It has been quite a year! Issue 41

One year ago today I had made the decision to cut short our escape from winter. On March 13, we were flying back to Montreal from London, two weeks early. It was disappointing to lose those last weeks. We had tickets for the opera and the ballet. There was a plan to splurge at Core . It has three Michelin Florets and the world’s best female chef, Clare Smyth . Look at this COVID-19 menu available for  takeaway. 

We decided to come home early as we thought travel might be disrupted for a few months. Never did we imagine what awaited all of us. In Québec alone, over 10,500 people have died from the Coronavirus. There have been lockdowns, curfews, and quarantines. Schools have suffered major disruptions. Even if the academics don’t suffer, isolation will have impacted social maturity levels. Various authorities have restricted international travel.

A light in the distance? 

Light on the Horizon

However hope springs eternal and I can see a faint light in the distance. My wife and I have received our first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and we have appointments for our second dose. The process was remarkably well organized. On-line registration worked like a charm and we made it in and out of the Bob Birnie Arena in about 20 minutes. That included the fifteen-minute waiting period, post-injection. Now, March 24 is an important date on our calendars. It will mark the day we reach maximum possible immunity from the first jab. 

Temperatures reached 14c in Montreal this week. The snow is melting away. We switch to daylight savings time this weekend. In just ten days, days will be longer than nights. We will be able to shed our boots and bulky coats. I have never understood the chemical makeup of sedum plants. However,  they are greening up in my front garden despite night time temperatures that dip below minus 15c. 

Our organic farmer  has started to send out her newsletters about the coming season. This brings the promise of beautiful, fresh produce to be picked up every Saturday morning. We are original customers and have watched her business grow. Last summer, it just seemed that the lines grew longer and longer as more people established closer relationships with what they were eating. 

Spring, New Growth

We need creative people

Cities everywhere have plans to make the public domain more people friendly. I just hope that municipal authorities don’t over-regulate. They must allow creative people be creative. We need their original ideas to improve their neighbourhoods. Cocktails and mocktails on the sidewalk, pop-up shops, beautiful terrasses for alfresco dining all need to be encouraged, not hindered. I, for one, look forward to just sitting on a terrasse and watching the world go by. For the barbarians, terrasse equals restaurant patio. I might have a patio, but a restaurant has a terrasse. 

Many independent restaurants and  retailers have had to be imaginative to survive. Restaurants have developed take-away menus and opened their pantries and wine cellars. Retailers have experimented with new service models. Le Clusier developed a video conference consultation service and Try-On box service

Streets are for people, not cars

New interests and talents discovered

More people are cycling, baking, gardening, and walking.  Many have discovered hidden talents.  Some are painting or taking guitar lessons. Have you started to sing and been surprised to find that you have great timing and a good voice? What a joy! Have you ever seen so many articles about bird-watching?

I discovered a hobby. This is the 41st newsletter that I have written, just 11 short of one a week. Layer in the “Things That I Like” pieces and I have written 50 articles, almost one a week. My adopted nephew, Simon, has helped me launch this web-site. I now have a project to merge groupings of newsletters into e-books. 

The Human Touch

Christmas Shopping – 2021?

There are many, many people just desperate to get back to the office. I have been working from home for over ten years now, but I work for myself. I know how to close the office door and mark the beginning and the end of a workday. The ambitious and the dedicated must have trouble with boundaries. In my younger years, I know that I would have worked an unhealthy schedule of too many hours on too many days.  I think everyone is Zoomed out. In the work environment, “you are on mute” has become the phrase of the pandemic. We want to meet with people. 

Except for the most reclusive, everyone needs connection. I am in touch with friends that I haven’t spoken to for over 50 years. My four children have over forty “first” cousins and are close to many of them. While I have a close relationship with one maternal cousin I feel that I have missed out.  I was separated from my eleven cousins through emigration from the United Kingdom to Canada and Australia. However,  I hardly know the rest of my slightly extended family. I have a personal project to remedy that to the extent possible. 

So while it has been quite a year, not everything has been awful. Now, I am even feeling optimistic enough to start planning to travel again. 

I encourage you to:

  • Buy better, buy less, reduce, repair, reuse and recycle 
  • Shop local, support local businesses, buy from local farms, and support local artisans and manufacturers
  • Support your favourite restaurants
  • Wear face masks where required, wash your hands, practice social distancing, hydrate, and exercise
  • Cancel Facebook and Instagram!

We Should Know Better

August 26, 2023

I know! I am going to sound like a grumpy old man. Maybe that is because I am. I have been scratching my head in wonderment at the Taylor Swift phenomena. Is she an Incredible song writer, composer, and performer? I really don’t know! A discussion for another time? But probably not. At my age […]

Not in My Back Yard

August 4, 2023

Don’t build it! At least, Not In My Back Yard ! I acted as an advisor  in the sale of a beautifully natural, 14-acre urban waterfront estate. Existing zoning allowed for the development of 30 to 35 single-family homes, which after road dedication would leave very little green space. I did not think that was […]

Glasgow – That Dear Green Place

July 31, 2023

We were visiting Glasgow (literally that Dear Green Place in Gaelic) to see where my father was born, grew up, and went to University. Fortunately for me, my cousin John from Australia had just visited and had met with historians, Bruce Downie  and Norry Wilson.  So,  we too arranged to meet them in the Govanhill […]

Vienna on Top Again

June 25, 2023

Vienna on top again. This week both Monocle Magazine and The Economist unveiled their quality of life / most liveable city indexes. There are differences in the way each publication sets its index. So it is even more impressive that once again, Vienna tops both lists. I am a bit lazy today so rather than […]

Large interior courtyards

From Hot Bedding to Superblocks

June 20, 2023

Many Viennese went from hot bedding to superblocks overnight. Could they even imagine  an apartment complex 1000 metres long built along two streets with even more massive landscaped courtyards? Could they conceive of 1400 apartment units built to house 5000 people on 56,000 square metres or 38 acres of land.  Or a vertical build-out that […]

Vienna – the World’s Most Livable City

June 16, 2023

Vienna had been a poor city even before the First World War. “Normal” housing arrangements  meant six to eight people sharing one room and a kitchen. Then, in early 1919, just after the Armistice,  the cost of living tripled in two months. Bed lodgers could no longer afford their 8-hours a day in a shared […]