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