I know it’s in yesterday’s paper, but I just wanted to draw attention to possibly the clearest demonstration yet that the Evening Standard has changed from its bad old days as part of the Daily Mail stable, running a feature where a journalist joined the “hidden army” of cleaners and other workers on a 4.30am night bus heading into town. It struck a chord with me because for the summer of 1997 I did just that, getting the N1 at precisely 4.33am from East Greenwich Library to start early shifts at a news agency too tight to pay for a minicab.
It was always the same crowd on the bus, who always sat in the same seat, and who swapped photos of their children and grandchildren as the bus wound its way through Greenwich, Deptford and Rotherhithe. Although my other memory is of one of the regulars yelling “fucking bastard!” when she found someone had been sick on her normal seat on the outbound journey. I’ve got some fond memories of those days, extremely early starts but having the afternoons free, plus seeing the capital through sober eyes at 5am on a Sunday; although in the end the shiftwork was only temporary as another position came up.
It’s only a simple feature idea, packaged as part of its “dispossessed” series, but it’s an encouraging sign; considering that these are the people the old Standard treated with contempt in the bad old days. It’s just a shame the other Standard features haven’t caught up yet, with ridiculous indulgences like the insultingly bad Richard Dennen columns undoing some of the good work of the new-look paper.