When I was a kid I had several paper rounds, the meanest of which was an epic, starting at Cottrell Road and extending all around Roath and Cathays. I carried three heavy bags, slung like quivers across my shoulders, with one sat centrally on my back. It was a Sunday round, so the papers were thick with supplements; The Times Sunday magazine, Thick sporting addendums, flyers for furniture you’re unlikely to buy from English villages that you’d never heard of. On my Raleigh Sprint, it was bloody hard work. All those memories came flooding back to me yesterday as I cycled through Blackweir and the air was thick with the scent of freshly wet foliage and dampened tarmac. This was back in 1984, when ‘Come on Eileen’ and ‘A town called Malice’ were in the pop charts and ‘Bladerunner’ graced the silver screen. It’s funny how sights and smells can invoke long forgotten memories.
This got me to thinking about the value of the paper round and its relative unavailability in our internet age; was my paper round a form of slave labour? £3 for the round seemed like great pay at the time, but the round took almost 2 hours and the bags were so heavy that it was difficult to cycle (I can’t imagine many adults wanting to do it). Or was it a valuable experience that helped my fitness, installed a work ethic and made me self-reliant? I tend to think the latter, but I’m not sure how I’d feel if Evelyn wanted to attempt the same paper round in 7 years time (such are the double standards in parental behaviour). These days your news options are greatly improved. Receive the latest copy via Kindle. Tune in to umpteen flavours and 24 hour reporting on DAB or digital TV. Get it from the web. I guess the paper round will eventually go the way of the dodo, but for today’s youngsters, what replaces that sterling work experience and early morning exercise?