Celebrating the New Year in the Austrian Tyrol was quite a start to 1971 and my time in the classroom was finally over, almost six years after I parted company with my arch-enemy – the demon headmaster of my old grammar school.
I still had to sit for my NCTJ Proficiency Certificate but that would, I believed then, be a doddle. After all I had my certificate for T-line at 120wpm; I had covered almost every type of story; and had let McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists be my constant companion.
Also my 21st birthday was on the horizon and it certainly looked as if it would be a lot better than my 18th.
I was also tackling better stories, even the odd front page – such as the story of two deaths in a flatlet used as a holiday let.
The fire which killed them happened on the day before the Journal was published and I managed to get to the site as the rescue bid was being attempted. I managed to speak with witnesses. Then it was straight back to the office, a quick call to the chief fire officer for the official, knock out the piece and phone it over to the editor in Oswestry.
That is the cutting edge of journalism.
There was still the bread and butter work of courts, councils and church roundups.
The jam* on the bread and butter was getting an off-diary story.
One dollop of jam for me was coming face to face with a 3,000-year-old priest.
It began with a phone call to the office from Bodrhyddan Hall (pictured) in nearby Rhuddlan. The son of Lord Langford said he had made an amazing find amongst some Egyptian curios which had been at the hall since the first half of the 19th century.
I was sent off with our photographer Glyn Robert’s and we were met at the hall by Peter Rowley Conway, Langford’s oldest son.
The 19-year-old archaeology student explained that the Egyptian collection, including two mummy cases, had been brought back to the hall around about the 1840s.
The family story was that the mummy cases had started to smell and in the late 1800s the contents had been taken out of the cases and buried in the grounds.
On telling a fellow student at Cambridge about this it was suggested to Peter he should talk to an expert about the mummy cases.
An Egyptologist from Birmingham City Museum visited the hall and when he opened the second case a bandaged mummy was revealed inside.
Peter then took us to see the find and Glyn took a picture of him holding the head up.
The expert, Mr John Ruffle, later identified the mummy as that of a priest from the temple of Amun in Thebes. He had been mummified around the end of the 18th Dynasty in Egypt, approximately 1200 BC.
The mummy looked very much like the film versions I had seen starring people like Boris Karlkoff and Christopher Lee. It was bound in tatty linen bandaging which had greyed over the millennia and the skull-like face was revealed still covered in leathery skin.
Mr Ruffle had translated the name of the priest as Minen Ha.
Peter told me the mummy was to be expertly restored and his father, Lord Langford, intended to put it back on display at the hall.
Stories like this made for a lighter touch amid the more mundane, and serious, items we had to handle.
*My father, the chemist, always said that the year-round sales of cough mixtures, sticking plasters and other items stocked by a chemist put the bread and butter on our plates.
The summer sales of sun lotion, calamine lotion, sunglasses and all the other essentials for holidaymakers put the jam on the bread and butter.