Monthly Archives: January 2017

Movie: Hell or High Water

I’ve seen this described as a ‘Neo-Western’ which is what it is, I suppose, with lots of shoot-em-up and Texan drawls that are almost incomprehensible to my little Aussie ears. But it’s more than this. Set in a dry, featureless landscape with oil pumps rocking on small holdings with ramshackle houses surrounded by clapped-out cars, this is almost a rural version of ‘99 homes‘. A divorced father and his brother who has recently been released from prison, embark on a series of bank robberies that an old, soon-to-retire police chief is despatched to solve.  Not really my cup of tea, but there’s more to it than might appear.

My rating: 3.5/5

This Week in Port Phillip 8-15 January 1842

Twelfth Night

Well, it was the week after New Year and some people celebrated Twelfth Night (which I gather is more significant in England than it is here in Australia). Twelfth Cakes were available from Mr Burgin the pastrycook in Collins-street.

twelfth-cake-with-feathers

http://www.historicfood.com/John%20Mollard’s%20Twelfth%20Cake.html

From the Port Phillip Gazette:

TWELFTH NIGHT. The shop of Mr Burgin, pastrycook of Collins’ street exhibited on Thursday evening a splendid variety of Twelfth Cakes, of all prices and dimensions, capable of suiting all parties and pockets.   The larger class were gaily ornamented with a variety of beautiful French ornaments, lately received by Mr Burgin. [PPG 8/1/42]

The Port Phillip Patriot had a similar report:

TWELFTH NIGHT The lovers of good old English customs duly celebrated Twelfth Night in all its routine of harmless merriment on Thursday last, and great was the run on the vendors of pastry for the occasion. The tempting display of twelfth cakes made by Mr Burgin, deserves particular mention, being such as would have done credit to the shop of the first pastry-cook in London.[PPP 10/1/42]

Infrastructure

During January 1842 work commenced on two infrastructure projects that had been demanded for some time.  The first was to construct a weir in the Yarra River at ‘The Falls’ at the bottom of Queen Street. ‘The Falls’ is a rather generous description: it was a small rocky outcrop that separated the salt water coming up from the bay from the fresh water coming down from the Yarra catchment. It may have been small, but it was very important because the town’s water supply was taken from the freshwater section, and when the falls were swamped by flood water or high tides, the fresh water supply was contaminated.

melbourne-from-the-falls-from-a-sketch-oct-1838

[Melbourne from the falls, from a sketch Oct. 1838] [picture] / Robert Russell. State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/41843

There had been an attempt to build up the falls in 1839, and now with many unemployed labourers congregating around Melbourne, they were put to work on the weir (also a rather generous description.)

A gang of hands are now employed on the Weir; in the first instance only one wall will be built, after which a second will be added, and the intervening space filled up with puddling clay; the whole width of the Weir will be twenty-seven feet; and when there is no fresh water in the river will serve the purpose of a bridge [PPG 8/1/42]

It is sobering to realize that the Yarra did not have a properly constructed bridge across it until 1845. Until then, people were reliant on punts. I’m not sure that the weir was ever used for crossing purposes, and these works soon deteriorated just as the 1839construction  did.

The second infrastructure project was to build a road from ‘the beach’ (i.e. Port Melbourne) to Melbourne town. After mooring in Hobson’s Bay, visitors to Melbourne had two choices: to travel up the Yarra by steamer, or to travel overland from Port Melbourne to town. It was a rough track, for which Mr Liardet had the contract for a conveyance service.  It was not unknown for people to be held up by thieves en route. Clearing the road was a good project for the unemployed labourers:

WE are glad to learn that a number of the newly arrived immigrants are employed in constructing a road between Melbourne and the Beach. This, perhaps, is one of the most crying of “our wants” and we trust that its satisfaction is only the prelude to the many and important benefits which His Excellency intends to confer on the dwellers in Australia the Happy [PPP 13/1/42]

and

THE NEW ROAD. At last the Government have commenced the line of road from the site of the projected new bridge to the beach. The surveyors are hard at work laying out the line, and all the unemployed immigrants are employed in felling and stumping in all directions. They are allowed four shillings a day, but find their own rations. [PPG 12/1/42]

Although no doubt people were pleased to see this infrastructure finally being built, the fact that it was being constructed by unemployed labourers as a government scheme was a sign of market failure.  These labourers had been encouraged to Port Phillip with the promise of abundant work, prior to the recession which was just starting to bite. They were never intended to be a burden on the government.

Things getting worse

A sign of the deterioration of economic conditions was the falling price of land.

FALL IN LAND.On Tuesday was brought to the hammer by Mr Sugden, the Sheriff’s Baillif, a piece of land in the upper end of Little Flinders-street, which was knocked down to Mr F. E. Falkiner at 27s per foot. About two years since the same land was purchased by the proprietor on whose account it was sold, at £4 4s. per foot. [PPG 12/1/42]

A change of government overseas

I’m writing this entry in the week prior to Donald Trump’s inauguration. It is a political event that Australia has been powerless to influence, but which  will affect Australia and the rest of the world nonetheless.  In early 1842 the Australian newspapers were digesting the just-received news of the appointment of a new Conservative government in September 1841, headed by Sir Robert Peel after six years of Whig government. This situation, like Trump’s inauguration this week, had the potential to bring a new political stance to matters affecting the Australian colonies.   Although it was not likely that a Conservative government would lean towards either representative or responsible government in the Australian colonies, the Sydney Gazette thought that the change of government offered a good opportunity to agitate for representative government in local affairs:

No time could be more opportune than the present to petition our gracious Queen and the Imperial Parliament. The Conservative party are actuated, no doubt, with a strong desire to conciliate not only the people of Great Britain, but the millions that constitute her immense Colonial Empire. The cause that has led to this change of opinion, and to the appointment as Colonial Minister, of Lord Stanley, one of the most talented , all will admit, of the men who now sway the destinies of the British Empire, can be traced to the long expulsion of the Tory party from the sweets of office. Desirous, as most statesmen are- whatever their creed- of place, pay and patronage, we cannot imagine that the Conservative body are so indifferent to their own advantage, as to neglect strengthening their power by adopting a more liberal policy towards the Colonies than any Ministry have yet thought it incumbent on them to do. [Sydney Gazette cited in Port Phillip Gazette 15/1/42]

A portable house

The advertising columns carried this advertisement for a ‘portable cottage’. Many of the early buildings- including La Trobe’s cottage still standing in Melbourne- were prefabricated structures that were shipped from London. These were wooden structures, which were later replaced by portable iron houses (I wrote about my visit to the portable iron houses in South Melbourne here.)

 LONDON BUILT PORTABLE COTTAGE. A very superior cottage built by Manning of London, is for sale by private bargain. Its area is 59 X 20 feet, one storey high, built in the Gothic style. The accommodation consists of dining and drawing rooms, five bedrooms, one dressing closet, store room, water closet (with patent apparatus) and an attic 59 X 13 feet, which may be divided into sleeping apartments, &c &c. There are slates and lead for the roof and plaster laths, for the ceiling together will all the necessary fittings for its due completion; in fact its one of the most complete and well arranged cottages that has ever been sent out tho this colony, and as the party for whom it was built have taken up their resident in Sydney, it will be disposed of on very moderate terms.  Apply at the stores of Messrs Dunlop McNab & Co, where a sketch will be shown and every other information given. [PPG 8/1/42]

It seems to fit rather a lot into its 59 feet and I assume that the five bedrooms were rather cosy!

The Police Court

Miss Fanny Ross (AKA ‘Flash Nan’) appeared in the police court after a well-intentioned (I’m sure) attempt to entertain the immigrants. She had been enjoying a quiet pint with her cousin, and once he left her and feeling the spirit move her, she bought tooth-picks for the lately-arrived immigrants and amused herself imitating ‘L’Esmeralda’ from the Hunchback of Notre Dame by dancing the tarantella with a tamborine accompaniment. She was fined five shillings for her trouble. (PPH 11/1/42]

Meanwhile Peter Tuite and his wife Catherine were jointly indicted before the Supreme Court for keeping a brothel

The facts of this case are of too gross a nature for publication. It was proved that the prisoners kept a most disreputable house, in a land leading from Sidebottom’s public house, to Bourke-lane, where drinking, fiddling, and all sorts of disturbances were of nightly occurrence (PPP 10/1/42)

They were both found guilty by the jury and Judge Willis sentenced them both to two years jail at hard labour, and a fifty pound fine for Peter Tuite.

A singular coincidence

Amongst the prominent legal personalities in Port Phillip at this time were James Croke, the Crown Prosecutor, and Redmond Barry, who was the Commissioner of the Court of Requests as well as a barrister in the Supreme Court.  In January 1842 he was particularly well known for his defence of the Aboriginal Van Diemen’s Land prisoners who, yes, were still languishing in jail (and of whom we will read next week).

SINGULAR COINCIDENCE. The worshippers at the Episcopal Church in this town on Sunday last were provoked into a breach of decorum which had almost brought down upon their heads the rebuke of the reverend chaplain, by an awkward similarity between the names of two of the aspirants to the felicities of the married life, and those of two gentlemen learned in the law, whose position as officers of the Government necessarily brings them often before the public. The worthy clerk had just discharged the preparatory hems with which he is wont to preface his matrimonial announcements, and finding the congregation all attention proceeded to publish the banns of marriage between “James Croke, bachelor, and Mary Barry, spinster, for the third and last time”. Now Mr Croke, the barrister- not Mr Croke, the bridegroom, being a sober, steady-going bachelor, and a most unlikely butt for Cupid’s shafts, every body stared with astonishment on finding the the learned gentleman in such a predicament, and expectation was wound to the highest pitch while the clerk, who by the way is none of the quickest, proceeded to give the name of the enslaver of the heart of Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecutor. When at last the name of “Mary Barry, spinster” was proclaimed, the air of astonishment was changed to a universal titter, for every-body supposed that a hoax was being played off of which Mr Croke, Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecutor, and Mr Barry, the Commissioner of the Court of Requests, were the victims, and the worthy clerk the unconscious instrument, and it was not without some difficulty and until after several very ominous looks from the reverend chaplain that order was restored and the service proceeded  [PPP 13/1/42]

How’s the weather?

The official weather report noted ‘Fine agreeable weather’ with showers on the 12th and 13th and a top temperature with an ‘attached thermometer’ of 86 (30C) degrees.   The Port Phillip Patriot, which published its own weekly meteorologic report, reported

Jan 9  – Max: 72/ Min: 53; Jan 10- Max: 80/Min:58; Jan 11- Max:80/Min:59; Jan 12- Max:81/Min:64; Jan 13- Max:80/Min:53; Jan 14- Max:68/Min:50; Jan 15-Max: 67Min:/50 [PPP 17 January 1842]

So, all in all, pleasant summer weather with cooler weather on 14th and 15th January.  Interesting, though, that the warmest night was 64 (17.8 degrees), with most nights in the  50’s (12-15 C)

 

 

 

‘Looking Through You: Rare and Unseen Photographs from the Beatles Book Archive’ by Leslie Bryce

lookingthroughyou

192 p. 2016

As part of my nostalgic after-glow from seeing Eight Days a Week, I snapped up this book at my library when I saw it on the New Non Fiction shelves.  It features beautifully clear photographs that were taken by photographer Leslie Bryce who, along with published Sean O’Mahony, issued a small monthly booklet called ‘The Beatles Monthly Magazine’ during the Beatles phenomenon of the 1960s.

beatlesmonthlybook

Now fetching about $30 each on E-Bay, they originally cost 1/6d (15 cents for those readers who are P.D. [pre-decimal]) and there were 77 editions issued between 1963 and 1969. It was resuscitated in 1976 and finally ceased publication in 2003.

They were a bit of a hack-job, replicating the format of other similar fan magazines, and filled with pictures and articles that purported to be interviews.  It contained a letters page with the occasional ghost-written Beatles reply,  a Beatles  News page and the lyrics of the month’s Beatles Song. However, they were given unprecedented access to the Beatles backstage and in the recording studio, and were part of the team.  Pages 4 and 5 of the magazine were devoted to the National Fan Club newsletter, with its fictitious secretary Anne Collingham, a made-up name to cover the rotating team of staff who answered the fan mail that arrived at the Offical Beatles Fan Club  organized through the Beatles’ press officer.  The Beatles Book was distributed to over a million people world wide, and Official Beatles Fan Club membership reached a peak of 80,000 world wide.

At first,The Beatles Book contained biographical articles to introduce ‘the boys’ to their fans, but increasingly it became a way of keeping the world at bay.  The Beatles of 1963 and 1964 welcomed the photographic publicity, but by late 1966/early 1967 the torrent of photographs had slowed to a trickle.  The final photographs in the book are mainly taken at recording sessions – Sgt Peppers, Revolver etc- where the tension between them  is palpable.

Ah, but those younger photos are so clear and exuberant!  Did they brush their hair specially each time the camera came out, I wonder?- it’s certainly shiny clean hair, and suit and tie were their ‘brand’.  The earliest photographs in the book were taken in 1963 when the Beatles played at summer seaside locations (Margate and Bournemouth) before heading to London in December 1963- then Paris, New York, Washington, Florida, Europe- no Australia here.

The photographs have interesting little captions and snippets of fascinating facts. Did you know, for instance, that the last note in the gobbledegook at the end of Sgt Peppers can only be heard by dogs? [I don’t have a dog to try it out on anymore].

Anyway- beautiful photos that I certainly hadn’t seen before and an interesting flip-through if you’re in the mood for some innocent nostalgia.

Sourced from: Yarra Plenty Regional Library

My rating: 7/10 (difficult to rate, really)

‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ by Jon Ronson

ronson

2015,  269 P.

One of the problems with a media-savvy author who travels the world promoting his book is that by the time you get round to reading it, you feel as if you’ve already done so.

This was the case for me with this book, which I had heard about through multiple interviews on different Radio National programs. The author, who had his own taste of being the victim of cyber-stalking, becomes fascinated by the phenomenon of shaming over the Internet as a modern manifestation of an older form of punishment and social control.  In particular, he tells the stories of Jonah Lehrer who fabricated quotes in an article on Bob Dylan, and Justine Sacco whose flippant sarcasm in a tweet about being white and the likelihood of catching AIDS went viral. Both were deluged with internet outrage and it’s no exaggeration to say that their lives were destroyed.

Ronson examines the use of shaming in formal legal settings. He discusses Judge Ted Poe who orders deliberately shaming punishments for the offenders who appeared in his court, and he fact-checks the Stanford Prison Experiment which has been offered up  as ‘evidence’ that we are all capable  of evil actions once a social-media crowd phenomenon gets started. He meets people who have started internet fire-storms, and attends a shame eradication workshop established by an enterprising psychotherapist. Finally, in a hopeful sign that there can be redemption, he meets representatives of a company which specializes in white-washing Google search results for people who have been subjected to public shaming.

Of course, through his book Ronson shames these people again by publicizing their plights anew and I found his smug voyeurism rather off-putting. Nonetheless, many of his points resonated.  I found myself thinking of Monica Lewinsky’s powerful TED talk The Price of Shame and Waleed Aly’s recent Andrew Olle lecture where he noted the rush to emote rather than to think.

The book was an easy enough read. I just felt that I’d already heard it all before.

Source: Yarra Plenty Regional Library

My rating: 7/10

This Week in Port Phillip 1842: January 1-7

In 1842, there wasn’t the extended January break that we now enjoy. Instead, things returned pretty much to normal after New Year.  But let’s just laze around a bit longer for this first week of the year 1842.  I did write about New Years Eve/New Years Day 1841 in an earlier posting, so you might want to flip back to have a look there. My posting for this week is an elaboration on that description of the New Year holiday 1842.

What was on New Years Day 1842?

1. The William’s Town Festivities

newyearsday

The day dawned fine:

The dawning day exhibited a most favourable promise of congeniality; the blueh eavens were unspooted with a cloud, and as the sun arose gloriously refulgent, casting his invigorating beams on the glad earth, a light breeze sprung up, gently rippling the face of the still waters… in fact every prospect was afforded of what is, in Australia Felix, emphatically termed “a beautiful day”, when the purity of the air is such, and the alternations of heat and coolness so nicely poised, that it is impossible for the imagination to conceive, or the desire to yearn for an atmosphere more grateful to the sense.[PPP 3/1/42]

Williams Town was a-bustle getting ready:

On Saturday, the first day of the present year, the good folks at WilliamsTown were on the qui vive at an early hour in the morning, to do justice to the bill of fare which had been drawn up for the occasion, and have everything in readiness by the time the shoals of Melbournites had arrived, who came dropping in after nine o’clock by all modes of conveyance,

” Some pushed along with four-in-hand, while others drove at random

In britsky, buggy, or go cart, curricle, or tandem.”

others sought, the more gliding motion of the London wherry, the gig, or the whale-boat, exhibiting their separate insignia, and stoutly struggling as to whom should first arrive at the goal of contention; lively strains of music came wafting over the water, and added much to the hilarity and excitement of, the scene. The Aphrasia steam boat was also laid on for Williams Town for that day, and was filled with a most respectable assemblage. The Town band engaged for the occasion took up its position in front of Dawson’s, Albion Hotel. The committee of management, consisting of Captain Lawrence, Messrs, Hutchinson and Latham, and Mr. John Davies having been appointed Judge of the sports, finding every thing in readiness, orders were given that the amusements should commence, which was attended to by the

GIG RACE,For gigs pulling four oars, coming off. The prizes were for the first boat £6, and for the second £3. The boats entered, consisted of Captain Sullivan’s, Caroline,(white),Mr. Austin’s Fairy Jane, (green,)and Mr. Levien’s Mary Ann, (black.) Distance: from a boat moored off the wharf, round the shipping and back again. At starting, the gigs kept together in excellent style, but after some short distance, it was clear the Caroline was drawing a-head; the scene now. became particularly animated and interesting, the Fair Jane, with the Mary Ann close on board, struggling hard for the superiority ; the Caroline, however, kept the lead, and came in upwards of one hundred yards before her adversaries. The following was the result.

Caroline 1

Fair Jane 2

Mary Ann 3

The Caroline performed the distance, about four miles, in twenty minutes. The

JUMPING IN SACKS,

which had been added to the amusements of the day by way of novelty, was next exhibited, and probably produced more fun than anything going during the day. Four men named Brown, Freeman,Moffit, and Hussey, were the competitors for the £2 prize, and appeared to think the affair quite a matter of course. The candidates having been introduced into the canvass were duly arranged in a line, and “start,” was the word; Brown shot ahead like a planet in its sphere ;Hussey found himself prostrate with his nose exhibiting the process of drill husbandry upon an improved system; Freeman bit the dust, and was released from his confinement, after going through as many contortions as an eel in a sandbasket ; Brown and Moffit had it all to themselves, and the first heat terminated by Brown coming in winner. The second heat had a similar termination, causing immense sport.

The next article on the bill of fare was

A FOOT RACE

For £3 Between three competitors, C.M’Intosh, C. Buckley, and M. Mooney.The contest was spirited, and the spectators appeared well satisfied with the exertions of the runners. After one false start, the race was decided in favor of C.M’Intosh, who clearly evinced his ability to trip it on the light fantastic toe.

The hour of two having arrived, it was thought judicious that the Lion should feed, Mr.Dawson having gratuitously provided a glorious spread for that purpose. About three hundred availed themselves of the opportunity, and ample justice was done to a sheep which had been roasted whole, and an enormous round of beef with the usual concomitants. The scene was rich and entertaining, and varied with all the tints of the rainbow- Here might be seen in one corner a bush man tendering to his lady love a cube of beef, delicately tinged with mustard, and inviting her to soothe her irrited[sic] feelings by its demolition ; in another portion of the apartment, a miniature Hercules was slaughtering the sheep, and accommodating the various claimants with portions, not exactly dismembered according to the strict rules of anatomy, ” Cabbage, oh” was vociferously shouted by an active youth, who distributed the foliage in such portions as he thought correct. The popping of corks, the gurgling of the liquor, with a thousand other et ceteras, contribute: to make up a scene worthy the easel of Wilkie. [PPG 5/1/42]

The Port Phillip Patriot was likewise amused by the scenes at the free lunch:

THE FEED. Father Time, combining business with pleasure had, but the completion of the occurrences we have narrated, caused the hour hand of the dial to closely approximate to the hour of two, and half past one being fixed upon as the period of commencing the grand feed liberally provided by Mr Dawson for the occasion, the assembled multitude were invited to partake thereof, “without money and without cost”. Accordingly a rush was made towards the feeding room, where was to be seen at one end of the table a sheep roasted whole, and at the other an immense round of corned beef; the interval being garnished with concomitants…. The scenes that followed were worthy the pencil of a Cruikshank. At one side of the table might be seen a man busily dividing a junk of beef and a loaf of bread, between himself and three females, while in another place a curious wight was examining the contents of the cruet of cayenne, as suspiciously as if it contained poison.  One individual, who evidently possessed  great talents as an explorer, after probing the carcass of the unfortunate sheep, discovered an enormous lump of fat, with which he danced round the room in ecstasies, calling the attention of his acquaintances to the circumstance of it being “a nice bit for making candles”. Another audibly expressed his opinion that their entertainer was a “jolly good fellow” and that he would always take care to patronize him when he gave a dinner on the same terms.  Between 200 and 300 persons availed themselves of this pro bono publico dinner, and, as may be supposed, by the time the room was finally deserted, the beef, mutton and “wegibles” were but as “things that were” [PPG 3/1/42]

Lunch disposed of, let’s go back to the games and frivolity:

THE SAILING MATCH,

Between Mr. Thompson’s Ariel and Mr. Dawson’s Lively, next came off . The odds at starting were considerably in of the smallness and peculiar build of the Ariel but all is not gold that glitters ; the Ariel proved her superiority at starting, and maintained it throughout the race. Running too near in shore, the Lively grounded, leaving the Ariel to take it easy-for the rest of the run, and to her judge and committee awarded the prize. The owner of the Lively wished to make it a drawn match, but the former decision was confirmed. It is expected that these boats will again try their respective merits for £40 a side. The above match being brought to a close, the

WHALE BOAT RACE

Was called on. Three boats were entered, the Cornstalk, William, and Paddy from Cork, and the prizes, for the first boat £10, and second ditto £5,with entrance money added. At starting, the contest was very spirited, the boats keeping abreast for a considerable distance; shortly after the Cornstalk took the lead, which she kept in admirable style throughout. The result was,

Cornstalk 1

William 2

Paddy from Cork 3

The winning boat, as well as the second in, are of colonial manufacture, having been built by Mr. Charles M’Intosh of Williams Town. The Paddy from Cork is what her name denotes.

THE GREASY POLE.

Next excited the interest of the company being surmounted with a very tolerable tile, to obtain which it was necessary to travel through various states of Greece. Several attempts were made to reach the beaver without effect, and some of the aspirants even went so far as to touch the under portion of the brim, and then found themselves again on terra firma —a most annoying circumstance. At last, as the competitors stood gasping for breath, one of the sons of Mr. Liardet,of the Pier Hotel, essayed the attempt. As Beau Brummell left on his writing-table that invaluable secret which has caused so much discussion in the beau monde, as to the stiffening of cravats, that starch was the man, so did young Liardet exclaim on seizing hold on the pole, ” Sand is the man!” and after making a liberal use of this article, with which he had loaded himself like a Blackheath donkey, he quickly attained the dizzy height, mounted the castor, and was quickly upon his legs.

A WHEELBARROW RACE

Concluded the sports of the day. Four men started blindfolded for a prize of a£1 : the sport was capital, the contending parties making off  in all directions except towards the winning post. In consequence of a quibble, the race was run over a second time.

THE DINNER

Followed at six o’clock, got up in Mr Dawson’s best style — that is saying every-thing. About fifteen guests sat down to the repast, and did ample justice to the entertainment. During the dinner, the band played several enlivening airs, and the guests perpetrated the usual loyal and other toasts, and broke up about twelve o’clock. In the evening a concert was held at the Victoria, when a Miss Sinclair made her debut with considerable eclat. Thus ended the amusements of New Year’s day in Australia Felix. [PPG 5/1/42]

2. A concert at the Pavilion

Perhaps a concert at the Pavilion theatre might be more to your taste?

The concert at the Pavilion on Saturday evening to see in the new year was numerously attended. Although there were a number of rather suspicious characters loitering about the Pavilion who had been properly excluded, and those granted entrance were “not all of the upper ranks of society” but they conducted themselves with propriety.  The Pavilion will soon be a most fashionable place of resort.  The star “Miss Sinclair” has excellent command of a good voice, and with a little more practice her success as a vocalist is certain.  Miss Lucas labored under the effects of a heavy cold. When Miss Lucas had to withdraw, an amateur entertained the audience with a variety of dances, expert gesticulations &c and deservedly stands a favourite. [PPH 4/1/42]

3. A bank opening

What a strange time to open a bank for the first time! I assume that the Saturday opening hours were for the benefit of tradesmen and shopkeepers who might want to bank their week’s takings.  Obviously the bank preferred people to put money in, rather than take it out!

Port Phillip Savings Bank open for business on Saturday night 1 January.  Opening hours for receiving deposits Saturday 7-8 p.m. and Wednesday 1-2.  Repayments to depositors on Wednesday only 1-2. [PPG 1/1/42]

4. A Ticket-of-Leave Muster

Even though Port Phillip wasn’t strictly speaking a convict colony, there were convicts, assigned servants and ticket-of-leave prisoners there.  On 1 January each year, there was a Ticket-of-Leave Muster, just to make sure that everyone was where they should be.

5. A cricket match

There was a cricket match between the government officers and the civilians.  The government officers won.

6. A game of shinty

SHINTY. On New Year’s day a splendid game at the good old Scotch game of shinty came off on Mr Donald McLean’s farm on the Merri Creek. About twenty stalwart Highlanders ranged on either side, and the game  was so keenly contested that after a four hours’ struggle under the broiling heat of the mid-day sun the parties were fain to withdraw the game, neither party able to gain the victory. [PPP 6/1/42]

7. A hot roast dinner at the jail

NEW YEARS DAY. On Saturday last, the first day of the new year, the whole of the prisoners at present confined in Her Majesty’s jail, at Melbourne, were regaled with roast beef and plum pudding, at the expense  of His Honor Mr Justice Willis, who had kindly directed that no cost should be spared to make the prisoners as comfortable as their unhappy circumstances would admit. The arrangements for the feast were made under the superintendence of Mr Wintle, the jailer. [PPP 6/1/41]

So how’s the weather?

For the week 1-7 January, the highest temperature was 96F (35C) and lowest 60F (15.5C). “Light airs early in the morning, followed by strong winds A. M.  Fine weather 1st,2nd,6th and 7th, oppressively hot 3rd, followed by squalls and rain”

‘H is for Hawk’ by Helen Macdonald

hisforhawk

283 p & notes, 2014

I’m not quite sure how Helen Macdonald managed to interweave a detailed and rather technical book about training a goshawk with a clear-eyed description of a profound grief that almost tipped into madness. But manage it she does, educating millions of readers about the minutiae of falconry along the way, and I found myself missing the narrator and her storytelling when I finally finished the book.

Helen Macdonald is a historian who was in the third year of a fellowship at Cambridge University and nudging 40 years of age when her father, a noted photojournalist, died. She was plunged into a deep, and (I think) unhealthy and somewhat warped grief, not unlike that of Caroline Jones whose book I reviewed rather harshly here.  She had a mother and brother of whose own grief she is completely oblivious, but through the death of her father she was brought completely undone by her own loss of a mentor and fellow-bird enthusiast.

One of her favourite books as a child was T. H. White’s The Goshawk, which tells of White’s unsuccessful attempts as an ‘austringer’ with his own goshawk, Gos.  Trying to reconnect with her father and the security of the father-young daughter relationship, Macdonald re-reads White’s book. However, by now she is conscious as she never was as a child, of White’s biography written by Sylvia Ashton Warner which reveals White (the author of The Once and Future King which was later adapted into the movie Camelot) to be a deeply unhappy homosexual teacher who struggled with his attraction to sadomasochism and flagellation.  White’s harsh and driven training of his goshawk, using medieval training methods, seems to be another manifestation of cruelty and fetishism.  For Macdonald, who has procured her own goshawk, re-reading White provides a salient less in how not to train.

It is these two narratives of bird-training, then, that run through the book: her own training of Mabel the goshawk, and White’s unsuccessful training of Gos in the 1930s.  There’s lots of arcane vocabulary that by the end of the book you identify immediately, like ‘yarak’ (being in heightened hunting mode), ‘bating’ (rising up with wings flapping) and ‘mute’ (a more genteel word for bird-shit).

Closed in on herself and her own grief, there are only fleeting mentions of the outside world: she likens the goshawk’s hood to those worn at Abu Ghraib, or listlessly notices the crowds outside the Northern Rock bank during the 2007 financial meltdown.

Her identification with Mabel runs at a deeply existential level

I’d flown scores of hawks, and every step of their training was familiar to me. But while the steps were familiar, the person taking them was not. I was in ruins. Some deep part of me was trying to rebuild itself, and its model was right there on my fist.  The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life.  I was turning into a hawk. (p 84)

The narrative pull of this book is watching Macdonald gradually find her way out of grief.  It’s a beautifully written book, sharply descriptive of Mabel the goshawk, clinical in the author’s own observation of herself and her grief, and poetic in its descriptions of landscape.  No wonder it won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction in 2014.

My rating: 9/10

Sourced from: A friend who lent it to me months ago and probably thinks I’ve lost it.