Brent headed off to work this morning and T. and I got back to our usual adventuring tricks once we trekked up the hill by our place to get our transit passes. Eventually, I will love the hill. I will appreciate its fine qualities. I will sprint effortlessly to the top. Right now it makes me feel old and tired. Fortunately, the ferry terminal is, like our place, at the bottom of the hill, just across the street from where we are staying. The ferry deposited us at the Central Quay.
The weather was apparently not advised that we were going to be in town. It has been pouring all day. No surfing, no bridge climbing, and no detailed walking tours for us today. Instead we visited the Hyde Park Barracks Museum.
The barracks was originally built to house the convicts who had been transported here. At first, they lived wherever they felt like it and a fair amount of chaos ensued. Govenor Macquarie, upon his arrival, attempted to make order out of chaos by regulating the lives of the convicts. He was considered to be too lenient, but having seen the leg irons, the flogging rack, and the packed dormitory of hammocks, I think that was not really the case. He, unusually, believed that his job was to rehabilitate the prisoners and integrate them into regular society once they had finished their sentences.
The museum itself is amazing. All of the artifacts contained in it were saved by rats like these:
The rat anthropologists preserved everything from convicts’ clothes to fruit stones to broken crockery. They stole bones from out of the soup, gaming pieces, Bibles, and portions of hats. Here are some sewing implements:
On the ground floor, the museum explains itself; it preserves the layers of change that the building has undergone. This is not some high-falutin’ abstract art, but instead the result of peeling back layers of paint from the walls, leaving traces so that the process of history becomes visible:
The first floor presents the artifacts themselves. One room details the experience of a shipload of young women transported from the workhouses of Ireland to become servants and wives. Another graphically recreates the role of the rats in preserving the artifacts. The second floor offers an interactive experience. The dormitory is filled with hammocks as it was when the convicts lived there, sleeping elbow to elbow. A batch of schoolkids on a field trip were trying out the hammocks.
After a fancy lunch at the museum café (T. had fancy prawn ravioli with squid and asparagus in saffron veloute and I ate house-made gravlax with fennel herb salad), we trudged over to the Mint next door. We saw the vault where they used to keep the gold bricks from the New South Wales gold rush and a coin press. There was also a library and museum there about interior decoration, but after the nice lady in the shop described it as including lots of wallpaper, we decided to give it a miss. The mint building itself was originally part of the Rum Hospital, an early example of public sector and private sector cooperation. The governor gave some businessmen exclusive rights to sell rum for three years in exchange for building the much-needed hospital. Shockingly, the businessmen skimped on the construction materials and techniques for the hospital.
On the cultural adventure side of things, I am attempting to do laundry. The washing part wasn’t too difficult, although I was not sure about where to put the soap. Drying is proving more complicated. We did buy a drying rack yesterday and I may be breaking it in later today.
For those of you keeping track, I did exercise this morning. No bike yet, but it has been too rainy to ride anyway.