Sunday, 25 August 2013

Sunday 22nd January, 1837

I note with regret that my anguish at the horror of Widow Harvey's breakfast debacle meant that I was derelict in failing to report an important development in the Colony's growth.

The Coromandel, (Cpt Wllm Chesser commander) arrived during the past weeks, the first ship to arrive since the Proclamation, bringing with it 150 or so new colonists. Most were young and most were labourers or in trade. But despite this I understand that many were of some quality. There were a handful of Lincolnshire sheperds also, no doubt on the lookout for eligible young ladies, or indeed, anything with two legs instead of four.

The ship dropped anchor in Nepean Bay on the island on 10th January and at Holdfast Bay two days later on the 12th. It brought with it two interesting items for the colony, one that stayed at Kingscote and the other that came to the Capital.

The first was a German gentleman, Johannes Menge, who rejoices in the title of "Geologist for the South Australian Company".

A "geologist"! Exactly is meant by that term I have no idea. It is, apparently, something to do with the new fangled science and was invented by some Scottish shower by name Lyell. I know my Greek and understand "geo" to mean "earth" and "logos" to mean "words". So I take "geologist" to mean someone who says words about the earth. Well, whenever I've stubbed my toe on a rock I've said a few words about the earth, so perhaps I am a geologist as well.

Despite not knowing exactly what Mr Menge does as "Geologist for the South Australian Company", I am glad that we have him, since once we discover what he does do we can set him to doing it and this will doubtless be a good thing. Though I must opine that I would be more at ease not knowing what an English geologist did, rather than a German one.

The second item to arrive was unloaded at Holdfast Bay and was in fact a bank. A pre-made bank building waiting to be assembled, complete with safes, strong boxes and - wonder of wonders - ten thousand pounds in crispy new bank notes.

Ten thousand pounds. In a building with wooden walls a half inch thick. Am I alone in seeing the flaw in this well made plan? It seems to me that anyone with a mask, a big bag with "swag" written on it, ten minutes and a hand saw can be off with the complete financial capital of the colony.

The bank building - which seems to have been made in Sweden - arrived packed flat and with a set of assembly instructions no-one could understand. The marines were given the job of putting the thing together. To date they have put it together three times, each time with some different set of components left over. I admit that the marines tend towards the dim-witted, drunken layabout end of the scale, but even so, until they do manage to get the thing properly assembled I am sleeping with ten thousand pounds under my bed.

I am informed that ten crew members of the Coromandel jumped ship while it was at anchor in Holdfast Bay and headed for the hills. Quite literally so it appears as they were seen heading up the bank of one of the streams that feeds the Holdfast bay lagoon. (The stream has been named, I am told, the Sturt River. I assume because, like Sturt, no-one has any idea where it might be going)

Well, good luck to them I say. I know William Chesser of old. A crashing bore and I am surprised only ten men deserted. That the ones who did prefer to risk life and limb in the uncharted wastelands of the Mount Lofty Hills rather than keep his company speaks volumes.

My concerns over the raising of a police force are shared with others it seems. Unbeknownst to me (and by the by, why am I always the last to know everything?) Tom Gilbert, in his role as Colonial Storekeeper, has appointed as a sort of private policeman William Williams and provided him with so many pistols and swords all of which he wears at once, so as to improve his authority, I surmise, with the result that he has been seen clanking around the town like an armed one man band.

Gilbert, of course, can't afford to pay a decent retainer for a policeman any more than I can, but at least he has appointed someone of some quality to the position. However, he has only been able to appoint him part time, so as long as thieves only go about their dreadful trade on Mondays and Thursdays  between the hours of 10.00am and 4.00pm we can all sleep safe in our beds.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Sunday, 15th January 1837

The question of my breakfast has arisen again.

Back in England before embarking for the colony my breakfast was being cooked by Mary-Jane Murray, now Mrs Whittle, an artist of such refinement and delicacy that I believed her to be fairly compared with Mozart, Rubens, Titian and van Dyke when she wields a skillet. But after a ridiculous misunderstanding on Mrs Hindmarsh's part Mrs Whittle is no longer my cook and I am left with only my steward Adams as a domestic.

Whilst on board the Buffalo (and even now when we are still living on board waiting for the marines to build a suitable Vice Regal Lodging) Adams in his own doddering and rather oddly smelling way was, if not perfectly suitable, then at least something close to adequate.

However, it is clear that, while in future Adams might make a fist of being my valet, his idea of cooking would be totally unsuitable, consisting, as it does, largely of thick slabs of charcoal he refers to as "toast",

I had hoped to lure Mrs Whittle back to my employ, but my blandishments seem to have been inadequate. Some weak excuse about being with child was offered, but what is that compared to my breakfast?

I was intending to go from settler's hut to settler's hut, asking the wives of the labouring classes to poach me an egg, devil me a kidney or fry me a sausage. Mrs Hindmarsh made the somewhat unnecessary remark that perhaps I should also take a glass slipper.

Once I had selected the ten best cooks, I envisaged a series of tests and challenges for those I chose, eliminating them one by one until after some weeks only one - my breakfast cook -  would remain.

Sadly, my plan came to naught when Mrs Hindmarsh announced that she had already chosen a cook for me: Widow Harvey, a slatternly lump with three or four decent teeth in her head, arms the size of hams and a bosom like two spaniels trapped in a flour bag.

Widow Harvey has cooked me a breakfast as a sort of audition and I was able to gauge the extent of her culinary prowess.

It seems that Widow Harvey is under the impression that if you take the cheapest and meanest of ingredients and apply enough heat to them for long enough then something palatable will result. If said palatable item fails to manifest itself the Harvey Cooking Method dictates applying more heat at a higher temperature. It appears that the good Widow's maxim is "the more charred bits, the more flavour." so should be preparing the tastiest meals in the colony. So much for widow's maxims. The woman is some sort of gastronomic alchemist, trying to create gold out of dung and with similar success.

She cooked me something she called "Cornish Hash" which had, I think, an onion sliced, a potato mashed and a raw egg along with some blackened bacon, a few anchovies and (I have an awful feeling) the dread sauerkraut mixed in with it. "For flavour", she said. Slabs of this vile concoction were fried in rancid Beef Dripping until burnt, then served on a plank of stale bread and liberally doused in a sauce made, I think from vinegar and I know not what else, although generous amounts of pepper were certainly involved.

Cornish Hash - dear God, of this is the sort of food they have in Cornwall, no wonder the Cornish keep leaving for the colonies.

And this, I learn, is what my breakfast will be like for at least another year - Widow Harvey has been engaged by Mrs Hindmarsh for a twelve month.

Widow Harvey... pshaw! I am prepared to wager several pounds that Mr Harvey is not dead, but simply saw a chance to escape his wife's cooking and counterfeited his own demise.

And meanwhile, while Mr Harvey is off living the life of Kings I have hash to look forward to - it seems that the good Widow has a compete range of Hashes for each county in England, Scotland and Wales. Her parting shot was a cheerful cry of "Since you enjoyed Cornish Hash so much, if I can lay my hands on some blood sausage, next time I'll cook you Aberdeen Bubble and Squeak!"

I fear I might be bubbling and squeaking for some time after when she cooks this. Clearly some higher power has intended my life to be a hollow mockery.

And as if I did not have problems enough, Gouger pointed out to me this week that the protection of law abiding citizens within the Colony rested entirely upon the inebriated shoulders of the Royal Marines. Since these stalwarts and guardians are attached to The Buffalo it is inevitable that the Marines and what little protection  they offer will disappear over the horizon when the ship sails.

It is true that I could, as Gouger suggested, institute a Police Force, but good God above, where am I to find a policeman? It is obvious that I need someone of good and respectable character, with a forceful personality, sober, industrious and beyond temptation. People such as this are thin on the ground here in the Colony and those few that do exist can earn much higher wages that the miserable 100 pound I can afford to offer just by getting out of bed and turning up. The problem is this in a nutshell: the people I need I can't afford. The people I can afford are certainly not who I need.