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This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner

How strange it is that in a city the size of Melbourne it is possible for two people who have lived almost as sister and brother for five years as students to move away from each other without even saying goodbye, to conduct the ordinary business of their lives within a couple of miles of each other’s daily rounds, and yet never to cross each other’s paths. To marry, to have children; to fail at one thing and to take up another, to drink and dance in public places, to buy food in supermarkets and petrol at service stations, to read of the same murders in the same newspapers, to shiver in the same cold mornings, and yet never to bump into each other. Eighteen, twenty years may pass! How strange!

Does "to conduct the ordinary business of their lives" mean "to work in a job that they can live on it"?

Does the whole sentence in bold mean "to work in a job that they can live on it and their workplaces were not very far from of their house"

Does "daily round" mean "usual activities that they did around their house"?

Can we say "ordinary business of their live" means "usual activities of their lives"? But in this case it somehow means the same as "daily round".

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You are correct, ordinary business of their lives means "usual activities of their lives." Business is not restricted to job here. It means, literally, the things that keep you busy or occupied, or the things that concern you, as in the phrase mind your own business. Garner specifies the sorts of things she means:

To marry, to have children; to fail at one thing and to take up another, to drink and dance in public places, to buy food in supermarkets and petrol at service stations, to read of the same murders in the same newspapers, to shiver in the same cold mornings ...

Daily round refers to the places they would ordinarily visit in the course of that ordinary business. So if I drop my children off at school, commute to work, go to the grocery store or the post office, walk down to the park, etc. as part of my routine, then those places are all part of my daily round. If I said "I go to work every day," it would be very literal-minded to take that as including Saturday and Sunday; similarly, daily is not to be interpreted literally as every day here. It simply means "as part of the usual activities of their lives."

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To "conduct the ordinary business of one's life" means to do the ordinary things that one does every day (or almost every day): going to work, return home after work, buying food, possibly walking the dog, etcetera. The text assumes that people habitually follow roughly the same route to work and back, go to the same few shops on a regular basis, etcetera, basically visiting the sample places every day. This what "daily rounds" refers to on a literal level. To "conduct the ordinary business of one's life" does not mean work, but for people who have finished university it is likely that work is part their daily routine.

It is possible for people to live within a few miles' distance from each other without meeting each other on their "daily rounds", possibly because these routes don't overlap geographically or because they simply use the same routes at different times of the day. This is also expressed by the phrase "never to cross each other’s paths".

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  • Lots of thanks, so can we say "the distance between places they went everyday was less than a couple of miles? or "the distance between their houses was less than a couple of miles? – Viser Hashemi Mar 23 at 18:40
  • @ViserHashemi Strictly speaking, we don't know the distance between their houses, but since their daily rounds are not more than a few miles' distance from each other, their houses are probably also just a few miles apart. "A few" is a very vague measure: is it just two miles? Five miles? That would be hard to say. – Tsundoku Mar 23 at 18:59

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