At first I stood in the middle of them as they rolled around me
fluid and dreamy
arms hanging as low as their jeans
liquid like a dance
quiet apart from the sound of wheels and the occasional restrained clap
(almost gentlemanly in their appreciation)
and here I was in the middle of them
the sea had turned that milky green before the storm
I wanted to grab at least one of them
there were so many
all boys and men dancing around in the air
And in my mind I could see myself spinning with them for a moment 
pulled toward the edge of the
I watched his feet touch the deck lightly
not thinking about the next move
sliding on his knees to a stop in front of me

The Story from Behind

I did think twice about posting this...but not for long.
Regardless of any dinner table storytelling rights held by my friend Thurgate, I realised I had the best view in the house and was therefore entitled to tell it.

So Luke.
Here he is.
As field photographer.
*captured by Bel

He's about to leave us for Adelaide but he'll linger here for awhile with an image I'll try and deliver below. So Luke's character as backstory - He rocks the charcoal, has a fine turn of phrase, a fancy for the power ballad and a well practiced humour. He is quite simply, marvellous. And he was looking very fine in our nation's capital last weekend, roller skates in one hand - camera in the other. Always the eye for detail.

However, he happened to take his eye off things for a few seconds and then it was all Mongrel Dog and "Sorry Mate" and "Oh My God did that really happen?" Luckily for the purposes of storytelling, I had my eye on things (namely his arse at that time) and only because there was a dog connected to it. I'm pretty sure it was a cross dingo whippet thing, like a white Santa's Little Helper but mean as hell and it sprung from the tent embassy and landed on Luke in a flash. There we were skating past all shiny orange wheels and Whoohoo Xanadu and  then I looked up and Santa's Tent Embassy Little Helper was right up there growling into Thurgate's bits and pieces and I stopped and tried to take it all in for future reference but of course it was all so fast. He was pretty calm about it considering it was all going on down there and we were amazed he actually stayed on those fancy roller skates despite the snarling animal attached to his thigh. And for the rest of the day, and our five hour journey home, our conversation never really strayed far from the dog and Luke's injury and the orange roller skates.

"Of all things," he said looking out the window after a bit of a silence (he talks in italics). "Of all the injuries I thought could be possible...being mauled by a camp dog outside old parliament house would have been way down there on the risk assessment after breaking my wrist or getting a blister or suffering a head injury."

We laughed at this and kept heading north away from the incident and every now and then we'd talk about our lovely trip and our adventure to the mountains outside Braidwood or the beautiful hospitality in the kooky Oaks Estate...but it would always come back eventually to that mean old dog and the three of us skating and riding and rolling past the tent embassy at old parliament house.

I wish I could draw in charcoal what I saw from behind him that afternoon.
On a big whopping gallery wall. Just for Thurgate (who will be missed).


This is one of the best things I've seen on the Internet in the last little while. Made in 1965, it is noted as the first skating movie and was nominated for an academy award (short film). The story tracks the movements of a group of neighbourhood skaters - The Imperial Skateboard Club from Torrence California. If you're not so interested in skating this little film is the sweetest teen romance. All done with no dialogue and a riffing little soundtrack.

skaterdater from zgg on Vimeo.

Via Desillusion

Public art : enhanced

I really wanted to title this post Boobs Rock, but then I thought about all those people googling boobs and how disappointed they would be to land here and read about ships and art. It would lead to all sorts of disappointment. I took this shot today on a walk oceanside and it made me whoop. This kind of irreverence is typical Newcastle ratbaggery. I hope it brings joy to many others. This is the end of a public sculpture meant to mark the landing of the coal freighter the Pasha Bulker on Nobbys Beach in 2007. The rest of the work is a fairly pedestrian bit of formal fabrication but this piece here is cut from the massive rudder left behind when the ship was finally hauled off poor old Nobbys Reef*. I clamoured over this rudder in a scrap metal yard that would make a steampunker weep trying to find the right bit. It was pouring with rain, very muddy and the yard was full of treasure. The Lord Mayor was standing off to one side with an umbrella. Those bits of steel were cut up by Council's fabrication crew and I then took them to the forge and made very sweet little memorial ruddlets.

But personally, and for all sorts of reasons, I feel the commemorative Pasha Bulka stubby holder was memorial enough. I have a thing about turning our streets into museums. It drives me nuts.

*I am not the artist. I was just asked to find the right bit of rudder and then make the ruddlets!

In the Detail

Following a call-out from the Hunter Writers Centre last year, I was involved in a project called In the Detail, an exhibition of poetry and natural history illustrations. I couldn't resist a narrative approach. Here is my response to a drawing by Nadia Waters included in the show. It was fun taking this image and letting loose.


Before birth, or that bit where I emerged from spawn…
Let’s call it Spirth just to piss off the Academy.
Even before Spirth, I could feel that keen taper making me
something more than me – Naturalia.
A balsa box of pins sat bright nearby
making me more than the click and crack of my armour. Flightless
and keeping me with all those slides gathering dust in the fly man’s filing cabinet.
He once held court at CSIRO until he got the package with the rest of them.
Cabinet had a key. Fierce about security and some other
colleague. And he’d say it in italics just like that.
They all hated each other and spat when they spoke
Eager for their newfound data to crack first in the air
and then onto paper, his precious.
The papers would also go into the cabinet locked to protect the Science.
Colleagues he would hiss into the microscope, the words ethanol bitter.
We were just a diversion for him while he tried to save the world from
Screw Worm Fly. Have you seen what those things can do to a brain?
Don’t Google it. It’s gross.
He’s gone now.
It was a tiny key but you could hear its final turn, a cartoon echo in the lab.

Maddy IS : a synaesthete

There is something satisfying about revisions. Just before I hit the send button to forward Maddy off into the world, I decided to read it one more time just to be sure. I’m glad I did. That little re-read turned into a big re-write and this is when the fun began. I have a small fascination with the detailed world of synaesthetes since finding out about the collaborative artist twins the Strutt Sisters.

There are many versions of it but quite simply, it is some kind of fusion of the senses. Some people hear or taste colour and some see colour in music or see numbers as visual codes. I decided to add another layer to Maddy's character and give her synaesthesia. She sees colour with certain sounds and on occasion can taste it. I can’t tell you how much fun this was to write and now that it’s scheduled for publication, I’m looking forward to starting the editing process and developing this even more.

It was a rustic looking shed from the outside with timber slabs and a corrugated tin roof. An ancient wysteria wound its way up the walls spilling a wave of purple flowers over the doorway. Inside was a different story. A single stainless steel bench spanned the middle of the room. On the walls were several large pictures. Maddy recognised one of her own and laughed. As soon as she registered the baby pink palette she could hear it clicking softly like a a metronome. The sweep of the paint looked like candy cake icing and she remembered the thrill of laying it on so thick it was beyond painterly, it was despite the colour, full of machismo. She remembered the colour thing coming on strong when she was mixing and it didn’t taste like meringue or cake. It filled her mouth with a bitter metallic tonic. And whenever she heard a sound like the whirr of a machine or the ticking of a clock, the air pulsated with that baby pink.

The way home

Last week I mentioned a story to Paul Bevan about the Georgian woman who, while scavenging for copper cut off the internet to the whole of Armenia. Of course, this kind of thing is gold for storytellers and Paul asked if this was was something I would file away for future use...

So yes and no. It's the idea that I take note of rather than the action or event.
Small but clearly interesting action - Big consequence. Woopsies. That is the delicious bit.

But it's not just these things that trigger a scene or character, I can get it from moving through the city. Tonight I rode home just on dark. Balmy autumn evening. The harbour a mirror and Newcastle was shining until I hit the bike track at Throsby Creek and everything went dark. Curtains were still not drawn although the lights were on (a handful of stories in one frame). The Mullet were throwing themselves about and a Sudanese football team glowed under the lights at the scabby park near Tighes Hill Tafe. Up and over the railway line with a snaked coal train resting underneath. Past John Scolleys workshop where he was still sanding away and the smell of resin slapped me as I picked up speed down the laneway that runs along Newcastle Surf Design.  Every time I reach Litchfield Park I hesitate. It's dark down there and the stormwater drain just might hold more than water at low tide. There's the fightclub on the corner and the open space of the park (sometimes more gothic to me than any deserted expanse of wilderness) has the potential for misadventure.

But this is Mayfield: Home of the Brave right? I have to do it.

So these are the reasons I can never spend time in a gym. I can't do it. I have no time. No scavenging time. I need to get my blood moving outside where stuff happens. That smell of resin? It's already a little worm of an idea. That sensorial trigger is so powerful for me. That Proustian memory.
That's the stuff for me.


The Moonflowers are out! Our garden is dotted here and there with plants that share varied and interesting providence. Our friend Pete is the son of a true gardening soul and shares his mothers easy lyricism with plants and flowers and manages to take cuttings and seeds from all over the place. This season I ate the figs off a famous woollahra fig (cut down amidst protest decades ago) and we were lucky enough to score a cutting off a cutting. Then we have the Daytura, a cutting taken from a tree in the New Orleans Botanic Gardens during a wild sixties backpacking adventure (Pete carried the cutting wrapped up in his pack for another six months before he hit home). We have poppies from Pete's old workshop in Bathurst and Spider lillies from Judy's house in North Sydney (or maybe these ones were from Bronte House). The moonflowers are my favourite. They are collected and given out as gifts each year when they seed. The shine in the night garden, only blooming once the sun goes down.