Mornings, evenings and Sunday mornings, I'd drag myself round to the newsagent and wait for my bag to be filled before heading out in the (usually) cold night air and try and complete it in record time so I could rush back for the last five minutes of Grange Hill or any other favourite of the moment.
A couple of years earlier I had been 'encouraged' to go out and earn my own pocket money. A boy up the road was a paper boy so he put in a good word with the local newsagent who always had a fleet of willing yet temporary minimum wage slaves.
I hated it really, especially in winter. It meant the moment I got home from school I was off out again. I had a really long route with a huge hi-viz orange bag full of Southern Evening Echos. On certain days it was heavier due to the Radio or TV Times being out that day, and other hot days like when Woman or Woman's Own were on sale.
I'd try and save time by cycling right up onto the doorstep. I got to know all the various letterbox configurations and with much corner-cutting I could do it in about an hour. I now know that what I s hould have done was start at the end and work backwards, which would have taken me all the way to my doorstep, but my brain didn't think that way in those days.
I had various schoolfriends' houses on my route, and sometimes I'd stop for a brief chat or a cup of tea, but usually I just wanted to get it done. I recall a girl who it was later revealed suffered from anorexia, gave me a try of a brand new chocolate bar, as she'd promised. Not just a bite but a whole one. Clearly she didn't want to eat it herself.
Mornings I remember being much brighter. Quiet and warm, with a bag full of Daily Mails and Daily Telegraphs, the odd express and only one Daily Mirror. Some of the magazines were intriguing: Fur & Feather, Cosmopolitan (for racy Sue at No.2), Farmer's Weekly (and the nearest farm was...), Motor (the house with the Cortina on bricks). Sundays were even quieter, but my God the bag was heavy. And this was in the days before the trillions of supplements you get today.
The newsagent himself was a small, rather camp man my Dad likened to a Dick Emery character. He liked a chat and we'd all be sitting in the back waiting for the papers to come while he'd bang on about buying his daughter a training bra while chain smoking a king-size Regal. His main helper was Joan, a Sixtyish woman with dyed red-hair, who wore one of those blue nylon housecoat things and had a nice line in customer chit-chat (example: 'They said she'd be gone by Christmas but of course she's still here and she'll probably still be here next Christmas').
I liked the atmopshere and it was quite good money. Three quid a week plus Christmas tips. That was the time of year you'd hover longer on the doorstep so the householder would realise you were there and rush out with a small envelope of cash, often a £1 note, more likely 50p. But I wasn't complaining, even though at weekends it cut right into my day.
In the autumn of 1980 I was thrilled to be able to give it all up as we were moving to the other side of town and besides, I 'needed to concentrate on my O levels'). Just weeks later, reading the evening paper I notice that the newsagent had been arrested for cottaging in a neighbouring village. He'd said it was a case of 'idle hands'. I bet it was. It was a local scandal and the shop shut immediately. In fact, it never reopened. It's a solicitor's now. The newsagent's marriage ended but I hear he apparently married an old flame years later. Curious indeed.
When I think back to those paper round years I must have been incredibly fit. I cycled miles. No wonder I was so thin. My trousers were indeed baggy.
This song reminds me of the all the kids milling round outside the newsagent, usually on the wane by the time I got back round there. Someone once slashed my bike seat and there was an awful lot of shoplifting going on. Bloody kids.