It’s illegal, dangerous, and it still goes on.

Poaching eggs is one thing but poaching on the sea has been a long time problem in Newfoundland. There are air and sea patrols to monitor, prevent, and eventually arrest the violators. It is not something taken lightly. But and not surprisingly it is a global issue. Wherever money, however small, can be made, theft is sure to be right behind it. And as often as not, too many thieves get away with it at the cost of those trying to eke out a living.

This is an article from the May 15, 2014 New York Times about poaching off the coast of Spain.

 

Trading Danger for Delicacy

On Spain’s Galician coast, generations of licensed divers scrape gooseneck barnacles in roiling surf to serve eager gourmands who pay up to 100 euros a kilo for the cherished crustaceans. Credit Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

 

A CORUÑA, Spain — Roberto Mahia, 44, was leaning against his car waiting for the sun to rise before pulling on the frayed wet suit at his feet when two vehicles pulled up not far away.

“Those are poachers,” Mr. Mahia declared, staring hard in the direction of their headlights. “We know those cars.”

On this morning, however, there would be no confrontation. The poachers soon moved on, apparently unwilling to tangle with Mr. Mahia and the other men gathered here who were trained and licensed to scramble among the crashing waves of the rocky Galician coastline in the country’s northwest corner, prying loose and collecting a rare prize for epicures — gooseneck barnacles.

The work has always been dangerous. All the men waiting for daybreak had scars to show. Avelino Mosteiro, 54, once got 36 stitches in his thigh. On another occasion, he got 18 stitches under his arm. But the work also used to be highly paid before the economic crisis, when restaurants clamored for the rare crustaceans.

These days, however, the men and women who do this for a living say it is hard to make ends meet. Certainly, there are fewer Europeans able to afford expensive treats of any kind.

But worse, there are the poachers, many of them out-of-work citizens, trying to make money any way they can. Their scavenging brings prices down further and depletes the area of barnacles, forcing the licensed collectors to work in more remote and difficult areas, often for a poorer haul.

“Fifteen days ago, we were on those rocks,” Mr. Mahia said, pointing out a jagged outcropping in the distance. “Two of us were legal collectors, and 11 were poachers.”

In the heady days before Spain’s economic crisis, barnacle collectors, many who learned the art of dodging waves from their parents, could earn more than $800 in a few hours. But on a recent morning the men here had collected only four or five pounds of barnacles each, most of them small and of less than ideal quality. Perhaps, they said, they could get $135 for them, maybe less.

In the past, the men said, they would not even have tried to go out on a day with such choppy seas. But lately, they could not afford to let any opportunity go by.

The barnacles, known as percebes in Spanish, can be collected only under certain conditions, including the point in the lunar cycle when tides are lowest.

Along the coast here, some restaurants offer barnacles for as much as $80 a serving. In Madrid, the price can be much higher. Cooking them is simple. They are generally boiled for just a few minutes. Aficionados compare them to oysters, not for their texture, which is chewier, but for their subtle sea taste.

Spanish officials agree that the unemployment rate has prompted more and more untrained people to take their chances in the rocky inlets here, occasionally paying with their lives.

“If from time to time you hear about someone dying doing this, it is almost always a poacher,” said Rosa Quintana Carballo, Galicia’s regional minister of the rural environment and the sea.

On Spain’s Galician Coast, the Hard Life of Barnacle Hunting

Lala Gonzalez, left, and her sister, Susana Gonzalez, collecting barnacles on the coast of Baiona, in the northern Spain region of Galicia. Considered a luxury seafood item, the barnacles, known as percebes, provide a livelihood for many families.  Credit Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

In some areas, as in Baiona, a village farther down the coast, the licensed collectors have grown so frustrated that they are paying private security guards to patrol the area on land and on sea. The government splits the bill with them.

One morning, one of Baiona’s guards, Darío Freire, guided his S.U.V. up a hill so he could use binoculars to scan the coastline. He said confronting poachers was a dangerous business.

“I have been punched, threatened with a stick,” Mr. Freire said. “They have thrown things at the car and smashed the windows. It isn’t easy.”

Mostly, he said, he just alerts the police, who give the poachers summonses. But like José Do Val, 62, who readily admitted that he had been collecting barnacles that morning, most of the poachers are far too broke to pay the fines, so they are not a deterrent.

Mr. Do Val, who said he was once an executive in a food distribution company and dined regularly on barnacles, estimates that he has collected more than $135,000 in fines for poaching. “I’m not really sure how much it was,” he said. “It’s not something that really interests me.”

Galicia has struggled in the last few years with an unemployment rate of about 27 percent, one of the highest in the country. It once had a thriving shipping industry. But that is in shambles now, and there are few jobs that pay much for anyone. Police units assigned to stop the barnacle poachers are stretched thin and have perhaps more pressing business, keeping an eye on those who dig for clams in polluted areas, for instance, and then bleach them to make them look right.

“After what I have seen, I am finished with eating clams,” said Juan Da Rocha, who heads a regional police unit that concentrates on illegal fishing.

In Baiona, many of the barnacle collectors are women. Susana González works with her three sisters, who like her went to school for other professions, but ended up in wet suits instead. Though collecting barnacles is difficult, most of the people in this business find being up at dawn in the sea, without a boss, an attractive way of life. “You are free,” Mrs. González said. “I like that.”

After a successful morning collecting, the women gathered at the local auction house hoping that all the talk of economic recovery coming out of Madrid would mean higher prices. But that was not the case. Even the biggest barnacles sold for about $40 a pound, less than half the opening price.

“We really thought we would do better,” Mrs. González said with a sigh.

When do the needs of the few really outweigh the needs of the many?

The seal hunt – This is one of the most contentious issues around, galvanizing people such as Paul McCartney against it. On the surface, it would appear to be an easy thing to categorize. But there is so much more involved that we don’t usually hear about.
If one is a deer hunter, then a strong case can be made for that activity if it is done responsibly. Culling a herd is necessary for its well-being and survival. Portraying these animals as helpless is good for PR purposes, but letting them starve because of a too large herd size is no less harmful than hunting them. If one is against hunting, then it is just as easy to view it as a senseless slaughter. In this respect, the seal hunt is confronted with many of the same concerns from both sides.
Done for sport, hunting (anything) is absolutely wrong and immoral. For food and sustenance, it’s understandable. Trying to maintain a herd’s health and feed people is an entirely different proposition that certainly has its benefits as well its detractors.. Reconciling these two disparate points of view may be well near impossible. And whatever the disposition of this may be, you know there will still be anger over it. What are your thoughts?

Federal ministers call for change in EU seal products ban

Legal review process ongoing in Geneva, Switzerland

The Canadian government is speaking on behalf of sealers and seal product producers as a World Trade Organization (WTO) appeal body looks at the decision made to uphold the European Union (EU) ban on Canadian seal products.

Fred Henderson loads his truck with seal pelts in Noddy Bay on Newfoundland’s northern peninsula in 2004. — Telegram file photo

While a team of lawyers made arguments in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, at the start of three days of scheduled hearings, two federal ministers again made public calls for a change in the EU’s position.Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea — attending Seafood Expo North America in Boston — told reporters her department hopes the ban will be overturned.“As a government, we’ve always supported the Canadian sealing industry because it supports our small coastal communities,” she said in a teleconference call, making note of government’s efforts through training to ensure the seal hunt is humane.“We have an abundance of product which I believe provides an opportunity for this industry,” she said.In Geneva, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq emphasized the federal government’s position that the EU is treating Canadian seal products unfairly.“The EU allows seal products from Greenland to be marketed in the European Union with(out) any regard in which they are hunted. So in other words, the European Union seal regime does nothing to actually keep seal products out of the EU market or away from the EU public,” she said in a telephone interview.“I think it was very clear in the last decision that the WTO did find, the panel did find, that the European Union ban on import of Canadian seal products did violate the EU international trade obligations. Having said that, they went and used the moral cards issue to not change that (ban).”She said using a moral reasoning for decisions on conservation matters is dangerous.“To go down this path really outside of science puts to risk the whole global food supply,” she said, suggesting it establishes the potential for similar actions against other products.Aglukkaq spoke to The Telegram while side by side with Dion Dakins — chair of the Canadian Seal and Sealing Network and CEO of Carino Processing, in Switzerland to campaign for Canadian seal products and the work of sealers.His trip was covered under $60,000 in funding from the provincial government for the Canadian Seals and Sealing Network, announced in February.“The reality is the first ruling was not catastrophic for Canada. In fact it proved that the Inuit exemption as offered was discriminatory in its application. It also revealed the marine mammal exemption under the EU ban was not applied fairly,” he said.“The disappointing thing is the authority of groups like the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Humane Society International has yet to be challenged here in Europe adequately,” he said. “This is part of my role here, to actually and explicitly go after the false messaging they’ve been spreading about our industry.”Sheryl Fink with the IFAW was in Geneva to submit an amicus curiae — “friend of the court” — written briefing on the seal hunt and seal products, something the court may or may not choose to refer to in its final decision.“I think what’s happening here is, in a way, quite historic, regardless of what the outcome will be. This is the first time this public morality issue has really been challenged at the WTO, so we’re very interested in seeing how it all plays out,” she said.“I don’t want to pre-judge the panel’s decision, but realistically … we need to remember that Europe wasn’t a big market for seal products from Canada prior to the ban. It’s probably not going to be a large market for seal products no matter what happens here at the WTO.”She said the IFAW sent representatives to monitor the international court proceedings since the organization’s anti-seal hunt campaign is considered both a founding campaign for the group and a fundamental issue in the world of animal rights activism.She rejected the idea the decision to uphold the EU ban on moral grounds would lead to a rush of similar campaigns against other products.The WTO appeal body’s decision is expected at some point between April and June.

Mermaids, oh my!

Just for some fun… check out the lyrics and then the article.

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“The Mermaid”

When I was a lad in a fishing town
Me old man said to me:
“You can spend your life, your jolly life
Just sailing on the sea.
You can search the world for pretty girls
Til your eyes are weak and dim,
But don’t go searching for a mermaid, son
If you don’t know how to swim”
‘Cause her hair was green as seaweed
Her skin was blue and pale
Her face it was a work of art,
I loved that girl with all my heart
But I only liked the upper part
I did not like the tailI signed onto a sailing ship
My very first day at sea
I seen the Mermaid in the waves,
Reaching out to me
“Come live with me in the sea said she,
Down on the ocean floor
And I’ll show you a million wonderous things
You’ve never seen before
So over I jumped and she pulled me down,
Down to her seaweed bed
On a pillow made of a tortoise-shell
She placed beneath my head
She fed me shrimp and caviar
Upon a silver dish
From her head to her waist it was just my taste
But the rest of her was a fish
‘Cause …But then one day, she swam away
So I sang to the clams and the whales
“Oh, how I miss her seaweed hair
And the silver shine of her scales
But then her sister, she swam by
And set my heart awhirl
Cause her upper part was an ugly fish
But her bottom part was a girl
Yes her hair was green as seaweed
Her skin was blue and pale
Her legs they are a work of art,
I loved that girl with all my heart
And I don’t give a damn about the upper part
Cause that’s how I get my tail.
By Great Big Sea

Mermaid-bashing a common theme

Dale

Dale Jarvis
Published on March 10, 2014

Last week, I got an email from a young woman named Erin, who is a Grade 4 student at All Hallows Elementary in North River.

Erin is one of the participants in the Heritage Fair program, a great project which encourages students to explore their heritage in a hands-on manner. Students make storyboards to tell stories about local heroes, legends, traditions and places, and then present their work at a public exhibit at their school. Select students then go on to represent their schools in regional fairs across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Erin decided to do research on the folklore of mermaids in Newfoundland, and asked me for some advice on mermaid stories.

While we have a long maritime history in the province, we do not have a lot of mermaid stories. Erin already knew about the most famous, the story of Capt. Richard Whitbourne, who described meeting a mermaid in his book “Discourse and Discovery of Newfoundland.”

Early one July morning in 1610, Whitbourne spotted a strange creature which he called “a marmayde” swimming in St. John’s Harbour. As Whitbourne tells it, the mermaid swam swiftly towards him, looking carefully at his face.

The water maiden had a beautiful and well-proportioned face, and she had blue streaks on her skin instead of hair. The creature was about 15 feet in length, and her tail was proportioned “like a broad hooked arrow.”

The mermaid tried to climb into a boat owned by William Hawkridge. Hawkridge was not impressed with the creature’s attentions, so he hit her on the head with an oar, and she swam off.

While the mermaid has not been spotted recently, her legend has achieved a certain amount of immortality, and for many years she was depicted on a mural by Helen Gregory on the north side of Harbour Drive. What also persisted for many years, apparently, was Hawkridge’s method of dealing with merfolk.

Horace Beck’s “Folklore of the Sea” was originally published in 1973 by the Mystic Seaport Museum. It contains a few references to Newfoundland mermen, including one encountered by a fisherman who was hand-lining by himself in a dory just off the Newfoundland shore.

“At noon, he stopped fishing and started to eat his lunch, when much to his surprise and annoyance he discovered a merman about to climb into the boat,” writes Beck. “He tried to shoo it away with no success, so he grabbed the fish gaff and bashed it on the fingers, after which it acquired a lively interest in other things.”

Another of Beck’s Newfoundland tales involves a second merman, seen in the same area around the same time. When two men were out hunting, they saw a strange creature in the water and shot at it.

“Whatever it was sank,” describes Beck, “but a short time later a dead merman with a black beard and hair washed ashore nearby.”

Not all of Beck’s Newfoundland merfolk stories end badly. In one, a mermaid actually helped a Newfoundlander caught in a storm.

“On still another occasion a man was caught in a small boat in a heavy gale. When the situation became most critical a mermaid appeared, climbed onto the gunnel and conned the boat safely through the breakers to shore.”

One other mermaid story from Labrador has a happy ending. In an Inuit legend, an orphaned boy rescued a mermaid who had become grounded on the rocks. The grateful mermaid gave the boy a hat with a fancy broach as a reward. Visiting sailors recognized the broach as belonging to the King of England, who in turn gave the boy a hefty sum of money for its return.

Here’s hoping young Erin does well on her heritage fair project, and good luck to all the other heritage fair students across the province.

Storyteller and author Dale Jarvis can be reached at dale@dalejarvis.ca.

Words of wisdom from Alan Doyle and Russell Crowe.

One of the joys about traveling around Newfoundland while working on Arn? Narn. was learning about their culture, more specifically their music. One of my favorite groups then and now is Great Big Sea. I defy anyone to sit still while listening to their music and if you get the opportunity to attend their concerts, be prepared to have the time of your life.

Alan Doyle, the lead singer, addressed a hospitality group in Newfoundland and shared these thoughts. They’re applicable to all of us.

Great Big Sea frontman promotes province’s uniqueness

NOT ORDINARY – The message musician/actor Alan Doyle had for the delegates at Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador’s annual Conference and Trade Show in Gander last Thursday was simple — Newfoundland and Labrador is unique, and it’s this that makes it attractive to tourists. The lead singer for Great Big Sea also passed along some steps of success the band has followed during the past 21 years.

Alan Doyle has travelled around the world and rubbed shoulders with men and women from all walks of life — that’s just an ordinary day for the lead singer of Great Big Sea.However, his love and pride for his home province is not so ordinary, and he expressed his sentiments very clearly Thursday to delegates attending Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador’s annual Conference and Trade Show in Gander last week.Doyle, who was born and raised in Petty Harbour, said the best thing about Newfoundland and Labrador is its uniqueness — a uniqueness that makes it stand out globally.“The more I talk to people (about Newfoundland and Labrador through my travels) the thing I get most often if I ask ‘Why are you going? Why are you here? What’d you think of it?’ They say it’s different…they love it because it’s different,” he said. “That’s so amazing. We have something that’s different than anywhere else. We have something that’s like nowhere else in this day and age, when everything is like everything else.“I’m blown away with what we (Newfoundland and Labrador) have. The experiences we can offer people in music, geography, weird places to stay, weird meals to eat that they never had before, stories, acting, drama, bars, streets, hikes…the product, the material, the heart of what we sell to people we don’t need to make up, and I think almost everyone (else) needs to do that.”He said those involved in the hospitality and tourism industries in the province are so lucky to be from a place where the heart of what they sell is readymade.

“It’s key for us (in the tourism business) to be ourselves…people love that and it’s why they come,” he said.

To illustrate the point Doyle recounted a conversation he had with his good friend, Russell Crowe, during one of the actor’s visits to this province.

Crowe is a world-renowned actor, producer and musician, having starred in such films as Gladiator and Robin Hood.

“I wrote a song with Russell, after I asked him why he comes here, and he said he feels like he comes to a different place…he said, ‘I’ve been in Canada (Toronto and Hamilton) and now I’m in a different place…I don’t feel like I’ve been in the same place…I don’t feel that I’ve been anywhere like this place before…That doesn’t happen to me very often’,” said Doyle. “The song (Where We Belong) speaks to the heart of the unique place we’re from.”

Working advice

Doyle’s address was not just filled with anecdotes, but sprinkled with suggestions.

He offered advice on how people in the hospitality industry can keep visitors coming.

“Make a plan, be organized, and work with people —not have people work for you or you work for people,” he said, referring to some advice that was handed to him, Sean McCann and Bob Hallett from Sean’s father, Ed McCann, when they first formed Great Big Sea.

Doyle compared the entertainment business to the hospitality industry in the fact that every day a hospitality operation is open for business is showtime — just like in the music or movie industries.

“They both have a showtime, and there’s nothing more important than to be ready for showtime,” he said, noting this is something he has been more aware of since becoming friends with Crowe.

“You need to be ready. Getting ready is something you can do nine times out of 10. The most successful people are ready for what they have to do. You can’t fake being ready.”

Doyle told the audience of a recent experience he had requiring a level of readiness from a hospitality operator that proved just what he was saying about readiness brings success.

Just a few weeks ago he was stranded at the Inn when the ferry didn’t run.

However, he said, the operators of the Inn are ready for such incidents, and he was flown to St. John’s so he could meet his other obligations, while an Inn staff member drove his vehicle back to St. John’s.

“They’re ready, and I can’t stress it enough that you need to be ready.”

The third bit of advice he passed along was that in the world of business you need to do whatever it takes to be successful.

“You need to do whatever the days asks of you, not what you would hope the day would ask of, not what you thought it would ask of you, or not what is convenient, ” he said. “People need to do the good and the bad stuff…it’s the small stuff, if they go wrong, that results in big problems. You need to do whatever it takes.”

These have been three of the strategies followed by Great Big Sea, and himself, have followed to earn success.

“I wish you luck with it all,” he said in closing.

Cowboys from Newfoundland.

I really hope this comes to Discovery Channel in the US.

‘Cold Water Cowboys’ puts the spotlight on Newfoundland

By  

Cold Water Cowboys
(Cold Water Cowboys/Facebook)

It says something about Newfoundland’s legendary hospitality that when fishing boat captain Richard Gillett is talking to a reporter from the mainland – as those on the Rock refer to the rest of Canada – he does his best to tone down his accent a bit.

“I’m talking to you right now, and I’m trying to do the best that I can,” says Gillett with a laugh, on the phone from his home on Newfoundland’s northeastern shore.

“I can tell you, if you were here now with me and my dad, and we were into a conversation, you’d be looking at the two of us sayin’, ‘What kind of language is this?’”

Viewers might be asking the same thing when they tune into Cold Water Cowboys, a new reality series that follows the captains and crews of several Newfoundland-based fishing boats. Think Deadliest Catch, but with smaller vessels, more bleeped-out swearing and accents so delightfully thick that sometimes subtitles are needed.

“One of the producers told me, ‘Speak English, speak English!’” recalls Gillett, who captains the Midnight Shadow, based in the scenic coastal town of Twillingate. “But when we get out and everybody gets excited and a bit of fish is on the go… it’s understandable they got subtitles on us. Because some people do have a little bit of trouble understanding.”

Premiering Tuesday on Discovery Canada, Cold Water Cowboys follows six boats as they ply the waters of the North Atlantic in search of crab, mackerel, herring and more. After the 1992 cod moratorium that devastated Newfoundland’s fishing economy, the fishermen who have stuck it out must voyage much farther from home than their fathers and grandfathers did.

It’s hard and dangerous work, as seen in the show’s first episode when a stabilizer snaps off one of the boats and threatens to puncture its hull.

“In the blink of an eye, it went from a boring steaming trip to the dangers of a stabilizer breaking off and piercing the boat and the boat going to the bottom and the guys ending up in the drink,” says Gillett.

Gillett, a fifth-generation fisherman, says he and the other captains were initially a bit wary about having camera crews on their boats. “When it first started off, I expressed my views that I didn’t want anything staged,” he says. “I told them I’ve been at this long enough now that you’re going to see stuff break and you’re going to see trouble and you’re going to see dangerous situations.”

But the final product is an accurate look at the captains, crews and their communities, something else Gillett says sets it apart from Deadliest Catch.

“This show is not only about fishing,” he says. “This show shows the communities and the families and the relationships between the fishermen and the communities.”

Because really, Newfoundland is as much a star of the show as the fishermen are, b’y.

“As far as I’m concerned, the beauty of Newfoundland is second to none,” says Gillett. “In the summertime I can sit down on my bridge and watch the whales feed on small capelin. I’ve had times there have been 21 icebergs out in front of my place. Where else in the world can you do that?”

Twitter: @stevetilley

Steve.tilley@sunmedia.ca

And a partridge in Logy Bay – Christmas in Newfoundland.

A Merry Christmas to all!

From the  Telegram in St. Johns, Newfoundland.

Trailer12 Fogo Island.

Making the cut for the Christmas Bird Count

Christmas Bird Count, the world’s longest-running citizen science wildlife census, is 114 years old. “Are you a bird watcher?” asked Paul Linegar when I called him at home to volunteer my family for this year’s Christmas Bird Count.

I wasn’t sure how to respond. I knew “I can’t tell a crow from an eagle” would not get me the job. But I couldn’t lie.“I am not a birder, but I love birds.” I figured this would be a more appropriate response.

It’s true. I spent this past summer running up the Cuckold’s Cove Trail to see if Lucky, the eaglet, had finally ventured out of the nest. Last February at Bowring Park, I was thrilled to meet the red-footed goose even though I could’ve sworn he was a duck. And as soon as I heard about the wayward snowy owls, I headed straight to Cape Spear.

“Any owl sightings today?” I asked the first guy I saw after pulling in.

“There’s one right there,” he said pointing to a rock on the north side of the parking lot.

Well now, this birding thing is easier than I thought.

The owl was an exquisite creature, its thick white feathers barred with brown and its head pivoting this way and that like a weathervane. We were only there a minute or two when the white ball of feathers took flight, its massive wings reaching down to almost touch tips under its body.

The white plume landed on a rock in the bog to the south of the parking lot where the barracks used to be in the Second World War.

He sat stock still on a small bluff, keeping his big round eyes trained on the long lenses pointed his way. He didn’t seem scared, just curious.

It was at this point I noticed a half dozen other groups scattered throughout the bog, no doubt viewing this guy’s feathery buddies. Now I can’t wait to go to Cape Race to see the Harry Potter invasion.

All this to say: if I know what bird I’m looking for, I should be able to identify it.

Plus I’ll take descriptive notes and photos so if I can’t identify something in the field, I can always bring home a picture and cheat notes and go from there.

This seemed good enough for Paul Linegar and he signed me up for the stretch of trail between Torbay Point at the end of Doran’s Lane in Outer Cove to Red Cliff in Logy Bay. I am excited to finally be a part of the world’s longest-running citizen science wildlife census.

The Christmas Bird Count started in 1900, when an American named Frank Chapman asked people all across North America to count birds and submit the results to him.

Chapman’s census has grown to include thousands of counts throughout the States, Canada and further south.

The results of these counts are compiled and allow researchers to get a better handle on how many feathered creatures are where during one specific period.

Here in Newfoundland, the Christmas count takes place on Boxing Day, regardless of weather. Fourteen designated areas from Wabush-Labrador City to Ferryland each cover a 24-kilometre circle administered by a local birder.

Paul Linegar, my bird boss, will collect data from volunteers who walk in his circle which stretches from Torbay in the north to Paradise in the west and the Goulds in the south.

If you are interested in helping out and can tell a puffin from a partridge, and don’t mind walking outside in severe weather, consult the following site which shows leaders’ names and co-ordinates: www.birdscanada.org/volunteer/cbc/index.jsp?targetpg=compilers&lang=EN&prov=NL

If you’d like to set up a new count in your community, contact count co-ordinator Dick Cannings at dcannings@birdscanada.org.

And if you’re in the mood for a stroll, or snowshoe, in the woods on Boxing Day, consider the Red Cliff area where seven Flanagans might need help distinguishing a grouse from a ptarmigan.

Just kidding. I, the informed birder, now know they are one and the same.

Susan Flanagan would like everyone to say a special prayer this Christmas for

Pat Gehue, whose family wants him to come home. Susan can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca.

A child’s Christmas feedback

Ruth Wakeham writes: “Your family’s experience was in so many ways similar to ours. I, too, wanted knee boots so badly, probably in the same year that your sister did. We also still have photos of all the children of the family in cracker hats. There was nothing quite as good as new pyjamas. Your column took me right back. I could almost feel the cosiness of the flannelette as I was reading. I must ask Dad if he still has that white-handled electric knife. Thanks again. You made my Christmas.”

Andrew Tucker writes: “Your article in the Telegram, “A child’s Christmas,” brings back a lot of memories. We have the same Christmas picture in front of the couch, Christmas tree in the background. There were 10 of us — nine boys, one girl. Back in 1966, looking at them, you wonder who the goofball was, who the serious one was, how they would all turn out. We were fortunate enough to do the same picture 16 years later on the same couch, believe it or not. Nobody was ever allowed in the living room except at Christmas time.

“When friends look at and compare our two pictures, the 1966 one and the 1982 one, they often joke: same kids, same couch, same wallpaper, is that the same tree?

“Great fun. There are a lot of stories in pictures like that. Thank you for sharing it.”

Lynn Courish writes: “I hope I have stopped crying enough to send you a heartfelt thank you; my sister pointed out this article to me today as she actually recognized Gerry (just from the photo). What an amazing story you have done here, but hey, it is not a story is it? It was life and still is. I loved every minute of it. It was very well written but I have to be honest, for me, the memories just came flooding back at me. … Thank you so much. It feels like a Christmas gift to me.”

Heather LeShana writes: “Just read your article about Christmas. You could have been writing about my childhood. Thanks so much for the memories. Wishing you and yours a holiday filled with love, hope and new memories.”

Shirley Birmingham called to say that for her, the magic of Christmas was seeing the lit tree for the first time Christmas morning. She also still has a ginger container from A. Lilly and Company.

See COLUMN, page B2

Linda Ryan writes: “I dearly loved your story about your family’s Christmases on ‘Turn. It brought back so many wonderful memories of my own.  I, too, had an aunt who had moved to the States. Before their little family left Argentia, my military uncle gifted to my dad a handsome, hand-painted and rather significant, wooden Santa complete with sleigh and reindeer. Oh, how we treasured it.

“Whenever my dad would judiciously set it up in our front yard, Christmas had officially arrived in our neighbourhood. Soon after, winking lights and wreaths of all kinds would appear on the surrounding houses in a harmonious nod to the season. And, we would all wait with great anticipation for a soft sifting of snow to entirely set the scene. I can still see Santa and his reindeer in my mind’s eye. It was the first of its kind around our small town.  Some people would slow their cars to admire it and some would even stop and take pictures of their own children standing alongside Santa and waving.

“My sister and I, and certainly my parents, too, would always look forward to the boxes to arrive each year from Virginia. The boxes would always contain something that could not be found around here. Often, my aunt would send jumpers that she had expertly sewn for my sister and me.  And, we would wear them proudly with sweet white long-sleeved blouses to all the Christmas and New Year festivities. I remember one year, my aunt sent us the most beautiful cherry red corduroy jumpers.  We immediately put them on and literally wore them out. When I had finally outgrown mine, I wore my sister’s. I never wanted to give it up. Eventually, my mother, who was a pretty good sewer herself,

re-created the jumpers into miniskirts for my friend Judy and I — we wore them with our short white patent leather go-go boots in a Christmas concert singing and dancing to “Jingle Bell Rock.” Oh, my!

“I still have the only Barbie (American Girl, brunette in a striped swimsuit) I ever owned, given to me by my cousin — the year was 1965. Barbie had made the international trip along with her best friend, Midge. Who knew that some decades later, I would marry a man named Midge.

“The packages inside the ‘Christmas Box from Away’ were always beautifully individually wrapped which, for me, was the most magical thing about it all. I remember one year, customs had torn open the presents (leaving their inspection slips) and hadn’t bothered to rewrap even one.  I was devastated that someone would do that and not have the decency to at least tape up the torn papers. Imagine! At 7 or 8 years old, it was an atrocity.

“We didn’t have a lot back then. But what we had, we surely appreciated. And, we surely appreciated our American relatives thinking of us at Christmastime.

“My dad is gone now (he loved Christmas and I inherited that love for the season from him), as are his sister and my American uncle. But to this day, my cousin, sister and I still carry on the tradition across the miles. It helps us all to keep the spirit of Christmas present and the beautiful memories of Christmases past alive. …

Thank you, Susan, for reviving those in your column today.”

 

Time passes…

One of my most favorite memories of my time in Newfoundland was that of meeting and befriending some of the people whom I met. Over these years, I have stayed in touch with some of them. Some I hear from regularly; others intermittently but happily.

One who stands out is Bren. I first met him in 2004 on my first trip up there. At that time, he was a spry and very active 84 years old, just about to learn how to navigate the internet. I wandered into his shop to look at some of the crafts his lawn sign was advertising. And a door into a new world was opened.

Bren came out of his workshop where he had been “turning” some bowls. Dressed in work pants and a flannel shirt, Carhartt-type jacket and hat, Bren greeted me warmly. He said I was the first this year. First what? I was a little confused. Tourist of course. How could I have not known?

It was late March and the tourist crowd had yet to invade these lovely shores. I could have been considered the vanguard, but I really wasn’t a tourist in the traditional sense. I was happily working on what was to become Arn? Narn. But I was interested in picking up some local crafts and art for gifts for loved ones back home. So, in that sense, i was a tourist.

Bren invited me into his home while he brought out his wares to show me. Remember, I was the first and he wasn’t yet ready for the annual onslaught of intrepid travelers. We talked and I bought. And exchanged e-mail addresses. As I was about to leave, Bren invited me to stay for a cup of tea. I was running late, for what I don’t remember, but I demurred and headed back to St. John ‘s.

Scan Some of the raw stock of Bren’s turnings.

Later that year, I received one of the best New Year’s notes ever – an e-mail from Bren, trying out the internet. His message reminded me of how much I enjoyed that trip.

I went back the next year, 2005, I bought some more, we talked some more, and we drank beer and tea this time. We were now friends.

Two years later, I returned with my wife Carla and introduced her to Bren. They hit it off immediately. Why should they have not? More beer, tea, laughs, and stories.

Over the years, we exchanged notes, thoughts, and news of each others’ lives. Bren’s back started to give him problems and he had to give up his craft. We are the poorer for that. But he remained as active as he could.

Bren is now, according to his most recent e-mail of two days ago, 91.5 years old. He has sold his home and moved into a facility where he can receive the care he needs and shares his days with others. He states “I am adapting to a new life of idleness & being amongst a lot of people.” They are richer for that as I am for knowing Bren.

I am happy to report I now have plans to return to Newfoundland next summer. I look forward to seeing Bren once again… good friends are hard to find.

OK, Jon, I’m just down the street…

It’s been said that timing is everything. That said, I can save you, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, some money because I’ll be in NYC on Monday and Tuesday of next week. Put me on the show, dammit! You won’t have to pay for airfare or lodgings even. I promise to be entertaining. Really. I’ll bring a book and sign it for you and won’t even charge you for it! I’ll tell you all you never thought you needed to know about Newfoundland and the crisis that will be upon us before your children are grown. Yeah, it’s that important.

Why do you resist? Look, I know you’re locked into your contract until the middle of 2015. I can wait. I’ve waited longer than that for some other things that I won’t get into on this post. (If you’re interested, we can talk about it while I’m in the Green Room.) But, really. Why wait? The subject is of global importance and you can help bring it to the attention of so many. Why, you could even consider it a public service! True, it’s not tax deductible but before long nothing will be anyway.

I’m calling on all my friends, both of them, to petition you to do this. Soon, you won’t be able to go anywhere without hearing about my photo-documentary book, Arn? Narn. You’ll wonder why you waited so long. Hell, I’m wondering why you’re waiting so long.

Trailer21 This is the book, Jon. You have a copy already!

So to all my loyal readers out there, send Jon e-mails, Tweets, Facebook ’em, flowers, fruitcakes (You know, the ones left over from Christmas – no skip that, he’s Jewish), whatever. Let’s get him moving on this.

To reach him, you might try this e-mail address – guestpitch@thedailyshow. com . It couldn’t hurt.

We interrupt this blog to bring you… Halloween.

Last night being All Hallow’s Eve, I couldn’t help but put something of a Newfoundland spin on it. At Christmas time in Newfoundland, in addition to all the normal festivities including the prerequisite kitchen parties, is the custom of Mummering. I’ve written about this previously, but I’ll recap. Complete strangers, oddly dressed, descend upon unsuspecting resident’s homes and demand food and drink, carouse, and usually stay until tired or their true identities are discovered and then they leave to repeat said mayhem in yet another home. It can get out of hand. Once the government even tried to outlaw it, but the Newfoundlanders were having none of that, thank you b’y.

This year, as we get ready to dole out the ritual baksheesh to the little and not-so-little ones, I got to thinking how cool it might be to dress as a mummer here in the US.

This is Alphonse.

This is a fairly typical mummer “outfit” and is not the kind of costume one gets in a store. No, this requires creativity or color blindness at the very least. These figurines are from a collection created by two Newfoundland women, Pam and Cara. They produce one new limited edition mummer every year and are usually quite funny. Yet, they are accurate and indicative of what one might have knocking on their door come Christmas time.

Nish from Merasheem.

Now, can you imagine someone showing up at your house on Halloween in this? You might be inclined to call the police or at least use some pepper spray. But generally speaking in Newfoundland, it’s usually just harmless fun. However, I would not suggest walking into a convenient store dressed like this. They do have surveillance cameras after all.

And of course in the spirit(s) of the holiday, a toast must be made. Have another one, Fannie?

Fannie from Fogo.

The other possible downside in dressing this way for Halloween is that you might get picked up for vagrancy. After all, I don’t think we’re in Newfoundland anymore, Toto.

Once more into the breach dear friends, once more!

We make our plans to head once more into the… yeah, right. (celluloidheroesreviews.com)

Rested, fed, and eager to get going, we head out of St. John’s to the Burin Peninsula. This is the only place we go that I haven’t been to, so it will be a new adventure for me as well. This will take the better part of the day as it’s on the southern most tip of the larger Avalon Peninsula, right off of the Grand Banks.

The Grand Banks in happier days had some of the best cod fishing in Newfoundland. So, when we arrive, we see many of the same scenes I witnessed in my earlier trips. But it was new to Carla and my photos while accurate, could not prepare anyone for the stark reality of the moratorium’s effect. Fishing like everywhere else in the province was non-existent. It was the same story told over again.

Marystown (on the Burin), a formerly active shipbuilding community, had not had any new contracts for quite some time and was suffering because of that as well. There was some hope of a couple of government contracts, but they had yet to be decided upon. If they were to happen, it would be a godsend for that community.

Still, with all the hardship these people have endured, the Newfoundland spirit of generosity, friendliness, and hospitality was always there, ready without any need of encouragement. It really is who they are.

So we arrived to our, I think, beautiful, little cottage right on the bay. I could have moved in and stayed forever right then. I could have. Unfortunately, Carla was not as impressed as I was. It was to be a rather quiet night.

This is it. Oh, yeah, I could stay here. (trails.com)

Before I write any more, let me recap our trip thus far: we arrive very late or very early depending on your POV and get a foul-mouthed but entertaining, cab driver to take us hastily to our first night’s stay; our B&B has locked us out of our room and we can’t reach the owners; there aren’t any rooms at any inns that night in St. John’s; we dozed in the lobby of a hotel; and now this, all in two days. Not exactly the auspicious beginning I had hoped for. I’m wondering how soon can I book us a flight out of there. This is not good. All the points I had scored at the airport were now gone like wasted political capital. Re-election didn’t look so good right now.

But to paraphrase a Cat Stevens song, “Morning had broken”, and so did her mood. It was in fact quite different. She was starting to really like our little house on the water. We had stopped at a market for provisions on our way in so I set about to making some coffee, sitting out on the front porch, looking at the fog over the water, and thinking, yes, I could very easily stay here. Oh, if only. Maybe one day.