Three dead eels and a drowned rat


Well, it’s not exactly gold, frankincense and myrrh, but the creek did offer some gifts for Christmas.

Went for a walk on Boxing Day. It was sticky humid. The wind that had brought the trash up the creek on Christmas Day had died down but the concrete was littered with manmade grunge. Among the trash were other more interesting natural spectacles; certainly more dead eels than I’ve seen at the same time for ages.

This rat was decorated with the most beautifully bejewelled flies: rich emeralds and sapphire blues.

Another bauble turned up to remind me that the festive season isn’t over yet. It sat nestled next to an empty Tooheys New bottle, the plastic goose from a few days ago, a used syringe and a boogie board. If I was that way talented and inclined I’d make a carol about that. On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …

The thunderheads rolled in at about seven o’clock in the evening and sent the whole lot washing down and away. I’m kind of relieved as the creek was looking really (I mean really) sad, but my relief’s tempered with the knowledge that all that hideous crap is now bobbing around in someone else’s stretch of the river.

Christmas Eve and Day


Our Christmas Eve tradition is to have fish and chips with friends at Bar Beach, followed by beach cricket and a couple of beers. It was a perfect day followed by a perfect evening that defied the pessimistic forecast of showers, a day so good that we stayed dark. By the time we got home Jambo was VERY ready for a walk and so, even though the light had gone, we set off down the creek to the railway bridge and back.

In the western sky was Venus, while over the east was Orion, the Hunter. Orion’s belt was one of the few constellations (or parts thereof) that I could ever pick out in the northern hemisphere when I was a boy, and it’s comforting to see those familiar three stars here on the other side of the world.

The darkness allowed me to focus on the sounds of the creek: crickets and cicadas rasping out tziiit tziiit tziiit, crrrk crrrk crrrk; traffic rumbling over the Griffiths Road bridge; the hoarse roar of the venting fans in the tin shed in the fuel depot that spin round, night and day, all year; fruit bats bickering in the Richardson Park figs; one final lonely coal train, with a driver on triple time.

The morning, Christmas Day, and we followed the same route, though everything was different. The only highlight was a Heineken keg bobbing around in the early morning high tide.

The family went to the beach again in the afternoon. There were squally onshore winds, though the water was still beautiful and refreshing. But the story in the creek, when Jambo and I went there that afternoon, was different. Those same onshore winds had blown the litter that had been held up by the boom back upstream, some of it as far back as the Chatham Road bridge. It looked horrible.

I counted two boogie boards, nine tennis balls, two huge rolls of bubble wrap, two soccer balls and I stopped counting the drink bottles somewhere in the mid thirties.

Then, redemption. My very first post in this blog was a photo I took in January of a discarded Christmas bauble and I wondered then if it was a fluke. Fortunately the Christmas gods smiled upon me and sent this little red bundle of joy to take the edge of the cigarette packets, busted toys, Fanta bottles, broken foam boxes and Ironlak aerosol cans that otherwise decorated the creek like a bedraggled tree.

Merry Christmas to everyone who’s followed or commented on the blog, bought the book, or bailed me up on the street to pass on an interesting fact or funny anecdote. See you down the creek in 2012.

Don’t lose your head, Fred


The couple of recent rain events have brought gentle flows rather than torrents into the creek. After the water’s subsided, what’s left is a series of fossilised patterns of the water’s path made up of natural debris.

They’re the kinds of things that inspire Andy Goldsworthy. I love his work, though I do like the crude irregularity of these natural sculptures, speckled as they are with plastic lids, torn nylon and busted bottles.

The bits of rubbish that don’t form into neat packages end up in the loving embrace of the litter boom by the TAFE. Every few months this stuff is scooped up by guys in waders with big nets but that really is just the tip of the iceberg; so much else simply washes out to sea.

As an aside, and in regards to absolutely nothing, I noticed the other day that someone has souvenired Fred’s head. I know that people get desperate for original gift ideas at this time of year, but Freddy’s head? I’d rather have socks and hankies.

A festive assortment


Sunday morning. A warm sun and the sounds of the Farmers Markets drifting on the breeze.

Sometimes I see patterns in the trash that gets washed up or washed down or chucked over the bridge but at other times the appearance of objects seems completely arbitrary. Today was an arbitrary day, so here’s a quick selection.

The first thing that caught my eye was this dead fish, a baby yellow-fin tuna (though possibly not; fish aren’t my strong point). It was about ten feet away from the high tide mark so I expect that it was caught by a heron, cormorant or egret but dropped before it could be returned to the hungry mouths back at the nest.

The next thing was hard to miss, which is the very reason for it’s existence. It is, I think, one of those baubles that get threaded onto power lines so that workmen and low-flying aircraft don’t go chopping or crashing into the cable. Quite how it got here is a mystery, but that banal statement could apply to absolutely every manmade object in the creek.

Single trainer, left foot, size nine. Non-smoker, GSOH, seeks partner.

This palm frond made me think of a canoe. I wonder if some kids had tried to make it seaworthy and float it down the beck? I hope so; it’s the kind of thing I would have wasted an entire afternoon doing when I was twelve.

As a postscript to the Resistance is useless I post, I noticed this green scooter in the litter-trap by Islington School.

I first came across it in November, leaning casually against the banking in the stretch of creek between Hamilton North Public School and the showgrounds.

There were quite a few Ironlak cans around and so I went down to the railway bridge to see what was new. This tag, Messy, is one I haven’t come across before. It made me wonder about the etiquette of putting up a huge tag. Do you deliberately work over the tags of people whose work you don’t like? Or is it just a case of plonking it up wherever?

The last thing I found as I was working my way back towards Chatham Road was this plastic goose. Is it meant to be a toy, part of a farmyard set? I hope not, it looks bloody terrifying and would have scared the living daylights out of me when I was a nipper.



Saturday morning. No tyre marks on the grass, no skids marks on the road. I don’t think this was a traffic accident, I think this was just a bit of skylarking. Or perhaps the Council is making it easier for Google Earth users to locate our suburbs.

Resistance is useless


My kids got their school reports this week. Parents  (and the teachers who have to write them) generally complain about the generic, computer-scripted statements that fill the comments box: “Johnny showed improvement in KPIs 3, 5 and 7 and completed all aspects of Benchmark 9”. Bring back the good old days of free-flowing commentary! Truth in reporting!

However, there is another side to this “teachers being honest” business. Back in the late Mesolithic period I had a science teacher called Mr Tolson. He was one of those groovy teachers with tinted glasses, a Zapata moustache and unconventionally shaped trousers. The girls swooned over him and we spotty boys seethed. I remember the parent-teacher meeting the year of my O levels for two reasons: first, one of my parents actually came; and second, Mr Tolson gave my mother a free-flowing and honest report on how I was likely to do in my forthcoming Physics exam: “He hasn’t got a cat in hell’s chance”.*

Fortunately, my years with Mr Tolson weren’t entirely wasted. I remember an early “experiment” (this was a low-budget Northern comprehensive) in which surface area resistance was demonstrated by dropping two sheets of paper, one flat and one crumpled into a ball. Heady stuff, which I’m sure turned on a generation of boys to the wonders of science.

I was reminded of this after the recent flush down the creek when looking at how far things had moved, or hadn’t. This set-top box first appeared halfway between the Chatham Road and Griffiths Road bridges a week or two ago.

After the last creek run it made it down as far as the railway bridge, a good few hundred metres.

The roadworks sign (which first appeared in the creek beneath Chatham Road bridge the morning after Halloween) has survived several flows and has barely moved fifty yards.

Shopping trolleys are a staple of the creek, but how far they move depends on how much debris has gathered in and around them. One of my earliest posts showed this beautiful Andy Goldsworthy-inspired trolley wearing a pelt of dried leaves. One good flush and shazoom! it was off. Other trolleys move more slowly. This one (from Officeworks, I think) took ages to make it as far as Chinchen Street.

I was down at the Tighes Hill dog park the other day and, it being low tide, I counted eleven trolleys stuck in mangroves. I’d be interested to know how long it takes for these rusting hulks to make it to the harbour, but that’s a project for someone else. Over to you, Throsby Creek bloggers!

* I got a “C”, Mr Tolson. In your face!

Food and drink


If you’re looking to invest in moderately polluted, awkwardly positioned, badly zoned, former light-industrial land then Hamilton North has plenty to offer at the moment. There’s a huge block next to the fuel depot on Chatham Road that’s up for auction, then there’s the Tender Centre site up for grabs and also for sale is the former Buttercup Bakery (The Family Favourite!) on Clyde Street.

Back in 2002 there was an issue with contamination in the groundwater around the light globe factory up the road, though this was deemed to be localised and not enough to affect residents’ bore water supplies. It was one of those stories that just fizzled out rather than being properly resolved. Does anyone remember any serious outcomes?

The bakery isn’t that old as buildings go; according to the plaque in the doorway it was opened in 1954.

I assume that if the Co-op was involved then it was a Co-operative bakery before being bought out by Buttercup, or Goodman Felder. Or did Goodman Felder buy Buttercup? Who knows, in this globalised world.

All this talk of bread made me thirsty. It made someone else thirsty too, as testified this discarded bottle. I’ve fancied a drink on many occasions in my life but I’ve never felt so desperate that I’d drink a bottle of Franklins own-brand mouthwash. No Frills = cheap thrills.

Bates Street


It’s a funny little street that goes from nowhere to nowhere, just trundles along the edge of the creek from Chatham Road bridge to Griffiths Road bridge, providing no real service at all. I reckon that if Thorn Road, Orient Road and Newcastle Street were dead ends at the creek no one would be bothered; in fact, I think that people who lived on those streets would be happier as they’d get less through-traffic (especially when there’s a show on at the Entertainment Centre, when Bates Street becomes a handy and free car park).

The reason we have a Bates Street at all goes back to the early days of Hamilton North. This Google image gives a clue to its origins: it used to be part of Jackson Street, the street where Hamilton North Public School sits.

When Griffiths Road went through and the school was cut off from Smith Park and the rest of Hamilton North, Jackson Street was chopped into Jackson Street north and Jackson Street south. It stayed this way until 1976 when the northern section was renamed, according to the Herald of the time, “after the late Roger Bates, of Eddy St, Hamilton, who was an alderman from 1953 to 1965”.

At no time did Alderman Bates operate a motel off the main highway, murder anyone or assume his mother’s personality. You’re obviously thinking of Councillor Gerald Industrial, after whom Industrial Drive is named.

Hot and wet and dry and warm and cold


The weather’s been all over the place: hot and sultry one moment, thundery and cool the next. Clear and dry, cold and wet. I was looking at one of the weather websites recently and was baffled by this prediction. On Wednesday there was a 100% chance of 20 mm of rain, but by Friday there would be a 10% less chance of twice as much. Huh?

The creek was clear and dry on Sunday morning but the water looked dirty and horrible. A frothy scum bristled around the water’s edge and, even though it’s run quite frequently recently, there was still a huge amount of litter.

If I needed cheering up then this huge graffito under the railway bridge did the trick. These monster tags take themselves too seriously sometimes, but how can you not like a pink one with a cute elephant face?

The air felt spring-like. By the gap in the railway fence there’s a blue-tongue that’s taken to warming himself up in the mornings.

He’s there as regular as clockwork but he needs to be careful; recently I’ve seen a swamp harrier patrolling the reed beds. There was a black-shouldered kite on this patch but, since the arrival of the harrier, he’s made himself scarce. I was surprised. Given that the swamp harrier’s so much bigger than the kite I’d have thought that they’d have different prey sizes but perhaps it’s a territory thing. Either way, the swamp harrier looks incredibly impressive, lolling through the air with deep, lazy sweeps of the wing. He may be after rabbits as the gasworks is teeming with kits at the moment. This one wasn’t looking too lively though.

The banksia are in flower. I don’t know if it’s something natural or whether it’s a result of some deep, DNA-altering pollution in the ground there, but the cones on this tree all seemed to succumb to a weird growth. (I can’t remember the name for this: not a lerp or a scale; maybe a gall?)

I saw this dragonfly and it was perfectly still and perfectly formed. I thought it had just died.

When I came back half an hour later it was up and about, off the creek bed and onto the concrete banking. Perhaps it had just hatched and was drying its wings.

By the afternoon the thunder heads had rolled over and a thin rain started. Snails appeared from everywhere; these guys were making short work of an old orange on Newcastle Street. Imagine if they were eleven feet long. Jesus, that’d be scary.

Finally, SantaWatch. Is this the biggest inflatable Santa you’ve ever seen? He was all puffed up on Saturday afternoon, but by the time I cycled past about half eleven he was totally deflated. I’ll bet someone spent Sunday morning with a dish of soapy water and a Vulcanising kit.

Ted! The universe loves you


The old ELMA site’s a funny place, the back area towards the rail line is a world all of its own. Once a thriving light globe factory it’s now a mixture of light (boom boom) industry and the home of organisations such as Lifeline and Samaritans.

The Electric Lamp Cafe’s opened near the old gatehouse to cater for the Gaulois-smoking intellectuals of Styx Creek’s rive gauche who like to gather there to discuss Situationism, Lyotard’s metanarratives and the hyper-reality of the new season stone fruit at Georgetown Fruit Barn.

Somewhere in all that jungle works Ted. Perhaps he works at Mirror Ceramics or at Richmond Grove or Weddings & Event Hire. I don’t know where he works, what he does, or why he might have been unhappy. But, Ted, there are people love you. Chin up, old sausage.