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Column: Things are different out west

Places like Bottle Cove make the west coast a great spot to life.
Places like Bottle Cove make the west coast a great spot to life.

It is hard to believe I’ve been in Corner Brook for just over six months.

Time flies when you’re having fun, or so they say.

Truthfully, it has been a solid half a year on the province’s west coast. I got back into baseball, met come cool people and saw some places I wouldn’t have if I had stayed in Bay Roberts.

Pretty soon, you’ll see me around the rink as an on-ice official. Everything is starting to come up Millhouse.

This brings me to this peak into the innermost workings of my mind. I was making my way back west after a week on the Avalon Peninsula when a thought occurred to me: while we are all a part of the same province, I feel like the west coast and the east coast are more akin to close cousins than they are the same person.

I know this is blasphemous.

Our vaunted identity as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians doesn’t allow us to separate the two, but hear me out.

After spending the majority of my three-plus decades on the eastern portion of this rock, I’ve noticed some things that make me think I might be onto something.

First is, of course, the accent. Talk to a tourist and they’ll wax poetic about the accent.

“Oh, I just love the accent,” they’ll squeal with delight. It has become one of our most cherished calling cards.

I just don’t hear the same one out west that I do in Bay Roberts or the capital city.

Now, that is to be expected. Accents develop because of a number of factors. Prime one is isolation. We’ve all developed a unique twist on the dialect.

That, however, does not mean I don’t hear more mainland than Newfoundland when I speak with people.

Maybe it is just our proximity to the Maritimes, but there’s something else there for sure.

Irish culture is another portion. Corner Brook has a thriving arts scene, no doubt. That is the same with other centres on the west coast.

There is no question about it. Close the book.

However, there is a distinct lack of the Irish, we as a province — especially the east coast — love to rave about.

It is rare to hear it pouring out into the streets from our pubs and it is even more rare to see it firsthand outside of St. Patrick’s Day.

Now, maybe I’m just not looking in the right spots. But, I just don’t see there being much of a connection.

Outside of a Navigators performance earlier the summer and a scheduled visit from Fergus O’Byrne and Jim Payne later this month, it is hard to find a spot to sit down and listen to a few jigs and a couple of reels live.

That is enough about what makes the east different than the west. How about I divest some knowledge on what I’ve gotten out here that I don’t get back home?

Here are the simple ones.

There isn’t fog and we get to experience four distinct seasons.

Life doesn’t move as fast as it does in St. John’s and I don’t see as much romanticizing about the fishery standing in the shadows of Gros Morne.

While the east coast has started to acquire an outdoors-centric view in recent years, that attitude has existed out this way for decades. Credit it to Gros Morne or just a landscape that evokes more Rocky Mountains than the Cliffs of Dover.

I’ve gotten far more use of my camera in Corner Brook than I ever did in Bay Roberts.

Hiking and camping is a way of life out here. Now, the boys back home who love to get in the woods would argue it is the same out east, but I don’t think it is to the same degree.

It is just a different lifestyle.

Now, I may be coming from left field on this, I may be completely out to lunch.

You might see me on the street and tell me there is no difference between either side of the province.

And, there’s nothing wrong with that.

These are just the observations of one east coast fella trying to make it out west.

— Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at nmercer@thewesternstar.com.

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