Paul F Walsh's story of the Laman Street Figs, through the eyes of a dog

Have a gander at the man in this picture holding his finger up to make a point to a nice police officer outside the Newcastle City Council administration building.

His name is Paul F Walsh.

Herald photographer Simone De Peak took the photo back in January 2012 at the height of the Laman Street figs battle.

“I was giving them [the police] a lecture on democracy,” Paul told Topics.

He pointed out the irony of ratepayers being separated by riot police from a council building, a place that’s supposed to be a place of democracy.

“It was an odd Novocastrian moment. It’s pretty bizarre to put the riot squad on ratepayers, but it was done,” he said. 

As you can see from the photo, Paul was a passionate supporter of the campaign to save the figs.

So passionate that on Wednesday he published a novella that looks back at those hostile days.

The book is titled Fici Delendae Sunt, The Figs Must Be Destroyed. The Latin phrase comes from the sensibilities of a man schooled in classic literature.

But let’s get back to the dog.

“The lead character is a dog named Sam who is a real Novocastrian newshound,” Paul said.

“He’s Newcastle’s finest investigative tree journalist. Laman Street has never been covered from this news angle before.”

Hmmm, a journo depicted as a dog.

We better not dwell on that concept too much. Woof!

Paul, who previously published the book Novocastrian Tales, spent quite a bit of time on the dawn-shift picket line, defending the figs.

The figs, as he saw them, were “an arboreal cathedral”.

“They were irreplaceable,” he said.

The dawn picket line was quite the place.

“We’d be there in darkness, then dawn would come,” he said.

As the sun rose, the birds began to sing.

“It was like an orchestra starting up,” he said.

“It was a beautiful moment each day where you saw the transformation of night to day.”

So the book covers the adventures of Sam the dog, who happens to be a reincarnation of the late University of Newcastle classics professor Godfrey Tanner.

Sam is also a depiction of a real dog of the same name, who was on the dawn picket line for the figs almost every day.

“He was a beautiful dog,” Paul said.

Sam wasn’t the only pooch on the picket line.

“There were dogs everywhere, so I wanted to tell this story through the eyes of the dogs because they were a bunch of characters.”

The idea for the dog characters also came from the infamous waterfront dispute in 1998 between the Howard government and Maritime Union of Australia.

“Peter Reith had guys in balaclavas with Alsatian guard dogs to drive the unionists off the wharf,” Paul said.

“The union response was pretty amusing. They brought their pet dogs to the picket line. There were big beefy guys standing there with pet poodles.”

The book is available for free on the HS Sea Blog at tuskproductions.com.au.

Melon Mania

There’s a scene in the movie Dirty Dancing where the character Baby carries a watermelon to a party.

It was this iconic moment in movie history that was, at least partly, an inspiration for a big melon party/sale at The Edwards bar and cafe in Newcastle West on Wednesday.

Alan Parry, the “director of radness” at The Edwards, said having a bunch of big melons for sale was also about supporting local farmers and reducing food waste.

The melons came from Moore Farm Fresh Produce at Wollombi.

Sweet As: Big, tasty and fresh watermelons at The Edwards on Wednesday.

Sweet As: Big, tasty and fresh watermelons at The Edwards on Wednesday.

“We don’t grow seedless watermelons. We specifically try to grow seeded ones,” Natalie Moore said.

“The seedless watermelon doesn’t have the flavour, texture or the colour that a watermelon should have.”

The melons sold at The Edwards on Wednesday were picked the previous night.

“You can’t get any better than that,” Your Food Collective co-founder Lauren Branson said.

These big tasty watermelons will also be for sale at The Edwards on the next two Wednesdays.

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