This section is for those who’d like more information about a life that informs my writing. Please skip if it’s not for you.
Born in Surrey Docks into wartime London, Mike’s life has seen post war austerity, the cold war, the social explosion of the 1960’s, the greed of the 1980’s, the near collapse of our financial system, more austerity, the confirmation that climate change threatens our very existence and, now, a pandemic. Yet he remains an optimist, albeit a slightly more cynical one these days.
The pattern was set with the death of his mother when he was five, at which time he was fostered to relatives. Nearly ten years later, with the return of his father and his new family, he was signed into the army at 15 where his claim to fame was that he was responsible for the War Room map during the Cuba missile crisis. At 27, married with two children, he left the forces to pursue a career as an architect before a divorce led to, what he describes as, “the rest of my life”.
With custody of his children, he moved to a rundown terraced house in Yorkshire to become a full time student, becoming active in the local community and environmental scene. Along the way, he worked as a barman, cleaner, pizza chef and washer up. What he describes as his “sex and drugs and rock “n” roll period”.
Completing his studies, he got involved in the new city farm movement where he helped set up the National Federation. Then a period of unemployment followed before he took up the post of Project Manager at the city farm in Leeds on a job creation scheme. This new organisation was threatened with immediate closure but was rescued and turned into a thriving project. Six years later, looking for another challenge and with his children grown up, he moved to London to manage a national charity. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out and his contract was terminated.
So, in his mid 40’s, unemployed with two mortgages, he returned to the drawing board until he was appointed as Director of the Walter Segal Trust, a new charity which helped people who were homeless and unemployed to build their own, sustainable, homes. This, too, was in danger of closure and, again, was rescued and turned into a successful organisation. It was at this time that he visited Belgium, Bulgaria, and Russia to advise on self help initiatives. In recognition of his work, in 1994, Mike was shortlisted for the Jamieson Award for an outstanding contribution to the voluntary sector and highly commended in The Guardian Jerwood Award for excellence in the charity field. Five years later, he set up his own community development consultancy which he ran for 12 years before becoming an author and speaker.
Along the way, he has completed the Lyke Wake Walk, renovated five properties and, in his 50’s, ran the London marathon on two occasions. Following bouts of depression and, in an effort to break a pattern of self destructive behaviour, he went into therapy. As a result, he has now been happily married for 25 years, has another daughter, who also writes, and three grown up grandchildren. Having worked in all sectors of the economy in positions from dogsbody to Director and, now at an age when most of his peers have opted for cardigan and slippers, he is on his sixth career as an author and occasional speaker. It really is never too late.