Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Topsy's week that was



Hey, everybody… Excitement has reached fever pitch in our household with the release of both the eBook and the paperback versions of ‘Interrupted Romance’, my first novel.
Watching the figures pile into the promotional screen has been an eye-opener. It’s very encouraging to see that so many people are taking a copy of this first book of mine, and I hope to use that adrenalin to continue with the current story that is floating around between my head and my computer. 
I’ve been reading about the hospital system available to convicts during the period of 1811-1816, which is the timeframe of most of the next book. It’s astonishing to realise that for a time the hospital in Sydney was no more than a collection of tents. There were 4 men to a tent, sleeping on grass mattresses. One blanket to a tent – imagine that! So the strongest patient obviously got the blanket, and the rest went cold. Over many decades the hospital was altered, renovated, rebuilt, enlarged etc. and the medical and nursing staff were engaged often from the ranks of convicts, some qualified, some not. When reading the history of the hospital it struck me that it’s a wonder people survived at all, under what today would be called primitive conditions. Hygiene and sanitation were not all that impressive, and operations were the strap-me-down-and-cut-me type in many instances. The original nursing staff was apparently more often drunk than sober, and there were ‘odd’ goings-on in the nurses’ quarters upstairs – if you know what I mean! How things have changed… As time went on and fully qualified doctors and administrators took charge, the convict nurses were replaced with a more gentile type of woman who was given real medical training towards the end of the 19th century. 
The ‘dead’ house, or morgue, was moved away from the kitchen block to an area closer to the dissection room when new buildings were erected within the yard confines of the hospital grounds. I rather fancy that being a cook in that era would not have been very nice! 
Does anyone out there have any early Sydney hospital notes to add? 

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