It’s nice to see that someone (Hunter Water? Council? Bob Jane T Mart?) is labelling the debris that fills the creek. I feel much safer now.


It’s beginning to feel …


Walking down the street with Jambo. Stop. Something down there, not a tennis ball. Not any kind of ball. It’s pinky-purple and it’s shiny and … it’s beginning to make me feel a lot like Christmas.


Yes, it’s that time of the year when baubles somehow start appearing in the drain. Why? How? From whence do they come? Never mind, just start humming the song, folks.


Happy baublemas


You would think that Christmas baubles would only appear in the creek in December, or maybe in January when people are packing up their trees. True, this one is from January.


But this one is from September.


This one is from October.


So is this one.


And this festive montage was taken in November.

IMG_9716The moral of the story: baubles make people happy every day of the year.

Merry Christmas, drain lovers, from me and Jambo.


Friday foto


ZOMG! Game of Thrones wasn’t lying: there really ARE dragon’s eggs!


Follow-up rain


When you’re in the city it’s easy to forget the travails of life inland, and by “inland” I only mean somewhere as close by as Cessnock or Kurri. The start of this year has been dry around town, but a few kilometres west it’s been very dry. Our friends in the Watagans were >this< far away from having to cart water for only the second time in a couple of decades. When the rain did come to the coast it was a slow, soaking rain with little run-off.


The litter and mulch and goo floated gently and responsibly down to the litter boom and sat there like a lid on the water, ready to be scooped out. I saw herons walking along it, it was so densely packed.

On the radio, farmers talked about the need for a decent follow-up rain. This is the farmers’ mantra, but I don’t think anyone expected quite such a deluge when it did come. The Styx filled and my wife described it as “a banker”, though for some reason I only consider it to be a genuine banker if the water’s up to the top of the concrete. The stuff by the boom hadn’t yet boon scooped out but, after the rain had stopped, the creek was clean as a whistle. All the bad stuff had gone away, or at least gone away as far as the Carrington mangroves.


I’ve so come to expect the creek to be wreathed in its garland of litter that the scoured concrete beds felt barren and lifeless. How topsy-turvy is that?


The grasses and reeds and sedges that occupy the cracks in the concrete beds were utterly flattened by the flood but, within hours, they began unfurling themselves and casting off the decorative petals that had become lodged amongst their tips.


In the days that followed, and this may be coincidence, I saw a couple of Works guys in the creek looking at the some of the big holes that have appeared in the creekbed, exposing the ancient reo mesh. Every time I see things like this have to revise my understanding of how quickly Nature could reclaim the creek, or even the city. It wouldn’t be a couple of hundred years; more like one person’s lifetime, or less.


One item that hadn’t been washed away was this … thing. I thought at first it was a mouldy old orange. Luckily I didn’t kick it as it’s solid steel! Is it a cannonball? A shot putt? What?




Things go into the band of my hat. They’re usually feathers, because feathers are bright and colourful and make me happy. They stay there for a while then fall out or blow away and are replaced by other feathers, or scraps or bits of things. I saw this gorgeous butterfly the other day and crept stealthily upon it, only to find that it was dead as a Norwegian blue.


So in it went.


A butterfly is about as perfect as Nature can get, though it’s not a competition. Can you compare a butterfly against a snowflake, an orchid, a wave breaking on a reef? A button mushroom freshly burst through the earth’s crust.


A leaf from a fig tree, even. This leaf. Absolutely perfect!


Though it might not be very good at covering the shame of Adam and Eve. Did they have different fig trees in the Garden of Eden?

This year hasn’t been perfect but it has been pretty good. As my dad would have said, every day you’re upright and breathing is a good day. Here’s a last-minute bauble to see out 2013 and usher in the new year. May it be perfect for you, or as near as damn it.


Deck the halls


I was chatting away with Old Mate the other evening about various stuff, including:

  1. The Ashes. Verdict: there’s too much cricket.
  2. The rugby league world cup. Verdict: Pff.
  3. Privacy and CCTV. Verdict: in the twenty-first century the concept of private space is a sham.

Young Mate ambled down the creek on his cycle at this point and we had a general discussion on foxes. It seems like the recent work on the gasworks site may not only have flushed the squatters and human residents but also the foxes, as Reynard and his friends had been seen in numbers around the place. The slashing of the grass had also resulted in a significant reduction in raptor numbers. If ever you needed a lesson on habitat destruction and its effect on the apex of the food pyramid then this was it.

But what was most important was the reappearance of Christmas baubles in the drain. Normally they don’t start appearing until January, when folk are pulling down the trees, packing up the decorations and somehow (inexplicably) dropping baubles into the major watercourses of Newcastle. So, with the festive season in mind, here’s a pictorial merry Yuletide from me, Jambo and the residents of Styx Creek to youse all.







Silver ball




Yo ho ho!

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!

Export quality


There have been black-shouldered kites aplenty for ages – in fact more than I’ve ever seen – but no peregrines or other falcons. This brown goshawk has made the corridor around the drain and into the gasworks his favourite supermarket aisle.


Pigeons are the main kill. There are plenty of them down there, mostly ferals and mostly hanging around the fuel depot. But every day there seems to be one less.


Which leads me, seamlessly, to 1985.

The Australia that I arrived in, in 1985, was a pretty confident, assertive place; not yet as powerfully assertive as it was to become but it was certainly a place where the “cultural cringe” had been vanquished and being an Aussie was badge of bloody pride, mate. Well, most of the time it was. The cringe was wounded but not entirely dead, but the thing that caught my attention in Australian labelling was what must have been the very, very tail end of an old-school attitude to Australian produce; that is, overseas = good, made here = crap.

It seemed to be a given that anything imported (particularly from Europe) was of an outstanding quality unachievable in the southern hemisphere. And, conversely, any made here must be total pants. (The facts, of course, contradicted this entirely, as anyone who’s ever owned a British motorcycle or Italian car can attest.)

The exception to this “there=good/here=rubbish” attitude was Australian raw materials which were, paradoxically, considered the best the world could offer. These raw materials were unfortunately too good to be wasted on mere Australians and so were sent away to be processed into genuinely good things by other more sophisticated cultures, allowing Australians to then buy them back at inflated prices.

But some wily advertisers would claim to gain access to batches of this outstanding raw material. In such cases, the product would be labelled “export quality”.

I thought that had all gone by the by until I saw this can of spray paint.


I was a bit nonplussed. I mean, the people who buy cans of cheap spray paint to take down the creek surely aren’t looking for premium quality.

Why put “export” on there?

Or does “export” still have some cache with Australian consumers? Is it like the gold medals thing on a bottle of wine (i.e. going to friends’ place for dinner, get a bottle with a nice label and a few shiny gongs on it)?

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.