Yeah! Yeah! Naaaaaaaaaa

13/10/2015

I had a part-time job at the uni for a little while some years ago. It was a very instructive experience as I learnt a lot about how Big Organisations work. Or don’t.

I had a project that I needed to make happen but it depended upon lots of other people in different departments allowing me to carry out small but necessary tasks. Each person I discussed the project with was immensely helpful, understood what I was trying to do and promised to do their utmost to make it happen. And yet, on every single occasion, nothing did happen. Each time it turned out that they were just waiting for the new Blah to roll out or the integration of Blob and Blab or waiting for the approval of Grand Pooh Bah, who was on indefinite stress leave.

After a while I realised that each of these people was deeply sincere in their belief that they were helping me, and yet no one was actually helping me. A friend who came from an English university likened them to the crows that hang around the campus, with their endless calls of “Yeah! Yeah! Naaaaaaaaaa”.

I was recently invited on tour of the gasworks site by a rep of Jemena. I took photos and the rep and I chatted and it was, I thought, a really productive moment. All that was needed before I could post any blog comments was for PR to approve the photos I took.

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Still waiting, Jemena.

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Going, going …

14/09/2015

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.

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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.


Contrasts

26/06/2015

The sunset behind the gasworks was gorgeous the other night.

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And then, within a day or so, it was grim as buggery. Drenching rain, slippery banking, general air of miserableness.

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But just when I’m feeling flat as a tack and I’m staring blankly at The Longest Goods Train in the History of Christendom lumber across Clyde Street, I see that some kind soul has secreted this lovely flower decal against a fence post for a person such as me to spy and feel good about.

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Nice!


Lyrics on the page

05/03/2015

I read a quote from Pete Seger, who described lyrics on the printed page as being like photographs of birds in flight. I thought of that quote when I saw these butterflies by the little Styx.

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The photo doesn’t show the spider’s web that they’re stuck in; my iPhone’s not that good. It let me down again when I tried to catch the latest regular to the creek, the white-bellied sea eagle that’s taken to roosting in the mature gums in the fuel depot.

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I was alerted to its presence by the ‘chep, chep, chep’ of the black-shouldered kite circling at treetop level. It was a call to arms and within a couple of minutes rent-a-crowd – the dozen or so magpies who lounge around on the rail above the naphtha tower in the gasworks – came swooping over. They weren’t quite game enough to tackle the eagle and contented themselves with darting past its head, clacking their beaks in a threatening manner. Eventually the sea eagle sickened of the attention and rose with great, lazy wingbeats.

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It turned above the fuel tanks and wheeled eastwards, briefly reappearing above the giant reed and bamboo that crowds the fringe of the abandoned rail works. The magpies got brave again at this point and saw it off with loud snaps at its tail, while the kite supervised from above.

It was all over in a matter of seconds, and all I was left with was this decidedly unlyrical picture of a bird in flight.


A constant in a crowded market

23/01/2015

I’m no expert, but it seems that most graffiti tag names tend to be single syllable: POAS, CUBE, OBEY, GUNZ, HACK and so on. I thought that this one was BLUE until I met him and discovered it was BLUF. Go figure.

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It’s a crowded market though and, inevitably, even the most creative taggers run out of single-syllable names. I’ve seen a lot  more of the likes of this:

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and this:

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One constant amongst all this flux and turmoil is our old mucker H-Foot.

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There are a lot of small things that, collectively, make H-Foot different to other taggers. Choice of medium (pen rather than can) is the most obvious. At one level this could imply a lack of the kind of commitment shown by the old school roll-up artists who had to steal wheelie bins and haul them – loaded with 20 litre paint tins, trays, rollers and poles – around the drains, building sites and railway lines of the city. Even the aerosol kids are making a significant commitment in terms of the amount of time they have to spend on site, and there’s always the issue of being caught with a green bag full of rattling cans.

H-Foot not only prefers the quick in-and-out of the fat pen, s/he has even used stickers for über-fast stick-ups.

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It’s not just the medium that’s different; there’s a difference in H-Foot’s intent too. Sure, the “I was here” impulse is similar (why else the stickers?) but there’s also a sly humour that sets H-Foot’s work apart.

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Show some respect, kids!

H-Foot’s confidence as a social commentator appears to be growing. The emergence of this kind of public satire is the critical departure point for the artist from the “Notice me!” culture of much street art.

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In the white noise that characterises much of the painted adornment of our built environment (Did I really just write that?), H-Foot stands out as a constant for humour and inventiveness.

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Keep hoppin’, H-Foot!


Meanwhile, back at the Bowlo

25/06/2014

It was cold and horrible and I thought I’d be the only one to bother, but as it turned out there was a fair crowd at the Hamilton North Bowling Club to meet the mob from Jemena and GHD and hear about the proposed gasworks remediation.

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There were posters and there’s a flyer and next month there’ll be a website but the short version is this: 2014, poke around and find out how bad things are then work out what to do; 2015, do it.

Exactly what the “it” will be has yet to be decided and will depend entirely on the results of the poking around and discussions with the EPA. However, it will most likely involve bringing the site up to a point at which it can be sold off for some kind of commercial or light industrial use. Jemena is into energy retail, and holding onto bits of dead land does not figure in the list of “core business activities” in its annual report.

The work to drill the monitoring wells is finished.

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The lovely Creek Bingo numbers relate to work in sealing up the worst parts of the crumbling concrete banking, thereby reducing the flow of pollutants from within the gasworks footprint and into the Styx.

I’ll be happy-sad to see work start. Happy that no longer will the creek be filled with oozing filth. Sad that no longer will the wrens and silvereyes, fuscous honeyeaters and grey goshawks have anywhere to live.

Apparently the Shell fuel depot is also moving off site and has also entered into a remediation agreement with the EPA. I’ll be less sad to see that one go; it’s far too well maintained to be of any useful habitat for native fauna, and I won’t miss the heavy stench of petrol that settles into the creek on a winter’s evening.

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I’ll post as I learn anything useful, such as links to the EPA agreements.

On another topic, Newcastle City Council’s personal ombudsman Mark Sampson notified me that Council recently passed a motion to name nine tributaries of local creeks, including one of the Styx. Yes, peeps, expect to start seeing signage for Waterdragon Creek popping up around Kotara way any time now. Apparently the “community name “’Waterdragon”’ recognises the strong and healthy waterdragon population in and around the creek”.

Blue-tongue Creek might be a better name for down by the tidal zone. I found this poor wee fella the other night, looking cold and bruised and missing his tail.

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Whether he’d been crow-pecked or cat-bashed I don’t know, but I think he must have slid down the concrete banking and had no idea which way to go or what to do to get out. When I picked him up he arched his neck and gave me the most feeble hiss, so I popped him in amongst the lantana. He might make it but, frankly, I don’t rate his chances.

And, anyway, when the gasworks is covered in storage units he’ll need to find some other corner of derelict Newcastle to hide out. But that’s a story for another day.


It’s all happening

19/06/2014

It doesn’t take much of a rain to fill the sinkholes and disused access areas in the gasworks. Within 24 hours of a downpour the roar and scrape and boom of frogs is almost deafening.

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The gasworks is a disgrace; a polluted and filthy slurry of toxins and poisons that leaches who knows how many kinds of carcinogens into the creek and the water table around Hamilton North. But it’s the only place within a couple of kilometre radius where you’ll hear six species of frog going at it hammer and tongs.

Which leaves me in something of a quandary. Its its proximity to the creek and the unused lands around the railway line have made it a haven for flora and fauna. There’s no scrub, shrubs or bushes in our fancified gardens and so there’s nowhere for the wrens and silvereye and honeyeaters. There’s no cover for mice and rabbits, frogs and toads, the ordinary critters that make up the base of the food pyramid for the raptors and mammal predators. So, dirty is how I like it.

But of course I don’t want it to be dirty forever, which is why I felt ambivalent when I heard the news of its impending clean up.

Jemena Pty Ltd, the energy retail company that inherited the site, has entered a voluntary agreement with the EPA to remediate the site to a point where it could be sold and some kind of commercial activity take place upon it. Quite what form this remediation will take is as yet unknown, hence the flurry of activity over there in recent weeks.

If you’d like to find out more, or have any comments, concerns or queries, Jemena is holding a community drop-in session at Hamilton Nroth Bowling Club on Tuesday, 24 June between 4 and 7 pm.

Watch this space for more.

In other news, the annual Vintage Tweed Ride is on again (here are some pictures from last year).

Just get yourself kitted out in your bestest olden-time clothes and cock your leg across your favouritest olden-time velocipede and meet at Islington Park, 10 am this Sunday. If you’re struggling to find an olden time bike then just head down the creek. There’s a variety of parts there on a daily basis.

IMG_6695Toot toot!

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