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‘Simon learns his vowels’

It is a well known fact that us Newfoundlanders have many diverse dialects, a mixture of words from the countries of our ancestors. It was music to my ears during my adult life away from Newfoundland. I could tell a Newfoundlander if there was one in a room of two hundred people. Many little coves and bays have people with varied and diverse accents and have a very distinct way of speaking that some teachers have tried very hard to correct over the years.

One very dedicated teacher in one special little harbour, called Shoal Harbour, had quite a challenge with little Simon. She was determined to teach him the proper sound of the vowels and he was determined and steadfast in his not wanting to change anything. After many hours working with him after school, Simon, who scuffed his boots and kept his gum behind his ear while staring out the window, she was finally proud of what her had accomplished. She had taught Simon about vowels.

Simon would be her prize pupil the next day in the tiny one room school, and she was dressed as if going to a fine theater.She had told Simon to come prepared to speak in front of the class to show them all the progress he had made. All seemed to be in order for the ‘English’ lesson that was to be.

After the usual morning routine of checking the register, and seeing that all was well the young teacher launched into her English class.

"Well class, Simon has learned the use of the vowel "O". OK Simon, please stand and use the sentence we talked about." she prodded.

Simon stood up, hair ruffled, rubber boots still scuffing the floor, leaned on his desk and bellowed out "CARK IS THE BARK OF A VERY LARGE TREE!"

"No," said the teacher calmly, her face reddening, "It is Cork remember, not Cark, now try again."

OK, Simon thought to himself, I can fix that, I remember now!

The little boy stood as tall as he could and bellowed even louder this time, "CORK IS THE BORK OF A VERY LORGE TREE!"

His classmates applauded, Simon took a bow and the teacher wept!!

A bouquet to the teacher, who most likely had many Simons to deal with during her career! It has made me wonder many times when I hear this story told if Simon ever developed an ambition to become a writer, or did his life carry him to far off places where vowels did not matter.

When the right word will not expose itself to me, when there is a block that I cannot get past, my thoughts go back to Simon and his vowels.

And sure enough, the visual I get of Simon somehow spins a word around in a vortex in my writers’ mind and reveals itself to me. I call it being "Simonized". It has never failed me yet and I hope it never does.

Yes, ‘Simonizing’, a great tool for an aspiring writer!

Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe
Shoal Harbour, NL