The Paperboy

Early morning walk. A paperboy on a bike was, unintentionally, of course, kind of keeping pace with me. I wanted to ask him what the going rate was nowadays, but didn’t think that would make for an appropriate exchange, which is sad, although I would’ve been weirded out if someone had approached me as a lad and asked me how much they were paying. And walking at this hour, without a small bag of dog shit, is funny business to begin with. I’ll bet they get a fortune though.

Note: If from here it helps to picture Zac Efron as you read, go nuts. You’re in the right area.

I had a morning paper round from, I think, aged 13 to 16 or thereabouts. Monday to Saturday, three quid a week, Sundays off, bag provided. Great job. In Media, when you think about it. Should’ve made more of that.

Four years on the same route, the same time every day. I loved that route, was loyal to it and the folks along it. Green Lane to the Graveleythorpes and all the way up to the top. They never had a better boy.

Punctual, quiet and neatly I delivered their news, and on Thursdays their magazines too. No, never those ones. I put ‘GOTCHA!’ through letterboxes, Ripper updates too (and feared finding new news en route). I announced the death of Steve McQueen – there were tears in the newsagent’s eyes, something that impressed me, such outward expression in a man in Leeds 15.*

I didn’t read the papers. I read the houses and driveways, the hedges and gates; the scents and sense of sleep and waking in ordinary streets. From house to house I’d glide, standing on pedals, and carefully wake a neighbourhood: Mr Sandman’s opposite.

For one old lady a third into my round I became a beloved sunbeam. She stood at her upstairs front bedroom window and waved to me each morning as I (brace yourselves) slid her Guardian from my orange bag (I told you to brace yourselves, The Guardian had to be specially shipped over from Headingley). At Christmases her grown-up daughter invited me into the house, the old lady had summoned me to her bedside, where I stood in my parka and goalkeeper’s gloves while her grey hands busied in her purse and pressed a pound note upon me, telling me how much I brightened her day – the sight of me the thing she most looked forward to.

And while her day went downhill from there, mine continued up Woodland Road and onwards to lip-curling exchanges with the paper boy’s adversary – the milkman’s lads.


 * ‘My’ newsagent was the successor to Jack Batley and the spit of TV’s Bob Carolgees, whose dogs I once watched eat a squashed hedgehog on Hollyshaw Lane. (The newsagent’s, not Bob’s.) Good times.

© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012

About Stevie Mitchell

I come from a long line of cartoons and beer. I was once peed on by a tiger. Hoping the resultant super-powers are yet to come, cos if these are they, then, grrrr....
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8 Responses to The Paperboy

  1. John Hunter says:

    Yes – worked for Schofields and then Bennets on a similar route before getting promoted to the Christmas postal service. Ancedotes from the postal service I sent to Charles Bukowski which he used in his book Post Office. It’s TRUE.

  2. rsalmonuk says:

    Top post! I received £4.50 a week as a paper lad! Got 50p more than other lads for biking two miles to a posh place. On a Sunday the majority had Sunday Times. It made the bags sooooooooo heavy! T’other day I asked a Dad who told me his lad was a paper boy how much he got. I think it was about a £10 a week!!

  3. Sunday Boy says:

    I will not have these aspersions cast against the Sunday boys!! I had the posh route down from Neston to Parkgate on the Wirral (used to be LIverpool postcode, there’s been a rebellion and now the Chseshire set are in with their CH code). Every house seemed to take every broadsheet with all the associated supplements – I there were no trolleys in my day. At the start of the round I could barely balance the bag on the handlebars, you had to be careful not to develop some kind of harmonic oscillation going downhill (which, in the main, the route was). Worst of all, half way round the namby-pamby weekday route, I had to return to the shop and collect the other half of the papers that wouldn’t fit in the bag.

    And you try telling that to the kids today, they just won’t believe you……

  4. Will says:

    I was never a paper boy but I did spend one cold night every year delivering milk on the last delivery before Christmas. The milk lady needed an extra pair of hands to drop off all the extra orders and the extra hands she got were mine. I was a veteran of three years having started when I was roughly 14. The third year was a fateful one though – the eve of the delivery coincided with my rugby club Christmas party and being a lad of about 16 I was afforded a few snidy festive pints from the Dads. Several Christmas parties on, I am now fully capable of managing the festive pints myself but breaking my Christmas party virginity was slightly unpleasant in the end. As you can expect, the anticipation leading up to the event was high and the first few hours were fantastic. But then the festive pints got the better of me and I was taken home with one of my team-mates (whose father was probably feeling mild levels of guilt at this point for plying me with those festive pints) and proceeded to spend an awful lot of time praying to god through the big white microphone. At this point, my mother called to remind me of my vital milk-delivering duties. The whole community depended up my services for their Christmas teas! Being unexperienced in the effects of festive pints I thought I could still do the job but parents in their wisdom decided it was better I made my excuses at the 11th hour and found a substitute. Now, the pay was actually very good. Somewhere around the £40 mark which made for extremely useful pocket money to buy the presents nobody had the forsight to purchase and put under the tree. So, my unfortunate friend, who had not partaken in quite such indulgence was pretty much forced into taking my place (by his guilty father I’m sure!!!). Needless to say that I wasn’t asked to be the Christmas milk-boy ever again!

    • Blimey Will – that’s an action-packed tale! Thanks for sharing. Sadly, it counts as further data that the milkman boy’s lot was defined by chaos and surface glamour. All that glisters is not gold top (sorry, went a bit DP there!). Cheers!

  5. Pingback: Saturday Boy | Fisher Lane

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