blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

What we didn't foresee

I'm recording my observations at random here, because in ten years from now this period of our history will be worth remembering. What didn't we foresee, when the Covid-19 Pandemic was first announced?

Calmer households. Not everyone would agree, but that's my impression (of the middle-class families I know, at least). Die Hektik, as the Germans call it, has gone. Having to juggle career work, housework and full time parenting still causes enormous stress, agreed, but at least everyone is together, available; the frantic to-ing and fro-ing and the absences from one another have come to a halt. Daily routines are more straightforward, mealtimes more regular events, to such an extent that we have to concentrate to remember which day of the week it is. Family members are learning to compromise and to share their resources; surely all of this was important to learn in any case.

We are more inventive than we knew. Having to think of so many ways to keep children productively occupied at home is something in which modern society hasn't had much practice, but it's no bad thing that we're learning how, and getting that practice. Maybe there'll be a greater sympathy for teachers when this is over, but there again, maybe not. Lazy teachers are taking advantage of the enforced break and doing the bare minimum to keep their classes ticking over; other teachers, the imaginative, dedicated, empathetic ones, are working night and day at the preparation, reassessments and documentation of their work. Actually it was ever thus, even in the normal old days.

Worldwide acceptance of, and obedience to, new rules. What makes the headlines is the occasional exception. I've been flabbergasted by people's docility in this regard, especially in such populous countries as India or China. There's nothing like a death threat to make people do as they're told—I have never before observed or experienced anything like this before, although my parents' generation who lived through the 2nd World War, were used to such discipline. They were also familiar with stretching out their rations, with planning ahead, with make-do-and-mend, with bartering, with keeping one another's morale up, with growing their own vegetables and so on, as well, all of which is seeing a resurgence, this year. Worldwide, it seems, there's an overwhelming, sudden interest in small scale gardening. Everybody's doing it. To have to slow down to the natural rhythm of the growing season has to be good for us, surely, and besides, it smells good, to be out there.

A general lack of interest in travelling or planning journeys abroad, especially on jet planes and big ships. Even the keenest of frequent flyers (like me) now feel wary of booking a flight. Airlines and cruise lines are going out of business. This is going to impact coastal places usually visited by tourists from the ships, such as Gaspé, in Quebec. Iceland, desperate for contact with the rest of the world now, is going to be the first country to open its borders to tourism, in mid-June. They are hoping for incoming flights from Oslo, Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Berlin. Travel in the other direction may be more questionable.

We have seen incredibly blue skies with no contrails: a purity that had been missing from our lives. How we appreciate it when it comes! A photographer living in Kathmandu reported that, from the edges of that now smog-free city, he had been able to spot Everest behind the nearer Himalayan peaks, for the first time in years.

So much birdsong noticed this spring! So many wild creatures making their presence felt!

We're witnessing a widespread cycling mania. Ottawa has closed some of its parkways to motor traffic so that the numerous cyclists, many of them novices, may spread out, not breathe upon, nor collide with each other! The Dutch would be amused by this trend, having always used bikes en masse in their towns.

People are starting to prefer working at home. My husband and his colleagues had not expected to like this at all, but are not missing their commutes, and, more to the point, are discovering that just as much work, if not more, gets done from home as at the office. His company conducted a poll recently: about a third of the employees are likely to continue to work from home beyond the end of the crisis. There'll be no stigma in doing this. The ones with young children are in two minds about it. Chris says he misses being able to stroll over to somebody's desk to ask them a quick question; he now has to do this by email instead, which generates too many messages back and forth. He misses lunch break conversations too; although his usual companions from the workplace indulge in a short, online get-together at midday, once a week, it is hardly the same.

Birthdays without company are bitter-sweet occasions. Happy Birthday messages still come in, but the carefree fun's not there.

Grandparents not being allowed to visit their grandchildren or vice versa. This is one of the sad things, although personally I have noticed very little difference, geographically distanced from my children and their families in any case. Three months seem a long time in the life of a young child, though, and every grandparent is now experiencing the longing with which I'm so familiar. The hardest part is when things go wrong at the other end and one can't do anything to help. It's the same story if one has aged parents who have to cope alone or reside in a care home, or need to move into one. Worst of all are the cases where elderly relatives die from the virus in hospital with no familiar faces at their bedside, and where even the doctors and nurses are masked. This must be very terrible, inhumane for the dying, and traumatic for the medical staff and for relatives prevented from saying a proper goodbye. (Two people we know have had bereavements of this kind.) Again, reminiscent of wartime. The poorly-run nursing homes that have seen so many fatalities and have needed intervention from military units are horrific places, akin to gulags.

A Bolivian pan-pipes orchestra has been stranded in a German castle for weeks on end. Young people are remarkably adaptable in such situations. The secret of survival is to think of such a mishap as the adventure of a lifetime. My niece and her partner got stranded too, during a trip to Panama, back in March, and their account of their three-day escape home to Wales came across like an action movie, full of suspense at the checkpoints and secret scrambles at the dead of night. They'll be telling that story with relish for the rest of their lives.

Vagrants in Ottawa are being allowed to live in tents, an unprecedented phenomenon. They pitch their tents or construct their shelters in fairly visible places and the police seem to be turning a blind eye, probably because officially designated sheltered accommodation is so crowded it has become a health hazard, and a hazard to mental health, besides. I for one wouldn't dream of reporting illegal campers to the police because I sympathise with their dilemma. It's no longer too cold to sleep out of doors; their solitude in the fresh air may seem relatively pleasant, but the mosquito bites must be hard to bear, and it's an uncomfortable, unsanitary way to live.

Are you in casual clothes all week, the same clothes for days on end? Nobody sees us up close, so why worry? Many of us are no longer bothering to keep our hair cut. Some women have dispensed with wearing bras and the men-in-suits don't need suits any more, or dress shirts. All this means less use of the washing machine. It's a new world. We're supposed to wash our cloth shopping bags and our masks every day, but I haven't touched an iron for weeks. Make-up is only for when there's a Zoom call coming up or a presentation to give. Even then, one has the option of switching off one's webcam and activating voice only. "Unmute." Is that the trendiest word, this season?

Ubiquitous Zoom calls! (One of the CFUW ladies took it upon herself to teach the local membership to zoom, an uphill struggle. I helped edit her Instructions document.) Seeing my own face as well as the other person's / persons' while talking to them is a novelty that takes some getting used to. In the Gallery View window, it's like being at a dinner party in a hall of mirrors! In the circumstances, most of us find Zoom a reasonable substitute for meeting face-to-face, but exhausting, even though as hostess one doesn't have to provide refreshments. A double session (40 minutes x 2) is more than long enough. Online piano / singing lessons are also fairly intense. Chris positions the webcam so that his singing teacher spends the whole session observing my hands on the keyboard—I've had a few criticisms of my fingering technique, lately! Gavan can't see what I'm doing with the pedals, but he comments on that too, because he has good quality speakers and a sharp ear.

As musicians and other artistic performers are feeling the pinch from a loss of gigs, there has been a resurgence of demand for what they do. Pierre Brault, our best-known and brilliant local actor, is giving a series of solo performances online, from the empty Gladstone Theatre this month. Music is discovered to be one of the things by which we live. Online concerts take place every day in every community and there's usually the chance to make an online donation to the performer. Families are also discovering the joys of making music themselves; wonderful examples of this have gone viral on YouTube and Facebook.

Use of social media increased dramatically during March. Many newcomers to Facebook don't think much of it, though. They are especially put off by emailed notifications of other people's posts, not realizing that they could have adjusted their Settings to get rid of that annoyance.

Haircuts, eye tests, teeth cleaning appointments and the like have become less essential than we thought. We think twice before asking to see a doctor, too. I had twinges of pain that I couldn't identify the other day, so decided to call the medical helpline. It didn't seem I would ever get to speak to the nurse, so I gave up waiting in line, which probably saved me a lot of grief. The pain has since disappeared. My wise old mother used to say that most pains disappear eventually; you just have to be patient and trust your body to right itself. Emergency wards in hospitals are empty. Was that expected, at the start of the pandemic? Are people too scared to go for medical help, or were they going to hospitals too unnecessarily, before? People aren't taking so many risks just now and the roads are quiet. Apparently scheduled organ transplants have become more of a challenge because fewer people are dying in car crashes.

Having to choose and prepare three meals a day is a chore that palls from time to time, but I reckon it's better nutritionally and for our bank balance not to eat out (impossible at present) or order takeaways (not impossible but a nuisance, and I disapprove of the plastic containers). I try to make a fair proportion of our meals vegetarian, but I've also been ordering meat from Saslove's in the Byward Market, paying a $5 home delivery charge; they subcontract the work to a delivery company. Our weekly order costs more than I anticipated, but then, I never did this before, and when I calculate how many meals it covers and how much we're spending per meal, I'm surprised again. Because I spin out the meat, it works out at only around $2.50 per person on average for each meal, not so pricey after all. I intend to make a habit of this way of shopping because it saves me time, too, and forces me to be better at menu planning. Like the parents struggling to keep their children educated, I have become more inventive or adventurous recently, when preparing food. On the kitchen windowsill I have been growing micro greens, onions and basil, shall see what can be done with lettuce hearts next.

Like Prisoners of War, we are learning the crucial importance of good memories. Lock-down, like solitary confinement, leaves you to your own devices. If you don't have the inner resources to deal with it, you go crazy. I keep thinking of the extraordinary Canadian book / film called Room, in which a young mother trapped by her abusive partner in a shed with her young son, manages, against the odds, to keep herself and the child mentally and physically fit ... for seven years. Ironically they find it harder to cope when they're freed, released into the outside world. That has parallels with the POW experience too. My father was confined in a German POW camp for four years.

I have just read a sentence in a novel I'm reading, by V.S. Naipaul (Magic Seeds), that seems applicable. The narrator is in jail in this chapter:
There was no need for rush. Every everyday thing had to be stretched out now: a new form of yoga.
No more swimming for a while, I guess, unless I go in the river. All changing rooms in town are closed. Health clubs and gyms are closed for the foreseeable future. I don't miss the changing rooms exactly but I do miss the chance to move around in deep water.

Something else I am missing is the chance to sit, read and write in coffee shops. Standing in line with a mask on to pick up a take-out coffee in a paper cup from the counter and walk off with it is no substitute for those relaxing half hours (or more) that I used to spend at Bridgehead and other such places.

Having to cover our faces! In the lead up to the Canadian election in 2014 there was a whole lot of fuss about Muslim women who concealed their faces with niqabs. They shouldn't be allowed to take part in citizenship ceremonies, some felt. By contrast, in 2020, we all have to wear masks that hide just as much of our faces, whenever we are standing around in public spaces. There's a certain irony here.

Another turnaround is that until lately it would have seemed worthy of a badge of honour to turn up at work or at school with a bad cold; people used to boast that they had "never missed a day". From now on, such attitudes are going to be greatly frowned upon.

Calls for a Global Ceasefire are being taken seriously.

More of us are understanding the importance of simplicity.

For the sake of comic relief, a "Jurisdiction of the Mininstry of Silly Walks" has been marked with flags on the sidewalk outside the vicarage on MacKay Street.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Notes from the Environmental Defence Canada webinar of May 21st

Notes on the Environmental Defence Webinar in The Recovery Series, given May 21st.

The majority of Canadians support the concept of a Green New Deal, but Alberta is blocking Canada's progress during the Corona virus crisis. Nineteen environmental requirements have been ignored by that province lately. How do we regain the ground lost to "big oil" companies and their supporters?

Keith Brooks (whose "passion for the environment was born in a canoe on the rivers and lakes of Northern Ontario"), Programs Director at Environmental Defence, was "cautiously optimistic", spoke of ways to build a clean economy. More investment should be made in
  • environmentally friendly retrofits to houses
  • a clean transportation infrastructure (in particular, more charging stations)
  • requirements to sell more electric vehicles
  • clean energy generation
  • the development of a circular economy
Recovery programs are proven to do better if green; the EU is already going in this direction in order to reach zero emissions by 2050. Massive investments are being made in Europe, but it's "not yet a done deal" in Canada, so as individuals we must be prepared to take action:
  • Sign the petitions
  • Call our MPs, requesting a meeting with them(!)
  • Write a letter to the editor of our local paper
We need to communicate with the people in authority who have the time and the inclination to listen.

The other featured presenter in this Webinar was a young representative of Fridays for Future, Allienor (Allie) Rougeot. She didn't seem happy about having to comply with the lock-down rules — "I had to be, like, introspecting," she confessed.

The pandemic has killed the momentum of the youth climate strikes; on the other hand, it has given their participants the time and opportunity to build "resilient networks" for future activism and to educate both themselves and their supporters. For example, "mobilization squads" have formed at the universities. Since the student strikers left the streets, the opposition (oil lobbyists and company) have tried to fill the void. "We're fighting hard not to be pessimistic," Allie says. "If we weren't idealists we'd be crying."

However, although Canada is producing more oil than ever before, the economic returns aren't visible, and there's no point in placing bets on a dying industry. Governments are searching for alternative solutions and industries are realizing that they need to rethink their strategies. Covid-19 is teaching us that public pressure works and people are now more likely to trust experts and scientists and to understand how acting fast can save lives.

Small nuclear installations are not the immediate solution because they still need 10-20 years of development before they become viable. The technology is still too risky and they are not cheaper than wind and solar farms, where the costs have dropped faster than anticipated. We should be investing in battery storage, rather than nuclear power.

The government of Canada is the biggest investor in fossil fuels, the oil sands project being the biggest sponsored project* in Canadian history. Billions of dollars have been spent and the massive liabilities will leave taxpayers with a big debt to pay. The governments of Germany and China, on the other hand, are supporting the development of renewable energy; that's where the future is, and their actions are driving costs down.

* It is thought-provoking to see that the Government of Canada does not appear to have updated its public webpage about future developments in the fuel industry since 2015.

Friday, May 22, 2020

A relief for introverts

Urban society in the throes of the Corona virus pandemic is divided unevenly into the vast majority, extroverts mostly, who can't wait for the current restrictions to end, and the few who secretly revel in them. Apparently our teenager grandson belongs to the latter group, finding it a respite to stay at home with only occasional remote and structured chats to his friends, rather than having to interact with all kinds of demanding people at school all day long. I must confess that I fall into that category too; I could hardly suppress a surge of elation on realising I would have a long break from going out and acting as a sociable being. It (still) feels like a vacation. "Stop the world, I want to get off!" was an exaggeration, but even so ... Introverts, however much we may appear to be at ease in a crowd, are only ever putting on an act. And now the "world", to everyone's amazement, really has been put on hold and we introverts can relax for a while. I wonder how many of us will be sorry when we return to the way things used to be, and how many of us will dare to admit it.

There is much sympathy for this year's generation of high school graduates who have to do without the traditional end-of-school celebrations, but I'm certain that a few individuals among them are breathing an ardent prayer of thanks: "Thank God I don't have to make a fool of myself at the Prom, wearing silly clothes that don't suit me, and thank God I no longer have to give soppy farewell speeches to people I dislike."

I'm older now and no longer altogether that way inclined. On this morning's outing to the market district in perfect strolling weather, we found far more shops open than last week and went into Café 55, finally open again for business so long as customers take out the snacks and drinks they've purchased. It felt good to say hello to the familiar people behind the counter (protected from our potentially contaminated breath by sheets of plexiglas) and very good to buy a freshly made cup of flat white coffee there and to sit outside for a few minutes, drinking it and watching the passers-by. Almost like long lost normality.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Wildlife everywhere!

After a slow start (it's almost June now) Spring is altogether here. The previous two years we were away in Scandinavia at this time of year so missed the best of Ottawa's springtime: the buds, the tulips, the later sunsets reflected in the rivers, and the arrival of the birds. This year, forced to stay at home because of the Covid-19 emergency, there's nothing to stop us from appreciating our home surroundings to the full, as everybody else is suddenly doing.

We have been watching bees feeding from the scyllas, chickadees, cardinals, junkos, a goldfinch and his mate and and house finches with pink feathers on their heads, chipping sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, ordinary house sparrows, merganser ducks, geese and (this week) goslings, herons, ravens, crows, wild turkeys (at Rockcliffe airport), black and red squirrels, a raccoon (one on our roof and one washing its paws in the Rideau River), chipmunks and a beaver swimming underwater in clear water by the Minto Bridges. Every evening, an American robin gives a song recital from the top branches of a tree in the driveway. Red-winged blackbirds, grackles and starlings make their presence felt too; they sound more uncouth, raucous. Swallows are catching midges over the river. Do the swooping gulls catch insects too?

Multiple geese in our neighbourhood park

Lately the cardinal pair started "kissing", the male one apparently offering his mate seeds from his beak. The last couple of days I haven't seen the female so I hope that means she is on her nest. I saw one of the chickadees with a beak full of fluff this week.

Either we have all become more observant since the start of the Emergency or the birds and animals have become less afraid of us, because extraordinary encounters with animals have been reported these last few weeks, mountain goats rampaging through towns, suburban gardens overrun with deer or rabbits, empty streets in various parts of the world filled with wild pigs, monkeys and so forth.  Apocalyptic scenes! We may not all admit it, but, in a mysterious way, humanity is thrilled by such news.

Hohler in 2018, ©AyseYavas
This morning with my Deutschsprachige Konversationsgruppe we read the transcript of an interview with the aging but still very lively Swiss writer and entertainer, Franz Hohler, who since the 1970s has been writing about our relationship with the natural world, sometimes in a funny and whimsical way, sometimes in a mood of deadly seriousness. He is the author of Die Rückeroberung, a fantasy about a possible future (a utopia? a dystopia?) in which the animal world takes control of a city (Zürich) to such an extent that its human citizens become insignificant. (Our group read this story a few years ago.) In the interview Hohler quotes from Genesis in the Bible, where God gave men supremacy over the beasts and the licence to exploit the natural world.
... and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Hohler says (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) that this is where the trouble started. And now we have the climate change crisis, a distant result of our perceived "dominion". "Wir sollten uns als Untertanen der Erde erkennen, nicht umgekehrt." We should recognise ourselves as subservient to the earth, not the other way around. Climate change protests are "an idea whose time has come" he says, and calls Greta Thunberg with the Pippi Longstocking hair, als hätten wir auf eine Jeanne d’Arc gewartet, "it's as if we were waiting for a Joan of Arc"  ... auf eine Symbolfigur jedenfalls (a symbolic figurehead at least). She has caught the world's attention in a way that the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace have failed to do, previously. Franz Hohler has been a green activist for decades; the interviewer says that Greta Thunberg could well be his granddaughter.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Notes from the Environmental Defence Canada webinar of May 14th

With Tim Gray as the host, this was broadcast in response to the recent appearance of Planet of the Humans" ---a controversial YouTube documentary by Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore that questions the effectiveness of today's climate-change activism.

Two guest speakers from Environmental Defence Canada gave presentations and answered questions during the webinar. The first of these was Ketan Joshi, an Australian who has recently moved to Ontario.

Speaking on Clean Energy in 2020, he said that the Moore film had been hard to watch, but we need to check what it told us. Since this documentary was made, there's been a dramatic decline in the cost of all clean energy solutions, so its "facts" are out of date. Turbines have got larger and their efficiency is increasing. There's been a huge expansion of wind and solar installations in the UK and Denmark which has given positive results. Reduced demand for energy in those countries has played a part, too. Their experience shows that 30% of Variable Renewable Energy (VRE) is achievable with minimal changes.

On a smaller scale, in Australia, the efficiency of solar panels installed at individual homes and farms noticeably helped the recovery after this year's bush fires.

Sarah Buchanan from Toronto, used to be a child activist and is now manager of the Clean Economy Program for Environmental Defence. Her presentation was entitled Ontario's Green Backlash. Ontario has upgraded its electricity system, shifting away from coal in particular, to solutions based more on renewable energy sources. This has already had a huge impact on reducing emissions (mercury, sulphur, nitrogen & other contaminates); there are fewer smog days now. The shift also saves money. Nuclear power is now the biggest contributor to our electricity supply (24%)*. Natural gas contributes 8%.

The current Ontario government's attempt to cancel the construction of a wind farm because of its "threat to bats" has just been thrown out in court [same day, May 14], this outcome overturning the previous decision. The MPP responsible for spreading that malicious rumour cited a discredited climate change denial blog. The Nation Rise wind farm cancellation was quashed in court because the documents supporting the decision had been "unintelligible"! The Gunn's Hill wind farm was likewise subject to untenable "rhetoric" from the deniers. Cost-effective green initiatives (mostly small projects such as solar panels on schools and in native communities) are being dismantled because of such opinions at great cost to the taxpayers.

We need to stop such wastes of money, support locally owned projects, personally invest in efficient upgrades or retrofits and consume less energy, and electrify both our public transit and privately owned vehicles. All of this can create new jobs and save the province money.

What to do?

  • Find out where the local projects are
  • Vocalize our concerns, to "drown out the haters"
  • Write to our MPPs, MPs and Councillors
  • Invest in renewable energy companies

It is a myth that electric vehicle batteries create huge emissions in their manufacture.

Ketan Joshi also spoke of the integration of wind and solar energy within the Australian grid. This serves a very dispersed population, so the cheapest solution is important to find. It has been determined that the battery capacity required for renewable electricity storage is surprisingly low. By deploying well-written software, industries can become more sensitive to an efficient use of the grid. How does this relate to Ontario? One solution here would be to share hydro energy with Quebec, although the current plan is to rely upon gas as a back up source of energy.

Another criticism of the Moore documentary was its claim that solar panels had no more than an 8-year lifespan. This is nonsense: their warranty currently covers 20-30 years! Wind turbines are guaranteed to last even longer than that. They are made of steel and recyclables. Wooden blades are currently being developed to enhance them further. Yes, they're built from a large volume of materials,
but nothing like the amount used in fossil fuel generation.

Other solutions? Agricultural waste is now being used as a source of energy, known as biomass. Hydrogen production is very complicated and needs complex technology to deal with it.

Conclusion: bleak and depressing messages about energy production are not helping anywhere. A lack of trust is apparent, so input from experts must become more transparent. "Trust the science!" is a common refrain in the climate change movement. Opinions should not become facts.

If we look back to 2010, it's clear that previously unimaginable progress is being made. Prices of renewable energy production will keep dropping; pay attention to this!

Are the citizens of Ontario being consulted about new developments? Find out!

For further suggestions for action, see environmentaldefence.ca/greenrecovery

* This was shown on a graph but not discussed during the Webinar.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Ottawa Food Bank webinar

The montrous crow appearing in various neighbourhoods in Ottawa just now is for hire! He's known as Crowvid-19! You can keep him on your property for a week if you are willing to donate some funds to the Ottawa Food Bank. The highest bidder wins the crow. A local artist, Dave Harris, has made the crow from bits of metal lying around in his yard after restoration jobs. He began making the sculpture ten years ago, finishing it as something to do during the lockdown. Chris and I found it displayed on MacKay Street in New Edinburgh the other afternoon, where I took this photo.

The rest of this post is a report of the Webinar Chris and I attended online on May 13th, hosted by Michael Maidment, CEO of the Ottawa Food Bank.

Notes on Ottawa Food Bank's Covid-19 Response

The Food Bank has been working with Ottawa's health authorities since the start of the epidemic.

People panicked after the initial official recommendation to buy two weeks' worth of food to keep at home; this was something that poorer households simply could not afford to do. The Food Bank responded quickly by supplying emergency rations in hampers to families who need them.

Normally 30 volunteers work together in the warehouse; their work continues, but with temporary walls erected, creating safe zones where food supplies can be sorted and the hampers filled. Sufficient office space is lacking at present, which causes problems. Some local eateries such as Gabriel's Pizza are generously providing meals for Food Bank volunteers "to make them feel appreciated" during their shifts.

Volunteers from the Salvation Army and elsewhere are helping with the deliveries to individual homes. They have a fleet of four vehicles. Single parents, for example, didn't want to bring their children to the usual distribution centres during this crisis, so in such cases the food must now be delivered to their homes. New recipients of help from the Food Bank are people whose businesses had to close during the lockdown, or their employees now out of work. 15% of current Food Bank clients in Ottawa are new people and there has been a 528% increase in calls for help.

There had to be a shift in tactics: grocery store gift cards are now handed out to some of the people in need. The 112 local distribution agencies working at fever pitch thus got a break and this break allowed the Food Bank to refill the shelves in its warehouse. They invested $550,000 on this and spent another $650,000 stocking the city's distribution centres. Along with other expenses, a total of $1.5-million has been spent in five weeks.

Another problem has been that shoppers have no longer been donating bags of food bought during their visits to the grocery stores. (Customers now move through the stores more quickly or buy online instead.) So without the prospect of the usual impulse donations in grocery stores, Food Bank organisers had to recalculate quickly how they could meet the need, especially as the usual three to five days' worth of food given to individuals once a month has now been increased to 7 days' worth. Fresh food is always a priority, because struggling people are often in poor health and must have a nutritious balance of meals. The normal target for clients of the Food Bank is to provide 50% of their food as fresh produce.

Fortunately, the federal government is giving the Food Banks financial help nationwide, at the moment. In the short term, the government aid will purchase 43,800 hampers of a week's groceries in Ottawa, this being topped up locally with fresh produce that the Ottawa Food Bank pays for. Its community farm in Stittsville will soon be up and running, although this spring, planting is happening later than usual because of the cold weather.

Anyone aged 18+ can sign up on the website and volunteer at the farm.

If you have any questions about this service or want to make a donation, call +1 613 745 7001 or explore the website.



Saturday, May 16, 2020

Not enough posts

And I call myself a blogger. Or did. I seem to have been appallingly lazy for the last couple of months and so far this year have only published 22 posts. In 2008 I published 184. "Those were the days, my friend[s]..."

It's strange how during the corona virus epidemic we set out to achieve so much during our enforced confinement, and how most of us have achieved very little, after all. There must be a psychological reason for this. After years of striving, are we taking the opportunity to relax from our good intentions? Or from other people's expectations, perhaps?