade. One evening my flatmate and I visited a friend and, while we were there, another friend of our host appeared. This man could play the piano and sing and the song that I remember him playing was "Memory".

As the end of the run of "Cats" approached a special performance was scheduled for a Sunday evening which was a fund raiser for the AIDS Committee of Vancouver. As my  roommate was HIV positive, he was given tickets for that performance.

It was great watching the production and recognizing the various characters as they appeared on stage. I do not recall who played the role of Ghrizzabella(?) - the elderly cat who sings "Memory" in the show - but she was great.

At the end of the performance many of us went to a dance bar some blocks from the theater for the 'After Hours Party' where we had the fun of discovering which actor/actress played which part. Only one of the cast members was easy to identify - the older (and large) black man who was 'Old Deuteronomy' in the play - he was the only black in the cast!

The pitiable job that I had at that time was as a door-to-door salesman. The day after the performance - Monday - I was sent to South Surrey. At one of the doors I met the housewife and could not help but notice the cats which were around the place. I mentioned to the lady that I had seen the production of "Cats" the previous evening and the lady responded by saying that she and her family had gone into Vancouver to see a performance a week or so before I had.

Instead of me trying to promote whatever product it was that I was supposed to be selling - all we talked about was "Cats" - both the stage performance as well as the four legged variety that she and I both had as pets!


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Meet Me At Timmie's!

I have posted blogs about restaurants, fast food in Food Courts and the like. However, I have not written about coffee shops in particular which have become my favorite place to head to when I get the mid-afternoon "munchies". Here in Toronto and - I believe - in most if not all North American cities - are coffee shops catering to the need for a beverage and a quick snack and in Toronto there are chains of coffee shops. The most commonly encountered are Tim Horton's.

In the 1940s and '50s Tim Horton was a star player with the Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey team and - when he retired from playing hockey - he opened a Tim Horton's Coffee and Doughnut Shop. It was so successful that he opened others  here in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario. Now the franchise can be found in every Canadian province and in many of the US border states.

A few years ago more than one person thought up the idea of driving across Canada stopping for refreshment only at a Tim Horton's and that became the idea for TV advertisements sponsored by the chain.

The complex in which I am living faces onto Bay Street. About 2/3 of a block north of here is a large Tim Horton's and - three blocks south - can be found another (albeit smaller) franchise. Both are open 24 hours a day and are almost always busy.

What do I order when I visit? A coffee and a doughnut and - sometimes - either a sandwich or a bagel with cream cheese filling. I take these items to a table from where I will have a view of most of the eatery and people watch.

A few days ago  a good sized group of Oriental girls came in, were lucky to find a fairly large table which was not occupied, gathered there and - as more and more friends arrived - began moving empty chairs to the chosen table. There are no items on the menu that can be classified as 'Oriental food' so they each ordered what many of the rest of us were consuming, sat and began chattering with each other - as all young people can chatter - while consuming their chosen items.

Occasionally I will get the 'late night munchies' and walk up there for a snack and - even at that late hour - I am not alone. What do I order? Usually either the plain bagel with cream cheese or the 'turkey/bacon/club' sandwich, a medium coffee and a 'chocolate dipped' donut. Up until a year or so ago egg salad sandwiches were also on the menu but they - along with chicken salad - were dropped. I suspect that it was due to more danger from food poisoning from those ingredients than from the usual fare like turkey/bacon/club, grilled cheese and the like.

The Tim Horton outlet down the street is very near the Provincial Government offices so the lineups at the serving counters during the lunch hour are daunting.

The chain with a similar name are the 'Timothy's World Coffees' shops. They are franchised and the owners of one franchise are friends of mine so I walk over to there on many an afternoon. Along with a wide range of different types of coffee, there is tea, cakes, cookies, squares and - yes - even sandwiches to order (I like the egg salad and the feta cheese ones).

While at Tim Horton's the other customers usually are strangers to me while - at Timothy's World Coffees - often I know other patrons so visit while enjoying the coffee and whatever munchies I have chosen for that day. Of late fresh made soups have been added to the menu at Timothy's and I love two of them - Cream of Potato soup with bacon bits and Split Pea soup with ham.

Yes - those coffee outings are rather hard on a tight budget but the upside is that I am not becoming a hermit but am socializing with others.