First, an update on that wonderful (mostly) vegetarian restaurant located within the Glebe Community Centre, The Pantry. I first wrote about its being under threat in November 2013, asking "Can this Pantry be saved?" Then on May 26, 2014 a more optimistic entry, where it seemed it would get a reprieve, at least for a couple more years.

Well, those couple of years have come and gone, and I heard on the news yesterday that it has (probably) served its last meal. This time, the main issue seems to be not so much competing programs offered by the Community Centre as the decision of the current proprietors to retire, with no one waiting in the wings to fill their shoes.

Of course, the restaurant always closed during the summer anyway. Its schedule was tied to that of the (Ontario) school year, being closed during Christmas holidays and March break as well. There is some talk of possibly establishing another restaurant somewhere within the Community Centre, though whether that would be another vegetarian place and where in the centre it would be remains unclear. So stay tuned, folks. Maybe we can look forward to a similar situation to Books on Beechwood, one of the last independent bookstores in town - when the former owner decided to retire, one of its loyal customers stepped up to the helm. We can always hope!

Secondly, an update to "Your neighbourhood pharmacist", which I wrote on August 4, 2014, several months before the last major flare-up of my arthritis in April 2015.
In that entry, I argued among other things that we don't tend to fully utilize the skills and expertise of our pharmacists.

Since then, it appears that pharmacists have been under increasing pressure to earn their keep and justify their existence. I think maybe they earn a certain number of brownie points (or at least don't accrue demerit points) for every "medication review" they conduct with a patient and for every time they phone you to "remind" you that it's time to renew one or other of your prescriptions or that your renewals have all run out, and would you like them to fax your doctor to get permission for another 3 renewals? It got so annoying that I basically ended up telling them "Don't call us, we'll call you." Moreover, when they begin a phone call with letting you know that "This call may be monitored for quality control purposes" it raises some serious red flags about the privacy and confidentiality of one's medical information. Big Pharma is watching you?

On a more positive note, I think maybe I HAVE finally trained the pharmacy NOT to dispense my medications in containers that are almost impossible for me to open when my arthritis is at its worst. But it took a lot of persistence on my part, even after they supposedly had a note on my file and I on one occasion even mentioned it in a voicemail when I phoned to renew a prescription. I still don't go too far away from the pharmacy without first opening the little white bag to make sure they've complied with my instructions. And I'll also acknowledge that I've had no more episodes of getting someone else's prescription. Occasionally they still aren't able to completely fill a prescription, but they do give me enough pills to tide me over until the rest of them come in.

Finally, an update on my PRESTO card. If you were following my blog in 2013 and 2014, you may recall I had a whole host of problems with it initially, what with the top-up feature not working, and then the card itself failing. On May 26, 2014, I wrote an entry where things seemed to be going more smoothly. And that was the case for a couple of months until the replacement card failed as well! But this time, it seems the Presto folks at Rideau Centre were a little more ready for me. They quickly replaced my card, I didn't have to pay $6 for it, and the nice man loaded on a few free trips (which I'm not sure ever did get billed to my credit card). I still had to phone Presto to get the balance from my old card transferred to my new one and it still took 24 hours or so but at least it didn't seem to be quite such a rigamarole and I wasn't stuck in some endless telephone tree for hours on end. And nearly two years later, the card is still working (touch wood - but don't touch anything magnetic!)

A good thing too, because tickets are being phased out to make way for rapid transit and all-tech options for fare paying. Of course, all fares have gone up as of today (and will rise again on January 1). Amongst other factors, it appears that the Metrolinx folks are trying to extort yet more money for the "privilege" of using the PRESTO card system that's been plagued with problems since day one. Ah, well - hopefully most of those problems are behind us now. And I do think it'll be nice to finally have a proper light rail system in Ottawa - once it's up and running.
Today I want to revisit a few things I've dealt with in earlier entries.

Back in November, I asked "Can this Pantry be saved?" Word was that The Pantry, a (mostly) vegetarian lunch place operating weekdays during the school year out of the Glebe Community Centre, would be forced to close permanently at the end of June because the Centre needed the space for its activities.

I'm pleased to report that the answer seems to be, "Yes, it likely CAN be saved, at least for a couple more years." We went back there a few weeks ago, wanting to at least enjoy one more family lunch there before the bitter end, and I asked about its status. Already they have made some modest changes such as putting casters on their tables to facilitate quick rearrangements at the beginning and end of their stints there each day to accommodate other groups that use the space. Dare I speculate that the petition we signed actually made a difference?

We haven't seen too much media coverage of it since the initial threat of closure so I guess talks are still ongoing and its future is still uncertain. But I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed!


Then there's the continuing saga of my PRESTO card. Again, the news I'm reporting today is mostly positive or hopeful. I haven't had any problems using it in Ottawa since I got my new PRESTO card. I also managed to use it successfully inToronto earlier this month - at Queen's Park station. There's still the problem that many Toronto subway stations simply aren't equipped with PRESTO readers at all. According to the Toronto edition of Metro (the newspaper), many won't be before some time in 2016.


Finally, today marks a sad anniversary. An Ottawa high school student was killed three years ago after a metal drum he was cutting through for shops class exploded, critically injuring him. The inquest into his death was only recently concluded and hopefully school officials will henceforth be extra careful to avoid another (presumably preventable) tragedy like this in the future. I was in Halifax at the time of the incident, attending a conference of the Canadian Library Association, but it was reported on the Halifax TV news and in their paper.

Back in 2011, it was reported that the drum (acquired second-hand for the project) had previously contained peppermint oil which (or so it was reported at the time) was a highly volatile and dangerous substance. Again, I remember that well because we had recently been advised to spray peppermint oil in our car to deter mice, which had been gnawing at some of the innards and shorting out the wiring.

Well, guess what? In the news reports of the inquest earlier this year, no further mention was made of any peppermint oil - instead, it was reported that the drum had previously contained a toxic cleaning solution (possibly involving lye?) Moreover, just a week or two ago, domestic mavens Steven and Chris were waxing eloquent over how fabulous peppermint oil could be in the kitchen, to deter ants!

So is peppermint oil safe? Who knows?
The Pantry, a vegetarian restaurant located within the Glebe Community Centre, will be closing its doors for good in June 2014. Apparently it had been allowed to pay substantially below-market rents for years but now the Centre has said "Enough is enough" and wants to reappropriate the space for other purposes.

And that's a shame. Because the Pantry was a destination location unlike, say, yoga classes or children's art classes which, while certainly valid uses of a community centre space, may be found in just about every community, often within easy walking distance of the participants' homes.

I was frankly very disappointed in the lacklustre response of the local councillor, David Chernushenko, whom I usually find to be fairly in tune with my views on things. After all, today's Glebites are to a great extent a well-heeled, highly educated bunch, who pay a small fortune in property taxes. The Glebe is certainly not the ghetto for Carleton University students that it might have been in the 1960s and 70s. Don't Glebe residents deserve something in return for their tax dollars, other than a sole-sourced big-box shopping centre at Lansdowne Park that no one except the developers really seems to want? There were a few tepid murmurings along the fact that maybe The Pantry could stay open if, say, some of the food preparation was done off-site and the meals brought in. Why, for heaven's sake? Most community-oriented buildings - churches, community centres, child care centres - have their own kitchens! And to a great extent, it's the feeling of sitting among friends in someone's sprawling farmhouse kitchen that gives the Pantry a lot of its charm. The pine tables and furniture, the make-do, mismatched tableware, the shelves of cookbooks and children's books and toys, the friendly personalised service you get from the long-time cooks and servers.

It also must be stressed that the hours of the Pantry are, and have always been, quite limited. It is open from noon to 3 PM, Monday through Friday, and only during the school year (i.e. from September through June and excluding the Christmas and March breaks and other school holidays). So except for those fifteen hours a week plus maybe another ten for food preparation and clean-up, the space is available for other purposes and would, I think, be quite suitable for other functions. What about a teen drop-in and coffee house on Friday and Saturday evenings? What about a get-together venue for stay-at-home parents with small children? Or activities for seniors? Family board-game nights, anyone?

The Pantry has always been supportive of local and community activities and people. When we last went there a couple of weeks ago, they were showcasing and offering for sale two items: Gwendolyn Bests's "The Cats of Parliament Hill" calendar; and a CD called "At the Doors of Guapalo" with mezzo-soprano Donna Klimoska and Wolfgang Lendle on guitar.

The Glebe as a whole has seemed to be in a bit of a slump lately. That's a pity, because it has some quite unique independent businesses - Britton's Smoke Shop with its wide variety of international magazines, which every weekend features Linda Wiken's Prime Crime Bookshelf; The Papery; a shop devoted to all things Cat (whose name escapes me at the moment); Glebetrotters (a shoe store with a wide selection of upscale but very comfortable footwear); The Emporium (kitcheny stuff); and much more. This year, in an effort to encourage holiday shopping, Glebe merchants are offering a promotion - they stamp your "ballot" every time you spend $20 in their store; when you have enough stamps on your ballot, you can enter it in their draw for a $10,000 "Glebe Spree". And then pick up a new ballot and start again - until December 31. For details, see http://glebespree.ca

But looking out the window today, it certainly doesn't look as if it'll be a green Christmas in any sense!

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