Quack oink


A total fire ban today, with conditions described as “extreme”. It was horrible in town around midday, with dusty whirlygigs swirling around council chambers and the trees in Civic Park bent double by the hot westerlies.

The people at ELGAS have obviously been looking over the fence at the gasworks and feeling justifiably nervous. Recently they graded about 4 metres along the boundary as a firebreak. Still, I was surprised to see the lantana on the creekbank blackened from an intense grass fire the other day. Were they burning off or was this the work of kids, or broken glass, or a spark from the railway?


There was more inside, patches here and there which made me think it was probably a combination of school holidays, a dense fuel load and idle hands with a box of matches.


On the plus side, it hadn’t got far, and it also allowed me to see what had been hidden by the dense shrubbery and tall grasses. I can understand why some Aboriginal people describe burning off as “cleaning up country”.

The grading revealed other aspects of the gasworks’ former existence. The rows of fuchsias that bloom every year speak of a garden or border long since buried beneath the rubbish and discarded mess of a former-industrial site. But the grader blade also brought up these little guys. Someone must have loved them once upon a time. Maybe they had names, and piggy would get a pat on the head.


A little bit of  folk-art too, a tin fairy or garden elf.


Back in the creek I was reminded of how lacking in imagination and handicraft is the modern-day equivalent of the garden ornament. I mean, he looks chirpy enough, but compared to the tin and the ceramic pig he has a sense of the disposable about him that precludes any kind of emotional attachment.


A full moon last week. It was gorgeous, and in spite of the hot weather I am, for the first time in a few seasons, actually looking forward to summer.


But come back and ask me at the end of November. Guaranteed, I’ll be sick of it!

On the waterfront


I thought that the rain we got the other week would result in a banker but it was such a slow, steady fall that the creek just rose, nice and slowly, and then fell, nice and slowly. The kind of rain the farmers love.

I always have mixed feelings about rain after a prolonged dry period. The creek gets so clogged up with gunk and rubbish that it’s kind of cathartic to have it all swept away by one huge, cleansing flood. But then I know that all the crap has just been shunted down to Carrington mangroves, or the harbour, or the beach.


It’s still … THERE … even though I can’t see it.


There was an article in the Herald about the OdysSea group, who are encouraging people to litter-pick along the beaches. They’re great, those young folk, and I must admit I rather  envy them. The beaches are so iconic and so beautiful that it seems like a no brainer to ask help keep them clean and for people to respond. The creeks just don’t have that same emotional kicker. I pick stuff up but, let’s be frank, I ain’t gonna make much of a dent in this lot. And anyway, it’s just the drain.


Sometimes I don’t pick things up, deliberately. Big Ted, here. He’s not going to be accidentally swallowed by a cormorant or a turtle. Where will he go? Who will find him?


Not far, as it turned out. He staggered ashore down by the TAFE, still wet, a few days later. Don’t know where he is now.


Other things are just too elusive to pick up. This sign, from a car yard, teased me for at least two weeks, always bobbing up and down with the tide, always a good couple of metres offshore. Come and get me! Nyaah!


As well as the litter pollution the creek’s been suffering from the subterranean movement of oils, tars and residues from the gasworks and the petrol depot. This always speeds up when the warmer weather arrives; September isn’t just the month of koels and channel-billed cuckoos, it’s the month of gaseous miasmas and heady, bituminous pongs …


… and intriguing canisters of unknown origin that are impossibly tempting to your average cairn terrier.


But if I’m feeling slack and not picking up, the creek will always send me a reminder of why I should do the right thing. Saturday morning and, as the tide turned and pulled the bottles and cans and cigarette ends and lumps of polystyrene foam and nerf bullets and tennis balls and busted thongs out and down and away towards the harbour, this sad sight drifted past me. Another cormorant casualty. A young, healthy-looking bird. What had it swallowed? What had gotten caught and twisted in its gut?


Get my bag. Pick it up. Even you, Big Ted. Even you.


Go the eels


It’s the last home game for Knights legend Danny Buderus. There’ll be a big crowd, but the Parramatta Eels will be hoping to spoil the party.


Eels have been in my mind lately. There are bloody hundreds of them in the creek at the moment, and really high upstream I’ve seen the water flash and boil as one turns and darts away. The other evening, around dusk, I was up near Griffiths Road bridge when one actually leapt out of the beck next to my feet, slithered around the concrete for a few seconds then jumped back into the beck and disappeared. If I could meet some old bushie from way back or some old Awabakal guy they’d probably be able to tell me what this means: a hot summer, a wet summer, a summer with lots of jellied eels for dinner.

This morning I was walking down towards Chinchen Street bridge on a high tide when I saw this big fella cruising against the tide in wide, languid sweeps. The picture doesn’t do him justice but he was bloody enormous.


I like the fact that Parramatta’s team name is the Eels, so much better than those rubbish imported names like Broncos and Giants. I bet that once upon a time the folk in Parramatta would have had eel as a staple food (though they wouldn’t want to become inordinately fond of them, like Henry I).

The other slippery creatures that we have a surfeit of at the moment are politicians. As well as four-foot-long eels as thick as a Portuguese sailor’s forearm the other thing I woke up to today was a shiny new government, full of promises and grandiose intentions. Country great Kinky Friedman (he of the classic They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Any More) defined politics perfectly: “poly, meaning more than one; ticks, being blood-sucking parasites”.


It’ll be interesting to see how things wash up with the new boys. I’m sure Nathan Tinkler will be happy. As if we didn’t already know that our once-community-owned football club was now the plaything of a mining magnate, here’s the other side of that Knights balloon I found in the creek.


Oh well. Go the Knights!

Whatever happened to …


I was stuck at Clyde Street lights the other day, listening to the bell clang and watching a herd of coal wagons lumber past, when something happened that made me smile. One wagon had a gigantic P painted along the full length of its side, and the next one a gigantic O. POAS! The A and the S were missing, shackled elsewhere, but still it made my day. Yes, I know the debates pro and contra graffiti and whatever, but if I am going to be stuck at Clyde Street lights watching a mile-long line of coal wagons then I’d at least like them to be creatively decorated.

It was a timely event as I’ve been thinking about graffiti lately. Have we seen the end of the era of the big roll-up?


The big jobs down the creek are looking pretty tired and careworn. I know that POAS, a man who takes pride in his work, revisits some of his more prominent roll-ups and gives them a fresh coat every now and then. But what about the rest? Where’s the new stuff? Has the big paint job had its day? And, if so, what are those kids doing now? I honestly can’t see the same sense of satisfaction from banging up a selfie on Instagram.

So I was heartened to see POAS’s rail wagons. And then, yesterday, I came across a couple of tell-tale signs by the rail tracks.


The trolley was from a discount clothing place up near Kotara: a long way from home. The wheelie bin could have been from anywhere. But I do know that trollies and wheelie bins are sometimes liberated by guys who need to transport 20 litre tins of paint, rollers and trays over large distances. Could it be … that a new roll-up was about to hit the gasworks?

Not quite. But as Jambo and I snooped around the old washrooms behind the admin building we heard the familiar serpent-like tss tss tss of aerosols. There was indeed a man at work.


SACK uses spray cans and so they weren’t his trolley and bin. He was a much more compact operator. He was also very lairy about being photographed, even from behind, but did agree to let his hand make a cameo appearance.


We talked about the “golden age” of the Big Jobs and ruminated on the reason why they’re becoming less common. There was, of course, the threat of very heavy fines, confiscation of phones and computers, and even imprisonment. Guys who’d been done once tended to be very careful about where, how and with whom they operated.

So maybe the roll-up has had its day. Which will be a shame, because those coal wagons look bloody ugly in black.