Archive for 2020

Newcastle City Council appoints Jeremy Bath chief executive officer

Council appoints Jeremy Bath chief executive officer TweetFacebook Jeremy BathJeremy Bath said he had thick skin and was willing to wear the fallout of unpopular decisions after being appointed as Newcastle City Council’s chief executive officer on Tuesday night.
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The 41-year-old formerpublic affairs manager and interim chief executiveat Hunter Water has been a high-profile figure at the council since being appointed to the $390,000-a-year job on an interim basisin April.

Councillors voted on Tuesday to remove the “interim” from his job title, and he has signed acontract to lead the council for the next five years.

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Meet Jeremy BathJeremy Bath appointed interim CEOCouncil staff move to west endHis seven-month stewardship to date has included divisive battles over the city’s first Supercars race and the rail corridor rezoning, but he said he was willing to wear some bruises in his position.

“I was a spokesperson for the registered club industry. I’ve certainly been shot at on many occasions and I’ve got very thick skin. But the reality, whether I like it or not, is it comes with the job,” he said.

“If you can’t handle being the spokesman for an organisation and having to defend unpopular decisions, as well as explain the popular decisions, then, frankly, don’t apply for the job.”

One decision which has proven particularly unpopular this week was the councillors’ vote on Tuesday to award themselves a 16 per cent pay rise.

A council report recommending the pay hike was authored by another staff member, but Mr Bath told the meeting that it was his decision to revisit the issue after the previous council had rejected a wage rise in June.

He told theNewcastle Heraldon Wednesday that the timing of the pay-rise debate justminutes after the council had voted to hand him the CEO job was unfortunate, but he stood by his decision to raise the pay issue again.

“The decision on my appointment was done prior to the decision on the pay rise, and the author of the paper wasn’t me. I had deliberately not put my name to that paper.

“Back in June this year I made it very clear to the senior managers that I thought it was a poor decision for them to put a paper up to the council that had a blank line in it where it was up to the councillors to insert what their councillor fee should be.

“I’d like to think that ratepayers would understand that it is a far better outcome for the council administrative staff to be recommending a figure than for councillors to be recommending their own figure.”

Mr Bath’s interim appointment in April followed claims fromCr Allan Robinson that a mystery manin Belmont had told him two days before interviews began whohad won the job, butan Office of Local Government investigation foundnothing “improper or unethical” in his recruitment.

Apart from his roles at Hunter Water, Mr Bath has been a press secretary for Liberal senator John Tierney, Fairfield Council communications officer, media relations manager for ClubsNSW and Clubs and lobbyist for conservative strategistsCrosby Textor.

He said rumours that he had political ambitions were off the mark.

“Having seen what politicians have to go through on a daily basis, the invasions into their privacy, the misconstruing of their actions and decisions, frankly, I couldn’t think of a job that is less appealing.”

Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said in a statement on Wednesday that Mr Bath had proved his worth asa “collaborator and negotiatorto achieve great outcomes for the city and the organisation”.

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A-League: Kantarovski notches game 150 for Newcastle Jets

Kanta sets sights on being a one-team man, as he notches 150 games with Newcastle Jets MILESTONE MAN: Home-grown midfielder Ben Kantarovski notched his 150th game for the Jets against Perth. Picture: AAP Images
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TweetFacebookBen Kantarovski is having a big campaign and is proud to be the first @NewcastleJetsFC player to notch 150 @ALeague games in his home town. pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/baoy6t9xy2

— James Gardiner (@JamesGardiner42) December 13, 2017Dimi Petratos shows how it is done with a sublime chip… heating up at @NewcastleJetsFC training. @[email protected]苏州夜总会招聘/b6uvrvk5T1

— James Gardiner (@JamesGardiner42) December 13, 2017

The ball-winner put his resurgence down to a “combination of factors”.

“It is to do with the players around you and the environment you are in,” he said. “Itis very professional the way we have been working. Everything comes easier when you are fit.Chris Smith and our physio Justin have worked really hard, not just with myself but all the boys.”

Next for Kantarovski and the Jets is the visit by fellow big-improvers Adelaide United on Saturday.

“Hopefully we keep the ball and play some really attacking aggressive football in their half,” Kantarovski said. “Isiais is their main driving force. If we nullify him, it will make life a little easier for us. They have two players suspended and have some others who might be coming back from injury. We are aware of that but by the same token we are going to focus on our game.”

As a teenager Kantarovski, wholed the Young Socceroos to consecutive under-20 World Cups,was scouted by Bayern Munich and spent 10 days on trial with the German powerhouse.

Another overseas opportunity hasn’t arisen and ball-winner said “it is not at the forefront of my mind”.

“It is challenging playing in the A-League,” he said. “Each year the standard has improved. You see that with the quality of players we are attractingto the league. Each year there are new challenges. To go overseas would be a another challenge as well. I am playing good football here, we have assembled a good squad and everyone in the club is happy.”

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Mengmei Leng’s uncle says he cannot remember killing her

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 30: A police officer removes evidence from the Campsie home of Michelle Leng who was murdered on April 30, 2016 in Sydney, . (Photo by Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media)Mystery woman found dead in blowhole revealed as UTS graduate Michelle LengSnapper Point Blow Hole murderA man who murdered his niece and dumped her body in a Central Coast blowhole says he has no recollection of his crime because he was on a drug binge that had caused him to black out.
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Derek Barrett, 29, murdered Chinese student Mengmei Leng in April 2016 at the home they shared with his wife and stepdaughter at Campsie in Sydney’s west.

On Wednesday, the NSW Supreme Court began a sentencing hearing for Barrett, who pleaded guilty in August to murder and 19 counts of filming private parts without consent.

The killer spoke for the first time, claiming he did not remember the murder nor dumping Ms Leng’s body because he was high on ice and synthetic cannabis, which caused a 48-hour gap in his memory.

“AlI I remember is an argument,” he told the court. “I remember seeing myself in the reflection of a mirror and looking down at blood in the sink.

“It’s almost like I was waking up in the bathroom … there was a lot of blood.”

During cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC, Barrett recalled seeing his niece’s distressed face. She was shouting at him in Chinese, and he was apologising to her.

“I don’t remember the actual stabbing itself or anything leading into the stabbing,” he said.

“I remember a scared face on the bed … she was yelling something back at me. I think she may have been cursing at me. I said ‘I’m so sorry.'”

Ms Leng was 25 when Barrett tied her up with tape and took numerous photographs of her naked body, including close-up photos of her genitals, then removed the restraints and stabbed her to death.

He then bundled her body in the boot of his car and drove to Snapper Point on the Central Coast, where he dumped her body in the water. Tourists found her there shortly afterwards, on April 24.

Barrett sniffled at times as he gave evidence, mumbling, taking long pauses and fiddling with a tissue in his hands. At other times he responded forcefully, when Ms Cunneen suggested he was simply pretending he could not remember.

“There’s no words,” he told the court. “I can never reverse the actions that I’ve done. I’d gladly exchange positions – I’d rather her be here than me. She had a beautiful future ahead of herself.”

In a victim impact statement, which was read by a police officer, Ms Leng’s mother Mei Zhang said Barrett was a “fiend” who should be jailed for life.

She said her daughter became the centre of her life after her husband died in 2008, and she sold her home in China to help fund her daughter’s future.

Ms Zhang said she still could not accept her daughter was tortured and murdered, with her body “abandoned to the sea”.

“Now that this child is gone, my whole life is shattered,” she said. She sobbed as her statement was read out.

Forensic psychiatrist Richard Furst told the court Barrett was most likely motivated by a sexual deviance or a sadistic fantasy, and took pleasure in having “complete” and “fatal” dominance over his niece.

In his opinion, Barrett was “basically not telling the truth about his memory loss”.

“It’s not the kind of thing one would forget,” Dr Furst said. “His actions are all purposeful, from the time of the killing to the disposal of the body.”

Barrett claimed he was taking up to 15 grams of ice a week in the lead-up to the murder, which he funded by helping to deal drugs.

His estranged wife left the court shortly after he began to give evidence, later returning with a policewoman.

Justice Helen Wilson will hand down a sentence on Friday.

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Broughton 4

TAGGED: A shearwater with a data logger attached to its leg, so that researchers can learn more about the birds’ habits. Picture: National Parks and Wildlife Serviceinto the darkness over the water – and down the cliff. For Callaghan and her colleagues know that the Gould’s petrel nests in crevices at the foot of the cliff.
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In 2009, after the pest eradication program, they heard a call from below. It was the sound of hope to Callaghan “Yes, it was amazing!”. Using a camera on a burrow scope, they saw a Gould’s petrel incubating an egg.

“We don’t know if they’re new arrivals because of the eradication program, or if they’ve been there a long time,” she says.

The ranger hopes the audio from the “love box” will entice the Gould’s petrel to come in and use the nesting boxes.

“This is just an attempt of helping them establish further,” Callaghan says. “It’s proven to work on Cabbage Tree Island [just to the south of here], so maybe Broughton Island can help expand the pairs.”

About 50 metres to the east along the precipice is another loudspeaker and a cluster of nine small boxes. This speaker plays the white-faced storm petrel’s call. Callaghan has been keenly checking the small boxes for any signs of bird life.

“So far all we’ve found is one feather, which is a promising sign,” she says. “Maybe it [the petrel] has had a sticky beak, we don’t know. It’s still a work in progress.”

“The ultimate goal is that they establish their own burrows, but hopefully this gives that a head-start.

“This is the first season, so we’ll seewhether to leave them here, or to move the boxes.”

Working near the artificial nesting boxes are Associate Professor Brian Wilson, a soil scientist from the University of New England, and Kirsten Drew, a PhD candidate studying the effects of using glyphosate herbicide on the island.

With the battle against weeds, Drewsays, the question of how the herbicide is used is “really significant in this environment”.

All these scientists and environmental officers are working together towards rehabilitating Broughton Island, including producing soil and vegetation maps.

“We’re trying to understand those links between the birds, soils and vegetation, and how that has changed the island,” says Brian Wilson.

DURING the trek back to the huts squatting along Esmeralda Cove, we deviate to scour a grassland area on the island’s eastern edge. Paul O’Keefe saw burrows the day before, and he thought they may have been created by white-faced storm petrels.

Yet after searching the slope, O’Keefe mutters, “No luck today”.

Susanne Callaghan smiles and replies, “We’ll find it.”

THE FUTURESUSANNE Callaghan’s belief that one day the petrels will return and nest on the island is driven by not just optimism but the changes she has already seen.

“Having the longevity to see the changes, it’s the best program I’ve ever been involved in,” she says. “We’ve kicked a massive goal for ecology on the island.”

Others who know and love the island have marvelled at the changes they’ve observedaround them.

“I’ve seen a real improvement in the bird life and the vegetation,” says John “Stinker” Clarke. “I’ve watched the bird life return. To me, it’s been a rebirth.”

As for the island’s future, Susanne Callaghan holds “very high” hopes. The key, she says, is finding “the balance between conservation and recreation”.

“We want people to visit the island, while meeting the needs of the unique ecosystem that it is,” Callaghan concludes.“It’s just about getting everything right.”

As we walk back through the grasslands, surrounded by a sea glistening like lapis lazuli, and looking over to the mainland so close in distance and yet so far in mood, you’re left feeling that Broughton Island and the seabirds it could help cradledeserve nothing less than getting everything right.

Ranger Susanne Callaghan

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Family Court judge blasts ‘obscenely high legal costs’ of Sydney lawyers

A Family Court judge has delivered a blistering judgment on the “culture of bitter, adversarial and highly aggressive family law litigation” in Sydney and blasted two law firms for charging “outrageous” fees.
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In a judgment published on Wednesday, Justice Robert Benjamin said he regularly heard cases filed in the Sydney registry of the Family Court and was “increasingly concerned about the high levels of costs charged by the legal profession in property and parenting proceedings”.

He asked the Legal Services Commissioner to investigate whether the fees charged by the solicitors acting for a former couple fighting over parenting arrangements and property could constitute professional misconduct.

Justice Benjamin said the couple, given the pseudonyms Mr Simic and Ms Norton, had spent an “eye-watering” $860,000 in the proceedings and “these amounts are, on their face, outrageous levels of costs for ordinary people involved in family law proceedings”.

The Hobart-based judge took aim at the “win at all costs, concede little or nothing, chase every rabbit down every hole and hang the consequences approach to family law litigation” he had observed in Sydney and the culture of “bitter, adversarial and highly aggressive family law litigation”.

It was unclear whether this approach was “a reflection of a Sydney-based culture” or an approach by some lawyers or a combination of both, Justice Benjamin said.

“Whichever is the cause, the consequences of obscenely high legal costs are destructive of the emotional, social and financial wellbeing of the parties and their children. It must stop,” he said.

The scathing comments come amid an n Law Reform Commission review of the Family Law Act, commissioned in September by Attorney-General George Brandis.

The review will include a consideration of whether reforms are necessary to promote the “appropriate, early and cost-effective resolution” of family law disputes.

Justice Benjamin asked the Legal Services Commissioner to investigate whether the fees charged in the case before him were fair and reasonable, as well as whether the legal work undertaken was necessary and performed in a “reasonable manner”, taking into account the proceedings were launched “on behalf of otherwise unsophisticated parties … and in highly emotional circumstances”.

Justice Benjamin said he had read “each and every one” of the letters sent by the parties’ lawyers and some of them were “inflammatory and reflected the anger of the parties or one or other of them”.

” Solicitors are not employed to act as ‘postman’ to vent the anger and vitriol of their clients,” he said.

Justice Benjamin said lawyers had “a duty to minimise costs and to reduce conflict” and “some of the communications appear to add ‘fuel to the fire’ of conflict rather than dampen it down”.

“The children of these parties depend upon the income and assets of their parents to support them,” he said.

“Yet, in this case, the costs of the proceedings have taken a terrible toll on the wealth of the parties and consequently their ability to support and provide for their children.”

He anonymised the names of the law firms on the basis the solicitors should not be punished by the negative publicity if the Legal Services Commissioner did not make a finding of misconduct.

The parties’ barristers were not the subject of criticism and Justice Benjamin said he was not provided with details of their fees.

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Are we there yet? There’s one thing driving Bennelong voters mad

News SHD Prime Minister of Malcolm Turnbull speaking to the media in the Bennelong Electorate with John Alexander, Liberal for Bennelong before the bi-election next Saturday, Top Ryde Shopping Centre Saturday the 9th of December 2017 News SHD Picture by Fiona Morris Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and Labor candidate for Bennelong Kristina Keneally visit St Charles Catholic Primary school in Ryde, Sydney, Tuesday, December 12, 2017. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
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John Alexander cut a lonely figure out the back of West Ryde shops, gazing upon the ugly concrete plaza on the first Saturday of the Bennelong byelection campaign. I thought we should say “Hi”.

Accompanied by my 12-year-old son, we asked Mr Alexander about an issue that bothered my child. Whether we agreed with his argument or not, it was a good start. We were going to talk about issues this campaign.

We were going to unearth some fresh ideas to solve the first-world problems so prevalent in our electorate. How would our children ever afford university and a house? Or even one of those? Why are children excluded from the local school because the catchments are so badly skewed? Will the NBN work when it eventually gets here? Will the overcrowded, late, half-cancelled buses get me home in time for dinner with my family? Ever? Can anyone afford to have two parents working when childcare costs are through the roof? Can they afford not to?

At worst, we would get promised a heap of good stuff as each party desperately tried to buy our vote. I would hear the magic words “working families” every day.

But something went horribly wrong on the way to the ballot box.

The next day, the first robopoll call came. It felt like a Labor push-poll as one of the questions asked: ‘Which issue are you most concerned about? Press 1 for cuts to this. Press 2 for cuts to that, and so on.”

Then came a robocall from Mr Alexander. Then another poll. After about five calls I lost count.

Instead of smart ideas and promises – save for a bus interchange and a new high school that both parties had previously promised in some guise at state level – we have had to suffer a campaign of each party endlessly criticising the other party or candidate. Every. Single. Day. And mostly at dinner time via robocalls. Never mind they are cannibalising state promises: the federal government holds the purse strings.

“You can’t trust Malcolm Turnbull with (insert talking point du jour here)”, repeats Labor candidate Kristina Keneally. A colleague reports she has had daily robocalls from Labor, all slamming Turnbull. Possibly this is unwise, as the first poll, despite it showing rising support for Keneally, also showed 59.7 per cent of Bennelong electors picked Mr Turnbull as preferred prime minister compared to just 40.3 for Bill Shorten.

“Don’t let Kristina Keneally do to Bennelong what she did to NSW,” repeats John Alexander’s mouthpiece for the day. Last week it was Premier Gladys Berejiklian on the robocall. On Tuesday it was Julie Bishop at a press conference. On Tuesday at 6.37pm, John Howard was on the robocall telling me something about stability or predictability. I was still on my bus. It was 48 minutes late. (By the way, if the Premier wants to ring me again, I want to talk about public transport, not Kristina Keneally.) (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = ‘https://connect.facebook苏州夜场招聘/en_GB/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.11’; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));

Don’t let Kristina Keneally and Labor do to you what they did to NSW.Posted by NSW Liberal Party on Tuesday, 12 December 2017

LIVE from Epping Pre-poll with Doug Cameron, talking about the importance of TAFEPosted by Kristina Keneally on Sunday, 10 December 2017

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ArtReviewers’ picks of 2017

POWERFUL ADDITION: One of Fiona Foley’s high-impact images at Maitland Regional Art Gallery.Jill StowellPerhaps the most memorable of the exhibitions I have written about this year was at Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, with books treated as objects as much as cultural signifiers. Curator Meryl Ryan brought many insightful things together in a coherent visual essay.
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In conjunction with this exhibition, Lezlie Tilley, whose paper-based works have been widely shown this year, enhanced her text pieces to create a musical score. Music, specially composed, was also a component in another of the year’s highlights, when Brett McMahon continued his haptic abstract interpretation of shoreline and rock platform in huge installations at the University Gallery.

Another notable event there celebrated the 90th birthday and 70 years exhibiting by chameleon artist Rae Richards, with new paintings experimenting in lyrical landscape. An equally notable individual project was the enormous exhibition of selections from a wide-ranging anonymous private collection.

Private collectors have made lavish gifts to the Maitland Regional Art Gallery. Chinese scroll paintings cover 500 years of tradition, while the celebrated etchings and wood engravings of Lionel Lindsay remain fresh. Also at Maitland, the photographs of Fiona Foley startlingly displayed the power of the mask.

Newcastle Art Gallery has through summer the vast and mysterious paintings of Tim Maguire, as well as welcome works from the permanent collection. Earlier in the year there was a rewarding show from the National Gallery of of paintings by women abstractionists and there was a tribute to the late Mazie Turner’s translucent paint.

There is still has no official encouragement for the overdue expansion the gallery so badly needs. The Kilgour Prize deserves a rethink, but it is good to report I’ve seen works from our collection in exhibitions around the country, adding to its national profile.

What else took my eye? Christine Ross interpreted Japan in dazzling geometrical paintings at Art Systems Wickham, where Dino Consalvo also celebrated minimal geometry with monotone bridges and John Barnes engendered bouncing constellations of abstract exuberance.

Timeless Textiles constantly expands the range of the sewn, stitched and dyed in work by national and international fibre artists such as Judy Hooworth. Olivia Parsonage’s fabric fables made a strong appearance at Gallery 139.

Curve had another good year, with Michael Bell’s dog walker encountering mortality at the Obelisk and Jane Lander invoking a heaving overcast ocean. The Lock-Up accommodated Andrew Styan’s giant, gently breathing globe as well as Angelica Mesiti’s mysteriously immersive video and the high-profile artmaking of James Drinkwater and Lottie Consalvo.

There were artist books at Acrux, Frank Murri played with π (Pi), Kelly Ann Lees turned preloved metal into flowers and seeds and Steve Glassboro’s evermore elaborate deco nymphs posed at Cooks Hill Galleries. Doctoral student Vanessa Lewis continues to inventively explore the underpinnings of historical painting. Anne Maree Hunter’s prints incorporated maps. Sally Reynolds’s wood block printed forest is truly monumental. John Earle won the second annual Newcastle Club Foundation art prize.

John BarnesThere have been a number of big exhibitions at Lower Hunter public galleries this year, but some smaller offerings have carried the most weight. While the Kilgour Prize, Phantom Show, Michael Zavros’ decadence and Tim Maguire’s mega-flora dominated Newcastle Art Gallery’s spaces, three more sedate exhibitions created greater impact through a combination of great skill, artistic integrity and conceptual clarity.

In The Island, sculptor Alex Seton’s presented life-jackets, palm trees, oars and outboard motors, all masterfully carved from marble to form an evocative memorial to all refugees who have perished seeking a better life. Through the fusion of ancient traditions with contemporary technology Seton has produced deeply contemplative works of great beauty and poignancy.

Another highlight was Montages: The Full Cut 1999–2015,a collection of eight short films by Tracey Moffatt made in collaboration with Gary Hillberg. These reconstructed video montages were totally engrossing, full of social, political and emotional insight, laden with sharp wit, keen observation and rare humour.

Abstraction: celebrating n women abstract artists was an immensely important and satisfying exhibition curated from the n National Gallery’s collection. It is hoped that exhibitions of similar quality might emerge from Newcastle’s collection. The very well-considered Painting Memory is proof that size and sparkle isn’t everything.

At Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery major touring exhibitions, gallery-curated shows and work from local and regional artists are always presented with utmost professionalism and clarity of purpose. The historically-based Scanlines was an intriguing examination of pre-digital n video art, but it was the beautifully printed photographs in Diane Arbus, American Portraits that really left an indelible impression. Lake Macquarie was one of only four galleries entrusted by the National Gallery of to present this exhibition, and hopefully many more such gems will follow.

In the gallery’s sculpture park Jamie North’s towering structure of decaying concrete and steel, Succession, continues to transform itself as the plant life that is integral to the work thrives.

North’s exhibitionSlidings, at the Lock-Up in May, expanded his use of industrial materials combined with living plants into a series of fully realised installation pieces, ideally positioned in the historically charged spaces of the former jail.

The Lock-Up continues to cement its position as Newcastle’s leading contemporary art space. Strong exhibitions from progressive local artists, work from internationally recognised headliners such as Shaun Gladwell, and performance and musical pieces shared the space with highly significant local projects like Stitched Up, whichinvolved more than 50 fibre artists.

With five exhibitions running at any one time, Maitland Regional Art Gallery continues to attract a strong audience with its diverse range of quality shows. Major touring exhibitions, like the internationally significant Colonial Afterlives featuring indigenous art, neighbour work from established and emerging Lower Hunter contemporary artists and exhibitions of particular historic and artistic interest, such as Lionel Lindsay’s wonderful suite of prints.

The café and top-rate gift shop cannot be separated from this small gallery’s on-going popularity.

BAR BEACH: John Earle’s Newcastle Club Foundation Art Prize winner.

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Christmas lights

IF I do nothing else over the next week or so –and doesn’t that sound wonderful, doing nothing for a week? -I’m determined to talk to the owner of a house up the street from my place, around the corner and about 200 metres along.
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I want to talk to him, her,them or it about theChristmas decorations that have taken over the property, because they’re fabulous.

And a warning before we go any further. Regular readers of this space will know I love Christmas lights. The more the merrier. The goofier the better. The flashier, twinklier, more garish and colourful, the more I like it.

If inflatable Santa’s backside is protruding from a chimney I’m entranced.

If aroof is festooned with reindeer or sleighs, or the three wise men, or shooting stars, giant trees, Christmas bells, meteors, “Merry Christmas” signs, sheep, kangaroos,Santa’s little helpers or candy canes, I’m as happy as Larry.

If every bush in a front yard is draped in twinkly lights that flow from the bush to the footpath and on to the front gate, I’ll stand for ages watching the colours change.

If a car pulls up outside your house at a weird time of night, for what seems like a disturbing amount of time, just check if it’s a woman with a smile on her face and wave. It could well be me.

If it’s an affliction it’s lifelong. I was the kid walking the streets in the 1960s and 1970s looking for that era’sChristmas decoration excess –a tree with coloured baubles, tinsel andlights, and extra lights around the window. When my sonswere young I used the children as an excuse to indulge my affliction while assuring myself it was both educational and good for their health to have them walking the streets with me after dark, checking out the neighbours’ displays.

But back to the house near my house.

It’s a normal-looking place –single storey brick with a tile roof.My brickie’s daughter instincts tell me it’s probably 1980s vintage.

The owner/owners don’t do the house over in Christmas gear in one weekend hit.

No, that’s the best thing about this Christmas transformation. It’s the decoration equivalent of a slow striptease in reverse.

The Christmas tree in the big front window appears first, covered in enough lights to illuminate a small village, with a giant star on the top.

Then the maypole appears in the front yard. Why a maypole? I don’t know. But that’s the beauty of Christmas decorations these days. There are no rules or guidelines. I don’t know why people have twinkly Christmas sheep on their roof either, or kangaroos, but I love them anyway.

So, the maypole appears next. Pass by the following day and there’s a line of lights twirling up the pole and across to the roof. A day later there’s an inflatable Santa by the gate. A day after that and every camellia and oleander isoutlined in lights. The big frangipani out the front is dripping with blue and white icicles.

And it doesn’t stop there.

The roof display isn’t complete until you canbarely see tiles. A giant Santa lollsgently in the breeze, like a slightly tiddly old uncle on Christmas afternoon. Another smaller Santa sits in a sleigh pulled by a pile of reindeer.

A series of Christmas trees of different heights make a small roof forest, and shooting stars and other lights arrangements takeup any spare space.

Even in daylight it isimpressive.

I want to say hello to the owner of the house and ask how the decorating started. Is it the work of one crazed Christmas nut in a household of decoration cynics –“Really Gerald, aren’t we a bit old to be putting out illuminated ‘Santa please stop here’ signs?” –or is it a family thing –“Beryl, you hold Rudolf while I climb up the ladder and hitch the reindeer to the sleigh”?

Is it just lights at Christmas or do they have strings of little lanterns on their back veranda all year round?

I first wrote about Christmas lights 15 years ago, a short time after the first Bali bombing and while the world was still convulsed by the fallout from the September 11 terrorist attacks.

I’d had an ordinary day –and I can’t remember why –and I passed a small timber house on the Central Coast on my way home. Quite afew years earlier the house was the scene of a shocking double murder, where a man killed his wife and their young daughter, and attempted to kill their baby, aged just three months.

It was difficult to report on. I drive on that main road a few times a year. The house is still there, virtually unchanged.

There was a woman sitting on a chair on the house’s front porch when I passed back in December, 2002. On a whim I pulled over and said hello. We got talking. The woman was aware of the house’s history. She knew the family and went to school with the murdered woman’s sister.

The lights she’d put up with her partner followed the line of the veranda railings, continued around the windowsanddoorsandran up to the roof, where they seemed to form awingshape.

Her partner had climbed the roof to place lights in a pattern he thought was random, she said. People had said it looked like an angel’s wings but they hadn’t planned it that way.

They put the lights up because it was a little cottage with a sad history on a busy main road, but the familywas happy there.

“I do it for my kids and other people’s kids and for everyone to share the enjoyment of Christmas,” she said.

My neighbours across the road –a lovely couple and their two children –have gone to town this year after doing up their front garden. Their front deck is festooned with flashing lights. Their new front garden retaining wall is beautifully draped with strings of twinkling things. Even a giant gum tree is lit up with a rope of blue lights.

At night peoplewalk the streets,enjoy the show and talk about inflatable Santas while cicadas ring in summer.

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Paul McCartney’s amazing gesture

Newcastle girls get a golden ticket from Paul McCartney himself | PHOTOS, VIDEO Kristy Wetzel, Jade Green, Frances Dolan and Helen Gregory at the Paul McCartney gig.
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Helen Gregory, Frances Dolan, Jade Green and Kristy Wetzel at the Paul McCartney gig.

Paul McCartney at the Sydney gig.

TweetFacebookEcstatic Newcastle girls at the Paul McCartney gig. Frances Dolan, who was handed the tickets, added:“I was walking to the seats screaming. Thiswas not in my wildest dreams a possibility!”.

Another of the foursome, Helen Gregory, said:“When it happened, Jade and I were in tears. It was more than we couldhave ever imagined. We felt incredibly lucky”.

She also said on Facebook: “Thank you Sir Paul and your ticket fairy for picking us out of the thousands! This will always be such a surreal but cherished memory!”

Helen, a Newcastle Herald journalist, is a massive Beatles fan.

She’s visited Liverpool and Abbey Road in London.She even went to the Beatles Cirque duSoleil show in Las Vegas.

“I was doing all those things thinking I’d never getthe chance to see him [Paul McCartney] live,” she said.

Jade said the foursome had paid $120 each for their nosebleed tickets, butthe upgraded tickets were worth $2000 each.

Given that the crowd contained 25,000 people, Jade felt like she’d won the lotto.

“It was a golden ticket,” she said.

Helen said it was “way better than anything Willy Wonka could deliver”.

Turns out it wasSir Paul himself who organised this lovely gesture.

Apparently he reserved 24 ticketsin the front and second rows,dead centre to the stage, for random fans.

During the show, Paul was deliberately making eye contact with thislucky lot.

The four Newcastle girls responded, screaming his name in delight like teens at a Beatles gig in the 1960s.

We always preferred John over Paul. Now we might reconsider.

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