It was too wet to go down the creek in the morning. I took Jambo for a walk around Richardson Park; after summer storms you can sometimes find dead flying foxes or magpie chicks, which always gives him a thrill. Today there was nothing dead worth sniffing at and so he stuck his head between the concrete palings and stared longingly into the creek.
By the afternoon the sun had come out and the day was transformed. We went for an evening stroll towards the gasworks and bumped into the dosser, who was having an afternoon nap on a bed of broken foam and long grass. We’ve become quite chatty, ever since Jambo broke the ice for us, and I could tell that he wanted to have a yarn but I was keen to crack on. Jambo had the scent of rabbits and was zig-zagging up and down the chainlink fence.
The gasworks always offers some pleasant surprise. A bunch of flowers in bloom (lillies?) …
or a bit of wildlife, in this case a young blue-tongue taking advantage of the warm afternoon sun …
I saw a movement over in the old admin building, a place that’s occasionally inhabited. It was a young lad, maybe 13 or 14. Let’s call him Josh. He froze, thinking that it was my squat and I was coming to give him a hiding, but we got chatting. Josh had come over from Mayfield way. He likes exploring. His favourite place is the old BHP site and he told me about the places he’d gotten into: locker rooms left as they were when the site closed, with the workers’ helmets and jackets still hanging on their pegs.
We carried on into the building, having a snoop. Someone’s been there recently as there was a stack of books that weren’t there last time I looked, including a small copy of the New Testament.
The place was empty, though there were plenty of signs of life: a bed, a couple of old mountain bikes, needles, the usual crap.
On the table (the glary, over-exposed part on this pic) was a pile of envelopes from the days when this was perhaps the accounts office, the place where all the bills were hammered out on a new, state-of-the-art dot matrix printer. I love the font for Newgas, it speaks of a wildly exciting future of silver jump suits, protein pills and anti-gravity boots.
We headed out and for a walk around the lantana so that Jambo could chase rabbits. Josh decided that the gasworks was so cool that he was going to get a few mates and they’d come over and camp in the admin building one night. I wasn’t sure that that was a very good idea, and told him so, but Josh wasn’t fazed. I had a brief existential “duty of care” crisis but realised that nothing I might say could compare with the adventure, for Josh, of camping out in a derelict building where who knew what might happen. He’s cut from different cloth to me.
He decided to walk back up the creek with me, whether I wanted him to or not. When we got there the dosser was waiting for me. I think he looks forward to our chats (the weather, what day of the week it is, who won the grand final, did Souths make it? etc.) and he was pretty unimpressed to see that I had a guest in tow. He started walking too, maybe to divert Josh away from his camp. We saw some fish in the creek and an eel and got onto the subject of food, and interesting things we’d eaten: eel, goanna, crocodile, witchetty grubs, abalone. We walked, without comment, past a bike washed down in the last flood.
A few chats ago I told him my name, the dosser, but he didn’t offer his in return. Like Josh, he’s cut from a different cloth and operates by a different set of values. Mine are probably a bit too warm and inclusive and naively middle class but it does mean that he gets have the kind of lengthy yarns about nothing in particular that I get the impression he misses. I’d like to describe him as something other than “the dosser”. It’s a term I used early on as I didn’t know of an Australian equivalent: the American “hobo” seems to get used a lot, but I didn’t want to use that, and “derro” is just to judgemental and put-downy (see note above on values). I’m not sure if it’s still used in the same way but “dosser” used to be quite a common term in the England of my youth. It was a verb too: I’ve dossed down at mates’ places many a time.
We plodded on, chatting and finally parted at Chatham Road bridge, off to our three very different Saturday nights. We’ll meet again.