Love from Wales
You can’t miss The Paper – it’s big and messy and the cover is literally packed with quotes and cover lines, with the issue theme, ‘The Brain’ scrawled across the top half of the page. I love it, but I’ve had it in the office for a few weeks now, and I’m still trying to figure out what exactly it is, and why I like it so much.
I know for sure that it’s from Wales, and at first glance it looks like a group of friends messing around, imagining what would happen if Viz relocated to the Valleys to make a Welsh version of Take a Break. And in a way that pretty much covers it. There’s an interview with Janet, who runs a Chinese restaurant in Pontypridd market; there’s a first-person piece on how to help a dog when its erection won’t go away; and Owain ‘Telly Head’ Tobin is named as the winner of Wales’ Biggest Head.
It’s funny and infectiously energetic, but there’s something a bit darker in there too. The issue’s theme is a reference to the brain drain (“everyone fucking off to England and never coming back”), and The Paper engages with it as a genuine problem, while having a laugh about it at the same time.
Similarly, one man’s struggle to find help for his long-term mental health problems is presented as Diary of a Nahasty Little Freak: “For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a fuckin header.” Or we’re taken on a trip to the woods in Cardiff, where homeless people pitch makeshift shelters, which the writer takes as evidence that the capital is not really a city at all – just a low-quality simulation of a city, peopled with broken NPCs and, “Some swans by Taff Embankment [that] are making the wrong noise.”
Of course The Paper won’t take any of this entirely seriously, which ends up making its own sort of sense: Lingering in its darker places, it starts to read like a response to the absurdity of living in a society where basic public services have stopped working and the odds are stacked against you doing much beyond simply existing. England is the oppressor, Wales is home to the goblin horde, and the only sensible response is to laugh at the grim fatalism of it all.
There are references throughout to the fact that it took them a long time to make this launch issue, but I hope there’s going to be another one along at some point. I didn’t know it before, but it turns out that I want more Welsh darkness in my life.