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.)

Generation mash-up


Countless times I’ve found myself in the creek staring up as a train rattles past from Newcastle to Telarah or back again. In the morning or late afternoon, which is generally when I walk Jambo, the carriages are full of commuters reading their books or iPads or newspapers, or staring glumly with their chin cupped in their hand. If anyone does see me I wonder if they’re wondering “What the hell is he doing down there?”

On Saturday I had the rare opportunity to be the face on the train staring down into the creek. It was Groovin the Moo day at Maitland and, in time-honoured tradition, I got the train up from Hamilton Station with the Young Folk. I must have looked a bit odd as we neared the creek, taking photos of all my favourite landmarks: the gas tower with POAS and CUBE on it; the points shelter; the rail easement.

And finally – TA DAH! – Styx Creek.

And then Clyde Street. It was nice to be on the side causing the queue rather than in it.

Groovin the Moo was good fun. Highlights were Public Enemy’s mash-up of AC/DC’s Back in Black, and the set by Kaiser Chiefs.

But it’s not just the Young Folk who are creative and inspiring. On Sunday I got to mix it up with a different but equally inspiring generation. I’d had a call from Allan and Pamela Carruthers as Pam wanted a copy of the book for Allan. The Carruthers own a property in Kotara South that backs onto the Styx, very near its headwaters. Allan’s a real goer and has led a bush regeneration project in  his street, drawing in his neighbours and Newcastle City Council’s Bushcare team to help him tackle a patch of what used to be lantana and bramble.

His efforts are remarkable; the lantana’s been beaten back and massive numbers of indigenous natives have been planted. The creek’s once again become home to wrens, water dragons and a red-bellied black snake called Sam, and is visited by some of the larger prey animals, such as powerful owls and peregrine falcons, that base themselves in nearby Blackbutt Reserve.

One of the Bushcare team reckon that this is not natural tearing in the bark of this turpentine, below, but is a scar tree, a tree that’s had bark removed in the recently ancient past by Aboriginal people to make a coolamon or shield. All this and barely a kilometre from Garden City!

Such fun. Thanks, Steve and Rod, for GTM. And thanks, Allan and Pamela, for showing me your corner of the Styx.