Saturday, August 6, 2011

Prison break

Although I'm working as many hours as I can squeeze in on my house renovation project during the week, I'm determined that it won't take over our weekends.  It is physically hard work, plus my partner works long hours, the children work hard at school and by the weekend we all need a break. 

But the main thing we all want to do in the weekends is, as my son puts it, "something fun".  I'm keen to ensure that we still get a chance to go on interesting outings and explore new places, as that was why we moved here.

Here is an outing we did recently.  We went to Fremantle Prison and did the Doing Time tour.  Now I wasn't sure about this outing before we did it but it was absolutely fascinating largely due to the fact that our tour guide was an excellent performer and storyteller.  His commentary was more like a one man show (best use of the dramatic pause ever!) and he made the gruesome and tragic history of the place come alive. 

Fremantle Prison was initially a convict prison then later became a general criminal prison.  Forty four people were hanged there; in the chapel the commandment most often written as "Thou shalt not kill" was instead listed as "Thou shalt not murder" as here it was the system doing the killing. We went into the room where the executions took place but I certainly didn't feel like taking photos in there.

The prison closed in 1991 and reopened soon after as a tourist attraction.  Most of the site has been left exactly as it was when the prison closed, with a couple of cells converted back to what they would have been like in convict times.

I'd recently read a book of short stories called The Window Seat by indigenous WA writer Archie Weller.  This author has spent time in prison for what he considered a wrongful conviction and many of his characters also spend time in prison, including Fremantle.  Given that this was one of the grimmest and saddest places I've ever been to, the despair and injustice in those stories became very real to me here.

We have a long list of other outings I want to go on, just not this weekend.  I've now spent one week breaking the house to the point where it is now quite uninhabitable.  I also made a start on tidying the huge jungle of a garden during which a large rotten branch fell on my face.  As a result I'm currently sporting a black nose and a purple eye and am getting strange looks when I go out in public; a quiet at-home break from the breaking will be just the ticket this weekend.

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