Tag Archives: children

Sleepless in Smith-street

17 Jan

You hear plenty about how chronically underslept the kids are these days, compared to some unspecified days of yore – sometime before social networking sites and PSPs, presumably. But go back a little more than a century, and outside polite society there wasn’t a lot of early-to-bed going on. No doubt I have a skewed vision of this, having read police courts for inner Melbourne’s seamy Fitzroy and Collingwood during the 1880s so recently. The knockabout demographic in those places was hardly representative. But still, it’s astonishing to think of how many young children and teens wandered the streets there in the small hours.

What about Thomas and Walter Cahill, for example, two waifs who were picked up among a swarm of ‘little outlaws’, crouching in an outhouse sometime around three in the morning? Or the four larrikin boys caught throwing stones at the market-gardener, Joshua Ah Ken, around four in East Melbourne? And the eight year old hauled away by police after stealing a pitcher from a back lot at 3.30am? And then there were the kiddie labourers – like Albert Facey in A Fortunate Life – who worked twelve hours or more a day, or who were performing nights before the theatre industry was regulated, as dancers and conjurors’ assistants. It makes SMSing your friend some hours after dinner a little less drastic, no?


Butchery in Smith-street, Collingwood, with kiddies & others loitering outside (SLV, 1860s).


Election day!

26 Nov

My little girl, five years old, came out from bed still blurry with sleep early Saturday, blonde hair cloudy ’round her face, and said: ‘Election day!’

She had been so caught up with the reporting almost all the way through the campaign, asking constant questions about who this person was, and what that party was, and who sundry friends of ours would be voting for. She wrote her own how-to-vote card the day before, and announced that she was going to hold an election with her toys since she wasn’t allowed to vote herself.

I really felt the responsibility of that interest – hard to try and explain politics to a child, and especially to express your own political preferences in ways that don’t just reduce it to out-and-out brainwashing. At one point she said: ‘who do you go for, mama? B/c whoever you go for I do too’. The innocence of lambs, &c. Her sweetness is so deep and sharp at the moment I wince when I think of it.  

I am still in shock that the election turned out the way it did. Had been steeling myself for disappointment, and am almost unsure of how to react now that there is no need for it. Extraordinary.