The Worst Paperboy Ever


Nothing to do with teaching this one, but here you go.

It is a struggle to delve back and remember this but in another life I was the worst paper boy the world has ever known. I came to the job through a pal who, suddenly and mysteriously, appeared to have money in his pocket. I wanted some of that action. There were comics to be bought and sweets to be eaten. Money was required and whatever this friend was doing seemed to solve the problem.

For a year or so I did the weekday shift. Monday to Saturday. Before school, I’d take my bike and deliver a load of papers in an area of the town of which I had no awareness. Usually the letter boxes got the correct papers. Often, by the time I’d returned to shop where I’d collected them, there had been a phone call complaining and I would have to return, full of apology and a ‘Sun’ to replace ‘The Guardian’.

At that point in my life I had no concept of the difference, apart from the size.

When it became clear to both me and my employer that the hectic one hour a day workload was proving too much for me – and my last day coincided with me being knocked down by a car on the day the world heard that John Lennon had been murdered; a story for another time – I was moved to the Sunday shift. A much more leisurely gig, I had thought.

It would mean less money but less effort on my part and less commitment, especially during the school holidays when bed was like a cocoon I never wanted to leave.

What I didn’t account for was the size and weight of Sunday papers compared to their daily sisters. More people purchased Sundays – perhaps people had more time to read them – and my bag was huge and heavy. As a result, my route was longer. My delivery got longer and slower and many a time there were complaints when papers were arriving long after their previous paper boy would get them there. The last straw came when I stopped to sit for a moment on the stairs of one of the flats to which I was delivering. I was awoken by one of my customers about an hour later who had come out to look for me because he was worried. He’d phone the shop to enquire about his paper and both he and my ‘boss’ were concerned that I’d disappeared. I think that was my last day.

Anyway, back to the heart of the matter. At the time of the daily paper round, in my early teens, I was having a hiatus from supporting Partick Thistle and was Liverpool mad. I think it had started with the transfer of Kenny Dalglish; that and winning an awful lot of the time. But my room was covered in posters; every available space, including the ceiling, had something to do with Liverpool on it. They were very successful in Europe and had, to everyone’s amazement, been drawn to play Aberdeen in the European Cup. The whole country was talking about the game and tickets were like gold dust. ‘The Sun’ began a voucher scheme where you could be entered into a draw for an all expenses trip to the first leg at Anfield. The more vouchers you sent in, the more chance you had of winning, surely. You see where this is going, don’t you?

As a slightly wayward paper boy, beginning to resent the lack of salary incentives in the job, I saw an opportunity. It began with me buying a ‘Sun’ here and there. Even then that stuck in my craw a little bit, but needs must. Then it got a bit silly. I would ‘accidentally’ add another copy or two to my bag as I left on my round. Then it became four or five.

By the time the deadline came around I had about one hundred and fifty vouchers and whole load of cut up ‘politically suspect’ newspapers in my parents’ rubbish bin. it would be worth it. How could I fail to win? Who else would have put both their criminal and moral character on the line for a mere football game. I was a teenage criminal mastermind who was about to strike gold. I was already planning my trip and contemplating who would be my ‘Plus Guest’.

That I’d heard nothing as the game approached didn’t really bother me. I only had to know the day before really so what was the panic? Hindsight’s a funny old thing though. The day before the game, in a small corner of one page in the paper, it was revealed that someone from Liverpool had won. They lived about ten minutes from Anfield and wasn’t that a great story and a coincidence? It hadn’t occurred to me that that fine upstanding newspaper would ever do things unfairly. I was devastated. I recall reading that while wandering slowly and aimlessly across a busy road one October morning.

I would do that one more time, a couple of months later, while reading about John Lennon.


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