When Trevor Dickinson was doing his 100 Letterboxes project he walked many, many streets of Newcastle, ordinary suburban streets that he’d never otherwise walk down, on the search for unusual letterboxes. He took his dog with him, partly for the dog’s benefit but mainly so that he wouldn’t look like a nutter or a pervert with a camera. And he enjoyed it, this endless variety.
Me? I enjoy variety too, yet my walks with Jambo are almost always the same. The recent wet weather kept us out of the creek and so I had to go to my B, C and even D walks. Which were fine, nice, but Sunday morning was sunny and dry and the tide was down so we were restored to our default setting: Walk A.
Firstly, the night-soil lane. This is where it all begins, like most of the meals that I cook (i.e. start frying some onion and garlic in olive oil and then decide what I’m going to make).
I feel like I know every fence and every chink and nook in every fence along this lane. Which dogs will bark at me from behind which galvanised wall, which puddle will have a dead rat or two floating in it, which patch of grass will have a discarded Maccas bag that I’ll have to tear Jambo away from.
We come out onto Bates Street and drop into the creek, here:
There are of course any number of places where we could drop into the creek but this is the point where I go down 99% of the time. There is a reason; there’s always a reason. In this case it’s to do with the camber of the grass banking and the amount of ledge to break your descent against before you go down the concrete banking. A metre either side and it’s just … different. Not enough ledge, too much slope, grass to slippy. So this is where we go down.
The side of the creek that I walk down depends on where I’m going, but also on the time of year. In summer, when the creek bed’s dry and the tides tend to be lower, I favour the northern side, which also has better shade. But in winter, when the tides are higher and it rains more and I want to feel the sun, the northern side stays wet and slippy till well into the middle of the day, so I stick to the southern side.
Here’s the junction of the drain and the real Styx Creek. I always paddle across the same bit. Always.
And under the rail bridge I always look at this collection of kids’ footprints. When were they made? Who made them? I can see them now, sneaking up after the concreters have left and wiggling their bodies to and fro so that their feet sink into the drying concrete. Maybe two or three friends, or siblings. How old are they now? Are they still alive? I think about them every day, I really do.
This is the point on the Islington side of the railway bridge where we go up the banking. The soles of my shoes are usually a bit wet by now and so this pipe makes it easier to get up without slithering back into the drain.
If we go as far as the TAFE litter boom then I have to stoop under the Chinchen Street road bridge. I call it koshinage bridge as this is where I get to practise my “silver-back gorilla” walk, an important part of getting in a decent hip throw in judo or aikido.
And on the way home I always get out of the drain at the same spot. This joint between two slabs has a couple of erosion points that are good for getting a toe-hold, so I always get back up here. Always.
I used that word “always” a lot, I know. I sound a bit OCD, and I think I am.
But I like it. I’m a creature of habit.