Saturday, August 31, 2013

The News: PenEquity development, London

As the recent development in our fair city stands, it seems the following, among other things, will happen:

Many, many trees near Dingman Drive will fall and, after a careful count, be replaced elsewhere at a ratio of 6 to 1 (new for old).

Though other observers will point out greater issues at stake, e.g., jobs, I point out 'the removal and relocation of trees' because that particular process is symbolic. It underlines - with wasted trees and wetlands - the weaknesses and shortsightedness of much of modern development.

Based on my belief that much of London's past commercial development (say the last 20 years) has not created new customers for consumer goods as much as it has stolen them from others, we will see the following occur once Dingman Drive, south of the 401, is open for business:

The oft-repeated removal and relocation of consumers, i.e., flocks of newly excited consumers from one part of the city will simply drive to another.

Many observers of this migration will quickly be reminded of similar past events, e.g., the migration of downtown shoppers to the edges of our ever-expanding domain, resulting in the boarding up of many small businesses. And once-successful malls in other areas of the city are now not, because bigger ones were later built and stole consumers away.

Some will say, "That's life." And that is certainly true when we begin to think that new development is better than redevelopment (e.g., of the core of London), jobs must be created at any price, bigger is better, and an expanded city is better than compact.

As I write I am convinced that a business as usual philosophy produces greater losses than gains and London has once again bet on the wrong horse.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

here's the $7 birdhouse

for those who have been asking... two down, four to go.

["$7 BH, not bad at all"]

["Easy kap-easy to assemble and hang in a tree"]

Photos by GH


Please click here to view where's the $7 birdhouse?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

70th Anniversary of two D-Days

A few faint Canadian footprints, from 1943, can still be found on the beaches of Sicily and Italy.

However, with each passing year there are fewer Allied World War 2 veterans alive who, 70 years ago - in July and September - stepped upon Sicilian and Italian shores with fervent hopes of breaking the grip of Axis forces in that part of the world.

In the very near future only their stories and fading photographs will remain.

Photo by GH


Please click here to read Dad's Navy Days: August, 1943 - Malta (10)

birdhouse repair 101

Squirrels are feisty critters - they love to chew - and can do a lot of damage to birdhouses made from softwood. Friends recently showed me a hard hit model from their backyard in Byron.

["I recalled the lumber, rescued from Bracebridge,
was really soft.  But tasty too?"]

"Can you fix it up?" I was asked. I nodded.

["I removed screws from the roof and base"]

["It was apart and freshened up in no time"]

I added harder wood around the main entrance, applied a fresh coat of paint where needed, did a bit of fiddling around with new trim and reattached all pieces I'd removed.

["Better than ever? We'll see"]

Now we wait to see if the squirrels think it looks like their lunch or will just let it be.

Photos by GH


Please click here to read where's the $7 birdhouse?

The Workshop: Real whoppers (3)

Assembling shadow boxes can be fiddly work, especially when there are fish hooks nibbling at your fingers. Go slow, I say.

["Two boxes are ready for a coat of oil"]

["A mother and child seem to be talking"]

["Be careful out there, Son."
"I will, Ma. Pa's been showing me the ropes."] 

[Pa: "Buddy, if you don't blink in 10 seconds, I'm outta here."]

After oil has been applied I will start work on a third box featuring lovely lures from Finland. 

["Three lures in all, each with two triple hooks."]

In the shop I'll be fiddling with care.

Photos by GH


Please click here to read Real whoppers (2)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

faint signs of Canada

     "And from the shores of Sicily - in September, 1943 - all
     the material of war belonging to Allied troops was to be
     delivered by ship and landing crafts to the seven-mile-
     distant shores of Italy.

     Today, as I anticipate the approach of the 70th anniversary
     of D - Day Italy, I'm aware that as father rolled up his
     hammock, he heard the countdown in the back of his mind."
     [Excerpt from my father's Navy memoirs]

["A Navy hammock from SS Silver Walnut, circa 1943;
names of men of the 80th Flotilla, RCNVR, on route to
Sicily, then Italy; Doug Harrison, Norwich, included"]

While walking near my home yesterday I spotted an impression in the sidewalk that relates to stories I've completed during the last 2 - 3 weeks, i.e., Dad's Navy Days: Sicily and Malta. I returned home for my camera before the significance of the impression was forgotten.

I've been writing about my Dad's experiences in Sicily and Malta (and soon, Italy) because they occurred in 1943, in the midst of WW2, and the short stories are my way of marking the 70th anniversary of D-D Sicily and D-Day Italy, my way of remembering my father (also a member of Combined Operations) in the midst of battles, and recalling the man I knew during our years together.

["Lest we forget"]

Photos by GH


Please click here to read Dad's Navy Days: August 1943 - Malta (10)

The Workshop: Almost buried in dust

If I'm going to be buried in dust let it be western cedar. It smells delicious.

["Enough logs and slats for several log cabin birdhouses"]

I rescued several old fence boards and posts from a landfill site recently and can proudly say I didn't hit one hidden nail while turning them into logs and slats. Though I created piles of dust in the process it felt good to realize I'd cleaned up the wood perfectly. (My saw thanked me too).

But the dust! My neighbour couldn't even get down the back lane.

["No way out!"]

Photos by GH  


Please click here to read The Workshop: Real whoppers 

magic bugs and the siren call (2)

Magicicadas crawled out of the ground recently and attached themselves to branches of my apricot tree while shedding their exoskeletons. (After spending 13 years in the same suit of armour I'd want to throw it off as well.) I collected a few cicada shells for their first photo op.

["Scritch scritch scratch. Take us to your leader"]

["We'll need more than one leaf for lunch!"]

 Eventually they found their way into my house!

Photos by GH


Please click here to read magic bugs and the siren call (1)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dad's Navy Days: August 1943 - Malta (10)

After the WW2 invasion of Sicily by Allied Forces - 70 years ago - members of the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) rested and recuperated from illnesses on the island of Malta. In my father's case, after a 10-day stay at Hill 10 Hospital, which included daily handfuls of pills and four or five days of a starvation diet, he explored the island with renewed vigour.

[Malta's military hospitals have a long history"]

All the while, war weary members of the RCNVR and Combined Operations (serving on landing crafts) thought about what was coming up next. Surely, they would only have had a rough outline or an inkling. "Although no one ventured a word, we all had Italy in the back of our minds," father wrote in an article for his local paper.

He also mentioned the following:

     When my friends returned from Sicily in their landing craft,
     I was waiting for them at the bottom of the cement steps.
     Our commanding officer Lt/Comdr Koyl and a few hands
     disappeared for awhile and when they returned they were
     weighted down with kit bags of parcels and mail. The blues
     disappeared and quietness settled in as every one of us, in
     a different posture, chewed on an Oh Henry bar and read
     news from home. The war wasn’t so bad after all. We shared
     with anyone who hadn’t received a parcel; no one went
     hungry. We feasted on chocolate bars, cookies, canned goods
     and the news.

     There were still about 250 of us - we hadn’t lost a soul, but
     one man had a terrible shrapnel wound in his arm. 
[re the shrapnel wound: I never gave it much thought until a year ago while having a cup of tea with Londoner Al Adlington, a man who'd informed me via email a few weeks earlier that he'd not only served with my father but had been in Sicily as well in 1943. On the first day of the Allied invasion he'd been injured: He was manning a gun when attacked by the Luftwaffe and a shell rattled around inside his protective cage and ripped into his hand and arm. "That was the end of it for me," he told me. My father would surely have remembered Mr. Adlington because the best man at his wedding (Al's wife Mary showed me their wedding picture, taken in Glasgow) was Chuck Rose of Chippewa, one of my father's close Navy buddies.]

[Raw recruits, Effingham Division, Halifax, 1941;
Doug Harrison, from Norwich, front row, third from left;
Chuck Rose, from Chippewa, first on left in fourth row;
Al Adlington, from London, fourth row, third from left]

[Chuck and Pauline Rose, Harrison's backyard, Norwich, 1955;
Pauline lives today near her family home in Chippewa]

     We conserved parcels for a rainy day and were dispersed to
     ships and tents to live for a few days while our stoker got the
     engines on each craft ready for the invasion of Italy. Of course,
     no one knew when that would be, but urgency was the order of 
     the day and repair parts were non-existent. We toured the island
     of Malta and some sailed over to Gozo, another small island.
     We mingled with the inhabitants but generally we took the
     opportunity to get some rest and re-read mail. I saw a movie,
     and before the show the music consisted of western songs by
     Canada’s own Wilf Carter.

["Wilf Carter (link to photo), one of Canada's famous cowpokes"] 

     Although no one ventured a word, we all had Italy in the back
     of our minds. Before we got too settled in, we were throwing
     our hammocks aboard our landing craft again and heading for
     Sicily. [The Norwich Gazette, circa 1992]

And from the shores of Sicily - in September, 1943 - all the material of war belonging to Allied troops was to be delivered by ship and landing crafts to the seven-mile-distant shores of Italy.

Today, as I anticipate the approach of the 70th anniversary of D - Day Italy, I'm aware that as father rolled up his hammock, he heard the countdown in the back of his mind.

Photos by GH   


Please click here to read Dad's Navy Days: August 1943 - Malta (9)

magic bugs and the siren call

Bugs are coming, bugs are coming. And they're very loud.

Here in SW Ontario, cicadas (aka Magicicadas in NE USA) are currently emerging from the ground, climbing trees, shedding their skin and singing out their siren-like mating call at a sound level of 110 - 120 decibels. Maybe you've heard.

["A Magicicada upon an apricot leaf in my
front yard." More details at CBC website]

I started hearing a loud ringing in my ears last week. When I popped my head out the shop door I couldn't tell from which direction the sound came but I knew it was a cicada's mating call. And on Saturday morning I found evidence that cicada eggs had been deposited in the soil of my front yard 13 or 17 years ago. I carefully collected nine empty cicadas shells from a front yard tree but didn't spot an adult ready to sing.

["A cicada exoskeleton on the trunk of the apricot tree"]  

The large insects - after shedding their exoskeleton - had flown the coop.

["Bugs are coming, bugs are coming. Then going!"]

Photos by GH


Please click here to read good wood. good fish

Friday, August 23, 2013

plugs. glug - glugs

one man's trash...

Photos by GH


Please click here to view good wood. good fish

The Workshop: Real whoppers (2)

When I saw three hand-carved fish decoys inside an antique store cabinet my mind turned to shadow boxes. The decoys tell a story, I said to myself. I felt I had to have them and - so intrigued by them I was - I almost paid for them without dickering.

The largest is now swimming inside a shadow box and facing off against an inexpensive, used lure. The other two will be located inside their own box by end of day. Perhaps they'll be joined by an old tin of fish hooks to add a bit more drama to their conversation.

["Decoys by Basil Secord, perhaps from Lake Simcoe, 1960s"]

"Be careful out there, Son." "I will, Ma. I've been watching Pa."

Or, based on a brief exchange I had with my own mother, circa 1965:

"Son, you're driving me crazy." "For you it won't be a long drive, Ma."

Photos by GH


Please click here to read Real whoppers (1)

In London with Loot (4): "Gord sinks to a new low"

Many readers know what I'm up to when I'm in my shop. Birdhouses, shadow boxes and odd jobs are underway. And occasionally I'm thinking of something new.

["Cool loot from a few flea market stalls in Kingston"]  

When I look at my recent purchases from Kingston and Ganonoque I see unusual birdhouse trim and perches. And I see big savings - I dickered with a few flea market vendors - especially when I pick up a heavy glass jar with grimy lid. Oh, it's a beauty it is.

["What is this? And what possessed me to buy it?"]

I've already pulled out its contents, tidied the cords and counted, and hefted, the individual treasures. 

["You won't find a better collection of old lead weights"] 

By 'treasures' I mean sinkers or plugs once used by an experienced fisherman from the north shore of Lake Ontario. I'm now lead to believe there will be heavy shadow boxes in my future.

Photos by GH 


Please click here to read In London with Loot (3)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

good wood. good fish

wood from the curb. a lure from a flea market.

a handsome fish (by Basil Secord, Lake Simcoe carver) from an antique dealer in Oakwood, Ontario.

not bad, but one more thing is needed.

coming soon.

Photo by GH

The Workshop: Real whoppers (1)

I knew instantly I had a match. I saw some old lures. And I had a pocketful of loose change.

["On the left we have a feisty flea market lure"]

The workshop will be busy for the next little while I put a few shadow boxes together with limited skill but lots of determination.

["And on the right is a crafty hand-carved
specimen. The battle of wits is on."]

Because the fish hooks are still plenty sharp I'll keep bandages handy.

Photos by GH


Please click here to read more from the workshop where's the $7 birdhouse?

In London with Loot (3): "The guy's always thinking"

During a phone conversation last night, I recommended to a friend he should visit Kingston whenever possible.

"It's a beautiful city," I said. "Old, historic. Like me."

There are also - in Kingston and surrounding area - many interesting flea markets and antique stores - and, as long as my money lasted, I had a great time snooping and sniffing out good deals during a recent mini-vacation. (It could have lasted longer... but I went shopping.)

["Whatever is this stuff good for? You just wait," I say.]

 Besides new and used books I purchased a small collection of old fishing lures. I saw one or two that inspired thoughts about shadow boxes, so I bought three or four more. Then more.

["I'm thinking about a series of fish tales. Real whoppers."]

If the fish are biting, fun will be had by all.

Photos by GH


Please click here to read In London with Loot (2)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dad's Navy Days: August 1943 - Malta (9)

On some maps Malta appears as a tiny speck of an island south of Sicily and The Narrows. But to about 250 Canadian Navy men, seventy years ago this month, it was a significant and safe place for a much-needed break from their hard work - associated with the occupation of Sicily - before returning north for the September invasion of Italy with Allied forces.

["It was a significant, safe place" in August, 1943;
Map from pg. xi, SIEGE: MALTA 1940 - 1943]

Malta was a place for rest, handfuls of pills, recuperation, mail call, ship and landing craft repair, and heartier meals than had been served during the capture of Sicily in the previous month. It was also a place for the Navy men - many in charge of battered landing crafts - to think about what was coming up next.

In the reminiscences of a Canadian LCM Flotilla Engineer Officer I find the following details:

     While in Malta several cases of malaria, sand-fly fever
     and desert sores developed. Some were cured in time
     to sail with us and those that had to remain were sincerely
     disappointed for after the fall of Sicily it was quite easy to
     guess our next move would to be into Italy itself and they
     wanted to be in on the mainland job.
     [pg. 98, COMBINED OPERATIONS by Clayton Marks, London]  

My father was one of many men placed on a 'rest and handfuls of pills' regimen because of dysentery, and in the early 1990s he wrote a newspaper article about his time in Malta. Apparently, the invasion of Italy did not dominate his thoughts.

Part of the article follows:

Food, sustenance and mail were found on Malta

     At the end of the Sicilian campaign several Canadian
     sailors and officers became ill. Fatigue brought on by
     long hours of work and poor nourishment for over a
     month had now taken its toll and showed up in various
     ways. Salt water sores, rashes, sunburn, dysentery,
     things we hadn’t time to bother with before now began
     to manifest themselves.

     Fear was now gone and the inaction caused many to
     have letdowns. Many had not relaxed for weeks and
     now that it was over they had difficulty handling it.
     Mail from home would have helped at a time like this;
     most of us hadn’t had mail since April and it was now
     the middle of August. I would have given my right arm
     for a cool drink of Norwich water and Sweet Caporal
     cigarettes from the Women’s War league.
     [The Norwich Gazette, circa 1992]

Water from his hometown, a free smoke and mail. All father wanted were a few simple pleasures but his wishes were quickly pushed aside after getting orders from a ship's doctor to report to Hill 10 Hospital. Dysentery was taking its toll.

Father continues: 

     Malta isn’t very large and by asking a few natives I 
     found my way to the hospital, dragged right out.
     I wandered in and reported my condition to one of
     the English orderlies. I’ll never forget how cheerful
     his reply was in that Godforsaken place. 

     “Oh, we’ll soon cure that, Canada.”
     “Yeah? How?” I said.
     “We’ll starve you for a week.”
     (So, what else was new?)

     But I was in no condition to argue and for a few days
     I found out how severe dysentery can be, and hunger
     was no stranger to me, but after four or five days the
     staff relented and gave me a little boiled cabbage.
     Here was FOOD and SUSTENANCE  and I suffered very
     few side affects. I was on my way, even my ribs looked

["Malta was called 'George Cross Island'
by many who stopped there"]

     After about 10 days I was given a clean bill of health and
     released to wander freely about Malta and wait for my
     comrades who were late coming from Sicily in landing craft.
     I found a vacant array of Air Force tents to sleep in and
     was fortunate to scrounge some food from the natives.
     I thought I had it tough - but I couldn’t hold a candle to
     these folks. I investigated a bit of the catacombs where
     many slept and lived through the intense bombing raids -
     no wonder the island was awarded the George Cross.

Though father didn't get to enjoy a glass of Norwich water for a few more months, he did eventually get his Sweet Caps and mail. All the while preparations for the invasion of Italy took place around him. But did he take much notice?

["Doug Harrison on leave, circa 1943"]

More to follow.


Please click here to read Dad's Navy Days: August 1943 - Malta (8)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In London with Loot (2): "What's he up to?"

A recent wee vacation in Kingston was "beddy beddy good to me." Good bookstores sat on several corners and other fascinating materials abounded.

["Saints, Devils (etc.), published 1945, is perfect for me"]

In new and used bookstores I easily satisfied my thirst for timely WW2 reading material. E.g., a book about Malta (1940 - '43) is right up my alley because - 70 years ago today - my father was there recuperating from dysentery after the Allied invasion of Sicily. A rare book by Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve Lieut. (S) Pugsley details a man's journey that follows some of the same paths my father walked as a Leading Seaman Coxswain with the same RCNVR, or 'Wavy Navy'. Treasures for under $20 make my day, and I'm always up for a lengthy reading time most evenings.

I also found enough bits and bobs for the workshop to keep me happy for weeks, if not months.

["Metal fasteners - some young, some old. Lovely!"]

Those that know me will likely have some idea what I'm up to, and where the metal fasteners will appear next.

Photos by GH


 Please click here to read In London with Loot (1): "She's the boss"

And yes, she's still the boss

hop hop to it again

A month ago I was informed that my trumpet vines are invasive and will one day take over the world. I agree with the first bit.

["My hop plants will take over the fence one day"]

However, hops vines on my side fence - growing slowly but surely in their first season - will likely give the trumpets a run for their money within five years. I'll enjoy watching the duel progress.

Photo by GH


Please click here to read hop to it again

(My neighbour's hops are amazing)

Monday, August 19, 2013

In London with Loot (1): "She's the boss"

About the last few days: My wife and I drove 1,000 kilometers from London to Kingston and back, endured thick holiday traffic both ways and put a dent in our savings, but we had a blast and returned last night loaded down with loot. Our car stops for yard sales and flea markets.

Today I'll slowly putter around the house, sort and put stuff away, all within my limited skill set. Already I've hung a new piece of wall art in my study, thanks to my lovely wife.

["Oh, this is perfect," she said to a vendor]

Yesterday morning, at a flea and antique market in downtown Kingston, she found a 1980s Mick Jagger LP that made her laugh. And because she laughed, I laughed too (after catching the title, i.e., 'She's The Boss').

[The back side of the LP also made us laugh]

Before hanging the album I checked the condition of the record and discovered it was not only mint but was further protected by a sturdy liner bearing a copy of a Lynd Ward woodcut

[More about Lynd Ward woodcuts - The Paris Review]  

My wife was happy at the time that the LP only set her back a few dollars. She's happier still to see it now hanging over my shoulder in my our study. 

["Hey, she's the boss"]

And I'm happy that she's happy. 

Photos by GH


Please click here to read the ballot: it strikes me funny

Thursday, August 8, 2013

where are my water colour paints?

Twenty years ago I went on a blitz. I invested heavily in water colour paints, brushes and paper, and I painted, and I painted.

Painting made me feel more relaxed. And, in my opinion, the small paintings made great birthday gifts. But, once I got so relaxed I couldn't stand it anymore I put the paints away... somewhere.

[I created my own unique style - 'Lottsa straight clouds']

Recently, one painting returned home. "I gotta-nough stuff. Time to de-clutter. Here." And my relaxed feeling went down a notch.

Where are those paints?

Photos by GH


Please click here to read $5 will make me a million. Inconceivable?

Dad's Navy Days: August 1943 - Malta (8)

["photo from ROME FELL TODAY by gah"]

                    "After about 38 days, the Army and
                        Air Force had won the day and Sicily
                        was freed. Our work was done."
                        [Doug Harrison V8809, RCNVR
                        page 109 "DAD, WELL DONE"]

About seventy years ago today a weak, weary and wasted group of Canadian Navy men said goodbye to their caves in Sicily (one nicknamed The Savoy), loaded their meager supplies and belongings onto WW2 landing craft and aimed their noses toward Malta. Some mop-up crews remained behind until the 18th of August but I think most members of the Canadian flotillas set sail on the 10th. My father may have shipped out even a few days earlier. He was sporting a lovely rib cage by then, and unbeknownst to him, his scanty meals were about to get even scantier. Doctor's orders.

[Map from COMBINED OPERATIONS, Clayton Marks, London Ont.]

A Canadian LCM (landing craft mechanized) Flotilla Engineer Officer describes events of those days in the following passage:

     "By the first week in August we had daily reports that
     the beaches would soon be closed and our job finished.
     However a few ships kept coming in because the port
     of Catania hadn't fallen 'according to plan' and so we
     had to unload these vehicles and supplies over the beaches
     instead. On the ninth Jake (Koyl) received a signal announcing
     our departure the following day under our own power for
     Malta. Again speculation was rife as to our further disposal.
     But the main thing as far as the boys were concerned was that
     we were to be on the move again and none of us were sorry to
     relinquish our cave dwelling for the prospects of barracks in
     Malta. As we sailed away from the beaches where death and
     destruction had reigned upon us in the early days of the
     invasion there were sincere sighs of relief to be rid of the
     place. Little did we dream that in three short weeks we would
     be coming in sight of the same hills again on our way to Italy!

["...beaches would soon be closed and our job finished"]

     The voyage to the George Cross Island (i.e., Malta: the origin
     of its pseudonym is a story in itself. GH) was completed in less
     time than expected considering the fact that the craft were
     just about ready to fall apart after a grueling four weeks work."
     [pg. 97 - 98, COMBINED OPERATIONS, C. Marks]  

When my father wrote down 40 pages of memoirs in 1975 he recalled his departure from Sicily in the following manner:

     "After approximately 27 days I came down with severe chills
     and then got dysentery. I was shipped to Malta on the Ulster
     Monarch and an intern came around and handed me 26 pills. 

[The Ulster Monarch appears at]

["A commando cleans his weapon aboard the Ulster Monarch":
see more at]

     I inquired how many doses was that? "Just one," he replied.
     At Malta I was let loose on my own to find Hill 10 Hospital.
     I did after a while and they asked me my trouble. I said,
     "Dysentery." "Oh, we'll soon cure that," they said. How?
     "We won't give you anything to eat." So for four days all I
     got was water and pills and soon I was cured, though weak.
     I thought of those poor devils in the desert (i.e., Navy men
     who arrived in Egyptian staging areas before my father did,
     one month earlier).

     When I felt better they sent me to a tent where I got regular
     meals. I saw an air force newspaper and on the front was a
     picture of Bob Alexander of Norwich, a school chum. But Bob
     returned to the fray and was lost on one of his bombing missions.
     How sorry I was to hear that news. He had already done so much.

[Bob Alexander (centre), 1936 high school photo]

[Doug Harrison (centre), 1936 high school photo]

     Soon all the boys returned to Malta and we prepared for Italy..."
     [pg. 34-35, "DAD, WELL DONE"]

Based on the information I have, my father was either eating a handful of pills at Hill 10 Hospital or getting a regular meal at a tent city in Malta, seventy years ago today. I'm sure he was grateful that the 'lizardly' Sicilian caves were behind him but also a bit anxious about what duties were coming up next. For the time being, he waited and added on a few needed pounds.

More to follow.

Photos by GH


Please click here to read Dad's Navy Days: August 1943 - Sicily (7)