and finally...

Hurray, a newspaper comes to the rescue!

Chris Proctor stops guarding toilet rolls to read the Standard M

y partner Amanda rushes into the

kitchen, an expression on her face like she’s copped for the lottery

jackpot, put the money on a virtual casino, and cleaned up. If glee was glue she’d be stuck to the floor. In her shaking hand is a newspaper. It is the Evening Standard. Abandoning my toilet roll security

duties, I rush to her, imagining strains of Cole Porter emitting from the scullery; cheek to cheek we shuffle around the printed paper, gazing at it as if it were the image of a newborn child on Facebook. At that sort of distance, even I find tiny babies appealing. The Evening Standard has been

delivered to our door to keep up its readership because people aren’t picking it up at its usual distribution points. Yes, the Standard - despite its editor being George Osborne - is one of the most beautiful things I’ve touched since my last draught stout. The fact is, that once I was

voluntarily banged up, I stopped the newspapers and ceased to pay attention to the news. This, I felt, was a logical response. Everything in the newspapers was bad news; I dislike bad news; so I decided to cut off its method of entry. Others might suggest this is a less than mature approach. It’s like watching general election results from behind the sofa. I do that too. I can’t be doing with incessant

misery. Supporting Everton is bad enough. So, I decided to avoid the news websites, radio broadcasts and written publications. At first, I continued to

listen to the BBC World Service but just as I was settling into accounts of modern dance trends in Taiwan or Sengalese butterfly fanciers, they suddenly cut it off and infested the airwaves with a Coronavirus Special. This caused leaping from the bath, soaking the bathroom and being handed the mop. This Evening Standard was the first actual, physical, real, blessed newspaper that I had beheld for several months. (Six days for the pedants). I virtually hugged it. I perused every letter of every syllable of every word on every page apart from those with virus reports. You realise that papers aren’t simply a method of conveying news. They are part of our culture. To one degree or another, they are our entertainment, source of information, our eye on the world and a form of diversion. They offer a glimpse of normality in these housebound times. I have even, initially reluctantly and

now I find addictively, taken to trying to fill in crosswords. They’re not the ludicrous cryptic ones which to me are akin to some form of masonic rite, they are incomprehensible and inexplicable: puzzles that are like condensed versions of Finnegans Wake, full of arbitrary words and empty of obvious reason. I’ve even tried doing them with the answers in front of me and I still have no idea what’s happening. I have no time for them. I like ones with clues like ‘Animal. Barks. (3)’. They are good for the ego and keep up the spirits. And there’s the horoscopes, which I previously ignored as nonsense.

22 | theJournalist

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I can’t be doing with incessant misery. Supporting Everton is bad enough.

Familiarity with them has changed my view. I now entirely believe a good proportion of them: the ones that say everything’s going to be fine. The miserable ones I continue to view with scepticism. They rival political manifestos in their first-rate lack of precision. Recently they’ve been mentioning that ‘change is inevitable’ and ‘plans may need rethinking’. They stress that ‘you’re unclear what’s next’. I have been advised to ‘act swiftly and with courage.’ I’m pondering how to do this effectively from my front room. But I’m pleased someone cares about me, even if it is an astrologer called Shelley Von Strunckel. As I avoid the news, I’ve been taking more interest in the advertising. Most of the adverts these days are from banks who I presume are trying to get in with us before they ask us for money to bale them out. Towards the back comes the pinnacle of our profession: the sports pages. I positively marvel how it is possible to report on sport when there isn’t any taking place. But the lack of competition hinders our sport scribblers not one jot. Here’s a bit of old sport, they say; or a rumour to enjoy and hopefully forget before things return to normal. The union fights to retain print editions not from some sense of nostalgia or hankering back to the ‘good old days’ of the industry, but because print offers something different from mere on-line scanning. And even now, when I don’t want to know what’s happening, print is an indispensable part of my life.

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