On the train to London two little girls run between the seats towards a grey head facing away from them. "We thought you were our grandad, " says one, as she comes level with him. "He's some body's grandad," says the girls' mother apologetically, and one presumes speculatively.
A Londoner by birth and proximity, even if I haven't always read them, I have always been aware of the City's evening papers. Once there were three, and I can still hear the news vendors shout from street corners: "News, Star and Standard...". The Star was the first to fold. Then it was The Evening News. The Evening Standard still survives, but since my last visit to London, it has become a free paper, having shed its price of 50p in an attempt paradoxically to become solvent. The new owner, a former Russian diplomat, bought the loss-making tabloid for £1.00. The principle is that if you increase the circulation and cut some overheads, greater advertising revenue, will compensate for the loss of revenue from sales, and be enough to begin to make a profit. As a purveyor of information on culture, restaurants and entertainment in London, and helped by its website, perhaps it will now win through. Meanwhile it is good this evening to hear the news vendor outside Charing Cross still calling although his cry has changed to "Free newspaper...Free newspaper."