Posts Tagged ‘newcastle’

So here I am, back in Newcastle.

You know what? Nine year olds are smarter than we think they are. I’m sure I was probably convinced of my own superior intellect as a nine year old, but I think that as a general rule they’re a vastly underrated contender for mental capabilities.

I got here this morning just as Lily arrived home from taking Jamie to school, which was lucky. I could tell almost straight away that she’d had another row with Josh recently – there’s a certain set to her shoulders, specific lines that grow deeper on her face, a distinct glaze to her eyes that are sure-fire signals that she’s had to listen to yet another three-hour session of far-fetched excuses and wild accusations, and come out of it at the end still unable to force Josh to pay child support. My suggestion that she simply not let him see Jamie until he’s willing to take some financial responsibility for his own son is invariably met with a cold glare, and an inquiry as to whether I will be the one to explain to Jamie why he won’t be allowed to see his father. So I skipped it this time, and instead took my sister inside, made her a pot of tea and found a movie for us to watch.

As I was getting up to make us some toasted sandwiches, I asked Lily whether Josh was coming to see Jamie’s play. She gave me a pained look.

“No, Arthur, he’s not. You won’t have to see him, or talk to him.”

“That’s not what I meant. I was actually thinking of you. And Jamie.” But I could see her point. I have really gone out of my way to avoid talking to Josh, ever again if necessary. Anger is not a pretty emotion.

Lily sighed. “Actually, I was thinking. You should tell Jamie about this Leonard -”


“- right, this Lloyd of yours. Or even about Abi. And James.”

I glanced at her curiously. “Why?”

“Just see if he can shed any light on the situation.”


“Are those sandwiches ready yet?”

So when Jamie got home this afternoon I took him down to the beach. There was quite a lot of debris along the tideline so we began building sandcastles, using bits of flotsam for decoration. We heaped quite a large amount of sand together and were carving little windows into the sides.

“So, guess what,” I began, “do you remember Abigail, my boss’ daughter, from when you came down to Sydney a while ago?”

Jamie looked thoughtful for a second. “Was she the one with the sparkle earrings?”

I nodded. Amazing, the things they remember.

“I like her. She told me her earrings were because she’s a princess, and she made me a string bracelet. I wore it for about twenty days.”

“Well,” I said, wondering why on earth Lily would want me to tell Jamie this, “a really strange thing has happened to her. She keeps falling asleep, and no-one knows why. She’s really sleepy all the time.”

“Oh.” He added a shell doorway to the base of the castle. “Can they fix her?”

“Well, she’s feeling a bit better lately, because she made a new friend. He works at the pub as well.”

“Ohh… did he kiss her?”

“What?” I fumbled with the seaweed I was trying to place. “No, he didn’t. Why do you ask?”

“He has to kiss her to wake her up. That’s how you wake up the sleepy princesses.”

I looked at him. Kids are funny – they’re so earnest when they tell you these kinds of things. He sounded so certain. Bam, there’s the solution. Doesn’t he realise life is more complicated than that? Of course he doesn’t. He’s nine.

I didn't manage to get a picture of our castle, but it was pretty close to this

A wave rolled in and knocked down the castle. “Oh, no,” I groaned, disappointed. But Jamie just stood up and started collecting some twigs.

“C’mon, Uncle Arthur. We’ll build a better one.”

So we started collecting sticks. We built them into a kind of teepee shape, and piled the sand up around the framework.

“So is her friend a prince?” asked Jamie, fixing a crab claw to the very top of the castle.

“Hm? Oh, no, but he’s very nice. He’s pretty sad sometimes though. You see, he and his sister had to leave home, and they ended up in a house with a woman who wasn’t very nice – ”

“A witch,” stated Jamie firmly. “Did they push her into the oven?”

“Jamie, where are you hearing these things? You don’t push people into ovens. People go to gaol for things like that.”

“Was she holding them prisoner?” So nonchalant. Unbelievable.

“Um. Sort of. But they locked her in the bathroom and escaped.”

“Ha ha!” Jamie seemed to find this a great joke. Then he paused. “So why is he unhappy now?”

“Well, when his sister went to a different home, she ran away again, but now James can’t find her.”

“His name is James? That’s like my name!” We started digging a moat. “He just needs to follow the trail.”

“What trail?”

“Breadcrumbs, you know. The birds might have eaten some though. But he’ll find the trail again. She always leaves one.”

Again, very similar to ours. In fact I think they may have stolen our idea.

Again, very similar to ours. In fact I think they may have stolen our architectural techniques.

The waves were coming in. We jumped up and tried to shield our castle, but even Knut couldn’t stop the tide. Our masterpiece was again consumed. But Jamie just smoothed down the sand again, and started looking for new building materials. Further up the beach was a line of pebbles and small rocks, so we gathered a sizable collection and began putting together a strong foundation.

I was turning Jamie’s words over in my head. I wished I could have his certainty. The absolute conviction that he knew how the story would end.

I remembered what Lily had told me. “Okay, Mr Smarty-Nephew. What about this one. There’s a guy at work who’s really annoying.”

“Jack MacIntyre is annoying. He broke three of my best pencils last week.” Jamie had worked out how to fix the pebbles together using wet sand as a kind of cement, and was making good progress.

“Well this guy, he’s kind of like that. He’s got something of mine, and he won’t give it back until I can guess his name.”

Now he was looking at me like I must have been hit over the head with the stupid stick. “How many tries have you had to guess it?”

I thought about that. “Well, I’ve had a while, but I’ve probably only had two real tries at it.”

“That’s good.” He kept building. I waited.

He kept building. It was really quite an impressive structure.

I waited.

Then I couldn’t wait any more. “Well?” I asked. “What’s the answer? How do I guess his name? What is it!?”

My young nephew looked up at me with a face that seemed older than his years. He shook his head, grinned mischievously, and said, “Uncle Arthur, you’re really dumb sometimes.”

Then he told me.

The tide eventually reached our fortress, but it didn’t have nearly the same devastating effect. Jamie had built it well, and the water swirled harmlessly around the base as the towers stood strong. We watched it for a long time.

Conclusion? I need to do some more reading.

Our finished product... pretty much.

Our finished product... pretty much.


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So last week I went to visit my sister in Newcastle. It’s a bloody long way but I hadn’t seen her for a while, and it’s actually rather therapeutic to spend time with my nephew occasionally. Jamie’s nine, and is certain that he knows everything, as all nine year olds are. It’s reassuring to talk to someone so innately confident, even if the misguided attempts at making porridge somewhat undermine his claims.

Train trips exhaust me. I don’t really know why they should, considering I’m basically just sitting for three hours at a stretch. Perhaps the lack of stimulation. To stave this off, I experimented with my camera.

So I’m not the world’s best photographer. But I was kind of pleased with the effect. Unfortunately by the time we got to the Hawkesbury it was already dark – it would have been great to get some photos of that landscape at dusk.

  • Sans flash - zoooom
  • One of those small empty stations

    It was nice to be in Newcastle again. Lily’s a good cook, and it seems like I haven’t had a proper meal in ages – you don’t really make that sort of effort for one person.

    Jamie’s doing his best to learn how to cook, although porridge is as far as he’s got. He made it for breakfast the next morning, and Lil and I smothered it with brown sugar and milk and told him it was fantastic. And once you got past the fact that it was rather more solid than conventional porridge, or most biscuits for that matter, it really wasn’t too bad.

    So, a lovely restful weekend for me. However on the way back, it transpired that the line between Wyong and Gosford was out – an electrical fault at Lisarow, apparently – and we would have to take a bus between those two stations. Furthermore, the train would now stop at all stations between Newcastle and Wyong, adding roughly 20 minutes to the journey. Then, five minutes out of Wyong, we learn (through the halting static of the PA system on Cityrail trains) that the line was fixed, and we would now transfer from the train we were on, to a different one between Wyong and Central. OK, inconvenient, but I was still hoping to make it back in time for work.

    However the diabolical fiends that control the fates of the trains and their passengers struck again when, at Gosford, we were told that the train would be terminating and we all had to get off. Milling in a distressed crowd on the platform, as hordes of recently released schoolchildren hurtled over the bridge and into the station, the station announcement system informed us that the next train to Central was running 36 minutes late. So 43 wonderful minutes were spent surrounded by devilish adolescents sucking on frozen triangles of technicoloured sugar water and complaining loudly that, like, Jessie is SUCH a slag, Adam would never have gone for her if she hadn’t performed daring sexual favours for him, etc. etc. I could feel the will to live draining from my bones.

    When the train finally came, I ended up sitting next to a guy who, despite his obvious lack of an iPod or any other music playing device, appeared to be singing along to some kind of internal soundtrack. Out of key. All the way to Central.

    And I was late for work.

    Damn you, Cityrail.

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