Hoorah! At last the garish umbrella comes out and I can be entertained (or not) by two free newspapers flung at me on the way to the train, London Lite and thelondonpaper (we'll call that tpl, gosh, it's already getting tedious). So let's see how the two shape up.
Front page: to be fair, neither could avoid looking a bit like the Daily Sport, though the Lite achieves this more with 'Croc Hunter killed by a fish'. Harsh, Lite, harsh - it was a stingray for goodness sake, not a goldfish. But even the front page of the Standard - making an honorory appearance here for you couldn't help but glimpse the 5000 copies piled up around its depressed seller - managed to be even more absurd with the headline 'killed for being British'. Well, Standy, I hate to state the obvious, but that's what war's all about. If he'd been killed just for being Pete Smith (apologies for sounding insensitive, but I don't know the specifics of this particular story), that would have been murder, as it is it's yet another victim of a war of the British government. It's no nicer to be shot for being brown and I don't remember you showing much sympathy for 'BOMBER' Menezes. It's not very nice is it? Heck, why don't we just stop the war?
And on. Oh, so tlp wins there, just for having a nicer headline font and looking less like the Daily Mail (naturally Lite had a disadvantage there). It loses credit a little bit on page 3, traditionally the fun page, by just crossing over the line of taste and fair jokes with a feature on the hilarious perils of being a naturalist in the spirit of 'That Irwin, if he would keep prodding those fish'. Now, if our frenzied double-working reporter had only checked the BBC website comment board, she would have been reminded of the fact that people at home are always genuinely upset about the death of someone they see on TV regularly. It's a tricky line but the Lite manages it better.
But Lite blows it again on page 4 by abandoning the news and banging on * again * about how they're the paper which wont get ink all over your hands. Seriously, if you take a page every day to persuade me to read your magazine even though it's * free * I'll start to think you;'re wasting my time. And vox pops? You think I care what other Londoners think? No. Being free from such burdensome knowledge is what makes London so special.
Pause for a moment to wonder why claims that the government of Sudan is still bombing civilians in Darfur is two thirds down 'world at a glance'. Er, underneath '100 ducks die in Vietnam'.
Skip through science/foetus nonsense and terror to David Cameron's extension. Give up and go back to tlp, which is still more pleasing to the eye. And it has a picture of a lazy black bear. Has Metro got a gentleman's agreement to have the animal pictures instead of Lite? 4-0 to the lower case Sun.
Finally Lite pick up a point for trailing a story about Goji berries on the front page with a picture of Mischa Barton, while tfn, er tfl, oh hell, tlp stick it in a corner next to the non-news that dinner ladies are to be taught cooking. You think we can even raise a sigh at that sort of thing anymore? Pah. No Goji berries - that's exciting! They've stripped the Himalyan mountains bare to bring them to London where their effects include increasing sex drive, decreasing cellulite and making you as fabulous as Mischa. I'm sold - can I find them at Tunstall market?
tlp loses another point (that's 4-2) and is lucky not to lose two by waking up far too late to the campaign to save the Astoria, which Sun journalists would only have known as 'that place that's GAY, yack' before they realised that thousands of their new readers have signed a petition to save the iconic venue. Followed by a convoluted story about David Cameron, who as well as tearing his house apart and upsetting Daily Mail readers, has been encouraging thousands of hoodies to his, er, hood, all looking for a hug and beating up local shopowners. 'They've got no respect', whined a local spin doctor as he pushed the story Rebekah Wade's way.
Finally, tpl gets something right by showing London transport junkies (that's every Londoner) what the tube map will look like in 2012. Pore over and see if your house price is likely to rise, or equally your rent. West London, we note with a snigger, will have no improvements whatsoever and is to be abandoned to the hoodies and the tories permanently.
And it sprints ahead with an entertaining interview with Ken, who speculates on the idea of Jeremy Clarkson standing against him as Mayor. Chuckle and imagine. Ken is obviously in charming mood for this interview, which you can only assume is his contribution to the slow battering to death of his enemies at Associated.
Oh goodness, we must be onto the features and tlp reminds us it's from Wapping with a full page on 'what women want'. Money. Men with money. That's all. Bloody women. Then it falls into the vox pops and whether Londoners think a baby can save Madonna and Guy's marriage. Didn't we discuss that above? Still don't care about what they think, OK?
Oh, how lovely. We get to meet tlp's editor, Stefano. He looks like the sort of man labelled 'hot' in the previous page. Still, they do a good job of selling the magazine (no nonsense about ink on your fingers here) and Stefano is partnered with a Polish columnist. Slick thinking! I'm a little disappointed that they put the man's job out to text vote and resist texting 'more!' hoping that the Poles will do their bit for their countryman.
Tpl romps home with a double page of the beautiful people with their thin legs in the sunshine (scoffing delicious Goji berries no doubt) and cram in two features which you hope they won't get mixed up: pet of the day and fast supper. Harry may be an unstarry choice for the former, but any picture of a cat gives them another point.
I expected it to be a close run thing with both publications vying, whorishly, for my attention with various new media tricks, but tfl has done ever so well, even if its features on women raise my rarely-sensitive hackles. A feature on coffee (especially one encouraging my preferred choice of instant) always has the same effect on me as a picture of a cat. Even for the purposes of this scientific survey, I can't face going back to the Lite, which as i recall only got one point on its own merit. Sod it, I'll plump for thelondonthing, or whatever it's called. Well done, chaps.