Broadcaster and newspaper journalist Kevin Maguire has penned a "love letter" to South Shields as he remembers his happy childhood in the town - and looks forward to its future.
The former Harton School pupil, whose glittering journalism career spanning 30 years includes prominent roles at national newspapers as well as regular airings on Good Morning Britain and Sky News, was back in his home town to write an article for The Mirror.
"I might not have fully appreciated it then, but we were fortunate to live in a friendly town on the glorious golden coast of North East England," he wrote.
"We didn’t need to travel far – only a few miles on a bus – which was just as well when there was mam, dad and six kids, carrying bags galore stuffed with towels, rugs, flasks of tea and buttered bread, a windbreak, tent and football."
He added: "As youngsters, we’d go to the beach or a park most weekends in the summer holidays. There was my dad John, a miner and mam Jennie, a Wright’s Biscuits factory worker and cleaner. My older siblings, Christine and Lynn, my younger brothers, David and Stephen, and my little sister, Julie."
Kevin, who is associate editor and political columnist at The Mirror newspaper, had already paid tribute to South Shields earlier in the month when he was home to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Sunderland.
The 57-year-old praised the regeneration work underway in the town, including completed projects such as The Word and the revamped market square, as well as some of its longer-standing attractions.
"The huge fairground – with its dodgems, ghost train, waltzer, roller-coaster and amusement arcades, all a bucket of sand’s throw from the south beach – is a huge attraction," he said.
"South Shields might not be as famous as grand Scarborough down the coast, or as celebrated as Whitby with its wonderful Dracula myth, but it’s one of the great British seaside’s sparkling jewels."
Kevin highlighted South Shields' two Blue Flag sandy beaches, pier, and other visitor pulls to the town.
"There’s also a new indoor swimming pool, a steam train, a boating lake, and Arbeia – a Roman fort guarding the sea route to Hadrian’s Wall," he said.
"Then there are miles of stunning cliffs, and The Leas – a glorious green haven the council had the foresight to gift to the National Trust."
Kevin also praised South Shields' iconic eateries, claiming "you’d need to travel a long way to buy a tastier ice cream than the cones at Minchella’s" or find "find better fish and chips than those at the renowned Colmans", and highlighted the Indian restaurants of Ocean Road "which opened when most of Britain thought tinned spaghetti hoops were exotic".
The ardent Labour supporter said it was easy to knock councils, but South Tyneside Council was doing a great job of "sustaining and reviving a seaside town that is bouncing back from hard knocks".
He went on to quote council leader Iain Malcolm, who said the area was "never going to be the Costa del Shields" because of the unpredictable weather, but it is nevertheless "a lovely town with world-renowned beaches" and people keep coming back.