‘It got better, in time, though if she were to be truthful it always felt more of a duty than a pleasure: a little like homework, satisfying when over, and done well, but never exactly enjoyable. But then nobody had ever suggested it could be otherwise.’
This was the view of Claudia Faraday, respectable wife and fifty-something-year-old mother of three, on the subject of sex. That is until an unexpected visit from a colleague of her absent husband’s shakes her out of her torpor in a most surprising way, and spurs her to start keeping a diary that has remained hidden for nearly 100 years.
The diary reveals a woman venturing into the outside world of the 1920s with a fresh mind and an updated attitude, prompted to re-evaluate the lives of her family and her friends and, ultimately, herself. As she does so she discovers, as Marie Stopes might have said: Approached in the right way, even homework can be fun.
The Worst Country in the World is a part biography, part memoir about my four times great grandmother Mary Pitt, who emigrated from Dorset to New South Wales in 1801.
‘I do not scruple to pronounce that in the whole world there is not a worse country than what we have yet seen of this…’
So said Major Robert Ross, Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales (2nd in command to the governor), just months after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.
Yet this is the place to which Mary Pitt, my four times great grandmother, travelled from the tiny village of Fiddleford in Dorset, where she had spent the whole of her adult life, in 1801.
Why would a widow of 53 years old with five children contemplate making such a momentous journey to a country that only thirteen years before had been settled by the British as a penal colony?