If you want a paper you've got to get it yourself. You're supposed to grab one as you rush for the tube in the morning, having had no breakfast, and attempt to read it jammed in the train with hundreds of others, the paper flopped over someone's head.
Well not everybody lives like that. I like to have breakfast, then go out. And breakfast includes a newspaper. A crisp, new Independent lying on the mat, before I have a shower. Before I put the kettle on. It doesn't seem much to ask for does it? Some people take it for granted. I don't.
I was even prepared to pay extra for the privilege. So I asked in the newsagents' round the corner. They stared at me in disbelief. Deliver newspapers? Round here? You must be joking. I explained that I wasn't joking and they explained that nobody would pay their bills.
Then I tried the Asian-run supermarket in the railway arches. I asked Mr Aktar if he could deliver the Independent seven days a week. 'No, sir, we don't do any delivery.'
'But I only live at that house at the end there.'
He thought for a moment. 'All right, sir, no problem.'
'You'll do it?'
He rocked his head. 'No problem.'
'Oh . . . er . . . right. Thanks.'
But next day - no paper. I whizzed down on my bike to remind him and he gave me a paper on credit. So at least I'd now established some sort of basic contractual arrangement.
'Tomorrow I'll remember,' he said.
He didn't, but the day after that I heard all the bells to all the flats in the building being rung. I went to the front door. It was Chubb-locked and I couldn't lay my hands on the key just then. So I spoke through the letter box. There was a geezer outside looking slightly the worse for wear. In a cracked but gentle voice he said: 'I've got the Independent here. Which one is it wants it?'
'Er . . . me . . . could you just put it through the door?'
'No, I don't think I can do that unless you pay for it first.'
'But I want to pay a bill weekly, not daily.'
'You'll have to see him about that.' I ended up rolling a coin down the rolled-up paper while he clung on to it. Then he let go. At last, a paper delivered. Luxury] The next day he delivered it without demanding cash. And the day after that. I watched him totter down the road with a can of beer in his hand. I wondered whether he had anything else to do. At the end of the week, I paid my bill.
'Everything all right, sir?' beamed Mr Aktar. Great, I told him. And so it has gone on for months: every day, one man with one newspaper for one house. I feel quite spoilt. All the other people round here have to get their own papers, which means getting dressed first. Not me, though. I can read about Maastricht in my underpants.
Mr Aktar doesn't charge for delivery. I pointed this out to him. He suggested that I could give the delivery man something at Christmas if I liked. 'But he says he might not be alive at Christmas,' I said.
'Well, if he's not alive at Christmas you won't have to give him anything, will you?' Mr Aktar replied.
'But doesn't he get paid for delivering?'
'Relax. I give him a cigarette.' One fag]
My wife, who is a hard woman, agrees with Mr Aktar's logic: 'It's his business. Let him make his own arrangements.' So I do. But I think I'll give my delivery man a can of beer every now and then. I'd hate it if he stopped coming.Reuse content