Approaching home on my way back from yoga, I spotted the cleaner with a leaf blower whooshing the leaves off the pavement and away from the steps to my flat. Multi autumnal colours spun up in the air and landed at the target – by a lampost – where someone else busily swept them into a neat pile. I’ve always been fascinated by this yearly ritual.
‘Excuse me’ I said. ‘May I ask you a question?’ ‘Yeah’ he replied matter of factly with the machine still going. ‘Why do you blow the leaves off the ground at this time of year?’ ‘Health and Safety’ he replied. ‘Really?’ I said.
He turned off the blower. ‘Well, you see if we left them, for instance on the steps down over here, they’d get very slippery and there could be an accident’. ‘That’s true’ I said. ‘But what about on the streets?’ ‘Same reason’ he replied. ‘The leaves will only compost if they’re placed in a bag in a dark place, otherwise they can get quite treacherous underfoot’.
Now that I thought about it, It all made perfect sense. Although, at the same time, I did wonder what used to happen back in ye olde days before leaf blowers and street cleaners. Perhaps leaves were never meant to fall on concrete.
He turned to me and continued: ‘This is Kensington and Chelsea Borough here – right?’ ‘No’ I replied, ‘It’s Westminster’. ‘Ah, well if it was Kensington and Chelsea the man with the wind blower would have been up and down this road three times already this morning, and there wouldn’t be a leaf in sight’. ‘Goodness!’ I exclaimed. ‘Why’s that?’ ‘It’s all to do with the people that live there – they just wouldn’t tolerate it’.
I looked at the TV I’d left out on the street a couple of days ago – only for it to reappear inside the gate to my home. I told the cleaner about it. ‘Are you on the council?’ he asked. ‘Um, no’ I replied. ‘Look, the thing to do is to put the TV next to that saltbox further down the street, it’ll be gone in a jiffy’. I wasn’t sure I believed him. ‘That’s what I thought would happen when I originally put it outside’. ‘I tell you what, when I’m finished here, I’ll move it for you’ he kindly added.
Hours after, popping outside with the rubbish I glanced down the street. The TV was nowhere to be seen.