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Monday, 26 November 2012

#21: Power to the Paperboy

My first foray into the working world was bagging a paper round (/route) in the winter (October-ish) of 1987. I was 14, so in what was then the 4th year (now Year 10) of high school.

It was time to assume some financial responsibility, and stop scrounging fivers off my parents to buy tooth-rotting sweets and computer games I’d get bored with after five minutes.

My parents were always very supportive, and suggested becoming a paperboy as my next move in the Chess Game of Life. They succinctly and eloquently summarized their idea with a positive call-to-action: “Earn your own bloody money, you lazy, good-for-nothing *^&!#$%! Or words to that effect.

This was also my first taste of rising before the crack of dawn – anything to avoid the wrath of Dawn’s whip – in fact, while the stars of Twilight were still doing their thirst-quenching rounds of neck-sucking (well, if they’d actually been born then). So it instilled some good discipline in me.

I’d set the alarm for 6:30am, then slap the snooze button three times, before hauling my butt out of bed around 0645. Then throw on some clothes (it was often clear I’d dressed in the dark) and tiptoe out of the house in darkness, to make it to the newsagent for 7. We lived in a cottage (Spring Cottage to its friends) in a hamlet called Quarhouse (not a cigar) above the village of Brimscombe, near Stroud, in Gloucestershire, England.

I had to negotiate four portions of country lane, to make it down to the main road, and was often spooked by shadows – usually my own – as I crunched through the gravel, then roughened tarmac in darkness to reach my destination; where I’d find my bag of papers waiting for me (numbered to distinguish between routes).

My first route was close to home – so the transition from lazy bum to working teen would be smoother – and took me along Bourne Lane, a quaint country road with houses spread far and wide… and not always offering much in the way of light. I did my best not to wake up house-owners as I delivered (the newsagent had stressed this was a job requirement), but wasn’t always successful.

On the odd occasion, a keen gardener would leave out an errant trowel or mislay a rake – and I’d accidentally kick it (the trowel) into the greenhouse as I jogged down the steps, or smack myself in the face with the rake handle/pole… cursing the pain away. “Sorry about that!”, I’d cry. Though not too loudly, so as to wake anyone else. Because obviously they'd slept through the sound of the greenhouse shattering.

I took the job, having been inspired by the arcade game Paperboy...

To read the rest of this column, check out BC Johnny's upcoming book: Chilled Almonds. 


Phillip Dickens said...

No way. I was at the News Agents for 6:05am for my paper round.

You kids are soft in Leics.

Nancy T said...

I like the mixture of humour with a little bit of refectiveness in this post. I'm sure the family felt the "pain" (financial) when their greenhouse "pane" was shattered but was double entendre intentional?

I could relate to this post since I was a papergirl (Globe and Mail) for a brief time when I was 15. I started at 5:15 a.m. though--The Globe was supposed to be delivered by 6. That was the start of my being an early morning person. I only kept the route for four months, though; quit immediately following the Christmas tip season. What I liked the most was quiet snowy mornings when I felt like I was the only person awake in the neighbourhood.
I had no problems with dogs, but I only realized when I was older that I was lucky to have escaped from the bread delivery man who tried to lure me into his truck by offering me cold leftover pizza.

Nancy T said...

Love breakyoging. I have to save that in my WordNerds dictionary.

BC Johnny said...

The late start was so we didn't wake up the Royals, Phil (Prince/Princess Michael of Kent lived right behind us, while Charles & Di were just across the valley). A local Glos bylaw was passed prohibiting the smashing of greenhouses with trowels before 0700. Nancy, the double-entendre wasn't planned, no! And 0515 trumps both of us! Very impressive. Thanks for sharing your story. I hope the bread delivery man was later 'toasted' in a karmic comeuppance kind of way. P.S. I think I really nailed HC#22: Twas the Night Before Xmas (written in 4 hrs last night) -- up there with FRWL, I think! :o)