|MIKE PARKER||About Mike|
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About Mike Parker... from middle England to mid Wales
It's all about the place. My compulsion to explore, to dig deep into the layers of history and identity, began as a squit of a lad in the Midlands of the 1970s. By the age of six, I was collecting maps. By twelve, I was wandering the country on rail rover tickets and navigating myself to my mum's in Paris.
When it came to earning a living, I lasted just two years in proper jobs before trying to make it as a freelancer. My first two books (a putative youth-oriented series on UK cities that sank when the publishers tumbled down the corporate toilet) came out when I was 24, and there have been a steady stream since then.
For a decade, it was all guide books; my own series, plus titles for the Rough Guides and Gay Men's Press. Loved the travelling and the exploring, loathed the nitpicky details, price codes, star ratings, formulaic straitjacket and bewildering feedback from readers.
A couple of Americans once wrote to berate me in angry capital letters for recommending somewhere in the Rough Guide to Wales, after they'd visited and been served eggs with hard yolks for their breakfast. What was I going to DO ABOUT IT, they screamed?
Give up writing guide books for short-tempered dickheads was the answer. For a few years, I wrote and performed one-man stand-up shows about different places and their lesser-known histories: one, in Walsall, was picketed noisily by the local branch of fascist blockheads Combat 18, who'd decided, on the strength of the flier, that I was a threat to the moral purity of their good town.
Not so funny
I trotted around the stand-up circuit too and became the regular compere in a couple of Birmingham comedy clubs. It was a lot of fun, and sometimes even quite entertaining for the punters, but I discovered the hard way the vicious truth that there is nowhere on earth as lacking in easy good humour as backstage at a comedy gig.
In 2000, I moved to mid Wales, learned Welsh and went bald. The facts may be related. For seven years, I wrote and presented offbeat travelogues on ITV Wales and started to write the books that I'd always wanted to. Wales had fascinated me from an early age. Growing up with the 'blue remember'd hills' of the Marches as my western horizon, it had always exerted a pull on my imagination, and I've been thrilled to put down roots there.
Now settled in an old farmhouse in the mwynder Maldwyn ('the mellowness of Montgomeryshire'), I am proud to be a Cymro o ddewis - a Welshman by choice. Though ironically, the longer I'm in Wales, the more English I feel, and now I write about both countries, and much more, from the strange, but undoubtedly privileged, position of being half-and-half.
One day, I'll write a book about the half-and-half philosophy, as it seems to be the answer to just about everything. Really. Try it. Not bad for a credo that began with the question 'do you want rice or chips with that?'
"What a true wanderer he is, and how wonderfully well-read, and how truly sensitive to numen!" - Jan Morris
"A kind of mini-biography of the British psyche emerges from Parker's work, its learning lightly worn and its tales well told, full of interest and incident"