Spring may have been put on hold for the moment, with the wind getting spiteful from the north-east and great, grey, grumpy clouds playing dodgems on the horizon. Hail may be rattling off the slates like shrapnel, but I don't mind, because light has returned to the world. The landmark day when the streetlights turn off as I wait in the cold has been and gone; the desperate, dark mornings quickly left behind. The paperboy, who I watch zipping along the pavement each morning on his slightly-too-small bicycle now rides with his light off, though he has yet to reveal himself by pulling his hood down--I suspect he never will do anything so sartorially risky.
I also suspect he may be an endangered species. In the age of digital everything (including this blog), paper routes as a source of income for the young must surely be under threat. Do teenagers mow lawns any more, I wonder? I had a short career as a gardener when I was teenager, mowing the lawn for an older gentleman who lived in what Americans are trained to call mobile homes (the word 'trailer' having become a pejorative--or something you watch before the main film at the cinema). His lawn was the size of a dozen handkerchiefs sewn together and I was given one of those old manual push mowers to cut the grass, and a pair of scissors to trim the edges. My employer looked like a cross between Colonel Sanders and Homer Simpson. He lived alone and had no thumbs--something to do with air plane propellers, I seem to remember. Homer Simpson comes to mind, not just because of the lack of digits (though Homer does have the material advantage of thumbs), but because my employer was usually dressed in only a t-shirt and y-fronts when I knocked on the screen door each week to collect my $2. I do not recall being unduly disturbed by this at the time, as I assumed it had something to do with his missing thumbs-- buttons must be tiring, I reasoned. I don't think I ever mentioned this eccentricity to my parents; nevertheless, I didn't work for him for very long. Babysitting paid better and the only people in their underpants were four year olds.
Now of course, he would probably live in sheltered accommodation. That's where I see the paper boy delivering each morning--to the sheltered accommodation by the bus stop. All through the winter there was another regular--a district nurse who would arrive, ring the buzzer and wait to be admitted. One morning she pushed the intercom and announced herself: 'Hi, it's me--come to give Mr Campbell his injection.' Instead of the usual buzz and click of the door unlocking there was a pause. Eventually a voice said, 'He's gone.'
'What do you mean?' asked the district nurse.
'You don't need to bother, hen,' the voice replied. 'He's dead.'
'But he was fine yesterday,' the nurse protested.
'Aye, well he's dead the now.' Pause. 'You can come and look at him if you want.' Pause. 'But he's still dead.'
Spring did not come soon enough for Mr Campbell.