Monthly Archives: February 2015

Warm Again

Carleton U has mercifully fixed its fieldhouse freezing problem, so we were able to doff the cuffs and hats and scarves and walk unimpeded once again this week.

Now if only old man Ottawa winter would lay off on those sub zero temperatures just for a change. Ironically almost every day it is Florida sunny but none but the direly demented dares go for a dip in these climes.

By the way, realization just dawned that a common expression often uttered on that kind of day this month was probably misspelled. Shrugging resignedly after cussing the coldness in the air, we’d tend to mutter “Well, at least it’s a nice day.” What we really ought to have said was “… it’s an ice day!”

. . .Jim_Durrell_Recreation_Centre

That chilly indoor walking episode brought back to mind the many winter hours spent happily indoors indulging in the marvellous pastime of skating. Before deserting the practice some years ago for fear of mishap on sometimes shaky pins, an hour’s skating at Walkley Arena was our favourite exercise during lengthy Ottawa winters. Zipping leisurely around the ice surface in time to lively recorded music proved highly satisfying without the discomfort wrought by wind, snow and frosty temperatures outdoors.  The Jim Durrell Recreation Centre is blessed with two full size ice surfaces, one of which regularly caters to recreational skaters.


Yet, for skaters, nothing quite matches the joys of whizzing along the magnificent Rideau Canal skateway on a bearably cool sunny day. This has been a banner year for ice conditions there, but frigid temperatures have tempted mainly the hardier of skating enthusiasts. For us, canal skating endures, alas, only as a happy memory.

More on skating days’ fondest recollections to come a little later.

Indoor Walking Can Have Its Hazards

Brewer Park welcome wall

Brewer Park welcome wall

Here were we singing the praises of  Carleton University’s fieldhouse as a winter walking venue when the grinch gang gleefully strutted their stuff.

It was a two step manoeuvre, clearly calculated to foil us oldsters’ efforts to escape winter’s icy grasp and exercise in moderate comfort within those welcoming walls.

Have I got to climb that?

Have I got to climb that?

Walls of a distinctly unfriendly variety erupted on the pathway normally trodden to get from the Brewer Park parking lot to the pedestrian crossing on Bronson Avenue. Trucks clearing snow from the parking lot suddenly, it seemed, dumped it all along the edges of the lot, blocking off the pedestrian pathway.  As a result, drivers had to climb over a mountain of hard packed snow, or else walk out the nearby driveway. For lithe youthful students, the climbing route posed merely a nuisance, but for those longer in the tooth, and shorter in breath, it was either take the driveway or go home. Just the thing in the coldest week of the winter!

Complaints made to city staff who happened along ultimately prevailed, but it was a week or more before snow clearers broke though the snowy mountain to reopen the pathway.

Looks even higher now!

Looks even higher now!

Fate lurched in yet again to discomfit us would be marchers when frigid air beckoned once more as we opened doors into the fieldhouse. As a posted warning note revealed, the extreme low temperatures had caused a breakdown in the fieldhouse heating system. By happy coincidence for students, this was their reading week break, so no one was using the central facilities. The track was open, however, for those hardy, or foolhardy, enough to brave the chilly air.

Glad I got those mitts!

Glad I got those mitts!

Warming up with a smile

Warming up with a smile

Being of the latter persuasion, we made the best of it, donning scarves, gloves or mitts and, for me, my woolly hat, and carried on our usual walking routine. It was really cool, you might say! But bearable.

At last report, repairs to the fieldhouse heating system were expected to be made shortly, but we won’t hold our breath.  A similar breakdown occurred last winter, and went on for months.

Walking in Winter

20150120_104822PW Photo-2014-10-16-9-50-22-AM-670x253Like walking around in circles? Well, it’s a rectangle really. They call it the Fieldhouse, but it is definitely not a house, nor is it a field because it is entirely indoors. Yet it is a pretty good place to go for a walk. Especially when it’s cold enough out there to freeze your toes off, just stepping out the door.

The locale is Carleton University on Bronson Avenue, and you can park for free if you don’t mind a chilly trek across the Avenue from a parking lot adjoining Brewer Park. Parking spaces are limited, and are free for two hours only, but you can usually find one open. On rare occasions when the lot fills up, there is always paid parking in one of Carleton’s spacious lots closer to the Fieldhouse.

Many oldsters in the city do their winter walking in shopping malls like Carlingwood where there is plenty of space to get around, except perhaps at peak shopping periods. Other venues are few, so that indoor athletic facilities may well offer a valuable alternative when they have jogging tracks that offer use by walkers.

My wife Madeline and I have done our winter walking at Carleton’s Fieldhouse for the past four or five years, and appreciate its value in keeping limbs in motion away from wintry blasts. Just an hour a day five days a week is our targeted routine – we take weekends off. And it costs a mere $31 a month.

Walkathon exercising feels good besides, as you count off the rounds of that red carpeted track. One round covers 230 metres so, by our rough calculations, the 16 laps we do work out to nearly two and a half miles. It sometimes seems more than that, especially on Mondays.

Walking around a glorified gym might be a tad boring but for the action around you on the fieldhouse floor. Watching runners pass us by prompts mingled feelings of nostalgia for youthful energies and appreciation of athletes’ dedication to fitness pursuits.

More often than not, soccer balls are flying into the high nets bordering the track. Small groups practising mostly, though games occasionally. Ravens football squad practises regularly, yelling strange chants on times to liven up the proceedings.

Baseballers come by sometimes to practise throwing, catching and batting – we had to tell them once to aim their bats away from the track for fear of felling us with a line drive. Even lacrosse players perfect their skills, aiming at a tiny triangular net placed sometimes all too close to the overhanging nets near the track. No mishaps noted thankfully.

Once in a while, the fieldhouse floor echoes to the screams of tiny toddlers visiting from a nearby day care, trundled indoors by their smiling care givers and released for riotous foot races across the floor. Walkers and joggers tend to pause a moment to revel in their joyful antics.

20150120_103150PWOne memorable morning halted our walk as we watched a trio of soccerites struggling to retrieve a ball stranded on an inside window ledge 20 feet above the jogging track. It took one guy standing on another`s shoulders and wielding a long pole to extricate the ball before activities returned to normal.

Surprisingly few oldsters are using this comfortable winter walking facility. A few senior men do it regularly, but there don’t seem to be many senior couples. Two younger ladies walking behind us last year tickled our fancy in remarking that they found us inspiring. Whatever!


The Comics?

P1050655wWhen the Ottawa Citizen revamped its format to adapt to the digital age, one of its weirdest innovations was the near-radical reformation of its comics page. Motivated no doubt by a desire to shake up any complacency among its readers, it seems to have failed utterly in doing so. How else does one explain the appalling humourlessness of all but a lonely few of the panels now greeting our morning browse?
Thankfully, two consistently bright and witty strips survived – the magnificent Zits sits deservedly on top of the page while Pickles, though buried near the bottom, sustains its gently humorous chronicling of the foibles of golden agers. These apart, the remainder of the page resembles a wasteland of incomprehensible doodles entirely lacking in wit, humour or even relevance to everyday life. Occasionally, Chuckle Bros can generate a grin but the rest of the lot are unfailingly fatuous at best. And why Blondie is in there still, eons beyond its best buy date, defies belief.
While everyone’s taste differs, surely there was no excuse for dropping some of the earlier comic fare. Garfield was one of my favourites. Betty was usually quite engaging. And it seemed downright unpatriotic to discard another Canadian strip, For Better or For Worse, even though I did not much care for it.
Some of the other reform moves the Citizen undertook, such as discarding the Canadian crosswords, were quickly undone in the face of readers’ objections. And rightly so. It is surprising really that little if any chagrin has been expressed on the comics purge. Maybe, with all of the ghastly goings on purveyed in daily news reports, the public has lost its sense of humour. We need it back.

Not On My Nickel

A dozen years ago, I sent off this narky letter just before Christmas:

Multiple Scelerosis Society of Canada

250 Bloor St. East, Suite 1000

Toronto, ON  M4W 3P9 

This being the time of year when I normally decide what charitable projects I wish to support before getting into another tax year, I’d like to advise you why I am NOT sending you a contribution.

Over the past year I have accumulated an embarrassing number of solicitations from charitable organizations seeking my donations. Embarrassing, not to me but to you and other organizations who seem to have unlimited funding for mailing out solicitation letters.  In so many cases, these come complete with expensively produced gifts of cards, envelopes, mailing labels etc. I have to say that the Multiple Scelerosis Society has been one of the worst such offenders.  All the reaction that these missives produce in me is anger and disgust at such waste of money in what is supposed to be a worthwhile cause.

I appreciate that some communication has to be done to solicit contributions, but surely it is enough to send one, or at the most, two such letters in a year. And certainly there is no need to wallow in tons of gift labels and cards just to earn a donation.

 Smarten up, you people.

There was, not surprisingly, no reply. And no let up in the flow of similar unsolicited appeals.

A few days ago, the envelope shown below turned up in my mail box. This time, boasting a whole nickel offered, for free, to reward me for my contribution. It remains unopened. Just like similar pitches from the Canadian Cancer Society and other praiseworthy charitable organizations to which I refuse to contribute. Though I have done so in the past.

The thousands of dollars spent by these organizations to cajole citizens into sending them donations are far beyond justification in terms of results achieved. Why can’t they see it?


Golfing for the Fun of It

No matter how deplorable one’s style of play may be, even the most unskilled among us can taste now and then the positive joys of golf. How else can we explain what makes us venture out again each spring onto those fields of broken dreams?

For me, the beginnings of this malaise can be blamed on a Fisheries Department golf tournament in 1966 at Pineview Golf Course. Thrust into a friendly foursome that included my Information Director boss Tommy Turner and records manager Henry Mitchell, I piled into a golf cart well laden with cold canned beer, and made the best of it. Recall of tournament play is mercifully hazy, the golf strokes were many and ill-timed, but the beer was just great, so we all retired after nine holes. I had such a good time that within weeks I had to get out again, this time without beer, and bought a second hand set of left hand clubs to see what the game was all about.

It soon became a family affair, with son Ron taking fast to the game and my lady fair Madeline happy to give it a whirl as well. We joined the Poplar Grove golf club, 20 minutes to the south. It had a really short 9 hole course, starting close to the owner’s home, and two longer 9 hole segments, all of them pretty rough and basic. Here we played for years, enjoying the outdoor exposure if not the scoring results our efforts realized. Except Ron, who one year won the club’s Junior championship. The cup bearing his name with other winners, stood in a corner of the clubhouse for years afterwards.

Early lessons from pro Tim Cole helped, and scoring got a tad better at times. Score cards squirrelled away for no good reason show me hitting below 100 fairly often – though this was on a very short course. I did better than my son in the first few years but he was all of 13 when he caught up on me. That was in 1978 when, after a canoeing trip at Bon Echo Park, he beat me on an obscure course in Stoco near Tweed. And I haven’t beaten him since. That must account for my signing up not much later for RA Indoor golf lessons in the off season. An instructor there was the first to tell me that I should use right hand clubs, but I didn’t listen.

One of the nice things about this pastime is that you can play at it in so many interesting places apart from your home course. Different Ottawa area venues played at in earlier years included Kingsway, Larrimac, Hylands, Lombard Glen, Links O’Tay in Perth, Gatineau, Chaudiere, Champlain, Thurso and Tecumseh. Out of town trips took in such far flung locales as Bally Haly and Pippy Park in St. John’s, Nfld., New Minas, N.S., Canmore, Alberta, and Victoria, B.C. One cold September day I shared a game with my then Communications Director Ian Hamilton at the Chantecler Golf Club in St. Adele, P.Q. when he shot an amazing 79! My score was rather higher!