Respect for Richard Gillett

With all of the celebrations and hype leading to the 150th anniversary of the founding of that thing we call Canada pride in our fair country is at something of a high. Evidence of it is everywhere and if you don’t believe me, just use retail capitalism as your wetted finger held to the wind. Take a stroll to your local dollar store and notice that the merchants have already placed, for sale, baubles and items of all types; mugs, shirts, even socks, all proudly wearing the maple leaf in our distinctive red and white.  Yay Canada and our so-non-populist-buffoon-leader ways! For me, though, trust and respect for the political leadership in Ottawa is at an all-time low.

And I lived through Brian Mulrooney AND Stephen Harper’s “Ottawa knows best” administrations. Good lord.

I am so very disappointed. In October 2015 when I joined the wave of those who were thoroughly pissed with the Conservatives and their seeming indifference towards all things east coast, cast my ballot accordingly, and awoke to the news of a Liberal majority I earnestly believed there was some cause for hope. Sure, the Liberal economic platform was shaky at best and the funk, both social and economic, that the previous administration had left us in was not one that could easily be escaped from but, by Da Dynes, it did seem like we’d turned some sort of a corner. The lineup of those we’d elected was so impressive: doctors, a war hero, scientists, economist even (and I’m taking this from something I saw online a year ago) “a @!&$#@& Astronaut!” — reason for hope.

Richard Gillett. I learned of him a few years back when he was first featured on Cold Water Cowboys; a brash, burly larger-than-life fish harvesting captain out of Twillingate. Rough, tough and very determined; the type of person that Ted Russell would write recitations about if he was still around to do it. The type of person Ron Hynes would sing of if he, too, was still around.

Not just determined, but principled too, and totally rotted with the current state of fisheries management, so much that around two weeks back he resolved to do something about it. He brought a cot, some plastic & such, and set up shop just outside the DFO in St. John’s—a hunger strike. He’s been joined, on and off, by supporters, some who even staged a protest on-site last Friday, slowing the egress of the workers heading home for the weekend. At least that got some news coverage.

Now what, you might ask, has been the result? What, indeed has been the response from that fine socially and environmentally conscious group of leaders in Ottawa in response to the one who most assuredly speaks right from the minds, mouths and hearts of the many, many NL’r’s who know all too well just what a struggle it’s always been to wrest a living from this cold unforgiving place we, for whatever reason, so dearly love? Just what has been the response from that finely tuned group of leaders in whom we have placed our trust and, more importantly, our hope?

A $@&%# phone call from the Minister of Fisheries offering a vague suggestion of a meeting a few weeks down the road, that’s what. Oh, and that the Minister of Fisheries was put out because the DFO employees were having trouble getting to work.

So what is it that Mr. Gillett has been asking for? Just what unreasonable demands were being put forward that required the standard negotiating tactic of stalling and testing resolve? Is he looking for unfettered access to the fish stocks? Does he want his taxes dropped to zero? A handout of cash, perhaps?

No, he wants the science behind fisheries management reviewed and he wants the relationship between the Federal Department of Fisheries and the current Fisheries union investigated.

Honest to God, as I type this, I’m just shaking my head from side-to-side, thinking, “he should not have to even ask for that!” Science is, by nature, tentative, which means that any conclusions reached should be considered as the best we can come up with the data and methods we used. As such they should always be open for question; always up for review and, yes, always questioned. It’s only in the light of bitter, passionate, opposition that the best truths will ever emerge.  The back-checks and reviews should be a part of the whole process anyway! As for the relationship between the Ministry and the Union, perhaps, in light of the protestations of the many fish harvesters who have expressed concerns, what’s wrong with taking a deeper look? For the average rank-and-file harvester absolutely no harm can come from it. The worst possible outcome is status quo, after all.

Tomorrow, I’ve been told, that Mr. Gillett will be joined by those who share his concerns. For my part, I imagine I will just make my way quietly to work, as always. I, too have a mound of debt to deal with and bills to pay so absence from work is not much of an option. I know though that it will be with a sense of guilt and not standing up for what’s right and for just letting another mother and father’s child do the job that I lack the resolve to do myself.

My thoughts won’t be far from that brave, tough, NL’r though and I wish him strength for the fight ahead. Perhaps you should too.

Posted in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Gertie

The insistent ring tone broke through,
put my sleep back on suspend.
Josephine, there, with the phone to her ear
hearing words I couldn’t comprehend.
“I’m going down to the hospital,” she said,
in a way that left no doubt.
“Let me take you,” I offered, true,
but not quite believing what this was all about.
But even through her tears
I knew I heard, “Mom’s gone.”
Together we rolled down the road in the cold
and early light of dawn.

“Why couldn’t I have been there?”
she managed through her tears.
“After all, Mom made no fuss about carrying us
through the toughest of our years.”
But nothing came to me by way of reply,
perhaps I wasn’t yet fully awake,
unused to be driving so early,
feeling this unwanted heartache.
The spirit inside of me felt smaller than usual
as I fumbled for a way to fix it or reply
Instead I let my thoughts go flowing into silence, knowing
I really wasn’t ready for goodbye.

It’s funny how in times like this
your thoughts can so crowd around
that in the span of a moment you can
cover so much time and ground.
So we drove in silence for a while
in that winter air and early morning light.
In those moments, though, I had the chance to go
revisit some sounds and sights.
The many, many events that shaped our memories
of the person so important to us all.
Too many to state but perhaps I can try to relate
a few back to you gathered before this pall.

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The past few days I’ve seen a bunch
of pictures taken from way back when
the kids were lighter, and things were tighter
because the house was smaller then.
So, how they did it? You might ask,
“what was the secret spell
that Gertie cast in that time past
so that things turned out so well?”
No, the family wasn’t rich but you could tell
they had all that they did need.
I’ll tell you now, if you’ll allow,
Gertie based her life on giving, not on greed.

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Just think back, one and all. about the times
she helped you out in any way.
She did what she could, without you feeling you should
have a debt you needed to repay.
She understood the gift of self,
something she freely gave to all who asked.
A kindness here, a favour there,
from a friend and champion so quiet yet steadfast
And I’m happy to say, that as is often the way,
it’s a gift that’s taken root
through the kindness shared down through the years
that have come to follow suit.

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Now, lest you think it was all so very serious and pious,
nothing is further from the case.
For it’s quite well known around our home
that a bit of fun she’d always be ready to embrace.
Think of the many times at the dances and such
when she’d get right on the bad.
Along with Alec stay til the first light of day,
just like the youngsters they would gad.
“Come on, let’s go!” and she’d make a show
of dragging you out onto the floor.
And do a waltz or a jig with the flick of the leg,
calling to the band to come back and play some more.

And speaking of gadding about I do recall,
a Christmas knock would never fail to make her grin.
Because in the name of fun Gertie was the one
who’d always let the mummers in.
And upon opening the door, she’d let them know
just who was the one in charge.
Two sips on their drinks and with nods and with winks
out onto the floor she’d barge.
“Now come on b’ys, let’s have a dance,
no need at all for you to feel so shy!”
And she’d give you a chance either a song or a dance,
each mummer would have to try.

And I do recall a few years back
when Gertie and a few of her offspring went out themselves.
Stockings on faces, a bunch of hard cases;
no mistaking them for Christmas elves.
Off they went from house to house
all for a dance some fun and even the scattered sup.
Some folks were traumatized I will have you advises
by that bunch of saucy pups.
Well the word got out on that hardy crew
that was mummering and making a fine Christmas fuss
‘til nobody’d let them in–twas quite a sin,
even made some of Gertie’s daughters cuss.

And the fun outdoors, she couldn’t be held back.
There were times she had poor Alec drove
I’ll have you to know just a few years ago
she even went for a dip up in the Mooring Cove.

And camping, sure it was her great delight
to visit with the crowd down in the park.
And no matter when she’d show you couldn’t get her to go
home til way long after dark.
For you knew full well it’d have to be an emergency
or some situation equally as dire
before you could prod that belle away from her spell
of sitting and gabbing by the fire.

And from fun we must run to the topic
of what gave her the greatest pleasure.
That’s an easy one, her best source of fun
was her family; her greatest treasure.
First her own crowd, then the kids, and then theirs too
and as of now even a brand new generation.
When she was with family even when sick you’d see her eyes blazing thick
with love and with adoration.
I even overheard two St. Clares nurses talking
about how supportive the family that she had.
Sure outside ICU, hundreds stood in a queue for hours–
don’t mind me, I’m just bad.

And when the priest dropped by to offer a blessing
and some hope for to impart
It was all he could do fer to keep with her
cause Gertie knew the prayers all off by heart.
“Slow down Mom, he’s here to bless you, not the other way around!”
her daughters all did say
The priest kept on going, laughed it off knowing,
“I can learn a thing or two from her about how to pray.”
For that self same maid who’s unafraid
to stand right here adorned with a set of bunny ears
also has, by design, her very own direct line
to office of The One that’s upstairs.

And just like that the daydreaming stopped
and there I was back in the car with Josephine.
Just a few seconds had passed leaving me quite aghast
at the memories of things done and seen.
But it was enough for I realized
that she really wasn’t gone.
A part, you see, was still with me
and forever, would live on.
And so, too, for you. You know it’s true.
I’m so sure I’m willing to make a bet
This has kindled thoughts anew in each one of you
in a way you’ll not ever forget.

And for now it’s sad. We must grieve Gertie,
who we all will dearly miss.
How could it not hurt? We’re human I assert
and the pain is a thing we cannot dismiss.
But time will pass, I don’t know how long.
But I do know that a day will come.
When a smile she will bring at the thought of something
we all did together with your mum.
And I’ll be happy to welcome that thought
into a brand new space I’ll be making for her so nice and new.
And that’s the way it should be–to be remembered lovingly
by each and every one of you.

Posted in family, poetry/songs | Tagged , | 6 Comments

The Difference a Day Can Make

It’s funny what a day can mean.
A good night’s rest can restore the sheen
on a life that sometimes leaves you shaking your head in disbelief.
I suppose it’s the stress we put on ourselves
as we channel our inner Santas and elves,
or maybe it’s just old Krampus who loves to hand out some seasonal grief.

Yesterday I should’ve figured out before
I passed in through my work’s front door
that the events of the day would go in a way that was not exactly what I’d planned.
It started when I arrived a bit late,
fumbled the card for the parking gate,
and watched that stick of wood on my car’s hood repeatedly slammed.

With the stick cracked off and my car banged up
I figured I’d calm my nerves with a nice Timmy cup.
I stood in the queue with the dishevelled few who’d just been doing laps over in the pool.
But as I crossed the walk to my work home
a driver heedlessly texting on a cellphone
almost mowed me down and I dropped my Joe on the ground just like a proper fool.

I’d no sooner entered the office and hung up my coat
when a gaggle of malcontents were there at my throat
Saying I marked them too hard & they were thus barred from getting their obligatory A’s.
When I offered that in class they were seldom seen
they took off downstairs to report me to the dean.
My tongue I restrained but I barely refrained from setting the papers on my desk ablaze.

Now that said, it would’ve been a good thing to do
as the thermostats ‘round here are set on minus two.
That and and also my wretched window simply refused to close.
I flicked the switch; nar light came on
except the light on my printer that said “toner’s all gone.”
Wonderful! Uploading marks here in the dark with all my fingers froze!

So I went to my computer, but to my chagrin
it was dead as all and I could not log in.
I sat there in a panic, with a problem titanic: how to upload my grades to banner1.
A sensible answer was nowhere to be found
so I figured it’d be best if I was homeward bound.
It seemed like a crime to be wasting my time in this unproductive manner.

I packed up my stuff and back home I went.
My patience all gone and my energy spent.
No Christmas tree, nor greenery could restore my total lack.
I turned off the phone’s notifying wails.
Didn’t even bother checking on my emails,
Traumatized and hoping no-one’d recognize I was nothing but a hack.

So I approached today with some trepidation
remembering the previous days’ vexations.
And, on my depart, I swore in my heart I’d have a better day at work.
And upon opening my office door
I found a note from IT upon the floor, saying,
“your computer is fine & it’ll be that way every time; you forgot to plug it in you jerk!”

And in just a few minutes I had my marks uploaded.
My email came online; not a thing had exploded.
Then the carpenter dropped by, with a glint in his eye, the window and lights he repaired.
And he casually mentioned, he’d just got free
from mending the gate for parking lot three,
where some omadon went and used his card wrong. “Too stunned to work here!” he declared

And I found a card with a thank-you note.
B’ys for a funk there’s no better antidote.
It made up for the fray from the previous day and all of the complaining
So ‘til next year no classes; no D2L2;
just a chance to enjoy this time of Noel.
And my wish for you is you feel the same too, and make the most of the holidays remaining.

Of course you realize this (mostly) fiction and is all in fun.

1Banner is the grades reporting system used at Memorial University.
2D2L is short for Desire2Learn, which is the Learning Management System used at Memorial for online course access.

Posted in Entertainment, poetry/songs, Society and Culture | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

A Lament for Lost Outport Libraries

Half the libraries to close—our rural places take another hit.
I considered it all, just struck in disbelief.
Just another in a slew of bad decisions
and I’m torn; should I be angry or feel grief?

First the financial disaster that is Muskrat Falls,
and the levy—not a tax; more like a fine.
And the nickel and diming, I could even take that,
but this latest move shows that we’ve crossed a line.

Still those in control insist this move will result
in a system that is better for us all.
The rurals can dump their kids to fetch some books
when they drive to town to stock up at the mall.

The plan: drop off your ‘scrip, and go grab a burger
while the library staff diligently minds your kids
then take the hour-long drive back home
on winter roads, avoiding potholes, moose and skids.

Seems all so great ‘til you think about it and realize
that’s not really how libraries are supposed to work.
They’re not dumping grounds where you grab some stuff
and take off while your kids just run berserk.

My thoughts drift back to Southern Harbour
in Placentia Bay, the place that I once called home.
Mild winters, lots of fish, good work but still
nearly always under a misty, thick fog filled dome.

On those many, many days when the weather was too poor
to chase after a puck or smack around a ball
off to the library we’d all head for the afternoon.
Me—the bookworm—I’d figure we had ‘er scalled.

The names that then became my lifelong friends
Adams, King, Archer, LeGuin, Asimov and Dick,
Niven, Clarke, Zelazney, Thompson,
Hinton, Herriot—so many more I could pick.

I’d never have known about their thoughts
and stories of worlds far better than I could dream.
Without them I figure I’d still be stuck in the past
and soaking up the crap from each new political team.

And the sense of community that Bride created
along with the library board—she made it such
that singalongs, story time and celebrations
added to books and reading that special touch.

But now austerity is the only word.
Whatever judged “not needed” has to close.
So outport libraries are seen as waste;
so called “low hanging fruit” one does suppose.

Know what? What frightens me to the core
is the realization that we are now led by
those who fail to see the beyond the moment
and understand the reasons for the outcry.

There’s more to life than working a job to make
enough to pay your taxes and your bills
with just enough left for fast food and perhaps
some meds and other stuff to treat your ills.

It’s not just about a few books and “shh.”
it’s even about more than basic literacy.
It’s more than access to internet and government docs.
It’s more than the facts to support curiosity.

No, more than anything libraries are living symbols of the hope;
the feeling that, through knowledge and wisdom we can do much more—
a thing our forebears knew so very well.
Now I fear for what the future might have in store.

Because with those closings that hope won’t shine so bright;
yet another reason to pack it up and leave.
And what of those who still decide to stay
in a place diminished, perhaps for them we’ll grieve.

For myself, and in the here and now
it won’t matter much, my job surrounds me with all I need.
Besides, right now I earn enough
to pay for Internet and the things I choose to read.

But things are cyclical and there will surely come a time
when I find myself in some underfunded private health care home
without the work and responsibility that nurtures me today
family grown and feeling so very much alone.

I will no longer get the refuge I once found
in that place of respect, knowledge, in which I felt secure;
no longer will I find the books and things
like I once did, just a short walk from my door.

But it is what it is, I and I know, it’s true
so often things are decided on a whim
by those who understand and use them the least
and just want their way; only want to win.

Still, the savings are so miniscule against
the deficit that it’s supposed to reduce
and we know the damage that this act will do
and for that stupidity there can be no excuse.

Posted in Newfoundland and Labrador, poetry/songs, Society and Culture | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Second Snowstorm in April

Just last week after the last blizzard
I dropped my car off at the shop
figuring I’d seen the last of winter’s blast
the guys gave my winter tires the swap.

Now it’s not because I like the look
of my lovely alloy wheels
and it’s not because I like the way
driving with skinny summer tires feels.

No it’s really because I’ve been a teacher too long
and I’ve a reputation to upkeep.
From those winter tires I’ll get five years
and I don’t care if you call me cheap.

But I feel a little off this morning
with the weather so very wicked
and my car on the lawn up off the road
lest the Pearlie cops give me a ticket.

So what odds I’ll head ‘er out
and crawl my way to work
driving slow with cars backed up behind.
I’ll be that slow coach you think’s a jerk.

But laugh all you want, it’s spring after all
soon the rain and fog will melt it down
and soon enough we’ll get to see again
winter garbage strewn about the town.

So when you drive with your studded tires
all decked off like tracks on a skidoo
ripping ruts in the road as you go along
I’ll be the one who’s cussing you.

Posted in poetry/songs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Day the Dreams all Died

A few years back when oil flowed free
we all bowed down on bended knee
and gave thanks that “have not” was no more.
But now that the oil’s so cheap
there’s no thanksgiving; it’s time to weep
and with no savings the wolf’s back at our doors.

So last fall we turfed the old crowd out.
“A Stronger Future,” we heard the new crowd shout.
“But first let us consult.
You’ll all love the result.”

So we all sat in anticipation;
a brilliant plan our expectation;
solution to our situation;
but now we all sit in agitation
the day all hope just died…

So bye bye that future’s a lie;
sold my Chevy for the levy ‘
cause my account has gone dry.
Don’t have enough left to drown my sorrows with rye.
I’ll be in debt ‘til the day that I die.

I’m hit with even more HST
and in an province that has low literacy
we’re the first to get taxed on books.
Now insurance is subject to that tax
gas’ll go so high I my vaccy got the axe.
Guess I’ll be buying my ciggies from the crooks.

And as for your kids still in school:
bugger classes will be the rule.
And I hope you’ve got an RESP
‘cause it’s about to cost more for your degree.

And while we hoped for some light ahead,
or some compassion, what we got instead
was told to suck it up—
got handed a bitter empty cup
the day all hope just died

So bye bye that future’s a lie;
sold my Chevy for the levy ‘
cause my account has gone dry.
Don’t have enough left to drown my sorrows with rye.
I’ll be in debt ‘til the day that I die.

I just sit and listen to the news.
“Can this get worse?” the mind does muse.
But then I think of that mess called Muskrat Falls.
Barely worth it at 6 now going to 12 billion dollars.
“It’ll make light bills double,” commons sense hollers,
and if the North Spur fails we’ll all have sweet F—all.

And still they’re taking shots in the dark.
it’s started with closing Masonic Park.
Something about money savin’
too bad I don’t believe ‘en.

And perhaps the thing that hurts the most
as I consider heading for the west coast
is that for a time I did believe their boasts…
…but now the hope has died

And I’m singing…

So bye bye that future’s a lie;
sold my Chevy for the levy ‘
cause my account has gone dry.
Don’t have enough left to drown my sorrows with rye.
I’ll be in debt ‘til the day that I die.

Perhaps I’ll move the family to Brunei.

 

Posted in Newfoundland and Labrador, Society and Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 15 Comments

Caller: this is Windows…

You know those guys who call on the land line and insist that they’re calling from “Windows – and that your computer has a virus?” These days I have a script right by the phone and I just read it off.

Oh, the computer has a virus. Which one are you referring to?
My old Dell Laptop that I use for a media server by the TV?
My HP laptop that I need to replace soon?
My PC downstairs that I also use as a print server?
Or maybe it’s not a computer at all, maybe its my android phone?
Or my Nexus Tablet?
Or the iPad from work?

Oh, wait, maybe it’s not mine at all. Maybe it’s my wife’s HP laptop?
Or perhaps her iPad?
Or maybe her iPhone?

It could be one of the kids’ machines too.
Maybe my eldest son’s desktop PC?
Or his Lenovo laptop?
Or maybe his Android phone?
Or his 3DS?
Or his Sony Vita or his old PSP?
Or his PS4?

Or maybe the next-oldest son?
Maybe his desktop PC?
Or his old Dell laptop?
Or his new Lenovo Laptop?
Or his DS?
Or his Android phone?

Maybe even the youngest son.
Maybe his Desktop PC?
Or his HP laptop?
Or his Android tablet?
Or his Android phone?
Or his 3DS

Maybe even the daughter.
Perhaps it’s her Toshiba laptop?
Or her Android Tablet?
Or her Android Phone?

Maybe it’s none of those.
It could be the Xbox One,
Or the Xbox 360
Or the Wii?
Maybe even one of the old game boys?

Hell it could be one of the really old ones – the original Xbox or one of the Dreamcast Units. They haven’t been used in years but still might be left on ‘cause there’s a fine heat coming up from the basement?

“Is it warm out your way? Enough to freeze ya here—except for all the heat from the basement, what with all the  $%#& viruses I must have they’re all working overtime, eh, b’y?””

I’ve never NEVER gotten to the bottom of the list. Somewhere along the line after I ignore his repeated attempts to say, “the one closest to you,” he says a few bad words and hangs up.

Shagger. I don’t even get the last line; the one where I call HIM an arsehole and hang up.

I love it anyway.

Posted in Entertainment, Society and Culture | 11 Comments

And Then it Got Worse

The first strains of the story: the lone female firefighter and member of the municipal council in a nearby small town alleged a long history of discrimination against her. My first response: disbelief. In my defense, it’s a learned response, a natural one to the tonnes of pure bullshit I’ve encountered throughout my life; at school, at work, in social gatherings, in the media…essentially everywhere. The stuff—if you care to look beyond the obvious—is so prevalent that, unless you wish to live a hermit’s life, the only response you can possibly have is to assume that everything you get second-hand has to be false and that a burden of proof rests on the story’s teller. “What makes you say that?” my inner voice always inquires whenever I hear anything.

But then the evidence came. Piece by piece the story came together: Brenda Seymour, the sole female member on s volunteer fire department denied the opportunity for advancement or further training. A personal, successful effort to obtain that training resulted in still no advancement opportunities. Time after time she was denied a fair shake but still she persevered.

The disbelief was replaced by a rising anger. How blind and spiteful could her so-called colleagues possibly be?

I sought answers; discussed it with friends and fellow workers. The overwhelming feeling was the same as mine. The one conclusion was that it was increasingly evident that the volunteer fire department in that rural community must have become the one sole holdout mens’ club and was fiercely holding on to that status for dear life. How quaint. Here in the 21st century there still remains, here and there, the notion that women need to be regularly and systematically excluded from the company of men and, furthermore, the civil unit charged with saving life and property is the most appropriate place to do it. Let the pretty little women busy their cute quiet adorable helpless selves (1) making cold plates to raise money and (2) laundering our undies and / or otherwise cleaning up after us. We men folk have real work to do; tasks that they are clearly not fit for.

Let’s take a quick joke-break. Riddle me this: how do you summarize the Entire Russian History in five words?

Answer: And Then It Got Worse

That’s just what happened to this story. Shortly after the evidence started to pile up in favour of Ms. Seymour a story came to light about an alleged short (not that “short” matters at all) pornographic video that was shown at the end of firefighting training session, a session in which Ms. Seymour was the lone female in attendance. (Sweet $#@!&% I can’t believe I just wrote that.) Apparently everyone had laughed at it. The training officer responsible for the “event” gave several radio interviews, verified that he had done it, and went on to indicate that he “meant no innuendo” and he’d only done it to “help blow off some steam” and it must have been OK because “even she laughed at it.”

I was driving home from work. I was tired and could think of nothing intelligent to say. Suddenly I was aware of what it must feel like when under the influence of mushrooms or acid. I tried to say something but in light of what I’d just heard my brain was simply incapable of forming any coherent thought. I imagine what happened to my neurons, under the influence of that onslaught of complete and utter ignorant bullshit was roughly the equivalent of what happens to your whole body when suddenly immersed in ice-water. Biological function temporarily ceases. Paralysis. Yes, complete bran paralysis.

I managed a snort. That was it.

Son #2, who was also in the car, recovered before me, “Technically the part about no innuendo was correct as innuendo implies a degree of subtlety. Nothing subtle about what he did.”

That was it. The anger boiled over. How in the name of GOD could anyone be that stupid? He showed pornography (yes, pornography!!!!) in an educational setting and not only saw absolutely nothing wrong in it but also is now angry at Ms. Seymour who has, in his mind, now betrayed the trust and camaraderie he had so perfectly brought together! Ah, yes, nothing brings da b’ys together like some shared porn and how dare that uppity woman for upsetting the cozy happy state of affairs he has so proudly cultivated in the 300 or so firefighting men he’s trained.

And then it got worse; more stories about the less-than-stellar behaviour of Ms. Seymour’s colleagues, including one about a firefighter’s headgear that’s just plain too disgusting to relate. Take my word for it.

And then it got worse; efforts to remove the pesky Ms. Seymour, clearly an all-out troublemaker, from council.

And then it got worse; twenty members of the fire department not only resigned but also, a few of the more thuggish among them saw fit to buzz by–intimidate, that is–on their loud snow machines when the media tried to interview Ms. Seymour.

Through it all, though, Ms. Seymour kept that same quiet dignity that she has so consistently displayed both on council and at the fire department. “I learned a lot of things in training to be Firefighter 2,” she noted in a radio interview, “but giving up was not one of them.”

Anger finally gone, I thought about how I should be feeling.

I thought about the many times she’d been denied promotion but no fellow man had shown the courage to speak up.

I thought about the community rally that had been organized to “save our men.” It had been judged appropriate that the quiet efforts of one victimized woman had resulted in the need for the whole community to gather behind and lend support to the male bullies. Poor things.

I thought about the group of men, plus one woman, that had viewed porn in an educational setting. Some thought it was funny but most likely felt some degree or other of awkwardness. None of the men, though, ever did stiffen their spine and object, instead taking the easy way out a just going along with it.

I thought about the chiefs—all men—who had never bothered to show leadership when it was required. That filthy disgusting incident with the head gear, for instance. Did it even occur to the chief that the one and only correct response was, “Go get your belongings and go home. Don’t come back.”?

Shame it is, then. There’s no choice left, is there? The kind of systematic, pack-related bullying experienced by Ms. Seymour was done by a large, organized group of men. Not only was the abuse done by many, and over a long period of time but, far worse than that, never once. NOT EVEN ONCE did a group of men or even a single measly male voice speak up and demand that it be stopped. This is not something that can be dismissed as the actions of a few yahoos. It is not something that can be attributed to a “small town mentality” or anything like it.

No, it’s far worse. It’s a vestigial nasty, ugly, primitive little piece of evil that has managed to stay in the male gene pool despite the fact that it provides absolutely no evolutionary advantage whatsoever. This is something that reflects not only on the poor clueless fools who still seek to defend their mindless misogynistic lives, but on all of the rest of us who have chosen to remain silent so many times when we bore witness to something similar. Because we have.

Shame it is.

To my female friends: if it seems that I’m a little more shy or withdrawn over the next few days now you know why. Please don’t make any effort to “make things better” by pointing out that not every man is as clueless, ignorant and just plain hateful as the few who continue to defend the actions I’ve outlined. Sometimes people need to be left in a funk for a while and allowed time to reflect on certain things they have taken for granted for far too long.

I noticed on social media that we should forgive the perpetrators because of the courage they have all shown through the years. We are assured that it takes great courage to run into a burning building.

No, it doesn’t. It takes nothing more than adrenaline. We’re wired for it. Under the right circumstances, especially with a crowd egging you on, anyone could do it. It’s a one shot thing, nothing more.

Real courage is what you have when you stand up and face overwhelming adversity.

Again.

And again.

And again.

I’m left to reflect on the courage and dignity shown by Ms. Seymour throughout all of this. I notice also that the Mayor of Spaniard’s Bay has written an apology to Ms. Seymour. I suppose it’s a start.

Now, I ask you, do you really think that the story that originated in Spaniard’s Bay, NL is a single, isolated one?

And then it got…

Posted in Newfoundland and Labrador, Society and Culture | Tagged , | 16 Comments

The Northern Coal Miner

For most of my life I’ve worked here at the mine,
this dim miserable dusty old hole.
From when I rise from my sleep, ‘til I’m ready to drop
it’s all about digging the coal.

“Can’t slow down, Boys,” the boss cheerfully laughs,
his eyes so twinkling and bright,
“The demand for our stuff continues to rise
and, besides, we’ll need extra tonight.”

CHORUS
How I dream, as each day slips by me in the dark
how my life could have been different from this;
how instead of the aches, the cuts and the cough
I’d be up there, living day-to-day bliss.

The work is so tough I can barely recall
the times when it wasn’t so hard
back when I was young, and had fun with my friends
when my back was still straight, hands unscarred.

But good times never last and I was handed my lot:
mine or factory—a choice drawn from a hat
I closed my eyes, made a wish, and drew out my slip…
bad luck in the draw and that’s that.

(Chorus)

And now every day, as I swing the hammer
and drill to cut the black rock by the tonne
I try not to think of the lucky ones up above
and the good times, through fate, that they’ve won.

The factory above is so different from here,
a place of joy built for life driven by skill.
Sure, there’s still lots of work to be done
but it’s clean, safe, and a place for good will.

(Chorus)

But I know I should stop dreaming of those fine things,
pick up my tools, and do what I must.
My day’s quota of coal is not met for today
so I’ll get back to hacking rocks through the dust.

Tonight’s the biggest day of our calendar year.
Above ground they’ve been loading the goods all the day.
Down here we’ve turned on the second conveyer belt—
half for the furnace, and half for the sleigh.

And well I imagine the Boss’s big hearty laugh
tonight as the sleigh takes to air from the snow
finally loaded and ready for kids good or bad:
(SPOKEN) toys or coal, “Merry Christmas, Ho Ho Ho!”

(Chorus)

Posted in poetry/songs, Society and Culture | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Christmas Songs: My Top Ten (Part 3 of 3)

Mummers’ Song

by Simani

Mummering is an age old tradition that came to our shores along with the European visitors who, for one reason or another, decided to stay. These days it’s only practiced occasionally and mainly in our rural communities where people are fairly certain that those weirdly-garbed visitors have lunacy, not larceny on their minds.

This time of year you’ll find it impossible to attend any party and not hear it. For a DJ, if people are in a particularly lazy mood this one is a sure bet to get people off their backsides and out onto the dance floor for a scuff.

The nonstalgic sentiment it beings is something that never seems to get old. “Why is that?” you might wonder. Some might say that it’s just the nonstalgic longing that is associated with either (a) expats who wish they could be home again or (b) those who have consumed too much of the craic.

Perhaps.

Still others might say it’s related to the fact that we’re never satisfied. No matter what we have we always want more.

Perhaps.

I think it’s more complicated and something else entirely. Let’s start with a bit of wisdom I gleaned from my brother in law Darrell some years back. At a Boxing Day party with all of the extended family present one of our sisters in law was walking around videoing people’s responses to, “What’s your favourite part of Christmas?” Darrel’s answer was the only one that has stuck with me, “watching the kids opening their presents.” It’s true, isn’t it? There are few pleasures that compare with the one that you might refer to as “the spirit of giving” and it’s made all the more magical by the presence of others. A one to one gift exchange is touching, but one in which many are present is downright magical.

It’s all about the shared experience, and that’s the whole point here. Once, not too long ago in my province, there was no electricity grid, few radios, fewer still TVs and, of course, no Internet. The fun that people had was built around the whole idea of the shared experience and included things like religious celebrations, dances, card games, parties…and mummuring.

Crude though these events may seem when viewed through the modern day lens that includes personal computers, big screen TVs, they were, arguably, an order of magnitude more intense in terms of raw enjoyment. That, not anything else, is what I suspect it is that people are longing for.

So let’s go have some fun—together.

Christmas 1915

by Cormac McConnell, performed by Celtic Thunder

The uniforms worn by the performers resemble the one worn my my Grando MacCormack and suddenly I’m drawn back in time…

The first stop is to the collectively-recalled times of my youth when the “Christmas Parcel” would arrive from Ireland. Grannie and Grando always prepared a festive package with treats for all. For my Mom and Dad there’d be…stuff. I honestly cannot recall what they’d get. You know how it can be with children’s awareness in times of great excitement, such as the opening of the parcel. The focus narrows, tunnel like, to just what pertains to them. The stuff for the parents amounted to little more than something to heighten the anticipation for the ‘real’ stuff. Next, the pudding and cake with it’s double-layered icing. The marzipan was my favourite. The box of Fry Cadbury chocolate, it’s contents to be distributed 2 or 3 pieces at a time would then emerge. Second-last were the Annuals. My Beano would be read, and re-read so many, many times. Finally the gifts for me and my sister. Legos would be my favourite.

And then off to the next stop, the world experienced by my Grando when he served in the Somme from 1915 until 1919. The song that follows is based on real-life events that were reported here and there along the front, in France and Belgium, one hundred years ago. Perhaps he was a part of it. I don’t know. Like most vets he did not speak of his time there.

You might listen to this song and get only a simple message—a cry for peace. I see so much more. Like war itself, perhaps this song is much more complicated than it seems. For those who choose to only see the futility of war I can only offer the simple fact that the majority of the countries involved in the “Great War” and the World War that followed 20 years later have not since taken arms against one another. Perhaps one lesson learned from those huge conflicts was the need to set war as only the absolute last resort and not to be so quick to set sights only on the opportunity for glory and honour since they only come at a staggering cost of human life.

As for those lives, regardless of which ‘side’ the fought for it’s plain to me that they were not and are given in vain. Though wars continue to be fought throughout our world there are still many places where peace continues to be the norm. Every second of that peace was bought and paid for by the blood of those men and women who bravely offer themselves to do what most of us deem as unthinkable. It seems therefore only right to honour those who put our peace ahead of their own safety by showing respect in any way we can and by doing our own part to ensure that war remains the choice of last resort.

Could those same soldiers who enjoyed that all too brief soldiers’ truce ever imagine what would eventually come of their actions? Now, exactly one hundred years later, can we?

I’ll be There Christmas Eve

by Ron Hynes, performed by the Ennis Sisters

There’s something of an irony in the way that a time of the year that brings the most joy can also bring back memories and feelings of pain, of hurts in inflicted by and inflicted on. The feelings come, though, perhaps triggered by a scent, something spoken to you in confidence, or a song associated with the season. You turn your head away from the crowd, fearful lest someone see your moment of weakness in the midst of often forced holiday cheer.

Perhaps it’s just balance, Maybe there’s some universal tally being kept such that every down has an up, every bad has a corresponding good, every heart-wrenching cry has a corresponding joyful laugh.

Perhaps it’s the case that every hurt inflicted does, in the act of its creation, also generate its polar opposite, a quantum anti-particle that also contains the right measure of atonement and forgiveness to nullify the misdeed. Who knows? After all, even though the physical world is, and always will be, far beyond human understanding, if there’s one thing physicists know it is that the universe loves symmetry.

Of course this is all just idle speculation. If, though, it turns out that’s the case then it behooves us all to keep an ever vigilant eye out for those golden opportunities for us to create a balance where once there was none. Our little speck of a world is right now in sore need of better equality between hurt and forgiveness.

Missed parts 1 and 2? No worries–links can be found to both at the top right of this page under “recent posts.”

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged , , | 8 Comments