Melbourne Once Again

After a wonderful night talking and laughing till midnight with Andrew and Gail (Kerrie’s Cousin) we woke on Sunday Morning and made the van ready for the trip to Melbourne.

It was a unique and interesting couple of weeks in Horsham and this clean and friendly town is another place we’ve found on our travels that we could easily live in.

We spent a full on nine days developing a management application for David, our friend with the huge grain farms. It manages every grain movement from his paddocks to his 60 silos and then to his customers which in turn links up to a cashbook for sales and invoicing.

It tracks the hourly grain price and tells him the value of every truckload out as well as the value of what he has stored. It analyses the quality of his grain, keeps track of every event that happens in each paddock such as harvesting, cropping or spraying and the cost of each and every event.
It keeps track of the makeup of soil on every paddock and all products such as fertilises or herbicides.
It also tracks paddocks and everything in them such as drainage channels and dams with GPS coordinates.
All his machinery maintenance and depreciation and every time each piece of machinery is used and by who and for how long is tracked.

It compares his paddock yields and costs so he can see which part of the property is most productive and why and it manages multiple properties.

It does a heck of a lot more as well.

We were very pleased with the end product though if he decides to use it we’d like to spend a season with him to get it fine tuned. Not sure at this stage if that will happen.

Gail and Andrew were wonderful company and we spent many hours with them on drives to Mt Arapiles and Halls Gap and on their lovely property or sitting by the river outside the caravan.

We’ll miss their company.

We headed off late morning down the Western Highway through the Goldmining town of Stawell to Ararat.

I couldn’t resist taking a tour through the infamous J Ward that was built as a prison in 1859 but from the mid 1880’s until 1991 was used as an asylum to house the criminally insane and consequently held the most depraved and violent criminals in Victoria.

The Bluestone exterior gives a hint of what lies within

The Bluestone exterior gives a hint of what lies within

This is a remarkable tour and is a must when in the area.

J Ward is a place that causes a great range of emotions. Revulsion at the sheer depravity of some of the long list of past inhabitants, sadness that so many people lived their life inside constant mental horror, amazement at the escapes, the conditions and the difficulty of managing and constraining the most violent and evil of human beings.

The journey through this awful but interesting place gives a glimpse into a world that is secreted away from “normal” society. It’s as if the reality of the existence of evil and depravity is removed as far as possible from us, hidden from a society that loves its accepted daily social routines; work, play, pretty houses, pleasant yards, shops, outings and lots of nice things to play with.

Sometimes we can’t see the other rhythms that make up a society just below the surface of our neat, tidy and ordered world. We don’t see nor want to see the results of man’s sin nature that is an inherent part of each of us played out in the extreme.

When we are protected from society’s extremes we find it much easier and more pleasant to live our ordered existences.

Walking through J Ward changes all that and makes one confront the existence of good and evil in an “In your face” kind of way. Its real, it happened. It’s still happening.

J Ward may be closed but depravity and evil did not stop with its closure. Other more modern institutions have simply taken over its role.

Can many of us imagine the horror of being straight jacketed, unable to move while undergoing extreme shock treatment without anaesthetics?

Shock treatment

Shock treatment

Can we conceive of a life lived in a tiny cell devoid of decoration and with a minimum of natural light from a barred window?

Straight Jacket with pants legs sewn together to prevent kicking. Leather mittens to the left

Straight Jacket with pants legs sewn together to prevent kicking. Leather mittens to the left

Could we understand the locked leather mittens enclosing our hands to prevent us from gouging our own or someone else’s eyes out?

What would it be like to walk out of our tiny cell each day to catch sight of the beam in the roof where the hanging of condemned prisoners once occurred?

Tiny cell with shutters that can be locked over the windows

Tiny cell with shutters that can be locked over the windows

"Normal" cell with suicide blanket to prevent ripping into strips to commit suicide

“Normal” cell with suicide blanket to prevent ripping into strips to commit suicide

Lower floor corridor of cells

Lower floor corridor of cells

Each cell has these lockable shutters

Each cell has these lockable shutters

The old and new dead body removal trolleys

The old and new dead body removal trolleys

The top floor cell block where executions took place when J Ward was a gaol

The top floor cell block where executions took place when J Ward was a gaol

How many of us have sat to dine at wooden tables and chairs bolted to the floor to prevent them from being upturned or thrown across the room or eaten with only a spoon to stop us having access to the lethal weapons of a dinner knife and fork?

The daily existence of living inside this hell hole of stone and bars amid the constant screams of violence and terror surely must have prevented the transformation from mental depravity to mental health.

Disturbing are the stories of inmates that once lived perfectly normal lives until an accident or other situation occurred that plunged them into this world of darkness.

How normal are we really?

Who among us can be so certain that our orderly lives will always remain pleasant and pretty?

One of the Guard's Towers

One of the Guard’s Towers

From the guard's tower

From the guard’s tower

Part of the excercise yard

Part of the excercise yard

Old Bill Locked in here for 63 years and died here in 1989 - Killed a fellow in Melbourne for not putting out a cigarette

Old Bill Locked in here for 63 years and died here in 1989 – Killed a fellow in Melbourne for not putting out a cigarette

J Ward also has it’s success stories and none is more moving than this heart wrenching story of Tom Varney.

Tom Varney, writer of the book "From Gutter To Glory" - A rare J Ward success story.

Tom Varney, writer of the book “From Gutter To Glory” – A rare J Ward success story

I was reflective and locked in my thoughts as we left Ararat and pointed the Nissan toward Melbourne again.

We caught site of Melbourne again about 5:00pm and headed out to a roadhouse in Campbellfield where the Aussie Wide factory is. Tomorrow we’ll get the van to the factory by 8:00am to attend to the few warranty jobs that we’ll get attended to.

We spent a comfortable but cold night at the roadhouse with the comings and goings of the trucks hardly bothering us. Melbourne turned on its famous weather change as we transformed from the 40 degree heat at Horsham and Ararat to 9 degrees and rain in Melbourne.