Who’s next


Our urban world is so noisy. Our ears are endlessly assaulted by clangs and bangs and amplified tat. But once you’re in the drain the world slips away; or rather, the sound of the world slips away. The sounds I associate with the Styx are those of bird song: the up-and-down melody of willie wagtails, the harsh rasp of herons and egrets, the metallic tzing! of wrens, the liquid burbling of fuscous honeyeaters, the chesty coughs of ducks and teal. Though not this duck. If he ever had a squeak then he’d lost it by the time he turned up here.


But the other day, as I rounded the bend and headed towards the Chinchen Street bridge, I heard something I hadn’t heard in years: the violin solo that ends The Who’s Baba O’Riley. It must have been on the radio in the Big Shed, on at full blast and bouncing around inside before escaping through the wee roller door by the creek. The echoing and reverb made Dave Arbus’s electric violin even more ethereal than normal and for thirty seconds I was transported back forty years to a cruddy turntable and My Favourite LP Of All Time At That Time:  Who’s Next.


The Who was the first rock band that I became obsessed by, obsessed in that teenage way. For a few years, until punk’s Year Zero, their music was hugely influential and for a few moments on the creek bank that morning I preferred the sound of FM radio to that of honeyeaters and insectivores.

Then it ended, and an advert for carpets or doors or window tinting came on, and the spell was broken.


By the time I’d done a loop past Islington School and the weir they’d knocked the radio off and it was back to the ducks and the swallows whit whit whit across the water’s surface, pigeons cooing under the bridge and mob of ibis honking on the grass banking near the petrol depot. Normal service resumed.

What colour is July?


I was listening to the author of a book this morning, talking on ABC Radio’s Life Matters, about how time slows down and speeds up depending on our state of mind and physical wellbeing. She debunked that oft-repeated theory about how time seems to speed up as you get older, the one that says that a year of your life when you’re eight is one-eighth of your life, but only one eightieth when you’re eighty. Follow the link for the brainiac explanation. She also described how time and memory can be “seen” or visualised by our various senses, a condition known as synesthesia. She used examples of people “seeing” days with different colours: to her, Monday was pillar-box red and Wednesday was orange.

So I wondered: what colour is July? So far, it’s been a bright, cheerful purple.

A Wimbledon purple, perhaps, with all our veggies eaten up.

There’s a website called Synesthesia Down Under. Apparently, people who suffer from this condition/have this ability are known as synesthetes.

This broom appeared the other day, in June, so I think that June might be kind of crusty yellow.

Or maybe the kind of whitey-green of the emulsified oil leaching into the creek from the fuel depot.

The waxing moon has brought higher tides. When it gets too high and the bankings get slippery I don’t go too far downstream, usually as far as the litter boom by Islington School.

Here, a group of cormorants sit in rows on the fence, drying their wings. They look like sulky teenagers outside the headmaster’s door. The white dots in the background are hard hats, a group of students getting their crane safety card.

With a low tide I sometimes walk down as far as Maitland Road, past the wrecker’s yard. Is that any way to treat a Kingswood?

On Saturday I saw what I thought was an egret, until I got closer. It turned out to be a domestic duck, the kind you get waddling around farmyards. She looked very uncomfortable and deeply unhappy. I haven’t seen her since, which is not a good sign round these parts.

Falcons and hawks patrol the area, not as many as in summer but enough to spell trouble for a lost duck. Coming out of the gasworks on Saturday I was set back on my heels by an explosion of feathers from the long grass and lantana: a brown goshawk had been so engrossed in reducing this pigeon to feathers and bones that it had failed to notice me.

Noticing things is not Jambo’s strong point. The world throws things up that puzzle him all the time. Take these two balls, for example. Which one to chase? Which one to guard from the other dogs who aren’t actually here but may well be at any minute? It’s all deeply perplexing, no matter what colour the month.