The Greatest Newspaper On Earth? (OK, So Probably Not. I just Liked The Title.)

I’ve never really been an obsessive, favourite ‘paper kind of person. From what I know of the world, I’ve learned that that kind of thing doesn’t happen until you reach a certain age where you can’t leave the bed without wearing slippers, your hair goes very grey, you start obsessing over old repeats of the X Files and the government finally get to you. But I could be mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, though – if I could only pick one single newspaper to take to a desert island with me, it wouldn’t be the Daily Mail. The Guardian would win that battle every time – mainly because it has much less bright and colourful pictures of Jedward than the other ‘papers, and I despise the pair of ’em. Those are the very last 2 people I’d want to be reminded of while being hopelessly marooned (although I could be wrong there and my plan might backfire. Burning pictures of celebrities could create some colourful and vibrant flames, which would be both a) a welcome substitute for masses of helpful psychedelic drugs or b) a good distraction from the impending doom of drought, hunger and going totally mad while longing for a pair of ice-skates or a basketball like lucky Tom Hanks found in Castaway).

High drama

Heading down to Cornwall 10 days ago I had no idea I was about to stumble upon a brand-new paper I’d never so much as heard of…a paper which would prove to be something of an enigma and source of real entertainment…a paper with content so riveting that even the tedious parts of it were so intriguing that we just couldn’t take our eyes off it.

I’d first glimpsed the Cornish Guardian on the first evening we arrived in Par. It was sitting there unassumingly in the corner of the newsagent’s with some suitably Cornish-style headline, and for some reason I didn’t buy it. I can’t remember what the headline was but I’m certain it involved fishermen somewhere along the line, being all friendly and bearded and stereotypical, as we know they always are.

The first morning in Par, I woke up and went back down there, hoping to find a similarly enchanting newspaper waiting for me. But what I found was a dire shock – this headline was different: it seemed to have been hijacked by some sinister Daily Mail reporter…and it read Sex abuser ‘to face jail term.’ in big bold letters. Luckily, just underneath this there was another story which read Calls to reconsider incinerator to be ignored. That was much more like it. OK, so it wasn’t about the phenomenon of Cornish fudge, which was what I was hoping for, but it certainly evened things up a bit. I have always thought of Cornwall as mysterious and intriguing, so this thing about the incinerator fitted the bill perfectly and did the region proud. I wanted to know more, and that’s a sentence about incinerators that I don’t write every day.

For one reason or another – which is a polite way of saying “I can’t be arsed to explain all of what we did that first day, but it was lovely and the company I was with was great and it couldn’t have been better” – I didn’t look again at the Cornish Guardian, or even open it, until later that night. It was very early in the morning and we couldn’t sleep, so out it came. My thinking: it would bore us to tears. Within moments, we’d both be out cold.

We weren’t expecting much – my girlfriend and I were both knackered and a late-night/early-morning traipse through the local Guardian was more of a joke than anything. Neither of us expected to find anything actually of interest. But how wrong we were! On so many levels…

The first sign of promising things to come, or at least something more than a total waste of time and a small amount of money, came on page 3 — don’t jump to any conclusions about Cornish babes, now — with the matter-of-fact headline Raw sewage in high street. Firstly, tired and feeling high on life, the journalist who’d written the piece seemed to have a highly amusing name — she was called Charlotte Lowe, which, at 3am, sounded a lot like Loo and was mildly amusing (sorry Charlotte, what can I say, we were tired and everything seemed funny. If it makes it any better, believe me: I know how it feels to have a name children love to mock…). Secondly, next to the story which we were yet to read was a photo of a woman holding her hand over her mouth in a ooo-[pause]-stinks-like-shiiiiit! fashion, standing next to the offending drain at the side of a road. And it got better. Below the picture was the brash caption SEWAGE STENCH. We knew at this moment that the Cornish Guardian was not about to hold back. If they could turn a seemingly mundane sewage-related story into a thing of great intrigue, we had to ask ourselves: what could they do with a big news story?

Turning over the page, we weren’t prepared or ready for the quality of endless mundane stories which were to come – mundane clearly being something which the Cornish Guardian was an expert at covering (which was a good thing, as it was now clear that this was the only thing it was covering). Page 4 brought the news Jeff’s five-month fight to empty bins still not won, and talked excitedly about a small-business owner battling the local authorities in a domestic Lord of The Rings style affair. Dull as it was, there was something about the way the newspaper put these stories together which was totally fascinating. This one had a photo of Jeff Oliver standing next to an unmistakably full bin with the amusing caption RUBBISH SERVICE. Reading that, it was impossible not to imagine the Cornish Guardian journalists all eating fish and combing their beards while patting each other on the back and talking in a language that even the Cornish locals of far and wide would be hard-pressed to understand.

Moving on to the next few pages, I wish I could say this theme of riveting mundane news continued, but alas it wasn’t to be. It turned out there was an end to it. By the time we reached page 9 we were both fearing the worst: that all there was from here on out was the typical sad stuff that you’d find in other papers. Oh, Cornwall, why did you have to do it?

But page 10 more than made up for the lacklustre intermission! Just at the time when we thought it was all over came a story entitled ‘Wicked’ launderette of the west causes a spin.

Hold on for this one.

The first thing that caught our eye with this story was the picture, which showed a young blonde woman in flip-flops sat on some launderette-style washing machines, leaning towards camera, kissing a massive blow-up frog. Reading the article out-loud, the Cornish Guardian really came into its own, describing a revamped Mevagissey launderette called, ingeniously, Granny Boswell’s Wash House. Not just any launderette, oh no! Cast that thought from your mind right now. This was a launderette which had attracted nothing but controversy from residents ever since it opened…a launderette with sinister under-tones, not to mention Sky TV, as well as a mysterious thing baffling the locals which went by the name of Wi-fi. Along with spiders, toads, and a full-sized witch with broomstick.

At the start of the article, it seemed like a joke. This was just the Cornish Guardian having a laugh, we thought – the sinister under-tones were probably just a ploy to make readers smile while reading in the shop and not go and by the Daily Sport or rent one of the newsagent’s DVDs, which were surprisingly good. Once further in, though, it seemed obvious that we had underestimated Cornwall’s strange, curious appetite for the macabre and the bizarre…soon, it was becoming clear that a man by the name of Carl Harris was at the core of the controversy. Controversy which nobody was laughing at – apart from presumably us, Carl, the launderette staff and all the readers of the ‘paper.

The story went like this: Carl had recently refurbished the launderette, in a bid to modernise it so people actually wanted to wash and dry their clothes within it, thus turning a profit. A sound reason to refurbish, you’d think. Carl clearly wasn’t thick as pigshit. But the way Carl had gone about this had been anything but sound, according to a legion of angry residents…no sooner had Carl hoisted the menacing witch-with-broomstick up for all to see than the letters of complaints had come flooded in. One, which was penned by a group of naysaying local residents who must surely have accidentally consumed fish poisoned with massive amounts of whisky, said how they accused him of “conjuring dark forces in the guise of a pathetic Disneyland launderette.” The contrast of funny and weird in that sentence alone kept us laughing and joking for about 15 minutes, but it was merely the backdrop of humour/ultra-serious-vendetta to what came next.

No criminal is safe!

What came next? A mesmerizing piece of Cornish journalism. It turned out that originally, Carl Harris had wanted to turn the building into a series of holiday apartments, but that a series of supernatural and seemingly inexplicable events – including a drill moving and doors opening and closing on their own accord – had made him change his mind. Carl’s first decision following the events was to hire a paranormal investigator, which he swiftly did. And what the investigator found was troubling: that the old launderette was and had been home to spirits, including a malevolent one by the name of Anne Boswell — also known as Granny Boswell. Anyone else would have sold-up to people without a clue about the hauntings and got the hell out of there and bought somewhere less haunted, surely. But not this Carl Harris – he decided to make fun of the spirits and turn their home into a place where they’d never get a wink of sleep, as well as name the place after the evil demon, in a bid to make friends. You had to hand it to Carl: when it came to facing up to dark forces, he really did so with style and flair. If I could drink alcohol without instantly poisoning myself, Carl might be the first person I’d have a drink with. Next to Granny Boswell in a séance — I’d love to get her take on this.

About the launch, launderette assistant Alice Rouvrais said “Rituals over the laundry and crucifixions out the back will not be happening.”

You have to love the Cornish Guardian.

If we thought we’d had a laugh already, turning over to page 12 changed things forever. This section of the paper was called Around the courts – otherwise known as The victimization of local people engaged in petty crime.

The first person to fall under the paper’s mighty sword was a butcher who’d been banned for driving. I’m not sure what the significance of him being a butcher and drunk is, really – do butchers generally drink and drive more than, say, fishmongers? – but the piece made him out to be a real villain. A man easily on-par with the crimes of another now-infamous local man, who appeared in the next story: Solicitor drove into motorbike. A story about a solicitor who drove into a motorbike, causing a series of Stephen-King-esque harrowing consequences. You can’t say they don’t do diversity.

Next up, without meaning to sound completely sarcastic, we had Magistrate warns man – surely…a magistrate doing exactly what he was employed to do, no? – and Absolute discharge, a story which we didn’t read, but assumed might have something to do with an incontinent or terrified horse on a local country road. By now we were firmly in the Cornish Guardian‘s ruthless grasp.

There were too many other stories to talk about, but some of which were Switched price tags – a tale of a clever unemployed youth showing real common-sense and enterprise, switching goods worth £11.96 for goods actually worth just £5 – and Drunk and disorderly, in which a 16-year-old boy was said to have acted like a very naughty boy. The actual article went like this: REGRET was expressed by a 16-year-old boy from the St. Austell [the next big town 4-miles from where we were] area who admitted being drunk and disorderly when he appeared before Bodmin Youth Court on Monday. “I regret everything about it,” the poor young bastard told the court. The only thing missing from the story was a comprehensive account of what happened when the boy arrived home, where he was swiftly put over his mother’s knee and spanked quite hard (and then made to eat fish?).

I wasn’t going to list the other crimes, but now I can’t resist it: a boy damaged some cars by running on top of them carelessly, a man from Bude stole a laptop computer while on bail and was remanded in custody, and two men jointly masterminded the theft of a generic 32-inch plasma TV from Sainsbury’s in Bodmin on June 7th. Hardly CSI New York, but at least you can’t say the Cornish Guardian doesn’t sit back and ignore the plight of the common people.

All these stories, though, paled in comparison to our number-one-favourite. Man grew cannabis was the title of this beauty, and in it, a Mr P Flint — I’m not printing his full name, as I don’t want to create further employment issues should P Flint decide to move this way — a local petty drug-lord of some esteem, was finally taught his lesson. His crime? Producing some cannabis and possessing a few amphetamines and bits of cannabis resin. For this he was not only victimized and made unemployable in the entire Cornish and West Country regions for the rest of all time, but he also had to pay £250, plus £85 costs and a £15 surchage (presumably just for the hell of it). As if getting busted in a period of record economic uncertainty isn’t enough already, poor P Flint was also forced to share the Around the courts page with an advertisement for PENRICE [COLLEGE] OPEN EVENING, where a series of disturbingly generic school-children look out smugly at the world, while above them the statistics boast of 67% 5 or more A* to C grades including both English and Maths.

Oh…P Flint…we don’t all hate you, honest. Good luck with all your future job searches.

Note: the reputation of Cornish people, fishermen or locals was not intended to be tarnished in this blog post, even if it seemingly was.

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