Friday, June 29, 2012

Zoom w a View: The inside of out

Before leaving a ReThink London workshop on Saturday, June 23, I snapped a photo from inside the Convention Centre on York St., downtown London.

London is a low, wide city. Methinks I prefer to ReThink it as taller, more compact.



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[Photo by G.Harrison]

It Strikes Me Funny: Who screamed again?

I was peacefully stirring milk and sugar into a cup of coffee last night when I heard a loud scream coming from the back deck. My spoon flew towards the toaster, but before it made a jarring, clattering sound I heard a second, almost identical scream.

I was sure the first scream came from my wife. And she was alone. Did she scream twice? If not her... who else screamed?

I turned to go outside, the many coffee splatters could wait, but my wife beat me to the door. In a rush she entered, panic and laughter mixed upon her face.

"I was waiting for you," she said, "and I felt something at my feet and screamed."

"What...? Who...?" I began.

"It was a raccoon, and as soon as I screamed it backed up and screamed too."

["Was that really me?" Raccoon photo link]

Stink! I wish I'd been there.

But would there have been a third scream? I won't know 'til next time.


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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Workshop: One library 'to go'

 Two weeks ago, after taking on my most recent building project, I discovered '' provided detailed plans for a standard 'free' library. Shortly thereafter, however, I decided to follow my nose and use some wood I had close at hand. 

I paid about $12 for plexiglass, hinges and a latch, so except for my very, very expensive labour costs, the price per unit is pretty low, i.e., for people who make a habit of rescuing lumber. 

The concept of recycling books is a good one, and though I spent more time building the unit than expected, if the idea catches on and I'm asked to build a few more, I could cut my time in half.

Will 'free libraries' catch on? Would you use one if it appeared in your neighbourhood?

Will I make my fortune and retire to The Bahamas?

[Photos by G.Harrison]


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Zoom w a View: One crop is doing well

In places, the front lawn is looking a bit ragged, so I should really give it a good trim - but for one thing.

The clover is doing so well right now. The flowers are in bloom, scores of bees are a-buzzin’ around my ankles, honey is being dropped industriously into hexagonal wax combs nearby, and, when I tread upon the lawn, all thoughts of firing up a lawn mower escape my mind.

It can wait until Monday, right? 

[Photos by G.Harrison]


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Monday, June 25, 2012

The Workshop: ‘little free library’ in the works

‘’ caught the imagination of a friend of mine and he’ll have his own free library up and running on his front lawn in South London as soon as I apply the finishing touches to it.

Touches, such as...

a frame around the sign, once attached

white or dark blue trim on several edges

silicon on the inside edges of the plexiglass window

I also have to make a sturdy stand and dig a hole for the post... so I have a busy day (or two) ahead.

I also have a few used books that need a good home, so shortly after the library is delivered, it will be open for business.

‘little free library’. A good idea?

[Photos by G.Harrison]


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Photo Poser 8: Detective work for the birds

I am about to do detective work related to my digital photo files of Fenelon Falls landscapes to answer the following question: Can I find a background match for a photo handed me this morning by a man who scuba-dived near my son’s house in 1979?

I like a good puzzle, and while searching my first file came up with another one you can help me with, if you like detective work too.

What kind of bird is this? It lives beside my son’s dock, on the channel between Cameron and Sturgeon Lakes

[Photo by G.Harrison]


Please click here for Photo Poser 7

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ollie and Me: “Aye aye, Captain”

It was very hot in London last week so I suggested to my wife we take Ollie to the Fork of the Thames, in downtown London, instead of staying indoors and running the A/C.

Ollie is almost an adult now (he’ll be six in December), and likes to be a part of all decision-making that affects him, so I mentioned the saucer swings, sand box, water park and fountain in glorious terms. Something caught his fancy, so off we went.

[We salute the Captain and sail the sandy seas]

[I salute again from behind a fountain’s spray]

Though I tried on several occasions, I couldn’t lure Ollie into or under the spray in order to cool off.

However, I noticed he was curious about many of the water park’s features, so maybe he just needs time to explore at his own speed.

He was very tired at the end of ‘exploring’ for an hour, so I offered a ride. He was so busy watching a storm approach (at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 21) that he had no time to salute the Captain one last time. 

[Photos by P. and G. Harrison]


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Friday, June 22, 2012

Rare Family Photos: Gordon for good and old reasons

I didn't like my first name as a child and, while playing on the front porch of our house in Burgessville, Ontario as a five- or six-year old, I asked my mother to give me a new one.

[My mother tried "to explain the importance of 'Gordon.'"]

Instead of immediately doing as I asked - I likely preferred Mighty Mouse - she attempted to explain the importance of 'Gordon.' I can't remember much about the discussion that followed but I do know mother's reasoning won the day and I still carry the name I was given at birth - and like it a lot better now.

Besides the name linking me to a great-grandmother, on my mother's side, who lived to the age of 104 or 105, it connects me to my father, Gordon Douglas (Doug) Harrison. I now wouldn't trade it for any other name.

["Until she died in the mid-1950s, Lydia Jane Gordon lived
with her daughter, Ida Belle Gordon in Norwich"]
If Lydia's longevity and my dad's tenacity are combined within me I should live to 120.

Where will you be in 58 years?!

[Photos of photo by G.Harrison]


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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rare Family Photos: Jesse didn’t smile very often, if ever

[Jesse Harrison (L), Beulah Sweazey, Norwich 1933]

I recently received an email from Barry W., who has inherited his mother's box of photos in the last year. Inside he found an old black and white with the name Jesse Harrison on the back. 

"Is Jesse known to you," he asked.

I said that she was, that she was an aunt (now deceased). I thought the photo was very likely of my aunt since I knew Barry and his mother lived in Norwich for a few years, Jesse's hometown.

We met this afternoon and he gave me the photo. Jesse is sitting beside Beulah Sweazey, and is holding Darlene S., age 4 months. Barry said his mother was born Feb. 1933, so the photo is summer 1933. Jesse would be about 15 - 18, I guess (older than my Dad at least, born 1920), and she appears to be thinking about smiling, which would make this a very rare photograph.

Do you have a photo of my Aunt Jessie? I bet she’s not smilin’.

[Photo of photo by G.Harrison]


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It Strikes Me Funny: “Cheeky beggar!”

[“...once I spotted the finish line, I did give it once last push. I said, “Run, Gordie, run!” And I did, but I don’t think I was smilin’!” June 19, No such smiles on race day?]

I lied. Two days ago I briefly described the ‘feet on fire’ episode in my life, i.e., the final block or two of the Boston Marathon, and said “I don’t think I was smilin’!”

Not only did I squeeze out a smile (you have to look really close at the last finish line photo below), but I raised my hands, waved a Canadian flag and sported a clinched fist.

Exciting times, I must admit, and not only for me.

Though I believe no pictures exist to prove this final tale from Boston, 2005 (If they do, they are extremely rare! And I’d like to buy a copy for my ‘rogues gallery’.), about 15 minutes after crossing the finish line, I stripped naked behind a parked car in order to change into dry clothes. 

I moved very quickly, even faster than my final kick to the finish, and saw no one watching me as I tugged my Boston T-shirt over my sticky shoulders. However, after I peeled off race shorts and started to pull on fresh underwear I heard a stirring round of applause from very close at hand. 

What the heck!? I looked left and right and saw no one.

“Nice butt!” a woman’s voice declared from above and behind.

["Really. I'm smiling! And shouting for a medic with a Guinness!"]

I turned quickly, looked up, and saw a crowd of marathon spectators on a second-floor apartment balcony. I could think of nothing better to do, so I saluted the crowd and enjoyed the last laugh.

[Photos - Boston Marathon Association]


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“GO WEST, YOUNG MAN”: Photos from along the way (21)

[“Another item at the museum caught my full attention.   In the RCN room, closed to the public by means of a laminated sign - “Closed for Refurbishment” - and one black curtain, was a poster used by the Canadian Navy to draw new recruits into the service.Chasing my dad Part 15]

Photos from April 26 - Day 6 of my trip to Vancouver Island

I spent a rewarding time in the Maritime Museum of BC. Display boards were stocked with excellent photos, displays and descriptions. If Dad had been along, we would have missed lunch and supper too.

From the note board under the MN badge: “In WWII, the merchant fleet grew from 38 vessels to approximately 200. Merchant sailors were vital in transporting cargo across the Atlantic, and were unofficially classified as the fourth branch of the military. The merchant navy had a higher casualty rate than the other 3 branches of the military - 1 in 10 lost their lives - but they were unable to reap the benefits of veteran status because they were not recognized as part of the military.

For more details about life on the Atlantic during WWII, please read A Measureless Peril: America in the fight for the Atlantic, the longest battle of WWII, by Richard Snow.

[“I left the museum and prepared a late lunch at
the hostel. Its door is guarded by a flowering tree”

[“My fine hostel digs. Eight cozy bunks per cubby”]

[“After lunch I explored the harbour path”]

[“Birkenstocks vs Harbour Boats? Birkenstocks!”]

[“Oh, I could live in Victoria!”]

[A lovely bronze of a Navy man coming home.
Note brief case in lower left corner.”]

A large engraved stone explains the bronze: 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Navy ...this statue is dedicated to the tens of thousands of Canadians who answered both the call of their country and of the sea through service in Canada’s Navy. From cities, towns, villages and First Nations communities, they
stepped forward to stand their watch at sea through two World wars, War in Korea, the Cold War, the first Gulf War and the War on Terrorism. These ordinary man and women were extraordinary in their accomplishments and helped shape the history of Canada as a great maritime nation. This statue... represents the special moment in sailors lives when they return from the sea to once again meet their family. May 4, 2010” 

[“The Teddy is in the briefcase!”]

In June, 2010 (one month after the statue was unveiled) I buried my dad at sea - in the Atlantic, near Halifax - in SS Silver Walnut 2.

More photos from the harbor walk to follow.

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Please click here to view Photos from along the way (20)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Workshop: Used books, used lumber - to good use

A friend recently became the proud owner of the first registered 'Little Free Library' in the city of London. Well, he has his registration number at least, and will have his library once I've finished assembling and painting it.

'' will tell interested readers what the program is all about, but in a few words, it is a way to promote front-yard-sized lending libraries.

Many people have books kicking around the house - for children and adults - that could be recycled in some way, e.g., by donating them to a local charity, selling them cheaply at a yard sale, placing them inside a 'free library', etc.

Many people, like me for instance, also have spare lumber and paint kicking around their workshops, and with a little bit of elbow grease can produce any number of libraries for a busy street or neighbourhood.

What do you think of this idea?

[Photos by G.Harrison]


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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“GO WEST, YOUNG MAN”: Chasing my dad Part 15

[“I felt at home inside the workshop and happy to stick my toe into prohibited territory on a day when the Minister of Defence was busy shopping for F-35s, so, no Navy brig for me. And the day only seemed to get better.” June 15, Chasing my dad Part 14]

April 26 - Day 6 of my trip to Vancouver Island

The morning of April 26 past swimmingly. I helped unwrap a Navy hammock from 1943 with my dad’s name upon it. I also toured the Esquimalt Navy Base with an informative guide. 

By 12:30 my emotions ran high and my brain felt ‘full to over-flowing.’ But, because of an afternoon appointment, I also felt I shouldn’t pause to reflect or dawdle.

My journal for the day says, “When done, off I walk to nearest bus stop. Esquimalt 6 (bus), downtown in 10 - 15 minutes, easy kap-easy, (dropped off) 100 meters from hostel! ...Shite! App’t at Maritime Museum of BC @ 1:00-ish. I change gear (warm it is) and go. No lunch.”

Fortunately, the museum was only two blocks away from the hostel and I arrived at 1:10 p.m., hardly late, just in time to learn the yellow tape surrounding the entrance had been put there by police due to a robbery at a store nearby. It was soon removed, however, by the museum employee I had agreed to meet in order to see certain rooms pertaining to the Navy. How convenient, I thought at the time, but things did not go as planned.

My journal says, “Cuyler Page, the man I am to meet, doesn’t recall my emails or his note to take me on tour of ‘closed for reno’ RN and RCN exhibits. (I’m) disappointed to a degree but I make headway in 2 ways. 1. I tour (museum’s) storage area. I love backrooms (off limits to general public)!! 2. I slip thru gate and curtains and tour RCN (exhibit) by myself... very quietly.”

Left to my own devices, I succeeded in finding several items worthy of attention.

One of the first was a Navy rum ‘tot’ measure. It reminded me of an opportunistic quality in my Dad, who, in mid-July, 1943, at the age of 23 and off the coast of Sicily, helped unload - then carefully hide - a shipment of ‘Officers Rum’ aboard his landing craft.

In a column he wrote for The Norwich Gazette in the early 1990s (his hometown weekly paper), he describes the episode, in part, in the following way:

"One day, about day three, a large net full of wooden cases landed on my landing craft. Stencilled on the side of each case were the words NAVY RUM; destination Officers’ Mess. I decided that the Officers’ mess was in the engine room of our LCM. I never worked so hard and enjoyed it so much in my life."

In another version of the story, submitted to publishers of books related to Combined Operations, he added the following details:

Question: Did the rum reach the Officers’ Mess?

P.S. I certainly did not help drink the Officers’ rum and I never will again.

Though I appreciate the mischievous humour in his last line, I do know there is some truth to it as well, because in the early 1970s he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and I never saw him ‘touch a drop’ for the rest of his life.

["Only a sign and curtain in the way? Step aside!"]

Another item at the museum caught my full attention. In the RCN room, closed to the public by means of a laminated sign - “Closed for Refurbishment” - and one black curtain, was a poster used by the Canadian Navy to draw new recruits into the service. 

Though the once red and black printer’s ink had faded greatly, and it was not illuminated by overhead lights (I didn’t dare turn them on; I didn’t want to get turfed from the closed room) the message was clear enough:




Details concerning ‘Pay and Allowances’ followed, e.g., (in part) Canadian Naval rates of pay will be paid to men of the Reserve Force whilst undergoing annual training at Naval bases... An extra $5.00 will be paid each year to Reservists on completing 40 or more drills during the year. 

Though ‘Navy pay’ and bonuses might have caught my dad’s eye as a 20-year old in 1940, I was aware, having typed up his memoirs into book form just a few months earlier, that he was drawn to serve in the navy for other reasons too.

More to follow.

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Please click here for “GO WEST, YOUNG MAN”: Chasing my dad Part 14

It Strikes Me Funny: No such smiles on race day?

I found a photo album from 2005 recently and two particular shots brought back both pleasant and unpleasant memories of my one trip to Boston.

They made me think, what a difference a day makes.

In April, 2005, the day before ‘the big one’, i.e., the Boston Marathon, Pat and I explored the streets of Boston and found the fire hall that is a “building to watch for”, because it marks the last turn and last few blocks to the finish. If I had a kick left in my legs when I reached that corner the next day, I would let it out, leave it all on the road. (So I thought).

We spotted a fire fighter and mentioned that our older son was also one, in Canada (“He trained at a college in Commerce, Texas,” I said. He knew the one.), and he offered to take a picture of us sitting on the bumper of his truck; he also offered me his helmet.

Sweet. My older son and I have the same-shaped head,  the same dashing, yet rugged smile, so the helmet fit and felt perfect, and I imagined myself a tough fire fighter for a few seconds. I thought about my wicked kick too.

The next day, however, due to several blisters on one foot and terribly hot temperatures, both of my feet seemed like they were on fire at that special corner and my rugged smile and fierce kick deserted me. But once I spotted the finish line, I did give it once last push.

I said, “Run, Gordie, run!” And I did, but I don’t think I was smilin’!

[Photos by a Boston fire fighter]


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Monday, June 18, 2012

“GO WEST, YOUNG MAN”: Photos from along the way (20)

[“I felt grateful on the day. When I asked if that was a hawser on his workbench Mr. Shafer said it was, so I didn’t feel like a complete goof. I felt glad to have spotted it and that it connected me - with the strongest of cords - to my father.” Chasing my dad Part 14]

Photos from April 26, Day 6 of my trip to Vancouver Island

Do you like museums? I do, especially ones with restricted rooms.

Shortly after leaving the Esquimalt Naval Base I entered the Maritime Museum of BC, only two blocks from my hostel. 

Though I was barred from one important room, according to a sign, velvet rope and black curtain, I found a way to sneak in (by moving the rope and slipping behind the curtain) and found many treasures.

For example, I found a WWII photo of a convoy forming in Bedford Basin, Halifax. My father may very well have been on one of those ships, as he was part of the first RCNVR class to be shipped overseas in 1941.

[“A bit of history about dad’s beloved RCNVR. He
didn’t sign up because of the pay, that’s for sure.”]

[“The rum tot reminded me of one of dad’s ‘Navy
Days’ stories published in our hometown paper”]

[“Dad mentioned that he trained at HMCS Niobe
in Scotland, circa 1942, in his Naval memoirs”]

[“I spotted a model of the Esquimalt shipyard locks;
I’d seen the real thing just hours earlier.”]

[“An old map of the Esquimalt Naval Base, the place I’d
tramped around in the morning, caught my eye.”]

After a late lunch I had a good tramp around Victoria and the nearby harbour.

More to follow.

[Photos by G.Harrison]


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It Strikes Me Funny: "Say cheese" has two meanings

When I'm told to "Say cheese" I generally respond in two ways.

Sure, I smile. And usually it's a beauty because my conscience is clean. (Except for that time in 1959 when I found a dime on the floor at the movies and spent it on candy before I realized it belonged to my brother. No movie for Kim! But the jubes jubes were delicious.)

[A left-handed "Peace to all": Boston, 2005]

Secondly, "Say cheese" usually prompts me to flash the peace sign. I think it's because my mind is at peace about the jubes jubes. Hey, I was only ten, had an insatiable sweet tooth and I didn't realize the dime belonged to Kim until I saw him running home with tears in his eyes.

[A right-handed "Run the marathon like a champ"]

Admittedly, the peace sign could pop up because I was a teen during the '60s and the influence of those memorable years hasn't yet left my system.


[Photos by P. Harrison]


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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Things I Like in London 3

Yes, I own a world-famous belt. From Quigley’s Leather Works. London, Ontario. 1969. Five dollars. It holds my pants up. I like that about it.

[“My belt is showing signs of wear. Yikes.”]

A local reader, after reading my column about said famous belt, wrote me a hand-written letter. When my wife handed me the letter I said, “I bet this is from someone who is at least 85-years old.” And I was right. I talked to the sender yesterday on her front porch. She is 93.

[Betty L.’s belt is in much better shape. She said,
“I didn’t wear it as much as you did.”]

[“The ladies’ version is half the width of mine”]

In the letter she mentions her own belt, bought also in the 1960s. She couldn’t recall how much she paid. (How is it that I can recall what I spent on the belt, to a nickel!? And yes, I still have the first dollar I ever earned. Why do you ask?)

[“One of Betty’s Teddies isn’t done. That’s why
there's a needle sticking out of its ear.”]

Her belt is in very good condition but is half the width of mine. So, she likely paid two or three dollars at the time.

I like her hand-written letter. In it she told me a story that made me truly smile, then laugh right out loud. (More to follow).

I like that she welcomed me to her front porch and let me take a few pictures of her belt and two Teddies.

Thanks, Betty.


Please click here to view Things I Like in London 2