A scrunched-up corner of broadsheet poking out from beneath a grubby cushion on a sagging chair beside an acrid coal fire in a bleak living room in Clapham Junction.
A shriveled little man, shriveled physically, shriveled emotionally. Sour and bitter, mean and humourless. Take away the joy, generosity and warmth in this image of Wilfrid Brambell playing Albert Steptoe, and then shrivel him up and made him chew a lemon, you would have an approximation of my grandfather. I never once heard him say anything even remotely pleasant to anybody.
Image courtesy of http://www.aveleyman.com
He read the NoTW furtively, grunting rhythmically, with his small darting eyes and a permanent soggy, thin cigarette stuck to his lower lip. If anybody came into the room, he frantically scrumpled the paper up and shoved it out of sight beneath the cushion, then set his skinny little backside down on top of it.
His obvious shame intrigued me. He had no such qualms about his daily read, The Sun. For the years I lived there during my school holidays, it was a weekly ambition to sneak a look at the NoTW, something only feasible if Grandad unexpectedly went out – which he seldom did – forgetting to burn the paper, which he always did on Sunday evenings.
And that is what I will always remember whenever the News of the World is mentioned. Not the shame of the phone-tapping of people already at their lowest ebb, nor the corrupting of police officers, nor the sacking of 200 people while the chief executive keeps her job, nor the loss of a British institution that survived for 168 years.
I shall see a vision of that small, miserable little man who was so unlike the benevolent Werther’s Original grandfather.