Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Sunday,12 February 1837

By God I am getting heartedly sick of being stuck on board this boat. Yes, I am a navy man through and through and have been serving in His Majesty's Navy since I was a lad, but the facts of the matter are that the sooner I see the back of the Buffalo and get my feet permanently on solid ground the happier I will be.

With that in view I have set in train the steps to seeing a Vice-Regal residence built so that my family and I can have a god damned address!

This week I traveled up to the Torrens to speak with Colonel Light regarding a suitable spot for the house. With him and with his advice we found a place on the Northern Terrace of the city between the road and the river that seems more than suitable. Light has marked it down in his notes as reserved for my use.

The building will, by dint of necessity, be of earth and timber construction, I expect with a thatched roof, though timber slabs may be possible depending on availability of materials. Of course, a more substantial residency in dressed stone would be my ideal, but just at present such might be a step too far.

However, let me face the real difficulty here. And that is, the only people available to me to call on to erect this new home are - God help me - the marines.

The thought of that troop of drunken, foul mouthed, argumentative layabouts building my new abode chills me to the bone. Why, a troop of baboons would have more chance of building a ship of the line than the Marines do of building a house, though in the Marine's  defense it must be said that the baboons would have the advantage of being sober. Still, I have no alternative and so must give them their orders. "Build me a house, or livable facsimile of one. And hurry, because the Buffalo is needed in Sydney."

Lucrezia Harvey lived down to our expectations this week by presenting us with Hertfordshire Fricassee. "You make it with left overs," she told us. Given the quantity of leftovers she must have in that galley, since no-one can stomach an entire portion of her meals, she must have been spoilt for choice. But it would appear that she has not learnt the lesson that mixing and frying inedible slop simply creates crispy inedible slop, not an actual meal.

I am saddened, annoyed and more than a little astonished to report that Mrs Hindmarsh's efforts to mobilise the wives of the Colony in stirring up trouble have been effective enough to warrant a public meeting to settle the question of the site of the capital once and for all. And, of course, word has got around that this is all my doing and it is me that wants the move to Boston Bay or the mouth of the river on the south coast when, in fact, I am perfectly content with Light's choice and it is my wife who is causing the kerfuffle. No doubt it suits her to have it believed that I am the cause.

When I was with Light earlier in the week speaking with him about the site of Government House we took the opportunity to cook up a plan between us that will, we think, settle the matter. I am going to "demand"  that something be done about the Port, this being one of the chief objections to the current site, and Light will, "grudgingly" offer to put aside the survey of the capital in order to spend a week or so surveying a number of acres by the port river, thus enabling work to begin on the development of a port facility. Since he was planning on doing this anyway the inconvenience to him will be negligible, but the effect of this will, of course be that an angry Governor has been mollified by a Surveyor ready to compromise.

As icing on the cake we have also decided that Light will put forward the notion of a canal from the port river to the Torrens River, following the line of the road up to where the Colonel intends the cattle yards to be, on the corner of the Northern and Western boundaries Adelaide South.

Those people, such as, it seems, myself, who maintain that the port is too far from the city will be silenced at a blow. And I will be able to assure Mrs Hindmarsh that I did all I could in her interests.

Of course the canal scheme is complete fantasy and Light and I had trouble containing our derision at the idea of the worthies of Adelaide taking it hook line and sinker.

For one thing the cost of such a canal would be entirely prohibitive, unless we get Osmond Gilles drunk again.

But what caused the Colonel and I the greatest smirking and helpless giggling is the idea of the worthies of Adelaide attempting to build such a thing. Only the other day Fisher told me that he found it difficult to get servants to dig his vegetable garden. If Nero with all the resource of the Roman Empire couldn't manage to build a canal across the Corinthian Isthmus, it is unimaginable that this lot, who can't plant out a few turnips, could dig a navigable waterway twice as long. And when I suggested that we might set the Marines to work on it poor Light was helpless with mirth.

I have decided not to attend the meeting, but have written a letter which will, I think, add credence to Light's and my plan. The outraged Governor, the poor set upon Surveyor. I suppose it will look bad for me, but if I do not play my part in this farce Mrs Hindmarsh may learn that I disagree with her and am working against her and a little loss of  prestige is as nothing compared to the consequences of that disaster.

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