An Amazing Story – Chapter 7 – A Man Called Thomas

A Man Called Thomas

The Rocks (Sydney, Australia).

Part 1

    It was Dolores’ free day and it was a magnificent spring day. On days like this, she liked to go sightseeing in this city which offered so much to do, but she particularly loved the harbour. She felt a sense of freedom there, where yachts raced superbly and lightly over the waters. On that day at Woolloomooloo, the Sky Princess, a large pleasure ship, was berthed. She was the largest passenger liner that Dolores had ever seen at the mooring. That vision inspired her dreams of the day when she could afford to travel in luxury like this and spend days cruising across the Pacific and visiting the many scattered islands. She made a mental note to go, one day soon, to one of the many travel agencies to learn more about those cruises.

         It was the first time that Dolores visited The Rocks. To learn more about this historical place she joined a group of tourists escorted by a guide who was explaining to the group that ‘The Rocks was the oldest part of the city with a history that went back to the days of The First Fleet. That location had become known as The Rocks because of the prominent sandstone outcrop of the hillside.’

         Dolores remembered that in a previous visit to the Sydney Art Gallery, she had seen some old watercolors of The Rocks and she mentally compared how much the location had changed in time.

The tourist guide told the visitors, ‘Two hundred years of history have changed this location from the shabby squalid place of the past. At those times it was overcrowded, and open channeled sewers ran down the middle of the narrow unpaved paths.’

From the visitors rose an unmistakable outback voice, ’It sure would have been smelly!’

The tourist guide said, ’I agree with you. But remember that at the beginning of the colony it was primitive. But since those early days, The Rocks have played an important role in the city’s history and became the center of the colony’s maritime and commercial activities. See those warehouses which are part of the piazza? They are what is left of those early days. This was a crowded area full of convicts, officers, whalers, sailors, and street gangs.’

‘And a dangerous place too.’ The same tourist voice stated.

 ‘That’s not all,’ the guide said, ‘It was here, in this part of Sydney where the first pubs opened their doors and, where the first brothels were. Women were in great demand in those days with men greatly outnumbering them.’

         Dolores, with a degree of humor, visualized what her life as a prostitute would have been like in those days and thought, ‘I would have been the queen of hearts for many. I would have had no trouble in finding a husband, handsome and wealthy, and have many children.’

          She listened to the guide continue with the presentation of his oration, ’It was only later, in the middle of the 19th century, when the first rich local people started to appreciate the beauty of the area, and build their impressive three-story stone houses. But still, behind those luxurious places, the slum below was prospering and populated with criminals, who snatched purses and held passers-by for ransom, creating havoc around the district.’

 Another tourist’s voice exclaimed horrified, ‘Pickpocket, robbers, killers, and a stinky place with open sewerage. To live here in those days would have been like running on the razor edge’

‘That was the main reason why the maritime businesses were moved from Circular Quay further down into the bay. The Rocks, at that time, reached the bottom of the social spectrum, until a spread of bubonic plague in the early 20th century, led to the demolition of the surrounding ghetto, and The Rocks become abandoned by most people.’

A curious tourist voice rose, ‘When did The Rocks evolve into what we see here now? When did it all change?’

     ‘It was with the building of the Harbour Bridge, that the life in the district was revitalized once more, and over the last forty years, The Rocks have become popular again and well known as a tourist attraction.’

    Dolores was fascinated by the history of this place, which motivated her to preserve in her memories of this location forever. She thought, I better get a tourist guidebook so I can remember all of this.

 She looked around her at the renovated old narrow, well-cobbled streets and magnificent colonial buildings. The fine brick warehouses, which the guide had pointed out before, were grouped together to form a long narrow piazza and were now the home of many art and craft shops which sold souvenirs and replicas of the past era to tourists.

       Dolores saw at street level of this newly created shopping center, coffee shops, and restaurants which offer the visitor tables to sit in the piazza to enjoy the panoramic view of Circular Quay while they relax with their drinks and food.

      Dolores thought again, ‘I’ll sit at one of those tables, and from there I can admire these fine buildings. This is the best representation of the past era showing the oldest aspect of the Australian colony that I saw in old paintings. The tourist guide said that this represents two-hundred years of history and for most European countries that isn’t much, but for Australia it’s all there is.’

       She ordered a sandwich and mineral water. As she sat back at the table and she thought, I learned that before The First Fleet came to Sydney, it was only the Stone Age Aboriginal civilization that left wall paintings and graffiti as the testimony of those early days, scattered around in caves and lost in the deserts of this large continent.’

    Dolores noticed the Herculean work that men had done to create this superb city, one of the most modern in the entire world, with monuments that will remain testimony in centuries to come of the tenacity of these people. She admired the shape of the shells of the Opera House mushrooming elegantly out of the blue waters of the harbour.

     Dolores took from her canvas bag a drawing pad and pencils that she always had with her. I must sketch the scenery of the piazza now, it so breathtaking.

     With her pencil, she rapidly sketched the surrounding buildings in front of her. The drawing was one of her secret passions, and Dolores knew, that she was good at it. It was not a professional work but her natural talent helped her to create a catching art. It was her aspiration, when she was settled in her life, to better develop her talents, and learn the basics of watercolors painting in a proper school.

End Part 1

Published by carlogabbiwriter

Italian born, and living in Australia. I'm writing for the past 15 years in both Italian and English language. I pubblished my first book in USA and it's available with Amazon. I also wrote several long stories which are grouped under the name "A song of Love" and several other works available in my blog in Rosso Venexiano.

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