ALTHOUGH I started my journalistic career at the tender age of 16, my connection with newspapers dates back several years prior to that.

For I was one of that merry band of youngsters, now disappeared from our early morning streets, who used to do a paper round.

For the princely sum of 12 shillings per week (60p), I did two paper rounds, one after the other, seven days per week, in all weathers. It was a breeze in the summer, when it was light long before I clambered aboard my bike and rode the couple of miles into town before shouldering the hefty bag bulging with long forgotten titles like the Daily Sketch, the Daily Herald, The Sunday Pictorial and Reveille.

Most were hefty broadsheets, which weighed a ton, and all had to be folded carefully before being stuffed through letterboxes all over the mill town of Macclesfield. Picking up the bag was always an eye opening experience, because the paper shop would be full of mill workers, all anxious to pick up their newspapers and other essentials before the mill hooter went to indicate they should be at work.

To a man, they all repeated themselves in the manner of much-missed Coronation Street icon Fred Elliott, an affection I always understood came from the need for people to make themselves heard over the clamorous roar of Schiffli shuttles and crashing looms.

“Ah’ll have a Sketch and 20 Park Drive, Ken; ah say, ah’ll have a Sketch and 20 Parks,” one man would boom, although in truth he needn’t have spoken at all, as he bought the same commodities every morning. My first round took me through some of the less salubrious parts of Macclesfield, and I well remember one morning opening the letter box of one terraced house close by the evil smelling River Bollin, only for the door to be snatched out of my hand by the resident.

He was dressed in a greying vest and even greyer long johns, and was holding something squirming in one hand.

Pushing me aside, he dropped the creature on the floor, and drop-kicked against the mill wall on the opposite side of the street, with a contemptuous “Little bugger!” It was the biggest rat I had ever seen, and after sliding down the wall like something from a Roadrunner cartoon, it picked itself up, shook itself, and slunk away into the iridescent waters of the Bollin, alive with the dyes of multiple mills.

This wasn’t my only encounter with Macclesfield wildlife.

On another occasion, I was riding flat out down the steep hill towards the paper shop when I blundered into a flock of feral pigeons. One was too slow to escape the wheels of my Phillips Flyer, and was left prone on the cobbles.

I picked it up, in the vain hope of nursing it back to healthy life, but it was already cooing with the Choir Invisible.

Rather than nursing it, I decided it would be just the thing to give my dad for his tea!

I stuffed it in the bag, and several customers got somewhat bloodstained papers that day, but when I got home, I enthusiastically plucked and gutted the creature, which I have to say boasted rather less meat than a budgie.

To his credit, my dad managed to eat the flying rat with apparent relish and a smile when he got in from work!

Encounters with customers were relatively rare, but on one occasion, I incurred the wrath of one burly man who must have been standing behind the door waiting for me to push the paper through. However, these were the days of the mid 60s when the papers used to print the latest top 20 on a Tuesday. I was leisurely scanning his Daily Mirror to note with satisfaction that the Animals were at number one, when he wrenched the door open violently, and snatched the paper from my hand,

“If you want a paper, buy one of yer bloody own,” he roared.

While the first round was in the old part of town, my second took in the leafy suburbs, which took twice as long as there were many gates to open and long drives to negotiate, as well as dogs to avoid. It must be said though that come Christmas tip time, the townsfolk were always far more generous with their tips than the posh folk in the big houses.

Delivering papers in the dark mornings of winter was a perilous task, for the police in those days were far more enthusiastic about heinous crimes such as riding a bike on the pavement and without lights, which appears to be the norm now.

My lights hardly ever worked, and being cuffed round the head by a copper was an almost weekly occurrence!