Apart from not liking it at all, the recent wintry blast that huddled over Newcastle was brilliant. It made me appreciate the return of the sun in a way that rarely happens in sun-kissed Australia. This morning’s walk down the drain was spectacular: clean and clear and crisp. Yellow-tailed cockatoos croaked and groaned in a wattle by the railway bridge, herons and egrets fished by the beck, swallows swooped above the water, fuscous honeyeaters trilled in the lantana.
By the little drain the bracken is shooting up faster than Japanese bamboo and the pair of chestnut teal are preparing their nest.
I say “the pair of chestnut teal” as though it’s always the same pair. I have no scientific evidence for this, and it’s probably about six dozen of them that I’ve seen over the years, but I only ever see one pair at a time I find it unscientifically and anthropomorphically comforting to think that they like hanging around this stretch of the drain as much as I do.
So it was rather alarming to see this article by Joanne McCarthy about the gasworks in todays Herald. Tomorrow I’m going on a guided tour of the site with a Jemena rep. If you have any questions you’d like me to put to him, ask now.
In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine, get your laundry dry and don’t drink the bore water.
I posted on Monday about the noises coming out of the gasworks. After a while of scraping here and scratching there the contractors had finally got onto the serious work of Knocking Stuff Down. I went down the drain and had a peek in from the banking. The green metal thing where the ducks used to nest was gone and the tower was obviously next in line, and yet I still expected it to be there for a few days at least. I mean, you’d need a wrecking ball with Miley Cyrus on to take that thing out. Wouldn’t you?
By early afternoon the tone of the sounds had changed from thumping bangs to a weirdly inhuman series of screeches. I headed down again and bumped into a couple of lads. “It’s down,” they said, barely believing it themselves. I scrambled up the banking and looked through the chain link.
It was like seeing the body of an elephant shot by poachers or an American dentist. Surely that tiny digger could not have caused that behemoth to fall? But it had. As we watched, the digger moved around the base of the collapsed tower. The digger made pneumatic huffing and puffing sounds as though it were a living beast gathering its breath for the next part of its work. It had a kind of grabbing or cutting claw which it sunk into the wall of the tower and our ears were assaulted with the hideous animal screech I’d been hearing.
What a shock! The tower was actually made of steel. All these years I’d assumed it was made of concrete. We moved around the bend in the creek and stood on the banking, the afternoon sun glaring in our eyes, and watched as the digger huffed and puffed round and around, tearing at the body of the downed tower. Its steel skin rippled in the sunlight as the digger’s claw dug into it.
Like the demolition of the Islington Junction Box, I felt a sadness for the loss of something that was ugly and utilitarian but a part of our industrial heritage and a landmark that we’ll soon struggle to remember ever existed. Goodbye, old mate.
The soundtrack to my childhood is an eclectic mixture of the Tamla Motown singles my mother bought, the Highland airs on thick 78s inherited from some elderly Scottish ancestor and the comforting tunes of the Light Service on the radio. Sitting at my desk this morning I’ve been reminded of one of these latter tunes: Gentleman Jim Reeves’s I hear the sound of distant drums. Far away, faaar away.
Well, not so far away in my case. The ker-thunka-thunka-thunka-thunk I’m hearing is coming from the gasworks. It’s almost a year overdue but Jemena has got into full swing in its remediation work. From the creek I can see through the shade-cloth that they’ve put up to prevent wind-blown dust and there are large machines grading up piles of smelly soil. They’ve also worked around the edges of the naphtha tower in preparation for its demolition.
I feel terribly sad that this filthy, polluted relic of our irresponsible industrial past is going to bite the dust. I’ve blogged before about this, and how I’d like to see it kept as a reminder and a memorial to way we once did things. It would also make a brilliant centrepiece for the Clyde Street wetlands, but that’s another post entirely.
So long, old timer.