ONE of the great delights of advanced years is being able to tell the younger generation how cushy life is for them compared to when I was a lad.

When I was starting my half-century working as a journalist, there was no internet on which to do your research, no email on which to receive copies of statements, and very few press officers with whom checks could be carried out.

You had to sit through interminable meetings. make daily visits to the police station, and contact clergymen of all faiths to find out what was going on in your neck of the woods.

The local paper was still the only reliable source of information about the place where readers lived.There was no social media, no local radio, and very little stuff from the sticks on the three television channels which only operated for part of each day.

Local papers were therefore seized upon avidly as soon as they appeared on the streets, and in places like Hexham, cafes and reading rooms were eerily quiet on a Friday morning, the only sound the susurration of broadsheet pages being reverently perused as readers learned who had been fined ten bob for parking in Fore Street, who had attended the funeral of a prominent local councillor, and what the Abbey bride had chosen for her going away outfit.

An editor once told me it was his job to separate the wheat from the chaff, and then print the chaff, for every last detail of the nitty gritty of local life was faithfully recorded.

How much had been made at the church jumble sale was far more important than the devaluation of the pound and a council decision on the frequency of dustbin collections made more compelling reading than the latest remarks from Enoch Powell, the former secretary of state for health.

Like most reporters of my vintage, I left school at 16, to start work on one of the two local papers in Macclesfield.

I had spoken to the editor at a school careers convention, and he said I could start on the first Monday after I left school.

The only stipulation was that I had to have passed five of the eight O-level exams I had sat, or I would be out on my ear.

Whilst I was reasonably confident of passing English language - I had won the school English prize two years running - the rest were a bit of a lottery.

It was an uncomfortable few weeks before I was sent to the school to collect the O-level results - which were published in full, subject by subject - and I was delighted to discover I had passed all eight subjects, some in style and others by the skin of my teeth.

I was in, learning how to use a telephone - a device only posh people had in those days - learning how to type, and starting to pick up the rudiments of Pitman’s shorthand as the only boy among dozens of young girls dreaming of being secretaries in night classes at Macclesfield College of Further Education.

Pitman’s proved completely beyond me, and at no time in my career did I succeed in getting beyond two finger typing on a temperamental Underwood machine which may have been used to record the Relief of Mafeking.

We didn’t seem to spend much time in the office in those days, as much of every day was spent at the magistrates’ court, dealing with everything from murder to riding a bicycle furiously.

Almost as frequent were funerals, which we had to attend to collect the names of all the mourners, as well as copying down the messages from floral tributes - and all were published in full.

As so few people were on the phone, we had to knock on many doors when chasing up an obituary, and more than once I was asked if I would care to see the dear departed lying upstairs in the coffin.

Matching was as important as despatching, and wedding reports were a big part of every paper, particularly around Easter, when many canny couples chose to get married not for romantic reasons, but because of the considerable tax advantages in being wed at the end of the tax year.

I soon knew far more about Empire line trains, slub satin, and gypsophila than any teenage boy in the world.

But of all the thousands of articles I wrote over the years, there are far more yellowing wedding reports stuck in scrap books than anything else I ever produced.

Weddings and anniversaries are among the pieces many people like to cut out and keep.