Styx this


A lovely photo from Trevor Dickinson of moonlight reflected in the narrow channel at the centre of Styx Creek, taken late last week (before pub quiz at the Gateway, I’d guess). Trevor suggested the post title “Styx this in your pipe and smoke it!”. This was very funny and made me laugh, but after a series of poor responses from the focus groups I opted for something simpler.

Moonlight on the beck

Shave and a haircut


It’s been very nice to have this mini wilderness on my doorstep but I’ve been wondering for some months now when the owners of the gasworks would finally do something about the long grass and dense stands of lantana. Early spring’s seen the vegetation dry off and I’m sure that the ELGAS people were getting a bit nervy at having a major bushfire hazard next to the their re-gassing business. Still, it came as a shock when I looked through the fence to see the place had been buzz-cut.

Gasworks after mowing

It was a pretty brutal work over – like trimming a moustache with a chainsaw – and led to the inevitable collateral damage. There’s a sunny patch near the old admin building where you could always see one or two blue-tongues. Two of them there were today, but they weren’t going anywhere, poor things.

Dead blue tongue lizards

There were hardly any rabbits either. They favour the big lantana stands but these had been graded to oblivion so perhaps their warrens had been crushed.

On the other hand, things became visible that had been hidden before.


Danger no smoking

Showerhead and tub


The botanical gardens


Well, that’s what Andy calls the gasworks, and I don’t think it’s a bad description. Visit Andy’s tumblr site for more black and white pics from Newcastle’s best kept secret.

Jambo bw

Serious moonlight


Too hot to walk Jambo today so I took him out after dark. A good decision. The creek at night is a different place: the sounds are the rasping of crickets and cicadas, the timpani of frogs, the mournful koels, the hum-hum-hum of tawny frog-mouths, the chatter of flying foxes.

The cool front we’re promised started pushing through as I made my way back up and past the gasworks. Absolute bliss. I turned and took this shot of the moon, hazy through clouds, above Chatham Road bridge.


Fresh morning


After a day of heat and humidity, the heavens opened at night with a fantastic display of Donner und Blitzen. This morning the creek was utterly perfect: all the bags and bottles and trash had been washed away to pollute someone else’s corner of the world, while my little corner was as crisp as a bed made with hospital creases (whatever they are).

This pink ball was the solitary man-made thing in the creek (if you don’t count the creek itself).

Pink ball

It was like a ride-on mower in a Japanese garden, so incongruous that I had to stop and take its picture. Just as I did so a goods train lumbered past; mankind slowly working his way back into the frame. Less visible are the cormorants circling around, working a school of fish, and the black-shouldered kite lurking in the crossbars of the telegraph pole. Really should get me an iPhone.



A season of great fecundity. Everywhere the creek’s filled new things: little rabbits, little blue-tongue lizards, little ducklings, little lizards, little snakes, little insects. But because Nature is brutal, unsentimental and Old Testament in its outlook there’s death on a huge scale. Every walk turns up new dead things: squabs fallen from nests or dropped by predators, the carcasses of rabbits torn by foxes, the scraps of pigeons taken mid-flight by hawks. This morning I came across ten little ducklings by the TAFE. Awww.

Ten ducklings

Last week there was another clutch of ten ducklings. Within two days it was seven ducklings, then five. If they fledge they might have chance, or they might end up like this little chappy. Quack quack.

dead duck

In the creek are tens of thousands of fig berries that have fallen from the trees in Richardson Park. Their colour reminds me of the powder paints we used to have a school. One of these powders was called “magenta”, which seemed incredibly exotic at the time (the name and the colour), as did the wax crayon in the colouring box that was “turquoise”. They made me think of oases and Turkish delight and being carried around in a sedan chair flicking away flies with a switch made from a zebra’s tail.


If we all disappeared Nature would quickly cover our feeble human traces. There are some parts of the concrete banking that are almost hollow; all the dirt’s been washed away behind them and they look as though they could collapse at any moment. Here on Chatham Road bridge a fig has taken root, probably it got there in the droppings of a figbird. Leave it for a few decades and it’s roots would break those stanchions apart like balsa.

Fig tree growing on bridge

Though even if we did all disappear tomorrow our footprint would stay for a long time. I’ve gotten used to the horrible, creamy, emulsified goo that seeps from the well caps in the creek. I assume that it’s something to do with the petrol depot. But this week, on the old gasworks (southern) side of the creek a bituminous, tarry slurry started oozing out and into the water. (On the left is the “normal” filth, on the right is the new, even worse filth.)


It’s not good for ducklings or baby blue-tongues or little rabbits, and I’m pretty sure it’s not good for us either.

Final solution


The modern world, with Internet connections and search engines, means Never Having to Wonder. Ever Again. Not sure what those Jimi Hendrix lyrics are? Uncertain about those road directions? Need a list of celebrities who turn 50 in 2011?

I’ve been wondering about this sign on the back of the tankers that go in and out of the petrol depot for ages, and one considerately paused for me at the gates today as I cycled back from lunchtime aikido. It’s hard not to draw the wrong conclusion when you see the word “Heil” written in Teutonic lettering. Google, so useful when it comes to Hendrix lyrics and road directions, also provided 15 million hits when I typed in “Nazi conspiracy”.

Heil truck

Turns out there isn’t a cell of blue-eyed supremacists hiding in Hamilton North. (Well, there might be but they’re not driving petrol tankers.) Heil is in fact a company that specialises in sensitive freight; I found that out in this issue of Trailer magazine.

And, on the subject of hard-to-make-out lyrics, here’s a wonderful advert for Maxell cassette tapes (remember tapes?) from 1990. Yes, young folk, this is how tough we had it before we could downcast our podloads!

Mischief Night


That’s what we used to call it when I was a loveable, rosy-cheeked tyke running around Northern England, back in the early Cretaceous period. There was no opportunity for householders to buy us off with a handful of Smarties or Black Jacks. It was knock-and-run, bangers fired from pop bottles, dog poo in burning newspapers, smashed milk bottles. Terrible stuff, what shits we were.

I was back in the old country about fifteen years ago when Britain was starting to grapple with the concept of Halloween as a marketing opportunity. I traipsed down to Asda with my niece and bought her a witch’s outfit made from a material more flammable than paint solvent. I didn’t think it’d take off (Halloween, not the witch’s outfit) but take off it did. When my own kids became of trick-or-treating age I was bah humbug about it, I went “all Presbyterian” as my kids describe anything in our household that garners parental disapproval.

But then I got a bit happier about the whole deal. What did it was seeing Halloween in action. In Hamilton North you don’t get feral kids from other suburbs and so you know exactly who everyone is, even in their best Dawn of the Dead or Dracula costume. Last night, a fully made-up Frankenstein and a zombie knocked at the door and I heard my wife asking them how they were enjoying high school, it was so obviously Tyson and Jack. It helps that Halloween falls in spring in Australia, not long after the clocks have done whatever it is they do (I’ve already forgotten). The evenings are usually warm and it’s an opportunity for families to mosey around the streets in groups, kids in packs, dads twenty paces behind, a beer in the mitt, beaming dadfully.

Having said that, it felt a perversely warm glow when I found this roadworks sign that had been thrown into the creek by the Spawn of Satan. Little buggers.

Roadworks sign

It certainly wasn’t this mob of reprobates.