SCOTS apparently read more newspapers than their English counterparts. As a newsprint addict I feel more than somewhat personally responsible for this state of affairs. Recycling plants could comfortably survive on my domestic pulped output, and on foreign holidays I even find reading the Telegraph preferable to nothing at all.
Tracing this adult addiction from schooldays is easy enough. Encouragement to read came from both parents. Comics were ordered weekly from Campbell's the newsagent. Individual days took on a happier hue when the Lion or the Tiger was published. Earlier still the Beano and the Dandy filled a gap between Enid Blyton and the Hardy Boys. In the Topper, Wild Boy Dirkie single-handedly wiped out the Redcoat invaders, unerringly accurate at 40 paces with his hand-flung blades. Nowadays the Commission for Racial Equality or the League Against Cruel Sports would have had him banned.
I can remember the launch of the Beezer, with its free thunderclap. The second week it was a star-shaped piece of card with a string, called the Whizzer. How easily were the fifties young seduced.
The best free gift came with the football season when the Tiger offered cardboard name tabs for every British team. These could be stuck in a league ladder and updated every Saturday night from the Evening Citizen or Evening Times. All winter Hartlepool or Darlington or Accrington Stanley hung on the back of the kitchen press door, feeding a latent interest in geography.
For all this catholic addiction to print some comics held no interest: the Robin, the Swift and the Eagle were for the sci-fi bore, the type of child with a Hornby train set. Arthur Mee's Children's Newspaper was worthy and dull. Even girls' comics held more attraction. Dilly Dream and the Silent Three seemed quite beguiling to a mere boy.
The final peak of juvenile literacy came with the four all-written comics - the Wizard, the Hotspur, the Rover, the Adventure, with Alf Tupper the unchallenged hero binging on fish and chips after invariably winning another canteen of cutlery - here was the reason why, as an adult, Peter Elliott, the rough Rotherham runner, was always going to be preferred to the sleek suburban smoothie Sebastian Coe.
When I see pupils glued to Game Boy at the end of term it may be that they can happily e-mail their friends, but I fear for imaginations that are undernourished. Now that a slight funding thaw has begun let's not order any new Apple Macs for staff to polish their CVs on - let's order the Broons books en bloc.