What is large, almost weightless, highly inflammable and can be used to assassinate characters and dry soggy dogs?
When my friends go abroad (and so many seem to be doing so, quite often, which leaves me wondering…) and ask me what Id like them to bring back for me, can you possibly guess what I request? Not clothes since Im picky about what I wear and not toys because they inevitably break apart down here, but yes, a strange request by some standards, I tell them to bring back any English newspapers they can get their hands on.
My parents tell me that I have been reading newspapers from the age of three, which probably means that I spent my childhood more indoors than I should have.
Newspapers fascinate me, although quite often I don’t get the time to read them, and I end up without the political and sensational bits, since I carry them home from office roughly after the media monitoring team goes through them and before the cleaning woman ties them up to sell to the kiosk up the road, weighed by the kilo.
They tell me about a country, about the people of that country. They are a quick frozen intellectual snapshot of society at any particular time complete with the quirks, the hopes and the silly superstitious fears inherent, generously censored in some cases, and wildly exaggerated in others, newspapers will hold the (albeit biased) meaning of any peoples’ human day in one little tube of cheap newsprint and ink.
They cost much more than the nominal amount charged to buy one, and so have to be subsidized by the income from advertising. And yes, they advertise hoards of things. They also educate, inform, surprise, confirm and twist stories. They make you love, hate, laugh, cry or just shrug. They make you think. They also provide lunch wrapping, a meditation mat, sound proofing, a clean spot for a sudden home delivery and excellent drying material. You can wipe down damp pets, clean vomit and poop, wipe windows down with a dab of vinegar, wrap inconvenient corpses before disposing of them * apart from fill out crosswords and Sudoku and check your horoscope too. and if you need an apartment, a new job, a business partner or a suitable spouse, check the Sunday papers…
For me the strangest thing about Sri Lankan newspapers, are the matrimonials. So many excellent and upstanding young people all on one page, all teetotalers, non smokers with dazzlingly unblemished characters that one wonders where in the woodwork they are hiding. You just don’t see them around in real life. Divorcees are ALWAYS the innocent party and older wanna be spouses invariably look MUCH younger. They are rich, attractive and intelligent and would not dream of beating their wives. So where do all the realistic half human people disappear to? How about some honesty, how about being closer to the truth, at least in some respects and advertising like so:
" balding, downright mean looking but very conceited well connected 49 year old business man in fairly good health apart from mild episodes of piles, diabetes and liver trouble, with lots of lucre and a house in the hills, seeks ....
or "anorexic 38 year old acne prone virgin spinster with absolutely no sense of humour but good collection of jewellary who likes watching Hindi teledramas and sewing and strongly disapproves of sexual intercourse, seeks...."
Some time back the parents of a nubile and ostensibly very fortunate young lady of 25 , had advertised in the matrimonial column and (I seriously have no idea how this happened )given out my gmail address** for return correspondence. This resulted in my inbox being practically stuffed with hopeful enquiries from the most eligible available financially well endowed, handsome and downright eligible bachelors in the country,(sadly about ten years too young for me) such an unbelievable collection of decent and holier than thou teetotalers, non conners and do gooders, and such a concentration of sheer overpowering virginity (arrrk!) , that I was quite staggered. This was obviously where all the “good” men had gone; they certainly were not walking about in Colombo…honking, swearing and trying to run over innocent pedestrians and hoodwink their landladies, or sell their sisters, nah…that was different people….so for people who like reading fantasy, again, I do recommend Sri Lankan newspapers.
Still on the subject of how many things you can do with a newspaper, last but not least, how about making efficient gags, starting arson attacks and cutting out letters to paste in ransom notes. I mean, seriously since Im catering to all my readers here not just the decent ones. And im not finished yet, there are more ideas coming but since I have a deadline to meet in this paper, I shall stop for now…
* and now Im wondering, has a corpse ever actually been convenient ?
** all you nice people out there who sent in your sons’ horoscopes and really personal details to firstname.lastname@example.org, now you know what happened to that information. It’s safe with me.
next article: 24 things to do to a cat on a boring sunday afternoon.