My intention was to put in a couple of hours at my local food bank, go for a walk, do some reading. Basically a quiet Saturday. Seems someone forgot to let some of us know we could not add anything to the shelves because everything would be emptied to prepare for hampers. I am learning a lot about how food banks operate.
While we waited – there were at least five of us – my youngest daughter sent a text claiming starvation and poverty. She did not know I was volunteering that morning. However, it did occur to me that the plight of single, working part time, young people does seem to be on an upswing with an emphasis on part time = minimum wage. I cannot just put together a bag of food whenever I feel like it. Actually, I can never do that – volunteers may not do their shopping at the food bank even if willing to pay. We are allowed to take baked goods, sometimes dairy, and this day we were encouraged to take a bunch of bananas before they went bad.
Aha! My reply to my daughter was, “I have bananas!” She was not amused. Once I explained I was going home to make banana bread her texts had a happier note. So, I made vegan banana bread, ran to the store to buy a can of garbanzo beans to make hummus, then headed to town with a healthy lunch for my daughter plus some extras – and her laundry. I also managed to bag a bag of chips for her from the food bank because that is sometimes also allowed. My community good deed may have fallen flat but my mothering instinct had not. Although I may not have fixed her dire straits nor found a solution to world hunger I am trying. Sort of. Rather sad that food banks are necessary and so many people need two or more jobs to barely meet their rent.
I live in the third most expensive city in Canada. I do not own a home. As I headed to town I could not help but take note of a scattering of people on the side of the road holding signs asking for ‘anything’. It is getting chillier out there. I suppose poverty in Victoria is easier to deal with than the cold in Ontario or Winnipeg. When I popped into my daughter’s workplace to hand over her meal and pick up her keys – that laundry needed dropping off – there were a few tourists around and a couple of ‘unsavoury’ characters. This how too many Victorians think. I walked from her place back to town to return her keys, then back to pick up my car.
The contrasts downtown are quite noticeable. We have the gorgeous waterfront with the very expensive Empress Hotel, and the legislature buildings, as shining beacons to tourism and government. (I mean the building, not the politics within, for the latter- BC is fascinating for its politics) this day we also had two or three very quiet panhandlers sitting along the wall leading to the lower harbour front walkway. In general, I find that panhandlers are more polite here than elsewhere. One woman actually had a Corelle teacup! (Probably a coffee cup if I base it by shape) Consider this, she was sitting across from the Empress, where afternoon tea runs at a whopping 78CAD (58USD) before taxes. And tips are expected!
As I walked back to my car I was struck by how much the landscape of Victoria appears to be shifting yet remains, in many ways, entrenched in the past and very closed to anyone without a high income. Victorians are besotted with their old buildings. It is not uncommon to come across the shell, or sometimes just the facade, of a once elegant, now faded, turn of the 19th or early 20th century, building. What is the draw? Real Estate. The latest is the Customs House, not ever a grand piece of architecture. (Not to be confused with the incredibly pink Old Customs House) Ah, it sits on a prime piece of real estate, harbour views galore, the grand dame Empress to one side, the legislature on the far side of the harbour.
I get it, living downtown, in a refurbished piece of a historical architecture is pretty neat. But at what cost? Yet another slap in the face of the poor, dare I say that these days the backbone, of Victoria? Tourism is what keeps the city ticking. I doubt even the smallest suite, 320 sq. ft. will sell for under one million – where there is such a cry for affordable housing. Besides, while I also get keeping the look of Victoria is part of what draws people here, sometimes it makes no sense. If we are trying to maintain traditional views why wrap it up, or is it fill it up, with so much glass and fake brass. Besides they did not even save the whole shell. (I still cannot get over green and red lights on the legislature over Christmas)
Which brings me to two funny incidents while I was heading home. One was nearby the rose garden of the legislature, and damned if my phone battery was nearly out of power, when I saw a woman pushing a bike, start to turn onto the sidewalk I was on, then abruptly turn and head back from whence she came before veering off towards a hedge. I know there was a security guard a bit further down, so my suspicious mind made me slow down, what could she be doing? Then, to really make me wonder, she appeared to take a sign from a plastic bag and plop it over the hedge before fastening on her helmet and riding down said sidewalk – past the guard. Sans sign. Intrigued, and too far away from the guard and the item, with very little battery power to snap a photo of the receding cyclist, I decided to saunter into the rose garden for a visit. (Sometimes my brain forgets there are some extremely sketchy people in Victoria) Nothing. Was I mistaken? Nope. A white poster had been tucked behind a tree that leans into the hedge. Perhaps she did not appreciate the message? Perhaps the security guard had presented it to her? I will never know but I did manage to get a photo! I also left it there.
I headed back to my car, even managed to eke out enough phone power to buy a London Fog before heading home. One more, very sudden, stop when I saw this at the gas station! I hope there was not anyone following too closely behind me when I made the turn! I did not need gas but how could I resist? I love trains! In the words of another blogger, a perfect moment!