A gift from upstairs


Did the Easter Bunny leave you anything? I’m not sure whether this sugared pink egg is part of someone’s hunt or not. I can’t imagine a parent chucking a few eggs off the Chatham Road bridge and telling their kids to go scout around the drain.


It was a beautiful, iridescent colour, the hottest of hot pinks, the kind of colour I imagine Kylie to choose for her hot pants.


Not quite as colourful or collectable was this little helmet. I say little because it’s hard to gauge its size in this pic; I should have put a matchbox next to it, but then I don’t think I’ve ever actually carried a matchbox around in my pocket in my life. So you’ll have to take my word for it. It was actually soft and squidgy, like a stress ball. So perhaps, with all those miners struggling to get by on their $140,000 salaries the mining industry is handing out stress helmets to them.


I, being of a calm, non-stressed, Zen-like disposition, worry not a fig about finance and the workings of Mammon. I know that there will be high tides in life, and that these tides will bring both good and bad.


And that, when the tide recedes, there will be gifts.

Oh yes! Drain money: I love it! Thank you, Jesus: I’m off to buy a Cadbury’s Creme Egg!




Blissful, good-to-be-alive autumn mornings.


The creek’s quiet at the moment. We’re in the seasonal change-over when ducklings have either fledged, grown and gone their way or become fox fodder. (Cue Simba, Mustafa and The Circle of Life.) The rain may have dispersed the aquatic birds too; there have been fewer cormorants, darters or herons down by the TAFE litter boom or stalking the beck’s edge.

Speaking of the rains, here are a couple of before-and-after pictures I received from Stephen Rigby, of Port Waratah Coal Service, that show the clean-up that PWCS staff carried out in the Carrington mangroves. Can you tell which is “before”?



The guys did a great job, but don’t worry, Stephen. The people of Newcastle are always up for a challenge and are already working hard to refill this proud city’s waterways with crap, detritus and toxic filth.


Never let it be said that Novocastrians cannot or will not rise to the occasion. This is our town and these are our drains, and we’ll fuck em up awesomely more betterer than what anyone else could fuck their drains up. Yeah!


Look, some brave soul’s even taken managed to dump yards and yards of asbestos packaging. This is the kind of effort that requires major commitment. Respect. (Not sure where the actual asbestos is; check the road outside your nearest childcare centre.)


And let’s pause to acknowledge the anonymous legion of trolley dumpers. In the glamour world of fly-tipping and mess-making this hardy crew are often overlooked. Yet they go about their work, quietly, diligently, neither looking for nor seeking praise. Go, you good things.


Oh, and cupcakes! How could I forget cupcakes? Give it up, peeps, for for their sweet, spongy, goodness! (OK, so they not really toxic or polluting but, well, still.)


It’s all so wonderful and glorious and makes me feel, inside, all … what’s that word? I know! It’s  …


In the night garden


Work, life and various commitments have resulted in me not getting out with Jambo until after dark recently. Which is fine; I like wandering around the gasworks or up and down the creek at night, but Newcastle at night does have a very different feel.

Moonlight on the beck

Walking under bridges at night should be scarier than it actually is – there are all those thick concrete pillars for Bad Men to hide behind, and dark shadows and weird noises – but I don’t ever feel particularly uncomfortable. The exception is the Griffiths Road bridge – the one by the pedestrian lights where people cross to get into the Entertainment Centre. Being four lanes across, the road at this point is much wider than, say, the bridge crossings at Chatham Road or Broadmeadow Road. The result is a much deeper, longer tunnel effect and there’s a point where you’re really under the Griffiths Road bridge. It’s darker and, when you’re at the mid-point and it’s as far to go back as it is to keep going, I do feel a sense of unease.

And yet when I do actually meet people I don’t feel threatened by them. Coming upstream from Islington I met four young guys, just dark, hooded silhouettes until we were almost on one another. I think they were more surprised to meet me than I was to meet them; we muttered a few greetings and kept going our separate ways. The tide was coming in and so they might have gotten stuck at the railway bridge. If they did, I think they stopped and made this:


The gasworks is a much more friendly place, any time of day or night. When there were squatters in the old wash-up building I used to avoid that area. There were needles and junk and it had a generally bad vibe, but no one’s been resident in there for ages now.


The scariest thing that might happen is to nearly stand on a brown quail; when they burst out from beneath your feet you really know about it. But night-time always offers something different. On hot nights I’ve watched endless lines of bats swooping to drink from the creek. Owls often sweep the lantana thickets in the gasworks. After rain I’ll hear three different types of frog singing and croaking in the newly formed ponds (an expert, or someone with the Namoi CMA’s Croaker app (thanks, Neil), would hear more).

It’s March and soon the evenings will be much cooler. I’m looking forward to autumn’s windy, moonless nights, the kind of nights when, as a kid, I’d see my dad getting his lamp and shotgun out of the cupboard. Love the night garden.

What a shower


There used to be a cast iron bathtub beneath this showerhead  but the other day it vanished. Hmm. It’s actually better now. You can stand underneath it and pull the handle and pretend to be having a shower and sing Johnny Cash songs into the growing dusk while your dog stares at you in puzzlement, if you’re that kind of person. As if! I mean, who’d do that?!


There are a few more of these showers in the ELGAS depot, but in better condition. I think they must be some kind of OH&S thing: “Should you find yourself drenched in naphtha whilst smoking a Cuban cigar, avoid combustion and instant incineration by standing beneath shower and yanking hard on handle”. It’d probably be more effective than this alternative.


As we head into autumn we’ve had a last blast of warm weather. This has meant that the coal tar lurking at about 3 metres below the surface of the gasworks (and, hence, at creek level) is moving about more freely than it does in winter. This inspection cap is positively frothing in a way that always reminds me of subterranean river of slime in Ghostbusters II. I found this little disc next to it. At first I thought it was a casino chip but it’s made out of aluminium. Answers on a postcard.


I was thinking, as I waved at the Westpac rescue helicopter thocka-thocka-thocking over the gasworks, that the concrete naphtha container would be nowhere near as photogenic if POAS and CUBE hadn’t put their roll-ups on there.


Being a vandal must be much harder work than we ordinary, non-painting folk imagine. I came across these two chairs tucked away beneath the railway bridge. Someone carried these chairs all the way to this little cubby. Not one chair, but two. And then arranged them Shaker-style with backs to the wall as though this concrete block beneath the Dungog rattler was actually a rather comfortable parlour, a place to pause and roll a durrie with a good friend, in between banging out tags and roll-ups.


This world teems with people and events beyond the limited scope of my imagination.

Floody detritus


If a week is a long time in politics (just ask Ted Baillieu) then it’s a lifetime down the drain. A couple of weeks ago I was standing amongst bottles, litter and garbage in the mangroves by the Carrington boardwalk, bemoaning the state of the estuary and the lack of action by The Authorities to the eager journo from the Herald.

Then … spladoosh!


By the time I took this picture the creek was on its way down. I’m not actually in the water here; there’s a ledge and, from here on downstream it was beginning to ebb. And I had Jambo looking out for me.


The poor old show copped it again. I was out and about on Saturday night and snapped this pic of the ferris wheel while waiting to turn out of Chatham Road. I was so glad to hear that Sunday picked up for them.


We’re still feeling the aftermath of the flood as the creek bed is still saturated and slippery and drainage pipes that come out of the fuel depot, the gasworks and all the roads are constantly running. This slab by the railway bridge is just about worn through.


And the litter boom by the TAFE gave up the ghost. But the result was a beautifully clean creek, if only for a day or so.


There have been quite a few casualties around the banking. Jambo caught an exhausted pigeon near Chinchen Street bridge, but this welcome swallow managed to slip into a crevice before he met the jaws of death. I’d actually walked right past it, and I think Jambo had too, and it was only a flutter of tail feathers in my peripheral vision that brought it to my attention.


Sadly, the next day I found this.


If a week’s a long time for a Victorian premier, then 24 hours is a lifetime for a swallow.

Making faces


What a pleasant relief to see a bit decent artwork down the drain.


This one not only actually looks like something, it also nearly meets Pete and Duds criteria for “real” art.

A more abstract piece a little further along. The same artist? The pale cream in the eye looks to be the same so maybe it was, though the style’s very different.


This chap has a fair way to go, though s/he is certainly trying. And the eyes do follow you around!


But this is my favourite face of all. Not Jambo, I can see his scruffy fizzog any day of the week. I mean the blue face of Mr Happy Money, washed in by the tide or blown down the drain. Just in time for quiz night at the G!