Yum. Given the number of drink bottles I find in the creek (2.6 billion at last count) there are remarkably few food containers. What’s going on?
It’s only been a couple of weeks since the last good flush and yet already the boom by the TAFE, under the Chinchen Street bridge, is clogging up with discarded Coke, water, Powerade and Fanta bottles.
I was thinking about this the other day when I went to get a spark plug for the mower. In the Olden Days you went to a garage (or servo, or whatever you call them). This garage would have oil decanted into half-pint and pint bottles out the front, with plastic spouts fitted. Inside there would be a pin-hole wall with various fan belts, gasket sets and spark plugs, some of them with adverts as wildly saucy as this one.
Not these days. I went to three different garages and each one was packed to the gills with sweets, crisps and drinks. I could have had 184 different kinds of Coke. But no spark plug.
What went wrong?
The poor old Gas and Coke building. It sits next to the Clyde Street lights, across the line from the massively vandalised Islington signal box. It must have been something, back in the day, but now the gasworks site is derelict and the main building is slowly slipping back into the ground.
There’s a less fancy building just behind the Gas and Coke building which must’ve been a works admin centre. There have been a series of dossers living in there; there’s still a power cord strung along the ground from the Gas and Coke building to the admin centre, which I assume the dossers use for basic services. The admin centre itself has long ago been trashed.
There are three plaques on the Gas and Coke building that catalogue its rise and fall. The first dates from the building’s original incarnation, back in 1867, while the second dates from “the opening of these new works, March 27, 1913”. The final (and by far the most utilitarian and least attractive) plaque is more recent: “This plaque was unveiled by Lord Mayor of Newcastle Councillor Greg Heys on 3rd November 1995 to mark the completion of the restoration of the Clyde Street Works administration building”.
I seem to remember that Council tried to rent the building out but it never got taken up. It’s such a shame as there’s still quite a bit of the interior in original (1913) condition.
And obviously there’s still power in the building, as the dossers quickly discovered.
There are parts of the original building scattered around the site, such as this beautifully carved “flaming gas” capstone.
Internationally renowned stone mason Graham Wilson told me that, during the restoration, the capstones were given a “protective” coating that will in fact cause the sandstone to disintegrate upon itself as soon as moisture gets behind the coating.
They put a chainlink fence around the whole site a year or so back, including around the Gas and Coke building. It all seems so sad. I wonder if Renew Newcastle could get it made into an office for me?
It doesn’t look much, does it? This is the point where Chatham Road joins Clyde Street, heading out of Hamilton North and into Islington. It can be a nightmare to cross in the afternoon or early morning, specially since they got rid of the zebra crossing at the end of Newcastle Street. If there’s been a freight train or a coal train crossing at Clyde Street lights the cars become banked up along Chinchen Street and Clyde Street, and when the barriers do finally go up the traffic fairly fangs around that corner – particularly the red-blooded P-platers straight out of TAFE. If you get stuck there, like this little silver 4WD hybrid, you can be there for bloody ages.
So when I spoke to Ila and Elsie about old-time Hamilton North I was surprised (no, gobsmacked) to learn that Queen Elizabeth II, our reigning monarch, had passed through that very spot more than half a century ago. I don’t think she got stuck at Clyde Street lights, as I’ve been so many countless thousands of times, listening to the bell clang as coal truck after coal truck lumbers past like fat cows off to milking. No, she got waved through, special treatment on her way to Maitland Road and beyond, maybe stopping at the Royal Oak in Tighes Hill for a couple of schooners. The occasion was her state visit to Newcastle in 1954. Here’s a picture of her arriving at Newcastle City Hall, filched from the National Museum of Australia website.
On her way out of town she cruised down Donald Street (this was before the railway bridge had been built) then right at Richardson Park and down Chatham Road in a circuitous route that allowed as many Novocastrians as possible to see her. Ila was there: she’d finished at the lamp works by then and got down to the Clyde Street–Chatham Road junction early to grab a good spot. Her husband brought their daughter down after work and, when QEII and Phil the Greek drove past, Ila said that she could of reached and touched her, they were so close.
Oh for the good old days, before this sort of thing happened.
This pretty little tree was in full blossom in the gasworks site. It’s not a native and there’s no other tree like it so someone, once upon a time, must have planted it. It’s colours were so vivid and so different to everything around it that it stood out like a beacon. I’ll guess I’ll never know who planted, or when, or why.
There’s probably a more technically correct term for it, but I call the stuff that forms a line at the high tide mark “scum” and the line of scum a “scum line”. Simple.
Scum lines can be pretty when they’re made up of thousands of golden melaleuca leaves, rather like an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture. Most of the time though it’s just crap.
Today there was a quite remarkable collection of things that, normally, would get a picture of their own. In one short transect there was a mini footie (with, bafflingly, this printed on its side: “For school use only”), an almost new soccer ball from Adamstown Rosebuds, a crusty blob of industrial foam that looked like the world’s biggest gold nugget or a school project attempt to create a human brain, an orange handball, a magenta tennis ball, a green ball (like those you get in kids’ ball pits at funfairs), a handlebar grip from a scooter, several Ironlak brand aerosol cans, an apple, a Lego block, a bike helmet and a deflated red ballon with the word “Sale” on the side. Can you spot them?
This pic is screaming for a punning thread title along the lines of “Horn of a dilemma”, “Round the Horn”, “Here today horn tomorrow” etc. Screaming so desperately, in fact, that I refused to succumb; hence the quietly understated “Red horn”.
Today there’s a forecast for snow showers in the upper Hunter above 1,400 metres and this morning had a cool stay-in-bedness about it that felt like the heart of winter. And yet all week I’ve been hearing figbirds in the figs that fringe the Richardson Park side of the creek and seeing the plants (I don’t know their name) that grow the huge three-cornered bindies that’ll be causing me to curse in a couple of months. I usually hear my first koel in the first week of September, which is – alarmingly –less than two weeks away. Then it’ll be the channel-billed cuckoos, then Christmas, then …
Cooks Hill used to be pretty wild, back in the day. Same with Wallsend, Mayfield, Ellermore Vale and any other number of suburbs that have been gentrified, domesticated and tamed by the 21st century. Not Hamilton North, no sir. This is still the only suburb of Newcastle where you can still see GENUINE pirates doing their shopping. At Franklins.
Ha harr! Avast! Buckle your swash!