The Flat Earth Society



Location: Isolation cell on Starship Oumuamua, somewhere in the Pegasus Constellation. Earth distance:643,425,000 km. Sun distance: 546,000,000 km. Speed: 100 km/s (At that speed Dear Leader Duh-wite could get in his Audi A8 in St. John's, NL and be in Vancouver, BC in 1 minute 15 seconds.) Earth calendar: February 11, 2018, 2.20 AM.

Few people other than spouse are aware of my considerable experience with teleportation--the ability to travel great distances on earth or throughout the solar system by harnessing the power of ordinary AM radio waves--the things that bring you voices and music when you turn on your radio.

I have not shared this knowledge widely less some unscrupulous politicians like Dear leader Duh-wite and his gang find out what I am up to and send the constabulary over to my house to conduct a raid in the middle of the night. Spouse does not like to be disturbed when she is lying on a beach in the south sea islands of her dreams.

It all started back in the 1960s before spouse came along, interrupted my nocturnal fantasies, and according to her set me firmly on the path to a normal productive life. I learned at the time that big radio stations like WHRP, a 100,000-watt AM border station in Rosarito, Mexico, boomed in at peak power every night at 1 AM. There and then I got the idea of rigging up a satellite dish made from heavy duty aluminum foil to reflect the powerful radio waves in such a way as to beam myself up to any destination I chose. A few misadventures came my way and I nearly disappeared altogether in one incident.

Another time I accidentally beamed myself through a black hole in outer space which is like the whirlpool in a toilet when you flush it, only much bigger. That was the time when I beamed myself up in late 1965 and wound up 60 years into the future at the bottom of2025. I landed right on top of Muskrat Falls. As I flashed over Newfoundland that night, I saw long lines of refugees dressed in rags and moaning from starvation as they trudged through the snow towards Canada. And to think I could have warned people about all this but, nobody would have listened.



My snitch, RS from MP, has been back in touch recently after many months of silence. "Government is a dangerous place to work these days," he whispered. "You never know when you'll be vaporized and replaced by a friend of the party. Yesterday, they disappeared Steve Winter, the CEO at the liquor commission. Lynn Sullivan, a failed Liberal candidate was hired in his place. She's..."

"Yes, yes, I heard the story on the news," I said impatiently. "Get on with it. The constabulary is probably tapping our wires now, just like they did to Donald Trump."

"Rumour has it," he said, "that Big Eddie and Double Dipper Byrne have now bought up all the diseased fish from the ocean farms in Placentia Bay. They have entered a price-fixing scheme with the supermarkets to foist it on the good citizens of our wind-swept land as 'gluten-free natural Atlantic salmon'."

Even spouse said she wouldn't put it past them after what they did to bread last year. I think she's coming around to my way of thinking. With that, she cracked open a new bottle of Fifty Shades of Bay and poured herself a (L)iberal drink. She promises to give up Fifty Shades when government weed comes on the market.

Spouse, though, is strangely silent these days whenever I relate my latest conspiracy theory with respect to the Liberals and their collusion with big corporations that provide large donations to the party (hello Kruger, EY, Grieg SeaFarms...). She seems more receptive when I throw a few aliens from outer space into the mix which happens frequently after my medicinal midnight drink.

Just last night, I partook of my usual after-dinner libation, Raspberry Screech laced with bog-rosemary tea, a potion guaranteed to induce nostalgia for better times in our frozen land. Yes, to my surprise and delight, Raspberry Screech has come back on the market at the NLC Liquor Store up on Kelsey Drive, a welcome change indeed after enduring many sleepless nights of silent suffering over the past several months. 

Fifty Shades of Bay is probably fine for that upper-class millennial crowd down at Raymond's, but I have more refined tastes.

I suspected right away that Big Eddie had unloaded his stash of Raspberry Screech onto the Newfoundland Liquor Commission at a killer profit before the government starts pushing marijuana. But that's just a thought.

"I can just see it now," I said to spouse, "Dear Leader will place a Liberal hack, a nasty narco, a sleazy street-pharmacist, a regular in-your-face crooked candyman, on every street corner in our fair land. We'll all be junkies by July."

"Don't get carried away," said spouse. "It's all legal. At least we'll be having pleasant dreams instead of Muskrat Falls nightmares."

We settled into our evening comforts and our usual entertainment from CBC on the old RCA Victor battery-powered radio we purchased for two dollars from the Salvation Army Goodwill store over on Kenmount--since we are regular customers, they gave us 10% off. That's the extent of what we can afford in the way of social media these days.




I much prefer Raspberry Screech as an aid to restful slumber and as a tonic for late night hallucinations but it is a rare beverage these days as a result of the iceberg-ice tax crisis imposed on the toiling masses by Dear Leader and the gang last spring. Spouse and I now relax during the midnight hours over several glasses of Fifty Shades of Bay.

"Although the bouquet leaves something to be desired," said spouse, "It does have a certain je ne sais quoi."

I suspect that with the latest Liberal scheme to sell us on marijuana, there will be an alternative next year when we stagger around the Festivus Pole.

After struggling to finish her glass of the invigorating spirits, spouse departed for the Land of Nod leaving me to explore the bizarre kingdom of late night radio. Where better to start, I ask myself, than the latest local political news. I turn to CBC St. John's.

Big Eddie, new Minister of Environmental Destruction, announces that he will appeal the ruling of the Newfoundland Supreme Court that an environmental assessment should take place on the massive salmon farming operation planned for Placentia Bay.

"Trust-ah-me," he said in his best Godfather voice. "Is-ah-not necesSARY, I take care of it, okay. All-ah-dose-ah pesticides and antibiotics and ah-sea-louse and infectious disease and thousands of tons of salmon sh.., is-ah-all good for you. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Somebody mess wid me, Ima gonna mess wid dem."

As usual, I am skeptical. I give up on local politics and turn the dial.

After some static, I pick up WHAM Buffalo. The host was in the middle of an interview with basketball star, Shaquille O'Neil.

"It's true, the Earth is flat," said Shaq. "The Earth is flat. Yeah, it is. Yes, it is. Listen. There are three ways to manipulate the mind--what you read, what you see and what you hear. In school. First thing they teach us is, 'Oh, Columbus discovered America,' but when he got there, there were fair-skinned people with the long hair smoking on the peace pipes. So, what does that tell you? Columbus didn't discover America."

Shaq went on to state that he regularly drives from Florida to California and it looks all flat. It doesn't go up and down at a 360-degree angle.

Next up was another believer in a flat Earth, Bobby Ray Simmons Jr., better known as rapper B.o.B who tells us that he is going up against some of the greatest liars in history who've been deceiving us on this very question. He obviously was not acquainted with any Newfoundland politicians.

Be that as it may, B.o.B announced a gofundme campaign to raise a million dollars to gather evidence of a flat Earth. I immediately went online at and made a one dollar donation. I like to cover all the bases.

As I quaffed the rest of the bottle, I slipped into nostalgia for the golden era of sunlit days and starry nights when politicians like Joey Smallwood imposed a democratic dictatorship and his friends, Alfred Valdmanis, John Shaheen, and John C. Doyle ran away with the piggy bank.

In those halcyon days, I first encountered the theory of a flat Earth, an astounding piece of knowledge which has stayed with me all those years. Grade four was a milestone.

Our regular teacher had been canned after it was revealed to the local school board that he had been operating a medieval torture chamber in the classroom. A young emergency supply teacher replaced him. Back in the day, good teachers were hard to come by even before Dear Leader started closing down outport schools. But that's another issue.

Anyway, this earnest young replacement teacher breezed into our classroom a few weeks later. Expectant children with minds as malleable as modeling clay watched with consternation as he took a hammer to the globe on his desk. I remember all of us clapping enthusiastically and flying paper airplanes all over the place in celebration because we thought it was the end of geography which we hated anyway.

He then announced in no uncertain terms that we had been fed an untruth, a filthy falsehood, a dirty downright lie. The Earth, he said, is flat and furthermore, one of its four corners is located in our windswept land. Have you ever wondered why you don't fall off the Earth if its a ball, he asked. Good question, we all thought.

For the rest of that year many scholars studied the velocity and trajectory of spitballs launched from the end of a ruler. For myself, I experimented with Newton's Third Law of physics which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. During my research, I pinched the girl ahead of me and she delivered a painful counterpunch to my eye. We reveled in our new-found intellectual freedom and in the chaos of our new universe but we learned to question. 'Why' became our motto.

It was good while it lasted. Next year we returned to the old regime with another graduate of the Stalag who frowned on questions of any kind. Later on, he became a clergyman.

My attention returned to WHAM Buffalo. I was intrigued that after 2000 years of scientific thought and all the images from space there are millions of Earth-dwellers who believe that the planet is a flat disk like a hockey puck.

But then Kathy, a caller from Kalamazoo, threw a wrench in the works. "In fact, the Earth is not a disk," she said, "but a flat square."

"This fact is based on The Book of Revelation," she said, "chapter 7, verse 1: After this, I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the Earth..." Oh, never mind, I thought, this is going too far.

I turned the dial to the BBC World Service. Commander Shaun Dakin of the West Midlands Fire Service was reporting that a young 22-year-old stuck his head in a microwave. A group of his friends then mixed seven bags of polyfilla and poured it around his head which was protected by a plastic bag inside the appliance.

The polyfilla quickly set and his head was cemented in the microwave. Unable to free their friend after two hours, they called the rescue squad which spent another hour cutting him loose. All this happened in Wolverhampton, not in the Liberal cabinet room but what's the difference.

At that point I suspected the Fifty Shades of Bay was affecting my brain in a rather peculiar fashion. I turned off the radio and headed for bed. Spouse had run into a demon in the Land of Nod, a Duh-wite Ball look-a-like, who was trying to push her over Muskrat Falls. I rescued her from the nightmare and began to tell her about Big Eddie, the flat Earth, and the microwave man.

"Late night radio is very strange," I said.

"Don't tell me you've eaten all my marijuana plants," she said.


Don't Let It Get To You


Spouse was still softly snoring in her peculiar northeast coast accent, a cross between West Country English and the ancient Saxon language, a sort of cultural lag from the time her family was resettled from Ringwood, County Hampshire, UK, way back in 46, 1846 that is. The accent has become more pronounced lately. What with the debate about the bottomless pit of government debt and shutting down whole communities, she has begun pining for the outports.

As is my custom, I arose from fitful slumber at 7 am just as the sun was peeking over Mt. Scio, eager to catch up on all the stirring events that must have happened overnight. I had no sooner fired up my old 2006 steam-powered Toshiba laptop when the relentless nightmares from the last 12 hours came at me like thunderbolts.

CNN, NBC, The BBC, and CBC are my usual targets as I surf through cyberspace in an effort to confirm my continued existence in this dangerous world.

It's the usual fare: "Short and fat' Kim Jong-un, Dear Leader of North Korea trades personal insults with the 'old lunatic' Donald Trump, Dear Leader of the USA. It would be a joke except they have their fingers on the nuclear trigger.

"We'll all be blown to hell someday," Father used to say whenever he tuned into the CBC Radio news during the Cold War, "so it's best not to worry about it."

That kind of down-to-earth advice was what led Marsha Linehan, the noted American psychologist, to state that accepting reality is the only way out of hell. But Marsha also warned that the path out of hell was through misery--not much to look forward to in the next few years of Dear Leader Duh-wite and his Brighter Tomorrow.

The BBC has a story about the disappearing South Pole ice sheet. (For some reason it reminds me of the former minister of finance and a few Liberal hacks who have vanished into thin air in the past six months.)

A catastrophic rise in sea levels will wipe out our coastal cities, warns the reporter.

The melting glaciers in Greenland will worsen the calamity. The thought occurs to me that pretty soon the only evidence that the city of St. John's existed will be that little beacon at the very top of Confederation Building sticking out of the ocean. (Like the glow of good brandy, a warm feeling of intense pleasure rushes through my body.)

Goodbye and good riddance to that ugly bronze statue of John Cabot covered in sea lice and green crabs 35 fathoms down on the lawn. I mean, here's this guy who crossed the ocean in 1497 with that no-good son of his, Sebastian. They bumped into a foggy, dreary New-Founde-Land and went back to tell a whopper of a story to King Henry that it was an ideal place to resettle all of us peasants who were cluttering up the countryside. Couldn't those two silly buggers have discovered a tropical island instead?

Memo to self: Have to plan my escape to the Annieopsquotch Mountains. Wondering if spouse will go along with it. Too many Nalcor towers, she'll probably say.

The threats to my general well-being, of course, are not limited to rises in ocean levels nor to foreign leaders engaging in juvenile personal insults.

CBC is carrying a special rebroadcast of last night's newscast. The lead story is about an alarming rise in levels of 'food insecurity' amongst a large proportion of the Newfoundland and Labrador population. Someone from the government talks about ameliorating deprivation and pursuing mutually constructive conversations with low-income earners.

I assume it all means that a lot of people are starving to death and I think of Winnie the Pooh. "It's more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short easy words like "what about lunch?" said Pooh.

Then the second big story: Dear Leader, Duh-wite, with fake outrage and faux sincerity dripping down his chin, is announcing a special multi-million dollar inquiry on Muskrat Falls to tell everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador what they already know, that he voted for it, that it was a right cock-up, an incredible boondoggle, a colossal clanger of massive magnitude.

All of this he announces at a Liberal fund-raising dinner at the Convention Centre in St. John's as the guests tuck into $500 plates of farmed smoked salmon from Placentia Bay, duck confit from Paris, and Tiramisu from Italy, all washed down with copious amounts of Beaujolais Nouveau. The dinner has been hurriedly arranged to suckle the drooling business and legal elite of the province who stand to gain lucrative contracts from the whole charade. They are now lining up to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense as in the reign of He-Who-Is-Without-Sin.

I engage in a blasphemous conversation with my computer.

"Liberal hacks are lining up to loot the treasury," I shout. "The rural library study will be peanuts compared to this. I bet EY has been in touch with Dr. Dale (He's not a real doctor) Kirby already."

I can't take it anymore so I switch to a rerun of NTV news. Not a smart move.

I catch their lead story which features a formula to calculate my power bill in 2019--when Dear Leader pulls the switch for Muskrat Falls. I grab my calculator: A 208% increase over my 2017 electrical bill. Shocking.

I am being sucked into a whirlpool of deepening dark despair before the day has even dawned.

"Don't let it get to you," said spouse. She'd just returned from The Land of Nod as I was well into my early morning rant about the poor quality of Tim's leftover coffee grounds and the sorry state of the universe.

Her advice is all well and good, of course, except that whenever I make a new resolution to practice positive thinking, more dreadful demons/politicians materialize and smash down my doors. Then Pooh and Eeyore begin a wrestling match inside my brain.

But there is hope. Gwyneth Paltrow is offering a negatively charged copper ionized stress ball on her website for $200, guaranteed to stimulate anger detox and suck all that negative energy out of my system.

"I have an idea," said spouse. "We could make a tidy sum from that inquiry if we dressed ourselves up as consultants for those plunged into poverty by Muskrat Falls."

"You just might have something there," I said. "I'll get in touch with them right away. We're going to be raking in the dough on this one."

"While you're at it," she said, "order that St. Laurent Satin-Trimmed Wool-Pique Tuxedo Blazer for me for Christmas along with your stress ball. It's only $3500 and I want to feel like somebody for a change when you take me out to Mary Browns to celebrate.


Blue Days

If it sounds a little wintry, you'll have to understand

-song by Jessie Winchester


Spouse thought that my being down in the dumps lately was caused entirely by the slow but inevitable descent into the mini ice-age we call winter in this part of the world. I remarked that Sir Cavendish Boyle who wrote that song about loving a place with blinding storms fretting our shores and wild waves lashing our strand must have been a complete masochist.

"I think he wrote The Ode to Newfoundland out of spite," I said. "After all, he was born in Barbados."

"But there is one line about sunrays crowning our pine-clad hills," said spouse.

"Jack Frost is dancing with glee," I said.

With all the burdensome taxes on fuel oil and electricity (not to mention books), spouse and I face the challenge of keeping the thermostat above zero. We will spend most of the next eight months of 'shortened day and starlit nights' at the Avalon Mall.

To compound our misery, the online news sites and even some national papers have taken to kicking us while we are down. 'Newfoundland sinking to a new low,' crowed The Globe And Mail. Bankruptcy is staring the Rock in the face warned a professor from Carlton University.

Broke, and freezing to death is not a good combination.

Then the government's go-to economist, Dr. Wade Locke, chimed in. "The unemployment rate is soaring, young people are leaving in droves. The population is shrinking...debt is high. Muskrat Falls is a massive problem," he said. "On top of that, people in the province are older and sicker than anywhere in the country."

"The Liberal Party's better tomorrow looks worse than the PC Party's shitty yesterday," I said to spouse. "I think it's all a conspiracy against old people and baymen. They want us to feel 'have not' and then we'll be no more, just like Brian Peckford said."

"I don't think our Brian said those exact words," she said. "Someday the sun will shine," is what he said."

"And that's why he retired to BC," I said.

Since we moved from the outports, we have adopted some ingenious strategies to survive in the big city. Spouse and I have discovered for example that sometimes used coffee grounds are actually an improvement over the fresh stuff. Just yesterday, I snuck behind the Tims over on Torbay Road and retrieved a garbage bag of used coffee dregs which I took home and meticulously dried for winter brewing. The odd poached Mallard from Mundy pond sometimes graces our table as well.

Yesterday morning as we sat at our collapsible kitchen table sipping our recycled coffee, spouse again expressed concern about my mental state.

"You have to focus more on the positive," she suggested.

I knew immediately that something was up.

"Maybe you ought to apply for that new job in Dear Leader's office," she said. "They probably haven't read any of that bad stuff you said about them. Besides, it would rid your mind of all those dark thoughts and put your creative side to good use."

She was referring to an advertisement in the job's section of the Telegram. Needed: A political assistant to add detail to Dear Leader's brilliant plan 'The Way Forward.' Are you an optimist, inquired the banner ad. Can you blue-sky the future? Are you a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal or an NDP opportunist? Then this job is for you. Serious applicants only. 

"But I am a political agnostic," I said with my nose in the air. "I won't stoop to being a petty political hack. But then...on second pays a decent wage...and there's a full pension after one year. ...and who knows how many rogues are out there who might want to pad my pockets with cash to get an in with Dear Leader. I might even need to open a secret tax-free account in Trinidad just like Bono and the Queen."

"You see what I mean. The position has you written all over it. All you have to do is wave your magic wand," she said with a hint of sarcasm.

Like Muskrat Falls in flood time, a torrent of creative ideas cascaded through my mind as I pondered the possibilities.

In line with The Way Forward, I would start with an ambitious project, a model, if you will, for elders like myself. I would then expand to other areas of our fair land. Money would be no object. I would market the idea as a public-private partnership just like the Corner Brook health care center. Dr. Dale's buddies at EY would drool over it.

I sat down with pen in hand.

Notes for my plan:

--begin with a pilot project in St. John's. Danny Breen, the new mayor, would have to be brought on board. He controls the city council secret slush fund he used to bankroll our dearly departed professional hockey team owned by He-Who-Is-Without-Sin (Williams).

--advance a plan to create an adventure park for seniors in the ample space recently vacated by bankrupt Sears in the Avalon Mall - a Disneyland for the deprived.

--Temporary name: Avalon Escapades. Featuring:

--interactive rides through the twilight zone of Confederation Building: Construct a model of the building.

--in the lobby, surround sound video of the life of Dear Leader, Duh-wite, his heroic childhood going to kindergarten in Deer Lake, getting knocked down by bullies, getting right back up again (his 'true' story). Drama. --segue to the present--a premier, with no idea who he is or what he is doing, finds himself in an eerily empty province. Lonely calls of loons as the film fades...

Audience moves to next venue:

--the Department of Finance Chamber of Horrors: the mysterious disappearance of Cathy Bennett, Minister of Finance. Is she a prisoner in the bowels of the dark castle on the hill? Is Big Eddie involved? And why does Solemn Tom, the new minister, have such a sad face? Is he next??? Terrified shrieks echo through the corridors.

Next attraction:

--Finding Codfather, a submarine voyage through the future Placentia Bay dead zone created by the Grieg Sea Farms mega project, complete with barren seascapes and ghoulish Frankenfish, covered in sea lice, peeking through the portholes. --narrated by Double-Dipper Byrne.

In the main theatre:

--a 3D musical entitled Kill the Outports starring Molly from Mount Pearl, soundtrack by CBC, and cameos from all the cabinet ministers dressed as pirates with eye patches and pantaloons. They do a rendition of Yo Ho (A Pirate's life for me). "We extort, we pilfer, we filch, and sack," shout the pirates (cabinet ministers). -filmed on the deck of the MV Veteran at its permanent location on drydock in St. John's.

Next feature:

-- a scale model of the Muskrat Falls boondoggle complete with scenes of the entire population of NL in rags, trudging through the snow towards a bleak horizon-- a giant image of He-Who-Is-Without-Sin overlooks sad scene. -- a heaven-like panorama of Galway Development emerges from clouds.

I'd better run some of this by spouse before I start blue-skying my plan for the outports, I thought.

"It's ok," she said, patting my head gently. "Now, get your jacket on and let's go to that appointment with Dr. Freud."

Shape-shifting Demons, and Salmon for Supper

The Virginia River trail snakes back and forth through woodland, marsh, and urban sprawl, in a slow climb from placid Quidi Vidi Lake to the height of land beyond the Waters. At the far end of the ancient path, on a gentle hillside, I finally spotted the elusive Hamamelis virginiana alias witch-hazel which I had stalked for many moons on my quest for a magic wand.

I surveyed the branches and settled on one of precisely nineteen and one-half inches in length. "Touch it not otherwise than with your eyes," said a voice inside my head. "Let it stay till next morning when you must cut it absolutely at the moment when the sun rises."

Damn, I thought. I have to walk all this distance again tomorrow in the darkness and ground fog of early morning St. John's enduring the fried chicken smells of Mary Browns all along the way.

At Daybreak, I headed back down the trail towards home, eager to return to the welcoming arms of better-half.

The faint smell of a campfire wafted on the still morning air. Absolute silence reigned in the forest glades. Not even the few winged creatures left in the city were yet singing in the treetops. Solitude and serenity, I thought. And then, while in deep contemplation and dark ruminations about Dear Leader, I felt a light tap on my right shoulder, at which point I shot like a rocket into the forest canopy and came back to earth speaking fluent Gaelic.

"We didn't mean to startle you, friend," said a weak voice that I recognized as RS from MP.

"We apologize," said his gaunt looking friend whom I recognized as the ex-senior civil servant cast out into the Liberal wilderness by Premier Duh-wite a few months back. "I can help you sue the government," he offered.

"We just want to know if they still remember us," said RS from MP.

"Big Eddie said he would strangle us if we ever came back," said the gaunt one.

"I'll strangle you myself if you ever frighten me again," I shouted in a mixture of high pitched Gaelic and Southern Shore faux Irish.

They ran from me in terror.

"Tell everybody we'll be back by winter," cried the gaunt one over his shoulder as they scurried into the undergrowth.

I arrived home after many such harrowing encounters at around 7.45 am, tired and hungry after my four-hour journey. The smell of yesterday's coffee heating in the microwave assailed my nostrils as I opened the door of our humble abode. Spouse's face betrayed her concern for my well-being and sanity.

"I just phoned the Constabulary and asked them to mount a search and rescue mission," she said. "They told me that a suspicious character fitting your description was reported on Circular Road early this morning. They might want to talk to you."

"I don't talk to the Constabulary," I said. "They work for the government."

"You are getting more and more paranoid every day," she said as she switched on the morning show on CBC radio.

"I think they're trying to poison us to death," I said.

Just then, CBC's Terry Roberts broke in on the 8 am update with a breaking news item on infectious salmon anemia (ISA), a deadly disease attacking the salmon farms on the south coast. It causes the salmon to sweat blood. He was interviewing Gerry 'Double Dipper' Byrne, Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources.

"I thought he was minister of laborers," I said to spouse.

"I forgot to tell you," she said. "They all shape-shifted last night. Big Eddie is now Minister of Environmental Destruction, Crocker is Minister of Ferries, Al 'The Pirate' Hawkins is..."

She went through the list. 

"What about Cathy Bennett?" I asked with an air of sympathetic concern.

"She's been disappeared by Dear Leader," said spouse. "Replaced by 'Solemn Tom' Osborne."

"All shape-shifted...all shape-shifted," I murmured morosely, thinking of the dire consequences.

"Apparently they can turn into anything they want," she said.

"But only demons can shape-shift," I said.

"Apparently politicians too," she said. "Some have turned themselves into repulsive rat-faced rodents."

"Don't get carried away," I said.

We turned our attention to the interview. 

"We've slapped a quarantine order on the salmon farms," said Byrne. "But that's just a marketing and precautionary move by the company. the fish are being harvested and sold to consumers. No need to even label it. You can pick it up at Dominion right now, on special. Eat away at it. Have it for every meal. There are no health risks to humans. The virus is naturally occurring, in fact, we think the wild salmon are to blame."

He sounded like a used car salesman selling a death-trap 1961 Corvair.

"We should dart over to Dominion and get some of that superb salmon for supper. I'll boil it with some of them nice dandelion roots I dug up in the ditch up the street," said spouse.

"But it's infected with ISA," I protested, "and it's bleeding through the skin."

"Mr. Byrne said that the virus is all natural," countered spouse.

"So is the bubonic plague in Madagascar," I said.

The Ghost of Sir Thomas Cochrane: Part Two


                                                   Government House, St. John's, built by Sir Thomas Cochrane






The Ghost of Sir Thomas Cochrane

Summers are known to be fleeting in this neck of the woods. Often, well into August, balmy temperatures hide amongst the palm trees of the equatorial Southlands, too timid to challenge the nor'easters buffeting our strand.

Seasonal pursuits are best not delayed. So it was that I sprung out of bed and hurriedly donned my threadbare attire for the great quest, leaving spouse to pursue her own adventures in dreamland.

I tucked a copy of Mack's Field Guide To Demons into my backpack just in case I encountered one of the supernatural beings which have been running rampant over our pine-clad hills since the last election. Identifying these malevolent spirits is the first step in defeating them.

Before departing, I sprayed myself (liberally) with Gwyneth Paltrow's 'Psychic Vampire Repellent' (PVR)--a noxious mixture of special elixirs, apple cider vinegar, charged crystal chips, and sonically tuned reverse osmosis water, which I had recently purchased on-line from Gwyneth's Goop site. For a king's ransom, I might add.

The PVR mist will protect my aura from political vampires who, in biblical terms, might lurk privily to extract the last drops of my fading financial life-blood.

Outside, the unkindness of ravens had gone silent. A dense pea-souper, like an enormous eiderdown duvet, had crept in through the Narrows to settle over the city and stick to the sidewalks. Schools of codfish chased shoals of herring along Duckworth Street. A pod of pilot whales flipped through the parking lot at Sobeys on Merrymeeting Road. A sultry mermaid waved her tail and beckoned suggestively from the Basilica steps. I averted my eyes and continued down Bonaventure Avenue.

Beware the Ides of March


On a dark and stormy night three months ago, a disembodied voice, like a witch's cackle, came from out of the gloom as I peeked outside our humble abode in the city. It seemed to say, "beware the Ides of March," but I couldn't be sure as my senses were somewhat numbed by the shot of raspberry screech which I always imbibe as a natural sleep aid just before retiring for the night--this was, of course, before Dear Leader Duh-wite's divine inspiration to raise the tax on iceberg ice by 2500%, thereby threatening the supply of my favourite medicinal drink.


     Lately, as you may have noticed, blinding storm gusts and wild waves have continuously lashed our strand, frustrating my good intentions to unleash the full force of the black arts on the Liberal demons in the dark castle on the hill. The past 100 desperate days of March have dragged their glacial chills into June. A mini ice-age had gripped our wind-swept land, thus ensuring the cancellation of April showers and May flowers.


     Eternal March! Very bad! I tweeted.


     The Donald (Trump) rubbed salt into the wound ...Your PM believes in climate change. Turn icebergs into water! Tax that! he tweeted from #realdonaldtrump at two in the morning. I get such tweets all the time from mini-Trumps in Confederation Building.


     We've got our eye on you, tweeted Big Eddie recently. We've just disappeared Bern Coffey and Randy Simms (RS from MP-HaHa)! Beware! He posted ominously from #realbigeddie. How about we stuff you down a crevasse on the South Side Hills, he tweeted just last week.


     Big Eddie was referring of course, to a recent report that scientists at the University had observed the formation of glaciers on the hills overlooking the harbor as well as another ice sheet covering the Bally Haly Golf Course. All of this has hindered my pursuit of the elusive Hamamelis virginiana, alias witch-hazel. Being in winter slumber, the tree is without its identifying leaves making it impossible to distinguish the witch-hazel from the common white birch. Unfortunately, I was forced to temporarily abandon my quest for a magic wand. 


     That did not mean I had abandoned the cause. Just two weeks ago, through various secret spells chanted over several bottles of Fifty Shades of Bay, I cast a very effective curse on the Liberal Party. Their poll numbers immediately took a nose-dive. Dear Leader, Duh-wite emerged once again as the most reviled premier in the entire country. "The whole gang is fading into oblivion," I shouted joyously to better-half.


     "Double, double, toil and trouble," she observed sarcastically. 


     But, I knew this success might be fleeting as voters are always susceptible to political skulduggery. I would likely have to bring out the big guns later on, when, and if, summer came.


     Lest I seem too pessimistic, summer made a dead-of-night appearance just a few days ago.


     I remember it clearly. It was precisely 3.46 am when I awoke in my fleece-lined underwear. The burlap quilt covering better-half and I, felt as warm and cozy as eiderdown. The chill of the bedroom had softened. An expectant silence reigned over the city. Suddenly, an unkindness of raucous Ravens began a riotous party up on Ridge Road. What were they celebrating, I wondered. Were they laughing at city council's new strategy to outwit them on garbage day?


     Then, continuous soft moaning sounds, like the siren calls of the mermaids off Maddox Cove, rose and fell from the twisted window sill above by head. I shook off the night vapours, assuming at first that better-half was whispering in my ear. Her peaceful snoring soon put that fantasy to rest. At that moment, I realized it was a mild southerly breeze whistling around the broken sash, reminding me of the melodies of the trade winds and the drowsy afternoon torpor of the tepid tropics.


     "Wake up!" I shouted to spouse. "Summer arrived four minutes ago. I must be off to Virginia Waters to search for the wily witch-hazel."


     Now, I know you are losing it," she said. "Go back to sleep. I'll phone your psychiatrist in the morning."




Sweet Spring


In my dream, I was skipping through Pat Murphy's Meadow 'in the sunny long ago' out by Torbay. The heat of the early morning sun sent me into an ecstasy of song as better-half waltzed towards me through the dandelions. She wore a bright yellow dress just like in The Sound of Music. We sang in bluegrass harmony the old ee cummings tune:

sweet spring is your

time is my time is our

time for springtime is lovetime

and viva sweet love


     Such were my bright and cheerful thoughts as I awoke sharply at 5 am to greet the new day. I shook off the drowsy vapors of the dream world and looked out over the slumbering city. Off in the distance, I heard a few gunshots as some desperate citizens down in the Waterford Valley harvested waterfowl and plump pigeons for the dinner table. Probably some of those civil servants laid off by Dear leader so he could make room for Liberal hacks, I thought.


     I am an eternal optimist despite spouse's advice of the night before that I should stop thinking about the purgatory between winter and summer, and the torment visited upon the toiling masses by their government. "You may not have your Raspberry Screech," she said, "but you have several bottles of Fifty Shades of Bay. So what, if they charge 2500% tax on iceberg ice."


     Alas, as I gaze out the window, sweet spring is nowhere in sight. A glowering grey blanket of sky, propped up by Signal Hill and Mt. Scio, hangs precariously over the city and sags down over the harbour like an old soiled mattress without springs. Ships and fishing boats stay locked in the safety of the ice fields just outside the narrows, unable to punch through the thick sheet of freezing drizzle at the entrance.


     The only bright spot in the entire metro area is a red glow coming off the dark castle on the hill--a sick joke perpetrated by Dear Leader Duh-wyte to show his support for the ailing, the lame, and the infirm, after Dr. (I'm a real doctor) Hagee, Minister of Seniors' Warehousing and the Disabled, has taken his scalpel to the health corporations of the province.


     "Don't get sick, believe me," I tweeted, before digging into my bowl of cold breakfast gruel.


     I switched on our 1960 black and white Motorola television set, recently acquired from the Thrift Shop over on Kenmount and tuned to the people's network. A picture of Bern Coffey, looking like the evil wizard, Lord Valdemort, of Harry Potter fame, is shown scurrying into his office on Water Street, pursued by the fake media, as the Donald would say. Apparently, his $183,000 salary as chief public servant is insufficient so he moonlighted by helping others sue the government that he works for. Nice. Dear Leader makes an appearance to defend his decision to hire the loathsome Liberal bagman. 


     "Very poor decision." I tweeted. "Bad."


          Better-half is resting comfortably on the straw mattress upstairs, snoring contentedly in her St. John's accent. I take the opportunity to secretly upgrade my knowledge of the spirit world. Such wisdom has become somewhat rusty in the last fifty years after I turned to other pursuits after departing the ancestral home. The island where I was born fairly reeked of spirits, fairies, witches, hags and imps. I remember on many occasions having to shush them away when wandering in the forest glades. Now that I need them to put spells on Dear Leader Duh-wyte and his Liberal gang, they are nowhere to be found.


     My attention is drawn to the Black Arts book lying on the five-gallon plastic tub which serves as a coffee table in our humble abode. The book mysteriously opens to page 3.


     "Witchcraft," the author states, "is the study of how to harness energies as well as how to unleash the powers within. With the right tools and a little practice, the words in this tome will allow you to channel aspects of the spirit world that are beyond the common man or woman to even understand.


     Sounds like something my grandmother would have said.


     Then the page turns by itself, as if by an unseen hand. As everyone knows the indispensable tool of the wizard or witch is a magic wand. Fortunately, these are fairly easy to come by if you are the adventurous type and prone to early morning activity.


     "You must find a rod of wild witch-hazel which has never borne fruit; its length must be nineteen and one-half inches," the author instructs.


     Where to find such flora in our fair land, I am thinking. Then my gardener knowledge kicks in. It is, of course, Hamamelis Virginiana, and tends to grow on the eastern slopes in order to catch the first rays of the rising sun. Curiously, it is also known as winterbloom because it blooms in January and February--no mean feat considering the rigors of the Newfoundland winter.


     "When you have met with the wand of the required form, touch it nor otherwise than with your eyes; let it stay till next morning, when you must cut it absolutely at the moment when the sun rises, using an enchanted knife, if possible"--which might be a problem but the 'if possible' part seems to indicate that I might get away with using an ordinary splitting knife given to me by my late father who used it for cutting the sound bones from cod.


     While I am deep in such thoughts, spouse skips down the rickety stairs to inform me that spring must be just around the corner. "I've just had a dream," she said, that you and I were dancing and singing through Pat Murphy's Meadow 'in the sunny long ago' out by Torbay. I was wearing a bright yellow dress, just like in The Sound of Music. We sang that ee cummings song in two-part harmony."


     This was definitely a good omen.

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Dancing on Air: New Edition: New Publisher

Dancing on Air

The revised edition of Dancing on Air(Boulder Publications) is now available from Boulder -- also from Chapters/Indigo and Coles bookstores across Canada as well as at

Advance Reviews:

     "What a fascinating read this is. It has all the suspense of a true crime novel ...Newfoundland itself emerges as a colorful character..." -- editor, Friesen Press

     "In Dancing on Air, Eric Colbourne exposes the raw politics and behind the scenes intrigue of critical events in Newfoundland and Labrador history. In the process, he has skilfully unveiled the human faces of tragedies which have remained with us for well over half a century."   --Mervin Wiseman, Political Activist, NL.

     "This is a great way to present history. It's emotionally engaging, highly instructive, and jam-packed with fascinating details."  --Editor, Friesen Press.

     Dancing on Air: A Tale of Vengeance, Mercy, and the End of the Death Penalty in Newfoundland is a story of justice and injustice amidst war and political upheaval.

     On St. Patrick's Day, 1942 Herb Spratt, the youngest son of a prominent St. John's city councilor, murdered his girlfriend, Josephine O'Brien. A weak defense at a two day trial in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland resulted in a guilty verdict coupled with a strong recommendation for mercy. The chief justice pronounced a sentence of death on April 28, 1942, but that was not the end of the story.

     Six years later, on October 23, 1948, during a night of terror in the town of Norris Arm on the central north coast of the island, Alfred Beaton stabbed his girlfriend and shot to death another young woman. At least 10 other individuals narrowly escaped death as Beaton rampaged through the community with a high powered rifle.

     Beaton went to trial in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland on January 31, 1949. The jury returned a guilty verdict without a recommendation for mercy. The chief justice again imposed the death penalty.

Alfred Beaton (center) after the death sentence

The incidents come together as a gripping account of a flawed justice system and of the impact of public opinion. With its cast of powerful characters, the story reads like fiction but what happened was only too real.  

The Dancing on Air Mystery: Who was Portia?



On Monday, February 7, 1949, two days after Judge Emerson handed down the death penalty in the murder trial of Alfred Beaton, a mysterious letter appeared in the St. John's Evening Telegram. It contained an emotional plea for mercy and a call to action against capital punishment in Newfoundland. 

The eloquent letter writer persuaded thousands of citizens in the city and across Newfoundland and Labrador to demand an end to a barbaric practice. The final outcome was a surprise. Who was the mystery lady, Portia? For the first time in over 60 years, it is now possible to identify her--but the reader has to pick up the clues in the text.







Eric Colbourne grew up in the small community of Lush's Bight-Beaumont on the northeast coast of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. His earliest memories are of the tales spun by village elders under the flickering light of oil lamps in the kitchen of the family home on the isolated island. This tradition of story-telling is captured in his first book Disappeared: Stories from the Coast of Newfoundland which has enjoyed international success.


His latest work, Dancing on AIR: A Tale of Vengeance, Mercy, and the End of the Death Penalty in Newfoundland, published in October 2016 by Boulder Publications, represents an enduring fascination with the issue of capital punishment which he has researched extensively over many years in this country and around the world.


Colbourne was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland, The University of Reading in the UK, and at McGill University in Montreal. He has enjoyed a varied career in education, community development, tourism and senior management in the public service of Nunavut and the NWT. He currently devotes his time to writing and historical research.

Back Cover:Dancing on Air

Public Executions: Dancing on Air

At 5.32 a.m. on August 14, 1937 a young black man, Rainey Bethea was executed at Owensboro, Kentucky after his conviction for the rape of a white woman. A crowd, estimated at 20,000, gathered in Owensboro the day before and held 'hanging' parties throughout the night. One reporter likened the scene at the scaffold next morning to a sporting event. The hangman was intoxicated and barely managed to trip the lever. It was the last public hanging in the US.

The practice of public executions was abandoned in Canada in 1869 and in the UK in 1870. Many countries, notably Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Iran continue the practice to this day for crimes such as drug trafficking, witchcraft, disloyalty to the government. and homosexuality.


If you have comments on this site or reviews of Dancing on Air, please e-mail me at

Advice for Writers

Elmore Leonard, a well known mystery writer who died last year offered a number of rules for good writing. A few of them:

1. Never open a book with weather.

2. Keep your exclamations points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

3.Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."

4.Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.

From the Ballad of Reading Gaol

 It is sweet to dance to violins

  When love and life are fair:

To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes

  is delicate and rare:

But it is not sweet with nimble feet

  To dance upon the air!


                       ...Oscar Wilde

Historic Vote

In 1948, residents of Newfoundland and Labrador decided their future in two referenda. In the first vote, held on June 3, Commission of Government was eliminated but neither Confederation with Canada nor Responsible Government received a majority, making a second referendum necessary. Voting was heavy, nearly 89% on June 3rd and 85% on July 22nd. 52.34% of voters chose Confederation on the second ballot.

Where to Buy Disappeared

     Disappeared:Stories From the Coast of Newfoundland is available in print and e-book from and in e-book format from Kobo, Chapters etc. To locate it on Amazon, type 'Disappeared Colbourne' into their 'find' bar. Delivery is about one week.

     Author copies are also available directly from Click on the facebook link and send the author a message. Price is $15 plus postage.

     Due to the short print run the book will not be available in most bookstores.

New Edition: Dancing on Air

More Questions About an Execution

The case of Wilbert Coffin who was convicted of murder and hanged in Quebec more than 60 years ago raises many new questions. For the full story see:

Excerpt from Dancing on Air

(A Hanging in Quebec, 1902)



...Until the mid-1800s some 200 offences were regarded as capital crimes that carried the death penalty. In a modern age most of those offences now seem absurd.


John Dean, variously described in the records as a child of eight or nine, may have been the youngest to suffer death by hanging. On February 23, 1629 he was convicted of arson at Abington, England for setting fire to two barns in the town of Winsor. The judge saw evidence of wickedness in the boy's actions, an attitude which led directly to his death sentence.


In early August, 1814, an unfortunate William Potter received the death penalty at the high court in Chelmsford, England, for damaging an orchard. He had chopped down an old apple tree for firewood. To no avail at his trial, William pleaded ignorance of the law. The judge had second thoughts several days after sentencing, but with the wheels of justice already in motion, William was hanged about a week later on August 12.

From our Readers: Dancing on Air

I finished the book this morning and my only regret is that I couldn't read more....The exacting research gives real context in shaping the period, but it's Colbourne's ability as a writer that allows the reader to feel the crisp bite of the wind, smell the damp night air, and experience the pain and anguish of the characters. Colbourne's deft footwork in handling the historical record while giving life to the characters is to be applauded, and it separates this work from the pack.  (Glen Tilley)


An absolutely lovely read...The book reads like a richly textured novel but the story is flawlessly woven into the historical account (or borne out of it). It is clear that the book is meticulously researched...An excellent read on all fronts. Difficult to put down! (Monty Henstridge)


Excerpt from the story 'The Black Arts Book' in Disappeared: Stories from the Coast of Newfoundland.


...Old Meriam was indeed dead but no one seemed to know how she had died or where she was buried, all of which added to the mystery of her life  and the power of her witchcraft.


After her death, the old house seemed lonely more than anything else, sitting way out on the point by the landwash, facing the September storms and enduring the sad soundings of the ocean swells.


With each passing season it added a deeper tone of grey as the harsh weather of late fall and winter took its toll. Nobody in the village could understand how the old house could withstand so much punishment.


Disappeared: Stories from the Coast of Newfoundland  has been named a top seller on KOBO, one of the largest e-book distributors in the world. It continues to receive positive reviews in Canada and fifteen other countries. Disappeared is also available from and in kindle and print format.