Most mornings when I’m in Sydney I go for a walk. The contrast from the beach where I live and the city is energising. I have the best of both worlds. I know the houses now by their dogs (and the occasional cat), by the smells from their gardens and by the muted mumblings of people just waking.
Like Cairns, there are the regular early walkers – mostly retirees with accents from other countries. And then there’s the brigade from the Council of Botany Bay. An army of fluoro-jacketed workers hit the streets while the community still slumbers. Armed with brooms, shovels and bins on wheels, they sweep and tidy and clean. I often wonder where they’ve come from – the migrants, the retired and the down on their luck. Some have a smile a mile wide and cheery hello, some a taciturn nod and some avoid any eye contact, as though embarrassed by their work.
The difference they make to the streets probably goes largely unnoticed by a population too busy to stop and appreciate it. With so few off-street carparks the vehicles left by the kerbs make it impossible for a mechanical streetcleaner to run along the gutters. Without this industrious team the streetfronts would be awash in leaves and dust and the detritus of city living. Without them my mornings would be less interesting.