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Published: January 20th 2016
Today we take the tram to Hyde park and find the only reference to Christmas is a solitary Christmas tree unlike London Hyde park which is virtually inaccessible unless you pay a fee to Winter Wonderland. I prefer this Hyde park I muse as I wonder how long it will be until the Aussies also succumb to the temptation of commercial profits to be gained from Christmas.
The museum Convict Sydney had been recommended to us. It is a museum to the history of transporting British convicts to Sydney in 1818 and we enter the Barracks where the convicts were received. The barracks have been stripped back in places to demonstrate historical construction methods. The lathe and plaster and progressive changes to the fireplaces reminds us of renovating our cottage and the context of our British history to the British colonisation of Australia begins. Our cottage and the Oxford canal was built in 1780 just 10 years after Captain Cook was sent to claim the East Coast of Australia for Britain by King George III.
So while we were creating waterways to transport coal with the engineering skills to create locks and change water levels, New South Wales was just being adopted by the British. Of course the aboriginals already inhabited this land and I am sure that I am not the first to consider the irony that the British were sending their convicts to Australia when some will claim they stole the land from the aboriginals in the first place! The museum told the story not only of the male convicts arriving, their crimes and punishments and showed their sleeping quarters but also of Irish orphan girls who arrived after the convicts stopped being imported and the barracks became a immigration depot in 1848.Chris had already told us that a check of the names of transported criminals had revealed no Benningtons but had revealed a Walpole (Jane) who by coincidence had the profession of a policeman!
So I thought it would be fun to check of the names registered to see if some of the girls had criminal ancestors transported to Oz. As it happens, none for Anita, Georgie, Anne-Marie, Tricia, Barbara, Claire but Jackie does and Claire, so does Peter!
After lunch and make our way over to Sydney Harbour to make the bridge walk. It took 6 years to build the Sydney Harbour frame and another 2 years to build the road and railway across it and opened in 1932. It was given the name of 'The Iron Lungs' because it facilitated the growth of some 4000 jobs in the Great Depression. Apparently It was traditional to invite the British Monarchy to such important opening events but the existing prime minister was an anti-royalist and refused to invite anyone. A member of the right wing paramilitary group resentful of the refusal to invite the
royals was taking part in the opening procession on horseback in a professional capacity and just before the ribbon was cut he pretended the horse was out of control and charge forward and cut the opening ribbon with his sword. The prime minister was furious and the ribbon was retied to be cut again for the official opening but the presence of the British monarchy had secured it's connection and place in history to the Sydney Harbour bridge.
Now I am not great with heights and I know this is going to be a bit of a challenge but I have tried hard to overcome my fears ever since I got stuck up a tree! A few years ago we had been on holiday with my sister Karen, Yvonne the kids and the extended family in Cornwall and we had gone to one of the first 'Go Ape' type of locations. I had got up the first tree and froze and ended up hugging the trunk like an eco campaigner refusing to budge
to prevent construction of a new road or whatever. Karen, who had claimed medical immunity to the challenge was watching below crying with laughter as the little kids were jeering me on. Eventually I got rescued and failed to make the circuit. I did however try again a couple of years later and this time maintained my nerve and I even managed the Eiffel Tower earlier this year, so I should be OK I tell myself. There are parts when I am scared but I sing to myself and try to forget how high we are. In fact the top of the bridge feels relatively safe and secure and we stop for endless photos and are offered a 10 second video message. It's New Years Eve and we choose a really cheesy New Year Message for FB of course.The views are fantastic as various landmarks are pointed out and we are told stories of the transition of a convict community and a red light district transforming to a world class city with multi million pound properties dominating the Rocks and surrounding waters. Apparently this is one of the last climbs before the bridge is prepared with some $millions worth of fireworks for news years eve and I can't wait!
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