I used to work in Kensington High Street in London, not far from the Tube station and one of the biggest Marks & Spencers in the country. Hundreds of thousands of people walked the wide pavement, to-ing and fro-ing from work, shopping, lunching. Wealthy foreign tourists were particularly attracted to this branch of M&S and I would often see them struggling to squeeze into taxis with many bulging bags.
Occasionally there would be more-serious-than-usual congestion if a man was trying to remove the squashed-chewing-gum stains off the pavement, painstakingly attacking each pinkish splodge with a high-pressure hose. People would tut and mumble as they slowed to negotiate their way through the crowd and around him and not get their oh-so-fashionable feet wet. I often used to walk in the road, although a series of bus stops made that risky.
It used to amaze me just how many people deposited chewing gum on the pavement.
There are no such volumes of people outside my apartment block in New Farm in Brisbane. And absolutely no gum drops. But yesterday, for the first time in seven months of living here, I observed a man pressure-cleaning the pavement. My jaw dropped. And I live in Gadget Country.
In teeming rain, the man was slowly and diligently walking his circular washer back and forth over our dirty pavement, which I have to confess I had never noticed was unclean. Of course, there was noise from a motor sitting on a trailer pulled by a ute. It wasn't hugely irritating – by hedge-cutter and jet-ski standards – but it was noisy and smelly (initially) enough to close windows and doors. Which was a shame, on an otherwise gadget-free morning.
The service was provided by a multi-purpose water services company who clean concrete paths, driveways and carparks, among many other things, and specialise in body corporate (like a residents' association) and real estate needs. This was no Brisbane Council service, you see. Note to landlord/manager: I would rather that some of the niggles in this pricey apartment be put right than the pavement beautified.
The man was still busy in the rain when I went out to meet some friends. We planned to have coffee overlooking the river and then lunch, at the Powerhouse. The coffee bar was closed – for maintenance cleaning of the outside area. And our lunch was almost ruined by our having to shout above the noise of the pressure-cleaning equipment right outside the window. Different company this time, possibly a Council contractor, and noisier equipment.
Have I missed something? Is the Queen coming back to Brisbane? Was it Clean Up Brisbane Day?