A New Hope
This evening I saw another one. I was on the Tube this evening - all these sightings take place on the Tube; it's the only place I frequent where I am forced to take excessive notice of my fellow creatures - and it was seated almost directly opposite to me. It had the shaven scalp, the larded figure and the blotches-and-cream complexion that go to make up the finest specimens of English manhood. Its lower lip protruded further than its nose, though not quite as far as its navel. A black beard cut with geometric neatness bristled from the uppermost of its chins. All in all, it seemed virtually an archetypal Sun reader; but there were a couple of strange anomalies.
The first was its forehead. It is of course a myth that Sun readers' foreheads slope back so sharply that their eyebrows look like badly-made toupées. There is nothing remotely scientific in such a view, and it is about time the falsehood was exposed. What makes a genuine Sun reader is not the gradient of the forehead but the contents of the cranium. Still, it is true that few Sun readers have any supra-orbital skull to speak of, for the simple reason that the weight of too much bone above the eye would interfere with their concentration. But the creature sitting opposite me had a huge head; so much so that it seemed to be all the poor thing's chins could do to support it without bursting.
Secondly, the thing was not reading the Sun. It was reading the Daily Telegraph. Perhaps I have led an unduly sheltered existence, but I have always thought of Telegraph readers as rare, exotic beings - abnormally moneyed, clad in silk suits, and resident largely on aircraft moving between tax havens. I have thought of them, in short, as being rather the way members of UKIP imagine themselves in their dreams. But the creature opposite me was wearing a Tory-blue, short-sleeved sweatshirt (which, in the summer temperature and the great olfactory tradition of Sun readers, thoroughly merited its name); and obviously it was not abnormally rich, or even rich at all, since it was travelling on the Tube in the first place.
Even more fascinating: as I was getting off it finished reading, folded up its Telegraph and put on a pair of glasses. They were glasses of the fashionable type with very small rectangular lenses and plain black frames - the kind affected by Blairite journalists to emphasise their ability to look long and hard upon the hard, plain realities. The creature was transforming before my eyes. Where before I had seen a sort of über-Garry Bushell, a sub-David Aaronovitch was emerging like a mendacious monosyllable from a punchy platitude.
What can it all mean? Are Britain's Sun readers somehow mutating, thanks perhaps to climate change or increased radioactivity among the Tory leadership? Have the Telegraph's recent vicissitudes resulted in a readiness to slum - in a more predatory, less scrupulous paper, ready to poach readers even from the rank files of lotto-lovers and gipsy-baiters? Are we now so Americanised that standards are dropping even among our illiterates? Or could it be that evolution is taking place before our eyes, and that within another generation we may see such specimens ennobling themselves yet further; perhaps even unto the giddy moral heights of the Guardian's comments section? We can but wait and hope.