Hi-de-Hi campers, I am back again with a nice suntan from sitting in my garden watching the butterflies and the bees enjoying the flowers. I am growing a crop of strawberries and blackberries alongside such plants as lily of the valley and my banana plant, which survived the winter.

Against that background I sit here and write this column, unlike in the attic during the cold and rainy months. I am sometimes asked by young would-be journalists how I got to have a column in several papers - they apparently need to go to college these days. Well, the answer is simple: my readers tolerate me, I have been around for several decades and I work for free as I enjoy sharing memories.

I think the first article I was paid for was back in 1973 and that was in a magazine about the old MGM British Studios. I trust at least a few of you have bought my new book about that studio? It is going into reprint so be there or be square regarding owning a copy. Incidentally if you are on Facebook it is worth joining the MGM British Studios page and Elstree Heritage page to share memories and to watch out for future events.

My break as a columnist came in 1976 when out of the blue the editor of a paper said they had so much advertising they needed feature items. Would I write a weekly column of a whole page, and if required a two-page spread? It is unheard of today and will never happen again. I had no qualifications, so fate handed it to me and here I am 44 years later. I think I was paid by the word printed, at about ten pence per word, so I had to add up the published words and invoice accordingly as a freelance. My column in that paper seemed popular, especially when I could report from the set of Star Wars and conduct interviews before the era of closed sets became the norm. Nowadays if I even walked near the set of, say, Strictly Come Dancing, I would be wrestled to the ground.

Then in 1977 I was approached by the Borehamwood Times and asked if I would also write a weekly column for them, but obviously with different material and under another name, so I chose Paul Simon. The first paper decided to cut my column but thankfully this paper has stuck with me.

I do not envy young people entering journalism today. Newspapers at all levels are on the retreat due the way advertisers and younger readers can utilise technology unheard of back in the 1970s. I hardly ever visit a film set or interview anybody today as my day has gone, but they were fun years.

It is good to read that EastEnders is returning to production, albeit within strict limits on possible scenes. There is talk that Strictly Come Dancing will also be returning to Borehamwood. The Studios have been hit hard with the lockdown and so have many people as the business today is mainly freelance. That applies to of course many others as well. Who said 'there's life, but not as we know it'?

  • Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios