Oh look: there’s a gap in the chain-link fence around the old gasworks site. What if you were walking down the creek and your dog ran through the gap and wouldn’t come back, no matter how much you whistled and called? You’d have to follow him, stooping low through the gap and then across the old rail lines.
Then, if you did that, you might find another fence. But there’s a hole in that, too, and your dog might run through that gap. Naughty Jambo! (If that was indeed the name of the dog.) What to do? He just won’t come back. So you go through that gap and into the gasworks. Through the long grass to the old admin building, where the dosser lives: there’s his jacket and his gas bottle; he’s not here today.
Your dog might see a rabbit and run past the dosser’s camp, through the long grass and into the lantana. You might have to stoop through the undergrowth looking for him. “Come back, doggie!” Is that him, over by the old gas tower?
There are some iron steps going up the side of the gas tower. They’re rusted – you can see daylight through the corrosion – and if you climbed them they’d creak and groan and feel very unsafe. Did your doggie go up the rusty steps? Better check! There’s a safety barrier about a third of the way up but it might be quite easy to climb around that gate. And before you know it you might be at the top of the gas tower, looking around over Hamilton North, a little breathless.
And when you look down you might see your naughty dog, down in the creek looking back up at you. It might turn out that he didn’t run through the gap after all. Silly owner!
There are always trains going back and forth: passenger trains, goods trains and the mile-long, seemingly endless (when you’re waiting to cross the line at the Clyde Street lights) coal trains. Two of the sounds that I’ll always associate with Hamilton North, if I ever leave, will be the clanging of the crossing bell at the Clyde Street lights and the reluctant squeal of empty coal trucks being pushed back up the valley at night.
I see some trains regularly; the morning two-car passenger train to Telerah’s the most common. I wonder if people look down into the creek and think, there’s that bloke with his dog again.
These two balls turned up on the same day and immediately reminded me of the classroom exercise in which the teacher is the sun (of course) and various people take on the role of planets: Geoffrey Flynn with the permanent nasal discharge is Mercury (a ping-pong ball), early-developing Pauline Cumberbatch is the Earth (an orange), thieving Trevor McAlpine is Neptune (a blue balloon) and so on.
I don’t ever remember being picked to hold a round object as part of our solar system. I was more your “third king” at Nativity, with a modified lampshade for a crown, or the back row of the choir (and perhaps you might want to just mouth the words, Mark).
There was a monster flush at the end of June and, ladies and gentlemen, it brought down not one …
not two …
but three trollies.
On days like this – when there are egrets, herons and ducks at the water’s edge, and cormorants drying their wings on the litter boom, and flocks of woodswallows swooping like confetti – it’s easy to imagine the “drain” as something else: as a creek.
We were renting in Hamilton before we bought in Hamilton North. Hamilton was nothing but sparrows, Indian miners and feral pigeons and so Hamilton North was a revelation. The creek forms two of the boundaries to the suburb and acts as a corridor, mainly for waterbirds, but falcons, yellow-tailed black cockatoos, wrens, cockatiels and silvereyes all appear around here, if you’re prepared to notice.
If Styx Creek as a walking destination comes up in conversation I usually get blank looks, until the person’s eyes light up and they say, “Ah! The drain!” I’m ambivalent about people referring to the creek as a drain; some people revel in Newcastle’s “draininess” and I kind of like this urban reclamation. But the other half of me can’t help but think of author Toni Morrison’s quote, that “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was”. In June 2007, Hamilton North saw what happens when water remembers. How can you take a winding, sinuous creek that’s taken thousands of years to find its way through this floodplain and make it into this?:
Like them or hate them, you can’t avoid them.
I’m not sure if the stuff that appears on the creek banks and bridge posts is either one or the other: they seem too big to be tags but not public enough to be street art. Occasionally the council sends a batch of these kids down to paint over all the tags/art/graffiti, thereby leaving a beautiful new white canvas for the next lot.
Whenever I see a fresh batch of cans my brain automatically starts singing the Arctic Monkey’s Riot Van. They just wind the coppers up. Ask why they don’t catch proper crooks.
The reach of Styx Creek from Chatham Road to the railway line runs between a derelict gasworks site and a working petrol distribution facility. The gasworks site is a huge expanse of wasteland which, if the ground wasn’t deemed to be so utterly contaminated, would have been covered in townhouses years ago. The petrol place is busy, all that fuel. On days when the atmospheric conditions are right there’s a petrolly miasma that settles in the creek and you can just about get a kind of hit that petrol-sniffers go for.
But what makes me more uneasy than the smell is what’s happening underground. There are rusting caps spaced out along the creek. I came across a couple of guys in Hi-Viz jackets taking samples from them one morning but they weren’t all that keen to talk to me about what they were doing.
When the oil (or whatever it is) gets mixed with water it emulsifies into this goop that seeps out and into the water.
Up close it looks like the Nile Delta from space.
Scott now manages a storage facility just off the expanse of speculative warehousing that sprang up on the western boundary of Rutherford in the late 1990s. Shelly is recently divorced.
Late summer, so this noisy miner (Manorina melanocephala) might have been a late-clutch fledgling. Looks like the cats had a good go at it.