Jambo vs Godzilla


Sometimes Nature throws things or events into my life that run so contrary to the laws of Science that scientific explanation seems inadequate and I find myself questioning my otherwise secular worldview. I mean, the Big Bang theory. You are kidding. It requires such a massive suspension of disbelief and a preparedness to place your trust into the minds of a few people that I just can’t grant it without feeling a little foolish. Duped.

Patterns in Nature is one topic where Creationists and Evolutionists appear willing to offer a nod of recognition to the enemy. Similarly, things appear in the creek in patterns in a way that is beyond my ken. These patterns can probably be explained away with a bit of rational thought but when I’m walking along and I see one then two then three then fifteen Nerf bullets I have to stop and think: Hold on, something is happening here.

OK, cynics might say that a bunch of kids were firing Nerf guns at each other somewhere up the creek, so maybe that wasn’t the greatest example. But this week has been The Week of Toys. A toy rolling pin from a cookery set. A toy golf club (replica seven iron, I’d say). A toy drill. Among others.

Toy drill

There was one day where it was all bees. Plastic bees, toy bees, bee fridge magnets.


Then dinosaurs.


What is happening? Non-rational explanations gratefully accepted.

Bert the Flirt


Lots of aerosol cans in the creek lately, but not much in the way of your actual graffiti. Where is it all happening? Looking back up the creek here, along with the ubiquitous Ironlak cans bobbing in the oily water you can see (on the western banking) the last three letters of the word/name POAS.

Aerosol cans in oily water

For some reason I like this huge graffito and his/her others. I think it might be the pure audacity of POAS’s work. There’s never any variation in the presentation but it’s always carried out on a huge scale. This one must be forty feet long [but take this with a pinch of salt; I’m absolutely useless at judging distances and weights], as are the ones on the gasworks tower. Others, on fences, aren’t quite as massive but are still pretty impressive and require so much more effort than those hurried, dreary hieroglyphs that kids bang out most of the time.

POAS on fence

I imagine POAS in overalls, staggering under the weight of roller, tray, 10-litre tub of paint, dropsheet (OK, maybe not dropsheet!), down the creek or up the rail tracks. If I saw POAS at it I’d assume it was someone actually working because this isn’t some 10-second throw up; it’s a job of work. Just look at the S of POAS on the gasworks tower: that requires dedication! (You can also see the CU of CUBE, another master from the blockbuster school.)

POAS on tower

The oldest graffiti that I’ve come across around Hamilton North is nearly as old as me. If you look underneath the Chatham Road bridge there’s the usual chalk, paint and spray stuff. Where the concrete banking ends there’s an earthy gap and, in here, there are two messages: “PP 20-10-62” and, next to it, “Bert the Flirt” (same date).

PP 20 10 62

I’ll bet it was pretty racy, back in the day, to call yourself Bert the Flirt, though time has robbed it of its menace. It now has the same kind of olde world charm as anything once-but-no-longer-menacing, like pirates or Keith Richards. Next year, on 20 October, I’m going to take a couple of beers under the bridge and and raise them on the 50th anniversary of PP and Bert the Flirt. And POAS and CUBE and all you horrible, dreary little taggers. Respect!

Simple equation


Rain + creek = trolleys.

Trolley October 2011



This is the time of year beloved by The Wife. She has a fetish for busted chairs. We have a shed full of Fifties bucket seats, Seventies cane chairs, various stools of indeterminate age and style. They all have one thing in common: they have been brought home in the back of the car during previous Council clean ups, and all they need is to be “fixed up”. Quite when this fixing up will take place, and who will do it, has yet to be determined.

I came across this billy cart and thought, “That won’t last”. By the time the shutter on my paparazzi-quality phone camera had clunked shut it was gone.

Billy cart

Here’s a selection of my favourites. Anyone want a keyboard?

Street collection junk

I watched the rugby final over at the Stag & Hunter. On the way back I came across this very inviting setting. Under the street light it looked rather like a cocktail lounge, though looking at it now it doesn’t look all that inviting after all. Perhaps it had something to do with where I’d been.

Junk sofa, night time

Collect the set!


Where are they coming from, all these Disney princesses? Well, this one isn’t a princess, it’s Snow White. I know that because I thought it was Snow White and then I thought, in a moment of existential crisis, could it be possibly be Sleeping Beauty? Of course not. Thank you, Google Images.

I’ll put Snow White with my Princess Jasmine. She came down in the early September flood, so at this rate I’ll have a full play mat by the time my daughter’s graduating from university.

Snow White

Love God


I’d been banging on to The Wife about my disappointment with the Youth of Hamilton North. We had crews replacing broken footpath slabs for about a fortnight yet there’d been no attempt to draw goofy pictures, scrawl initials, put footprints (human, dog or other) or in any way deface the beautiful, smooth, begging-for-it surface of newly laid concrete.

Luckily, Showbag brought this effort on Clyde Street to my attention. It’s not quite what I was hoping for, and I get the sense that this wasn’t written by a 12-year-old boy. Perhaps kids don’t do that any more, or is there an app that does it for them?

Love God



I grew up in the country, in England. I played outside all the time, in the fields and the woods and the shore, and the best times were spent in, as Australians call it, the bush. I was interested in all the things around me – trees and rocks and frogs and hares and foxes – but my main interest was in birds.

I collected birds eggs. These days in Britain the RSPB has got bird-nesting into a place in the public imagination somewhere between fox hunting and live veal exports but there was a time when bird-nesting was seen as a normal way for a lad to learn about nature. Where do owls nest? Curlews? Corncrakes? I loved the nesting season and didn’t see any conflict between my collecting birds eggs and being a member of the Young Ornithologists Club, the kids’ version of the RSPB proper. My dad made a tray with sides about two inches high and filled it with sawdust and I set each egg so that it nestled into the sawdust as comfortably as it had in the nest, before I got my hands on it, pricked a hole in either end and blew the yolk out.

I knew all my birds and all their eggs: small, big, round, mottled, plain. My two most thumbed-through books were The Observer’s Book of Birds and The Observer’s Book of Birds’ Eggs. A long time was to pass before I started to question my egg collecting, about the same age that kids begin to wonder why we kill animals to eat them.

birds eggs

I’ve written elsewhere about having to come to terms with Australia’s birds. They’re on a continental scale and everything’s so much BIGGER over here. In Britain you learn to identify a wren; Australian bird books have pages and pages of wrens. Ditto robins, and any number of other LBBs (little brown birds). So when I found this egg at the end of the driveway I was stumped.


I think it might be a magpie’s egg. (If you look around the Net most are shown as blue with mottling, though the Museum of Victoria has a collection of 4,200 eggs donated to it in 1927, including an entire tray of magpie eggs in a cabinet) They nest over in the fig trees in Richardson Park; at the moment it’s cuckoo season and the channel-billed cuckoos predate on the magpies and crows. My guess is it’s been taken by a cuckoo, punctured and dropped away from the scene of  the crime.

The good old days


I should have been working – fascinating as they are, those annual reports won’t edit themselves. But I just couldn’t. It was gorgeous outside and I couldn’t focus on anything.

I’ve been trying to catch up with Peter Murray, the author of a history of Hamilton called From Borehole to Hamilton Jubilee, 1848–1925. I finally got his number today, from Max at MacLean’s, and gave him a ring to see if he could shed any light on the process that caused the River Styx to become Styx Creek, to then become the Chaucer Street drain. Peter couldn’t help me but he did put me onto this book:

Pipelines and People

John Armstrong was a journalist commissioned to write the history of the Hunter District Water Board, as it was then. It’s full of the kind of mind-numbingly dull stuff of all corporate histories, and that no one who wasn’t directly involved is ever going to find interesting. Reminds me of the annual reports I’ve been editing lately. The back pages are filled with mug shots of the kind of gravel-faced curmudgeons they don’t make any more, guys like the Chuckle Brothers, below:

Hunter Water curmudgeons

But if you do want to know about the history of drains, which sadly I do, it has enough to keep you going. Did you know that Sydney had an outbreak of bubonic plague as recently as 1900? That water was so scarce in early Newcastle that “A common sight in Mayfield and Waratah was Sam Fordham selling water obtained from the well [where Club Phoenix now stands on Industrial Drive] for one shilling a cask of about 40 gallons”.

Armstrong must have spent many long, long hours in the Water Board archives. In his preface he thanks his wife “for her co-operation”. Do I get the sense she wasn’t totally enthusiastic about the whole project? Perhaps her lack of enthusiasm had something to do with the amount of time JA spent down there; librarian Miss Elizabeth Cribb is singled out for extra thanks for providing him with “special assistance”. As Leslie Phillips would say, Well hello!

Knowing what to write about


Sometimes when I set off on a walk I find something, and I think that that will be the thing I’ll write about. Today I came across a pile of broken-up concrete, just behind the Clyde Street lights, where someone had pulled up a slab but not wanted to pay the tip fees. It set me off thinking of fly-tipping, as it’s called in Britain, and things I’ve found at the side of the road in years gone by.

fly-tipped concrete

In the gasworks I came across this iridescent grevillea blossom and my thinking veered off towards colours and the intensity of Australian colours. One of the brightest birds I was ever likely see in Britain was a jay, but a British jay in an Australian backyard would go completely unnoticed.

grevillea blossom

And then, still thinking about colours, I came across this crusty old porn mag and it set me off thinking about other things completely. (No, stop it.) I mean that I was back thinking about the fly-tips of England and, in the days before the Internet put porn and gambling on tap to any teenage boy with broadband and a Gmail address. In those far-distant days the discovery of a battered Penthouse or Club (a kind of British version of Hustler or something, but inevitably dowdier) could keep a playground full of boys enthralled for weeks.

Saucy men's mag

I think this mag’s probably pretty lame. Anything that makes it into print now isn’t going to be all that racy, that’s for the .xxx websites. Apparently.

And then the story found me. Two young lads in the old switchboard room. They hid when they saw me but they came out when they realised I wasn’t a security guard (me? look like a security guard?). They were on the mooch; someone had told them it was a good place to go getting up to “stuff” or whatever it is that young lads get up to in derelict gasworks sites.

No entry

There was a battered old “No entry” sign and the chance was too good to miss. They let me take their picture: Mr X, on the left, from Islington and Mr Y, on the right, visiting from West Wallsend. I left them to wander off into the admin building to, I imagine, break things or start a fire.

I wondered how many people talk about visiting the gasworks site and whether this blog has in any small way contributed to that. I know from my stats that my readers aren’t in the millions but I do get all kinds of odd visitors. But I like the idea of the gasworks being my gasworks just for me, so if I like that idea why am I blogging about it?

The idea of a blog would have been anathema to my dad. Anything useful was guarded, gripped tightly in his bricklayer’s fist and thrust deep into a jacket pocket. Whatever lesson he learnt in his youth wasn’t passed on to his son. I have the feeling that these won’t be the last young lads I meet in the gasworks.

Telly tubbies


There’s a clear but unspoken etiquette around rubbish. Sometimes if I’m walking Jambo around the place and he does a poo then I do the right thing, pick it up in a plastic bag and then … and then … and then carry this bag of cooling dog crap around with me for the next half hour.

But if, say, I’m walking him around on bin night and there are rows and rows of rubbish bins waiting to be emptied, then wouldn’t it be sensible to put this bag of dog poo into some stranger’s wheelie bin? Really, it does make sense; it’s going to go to the tip one way or another. And yet I feel bad about doing it, and expect to have some angry householder come running down the street after me: “Oi! Take your dog’s crap and put it in your own goddam bin!”

We do get proprietorial about our bins and, when it comes to council collection time, about our bit of pavement. I’ve bristled when someone’s dumped their rubbish on my bit of pavement. Maybe they just had a bit too much and saw my bit of bare pavement and thought, well, he can handle a bit more. It’s no skin off his nose. But somehow, weirdly, it is.

There’s a council pick-up day fast approaching; you can tell, because people get twitchy and start dumping all kinds of things around the place. Here’s a neat row of tellies on Chatham Road that appeared on Sunday morning.


It was quite hard to photograph them, even on a Sunday, because of all the traffic. Which makes me wonder who put them there, so carefully and in such a neat row. For all the effort that they put into doing this they could just as easily have taken them to the Newcastle City Council’s recyclable collection place. Maybe there’s some other etiquette that I’m not aware of. If so, please explain.