Before I supply the long-awaited parts 5 and 6 of my four-part survey of the local pubs, here are Seven Things You (probably) Didn’t Know About Me.
1. I’ve written a book. Some years ago I persuaded a radical publisher to give me an advance to write a biography of Guy Debord. For a variety of reasons I never finished it, although some of the more fully automated book sites on the Web still list it as available. What is available, however, is this: the book of my doctorate, and one of only a very few books in English on the Italian radical Left of the 1970s.
2. I’m a folkie: I play whistle in a scratch ceilidh band and sing traditional songs to anyone who will listen. I have been known to be an utter pedantic arse about the definition of ‘folk’, insisting in the face of all evidence to the contrary that ‘folk’ is synonymous with ‘traditional’. (This may come as a surprise to everyone familiar with my light-hearted free-wheeling approach to definitions in the field of beer.)
3. I didn’t have a haircut between 1996 and 2007. By the time of the last Comic Relief but two, I had hair down to my waist, and wore it in a plait. Washing it wasn’t particularly arduous – I found it stayed clean better than short hair – but I had to spend ten minutes every morning combing and re-plaiting it. So I had a sponsored haircut, and raised £120 for Comic Relief. My hair was shorter afterwards than it’s ever been before or since – I’d promised early on that if I raised over £50 I’d have a no. 1 crop.
4. I ate at the Croydon McDonald’s shortly after it opened – when it was the only McDonald’s in the country. It was OK. (After reading Richard Boston’s write-up in the Graun, I was actually slightly disappointed that it wasn’t worse. I believed every word Richard Boston wrote at the time – a policy which generally served me pretty well.) I tend to avoid McD’s these days – my son swore to avoid them for life after he saw Supersize Me!, and I go along with him – but I’m not a complete fast food refusenik; I was a huge fan of Denny’s when they had a branch in London.
5. I once appeared on GMTV, standing on the beach at Arromanches and being interviewed (well, being fed a couple of questions) by Roger MeJohn Stapleton, who introduced me as a ‘military historian’. I am not now and never have been a military historian. (I was a freelance journalist, and I’d written some fairly detailed stuff about Normandy for a BBC site – and I was available.)
6. I’m currently on my third career. I had a career in IT (11 years, three employers, eight different roles) and a career in journalism (eight years, one employer and a lot of freelancing, many different roles) before starting my current career as an academic (so far, six years, two employers, five different roles). The ironic thing is that when people asked me at school what I wanted to be, I used to say I was going to be a university lecturer. I was right the first time – I don’t know what took me so long.
And this is me (in 1978):
PS If anyone’s wondering, I know the title’s a misquote – I only realised it when I looked it up just now, though.