NEWCASTLE was at its shiny best last week during the school holidays and hordes of locals and visitors felt the magnetic pull of Dr Pacific.
The fan has been pulled out of the hallway cupboard. The duck-down fart catcher has been removed from the bed and sent to the dry cleaner.
The hot nor-westers have started carrying blowies as big as budgies in from wherever. Probably Tamworth.
Birds also advise us summer is approaching. Magpies are slowing their regularity of attack, although there's still a few recalcitrants around our streets who hate cyclists almost as much as former National Party roads minister Duncan Gay.
The channel-billed cuckoo - surely designed by a disgruntled committee after a few too many beers - has turned up. Hard to spot, easy to hear.
The koels have also arrived. Koel, koel, the angels did sing. No decent angel would sing a celebratory hymn about the busted car alarm of the bird world.
Around early October, before the humidity goes all Singapore, we do get some cracker days.
Light wind, blue sky and temperatures in the mid-20s. Last Thursday, with school holidays in full swing, lunchtime crowds at Newcastle Ocean Baths (NOB) were brimming.
I hadn't been down there for a while because I'd been staying on the other side of the range down in Bar Beach looking after the pets of friends.
I'd been swimming at Merewether Ocean Baths (MOB) with the toffs, but eventually the continued talk of the roller-coaster ride of the sharemarket, vegan Gucci loafers and moaning about bad refereeing in the rugby world cup took its toll.
I fled back to the refuge of the real.
Another marker of the seasons is the discussion of the state of NOB compared with MOB. Is there a more traditional rivalry in Newy? Perhaps Charlestown Square and Westfield Kotara. I'd back Charlestown if they fight in Vegas under a UFC banner, but Kotara for sure if it is to be under Queensberry rules at the Broadmeadow barn.
Anyhoos, MOB just got its road in to the place resurfaced, whereas NOB remains left to rot in its austere beauty. Every time I look at NOB, I think what a missed opportunity.
Mayfield correspondent (We must appreciate pool resources, Herald4/10) Denise Lindus Trummel pointed out that NOB's "facade remains heavily supported with a non-permanent and ugly system where the ladies' dressing rooms once were...These pools are not what this council likes to talk about. They are not big shiny things like Supercars or new offices, but they need to be maintained because they are part of our culture".
Letter of the week material.
But City of Newcastle (CoN) doesn't deserve all the blame for a decrepit NOB.
In 2016, CoN called for expressions of interest to construct new buildings. It got two bids and together CoN and Stronach were moving towards a $7m rebuild. The hurdle was the length of the lease that could be awarded under the state government's Crown Lands Act. A commercial partner wants and needs a long lease to recoup and grow its investment.
The Crown Lands Act now only allows a 21-year lease with the fine print permitting the Minister to stretch it to 30 years. That's still not long enough for the kind of investment needed at NOB.
Because while the 2016 deal that never eventuated would have done up the buildings - maybe a new café, a restaurant, new change rooms (surely bigger than the hideous capsules at Nobbys) and perhaps a tantra yoga room for Merewether types - it was always going to be a job half-done.
The NOB pools need investment too. The grounds need resurfacing urgently. Hopefully not asphalt black as seems the go on new footpaths around the city - so ugly, so cheap, so regrettable. Why CoN lets developers drop tar outside apartments worth millions of dollars is an unsolvable mystery of the universe.
My understanding is that CoN is very open minded on the re-development of NOB.
An unsolicited bid out of the blue would be welcome. It may need somewhere north of $15m to get it all done and that's what must happen - it must be all done in one go.
That might take a couple of years if the job is not to be half-arsed. But what a legacy.
The investment future of Newcastle of 2019 is very different to that of just a few years ago and surely NOB deserves more than love and admiration.
It desperately needs a vision and accompanying investment to revitalise its austere beauty.