Belatedly joining the multitude of blog entries about grit - not least because this was the day the three bins on our bit of hillside were at last filled up, and (not to be outdone by Jon Rogers and Chris Hutt's efforts in Clifton), we promptly raided one to spread over the well-tramped, compacted snow steps.
Just as when clearing litter from paths, some passers-by ignore you completely; some thank you effusively; and others seem a bit perplexed that anyone could be doing such a thing without payment - though they too are appreciative.
Since it's unrealistic - impossible, even - to expect 'them', i.e. the council, to clear all the paths, it's not going to get done without a bit of local effort. Really, this work should be recognised in some way. But it's the kind of effort - like so many bits of unpaid voluntary work - that doesn't lend itself to the traditional employer/employee system, or to negotiated pay-per-job. So no money changes hands. The council plays a key part by distributing the grit in the first place (if you're lucky), or, for organised litter-picks, by providing protective gear and a collection service.
I wonder whether LETS - a Local Exchange and Trading System - has some role to play here, with the council (or conceivably a Neighbourhood Partnership) as one of the parties to a 'trade'. Possibly it could be with the individual volunteer, but more likely with a group such as a local club or society. Payment might be in a local currency, or in units of time, or in direct provision of services.
It's the sort of thing that could thrive in a well developed local economy, as skills and resources are shared more freely - and all the more so if there are harsh cutbacks that the party leaders are promising.