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. 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.

Undaunted in my search for the wily witch-hazel I found myself at 4.30 in the morning at a point just outside Government House, home of Her Majesty's representative to our fair province. Thence, I planned to proceed down the north side of Quidi Vidi Lake following the old track to Virginia Lake (or as the ex-finance minister calls it, Virginia Waters) some seven kilometers distant.

The city slept in somnolent splendor, broken only by the occasional siren as the constabulary pursued the more nefarious elements of society in and around Confederation Building.

The old track had been carefully laid out by the one and only Sir Thomas Cochrane, first civil governor of our fair land, after a hundred or more years of military dictatorship by the benevolent admirals of His Majesty's navy. A hundred years later in 1934 the rich and crooked of the land successfully engineered a return to the same military dictatorship--such was our experience with democracy.

But back to Sir Thomas: Like modern-day politicians he perceived himself to be above the great unwashed. It was their duty to pay taxes to maintain the luxurious lifestyle of the nobility. When he arrived on the impoverished island of Newfoundland in 1825, he brought with him his expensive tastes: copper cutlery from Croatia, damask drapes from Damascus, plush Persian carpets from Kurdistan, and fine wines from Burgoyne. Enough to outfit a royal palace and indeed his first priority was to build such a palace on the higher ground near present-day Bannerman Park.

Sir Thomas had already convinced His Majesty's government that the Newfoundland palace would cost a mere pittance--just $850,000 in today's currency--the place will be the envy of North America, he said. "Everyone will have a new sense of pride as Newfoundlanders," he declared. "Have-not will be no more."

By the time Sir Thomas had tinkered with the plans, before and during construction, the final cost had increased fivefold to $4,200,000 and the tradition of boondoggles in this wind-swept land had its glorious birth. Henceforth, boondoggles became as common as codfish, transmitted in our genes to all future generations.

Sir Thomas was very much on my mind as I shuffled sheepishly along Circular Road--the homes of the rich and famous lay in serene slumber. Peaceful dreamscapes of the mighty Churchill, Sprung greenhouses, and Muskrat Falls rose through each chimney from the sleeping souls within.

A lone sheepdog shattered the soupy silence with its angry challenge to my presence. A shutter flew open on the dormer of a century mansion across the street. "What are you doing in this fine neighborhood at this ungodly hour?" shouted a nightgown-clad elderly lady.

"My good woman," I replied, "I am on a mission to find Hamamelis Virginiana, commonly known in these parts as witch-hazel. Thereby I may obtain a magic wand to punish our wayward politicians who have recently impoverished the good citizens of our land."

"You look like a buggering burglar from Bonavista Bay," she replied. "Now, remove your presence from these environs before I call the constabulary. And don't be spreading fake news about our dear leader," she warned. "I loves he, I do."

I hurried along the Boulevard beside Quidi Vidi and soon picked up the Virginia River trail. The river, swollen by snowmelt and record freezing rains of recent weeks, gave off a steaming vapour as it thundered towards Quidi Vidi Lake. Out of the vapour emerged a shadowy figure... be continued. In the next blog I tell of my harrowing encounter with the ghost of Sir Thomas plus various Liberals who have been cast out into the wilderness.


1 comment

  • Ruth Tucker
    Ruth Tucker
    Can't wait to see who was cast out into the wilderness....great read Eric.

    Can't wait to see who was cast out into the wilderness....great read Eric.

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