Crouch End veteran Paul Saxton is still going strong after 40 years in the papers
- Credit: David Winskill
“Forty years. I tell you what – it seems like a lifetime, it really does.”
Paul Saxton has been manning his newspaper stall in the Broadway for 40 years as of January 2, through all seasons: rain, wind, sun and snow. In fact, he remembers his first day in 1979 for exactly that reason.
“I started on January 2 that year, with my dad,” he told the Ham&High. “It had snowed, and it was bitterly cold. I remember going across to ABC Cafe and getting us some coffees, but it was freezing that day.”
Paul, who is 69, had helped out his dad with paper rounds and running the stall while he was on holiday. The family connection continues, as he believes his dad took it on from his own father after the end of the Second World War.
Paul said: “He’d had the stall as long as I can remember. He had been 65 in August 1978 and said he was going to retire, and that it was mine if I wanted it.
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“People at the time were saying to me that I’d be my own boss, and I’d be self employed. I was 29 at the time, and the idea of being my own governor had been quite appealing.”
Since then he’s been getting up at 3.15am, seven days a week, to sell newspapers and magazines to people in Crouch End. Seven Days a Week was the title of a short documentary film made about Paul’s newspaper stand in 2016. Since he moved out of Crouch End to New Southgate a few years ago, he’s followed the same routine – leaving the house at 4.07am to open up the stall just before 5am.
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Unsurprisingly Paul has seen some huge changes in Crouch End in four decades, both in terms of people living in Crouch End and the papers they buy. “It’s gone upmarket, massively,” he said. “Muswell Hill and Hampstead used to be the ‘in’ places, and Crouch End was looked down on a bit. You used to have these massive houses cut up into flats, and they’ve been turned back into houses again.
“It’s very middle class now. The Guardian, you used to be able to just fold over the ones that we got in because there were so few. Now we get a huge pile. We used to sell a lot of the Daily Express, Daily Mirror and The Sun, but we don’t seem to as much now.”
A big Arsenal fan, Paul himself keeps an eye on the back pages when they come in. He says that customers and passers-by often assume he’s an authority on the news, but he doesn’t give much away.
“People come up and ask me what I think of Brexit and things like that. I’ve got my own opinions, but it’s like when my I used to ask my dad how he voted, and he said: ‘Never you mind.’”
It’s not just political headlines he’s seen change in the area over his time. He also remembers when the IRA detonated a bomb outside the offices of the Ham&High’s old sister paper the Hornsey Journal in Tottenham Lane in 1993, as one of five attacks across north London.
“You also get the celebrities in Crouch End, but I don’t recognise most of them,” he said. “Somebody will ask if I’ve seen who has just walked past, and I’ll have no idea who they are.
“Peter Capaldi used to live just down the road from my mum, and I had no idea until somebody pointed him out to me,” said Paul.
Fortunately, 40 years after his first day running the stall, there was not a flake of snow in sight. Paul instead treated customers to a glass of champagne, and some celebration chocolates to mark the anniversary. Apart from that, it’s back to business as usual for Paul and his papers.
“It’s back to normal now – we had the bunting and the celebrations but that’s it.”
As for the future, despite declining print newspaper and magazine circulations, the 69-year-old isn’t even thinking of giving up the job, having already surpassed his dad’s retirement age.
“I’ll never stop doing this,” he vowed. “As long as I can get up in the morning, I’ll go to work. My daughter doesn’t want to take it on and I can’t imagine a lot of kids would these days.
“I enjoy the job I do. I enjoy the people that I meet and over the 40 years I’ve met a lot of lovely people. They make it all worth it.”
Paying tribute to Paul, long time Crouch End local (and former Haringey Lib Dem councillor) David Winskill said: “Crouch End has changed a lot in the 40 years since Paul took over the newsstand from his dad Jim.
“In that time, he has become friends to all those tens of thousands of people who have said hello to him each morning, come rain or shine.”
He added: “Crouch End wouldn’t be the same without him.”