The herd is on the move


Seasonal changes. There were king tides at the end of last year. The threat of a king tide at night contains the possibility of scary excitement, of floods and carnage, but mid morning, just after a leisurely home-brewed coffee, it rather loses its menace. Me and dog wandered down for a sticky beak. It was indeed impressive, coming right up past Chatham Road bridge. But not menacing.


Strangely, the high tide was matched by very low tides. Is this what happens?

I was late getting out at night, in fact it was almost dark by the time we got to the gasworks. The sun was setting over the Entertainment Centre. You really would think I’d have gotten the hang of lining up my shots by now. I mean, there’s this perfectly straight line going right up and down the middle and still I stuff it up. One of the trillion reasons why I’m not a photographer.


Speaking of the gasworks, there are hardly any rabbits around at the moment. Just before Christmas I found this dead one on the creek bed, which was a bit unusual. An adult, it bore no signs of it being attacked, no pussy, diseased eyes or bleeding nose. Then this one.


There are always dead things, of course, especially in spring and summer.


Spring and early summer is the time of year when all kinds of babies are being born and, as is Nature’s wont, the vast majority don’t make it to adulthood.


These baby trollies hatched recently. Sadly, none of them will every roll freely around the supermarket aisles, gather with the rest of the herd by the checkouts, find a mate and bring new trolley life into the world. It’s tough, the life of a trolley.


This one got caught attempting to cross the creek at high tide. Poor thing.


But the herd moves on. The herd will repopulate in the vast savannahs of Waratah Village, Officeworks and Franklins car park. Many more will come, and many more will fail to cross the …

What AM I going on about? I think my brain’s still on holiday.

Feelin lazy


That’s me. This writing lark’s harder than it’s made out to be. Taking pictures on my iPhone is much easier. Take, for example, this dead bird covered in ants. It took me longer to type that sentence than it did to snap the picture. I need to change medium.


And this train? I’d need an entire post to bang on about it but with one depression of my thumb, one groovy, retro-sounding click of a “shutter”, and bazingah!


This intriguing sign deserves, at the very least, a David Malouf-style short story or novella. Is that “senior” in ranking, or “senior” in age. If it is targeting the wrinklies, then what kind of event might they be going to at Arena X, an event organised by Thor? Good God: it’s not Logan’s Run, is it?!


And as for this tanker … I feel that some punctuation is required. Is it an empty tanker, one void of gas, one that might be described as “gas-free”? Or is it a huge container of complimentary vaporised fuel, “gas: free”? Or an invitation to chatter about inconsequential topics: “gas free!”.


So many possibilities!

Lucky I’m lazy.

After the deluge


Cycling back from quiz night at the Gateway on Thursday I stopped to look over the Chinchen Street bridge. It was a high June tide and, at that time of night, the creek was huge and dark and forbidding. Then came the rain and for a few days there were no walks in the creek, and one day where there were no walks at all. Jambo = most unimpressed.

But we did manage to scout around the streets one day. If anyone needs some Art, I found some near Bowser Street. I think it’s still there today, but but quick!

We also came across a dead bird, picked clean by a cat or a hawk.

This morning we made it to Richardson Park. The council’s dropped a big pile of mulch, the purpose of which is to attract every BMX bandit within 10 kilometres.

The fig trees are making their own mulch. The pink figs have all but gone and now their leaves are falling.

Walking back home past the Bowlo I saw this lost hanky. I’m a bit of a cotton hanky man myself, part of a dying breed. A cotton hanky is not just useful for the obvious; it lends itself to the cleaning of oil from a dipstick, the removing of clag from the face of a child (especially good when licked first [the hanky, not the child’s face]), or the wrapping of lollies into small, hobo-like parcels when one’s child accidentally tears the packet apart in his/her enthusiasm to get at them.

Seeing the hanky reminded me of a moment at Groovin the Moo recently. The afternoon was fading, the sun was down, the air was cool and a couple of friends and I got burgers. After scoffing them down I pulled out my nice clean cotton hanky and did a bit of finger-and-face degreasing and, mid job, I noticed one of my friends giving me A Look. I immediately understood the look: it was A Look that said “Oh my God: I’ll bet you are the only person in the entire Groovin the Moo complex with a cotton hanky”. We laughed knowingly and then headed off to watch Public Enemy. And then, halfway through their act, what should Chuck D pull out of his pocket but this huge, white cloth hanky, which he waved around in time to the music! My friend looked at me again and we burst out laughing. Rock and roll! Fight the Power! And always carry a clean cotton hanky!

(As an aside, as I was squatting in the road taking this photo of a wet, flattened, cotton hanky three guys came out of the Bowlo. They paused in their conversation to stare at me. Unruffled, I stood, pocketed my iPhone and walked off at a semi-brisk pace. It was not one of my most dignified moments, but the Blogosphere is a demanding mistress.)

The water had subsided enough by  dusk on Tuesday, enough for us to have a late walk and so Jambo and I followed the water, still lively but ebbing, down and around and into the gasworks. It’s only been a couple of days away from the creek but it felt like an eternity. The grass in the gasworks, yellowing and deadened from the recent cool snap, was rain-flattened and drenched my jeans from the knees down. Frogs called madly in the pools and the lights from the ELGAS depot shone eerily against the white wall of the naphtha tank. It was good to be back.

Last Friday evening, Graham Wilson opened the 2020 Vision for Newcastle exhibition. Here’s a photo of a room full of people studiously not looking at my vision.

And here’s a group of intellectuals gasping at its content. (Okay, so they’re the same people and I had to ask them to do it, but what the hell.)

Lost and found


Most of the stuff that finds its way into the creek is straightforward trash, but there are lots of things that, when I see them, I know someone somewhere is searching for. Right now some little tyke is looking everywhere for his drink bottle. Or, given the number of hats and drink bottles that my children have left behind at sporting ovals across Newcastle, some little tyke’s parents are looking for his drink bottle. “Have you looked in your bag? Did you bring it home? Ryan! For goodness sake, how many times have I told you to …”

I’m not sure whether someone’s actually looking for this parking fine or not. My guess is it’s been chucked. Fight the power!

This syringe is just trash, rather than lost and found, but like most of the syringes I find in the creek it’s been capped. Either the junkies under the bridge are a thoughtful bunch or it belonged to a diabetic and simply … I dunno … fell out of her handbag.

This sign turned up unannounced. I’ll bet someone somewhere has just leaned on a fence and wishes it was still in place. Ouch!

I’ve added it to the sign tree in our veggie patch. (The Wife’s gone wild this year with beans, by the way; about three kilos and counting. I think this is outstanding, though the kids are starting to roll their eyes when bean curry gets served up. Again.)

This packet of violet seeds is not only unopened but was up on the banking, not down in the creek. So did it fall out of someone’s bag or pocket? Is it part of some guerilla planting scheme? If so, should I be alert or is it time to get alarmed?

And here’s a quiz. I found this wrapper just on dusk and didn’t at first see the product it once held. I was completely baffled: what kind of product is necessary to keep our nation’s topiarists strong and active?

This little carcass wasn’t lost or found but I included it because it was so pretty. My ability with an iPhone doesn’t do it justice but the blues and yellows were iridescent and even the pink of the spine, where the head’s been ripped off, shone against the wet concrete. Whatever ate it really knew how to take a bird apart.

Not lost and found either, but again slightly baffling. I’ve used the system of spreading newspapers on the ground as a basis for a no-dig garden; however, the owners here have missed the key step of removing the newspaper from its cling film wrapping.

And not so much “lost and found” as “lost cause”. It looks like the back of a farmhouse from beyond the Black Stump but, as anyone who lives in Hamilton North will immediately recognise, this is Newcastle Street.

And the product recommended by Australia’s topiarists? Sustagen. Of course.

A good summer


My wife didn’t “get” Christmas until she came to live in England with me, way back in 1986. It wasn’t the cold or the wet that she hated about the British winter: it was the dark. So when we hit the solstice she suddenly understood the urge to dress up, celebrate, get drunk, go a bit crazy and stare at the horizon, waiting for the sun reappear.

I’m a bit the same with Australian summers, but in reverse. The December just gone was beautifully cool, probably not great if you own the lease on a pluto pup franchise at the beach but perfect for creek mooching. I always feel that if I can get through December then I can face anything that January and February can throw at me. Heat? Humidity? Bring it on!

In spite of the cool end to the year, Nature got on with doing what it does best. Light + warmth + water = fecundity. I’m now seeing less of the showy flowers and more of what happens next. Seed pods are beginning to bulge.

They’re still green but soon they’ll brown off, start bursting or shedding or doing whatever it is they have to do to get out there and start the process again.

The more short-lived the species the quicker the cycle. There are still opportunistic plants, insects and animals punching out one more crop or one more brood, always pushing boundaries.

As always, the price of this bounty is a massive death toll. Lots of carcasses down the creek every day, dead stuff getting washed into the water to break down and keep the circle rolling along.

I’m happy, though. I’ve made it to mid January and I’ve still got blankets on the bed. This has been a good summer.