Appeared in the North Shore News – February 3, 2012
FAMOUS saying: You can’t beat city hall. But occasionally you can persuade the folks there to see the error of their ways.
So Neil Thompson convinced West Vancouver town hall to consider expanding public skating hours at the local rink. Took him only eight years. And no final decision yet.
Thompson’s proposals aren’t all that revolutionary. They seem to be the essence of good sense. He suggests skating for adults and high school students Fridays and Saturdays from 8 to 10 p.m. Currently there is an adults only skate Tuesday nights at 6: 15 and Friday nights at 6: 45 (“couldn’t be at a more inconvenient time,” he notes) and no public skating Saturdays and Sundays.
Thompson is a fine, old style West Van character, preyuppification, pre-monster houses, pre-insane real estate prices. Visibly successful, in earlier life he was an investment dealer.
His age won’t be divulged here because he looks young enough to be a magnet for women half his calendar years. And he is. He and Kia, his tiny schipperke dog, are fixtures at Ambleside Beach. With friend and retired geologist Stan Fleischman – who has his own canine companion, gentle retriever Tessie – they can be seen on a beachside bench greeting passersby and solving the world’s problems any sunny day.
But there is steel under that charming exterior. Thompson has opinions. Strong ones. He disseminates them freely and frequently in letters to the editor of this and lesser papers – and to West Van council and staff. Some approach the rotundity and style of the Magna Carta.
It was his campaign for public skating changes that finally wore down town hall. “I was advised to ‘forget about it,’ ‘you’ll never change city hall,’ and ‘get a life, relax, why be concerned,'” he reminded mayor and council in a December letter chronicling eight years of frustration.
“But, eureka! A ray of hope appeared. A call from city hall said my name was put forward to act as an advocate for the public and to attend the yearly meeting of rink users to discuss time allocations. A window of opportunity – thanks, city hall!”
Thompson attended the meeting, “loaded for bear” and prepared for a fight. “Wow, guess what? These other users said one by one, “sounds reasonable to me,” “why not?” . . . 100 per cent support, co-operation and good will.”
Battle-scarred, the war not yet over, Thompson is cautious: “The new schedules are made this month for the new year. We must hope oldstyle bureaucracy does not prevail to kill this initiative.”
. . .
May I praise a North Shore News advertiser? Thank you.
Last August, Sears’ furnace serviceman visited our house and left us $901 poorer. Fair enough. The furnace, approaching its 40th birthday, was due for serious work.
In November it began to growl. Then howl. Patience exhausted, I phoned Sears, prepared for heated, you might say, debate. A good offence being better than a good defence, I launched into a belligerent complaint.
I was nearing full flight before realizing the Sears furnace man was calmly agreeing with me. Fixed. Under warranty. No charge.
In contrast, I recently dealt with an urgent bathroom problem at my tenanted house. A plumber visiting on another matter offered to fix it on his own time for $2,600 – cash. Meaning no receipt, no guarantee, no tax, no thanks.
When I turned to a well-established Vancouver plumbing company claiming membership in the Better Business Bureau, and a tiler of more vague credentials, they piously denounced such illegal moonlighting. They got the job – and their bill totalled $5,000-plus.
Faced with five tenants and one shower, I admit barely glancing at estimates and rushing acceptance. An emergency, a west-side house, a West Vancouver landlord: Beware, that’s a recipe for creative arithmetic for slippery tradesmen.
Now hear this: I pay quickly. But time passed. No receipts followed. Nothing to prove they’d done the work at all. In short, no better than that under-the-table moonlighter. When, under pressure, they produced receipts, the plumber had stretched 4½ hours into seven – at $95 per.
The lesson is: The big company, Sears, stood behind its work – and big companies, so often popularly maligned because they’re big, generally do.
Reminder: The tradesman who comes in your door is not your friend. He’s there on business – his.
. . .
No music critic was in sight for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s Jan. 26 matinee. Pity. They’d have seen a sensational seduction satire from Bizet’s Carmen between soprano Nadya Blanchette and beloved host Christopher Gaze. She lassoed him with her red scarf. She drew him unwillingly near. They rubbed backs, yes, on the dignified Orpheum stage! They ended with a torrid kiss that would have been banned in Boston, even today. The audience (our average age around 100) was convulsed with laughter, or envy.
© Trevor Lautens, 2012