Sunday Papers & Breakfast Herrings
Many Labour of Love participants started their working lives as a Paperboy or Papergirl. Some recall the weather, the people on their rounds, the weight of the Sunday Papers and other more secretive activities.
‘My first job was a Papergirl, just on foot, for the local shop. I did the evening papers after school but I used to love doing the morning papers. I must be a morning person. I have really strong memories of lovely sunny mornings doing the papers. The evening papers must have been when I was thirteen or fourteen because I remember doing a bit of courting on the side. I used to deliver to these flats and there were stairs in the flats and I can remember doing a bit of illicit courting at the same time as doing the papers. I wasn’t happy with the Sunday round because around 1965 they were just starting to put magazines in and they were so heavy. I used to get paid about five shillings for doing the Sunday papers.’
One chap, who popped into the shed yesterday, told me about his companion on the paper round.
‘I did the evening round, so it was far more pleasing than the 6 o’ clock morning round – pretty good really. The cat, Ziggy, used to come with me. She’d trot along after me or go in the paper bag. Most of my round included an elderly people’s home, really easy, it was warm and the cat would come in with me. Very strange cat.’
I was going to write about the Pure-Finders of the 1850s but instead, as it’s Sunday, here is a great description of the Sunday Morning Markets in Mayhews London Labour & the London Poor.
Of all these Sunday-morning markets, the Brill, perhaps, furnishes the busiest scene; so that it may be taken as a type of the whole.
The streets in the neighbourhood are quiet and empty. The shops are closed with their different-coloured shutters, and the people round about are dressed in the shiny cloth of the holiday suit. There are no ‘cabs,’ and but few omnibuses to disturb the rest, and men walk in the road as safely as on the footpath.
As you enter the Brill the market sounds are scarcely heard. But at each step the low hum grows gradually into the noisy shouting, until at last the different cries become distinct, and the hubbub, din, and confusion of a thousand voices bellowing at once again fill the air. The road and footpath are crowded, as on the over-night; the men are standing in groups, smoking and talking; whilst the women run to and fro, some with the white round turnips showing out of their filled aprons, others with cabbages under their arms, and a piece of red meat dangling from their hands. Only a few of the shops arc closed; but the butcher’s and the coal-shed are filled with customers, and from the door of the shut-up baker’s, the women come streaming forth with bags of flour in their hands, while men sally from the halfpenny barber’s smoothing their clean-shaven chins. Walnuts, blacking, apples, onions, braces, combs, turnips, herrings, pons, and corn-plaster, are all bellowed out at the same time. Labourers and mechanics, still unshorn and undressed, hang about with their hands in their pockets, some with their pet terriers under their arms. The pavement is green with the refuse leaves of vegetables, and round a cabbage-barrow the women stand turning over the bunches, as the man shouts, ‘Where you like, only a penny.’ Boys are running home with the breakfast herring held in a piece of paper, and the side-pocket of the appleman’s stuff coat hangs down with the weight of the halfpence stored within it.
Presently the tolling of the neighbouring church bells breaks forth. Then the bustle doubles itself, the cries grow louder, the confusion greater. Women run about and push their way through the throng, scolding the saunterers, for in half an hour the market will close. In a little time the butcher puts up his shutters, and leaves the door still open; the policemen in their clean gloves come round and drive the street-sellers before them, and as the clock strikes eleven the market finishes, and the Sunday’s rest begins.