Central Belt Shuffler has been on tour again, as this recent post on Montreal’s public transport described.
To accompany travel in a very different part of Canada, Central Belt Shuffler’s holiday reading list included Wayne Johnston’s 1998 novel The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.
The book, which is an imaginative recreation of Newfoundland’s first premier Joey Smallwood, details a number of journeys across and around the rugged island: accompanying a sealing ship as a reporter; walking the railways to unionise the section workers; sailing the shores to discover tiny communities lost in time; crossing his home land for the first time in train (a route which is sadly no longer). Johnston’s evocation of Smallwood leaving Newfoundland on a boat for the first time is particularly fine:
To leave or not to leave, and having left, to stay away or to go back home. I knew of Newfoundlanders who had gone to their graves without having settled the question, some who never left but were forever planning to and some who went away for good but were forever on the verge of going home. My father had left and come back, physically at least.
In the lounges, people sat listening to the radio until, about twenty miles out, the sound began to fade. There were groans of protest, but people kept listening as long as they could hear the faintest hint of sound through the static. Finally, when the signal vanished altogether, there was a change in mood among the passengers, as if we were truly under way, as if our severance from land was now complete. The radio was left on, though, eerily blaring static as though it were some sort of sea sound.