I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Monday, September 07, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: The Collingwood Stockade and writing.

I've just come from giving a short talk to PhD students approaching the confirmation hurdle after about 9 months candidature. I spoke about how important social media was to my writing life. For all that, I am taking a break from Facebook for a month while I establish a writing pattern for this book. I'm setting myself an ambitious target of about 2000 words a week this month. So far so good, though I reached the target last week by writing 1000 words on Saturday; many of which, I will admit, were transcriptions from texts I'll use, but probably cut down later. 

I also mentioned this book: How We Write  — http://punctumbooks.com/tag/writing/ — which is not yet out, but which draws on the inspiring posts at In the Medieval Middle. "How Do We Write: Academic Dysfunctional Writings," by Suzanne Conklin Akbari and Alex Gillespie. http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2015/05/how-do-we-write-dysfunctional-academic.html  The basic message here is: there is no single way to write, but let's embrace the way we do.

For me, this blog is part of that process; it's also a way of testing out, as I do with family and friends, the emotional and affective resonances of the things I am finding out about bluestone. 

On Saturday I was reading about the Collingwood Stockade, in what we now call Carlton, on the site of what became the Lee St Primary School in 1873. As this article by Peter Barrett explains, the prisoners quarried bluestone on the site that is now Curtain Square. There are only a few traces of the bluestone that remains: the footings of the school, and a stone table from the former Governor's house fixed to the wall of the school. I will go and check this out. 

Several decades ago, excavations discovered the traces of ten bluestone solitary confinement cells, completed in mid 1859. They were built underground, so there was no light. A former warder described the experience as like being 'buried alive'. It would have cold and dark in these solitary cells, even in summer: very different to the cheerfully lit bluestone wine cellars with which I am more familiar.

I am thinking of subtitling this chapter "the penitentiary affect" as I am looking at the discourse around the establishment and perpetual reform of the prison system, especially in the second half of the nineteenth century. These cells are the scariest thing I have come across so far.

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