So many people. I’m out of breath watching them, it’s no wonder, for the most part, they look so joylessly, soul-sappingly knackered. Have I unwittingly walked onto the route of the Sydney Marathon?
Heading down from Bennelong Point and the iconic Sydney Opera House through the Royal Botanical Gardens that acts as a graceful viewpoint across Port Jackson to Mrs MacQuarie’s Point, I could be forgiven for thinking so. A notice at the entrance to the Gardens invites patrons to walk on the grass. I can see why now.
Tens, scores, hundreds of them, moving at varying speeds and directions, taking no prisoners, bullying and bouncing their way mercilessly across the Tarmac as innocent families, pensioners and dallying passers by all dive for cover. I look around for reassurance and conspicuous by their collective absence are the commentary by David Coleman and ‘Big’ Bren Foster, the bloke in the diving bell, the man in the rhino suit, Hazel Irvine’s gasping, rasping trackside interviews and Sir Jimm…
Err, well you get the idea with that one.

What I’d assumed to be a slight refuge from the congested hordes of sightseers on Circular Quay, seems to be an ill thought plan as these clueless boardwalk cloggers in turn are replaced by equal numbers of athletes, wannabee athletes and ne’erwillbe athletes (while not forgetting the most mercurial of all the fitness fanatics, the power walker). I have walked Central Park in New York, Hyde Park in London, The Warren, Elstow; all are known for their elegant, flora framed vistas and as hubs of amateur athleticism, but I have never felt as uncomfortably vanquished in my quest for a bit of ponderous peace as in Sydney.
The sweaty, self-important pavement plodders continue to swarm obnoxiously around and about. “Uuurghhanxmaate”, drawls one weighty, slightly tanned, grey vested individual. “No problem”, I pipe back with seething Fawlty acidity as, like Jonathon Trott letting one go harmlessly past the off-stump, I obligingly get him out of a messy three way pile up; “Enjoy!”

And that’s it.
For the most part, people don’t seem to be enjoying it at all. Yet still they keep coming.

For the men, there’s the pounders and the mincers. The tryers and the verge-of-cryers. The morons in the Man U shirts, the singlets, the headbands, the AFL boys, the white collar chaps in company sponsored running vests. The long, the short, the tall. The young and the old enough to know better.

While for the ladies, all manner of Lycra based stuff seems to dominate the scene usually accompanied by pumping, vulgar dance music on the iPods. There is, however, one delightful lass among the many would-be models who raises a smile, dashing past with the legend ‘Love Bare’ emblazoned across her running top.
Madam, if only you’d the time….

Now look, I’m not one for knocking people who take their fitness and exercise seriously. Clearly with my beer belly, wimpish demeanour and inability to throw a cricket ball properly, I could learn and a lot and gain a lot from such fiercely driven competitors.
And one day soon, I will. Promise. But there’s a time and a place, surely?
Sydney harbour in all its all encompassing finery, like a hoppy, foaming characterful pint of English ale is something to be savoured, not bolted. All I’d set out to do was have a dawdle among one of the most picturesque parts of this magnificent city. To take in its superlative sights, its quietly spoken history and its many walks of wildlife, while the harbour, the scene stealer in all this, brims with its usual buoyant busyness.

It’s not about all you joggers who go round and round and round….

We reflective dawdlers have a place here too you know.

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