Noise, Newcastle and the Challenge

Walking along the breakwater at the entrance to the Newcastle Harbour.

Walking along the breakwater at the entrance to the Newcastle Harbour.

A pounding base was thundering across the large park in front of our house as I started writing this post on Sunday night. Any music that accompanied the relentless thud had largely dropped by the wayside. We were left with the remnants. Tuneless reverberations reached every corner of our house. That morning, when the noise started, we decided to evacuate for the day.

We just wanted out, but we couldn’t think of anywhere we wanted to go. Some quick googling revealed that Newcastle is undergoing some rejuvenation so we decided to check it out. After a couple of boring hours on the freeway we reached Darby St, near the central business district of Newcastle.

Exterior Cooks Hill Bookshop

Cooks Hill Books and Records, 72 Darby St, Cooks Hill, Newcastle

At this time of year many small businesses are closed for annual holidays, but there were still some cafes and shops open. And joy of joys, we found a second-hand bookshop.

The Cooks Hill Bookshop has a good selection of Australian history books.  Among the books I bought was a history of the zinc refinery in Hobart by Alison Alexander. This is the place where my father worked and there is a small paragraph mentioning him in the book.

I also picked up a copy of Waging Peace by Anne Deveson. I think this is the last book she wrote before she died late last year. Aside from the name of the author, this book appealed to me as she weaves her personal experience as a refugee into her reflections on peace and war. I am interested in a wide range of perspectives of war, as I am writing a book about a generation whose lives were dominated by war. In my spare time I have also been exploring my family’s experience fleeing World War II and settling in Sydney in time for the Japanese attack on Sydney Harbour. This book has really piqued my interest.

The third book I purchased was published in 1911. Bush Days by Amy E. Mack contains articles written by her and originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald. The owner of the book looks like an interesting person too. For my research I really appreciate people who write their names inside the fly cover and make marks on the pages. It can give some interesting insights into how the book has been read. But as a reader myself I don’t like marking books – a rather contradictory attitude.

I have signed up for the 2017 Australian Women Writers’ Challenge. By accident, it turns out that I bought three interesting books at Cooks Hill Books and Records which I can review this year for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. I am already reading a book about gender violence and human rights in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu so it looks like I have half a year’s worth of reading and reviewing for the Challenge

This year we are being encouraged to read some Australian classics for the Challenge. I already have Patsy Adam-Smith’s 1978 classic The Anzacs on my reading pile so I will add that to my Challenge list.

After five years the Challenge has made a lovely niche in my life. It is not onerous and it is a helpful reminder to read more widely. I am delighted that this year the Australian Women’s History Network is asking for volunteers to review books by Australian women historians for their dynamic Vida Blog.

This is a wonderful opportunity for historians who may not have their own blog to raise attention to highlight the great contribution women are making to our understanding of history. And by contributing to the Vida Blog the review will have a much wider audience than do reviews in academic publications.

Nobby's sandy beach with a hill in the background.

Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle. There was some pretty good cloud action happening while we walked along the Newcastle foreshore so I had some fun with photography.

This post was coalescing in my mind while we walked along the foreshore of the harbour at Newcastle. As we walked past Nobby’s beach, I remembered that the Australian Historical Association conference will be held in Newcastle this year. The theme is ‘Entangled Histories’, reflecting the fact that the world has always been an entanglement of mobility and networks which transcended national or imperial borders. As a port city I would imagine that Newcastle has a lot of entangled histories in its midst.

View through mirror window on wooden building

There are loads of opportunities for photography along the Newcastle foreshore. Check out my flickr stream by clicking on this photo to see more of my photos from our day in Newcastle.

When we arrived back home that night the thudding base still pounded across the park. So while we were waiting for a DVD to load, this family of pedants idly debated how to spell our feelings.


8 thoughts on “Noise, Newcastle and the Challenge

  1. Good luck with your reading. I am very jealous of your finds, I haven’t come across a new second hand bookshop for ages. And just in passing, I love the drive up to Newcastle, swooping down over the Hawkesbury River.


    • I should have said that the drive to Gosford is lovely but past Gosford the road gets very boring.

      I discovered in writing the post that the Amy Mack book is on the Internet Archive (I linked to it) so you can read it for free there. At least I didn’t pay too much for it.


      • Thanks, I checked out the link. I rarely read online or with a reader, unless I need a quote in a hurry. I love owning books, never throw them out or exchange them. Opened one yesterday for the first time, printed on coarse paper during WWII and the pages were brown with age.


      • I agree that a physical copy is generally better than electronic, except my bookshelves are bulging. I do a check of my shelves every few years and ask each book if they really deserve the space. If not, I find them a new home via a charity or secondhand bookshop. There were plenty of people in Cooks Hill Books and Records on the weekend so I know there are lots of people out there who want my used books.

        But I totally understand your approach – it is a wrench to get rid of books.


  2. If Newcastle is undergoing some rejuvenation, then either the youth unemployment is already coming down or they hope to bring it down with the rejuvenation projects. I hope so. Newcastle was a super place to raise a family, and it would break parents’ hearts if their children had to live town to find work after school, uni or training.


  3. What were you doing in my neck of the woods? And a bit further inland are two more good bookshops – Macleans at Hamilton and Lorelei at New Lambton. Perhaps another trip and we could have coffee!


    • That would be lovely Debbie! After that day I thought I would like to head back up there some time. One of the soldiers I am interested in lived in Newcastle. Your comment got me thinking about this soldier so I did some googling, then found an interesting article about war diaries not related to him, then I got a phone call, then I got back on track and read your latest post, a good one about ‘The slow progress of a first draft‘, then I finally got back to finishing writing this comment!

      Send me an email.

      Liked by 1 person

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