Metropolitan Homesick Blues

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CONTROVERSY

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Controversy is always lying on our doorstep like some tattered old doormat. Big city, small town, wherever you live, wherever you go, controversy finds a way to seep through the cracks of life drawing you into its core. It is invasive, like a weed you can’t get rid of.

I thought I’d avoid controversy when I retired to my small town. What I have sadly discovered is that it is whirling all around me like a hurricane, touching down at will, spreading chaos into every corner of small town life. Some of the damage done is minimal, some major. Some has the potential to permanently and perpetually change what we now have. In my beautiful corner of the world (Southampton, Saugeen Township, Port Elgin) controversy is healthy and destructive.

In the parking lot of their sprawling summer retreat and convention center, the C.A.W. (Canadian Auto Workers) has erected a Wind Turbine that breaks all the setback rules and stands boldly over the homes of concerned citizens. The controversy swirling around this has seen many protests, some quite bitter. The potential of hundreds more Wind Turbines on the North Bruce Peninsula is alarming both permanent and seasonal residents, spurring town hall meetings, media finger-pointing and raucous confrontations with local councils.

Saugeen Shores Council has decided to enter the competition that could result in the burying of all of Canada’s high-level radioactive waste somewhere in our community. This waste would be buried in a Deep Geological Repository (DGR),  in an estimated area of 930 acres below ground and 250 acres above ground; deep enough to hold up to 144,000 metric tonnes of used nuclear fuel bundles that are still radioactive. And if you talk to people on the street, read the flyers, attend the SOS rallies (saveoursaugeenshores.org), council meetings and listen to the interviews, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) aren’t helping to bring a balanced perspective to the situation. The NWMO is totally funded and its Directors appointed by the nuclear industry. They answer to no one except the PMO.

Vilification is in the air. Accusations of ‘who said what and lied to whom’ are part of every conversation. The negative impact of a high lever nuclear DGR is evident people who live here. They worry that this DGR is too close to Lake Huron, they fear quality of life; tourism and property values will suffer. They say we already have the Bruce Nuclear Plant just down the street where they already store low/medium level fuel bundles…why do we want more.

This controversy is far from over. It will rage on for years as people and politicians grapple with the pros and cons, the right and wrong, the morality of the situation. The damage this will do to relationships will probably have a half-life of a generation or two.

Controversy always leaves scars. Unfortunately.

If only folks would take a deep breath, wander down at sunset and read the advice posted on the side of the Range Light at the harbor mouth of the Saugeen River…

DEAD SLOW

NO

WAKE

 Words to live by.

 

 

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

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If you’re a summertime visitor to Southampton and you don’t know your way around town – all you have to do is look up – look waaaay up – and we’ll point you in the right direction.

There are big blue signs – WayFinding Signs – as the municipality calls them – strategically placed at the side of streets in town and roads leading in and out of town, showing you the way to all of our fabled attractions.

And while these WayFinding Signs are probably helpful to first-time tourists, some locals and summer people are not happy with the way they’ve suddenly popped up all over town. Words like ‘ugly,’ ‘unnecessary,’ ‘waste of our tax dollars,’ ‘can’t read and drive at the same time,’ have appeared in the Letters to the Editor column of our weekly newspaper.

Some folks who live here full or part-time are insulted at the insinuation that they might not where the town dump is. In fact one letter-writer was upset that council approved the idea while he was spending winter down south…the cheek of those public servants getting on with business and not waiting for his return. Truth is this WayFInding Sign concept has been on the books for a while. Public meetings have been held and Southampton media outlets have filed stories. You would have to be blind, deaf, illiterate or just not here to miss it.

Anyway, it is my observation that small town folks like to have their say at the strangest times. Reacting after the fact will never convince council to take the signs down. Money has been spent and that’s that.

So, if you’re up our way this summer you can still stop and ask someone how to find the beach.

Or you can just follow the signs.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

June 1, 2011 at 4:43 PM

“Hey, Old Man!”

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“Hey mister, what’s your name?”

The voice came from the direction of the school playground that makes up the last part of the Nature Trail around Little Lake. Out for a walk this bright spring afternoon, I was curious to see if the sun’s warmth had any major effect on the stubborn ice covering the pond’s surface.

“Hey, mister walking man, what’s your name?”

When I turned around I saw two young girls –  no older than 9 or 10. They were hanging over the rubber-tire seats of the swings. One of girls leaned over staring at the ground, her momentum carrying her lazily back and forth. The other was twisting in a deliberate circle. When she lifted her feet off the ground the tightly wound chains released themselves and she spun quickly as they unraveled. More annoying than joyous, her high-pitched squeal cut through the spring afternoon.

“Hey Mister, your name. What’s your name?”

I smiled at them and kept walking. It is, after all, a tricky thing talking to young girls these days. Especially in school playgrounds. I spotted a teacher looking at me looking at them. My decision not to respond was, I admit, partly motivated by his presence.

Anyway, there was something in the children’s tone of voice that told me nothing would be gained by answering. Each time they asked for my name they would point and laugh as if it were a joke. They’re teasing me, I thought. As the trail took me closer they suddenly ran up to the chain link fence.

“Hey, Old Man…what’s your name? Old Man…Old Man…”

Their chant stopped when I stopped.

“What’s your name, little girl?” I answered. The teacher approached. I turned and walked away.

A sadness followed me home that beautiful, sunny afternoon under an unbelievably blue, cloudless sky. The reason was simple…a child had mocked me for no reason…a child who had a world of experiences yet to live.

Then it struck me. I was the victim of bullying.

Looking back at the girls, I shook my head and wondered about the loss of childhood innocence and how life in that school yard could be so unforgiving.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

April 9, 2011 at 6:45 PM

THE ‘SIGN GUY’ AGAINST THE ESTABLISHMENT

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THE EMPTY BENCH

It doesn’t take much to become notorious in Southampton. Pity the individual that does. Because that’s when the full force of unhappy neighbours and town bylaws come crashing down on you, It is a combination that can literally take the joy out of life.

Consider the plight of The Sign Guy.

His name is Ralph Dymer. He’s a retired construction worker with time on his hands. There’s a concrete bench in front of his apartment that he likes to sit on. But he was getting bored just sitting. So one May 24 weekend he hit on the idea of giving people something to smile about. Taking a piece of an old cardboard box he scribbled ‘Happy May 24’ on it and proceeded to show it to everyone passing by.

Ralph became a fixture. All summer long, on the bench with two Canadian flags on either end and a big butt can beside it, in front of his apartment just before the Saugeen River Bridge in Southampton he sat holding signs that read: ‘Have A Nice Day’ or ‘The HST Sucks’.

In a letter to the editor he proudly said, “I have put a lot of smiles on people’s faces and gave them something to laugh about and brighten their day. People have taken my picture on their cell phones. They have stopped…and asked if they can have their picture taken with me. I have met people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I have been told that people look for me and if I am not there they are disappointed. I go places and people holler, “hey sign guy.” Two radio stations have interviewed me. Doing this simple little thing and brightening other people’s lives makes me feel pretty calm.”

Ralph is clearly one of the good guys, an Innocent looking to brighten up your day. Like he says, “Come across the bridge and see the sign of the day. I am having a ball just by making people smile. It feels real good; you should try it sometime.”

But not everyone is happy with Ralph. The people in his building are complaining about noise – too many cars blowing their horns. Given that they live on Highway 21, the main entrance and exit to Southampton that carries all the summer traffic, you would think they would be use to noise by now. Apparently not.

Even worse, Ralph’s bench sits on town property. It must be moved on to the apartment property to allow people with scooters more access to the sidewalk.

And because of that Ralph has been told not to sit there with signs anymore.

“Take your signs downtown,” they told him. Poor Ralph Dymer, he is a victim of his own goodwill and good intentions,

But ever the good guy, Ralph refuses to quit. He knows how to use the local media. In another letter to the editor he shows his resolve. “I am truly sorry, but I am finishing the season out somewhere in my neighbourhood. I won’t be hard to find and I’ll be back next summer.

One resolute man against the local establishment…GOOD ON YOU, RALPH!

Where Ralph's Bench used to be.

Where Ralph's benched has been moved to

Southampton North End Sewer Project!

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There was once grass, greenery and trees where you now see piles of dirt and puddles of mud from the rain that fell last night and today.

I live on an easement that belongs to the town. They, until now, paid no attention to it. For the last 5 years I’ve spent time, energy and money in turning it from a place where weeds flourished to a reasonable lawn that compliments the rest of my property.

We have no idea how – or when – they will make this right…whether they will seed it or let it weed. I suspect they will quickly grade it in some fashion and forget it.

I’ve sweated the summer sun cutting the grass, seeding and fertilizing – at my own expense as my neighbours have. We’ve done the town’s landscaping and paid taxes at the same time. They did nothing.

Now one of the ten construction crews with excavators, back hoes, rumbling dump trucks, pipes and lots more have destroyed everything, mature trees, plants, the deer run and foliage… in the name of sewer expansion…a project that doesn’t benefit me but residents of Southampton’s North End. I’m not happy about it. But, I guess that’s my problem.

And even they don’t want it given the taxes they will have to pay.

A lot of our town’s North End is an ugly shambles due to the construction.

Stimulus Funding from Mr. Harper’s Action Plan and Provincial coffers dictate that the project must be completed by March end of 2011. It should be an interesting winter.

Progress in the name of urbanization can have a negative effect…particularly on nature.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

July 24, 2010 at 9:17 PM

LOOK DEEPER THAN THE SURFACE YOU SEE

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The last day of the Huron Fringe Festival began with heavy rain and the promise of a wet, uncomfortable day. As we turned on Highway 6 toward the North Bruce, the wind came up the sky partially cleared and the sun played peek-a-boo with the clouds. That damp-day promise would not be kept. It was perfect for hiking the Alvars north of Dyers Bay.

We were treated to a guided tour of some carefully preserved properties under the watch of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (www.natureconservancy.ca). Two of which are not yet open to the public. Our guide gave us explanations of the history, flora, fauna and geology found on these natural wonders. It is amazing what the ancient glaciers left for us.

As we walked and listened to his descriptions of the what, how and why around us – some lines a well-regarded local naturalist likes to quote popped into my head:

The wonders of this world.

The beauty and the power,

Their colours, lights and shades:

These I saw.

Look ye also, while it lasts.

[On an tombstone dated 1560 in a Suffolk, England cemetary.]

It must have been one of those days for me because, later, at their private Cape Hurd property, on the east side of the Peninsula just below Tobermory, this line from Wordsworth kept running through my mind: “The world is too much with us; late and soon…”

Here I was amid all this impressive natural beauty and Steve Jobs is turning the publishing business on its ear while making millions off  the iPad and introducing the iPhone 4. Harper is spending wildly on the G8 and G20 to impress the world. And the world and its people – after all this time – is no further ahead. The one constant is this; the natural world pays no attention to us and adapts as it sees fit.

Wordsworth was right:

The world is too much with us; late and soon

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. -Great God! I’d rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

[William Wordsworth circa 1802]

Have things really changed between then and now? Exponentially, perhaps. But, back then people, pundits and poets had the same concerns, the same problems and world view as we do today.

We just get to blog about it.

Lakeside Daisies growing on a limestone alvar

Showy Lady's Slippers

INSIDE THE COLLECTIVE MINDS OF TOWN COUNCIL – REDUX

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Headlines in the local paper read: BAG TAGS STAYING AT $1.50.

If anyone was following my post as above (February 27, 2010) – that’s good news. Saugeen Shores is not following the other nine nearby municipalities which charge $2.00 a bag. Council hung tough. And good for them. Although they are increasing the per-tonne rate at the landfill site. But that’s no big deal as far as I’m concerned.

Little guy wins!

But, not if you die!

It will now cost more for a plot at any of the three town cemeteries. A single plot goes from $375.00 up to $750.00. It now takes double what it use to, to dig a hole in Saugeen Shores soil.

From garbage to graves. What you lose on the apples you make on the oranges.

How about that.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

March 16, 2010 at 10:14 PM