Born dead


My Sunday morning walk took me under the Chinchen Street bridge and past Islington Public School, a regular leg-stretch that satisfies Jambo’s need to charge around and annoy the birdlife. He stopped halfway through the bridge; as I have to stoop to get under without banging my head I almost didn’t see what it was he’d paused to inspect. Then I saw it: a pigeon’s egg.

Is there anything more perfect in its form and execution than an egg?

Sometimes my backyard chooks get caught short and pop one out under the lamandera, or even on the bare dirt. I can only assume that that’s what happened here to one of the flock that broods on the stanchions under the bridge. Jambo tried to carry it home in his mouth but he’s no retriever. I need not tell you how this story ended.

That afternoon I had a lovely walk with POAS. We’d been communicating back and forth for some time but it took until Sunday for the planets to align and for us to actually get together. I always enjoy creek walking with new people; it opens my eyes afresh to the place. No matter how observant you intend being your senses inevitably deaden to the little things, and a new person’s shock and revulsion at the stench of pollution leaking from the gasworks is a good kick up the bum.

We did a Grand Tour of some of POAS’s works in the area, many of them dating back a decade or more. It was fascinating to have all my questions answered and POAS was very generous with his explanations, satisfying all the typical dumb queries that your average middle-aged gentleman of a certain demographic is likely to ask, such as “Why?”

We had a look at some of the Next Gen’s work too, in the old admin building.

Street art and graffiti has become a recognised (almost sanctioned) rite of passage for young men and it’s remarkable to think that POAS started in a pre-Banksian world in which it was a reviled criminal activity.  We talked about “olden days” graffiti, which to me (and, as it turns out, POAS’s mum) was always either sporting or political in nature. Probably the first graffito that I remember is this one:

It followed Barrow AFC’s Friday night victory over Fulham in the (old) Division 3 and for one night Barrow was top of the division. This was 1967 (I think, or thereabouts); within five years we were kicked out of the league. Should you ever find yourself in Barrow I believe that the words are still just and so visible on the Holker Street end.

The other kind of graffiti, the political kind, stretched from the local (anti-Trident submarine stuff in Barrow, or pro-miners’ strike, or anti-Thatcher) to the huge Ulster murals. Though I’m not sure if they count as graffiti at all. Do they? The first one I remember seeing in Australia, when I first arrived, was up near Balmain Leagues Club. It read something like “John Pat dead five cops go free” or similar. I didn’t understand it for quite a while, and even now 16-year-old John Pat’s death is but one forgotten footnote in the long history of deaths in custody.

Walking back up towards New Lambton we came across this little doodle, a spray-painting dinosaur. Cute, and made us both smile.

Then back home. POAS and I traded – a book for a print – and now I’ve added this beautiful artwork, titled “Born dead”, to the rogue’s gallery in my office, along with the other traded and gifted Styx Creek-related ephemera that’s filled my life since the book hit the bookshops.