When I go for a haircut, my Barber understands my little
idiosyncrasy.  Not a word is exchanged,
once I sit in her chair.  She knows
exactly how much to cut, anyway. 

There is a reason for this bit of unfriendliness.  It’s not that I want to be anti-social; I just
tend to be inquisitive and want to hear what the other customers are
saying.  You can really pick up some
interesting tidbits in a Barber Shop. 

Now, this Saturday, I went to get my ‘ears lowered’, as a
friend describes  a hair cut.  I nodded the
usual greeting, to my Barber, and sat in the chair.  The occasion was rather timely because, only
a moment earlier, the next chair had received a patron; he and his Barber were
already in conversation.

The tall, heavy set Cutter was animated; his manner of speech
and body language suggesting that he enjoyed climbing great verbal heights.  He was a confident fellow, even if, with flailing
arms, his scissors seemed a threat to all in the parlor.  First, I heard the word Poll and then the
name Dunderdale.  In no time, at all, my
radar was fixed. 

The Barber was saying: “I am tired of the pundits; their
analysis is not worth a tinker’s damn, Bert. They believe the public don’t want
to be bothered.  The prevailing view
seems to be: don’t give them bad news, don’t raise uncomfortable issues and don’t disturb their state of economic bliss.  The pundits think the public has tuned out the politicians, he said with
emphasis, developed a ‘deaf ear’, as they say, for things “newsy” and are just content with the joys of living in a “have”
Province.  Sure, just a couple of hours
ago, I asked one of my customers, how he is doing and he replied: ‘just livin’
the dream’, Charlie. We had a great conversation.  And, you know Bert, he wasn’t the
least bit tuned out.

My, my, I thought.  Am
I about to get my money’s worth!
Credit: John Meaney ‘Rant ‘N Roar
“Isn’t that the conventional wisdom?” continued the Barber, and
not in a rhetorical way.  The customer, having
hesitated, the Barber continued:  “the inconsistency,
of course, is that the Government’s popularity is still dropping.  If people aren’t listening and have tuned out, then the Polls should be at
a standstill.  Actually”, he gestured with
scissors, repeating himself, for emphasis, “the Polls should not have changed at

Customer: It sounds logical, but after hesitating, he asked, are
you sure?

Barber: Of course, I’m sure. If people think less of this
Government today, than they did yesterday, they must have a reason.  And, if they have a reason, it means they must
be ‘tuned in’ to the goings on.

Customer:  Well, what
you say sounds reasonable; I suppose you can’t always be asleep or even deaf.  Maybe people hear what they want to hear.

Barber:  Yes, that’s just
it, of course.  People may not always be tuned
in; but, they are most certainly not always tuned out, either.  It’s no different with me.  I’m always able to selectively hear Uncle
Jim, when he comes to visit; he’s a pain in the ass, but, it doesn’t mean I
don’t hear him, when he says something interesting or new. 

Customer:  You, Sir,
are starting to sound like most people who listen to Kathy Dunderdale, the
Premier, giving the title an emphasis, ‘en francais’; certainly me anyhow, he
added.  I hear her when she’s saying
something important, and I notice when what she says, is completely asinine,
like when she ‘banged up’ the phone on poor ol’ Nigel Wright.  But, I didn’t hear her when she said she was
leaving for China. 

Barber: Why do you suppose that is? Didn’t you listen to the

Customer:  Why, of
course, I always listen to the news.

Barber: Well, why do you think you didn’t hear then; it’s not
as if she goes to China every other day?

Customer: B’y I s’pose, it’s because I figured that she wouldn’t
be doing any damage for a while, breaking into laughter, at his own facetious remark.

Surprised by the customer’s reply, the Barber laughed, too.  He laughed, until he roared; his scissor-hand
giving fair warning, that the customer’s unexpected humour had struck a chord. 

Barber:  God Almighty
man, you actually did hear the Premier, didn’t you; the thought just got filed
away, somewhere. You have just proven my point! 
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Just imagine if I had to listen to every
word Aunt Suze says; sure I’d be loco, he laughed again; she talks on and on
and most of it, though admittedly, not all she says, is drivel. 

Customer: So, how do you deal with it, Charlie?

Barber:  It’s easy
Bert. Just like you, I only listen to the important stuff. 

Customer: (A knowing grin starting to form on his face).  But how do you know you only hear the
important stuff; haven’t you got to listen to all of it and decide what is

Barber: That’s just not how the mind works, Bert.  Now B’y, the last time you were here,
I remember you saying that you often listens to your wife, Hazel isn’t it, with
a deaf ear. Now, I was thinking about that comment long after you said it and
concluded, my son, that that comment is a contradiction in terms. 

Customer:  What do you
mean by that, Bert? I think I’m startin’ to lose ya here.

Barber: Well, Bert, think about it; if you listen, you hear.
And, if you are deaf, you can’t hear, not even one word; it can’t be both, so
which is it?

Customer: You might have me there, Charlie; I guess I must be
listening to Hazel more than she gives me credit for.  But, if what you say is true, why is Hazel still mad at me? He laughed with a roar
that sent him into a fit of coughing. 

The Barber stepped back while the Customer regained his
composure.  But, he was not about to let the
flow of this intricate matter get lost in the interval.  A soon as the coughing ceased, the Barber was
ready with his retort.

Barber:  I can answer
that ‘ol man.  The problem is you don’t always hear the parts Hazel wants
you to hear.  You hear only what you want to hear.  And, that makes her mad!

Customer: But, Charlie, I still don’t understand how I’m able
to distinguish between the two. 

Barber:  But that’s
just it. That’s why Kathy Dunderdale has gotten frustrated enough to take off to
China.  She got no business to conduct
there, but if it were Outer Mongolia, it would matter the same. 

Customer: You mean Dunderdale is pissed for the same reason Hazel
is pissed.

Barber: Absolutely, Bert. You have to understand that what is
important, to her, is not the same stuff that’s important, to you. 

Customer: But, Charlie, think of what you are saying: if Dunderdale
starts saying stuff I want to hear, I might start to like her again?

Barber: Actually, yes, Bert. That’s just it.  It doesn’t have to be important or
anything.  It just got to be what you want
to hear! 

Customer: But, how in name of Moses is Dunderdale supposed to
know what I want to hear?

Barber: Bert, it’s no different with Hazel.  Everything she says is not always pleasant or
even important.  Knowing you, she doesn’t
have to pick you up a ‘six pack’ to get your attention. But, I bet Hazel knows she
can’t always be going against the grain. Sometimes, she has to stop going on
about her issues and begin talking about yours.

Customer:  I like the
explanation so far, Charlie.

Charlie hesitated, but only for a moment. 

Barber: Bert, let me give you an example. Dunderdale likes to
talk about Muskrat Falls. Likely, you’ve moved on from that subject.  Right now, you might only want to hear how she
hopes to make sure the price won’t double.

Customer: Yes, I do worry about that, and I’d be happy to
hear if she understands the danger.  And, I don’t care, right now, about the difficult Budget
decisions she’s had to make. I
only want to know if she’s on track and, if she has other plans.  As much as anything, I’d be content to lend
her one good ear, if I thought she was doing the best that can be done.

Barber:    That’s just the point, Bert.  Likely, if she thought for a second about you,
when she says stuff, you would give her two good ears and you wouldn’t need a deaf ear, at all.

Customer: And then, Charlie, those Polls wouldn’t be moving, hardly,
at all; at least, not out of her favour.

Barber: You might have a point there, Bert.

Customer: Jeses, Charlie, you’ll be doing Dunderdale’s hair
next; the Premier could profit from someone, like you.

Barber: I don’t think so, Bert; I’m just a Barber.  I can lower her ears, but I can’t to open
them. Anyway, Bert, you’re good to go. 

Ok, Maurice, it’s your turn. How are ya doin’ my friend?  “Just livin’ the dream, Charlie, just livin’
the dream.”
Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.


Bill left public life shortly after the signing of the Atlantic Accord and became a member of the Court of Appeal until his retirement in 2003. During his time on the court he was involved in a number of successful appeals which overturned wrongful convictions, for which he was recognized by Innocence Canada. Bill had a special place in his heart for the underdog.

Churchill Falls Explainer (Coles Notes version)

If CFLCo is required to maximize its profit, then CFLCo should sell its electricity to the highest bidder(s) on the most advantageous terms available.


This is the most important set of negotiations we have engaged in since the Atlantic Accord and Hibernia. Despite being a small jurisdiction we proved to be smart and nimble enough to negotiate good deals on both. They have stood the test of time and have resulted in billions of dollars in royalties and created an industry which represents over a quarter of our economy. Will we prove to be smart and nimble enough to do the same with the Upper Churchill?