Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Being a tourist in Melbourne

We've had such a lovely day.  We decided on a day at the museum.  On the way there we passed Victoria Market - an undercover market selling truly wonderful quality food.  We saw fantastic local fruit and veg - amazingly low prices; a deli market, meat market and fishmongery.  The quality of the food was amazing.  It is such a pity we don't have much of this in the UK.  There is no reason for poor health and malnuitrition when you can access such fantastic food.  It made typical supermarket food look so sad.  But on the other hand, to be able to utilise this resource, you would need to be able to go to the market regularly, and be at home to prepare and cook it.  And if most households have all adult family members out at work all day, this is unrealistic.  The market was very inspirational, and if I was living here and had the time, I'd spend many days, trying out different fresh foodstuffs and trying new recipes.

Aromatic cheeses and sausages

This is what you call a Bread Shop!
 We passed a Victorian swimming pool built from red brick and stone, and had a look round inside.  It had been partly modernised, with a new gymnasium, but the pool area was largely original, and had some historical information provided.  Apparently it had financial problems right from the start, having been built from inferior materials (we could not see any).  The contract had been awarded by the mayor of the day, to a contractor who was a personal debtor of the mayor.  The contract was awarded to him in order for him to have the funds to satisfy his debts to the mayor!  I wonder if this ever happens now?

Jim and I are planning to go to the pool tomorrow for our first swim in 4 months.

At Melbourne Museum I was able to get in for free, as I am a student.  Normal prices about $6.  I looked at a collection of aboriginal art, collected by an anthropologist back in the 1920s.  It was largely painted on bark and the relevant stories that it portrayed were listed alongside. 

Then I looked at the history of Melbourne.  The bits that interested me were about labour relations and the lunatic asylum.  Melbourne was amongst the first cities in the world to have legal intervention in the setting of wages, and the imposition of a minimum wage.  The main industrialist of the Victorian age in Melbourne, Hugh Victor ...., was paying 6 shillings per day, for a 6 day week.  The case went to court, and in a test case, the judge received witness testimony from the wives of the workmen, listing their household expenses, to demonstrate they were in poverty.  This was the first time women had been used as witnesses and to speak personally in court.  Some women had their statements read out for them.  Also the industrialist's evidence stated he believed the wages were "fair and reasonable" and that he would "pay the minimum possible".  The judge awarded judgement in favour of the workers and the rate of pay was increased to 7 shillings a day (more than 15% increase!).  There was no comment at the display whether the number of workers was consequently reduced to reduce costs.

The display about the lunatic asylum was interesting.  I notice there are more displays in museums in general that portray a wider range of people - a more inclusive approach to social history.  There were artefacts from the asylum - a fork where the prongs were webbed except for a quarter inch at the end, to prevent self harm; crockery stamped "lunatic asylum", etc.  An inmate of the day commented that at a patient, you were never allowed to forget you were a "lunatic".  It was reinforced at every turn - especially by the labelling of all the equipment and clothes.  This display noted that the term used for patients varied according to the psychiatric theory of the time - lunatic, inmate or idiot!  It shows how polite society has found an acceptable term, and over time it has become a term of abuse or derision, and been deemed inappropriate, so we have changed the word. 

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