Ian Bertram was born on Tyneside in 1946, son of a steel worker. His original intention was to study chemical engineering, but by a convoluted set of developments he became a planner instead, working in the West Midlands, London, the North East and the South West. He lives with his wife of more than 30 years and has a daughter, now at university. After working most of his life in the public sector - for which he makes no apology - Ian is now self-employed, working in community regeneration, and also trying to develop a photographic portfolio. He blogs at Panchromatica.
Why do you blog? > The official answer is that I wanted to provide a place for information on community planning. The real answer is that I enjoy writing, including the craft of it, so if you combine that with being an opinionated so-and-so, then blogging is perfect.
What are you reading at the moment? > I'm doing an OU philosophy course, so the course material. But over and above that, the latest copy of Analog has just arrived, I'm reading a book called More What If?: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been and I keep dipping in and out of Conductors of Chaos: A Poetry Anthology edited by Iain Sinclair.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > I'm not sure if it is the best but one of my favourites is David Copperfield.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Remembering Golden Bells' (translated by Arthur Waley) always makes me tearful, but otherwise probably something by Basho or Hardy or from Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes.
What is your favourite movie? > Whatever I'm waiting to watch next! I currently have Billy Elliot, The Unforgiven (again) and Jean de Florette (again) waiting.
What is your favourite song? > 'You've Changed', sung by Billie Holiday.
Who is your favourite composer? > Duke Ellington.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I've changed my attitude to socialism in terms of central state power, but not to what I see as its essential moral underpinning. These days I call myself a libertarian socialist if I attach a label at all - which seems to annoy the hell out of many people!
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Once I knew I wasn't going to be an engineer I was at a total loss. By chance I found a book called Architecture: City Sense by the architect Theo Crosby and it literally changed my life. It introduced me to Jane Jacobs and from there I got into planning (and as it happens photography).
Who are your political heroes? >I don't go for heroes much, but Nelson Mandela would be there if I did. Beyond that I have a high regard for what was achieved by the Victorian leaders of local government - people like Clayton in Newcastle or Chamberlain in Birmingham.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Place genuine political power at the most local level possible.
What would you do with the UN? > I have no idea. I desperately want it to work, but I can't see any way to exclude the influence of people like Mugabe or Saddam without also affecting their peoples.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > It will be a close run thing between environmental degradation, water shortages, AIDS/HIV and western arrogance.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > The optimist in me says we still have potential to achieve a great deal; the pessimist wonders.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > No.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Toleration.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To avoid or prevent harm.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I'm intolerant of people who hear but don't listen.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Golf and cricket. (Sorry!)
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I would want to do much more of the same.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Probably France.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Selfishly it would be sitting in a sunny garden somewhere in France with a pile of books and CDs and lots of wine.
What is your most treasured possession? > Not really a possession, but my family.
What talent would you most like to have? > I wish I could play sax like Johnny Hodges.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > To be a painter.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Jackie Milburn of Newcastle United (because I grew up with him as a hero), Muhammad Ali (even though I detest boxing) and Pele.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > Newcastle United.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > Better health.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Duke Ellington, Nelson Mandela (for conversation) and Marilyn Monroe (for dessert) - although I assume she and Arthur Miller must have talked some time.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of previous profiles, and the links to them, can be found here.]