Mark Holland was born in Plymouth but is actually from Eastern Cornwall. One of his parents comes from Scotland, the other from Wales and his brother was born in Gibraltar, and it's likely for this reason that he has little truck with any of the petty nationalisms to be found within the United Kingdom. As a child he spent two and a half years living in the United States and he remembers being in Elementary School the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, and the Principal coming on the tannoy to announce the release of the American hostages being held in Tehran - which gives away his current plunge towards middle age. Since leaving school Mark has worked in an electrical shop, in a television factory and for an American computing multinational; he now does C++ and occasional Java programming for a broadband service provider. Mark blogs at Blognor Regis.
Why do you blog? > Because I'm not a pub goer and my wife has suffered enough of my ravings already. Plus, initially anyway, it was a revelation to discover there were other people out there who thought the way I did about the world.
What has been your best blogging experience? > I'm just a schlub really, so I'm still amazed that people take time out of their busy lives to read what I have to say. Is dining with Emily Jones and her lovely smile a blogging experience? If so that would be it.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Add value to a story. There's no point just reprinting paragraphs out of the newspaper and sticking 'heh' on the end. We can read that for ourselves at source. Give me your insight based on what you know.
What are your favourite blogs? > Ooh, that's hard because there are so many fine blogs out there. My favourites are those that don't take things too seriously and enjoy having laugh. It comes in pints? for railing against showbiz insanity, defence of the banjo and relentless name calling. Broke in Berlin is, or at least claims to be, a poverty-stricken Russian-English translator anchored somewhere Ost of the Ostbahnhof. Each post is a journey into a bizarre but wonderful world. Watch out, too, for the continuing adventures of unwitting web hero 'The Russian'. House of Dumb. If Ann Coulter was a blogging British bloke. Relentless ranting plus jokes!
What are you reading at the moment? > I get bored with books really easily. Unless it grabs me from the outset I'm likely to give up fairly soon. Currently I'm reading We Are at War: The Remarkable Diaries of Five Ordinary People, a prequel to Our Hidden Lives: The Remarkable Diaries of Postwar Britain. Everyday life as history. It's rather like reading through 65-year-old blogs!
Who are your cultural heroes? > Ernesto Colnago, Donald McGill, Pete Townshend, Dirk Bogarde, Margaret Rutherford, Serge Gainsbourg.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Limbo' by Sidney:
Mauve world, green me,What is your favourite movie? > Probably the original The 39 Steps. It's got everything you could want from a film. It's technically wonderful too. Amazing to think the art form was still very much in its infancy just a few years earlier. Shame about the wrong train in one of the filling in shots though (a GWR Castle Class emerges from a tunnel instead of the LNER A3 Hannay set off on from King's Cross).
Black him, purple her,
Yellow us, pink you...
Lead pipes, fortune made,
Six-to-four, come in second,
Green country, blue Haringey,
And White City.
What is your favourite song? > 'Thunder Road' by Bruce Springsteen. The only song I know all the words to.
Who is your favourite composer? > Eric Coates or maybe Robert Farnon. It's too close to call.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I know I've finessed on various issues but I can't remember how sincere those 'beliefs' would have been back then. Besides, I was a teenager and teenagers are daft by definition. That said, I don't think there have been any Damascene conversions along the way, if that's what you mean. I've always been on the side of freedom, I just didn't know there was a movement for such folk.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > P.J. O'Rourke's Republican Party Reptile. It wasn't necessarily the one. Parliament of Whores or Eat the Rich probably sealed it but Republican Party Reptile was the initial taste of the forbidden fruit. No doubt many readers will recoil at the thought of something so lowbrow but that was the in I needed. I went to a comprehensive school so there's no way I was going to get even slightly enthused by a worthy but boring tome. I need jokes with my politics and considering how well Ann Coulter and Jeremy Clarkson sell I guess I'm not the only one. Back to Peej: I'd seen a South Bank Show about O'Rourke sometime earlier and the name stuck. When I was 26 the cosmos collided in such a way that not only was I at an age when the very idea of 'conservatives' began to seem somewhat less repellent than they'd long been whilst I was growing up – with a few notable exceptions – but New Labour had been in for long enough to make them seem not so bad in hindsight. I picked up and devoured Republican Party Reptile and, wow, here was a cool, funny guy who was an advocate of freedom not only in economic matters but also in personal ones too. I found myself saying, 'Hey I like the sound of that.' He described himself as a 'libertarian' and that was when I suddenly had a label.
Who are your political heroes? > Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Robert Peel.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us' (from John F. Kennedy's 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech).
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Local government is a pig's ear all round and would take ages to 'put right'. However, the central government grant to local councils hides a multitude of sins, so removing that would shake things up a bit right away. Obviously local taxes would go up but national tax damn well ought to come down to compensate.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > Penn Jillette - you know, the big guy from Penn & Teller.
What would you do with the UN? > It has its uses but it's pretty impotent. Keep the conference chamber because there will always be a need to talk, but don't pretend despotic banana republics are equivalent to the leading democracies. And give up on the pretence that only the UN can ordain morality on an action. Oh, and when are Ireland, Sweden or Japan, to name but a few, going to send in their aircraft carriers?
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Anybody desperately trying to winkle out the hidden imam.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Well it's constantly changing. There are plenty of ways where life was better in days gone by, but then there are at least as many more where they've got much better. The trick is to acquire the new and improved without throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Taken as a whole, though, the best is yet to come, otherwise what's the point?
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Honesty.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Whatever floats your boat - but I must confess I don't get the appeal of golf or 'going to the gym'.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > I'm an optimist.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Even though he's nowhere near good-looking enough, Seth Green would be the closest likeness that I can think of.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > The former Astor residence in Elliot Terrace up on Plymouth Hoe. We'd have to kick the present Lord Mayor out first though unfortunately.
What would your ideal holiday be? > I'd love to buy a camper and just drive it all over Europe with the bike in the back ready to hit the road wherever I fancied. Imagine, Sicily or Andalucia in the winter. Norway in the summer.
What talent would you most like to have? > Patience.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Forestry worker. Being out in the fresh air all day. Deer prancing about. Lovely. Cool in the summer, too, because you're in under the shade. I've actually looked into this. I naively assumed you could just turn up with a chainsaw and as long as you could tell your Sycamore from your Larch you could crack on. Oh no. You've got to do THREE YEARS at agricultural college in Winchester or somewhere in the Lake District. How can I be doing that at my age?
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Tony Hancock. Or more accurately the Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock character as created by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson and interpreted by Tony Hancock.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Miguel Indurain, Claudio Chiappucci, Johan Musseeuw and Laurent Jalabert were my heroes in my formative years. I can't have a hero from amongst the current crop of cyclists because they're all younger than me and that ain't right.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd buy that camper van and park it in front of Eliott Terrace.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Winston Churchill, Boadicea and Serge Gainsbourg
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]