Beef with mustard


Graffiti is a given in every urban environment. From Dunedin to Reykjavik you’ll see walls daubed with tags and roll-ups. Some of them are witty and clever, some are thoughtlessly annoying, some have come to be considered as artworks.


All street artists start somewhere, but most often it’s in the drains, on the under sides of bridges, inside warehouses, on derelict buildings. As with any form of creativity the early pieces are pretty rubbish. I’ve watched some guys’ paintings improve dramatically, from basic tags to accomplished large-scale pieces.


But the world of street art is relentlessly competitive, and no matter how great your piece or your reputation you will, one day, get trashed.


The gigantic roll-ups made by CUBE and POAS are invisible now beneath layers and layers of ugly tags.


There’s been a beef on down the drain over recent weeks. The Christmas paint job that SEPS put up was sprayed out, then covered with something nowhere near as well executed.


Someone who calls themselves DC has appeared on the scene. He or she has an ego that’s in inverse proportion to his/her ability. It’s all big stuff, shoddily done. [Note: see comments below from DC. Basically telling me to shut the fuck up. To all street artists: I don’t claim to know anything about you guys or what you do. I only write about what I see. As with anyone who isn’t on the scene I get it wrong. Just let me know; I’m fine with being corrected.]


DC’s arrival coincided with lots of “Yah boo! You’re rubbish and we’re brilliant!” notices on the bankings.


It’s all rather depressing, but I suppose that it’s the nature of the beast. I remember back in 2012 acknowledging the 50th anniversary of graffiti put under the Chatham Road bridge in October 1962 by PP and Bert the Flirt. And yet, when I went past there with Jambo, I was shocked to see that some scroat (as they used to say in The Bill) had defaced PP’s 50-year-old graffito! I mean, show some respect!

Why on earth was I so bothered by that? I’m such a stodgy traditionalist. I need to take a leaf out of the kids’ book.


A loud “woomp!” at midnight


I got up and looked out the window but couldn’t see anything. We found it in the morning though; that “woomp!” must have been the petrol tank going up and blowing out the windows.


As The Wife pointed out, it looked theatrical, as though a team of set designers had been given the task of creating a “burnt-out car” scene for a low-budget telly drama.

Strangely, there was no smell whatsoever of burnt rubber or plastic or metal. However, the ever-responsible Jambo spotted an ember that the fire brigade had missed, and so he did the right thing.

Joining the dots


I have never seen a snake in the gasworks. Seen loads of blue-tongues, and I’ve heard lots of swift rustling noises through the dry grass, and I do tend to wear closed-in shoes when I’m walking with Jambo. But never actually seen one. I was talking to one of the ELGAS blokes the other day; a mate had seen what he thought was a brown sunning itself by the gas bottles. When he went towards it old Joe Blake slithered off into the dense pines near former manager’s home. So, maybe, one day I’ll have an encounter.


As we got talking, me and the ELGAS bloke, he mentioned that they’d had a minor bombshell: they have to be off the site by June. I was as taken aback as he was, at first, but the more I thought about it the more I decided that it fit perfectly with the other dots that have been emerging around the gasworks site for a while.

The first dot followed the fire, late last year, in the wash-up building. It’s all gone now, though you can still see the gutters in the concrete where the basins once stood.


I got a phone call from someone connected with Jemena at the time of the fires (there were two of them) and we had a bit of a chat about various things. One of them was the possible use for the gasworks site, which is heavily polluted. The person I spoke to didn’t seem to think that rehabilitation would be much of an impediment to redevelopment although (almost as an aside) the idea of capping the place with bitumen and making it a park-and-ride station for the proposed transport hub was a possibility.

Then, in December we got a letterbox drop notifying us of major “improvements” to the junction at the bottom of Donald Street bridge. At first I thought it might have been something to do with the difficulty people have turning west onto Griffiths Road, especially the petrol tankers.


But the dots kept appearing, and I kept joining them. Given that the current NSW Government is extremely keen to push development of the rail site through this calendar year, I got to thinking about what the I’d talked about on the phone, and the road development, and quick-smart order for ELGAS to get off the gasworks site.


I think, dear Hamilton North residents, we can expect to see action at the eastern end of our suburb within the coming months. I also think we can expect to see more traffic if this does go ahead, particularly along Clyde Street and Chatham Road. I don’t think I’ll be to stand in the middle of Boreas Road at sunset and take a photo like this without being flattened.


(There’s nothing showing up on the NCC planning and DA site. Anyone got any other info?)

Something’s afoot


Last year, Jemena Pty Ltd (the Melbourne-based gas retailer and owner of the Clyde Street gasworks) threw a bit of money at the site. Bores were sunk so that monitoring could take place of the pollution levels in the water table, the old admin building had fresh panes of glass installed (which were promptly knocked out) and there was an effort to keep the lantana and grass down to a point where they weren’t a terrifying fire hazard to the folk next door at ELGAS.


Then it all went quiet.

Well, they’re at it again.


First, a big black rainwater tank appeared, and now this lot. Viro soil? Huh? Google isn’t much help. Does anyone out there know what on earth viro soil is? Is is like enviro soil, but even more concentrated and awesome? Or could is it that the nice lad with the texta forgot to scrawl “en” in front of “viro”?

I’m very interested to see what a couple of tanks of viro soil will do to the place.  There’s so much coal tar soaked through the soil that it would cost a mint to rehabilitate the whole site. If any reminder were needed of just how industrial it was, then check this out:

gas holders clyde street

Russell put me onto this pic in a previous post. It really is quite amazing to see the gigantic gas holders dwarfing the admin building. And what’s that two-storey building in the background, on Chatham Road or Emerald Street?

As an aside, I’ve just finished reading Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life. He covers gas production and coal tar (p. 179, if you’re keen) and I was interested to see how coal tar was converted into kerosene, and how it was, in Bryson’s words, “the basis of the modern chemical industry”.

Leaving us with a postmodern mess to clean up. Go viro soil!

Caged monster


Bumped into a couple coming out of the old admin building in the gasworks the other day. They looked like Arty Types and I said, “Have you been drawing in there?” or something similarly vacuous. They shook their heads and scuttled off. Maybe they thought I was The Man or something, which really does show a terrible ability to read people.*

The gasworks is private property, owned by Jemena, a Melbourne-based gas retailer. However, this doesn’t seem to stop people using the gasworks as an impromptu dog-walking park, graffiti venue, place to exercise your desire to trash some old-style industrial equipment, or birdwatching paradise.

Some of these people send me pictures. I’ve posted a few.

The metal stairway up the side of the gas tower is becoming increasingly rusted and dangerous, apparently.

It is not worth the climb to the top as the view isn’t that great.

The inside of the admin building (the newer one, not the nice old one on Clyde Street) is getting totally trashed. If you climb up the ladder and go into the roof space there’s a good chance you’ll fall through the gyprock, land on something sharp and die. So don’t do it.

The brick building nearer to Chatham Road is getting a good trashing too. It must have housed all the electrical control equipment once upon a time.

I haven’t boarded the Instagram bandwagon yet, but this is the view from the window using it, or some related fancy app. Nice, eh?

Caution should be exercised in the gasworks. At ELGAS, next door, they keep a steam-punk monster in a cage. Don’t be taken in by its cheery smile. It will eat you.

* Perhaps if we took Annabel Crabbe’s advice and wore civilian uniforms they’d have worked me out better.



When my kids were little that cry, “Diggers!”, would go up whenever we were driving around town and we went past something big and yellow with caterpillar tracks or a scoop on the front. Invariably my son would look up from the comfort his scaggy, food-encrusted booster seat and look, with uncanny regularity, out of the wrong window. “Where digger?” “There! There! The other side! You’ve … uh. You’ve missed it.” Pause. “Bwaaaah!”

I still shout “Diggers!” every time I see something big and yellow with caterpillar tracks or a scoop on the front, but I do it quietly and inside my own head these days.

This thing, the thing that claws up the bitumen and hurls it backwards into a hopper like some Death Star tank, is particularly awe-inspiring.

Here’s one I tracked down in its natural environment, grazing in the park.

You can see that from the MacLean taxonomical perspective, “Diggers” is a very broad group that encompasses almost every large vehicle (i.e. those with big wheels, caterpillar tracks, a scoop or some large vessel on its rear).

I don’t know if it was just my family, but when the kids were little all things would be taxonomically reduced in this way, all species categorised by their broadest division or phylum. Thus, all small, flying creatures (except butterflies) were “bees” while all meat was “chicken”.

“What this chicken, daddy?”

“It’s pork.”

“Mmm. My like this chicken!”

I don’t know which road the above lot are tearing up but if you’re quick you too can get down Chatham Road and shout “Diggers!”

Resistance is useless


My kids got their school reports this week. Parents  (and the teachers who have to write them) generally complain about the generic, computer-scripted statements that fill the comments box: “Johnny showed improvement in KPIs 3, 5 and 7 and completed all aspects of Benchmark 9”. Bring back the good old days of free-flowing commentary! Truth in reporting!

However, there is another side to this “teachers being honest” business. Back in the late Mesolithic period I had a science teacher called Mr Tolson. He was one of those groovy teachers with tinted glasses, a Zapata moustache and unconventionally shaped trousers. The girls swooned over him and we spotty boys seethed. I remember the parent-teacher meeting the year of my O levels for two reasons: first, one of my parents actually came; and second, Mr Tolson gave my mother a free-flowing and honest report on how I was likely to do in my forthcoming Physics exam: “He hasn’t got a cat in hell’s chance”.*

Fortunately, my years with Mr Tolson weren’t entirely wasted. I remember an early “experiment” (this was a low-budget Northern comprehensive) in which surface area resistance was demonstrated by dropping two sheets of paper, one flat and one crumpled into a ball. Heady stuff, which I’m sure turned on a generation of boys to the wonders of science.

I was reminded of this after the recent flush down the creek when looking at how far things had moved, or hadn’t. This set-top box first appeared halfway between the Chatham Road and Griffiths Road bridges a week or two ago.

After the last creek run it made it down as far as the railway bridge, a good few hundred metres.

The roadworks sign (which first appeared in the creek beneath Chatham Road bridge the morning after Halloween) has survived several flows and has barely moved fifty yards.

Shopping trolleys are a staple of the creek, but how far they move depends on how much debris has gathered in and around them. One of my earliest posts showed this beautiful Andy Goldsworthy-inspired trolley wearing a pelt of dried leaves. One good flush and shazoom! it was off. Other trolleys move more slowly. This one (from Officeworks, I think) took ages to make it as far as Chinchen Street.

I was down at the Tighes Hill dog park the other day and, it being low tide, I counted eleven trolleys stuck in mangroves. I’d be interested to know how long it takes for these rusting hulks to make it to the harbour, but that’s a project for someone else. Over to you, Throsby Creek bloggers!

* I got a “C”, Mr Tolson. In your face!

Food and drink


If you’re looking to invest in moderately polluted, awkwardly positioned, badly zoned, former light-industrial land then Hamilton North has plenty to offer at the moment. There’s a huge block next to the fuel depot on Chatham Road that’s up for auction, then there’s the Tender Centre site up for grabs and also for sale is the former Buttercup Bakery (The Family Favourite!) on Clyde Street.

Back in 2002 there was an issue with contamination in the groundwater around the light globe factory up the road, though this was deemed to be localised and not enough to affect residents’ bore water supplies. It was one of those stories that just fizzled out rather than being properly resolved. Does anyone remember any serious outcomes?

The bakery isn’t that old as buildings go; according to the plaque in the doorway it was opened in 1954.

I assume that if the Co-op was involved then it was a Co-operative bakery before being bought out by Buttercup, or Goodman Felder. Or did Goodman Felder buy Buttercup? Who knows, in this globalised world.

All this talk of bread made me thirsty. It made someone else thirsty too, as testified this discarded bottle. I’ve fancied a drink on many occasions in my life but I’ve never felt so desperate that I’d drink a bottle of Franklins own-brand mouthwash. No Frills = cheap thrills.