Walking through the sunny streets of London yesterday, I was offered a free paper dozens of times. I did once look at one of these and saw that it contained nothing but trivialities - and masses of advertisements. It is amazing that advertisers can think it is worth the tens of thousands of pounds a day spent on printing and distributing this pap. And seeing people in the tube staring at their free papers, I couldn't help thinking they'd do better to close their eyes and meditate. I hope at least that most of the paper gets recycled, but it would have been better not to cut the trees down in the first place. Perhaps there should be a heavy tax on the producers, with the proceeds used to subsidize real newspapers.
In contrast, I passed a few forlorn Big Issue sellers. I wonder how their daily earnings compare with those of the people who hand out free papers. They certainly have to work harder, looking at passers by, addressing them, thanking them for not buying, wishing them a good day... It must be rather dispiriting. I have to admit that I don't buy the Big Issue; I have more than enough to read already, and I think there are better ways of giving to charity. In Oxford there are only a few sellers, and once you've bought from them it is hard to walk past and not buy again. I'd rather just give them a coin, but I'm afraid they might find that humiliating.