Despite living in Hull, Peter Ryley is a Yorkshireman's nightmare: a Southerner who lived for 20 years in Lancashire. A mature student, he studied at the University of Salford and embarked on a precarious career in adult education - firstly, at the Manchester College of Adult Education until it closed, then in Derbyshire, and latterly at the University of Hull. He continued to study part-time, gaining his MA in Peace Studies and finally completing his PhD on Anarchism in 2006, after interminable part-time research. Peter now dreams of early retirement and writing. He blogs at Fat Man on a Keyboard.
Why do you blog? > 'A lonely impulse of delight'; a love of writing; to stop myself walking about the house muttering; catharsis. Take your pick, but my friends are relieved at the lack of big speeches since I started.
What has been your best blogging experience? > There have been a few good moments, especially the growing sense of comradeship with other bloggers. Nick Cohen offering to buy me a pint was nice. However, the best incident occurred after I posted on the Victorian social realist artist, Walter Langley, and subsequently got an appreciative email from Langley's grandson.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > There have been none. I emphasize this because of the apocalyptic nonsense that is often talked about blogging.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Write to please yourself, but if you want an audience write regularly. Otherwise, simply enjoy yourself - it's fun.
What are your favourite blogs? > I am going to cheat here by saying that I read the personal sites of all the individual contributors to the Drink-soaked Trots. Will is a good talent spotter and there are some excellent writers to be found there. I also love irreverent humour so Olly's Onions is a must. Contrary to the guff about blogs being the outpourings of spotty adolescents, the majority that I come across seem to be written by ageing teachers who are angry about lots of things. Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Republic is a masterpiece of this genre.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > I haven't really left the 19th Century yet and there are many writers whom I admire. However, I always come back to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. It is important to read the original texts, as most of the secondary commentaries are dire. He can be infuriating and is appalling on gender, yet he is capable of profound insights and asks interesting questions about socialism that are highly pertinent today. The astonishing Scottish polymath, Patrick Geddes, also intrigues me. I see him as an important bridge between late 19th Century Anarchism and 20th Century radical thought.
What are you reading at the moment? > Tony Collins, Rugby's Great Split: Class, Culture and the Origins of Rugby League Football.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > What a question! There are so many. I suppose there is one book that I do go back to and re-read, finding something new each time, and that is Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.
What is your favourite poem? > Again, this is very difficult so I will mention poems that are personal and they are all unpublished. Hilda Cohen's 'To My Grandchildren' is from and about adult education. Siobhan Merron is a former student of extravagant and frustratingly unfulfilled talent. I taught her on an access course in Glossop and we are still friends. I like many of hers and cannot choose. Aphroula Smart's unpublished collection Pelion Dreams is a prized possession. I hope that one day Aphroula and Siobhan will be published.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I have changed my mind on most things, but the most important one is on international affairs. I used to have a fairly orthodox, anti-American, leftist viewpoint. To my horror, I used to read Chomsky approvingly. However, I had doubts that I kept pushing to the back of my mind. I came to a slow realization that the reason for my misgivings was a simple one. The position I held was wrong. Reading Nick Cohen's journalism was important in confirming my revised views, as were the books he recommended in his columns. Then I discovered the blogosphere when Steve Davies, my PhD supervisor, recommended normblog after I had commented adversely on 19th Century anarchists' apologist attitudes to terrorism. It was with huge relief that I found solidarity in blogs.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That liberty is not possible without economic security and equality - and vice versa.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Monism.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > I am not one for sudden epiphanies. My views change slowly, so I have chosen C.L.R. James's Beyond a Boundary. It gave me a huge sense of relief in that it said it was OK to be left-wing and like sport.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > A citizens' income.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The fantasies of political extremists and the hubris of statesmen.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I am an optimist. Us Western baby boomers have been a privileged generation, but our good fortune has not been equally shared. The world can be a hugely better place and it will have to be so in a very different way, with greater equality, liberty and sustainability.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Stop moaning!
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > Generally, when I am in the wrong.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Rugby Union.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Stop procrastinating.
What would you call your autobiography? > 'Dr Παχουλός Μπούφος'.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > My beautiful house in Pelion, Greece.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Spending time in my house in Greece.
What is your most treasured possession? > My house in Greece.
What talent would you most like to have? > I always wanted a wonderful singing voice instead of the tuneless croak I now have, but I would settle for being able to speak Greek.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Writer.
Who are your sporting heroes? > From football, it must be Eric (Cantona that is). For sheer aesthetic grace no one could compare with Garfield Sobers. I came to Rugby League later in life and the best player I saw play for Swinton was Les Holliday.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > I support Manchester United but have been priced out of going and am heartily disillusioned with the economics of the game, if not the skill and drama. And so, originally in the wake of Heysel and Hillsborough, I made a great choice of an alternative sport and a lousy choice of team; I support Swinton Rugby League Club.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > I would have a barbeque on my patio in Greece and invite Jesus, Mohammed and Christopher Hitchens. Could I resist the temptation to serve pork souvlaki?
[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.]