One small, but significant pleasure in my life is reading local newspapers. I make sure to take in my Harborough Mail every Thursday. If I visit a town I always pick up a copy of the local paper to get a feel for the place and I have sometimes had the fancy to take out a subscription to a local paper from a randomly chosen town elsewhere in the country.
I sometimes think that we would all have a much saner – less anxious, less paranoid, more balanced – and happier view of life if our only news was local. We do, in a sense, as people say, live in a world where children – very occasionally – kill each other, where using Facebook leads to being murdered, where the mentally handicapped are harrassed to death by youths, but most of us, most of the time live in the world of “French market on way to town” “School gets a ‘satisfactory’ report”” “Host of pre-war cars on display” and “A love of animals inspires sisters” (to take a few headlines from this week’s Mail).
It is true that life in Harborough in less obviously dramatic than elsewhere in the country. When I lived in London I used to take the Hackney Gazette and with that you had to get through a few pages of ‘orrible murders before you got down to the real business of the guinea pig shows and the diamond weddings.
Another pleasure of reading a local paper is the soap opera aspect – I mean the way that the same characters crop up week after week until simple familiarity becomes part of the enjoyment. In the case of the Harborough Mail, for instance, you used to be able to rely on appearances from Inspector Mick Norman of the Harborough Police, Jean Bird of Harborough Animal Action and – of course – the mighty Johnno, who seemed to preside like some benign spiritus loci over the doings of the town.
This doesn’t seem to be quite as much the case as it used to be – Inspector Mick Norman, for instance, seems to have hung up his whistle and his successor seems to be more reticent about speaking to the press. I think some new characters are needed, some new blood.
One promising character, I think, is “Incensed Mum” who makes what I think is her first appearance on this week’s front page. She is clearly a woman of strong opinions about matters of local interest:
“An incensed mum has lambasted the state of cleanliness at Harborough Leisure Centre’s pool-side changing rooms … livid mum-of-three … said she reached her wit’s end last Friday … ‘It was such a disgusting sight … there was human hair everywhere, it was like a Yeti had been attacked. They were a disgrace … I feel very strongly about this … I’m now considering joining a gym in Northampton”.
If she can keep this level of ire up on a regular basis I look forward to hearing more from her in the future. Surely she could be asked for her opinion each week about some issue of day – what does she think about the French market (“overpriced!”) for instance, or the ‘satisfactory’ school report (“not good enough!”). It is crucial that she is always referred to in exactly the same way, of course. Concerned Mums are ten-a-penny, but an Incensed Mum is a quite different matter, and to be cherished.
The full story is here – Incensed Mum (she does look a little familiar, by the way – Rebekah Wade? Mary-Ann Sieghart? Jane Morris?)