Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘WPC

Weekly Photo Challenge: Heritage

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This is a photo I took nearly a year ago. York Minster the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe. Built on much older structures, the remains of which can be seen in the crypt.


It would have been really easy to post pictures of totem poles just like the original challenge. But that’s not my heritage. That’s not my story.

I happened to have the pictures from York open and for some reason the ones that I took then did not get uploaded to Flickr (until now), unlike most of the photos I have used in these challenges previously. So I am going to indulge in some multiple picture posting for this one, as it allows me to discuss more about my heritage.

Although I am now an atheist that was not always the case. My mother was a member of the Church of England, although we did not go to church very often. At home there were only the usual almost – but not quite – secular celebrations of Christmas and Easter. School was different. In England then the law was that there had to be a religious assembly in schools every day, and religious instruction was one of two compulsory subjects. (The other was Physical Training.) The Church of England is still the Established Church, and the Queen is still its head. English history is full of religious disputes and battles – and everyone has heard of Henry VIII and his six wives and how the CofE came to be.

fullsizeoutput_24bc On the day we were there, final rehearsals were underway for the Mystery Plays. These go back to the 1300s. Tickets were, of course, sold out long before we thought about attending.



So yes there is a lot of history and heritage in York. You can still walk the walls of the city. When I listen to the news today about how it’s Montreal’s 375th birthday, I find it just a little bit hard to be impressed by that.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 17, 2017 at 12:34 pm


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Rattle Snake

This is a rattlesnake. “Look out! This week’s challenge is about the unexpected thrill of danger.” So yes the sight of this beautiful creature was indeed unexpected and did carry a thrill. But actually not dangerous really, as long as you don’t do something really stupid. Like pick up a short stick and poke it. Or stray off the path and walk in the long grass. Treading on a rattlesnake is not going to bring you anything but grief.

We did show the picture to a park ranger and she confirmed that this was a rattlesnake. The location was Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, and of course the park warns people about the dangers of the wildlife in the park.

Actually the humans are the real danger. So please indulge me a little and read some more. Because the following was neither unexpected nor a thrill. But no-one got hurt either.


This is a picture of some people enjoying the surf on the beach at Varadero, Cuba.

Playing in the breakers probably seemed like fun. What these people had not seen – or not understood – was this red flag.


Yes, well, that seems understandable. It is not a large flag, nor is it immediately obvious that it is meant to be a warning. And, yes there was a lifeguard.


He did blow his whistle and wave at them. But you will also note that when they looked back at the guy whistling at them he seemed to be wearing a plain white T shirt. He also did nothing more than that. When they did not respond to him, he simply went on his way.
I happened to be walking on the beach (fully dressed and shod) and I noticed all of this and decided to do something. I did not, of course, have a whistle, and I did not know if these people actually spoke English, so I tried yelling “Attention” (in a French accent) and making a clear arm length gesture beckoning them closer. I established that two of them did speak English and they did understand when I said “Come closer please, I need to tell you something.” (There were a lot of people from Quebec in our resort, but also lots of Europeans.)

When they got closer I asked them if they understood the term “undertow“.  They thought it meant “current”.

The beach has a steep slope. The strong winds, that had been blowing even stronger the previous night, were pushing water up this slope, but gravity was pulling an equal amount back – and that could only travel under the waves. Anyone losing their footing in the soft, waterlogged sand would find their foot, leg and then themselves, dragged by this flow, under the waves. They had not understood the little red flag – not even noticed it – or understood why the guy was whistling at them. The other couple they did not know, but they noticed me, and came in too. I went through the same routine.

There was no-one else paddling. I felt suddenly very tired. I told the second couple that if they had been knocked over by a wave I would not have gone in after them. I also told them about the search we had seen conducted a couple of days earlier on the same beach. Uniformed Coast Guards, a motor boat and guys in wet suits looking for someone. Not asylum seekers, as I had presumed at the time, but someone who had also ignored the red flag. I never heard if they recovered the body.

So the people in the second picture were in real danger, and blithely unaware of it.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 3, 2017 at 11:35 am

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

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When I first saw the challenge for this week I was thinking of looking for one of my gigantic panoramas. But then as I was scrolling through Photos on my MacBook I saw this little snapshot. We were walking around the Cleveland Dam and Capilano park, when I saw this skunk cabbage emerging from the earth. That does look like a particularly fecund bit of ground – lots of naturally composting plants and detritus from the forest. And that fern is really artistic, don’t you think?

We have had almost continuous rain here for months – and the chance to get outside during the brief dry spells is eagerly grasped. Spring has been late, but all around things are emerging and blooming as the warmth returns – if not much actual direct sunshine.

We need to keep in mind how much we depend on earth. The fact that we have anything to eat at all depends on a few inches of topsoil and dependable rain. But humans seem to be very bad at understanding that this is very fragile and easily broken. There might be water on a moon of Saturn, but that does not give us any realistic alternative to taking better care of the Earth we inherited and are so lucky to have survived our ill treatment thus far.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 19, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge “Surprise”

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IMG_1828via Photo Challenge: Surprise

The little white dots of foam that you see on the surface of the spaghetti squash are where I carefully pierced the skin with a large fork to allow the steam to escape. I have done this many times when cooking it in the microwave. Probably the easiest way to deal with this vegetable. This time, there were not enough holes, apparently, as there was a loud bang. Surprise!

Fortunately this was toward the end of the cooking time, and the mess was fairly limited. It was very tasty: served with a meat sauce, of which there were leftovers, which I have just finished for lunch today – with real spaghetti – not another squash or any surprises.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 12, 2017 at 2:02 pm

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Dense

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Vancouver Aerial

This is a photograph of Vancouver’s downtown, which in recent years has become – in terms of urban development – one of the densest parts of the region. This was the result of a set of inter-related planning decisions, to allow for towers, closely spaced, and mainly for residential use. This was a departure from the way other places kept downtowns for other, non-residential uses. This has allowed for much greater choices in terms of how people get to and from work – and other activities. In most modern cities, built since World War II, the plan has been to allow for most use of cars, which has created large swathes of low density suburbs. Traditionally, prior to motorised transport, cities were designed to allow for most trips to be completed by walking. Railways and streetcars allowed things to be spaced out a bit more, but the greatest impact was the use of the personal automobile. Most North American cities are now turning away from this pattern of development and rediscovering the benefits of urbanity. (Most European cities made that choice much sooner – to retain the amenities and cultural significance of their central areas. ) Not just better energy efficiency, and cleaner air – though both are worthwhile improvements – but in greater interaction between people. More sociability, greater opportunities to meet other people – more culture, more entertainment, more choices of where to go and what to do.  Indeed the pursuit of higher densities remains a central plank of urban and regional planning – the subject matter of most of this blog – made possible by increasing the choices of transport open to residents. More trips that can be made without needing a car, by walking, cycling and public transport. That produces happier, healthier places. It doesn’t just protect the environment it increases economic activity.

Note too that one important lesson of developing a dense urban core is that green spaces – that’s Stanley Park in the foreground – can be successfully protected and made available for many more people to enjoy, rather than the large areas that get fenced off to keep people out in low density suburbs and exurbs.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2017 at 9:26 pm

WPC: It IS Easy Being Green

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via Photo Challenge: It IS Easy Being Green!

Parque Josone, Varadero
Parque Josone in Varadero, Cuba where even the water in the boating lake is green.


Written by Stephen Rees

March 22, 2017 at 10:32 am

Atop the clouds

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via Photo Challenge: Atop

Atop the clouds

Heading home from Varadero it was already dark by the time we left the airport, but once we got atop the clouds there was still some afterglow from the sunset. And since the view here is westwards perhaps someone can help with the identification of that star.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 15, 2017 at 1:04 pm