Third visit to Wiseman’s Ferry on the beautiful Hawkesbury River.

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First drawn to the place by Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, a novel based on the life of her ancestor Solomon Wiseman who settled the place, having arrived at the Sydney penal colony in chains.

Secret River

Then read Sarah Thornhill, the daughter’s story and now the History of the Secret River, about researching both novels. I get the sense of the immediacy of this history – the house that Wiseman built in 1826 is still the main pub, the chain ferry still runs all day, the landscape is unchanged since settlement. But, as she makes clear, it was utterly changed by the settlers who simply took the native lands, treated Darug people’s crops as weeds and planted their own European plants, using violence – including legal murder – to protect their takings. Grenville is aghast as she discovers for the first time in 2000 that the aboriginal people hadn’t all gone  by the time of settlement, the same story another friend learned at school.

At lunchtime I went to the regional museum in Windsor which has a collection of leg irons, farming and boating implements from the early 19thC and other artefacts from settler life, including a pamphlet called Marriage and Sex for Brides which I thought was very progressive until I noticed the publication date – 1966! But there were only two passing mentions of the people whose land this was/is – they are just not present in this version of history.

I seem to be more conscious of history here than in my own much older home, not sure why. Maybe the contrast between this very recent European presence and the tens of thousands of years of indigenous culture and the even older rocks before that – the land in Australia is the oldest on the planet, that is rocks formed millenia ago are abundant as I understand it – need to learn more.

Right now I’m at this funny hotel called Australis Retreat which is really a golf place but actually is a retreat too – I’m finishing the first half of my book and refreshing my reading on Jungian matters before starting into the second half. A perfect place to work – v peaceful setting & a beautiful saltwater pool for sunset swims at the end of the day. A good way to spend my birthday today – so good I’ve decided to stay on a couple of nights and hope the fires that closed the main road after I arrived here will be settled by the time I return. It’s safe here, but the fires are pretty scary on TV. Hope to avoid  closer contact.

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