Friday Wrap #35 – Coffee and crowds

I am not a fan of large social events. Mixers and gatherings are one of the things I try to eschew the most. Since the pandemic, this has only been heightened – but this avoidance need existed long before global health emergencies. For work assignments I try to trade off going to these events, preferring to cover almost anything else. It’s not the people – the people are great. Just these events are not for me.

It seems I average having to go to one of these events per year. Last year’s was different. I presented a pitch before a group of nearly 200 women on behalf of the soccer organization I am involved with. Seeking money for a group to do something got me out of my shell… I spent the next week in as much solitude as I could find.

This year, I was not so lucky. It’s still a good cause, business awards. I am observing as usual, which is why I was on the clock for it. Still, I feel awkward. I prescribe to the old journalism adage of take only photos and notes – and coffee – from events. I was the only person in the room not eating breakfast, and I brought my own coffee this time.

My coffee, from my leaking coffee mug. Last Christmas, my kids got me a great Yeti Cup. This summer, I lost it. Or I think I did. Maybe someone else lost it as it was always being borrowed. I am not opening that can of worms. I lost the cup. I’ve had to switch back my old Bubba cup. I liked that cup when I first got it, but the seal leaks if you don’t have the lid tightened down super tight. Having your morning coffee leak out the side of the lid and spill on your Hawaiian shirt is not a good look. And I don’t like to waste coffee.

I switched coffee recently. Illy – a medium roast Italian coffee. A cup of this feels like the coffee is giving you a big warm hug. So good.

It’s not cheap, but what is anymore? Mortgages are expensive, buying a house more so. Houses that 5 years ago listed for $250,000 are now $500,000 – that $500,000 house still looks like a $250,000 house though. Even dumps are going for $3-400,000. Add in new windows, roof, kitchen, bathrooms, and flooring and you’re back at that $500,000. The dream of home ownership in Canada is quickly becoming a nightmare for most.

I have little sympathy for people complaining about their high mortgages though, especially the interest rate hikes. Sensible people live within their means and get five year fixed rate mortages. Gambling with your term and rate is a bet you’ll always lose.

Groceries are worse. It’s odd though that the Prime Minister has forcefully hauled the execs from the top grocery chains in to say “Lower the prices or else.” And even more odd is the top execs are saying “oh okay, we will.” Odd, until you realize it isn’t odd – it’s theatre.

Grocery chains in Canada have for the last few years locked their prices in after Thanksgiving until the New Year. Last year, there were news stories about this because Loblaws said “no more price increases until the new year” but then were slagged for this same reason. Chains freeze prices on most groceries due to the season.

So it’s theatre of the political nature from Justin Trudeau and the execs of Loblaws, etc. Nothing new. There’s theatre all around us.

Pierre Polievre flogged the $120 turkey this past week as what Canadians face at the grocery store because of Trudeau. Cue the buzzer. That turkey, which was posted on BlogTO, known for such insightful news like “Here are the top 10 Victorian era looking towns in Ontario” and “Toronto has a new spot for Korean food.” The turkey in question is sold at Longos which is a high end food retailer. It comes pre-cooked by Longos’ staff and with the fixings. Most Canadians buy frozen turkeys, Butterballs, not have the grocery store cook it for you. This is no different than a few years ago with $8 cauliflower. Shop around, which MOST Canadians did, and the stores with $8 cauliflower were higher-end stores, No Frills and Food Basics had these for $4.

It makes me wonder where people like Polievre and Trudeau get their information from. Probably just Blog TO. Maybe they need to read a real newspaper or pick up a flyer. Turkeys this week are $27-60 depending on the size. Still expensive, but not that bad compared to Polievre’s unrealistic exemplar.

Thank you for reading Wanderings – Selected writing by Phillip Blancher. This post is public so feel free to share it. Free, unlike your $119.99 turkey from Longos.


Minimum wage went up in Ontario by $1.05. Great for low wage income earners. Not so great for anyone else whose pay is not indexed. In many industries, the gap between minimum wage and a liveable wage is growing, not shrinking. It is cyclical: increase minimum wage, employers increase prices to customers, customers pay more, and to be able to pay more – employees need a wage increase. Business is cyclical. Wages are cyclical. Real estate is cyclical. And I always seem to find myself on the wrong side of the cycles. But at least I have good Italian coffee to drown my sorrows and prep me for another day.

Three things…

Something to listen to: I don’t know why I thought this was Bruce Cockburn singing this. Turns out it’s Eddie Vedder. As soon as I learned it, it made sense with the Pearl Jam connection. Funny how some songs and singers can change their voice without autotune and all that BS.

Something to watch: My football club, West Ham United, won its 17th straight European competition, breaking an English record for most consecutive wins by an English professional club. Playing in the Europa League this season, because they won the Conference League this past June, West Ham are sitting higher up in the Premier League table too. Early into the season, it’s good to see the changes at the club after losing Declan Rice to Arsenal (insert obligatory insult to that team here.) Additions like Edson Álvarez and Mohammed Kudus from Ajax (pronounced Eye-axe not A-Jax) have been great. Better still, James Ward-Prowse, the set piece master. He has contributed towards most of the Hammers’ goals this season. I was skeptical taking him from Southampton after the Saints were relegated. I am very glad to have been proven wrong. West Ham’s Europa League game against Freiburg in Germany was indicative of being a West Ham fan. Dodgy at times, pull out some hair as you get frustrated with the tactics, then the goals come forth. Rollercoaster ride indeed.

Something to read: Since there is a soccer theme, here we go. I am involved with a youth soccer club, and that club tries to keep registration fees low. Low fees means more access to the sport for more people. Some people choose other clubs, which have higher fees but can also offer super competitive travelling soccer, etc. That’s fine. Some play both. That’s also fine. Unless you’re an exec with one of the super competitive travelling clubs because they want youth to pay the high fees to go to their clubs. Money pyramid.

Money in youth sports is nothing new, but it is accellerating in cost increases. Higher fees, more “opportunity.” I don’t agree but whatever.

A few years ago, the NPR sports show Only A Game published this story on this problem in the US. Switch Football in the story for Hockey and you have Canada. This story is three years old, but not old here. Certainly relevant.

PS on this one, I really miss Only A Game. It was such a great sports show.

Last word: This quote is by Unknown, who seems to be really popular in the quote world. Everything is by Unknown. What a star!

“Coffee, because adulting is difficult.” – Unknown