The Telegram (St. John's)
Politics goes into snooze mode
Mid-summer, and a decent summer at that.
The drawback? A time of drought for journalists in search of political stories or columnists in search of politicians to skewer.
Politicians, you see, disappear in the summer months no matter what Mother Nature decides to deliver in Newfoundland, a place she has not been particularly kind to over the centuries; but if Our Lady of Climes finds a soft spot in her heart on occasion, and supplies us with mainland skies and temperatures, well, the elected types then isolate themselves like one of those lost tribes in the Amazon.
Now, for sure, the politicians — of each and every stripe, left, right and in the middle — still endeavour to brainwash their constituents as they travel the rubber-chicken circuit, backslapping and baby-kissing, utilizing a forced smile that I’ve thought during my observer time on the hustings resembled the symptoms of a stroke, a facial fakery that must take hours of sleep (or a crowbar) to remove from the political puss.
If you’re pressured into providing your member with company this summer, just remember that everything he or she does, everything he or she says, every syllable, is selfserving: they want your vote, and, for way too many of them, it’s soul-selling front and centre, principles and sincerity be damned.
The Liberals will try and persuade you to view the world, as they do, like a bunch of Pollyanna dolls, whistling past the graveyard (a message from money analysts upalong that Newfoundland’s economy has “stabilized” was touted, in a falsely modest way by this non-inventive government, as a message from some financial god that we’re on the cusp of a miraculous comeback, right up there with the rising antics of that Lazarus fella.)
And, predictably, they will also continue to blame each and every problem they confront as having been created during the Tory winning streak, a political argument that can only bring a governing party so far before it rings decidedly false.
For their part, the Tory members will meander through their districts trying to talk voters into believing that a retread like Paul Davis has actually earned another shot at the premier’s office; the scattered PC might even sing the praises of Moose Man Crosbie, oblivious to the quiet amazement: “Are Davis and Crosbie the best you can do?”
And the NDP? Well, their couple of members, and their non-sitting leader, will repeat the plaintive plea Ndpers have been crying ever since they issued their first press release eons ago: “For gawd’s sakes, give us a shot, will ya, will ya please?”
As for the frustrated pundits, some of us have to be content with gratuitous and nasty generalizations (see the paragraphs above for evidence), or discover other ways to attract a reading audience as we await the reappearance of the lost tribes from their district jungles.
In my case, I’ve been considering the issue of age, largely because there was so much conversation on that topic during a recent family gathering in New Brunswick (a wonderful reunion, I might note, headquartered in a cottage near a tranquil and lovely beach in an area called Douglas Harbour).
My siblings and I are getting up there, as they say, all of us, with one exception, in the 60plus range, so I guess it makes sense that we’d be wondering where the hell the years have gone. But damn it all, I wish the aging progression would just slow down, at least to a psychologically manageable level.
My father used to warn me, when he was of a similar age that I am now, that the years speed up dramatically as one gets older; I ignored his words, of course, aging and mortality lost in the delightful shuffle of intellectual irresponsibility and youthful arrogance. But the old man was right on. I feel sometimes as if I had been a passenger on the Newfie Bullet of Life for about four decades, and then suddenly bought a ticket on one of those supersonic trains across the pond. (Can’t let a reference to the Bullet go by without resurrecting my favourite joke about the infamously slow train: the conductor spots a heavily pregnant woman on the St. John’s to Port aux Basques run, and exclaims: “My dear, I can’t believe you got on the train in that condition!” Replied the passenger: “Well, sir, I wasn’t in this ‘condition’ when I got on.” Ba-dum-tsh.)
I also found myself contemplating age because my wife Heather’s Aunt Phyllis (Coultas) Snow died this past week at the grand age of 100. Regular visitors to this corner of The Telegram might recall that it was just a couple of weeks ago, in a piece about Canada Day, that I wrote about a birthday celebration we had July 1 for Auntie Phyl. Unfortunately, she became ill a week or so after that glorious event, and passed quietly and gracefully away Monday afternoon.
Phyl was an incredible woman, mentally sharp right to the end, who seemed to want to downplay the reasons for her longevity (she always had one drink of Screech during family gatherings, a modest consumption that might have helped along the way).
Basically, Auntie Phyl said she tried to remain oblivious to the accumulation, the actual calculation, of years, and lived one day at a time.
And what a time it was. We’ll miss her dearly.
I feel sometimes as if I had been a passenger on the Newfie Bullet of Life for about four decades, and then suddenly bought a ticket on one of those supersonic trains across the pond.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org