Monthly Archives: July 2014

Only Child on Toronto Public Transit construction then and now

The older (since 1980s) Toronto streetcars which Only Child likes

The older (since 1980s) Toronto streetcars which Only Child likes

I am rewriting the chapter “City Travels with Mom” in my memoir and it got me thinking about construction for public transit then and now. Here is an excerpt from my memoir about construction for the first subway line in Toronto.

During the first line, the Yonge-to-Eglinton subway’s building phase, Mom and I would emerge from Eaton’s or Simpson’s department stores at Queen and Yonge Streets into a deconstructive mess. Yonge Street had become the big Toronto dig, with the construction crews using the “cut and cover” method of tunnelling sections at a time, digging by hand and leaving heavy timber coverings supported by “steel cross members” for walkways. In winter, the Queen and Yonge corner was snow, slosh, mud and cold. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Digging up the Dirt, ©2014 Sharon A. Crawford).

What a difference from today. This summer Toronto is experiencing the worst constructive mess and milieu in my lifetime. Just for public transit alone, there is a big LRT (much of it underground) being built in the northern part of the city. Although it is necessary to get the people in this overloaded city moving, the actual construction is causing problems. The tunnelling method is different (see, but intersections where it is occurring have slowdowns and stoppages of some sort happening. This drives motorists into residential areas and may be partly to blame for the death of a seven-year-old girl hit by a car in one of these residential areas.

Toronto Transit (TTC) is also bringing in new streamlined streetcars which I hate. I’ve posted about this before. The first of these streetcars go on the Spadina Ave. line August 31, so now we get intersections completely closed for upgrades to the tracks. The TTC has removed the old streetcars and temporarily put on buses.

Then there is the construction further downtown on Front St. and Queen’s Quay. On Front St. it is the renovation of Union Station – both the choo-train part and a new subway train station underground. Both, especially the subway train station with its so narrow platforms, were needed and at least it is being done in stages. But what convoluted passageways for pedestrians – lots of outside stairs up and down to get to streets. And the street itself for one long block is completely closed to traffic – there are a couple of make-shift crossways from Union Station to the Royal York Hotel across Front Street. Maybe I should be thankful I’m travelling by bus leaving for my holidays but am returning by train, late at night, so will have to check out the latest walk-around for then so I can get to the subway without problems to come home.
Queen’s Quay is being changed to more of a pedestrian-friendly walkway with fewer lanes for vehicles. Despite the stairs business outside Union Station, this Queen’s Quay issue is much more of a nuisance and as far as I’m concerned bad for the tourist industry last year and this year as Harbourfront Centre and all its summer activities go on there now. I went down once this summer and that may be it – just because of all the construction. It was so bad there was a cop directing pedestrian traffic in the middle of the blocked-off street. At that point, vehicles weren’t allowed. The buses (again temporarily replacing streetcars) have their routes fractured. You literally have to get the bus going west at one end of the closed block and the bus going east at the other end and never the two shall meet. I decided I could do better with the 10-minute or so walk from Union Station (even with all its stairs at one end and crossing the pseudo-highways – with lights – near the other end). Some people have found their own way through this Queen’s Quay mess rather than the marked off ones. And I don’t blame them.
And into this milieu is the Gardner Expressway – an up-high overhead expressway built over 50 years ago and now crumbling. That end of the Gardner near Union Station and Queen’s Quay is also going through construction
Many of these updates/upgrades renovations are for the PanAm Games coming to Toronto in July 2014. With all due respect to the games, this pre-construction is driving us all nuts. And I don’t mean just motorists but also pedestrians and cyclists.
I suppose this is all due to our over-expanding city (people-wise and condo-wise – many built and being built in…you guessed it…downtown Toronto).
No wonder I relish my little corner of Toronto, especially out in my garden (when the rain isn’t falling down, but that’s another story). You can actually see a few butterflies and hear the birds sing. Of course, we also get racoons and squirrels…


Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes


Filed under Mother and Child, Only child memoir, Public Transportation, Railways, Road Construction, Toronto, Toronto public transit, Train Stations, Union Station Toronto

Only Child on summer stress and worry

Myfmother - the worrier incarnate and little worrier - me.

My mother – the worrier incarnate and little worrier – me.

My late mother was worrywart incarnate and I come a very close second to her in the worry and anxiety department. Still, my reaction to a study showing that summer may be the time for the highest stress was “what?”


It gets sillier.

When the news story on last night’s 11 p.m. Global Toronto news showed interviews with people on why they are so stressed in the summer, I could only think “oh, come on.”


Some parents were stressed out because the kids are home and not in school. This one I get. But there are ways to alleviate it.


The other stressors mentioned in the study are so run-of-the-mill and common year round – trying to balance too much to do came at the top of the list. None of the stressors were abnormal, just people having difficulty getting through their day. And while I should be one of the last people to complain about people complaining about their problems, at least some of my problems are a bit weird. In a nutshell, lately it’s been computer problems, which is common – but Skype hanging and causing other programs to hang? And having to shut down and restart the computer twice to get everything up and running. And yes, I did a full virus scan and it showed all clear.


Another one some travellers may emphasize with – at least those who travel by public transit and not car. VIA Rail, Canada’s passenger rail system in its wisdom cut back some service in late 2012. I’m just catching up with that for my holidays this summer. The early evening train no longer runs from Toronto to Grimsby. The morning train is too early for me to deal with because of health problems that are worse in the morning. Then there is the morning rush hour(s) to wade through to get to Union Station (with construction in and outside as well) to catch the train. I might be able to do it if I stayed at the very expensive hotel across the street from Union Station – even manoeuvring the walkway and stairways through the construction. (My late father who worked for the railway as a timekeeper is probably turning over in his grave.)


GO Transit doesn’t run buses or trains that go all the way from Toronto to Grimsby. So, I’m left with something called Megabus which runs throughout North America. Must be something relatively new in the last 10 years. Ten years ago I took a bus (not a Megabus) from Toronto to Walkerton and it was a lovely ride and experience. True, we stopped at many places on the way to let people on and off, but the driver was so friendly that the atmosphere in the bus was relaxed and friendly. I remember the driver letting me off across the street from my motel (and that wasn’t the official bus stop) and telling me to be careful crossing the busy street.


Megabuses have so many boarding rules that they are almost as bad as airlines. At least we don’t have to remove our shoes – I don’t think.


I haven’t booked my tickets – just done some research, including talking to a friend who has travelled on them. I have to phone the company for more details.


But it is the only way (short of hitchhiking) I will get to my cousins without a lot of transfers. Will the travel experience be worth it? I’ll believe I get on the bus and get to Grimsby when it happens. The ride by the way is about an hour and a half.


At least the problem is a little different problem.


Silliness and weird problems aside, the people who really have big worries are those who have cancer or other life-threatening illnesses, those who are homeless, those who lose their homes or part of their homes due to flooding, fires, and wind. And those who worry about these disasters happening because of where they live (read anywhere in the world today). These are bigger concerns than worrying about trying to do everything or even the kids driving you nuts at home. Put them in summer camp for part of the summer. That’s what I did with my son when he was a child and in his early teens. He loved it and learned some new skills such as photography, sailing, painting (the art kind, not house painting).


Let’s get realistic. Go to the peace and quiet. I do – my garden. I sit out there, eat meals out there, read out there. And garden.


I just try to ignore staring at what was destroyed by the ice storm and the extremely cold winter.


My garden provides a little solace time. So does writing, walking, reading and even a bit of TV. And the garden is also providing lots of fresh fruit and veggies to eat. (Lots of weeds, too, but you know what I do with them. As I pull them I imagine they are my problems or the people/organization causing the problems). Helps me and it isn’t illegal.



Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Gardening, Health, Holidays, Life demands, Megabus, Problems, Railways, Travel, Union Station Toronto, Worrying

Only Child gets bitten and hunts for walk-in medical clinics

Tool Shed and compost bin by the biting bugs lair.

Tool Shed and compost bin by the biting bugs lair.

Saturday evening at dusk I finally got around to taking out the veggie and fruit scraps to the compost bin. The bin is at the end of my backyard by the tool shed. As I was trying to close the bin a swarm of bugs flew up from the ground and bit my ankles. One even got me through my blouse on the back. I quickly jumped back, ran into the house to put on winter boots and a jacket (I already had on longish pants and a gardening hat) and returned to the bin. I had to close it tightly because if not, racoons would get in.

Sometimes I think I should buy a huge water gun, keep it filled with water and prop it outside on the patio. Then when God’s ugly creatures arrive to do their damage I am ready to defend my property and me without hurting the culprits.

The bugs stung where they bit and then the big itch began. By Sunday morning the areas were also red and swelling. After some research on the Internet, I headed for Shoppers Drug Mart for some Witch Hazel and a new supply of Tea Tree Oil. Sunday night a blister had started to form in one area. By Monday morning the blister was larger and kept increasing in size.

Those of you who follow these blog posts know who I blame for all these travesties of “nature.” But He is not to blame for what followed in my quest to find a walk-in medical clinic.

First, I called Tele-health Ontario and talked to a nurse practitioner. After a Q and A, she suggested I see a doctor within the next few days. As the blister started looking like it might be infected I decided that then (yesterday) was that day. I had fired my GP a few years ago (that’s another story), so a medical clinic was it.

The O’Connor Doctors’ Offices Medical Excellence Inc. (about a 10-minute walk from here) is billed as a Walk-in Medical Clinic. However, being conscientious and suspicious, I phoned first to confirm their hours. I called the phone number on a postcard they had sent around a couple of months ago to introduce a new doctor joining the group. The postcard says “Please walk in or call for an appointment.”

The phone number is a call centre for the Apple Tree Medical Group who have several medical clinics in Toronto (including the one mentioned above) and Ottawa, Ontario. The fellow there told me the one near me is not a walk in and the doctor would not be in until Wednesday. Furious, I yelled, “I could be dead by then,” and hung up. I will be complaining to the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons about this one – at the very least it is false advertising and I have the proof even if I have to scan it and email it to them.

The next two were a medical centre across from the nearest hospital. My boarder called 211 for its phone number and name because when I called the hospital for info about the clinic the phone kept ringing at the hospital end. No voice mail. What do people do phoning about sick family members in the hospital? Carrier pigeon anyway?

I also called another clinic found in the phone book and was told they take two hours for lunch but would be back at 1 p.m. and yes, they were a walk-in clinic. As this one was a short bus ride from my place, I headed for there, arriving at 1.05 p.m.

According to the phone book (June 2014 version) the clinic was located over the Shoppers Drug Mart. Rthe clinic name was posted on the outside wall. I finally found the entrance to the area and took the elevator up, to discover the place didn’t exist – not even the room number 203. I checked at a lab in the building and the answer was a curt, “There is no medical clinic here. The only one is at 194 Main St.” Too far to walk with my sore legs. I got back on the subway and headed to another clinic, not so close to home, but it had been once recommended. From the subway exit it was a block-and-a-half walk.

The Albany Medical Clinic is a wonderful walk-in clinic which takes up most of their new building. It is very efficiently run but is not unfriendly. The two front-line intake ladies are very sympathetic, friendly and funny. The one I spoke to lives near the Apple Tree Misnamed clinic. She said they have odd hours but seemed horrified about the call centre and doctor-not-in-til-Wednesday bit. Anyway the Albany Clinic has  a relaxed atmosphere. I waited about 50 minutes before she gave me a small sheet of paper with my name and the doctor’s name plus verbal instructions to go to the fourth floor.
Dr. Pound saw me in five minutes or so and he was very relaxed, friendly and helpful. He reminded me of the doctor I saw years ago in Halifax, Nova Scotia for food poisoning. Dr. Pound held out his hand when he introduced himself. He also listened. He said I had an allergic reaction to whatever bug bit. From my description, neither of us could figure out what bug. He lanced and bandaged the blister (he said it wasn’t infected), gave me a topical anti-biotic cream because I am allergic to all oral anti-biotics and suggested I get a non-sedated anti-histamine. I did both and I see a bit of improvement.

Once better, my next health task is to register a complaint to the OCPHS about Apple Tree. May the apples all fall on them as they rot. Appropriate? Right?

Do you have any medical clinic horror stories to share?


Sharon A. Crawford’
Only Child Writes


Filed under Health, Medical walk in clinics, Only child, Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child comments on physicians’ religious beliefs and patient responsibility

Only Child  contemplates physicians refusal to treat patients

Only Child contemplates physicians refusal to treat patients

There’s a brouhaha in-the-works about whether physicians can refuse treating patients if the treatment goes against the doctor’s moral or religious beliefs. There are already small rural communities with only one medical practice or clinic that won’t perform abortions because of moral or religious beliefs. But now that has escalated to refusing birth control in some parts of Canada. In Ottawa, Ontario, three physicians circulated a letter saying that they won’t prescribe birth control. A medical clinic in Calgary, Alberta just posted a sign on their door to that effect. Read the Globe and Mail article at

What happened to treating the patient for what is best for the patient? Based on what is available for treatment and what is legal in that category. But religious and moral values being imposed on patients by their doctor(s)? Last time I checked, birth control (and even abortion) is legal in Canada. Whether you are for or against abortion, doesn’t it make sense to prescribe birth control to avoid a situation that may bring on an abortion?

Don’t they teach “common sense” at “doctor school?” More important whatever happened to the physician motto “do no harm.” I’m not saying that physicians should automatically prescribe the birth control pill without considering the patient’s overall health. If the patient has high blood pressure obviously the pill might have to be avoided. But there are other birth control methods.

For the most part physicians (unless they are obstinate) consider several options when a patient comes in with symptoms and gets a diagnosis. He or she would discuss these with the patient and suggest what would work best for the patient. Sometimes there is only one option for treatment but that should also be presented to the patient.

The patient’s health and concerns should be the doctor’s focus, not the doctor’s religious values.

Let’s take this scenario further.
What if the police refused to investigate a murder because the victim had different religious beliefs than the police officer?

What if a retailer refused to serve a customer because the retailer was a very religious Christian and the customer was a known atheist?

What if the federal tax department suddenly decided that you had to be Christian to file your income taxes?

I know – these are silly and stupid scenarios. But what about the physicians’ sudden rise in the attitude that their religious morals and beliefs trump their patients’ health? That is being not only stupid but going against the grain of the law.

And speaking of laws, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons is revisiting this issue with their regular policy review and update. They are even welcoming public input until August 5. The last policy review in 2008 ran into this issue but the OCPS backed down on stating doctors should park their beliefs at the door because – are you ready for it? – doctors raised a big stink about the issue.

And doctors wonder why some people think they act like they are God.

For the record I am not referring to all doctors here. Some are good and have the patient’s interest and health as their first concern. It’s this other bunch who seem to have tunnel vision when it comes to their religious beliefs and imposing them on others. Maybe this latter group are in the wrong profession. Maybe they should switch to some religious ministry.

What do you say about this? Have any of you ever encountered a doctor refusing you any treatment because of the doctor’s religious beliefs? And if you are a doctor reading this post, what are your views here? Do you treat your patients based on your religious beliefs or based on what is best for your patients?


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes


Filed under Birth Control pills and abortion, Doctor religious beliefs vs patient treatment, Health, Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons

Only Child’s Canada Day thanks and no thanks

Only Child's magnificent juniper tree as it once was. Slowly coming back some.

Only Child’s magnificent juniper tree as it once was. Slowly coming back some.

Canada Day, July 1, is one of the few statutory holidays I like to celebrate. Christmas is another. However, we all know why last Christmas was a write-off – the ice storm – except for one thing, my son’s wonderful help here – getting my boarder, her cat, and me into a hotel downtown and paying for it when we had no hydro power and no heat here. And driving us back here Christmas Day (when we had power – but not everybody in Ontario did) and making dinner.

On Canada Day I have a ritual – I don’t usually make it on time for the parade but I go to the nearby community area where there are booths for gardening, crafts, City of Toronto information, community groups, food, entertainment and a lovely garden maintained by the East York Garden Club. I like to sit by the latter and eat a lunch I have brought along as I no longer eat burgers and hot dogs, let alone the buns that go with them (gluten). After that I like to go for a long walk in the neighbourhood just south of this community park area and end up back on a main street and take the bus home.

Today it doesn’t look like that will be possible, thanks to God and his weather. I mean the parade just started 20 minutes ago and then the rain. But more on that later. First, what am I thankful for on this July 1?

1. My son, Martin, for all his help and support, not just with dealing with the ramifications of weather, but for helping me with computer stuff and well just being there. I will do a separate post on this in future.

2. The miracle of the trees and shrubs damaged by the cruel extreme winter and early spring weather (the latter was actually winter weather going to late April/early May). As mentioned in a previous post, two of my evergreens suffered extensive damage – that damage from winter burn from extreme cold when the sun gets lower in the sky (late April and into early May). Half the boxwood turned rusty brown and most of the big beautiful juniper. I gave God you know-what for that and it looks like he is making some amends. The juniper is slowly coming back – not sure if it will be 100 per cent. Despite my next door neighbour and the arborist saying “no it’s not,” I do not want it removed. “Over my dead body” is what I say to them. I’m not losing hope here…yet. I’ve watered the Juniper in between rainfalls (which works out to not often for the watering), added bone meal plus and those fertilizer sticks you put in the ground around the drip line of the tree. I also weeded around the tree as much as possible. One of my two patches of silverlace over by Tanya’s and Alex’s fence is dead. Alex removed the deadwood from his side and I’ve removed some from my side. The other silverlace on the fence and gate to the backyard is slowly coming back. Still lots of deadwood there but that will get removed in time. Which brings me to miracle no. 3.

3. My Good Samaritan. This retired gentleman who took it upon himself to just show up and shovel my snow (and other seniors – older than I – in the neighbourhood) again just showed up and offered to cut down and prune the deadwood. Turns out he is a certified arborist, now retired from the City of Toronto Parks and Recreation. This was almost a month ago. Still nothing done. But it is not his fault. We have had too much rain, too much of it heavy and with thunder and lightning, the area can’t get dry enough for him to do his work. We have also had a few too humid days to do tree work. I do not want him getting heat stroke or worse. So, God sent me a Good Samaritan but makes it impossible for him to do his work. Something is wrong here.
4. The miracle of the lost leather bracelet. I love leather bracelets, especially the wide one I wear all the time in the summer. Never wear more than my watch on my arms in winter when it is long-sleeved sweaters. A weekend ago I was gardening, removing a lot of dead rosebush (I can do most of that myself), weeding and finally getting the replacement lavender plant, and a few others, planted. When done I discovered I was no longer wearing the bracelet. Usually I remove it for gardening, but I decided I had forgotten this time. A thorough search of the garden areas worked in and the bin and yard waste bags (I emptied the latter three onto my driveway and rummaged through them three times) brought out no bracelet. I did find a sort-of replacement in Chinatown but it isn’t the same. It is smaller but has dome fasteners – not that that ever stopped my bracelets from getting lost. Yesterday morning while sitting on the veranda drinking my coffee I saw the bracelet sitting on its side on the other side of the veranda just past the other chair. I grabbed it and washed it. And also thanked God and a few saints for this miracle (Well, with this and the trees I had pestered God a lot – for blame and he had to make amends. Looks like he did).

Not so for the weather. This is what I am not thankful for. And I am referring to the weather Canada-wide, not just in my neck of the woods.

For the most part Canada used to be a good place to live weather-wise. Oh sure, we had the cold Arctic and cold winters and lots of snow in various areas. But only the odd severe weather storm in any season.

That all changed eight/10 years ago. Some people might say before that and I won’t argue here. Suffice to say Canada has joined the US for tornado alley and eastern Asia for monsoon-like weather. You can’t live anywhere in Canada without experiencing severe weather of some sort. If you don’t believe me check out The Weather Network on TV or online. The station now has a regular segment every 10 minutes (right after the local weather forecast) called The Force of Nature – highlighting the extreme weather all over. (It should be called The Force of God).

As mentioned in previous posts I know there is global warming and the theories behind that. Some of it is true, but even very religious people can’t eliminate the God factor. You know the will of God. God gave us humans free will and maybe, just maybe he doesn’t like what we are doing with it. The weather? He is either making it happen or letting it happen. Take your pick.

For now the brief heavy rainfall has stopped. But who knows what will happen weather-wise for the rest of the Canada Day celebrations.

Happy Canada Day.


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes


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Filed under Canada Day, Extreme Weather, God, Good Samaritan, Lost Bracelet, Trees and Shrubs