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.
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.