Thursday, 7 January 2021

Not Letting Go


The Pipistrellos aren't sticking to the Hard Rules ...

Twelfth Night has passed.

And Epiphany.

Will we wait until Old Twelfth Night, the 17th?

Or shall we push on until Candlemas this year?

... And nor are these neighbours

I saw on a walk yesterday that we're not the only ones pondering this weighty decision.

Down with the rosemary, and so

Down with the bays and mistletoe;

Down with the holly, ivy, all

Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas hall;

That so the superstitious find

No one least branch there left behind;

For look, how many leaves there be

Neglected there, maids, trust to me,

So many goblins you shall see.

 - Robert Herrick, "Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve", C17th

Image credits: Flying With Hands

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Governor Darling's Fingerprints


Beep, Beep! Do you see a Gino (a.k.a. Fiat 500) parked in the lane
Beside this sun-bleached Darlinghurst cafe?
Or Darlo, in the common vernacular ...

Shall we start 2021 with A Lesson? Hurrah!, I hear you you cry, l should love nothing better! Or not? ... You get a choice today of words or pictures: The words are for putting a face to the name of the man whose fingerprints are all over our maps, while the pictures are a Tour of a couple of Darling Point's sister suburbs. So duck and weave at your pleasure, Dear Reader ...

Remember Darling Point? 
I did neglect last time to add this pic of the ferry Charlotte
At the Darling Point Wharf

Who was this man with the endearment for a name? Ralph Darling was the Colony of New South Wales 7th Governor. He was a career soldier who cut his teeth in the Napoleonic Wars and then a governorship posting to Mauritius, but not what one would call a People-Person. And depending on your source, his legacy was a reputation for either Tyranny or Competency, but more of that later.

Portrait of Our Man
John Linnell, 1825

He came to our shores for his posting in 1824 to exert a bit of Tough Love. Luckily he brought with him his own darling to ameliorate his rather martinet ways, his beloved wife Eliza, a Huguenot descendent who lends her name to Darlinghurst and Darling Point. And is remembered fondly by her contemporaries and liked for her general Good Works during her time as Governor's Wife.

Eliza Darling & two of her [ten] children
John Linnell, 1825

Back in England, things were getting a bit out of hand, re the Convict Situation. While Jane Austen's Regency maids and eligible gentlemen were parading about the Grand Pump Room in Bath or reclining luxuriously at Boodles' Club on St. James's Street &c., a perfect storm had brewed for the masses in the slums betwixt the genteel classes and the Authorities. 

According to Mr. Wiki, the highest proportion of Generations X and Y
Live in densely populated Darlingurst's terrace houses and flats ...

Large-scale unemployment resulting from post-Napoleonic war conditions and the effects of the industrial and agrarian revolutions, coupled with the introduction of Peel's police force to combat rising crime rates and the liberalisation of criminal law around the 1820s where forgery and some thefts &c. were now transportable, not capital, offences, thus saw the period between 1811 and 1840 overseeing ballooning numbers of convicts, like never before or again, departing from their notorious slum conditions, with fetching addresses like "Devil's Acre" and Pillory Lane, to, what was increasingly being reported as, a Luxury Holiday in the Antipodes. 

... So we see rather a lot of this on the skyline.
Darlinghurst's Victorian terrace houses were our own slum at one point

A report was commissioned to determine whether Transportation was thus an effective deterrent to Crime and Judge John Bigge was appointed to sail to Australia to have a look around and see how the great unwashed were getting on and how His Majesty's Colonial Administration was dealing with them. 

And as the 43-storey Horizon is the tallest apartment block in the 'hood
We also see rather a lot of that on the skyline, as it does rather stick out

Bigge took one leery eye at things and determined that Convicts mixing with Free Settlers and, worse, Emancipists-on-the-Make, were not terrified enough about their exile and his Report recommended absolute power be taken away from any soft-hearted Governor, chain gangs be introduced, punishments harshened and the prison-within-a-prison of hard-labour colonies be re-instituted for the incorrigibles and recidivists, and other such delights to remind the Convict of their Plight and Reflect upon their Life's Choices.

View into the old Darlinghurst Gaol
Built by convicts for convicts from 1822  and a work-in-progess during Darling's time,
But not occupied until 1841 and thence operating as The National Art School since 1922

So Ralph Darling took the Bigge Report to heart and applied his military disciplinarianism to maintaining and enforcing punitive conditions toward the convicts, while reforming laxities in the fledgling banking and civil administrative systems. It wasn't long before his was seen in some quarters as a Reign of Terror, as he dismissed both wastrels and freed men from public office, locked the coffers and set to toughening up the slackers. Some government employees apparently took their own lives in response to his moralistic sweeping through the colony's books, proof perhaps of undoubted corruption he uncovered.

See what I mean about the Horizon apartments sticking out in the centre of this pic?
The view towards Darlinghurst from Brother's 27th floor apartment
Across Central Railway Station

For the free settlers, his fingerprints over their lives also proved tiresome, and even books have been written about his taking a dim view of the Theatre and how he tirelessly stamped out fledgling theatre companies. There were to be no Bread-And-Circuses on his watch!

A sign of the times. The decades-old designer clothing consignment store,
Blue Spinach, closed and now only online

As put about in my Woolloomooloo post, Darling encouraged the wealthy settlers to build flashy estates on the Heights (which he renamed Darlinghurst after dear Eliza) as both encouragement and rebuke to the convicts washing about the increasingly urbanised landscape. While the tough nuts were sent to places like Port Macquarie and Norfolk Island, those most likely for Reform were sent out of Sydney-town to work out their sentence on the land grants of the new settlers, for they were hungry for labour.

Victorian Regency Villa, Stoneleigh
Undergoing restoration as befits this once-again smart suburb

And into the far reaches of the Colony Darling did also send explorers, while convict chain-gangs were set to work on road building, and so the Darling's on our maps were sprinkled about the place like confetti.

One of the gates to Stoneleigh's next-door neighbour, the Victorian Italianate Villa, Iona,
Saved from C20th demolition by its former rôle as a hospital
And restored by recent owners, impresario Baz Luhrmann & Catherine Martin

But his industriousness and military single-mindedness drew the ire of some and he quickly found his otherwise general competence subjected to noisy, minority, vocal opposition. From the bushranger scourge that was plaguing the place - these convicts on the run he had chased hither & thither behaved less like Robin Hoods and more like gangsters - to a more literate class who (rightly) charged him with nepotism, for he essentially mistrusted anyone apart from close family members which he kept in high positions about him, these were some of the annoyed who became mightily tired of this martinet of a Governor.

Some bonus Jacaranda with the 1920s Art Deco apartments, Ballina

Darling found his most irksome foes, however, in the judiciary and the press. Chief among the thorns in his side were his main legal advisor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the two newly-founded independent newspapers, The Sydney Monitor and The Australian (no relation to the present-day paper), which were devoted to criticising the authorities and championing the rights of the poor and emancipated. 

Rear view of the Alexandra Flats, a chic repurposing of the
1911 Federation Free Style Marist Brothers High School

Scornful of both, for The Monitor's ex-missionary editor's evangelical zeal and The Australian's political agenda in the hands of its two barrister publishers, Darling's initial tolerance for press freedom soured when they continued an open campaign of hostility toward him. There is, of course, plenty to this backstory and that's perhaps a bridge too far for a jolly blogpost, but suffice to say, things got rather ugly.

The pedestrian Pyrmont Bridge into Darling Harbour
Another of Darling's landmarks

Darling, who viewed negative press reportage through the prism of seditious libel, attempted to muzzle the new independent press. His Chief Justice refused to certify legislative bills to effect this, and more of this kind of general administrative friction led to terms like insubordination and whatnot being bandied about. Libel suits followed, The Monitor's editor was imprisoned and general shaking of fists from either side of the fence ensued, including The Australian's publisher, Wentworth, unsuccessfully petitioning the Crown to have Darling impeached.

Pyrmont Bridge swinging into action before the Sydney Aquarium
As seen from the Chicken-Farmer's Darling Harbour balcony 

Ultimately, with the fall of the Wellington-Peel Government, the new King William IV and his ministerial advisers in the Reformist Earl Grey's Government blamed Darling for letting things get out of hand and anyways took a dim view of his attempts to limit free speech, so when his six-year term was up, his appointment was not renewed. Darling packed up his bags and his family and sailed back home in 1831, sailing out of Sydney Harbour with a ring-side view of the fête champêtre Wentworth was hosting in the grounds of his home, Vaucluse, for those that were celebrating his departure*.

There have always been journalists sharks in these waters.
A grim view from within Darling Harbour's Aquarium

Various other aggrieved parties who he'd crossed swords with finally managed in 1835 to institute a parliamentary enquiry into his conduct whilst Governor, with charges of cronyism, ineptitude and corruption and a suite of complaints and while the Select Committee reported back quickly, clearing his name, he was given no further official post and retired from the scene.

But let us end on a sunny note:
A Yellow Tang for your delection

However, as history is written by the victors, or in this case by a jubilant press sitting 10,000 miles away from the person in question, you're rather hard pressed to find a good report card about our 7th Governor today. But I'm sure to his dear Eliza, Ralph Darling was at least one person's darling.

* Fear not! This tantalising nugget of Local Lore will be getting its own post, anon.

Image credits: 3: Wikimedia Commons; 4: National Library of Australia; all others: Flying With Hands

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Cinematic Fancies

Beau casting judgement on our cut of cloth

The original Dandy, Beau Brummell, was a man who certainly had a few opinions about dressing for the occasion, and indeed there was probably no occasion in his books that didn't require a considered review of the sartorial choices before setting out. And to give the fops their due, neither would they forego an opportunity for some peacock preening, just with a more colourful flourish. 

All hail the Macaroni!

Just imagine him in colour!
Philip Dawe mezzotint, 1773

Given his eventual fall from royal grace, Beau would have been delighted to see Our Queen, below, arriving for her cinematic viewing of his 1954 MGM bio-pic, Beau Brummell, accessorised quite appropriately in the Vladimir tiara and Delhi Durbar suite with emeralds. Details, Dear Reader!

Embed from Getty Images

Ah, going to the cinema ... once such a Grand Affair.

It's been a while since the last time we Pipistrellos went to the cinema. In fact, I can't remember what the last film was. Perhaps it was The Favourite, with its own resplendent cast of popinjays, which seems like ages ago. Or The Lobster **. Regardless, I don't believe I saw any parures or sweeping hemlines on my fellow cinema-goers in recent times, or ever, notwithstanding my own attempts to keep the game lifted from my plush seat in the darkened auditorium.

Big hair: tick. Jewelled colours: cross.
A bit of artistic license taken here with Queen Anne's foppish courtiers

But when we emerge from these socially isolated-times, blinking into the light like butterflies emerging from our chrysalid state, maybe Cinema-going could be a Grand Affair once more. It would delight me no end to see everyone dress for the occasion, and let everything old become new again. 

Celebrating our new butterfly form with
Elsa Schiaparelli's 1937 aquamarine jacket

Oh, and to really cap off our stylish outing, instead of a bucket of near ubiquitous popcorn* in a neighbour's lap, or a crisp chocolate-topped ice-cream that will guarantee to shed grubby stains down the front of (some)one's shirt in the dark, or a bag of cellophane-wrapped-sweeties for another neighbour to infuriatingly rustle, perhaps we could all have a posy of flowers to sniff through the showing? It is, after all, only a couple of hours out of our lives to endure without sustenance.

Embed from Getty Images

Typically fragrant (Royal) family outing to the cinema, 1949

The Queen doesn't seem to shed tears easily, something we learn if we pay attention to The Crown, but the proof of this pudding really lies in the countless photographs of her through the past decades attending gala premieres in her customary party finery, and as there would have to have been at least one tear-jerker among them, gala dressing for the cinema would be a blotchy, runny-nosed disaster best avoided for one prone to tears.

Unlike Your Correspondent, for whom it greatly annoys me that I am prey to the emotional manipulations of lilting soundtracks and can be brought to sentimental tears by a 30-second toilet paper commercial, so avoid commercials altogether like the plague they are as I find weeping so draining. It baffles me that there is an attractiveness to be found by sniffling through a movie with one's friends and I shun the so-called weepy as I do the aforementioned Labrador puppies romping with a roll of Sorbent.

One of my earliest cinema experiences was to see the 1976 version of King Kong as a child***.  I was mortified to discover Jessica Lange and myself convulsed with weeping, myself sans hankie****, over his miserable demise. Too shy and embarrassed to ask for a tissue from the kindly, middle-aged neighbours who took Brother & I for a treat, I tried to suppress my snivelling in the dark and had to resort to surreptitious use of my long sleeves. A gesture completely beyond the pale, I know, but I'd been caught totally unawares. When the lights came up, we all pretended not to notice my red-eyes and rather besmeared and exhausted self. 

King Kong and Jessica in happier times

Hankies. Not even a dry-eyed ERII would ever leave home without one, and neither do I these days. 

Double-duty hankie, proof against dramatically-dying giant primates
... And a runny nose
Georges Barbier, c. 1910

* Lovely L's eldest child had a high-school job as a cinema usher where, within five-minutes in the job, he became vehemently anti-popcorn as it was his job to rush about with the Bissell, scooping the mountainous scatterings left in the wake of the cinema-goers.

** What are the odds? I've just noticed both films were directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

*** Not quite sure how this came about as it was rated Not Recommended for Children, probably owing to the Sad Ending.

**** Handkerchiefs have gone the way of the Dodo, it would seem, judging by the distinct lack of them in the shoppes this past birthday for Mr. P. To replenish his collection, much hunting brought down perhaps the last boxed set in this city.

Image credits: 1: via; 2: British Museum; 3, 6: Getty Images; 4, 7, 8: via Google; 5: via Pinterest

Bats In The Belfry