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 thought...it 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.
--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.
-- 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."