Tag Archives: Fremantle

Milestones and Musings

The days are marching past – forgive the terrible pun – faster than the horde of office-goers heading down the Churchgate subway at 6pm. It’s all happening. There have been a lot of firsts, and quite a few I’m-never-doing-that-agains. So what have I been up to, you wonder. Well, you’ll just have to read this to find out.

Profiteroles: It's not all about the money

I’ve been feasting. I had my very first profiterole – chocolate-topped and custard-filled. It was absolutely delicious. Much better than the role of profits in a bank’s balance sheet, which is the sort of dinner-time conversation I grew up listening to back home. My first Christmas pavlova – I’m still trying to decide about that one. I also had my first chocolate ice-cream. With great fear and total ecstasy. I’m not sure this is good for my spots, but it was good. I’ve also discovered the joys of fruit-flavoured yoghurt, thanks to my Chinese friend. There are three cups in my fridge right now, each a different flavour. I’m making up for lost time. Just don’t mention indigestion to me – it’s a sore subject right now.

Before you start thinking I’ve got a sweet tooth – oh alright, I do have one – let me tell you that it’s not all been sugar. I’ve had my first arepa. I’ve mistaken taro (arvi to the Hindi speaker) for feta cheese. I’m still recovering from that one. Every time I see feta cheese in the supermarket it reminds me of taro.

I’ve been discovering Perth’s beaches. Cottesloe. Fremantle. Beaches for dogs. Beaches without dogs. Playing with dogs on beaches. For the first time in years, and definitely for the first time in Perth I walked barefoot on the beach and got my ankles wet. Stop laughing. I know you are. Some people just have to take the beach in small doses. Maybe next time I’ll try knee-deep.

Nearly there: Dipping my toes in the Indian Ocean

I’ve been feeling sensational and summery. Yes, summery is a feeling. I bought my first full-length dress, which is also the first halter-neck that I’ve ever worn. I’m worried that it shows off a bit too much of my shoulders. I’m also terrified of being sunburnt. I love the dress anyway. But it was probably not the best thing to wear to the beach. I’m still learning.

 There are so many other milestones that seem to blur into one as the month rolls past. Jellyfish in Canning River – why does no one else find this exciting? Writing a chapter proposal. Writing my first story after a three-year writer’s block. Still can’t stop smiling about that one. Ah…there’s just too many. Sometimes it’s good to stop and look back. Now it’s time to “look ever forward”.


Jailhouse Rock

A Torchlight Tour of Fremantle Prison on a cold winter’s night is not for the faint of heart. My flatmates and I were inmates of the gaol Friday before last. I was gleefully anticipating tales of prisoners digging their way to freedom at midnight. I’ve always liked The Great Escape. But Simon, our friendly prison warder – surely a warder shouldn’t look so nice – had other plans.

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“They say Fremantle Prison is haunted,” he said, after handing us little torchlight key chains. Out of a bucket that he later informed us was probably once used as a toilet. He also told us how prisoners slaughtered rats in the kitchen and how one inmate lost his finger in the sewage pit in the courtyard. He obligingly demonstrated how a person would have been tied to the flogging post and solemnly described death by hanging. Pity he didn’t have that bucket full of torches handy – some of us could have found a new use for it, I’m sure.

Fremantle Prison was a working institution till the 1990s, so parts of it are quite modern. It’s a large limestone structure, with several stories. If only they’d rent the space out to university students – I’m sure they’d make quite a killing in the real estate business. Some of the cells actually seem roomier than my own student accommodation. The only occupants today are an insane inmate who seems quite happy scaring visitors to the solitary confinement and a rather scruffy knife-wielding Irish murderer who hangs out near what used to be the morgue.

At one point, someone heads for a side door that opens invitingly into the courtyard. The front gate is visible in the distance. “Not just yet,” says Simon hurriedly. “I’ve got you for ninety minutes.”

As we pass from one prison block to another, we hear distant screams. Has another group encountered the suicidal prisoner who jumps off a parapet? We move on, past murals painted in the courtyard, through to the chapel with its huge plaque of the Ten Commandments. Simon points out that the sixth commandment reads “Thou shalt not murder”. It’s more politically correct than the original “kill”, especially with capital punishment being carried out in the prison. Finally, Simon escorts us out with the cheerful suggestion that we might like to do the Tunnels Tour next. There is a Great Escapes tour. This sounds more promising.

My Namibian geologist friend and I head for the visitor’s book, under the watchful eye of another guide. “Are you Simon’s lot?” she asks, adding helpfully, “Rubbish is spelt R-U-B-B-I-S-H.” However, we decide to write nice things about Simon in the visitor’s book – despite the fact that he told us horribly gruesome stories and didn’t save us from mad inmates.

We saunter out and wait for our tour bus to arrive. Floodlights throw eerie shadows on the prison walls. The outer courtyard has prints of old photographs of the prison. Of course, what my geologist flatmate finds most impressive is the rock.

“I think I can see fossils in the limestone,” she says, studying the gateway. “I wish I had a magnifying glass.”

I wonder if they’ll ever have a Jailhouse Rock Tour. That’s the one thing Freo Prison lacks.

No Yellow Submarine

I now know how to escape from a sinking submarine. Not a particularly useful life skill, I said to my mother, who promptly replied that you never know. What a ghastly thought. The bottom line is HMAS Ovens, the submarine museum (or should it be museum submarine?) did teach me a thing or two. First of all, I’m still terrified of ladders and I’m never doing that submarine tour again.  I hate the smell of engine oil. I could be claustrophobic…maybe.

Barring all that, the submarine was quite fascinating really. I’ve been inside a submarine before – INS Kursura on Vizag beach – now that was a real crush because there must have been more than twenty people in it at a time. This tour takes only ten people, and even so our guide rather apologetically warned us that we might be stepping into each other’s personal space – not to mention stepping on toes, bumping our heads and generally knocking into various valves and pipes. The said valves are all made in Manchester though, and look extremely sturdy. I realised by the end of our hop-crouch-squeeze through the submarine that my elfin Chinese flatmate was probably the fittest of our group to enter the submarine service.

“Is there a height limit?” I asked the guide, Terry, after having nearly giving myself a new bump on my head. I’m pretty sure there’s a height limit in the Indian Navy.

“No,” he replied. “Although, if you’re nearing six feet then it might be gently suggested that you try a different service.” Apparently even women can join up these days…can’t imagine why they would though. Then again…five months at sea and so many men…hmm.

We began with the eighteen torpedoes that the sub could carry, moved through the living quarters, picked our way carefully past periscopes – never knew there was more than one – and ended with the officer’s quarters in the stern. Our tour guide left nothing unexplained, making sure we learnt how to make torpedoes count, what happened in an attack, and how to expel garbage submarine-galley style. My final verdict – British/Aussie submarines are bigger than Russian/Indian ones

As for how to escape from a sinking submarine? Well, you put on an orange diving suit that helps release air slowly. You breathe in air from a pipe that runs over your head. Then, when the danger has passed (and you’re probably neck deep in water by this time), you slowly exit through the escape hatch and pray you don’t get the bends. Useful to know? I’m not sure…I still haven’t learnt to swim.