The Perfect Toad in the Hole

January 30, 2013

It has been a week since I wrote here.  I would like to say that I spent all week perfecting my toad in the hole recipe.  And while it is true that tonight I made possibly the best toad in the hole (along with mashed potatoes and onion gravy) that was ever made …

toad in the hole

… but it really had more to do with research and politics and simple laziness.

I’ve written a hundred or more tweets this week, but I missed it here.

Grandview Heritage: Get Involved!

January 23, 2013

Earlier this month about fifty people attended the Heritage and Neighbourhood Character Workshop that was organized as part of the ongoing Grandview Community Plan.  If you missed it (or even if you were there) you still have a chance to participate in answering the questions that formed the basis of that evening’s event.   Until the end of January you can go online at to answer the City’s questionnaire and to leave your comments.  Retention and use of our heritage is a vital part of Grandview’s future and your views about it should be heard.

Another way to get involved is to follow the work of the Grandview Heritage Group and to attend their monthly meetings at Britannia.  The next meeting is this Thursday and they have a busy and exciting agenda.  I hope to see many of you there!

Super Value

January 21, 2013

A few days ago I was chatting to a friend who, in passing, mentioned that she would never shop at the Super Valu supermarket at First and Commercial.  She didn’t give any reasons, but she was adamant about it.  I thought that odd, because it is my favourite store.  We buy specific supplies at a number of places on the Drive and around the neighbourhood, but the bulk of our basic grocery shopping is from SuperValu.  I’ve used it regularly for more than twenty years and it has become a firm favourite for the ever-loving.

What is so good about it?  Well, the fruit and vegetables are as good in quality and selection as anywhere else on the Drive in my opinion.  A decade or so ago that might not have been true, but they have made significant strides to improve their offerings and the prices are at least comparable with others.  And there is the wonderful meat department where I always find good quality meats at competitive prices.  Moreover, the butcher has always been happy to cut and package whatever I need.   We don’t use many processed foods, but the range on the shelves seems to be wide and cosmopolitan.

The help we get from the butcher is symptomatic of the fine level of service — including deliveries and special orders — that I always receive throughout the store, from managers, stackers, cashiers.

I know this reads like a sponsored ad, but the truth is I really appreciate the care they take of us.  Besides, Super Valu has been a part of this neighbourhood for almost sixty years, and I’m sure that some of the older residents will remember the weekend barbecues they used to have in their car park in the 60s.  It is a fine local store and deserves our patronage.

Ransford Rails Wrongly

January 21, 2013

Bob Ransford is no dummy, but that certainly doesn’t mean he gets everything right.  And in today’s Vancouver Sun column he manages to get most things wrong.

ransfordRansford is a property developer, a property developer’s shill, and a supporter of the pro-development Vision Vancouver movement.  His article posits a number of positions that flow from this:  all complaints about developments today are from anti-development activists — wrong;  that the loudness of today’s complaints is only because of social media — wrong; that we must keep building or the city will die — wrong.

He suggests that some local councils have been scared off by the actions of certain activists.  There is an upsurge in activism against certain development proposals; but this is being pushed by general disatisfaction with the proposals thoughout the neighbourhoods.  Sure there are some activists out front — just like there are lead developers on the other side.  I doubt that Ransford gets down and dirty on the streets enough to understand or appreciate the breadth of the opposition. He clearly fails to mention that most of the people who speak at the protests and at City Hall are not anti-development; they are, in fact, simply opposed to specific developments that in the public’s opinion will wreck communities — not the same thing at all.

He claims that the current noise about unbounded development across Vancouver is “amplified well beyond its real volume thanks to the viral force of social media.” Such nonsense.  What is happening is that the real volume of discontent has finally found a voice in social media that was previously denied to it by media moguls and their pro-development lapdog columnists.  That the volume of annoyance comes as a suprise to people like Ransford once again shows their lack of real engagement on the ground.

He writes that — following his claim that those of us who complain are solidly anti-development — the city will die (or become too expensive to live) if the developers are not allowed free rein.  He doesn’t mention the 20,000 vacant condos in the city; he doesn’t mention changes in by-laws and building codes that could expand the number of people living in buildings we already have.  Of course, these kind of improvements have no value for developers even though the city’s current zoning capacity is nowhere near capacity.

He writes: “I’m hoping the escalation of fear-based tactics, using the power of viral communications media, won’t so alienate people that we destroy the trust necessary in the community for engaged citizens and collaborative planning.”   Let me rewrite that sentence to more closely represent current reality:  “I’m hoping the escalation of refusing to listen to the people, using the power of Vision’s majority on Council, won’t so alientate people that we destroy the trust necessary in the community for engaged citizens and collaborative planning.”

Let me repeat, Ransford is not a dummy, and that’s why I am sure he knows that most of what he wrote today is BS.  He is a communications specialist and he specializes in spin — which is all today’s article is.

Stairway In Maui

January 19, 2013


stairway at Maui harbour_small

The Heritage Workshop

January 19, 2013

Thursday night was the occasion of the Heritage & Neighbourhood Character Workshop, part of the Grandview Community Plan process, at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre.0102-1

It was structured as a World Cafe style meeting which once again proved itself to be a useful mechanism for maximizing input in multiple but thematically linked  group discussions. I would guess that there were about 50 people there, not counting planning staff, and the usual food and drinks were generously offered.

Under the “Heritage and Character” rubric were four subject tables:  Heritage Buildings, Neighbourhood Character, Natural Heritage and Social and Cultural Heritage.  Under the World Cafe design, one spends a 45 minute session at each of three tables.  I did all but Natural Heritage.  The conversation at each table was lively and opinionated and allowed for a great deal of community input (though see below for a few criticisms.)   However, the key will be how the staff collate and analyze the points raised in discussions.

Members and associates of the Grandview Heritage Group were out in force, of course, and were actively pushing the points we had agreed at last week’s GWAC Meeting.  We were keen to present the idea that the entirety of Grandview be treated as heritage rather than isolated areas, that current zoning be maintained, and that Commercial Drive have design guidelines defined.  We were particularly successful with the idea that all of Grandview is heritage; and the staff planners were keen to note that Commercial Drive was at particular risk.

Most of all, we had the opportunity to make sure the specialist heritage staff at City Hall were well aware of what our ideas were and that we will be pursuing them.

I do have some criticisms of the event.  Unlike the Arts and Culture Workshop last month, the facilitator at each of this event’s tables were keen to direct the conversation via a series of questions they wanted answered.  I think we mainly managed to break down those barriers, but the conversations sometimes seemed a little too programmed.  We also spent far too much time on introductions and their insistence on more than one occasion that we pick specific favourite places in the neighbourhood.

But all in all I enjoyed the event and I managed to get a lot of time to push the three main points, my idea for a Community Design Approval Board to be built into the planning process, and for us to regain some access to Burrard Inlet.


Building Permits

January 13, 2013

I haven’t been writing blog posts regularly over the last few weeks because I am swimming in an ocean of historical data that I am trying to collate for a project.  Part of this data is coming from the extraordinarily important work that Heritage Vancouver is putting in to transcribe all the old Vancouver building permits and make them available on-line.  Building permits are fundamental documents for tracing the early history of our community.

Patrick and his colleagues are to be congratulated for their far-more-than-useful efforts in making these landmark documents easily accessible to all researchers. This work continues, of course, and I understand that they have just this week released a further 400+ permits dated 1916 — more work for me!

Great stuff. Congratulations all around!

Wave 2

January 8, 2013


Heritage As Future

January 8, 2013

Last night I gave a presentation at the monthly meeting of GWAC about next week’s Community Plan Heritage Workshop.  The theme of the presentation was “Heritage At Risk” and noted that more than 50% of Grandview’s current building stock is of heritage age and needs to be protected.

There was an impressive turnout, with an articulate crowd asking excellent questions and coming up with valuable ideas and suggestions.  We came up with specific themes that we will be pushing at the Workshop and I am confident that we can make a good case for Heritage forming the basis for Grandview’s future moving forward.

Many thanks for everyone who helped make last night’s meeting so passionate and interesting.


Insurance Cheats

January 7, 2013

Health insuranceMy title relates to the insurance companies who do everything they can to not pay legitimate claims.

I was just listening to a CBC Radio report about Canadian seniors who have travelled to the US, incurred significant medical expenses and then had their claims denied by Canadian insurers due to technicalities completely unrelated to the claims themselves.  In both the cases discussed, the insurance companies — after claims were filed — dug into the medical records of claimants and found some tiny mistake in their completion of the companies’ deliberately complex and vague medical application forms.

A simple change in the law could deal with this:  If an insurance company accepts premiums for, say. twelve months, then no claims can be denied for mistakes on the application form.  In other words, the insurance company will have that twelve months to find out about errors or fraud; after that, the benefits are vested and cannot be denied for reasons connected to the application.  Receipt of premiums for that period of time is or should be an acceptance of responsibility.

It is immoral in the extreme for these companies to accept premiums and then, when a claim comes in, look for reasons to deny it based on something other than fraud in the claim itself.  That seems to be their business model and it is one of the ugliest faces of modern capitalism.

The Bath at Bath

January 6, 2013

Bath at Bath_web

An image from 2009.

Heritage This Month

January 5, 2013

This could be a very important month for Grandview’s heritage.  The Grandview-Woodland Community Plan workshop on Heritage takes place on Thursday 17th January. This could be the only time we can discuss heritage on its own as part of the Plan process. If you have not yet registered, we strongly urge that you do so.

As a lead up to this Workshop, I will be making a short illustrated presentation to the GWAC meeting on Monday evening on “Heritage At Risk” which will concentrate on the fact that 51% of our current housing stock was built before 1930 — thus one of our slogans: Grandview is heritage.

GWAC meetings are open to all residents of Grandview and take place at The Learning Resource Centre under the Britannia Library (if you get lost, ask at the Britannia Info Centre on Napier). They start at 7:00pm and again we urge all local folks to attend and help steer our neighbourhood’s future.

Twelfth Night

January 5, 2013

Perfect weather this morning — rain, cloud, cool — to stay in and dismantle the Christmas tree (and just in time according to tradition).

When the ever-loving moved to Vancouver almost thirteen years ago, she brought with her two very large boxes of Christmas tree decorations that she had been collecting for decades.  As I had no real history with celebrating Yule, we purchased a new “phony” tree from Metrotown that first year (and I remember almost dying carrying it home to the Drive!) and we have put it up and decorated it every year since (except for the two years we were on vacation in Mexico and the Caribbean).  I have gotten to really enjoy it, I have to say, and I have fun putting it up each December.

One of the joys of taking it down, though, is re-discovering that our living room is actually a reasonable size when the tree is no longer taking up such a large portion of the room.

It really must be New Year now.

Changes On The Drive #17

January 3, 2013

What an incredible day to be out walking yesterday:  sunny, bright, clear all the way to the mountains, and hardly cold at all.  The day was made even better by our first foray into dim sum this year — at the Western Lake, of course.  That place just gets better and better.

No very many changes on the Drive this month.  The five vacant stores from last month are still vacant (1748, 1629, 1620, 1340 and the storefront next to Liberty Wines), and they have been joined by 1840 Commercial since the Retro clothing store closed at Christmas.

I also noticed that the store at 2115-25 has changed names to National Massage Chairs.  This space was opened as National TV Service back in March 1957 and was the only appliance store left in the neighbourhood after Manitoba Hardware closed a decade ago.

National Massage

That’s it for December.


Thought For The Year

January 1, 2013

The greatest threat to freedom is and always has been the use of an economy based on money rather than need.


January 1, 2013

“January, month of empty pockets! … let us endure this evil month, anxious as a theatrical producer’s forehead.”

–  Colette