IT IS getting on for 50 years since I packed my sub editor’s visor and shirt sleeve garters and left my native Macclesfield to move to Tynedale.

While leaving family and familiar surroundings was a wrench, it is a move I have never regretted.

Apart from family weddings and funerals, I seldom go back to Treacle Town, as it is affectionately known, but while you can take the man out of Macclesfield, you can’t take Macclesfield out of the man.

I still miss chip shops that sell steamed steak and kidney puddings and tripe, cafes that offer hot Vimto, and the shouted Fred Elliott-style repeated conversations that were a legacy of the days when men had to shout to make themselves heard over the thunder of heavy machinery from the town’s multiple silk mills.

But more than that I miss the thrill of knowing that next Monday is Barnaby Monday.

Barnaby was the local holiday, which encompassed the two weeks around the Summer Solstice when all the mills closed down, and the town left for the seaside.

To the local criminal fraternity’s delight, the local papers used to devote pages to photographs of beaming families boarding trains, charabancs and buses to head for their annual rendezvous with the Floozy of the Fylde Coast, Blackpool, helpfully giving their addresses so the bad lads knew there was no-one at home,

Barnaby was not to be confused with Wakes Week which was in the autumn, when the mills also closed, but very few people could afford to go away twice in one year.

And if the weather was anyway inclement in June, the parrot cry echoed from the railway station down to bus station: “Eee , it’s more like Wakes than Barnaby!”

However, the weather never stopped anyone boarding their train .

You had more chance of meeting a neighbour on the Golden Mile than you did walking round the Macclesfield town centre at Barnaby, and my fondness for the dubious delights of Blackpool must have seeped into my system via my mother’s milk.

Mrs Hextol loathes the very thought of a trip to Blackpool, but I never tire of the tawdry tat, from Romany fortune tellers and back street tattooists to Blackpool rock, a maniacally laughing robotic sailor, monstrous roller coasters and low budget hotels such as the one I stayed in once which remains the only place I have ever been served a frozen fried egg.

Then there are the trams, rattling along like ghost ships from holidays past, and Blackpool Lights, better known as Th’ Illuminations.

When I used to go regularly, there were bingo stalls every 10 yards, with old beer bottle tops to cover the numbers, and I once won a milk pan there which did many years service at Hextol Towers,

Such was the lure of the town with a fabled tower and an even more fabled footballer in Stanley Matthews, my brother and I once decided to go there on our bikes after completing our paper rounds.back in the early 60s,

As decisions go,it was not our most sensible, as it was mid February and it was already after 9am before we embarked on the 70 mile journey to the coast. However, the appeal of the Pleasure Beach, the slot machines and the possibility of seeing the Blackpool Tower Circus elephants being taken for their regular stroll along the sands for a dip in the sea drove all reason from our brains.

Needless to say, we never actually got to Blackpool but we were both sure we saw the tower in the gathering gloom before we decided to call it a day and take photographs of a sign which bore the legend “Blackpool eight miles”.

We had about half a crown between us when we decided to turn back, and found ourselves at Preston railway station by about 6-30pm, still 50 miles from home.

By one of those serendipitous moments which have stood me in good stead all my life, we were approached at the station by a British Transport Police officer, obviously concerned at seeing two small children aged 12 and 14 far from home with two bicycles and little else.

These days we would possibly have been taken into care, but the bobby merely took us to see his superior, who just happened to be our father’s cousin!

Uncle Arnold loaded us and our bikes on a train bound for Manchester and then on to Macclesfield, and we were back home just after 10.

“Had a nice day lads?” asked our mother absent mindedly.