Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Menin Gate, and why you should vote #elxn11

Earlier this year, I had the great opportunity as a storyteller to take part in the wonderful Alden Biesen International Stortyelling Festival in Belgium. It was a great experience, and wonderful to see so many storytellers working and sharing in so many languages.

Since I was in Belgium, I took some time off to explore some of the country's great cities, and I made certain that I visited some of the sites that have entered our consciousness as Canadians, sites with names that resonate with those of us who have never even visited Belgium, names like Passchendale, Flanders, the Ypres Salient.

At Ypres, on an appropriately grey day, I walked around the imposing Menin Gate. The gate is a memorial to those soldiers whose bodies were never found, 55,000 of them, which was erected on the spot where the soldiers left the city for the frontline, never to return. Even today, they are still digging the bodies of fallen soldiers out of the Flanders clay.

It brought the reality of that conflict home to me in a way that can only be described as emotional; and what struck me most as I walked through the impeccably kept graveyards of Flanders was how young all those soldiers were. 

I came home from Flanders to a country facing an election.  In a world where young people are dying every day to for the right to have a democratic say in their own futures, I think we all too often forget about all those young men and women who died to protect our freedoms.

I've already made my vote in advance, as I'll be travelling to Hopedale, Labrador, on election day. If you haven't voted, you should.  The democracy that people died for works when we all make it work, together. You can make a difference with your vote.

To you from failing hands we throw
       The torch; be yours to hold it high.

              - John McCrae, 1919

Monday, 18 April 2011

Haunted Waters reviewed on CBC Radio

Laura Cameron at Flanker Press was kind enough to send me this transcript of a review aired on CBC Radio, Corner Brook this morning. Here it is! - Dale

Haunted Waters: More True Ghost Stories of Newfoundland and Labrador

I've always admired folklorist Dale Jarvis for the way he treats stories of the supernatural and unexplained. Newfoundland and Labrador, as part of its history, is rich with stories and accounts of hauntings and paranormal phenomena.

Jarvis, with his academic background and solid reputation for doing high quality research, gives this aspect of our history extra dignity and credibility. His interest in this field is quite genuine and he treats it seriously – and not just because these events make for fascinating stories.

Jarvis's latest book, “Haunted Waters: More True Ghost Stories of Newfoundland and Labrador” is a follow-up to his popular collection “Haunted Shores.” Many of these stories were published previously in Jarvis's column in the Telegram, “Newfoundland Unexplained,” and in Downhome Magazine.

Jarvis takes an organized approach; “Haunted Waters” is sorted into sections dealing with specific types of haunting or disturbance. There are haunted houses and other buildings; apparitions; phantom ships, and animal spirits; there’s also a section on faerie folklore and local legends.

There seems hardly a corner of our province where Jarvis hasn't found something otherworldly or hard to explain. Many of the things recounted here relate to places in St. John's, but most deal with other places and readers won’t be able to help being impressed by this rich assortment.

The Town of Deer Lake, incidentally, has a ghost story of its own, and Jarvis supplies it here. The section on scaring off evil spirits relates specifically to Codroy Valley.

While our folk legend having to do with the sleep disturbance, known commonly throughout Newfoundland as the Old Hag, seems to have particular power to terrify, and Jarvis covers that one in this book as well.

“Haunted Waters” is an excellent collection –highly readable and enjoyable for adults and young adults – and not just those with a fondness for creepy tales. Readers interested in the folktales, superstitions, and history of our province will find much to admire about it as well.

For Newfoundland and Labrador public libraries, I’m Darrell Squires.
CBC Radio, Corner Brook, April 18, 2010