You have an obvious love of history, especially some of the quirky bits. What first sparked that interest?
I don’t think there was a specific ‘spark’. I grew up in the aftermath of World War II and a basic knowledge of history was essential in order to make sense of what people round me were talking about. The subject was taught well at school and my parents (also both interested in history) encouraged me. At age 14 an aunt and my parents gave me a copy of Shepherd’s Historical Atlas, a decidedly unusual present for a boy of that age.ponycargirl
On your “Top Ten List of Important Events in History,” which event would be number one and why?
No. 1 would undoubtedly be World War I. It left Europe weakened, destabilized and disoriented, though much of this was not obvious in Western Europe (except Ireland). Most of the lands along the Danube continued to seethe, at various temperatures, from Bavaria to the Black Sea, even after fighting had died down. Southern Europe was also in turmoil and in Eastern Europe the Russian Civil War (and some of the other wars in Eastern Europe in 1918-21) created a nonchalant attitude to extreme brutality, which resurfaced later. I’m not saying that another world war was inevitable. However, a climate emerged that favoured dictators able to mobilize and exploit the ‘spectre’ of Bolshevism, even before the Great Depression.ponycargirl
Which event in the 20th century, in your opinion, will have the most far reaching effect on the world in the future?
It would be tempting to name the collapse of Soviet power, 1989-91. (Then my two key dates would encompass what Hobsbawm called the ‘Short Twentieth Century’). However, I think that when considering the future, continuing processes are going to be more important. In particular, there are all kinds of problems of sustainability. For example, can we, in the advanced countries, go on and on increasing the proportion of our lives spent as dependents? Incidentally, it’s not just a matter of people living longer but also studying longer and longer, often well into their 20s.StarStruck60 and ponycargirl
If time travel was possible, which era would you choose to visit?
I like the 18th century and the Regency period in British history – the ‘Age of Elegance’ in architecture, design and much else besides. I’m very keen on the Enlightenment, but I’m also aware that much of the later part of this period (ca. 1780) was one of social upheaval and conflict.
Which historical personality would you want to meet and why?
The range of choice is enormous! Obvious choices would include a great ruler, such as Alfred the Great or Elizabeth I. However, I have a yen for outrageous people, so Byron would be a candidate and so would Catherine the Great, who combined the role of enlightened ruler with a zest for unbridled hedonism.StarStruck60
What is the best thing about being a FT Editor?
One edits some excellent quizzes and gets to know some very interesting people. What I enjoy in particular is editing quizzes that are interesting, unusual and basically sound, but still need some further work from the quiz author (and editor) – for example, an imaginative, well written quiz that has somehow strayed into the ‘explicit’ area and needs ingeniously moving into the elegantly risqué zone.Pagiedamon
What is the toughest thing about being a FT Editor?
Dealing with poor research – with people writing about things that they really don’t understand. Then, there also are a few people who are dogmatic and cling to urban legends like desperadoes. Another bugbear is dealing with what I call ‘telescoped knowledge’. I’ll use an invented example. Someone claims that ‘the Nazi party originated in Latvia’. When I probe, it emerges that the quiz author has read something that talks about the influence of some émigrés from the Baltic region on the early development of the party.Pagiedamon
Besides for editing at FT, what is your "real life" occupation?
I’m a retired university lecturer in German.ponycargirl
Which game on FT do you always make sure that you play every day?
The World Quiz (‘Daily Geo Challenge’).StarStruck60
What do you do to relax?
I spend too much time online, not least in FT. I also like various collectibles. However, some things – especially coins and really good, old postcards - have become horribly expensive, so I have scaled right back on this.Pagiedamon
I've always wanted to ask you this: why don't you have an avatar on your profile page?
Thanks for reminding me. I’ll get round to it someday. Exit10
I've heard that German people cannot tell you apart such is your fluency when speaking the language. What is it that you like about the German culture?
The German-speaking lands, thanks to their position in the middle of Europe, have generally been open to all kinds of influences from neighbouring countries and regions, such as France, Italy, Eastern Europe and from slightly further afield, especially the British Isles. This has made Germany in many ways cosmopolitan. (Yes, I know there have been time when this has not been so). Conversely, there has been considerable German influence on most neighbouring countries and also on some aspects of the US.
In my teens and twenties, Germany was still widely regarded as a great bastion of scholarship and science. If you want to see the culture of the German-speaking lands, there is no substitute for a longish stay in Vienna (which I have visited three times).
I should add that German at school was taught with unholy zeal, not to say fanaticism. Shortly before my final undergraduate year at university, I was introduced to one of the most senior Germanists at the university. He said, ‘I see I’ll be teaching you this coming year. Which school did you go to?’ I told him and was thunderstruck when replied, ‘In that case your German will be very good indeed!’
I boggled and said, ‘That is a rather strange thing to say’. ‘No, not at all!’ he replied. ‘We have taught a number of people from your school over the years, and they were all very, very good. It’s well known that the school teaches German exceptionally well’.Pagiedamon
Which is the more beautiful language--English or German? Why?
That depends entirely on who is speaking. Exit10
What are the features of Norfolk that make it an enjoyable place for you to live?
By far the most attractive parts are Norwich, where I live, and the North Norfolk Coast from Cromer to Hunstanton, which is a very beautiful area. Norwich is unusually well preserved, with 32 medieval churches still standing, in addition to the cathedral. There are some charming old villages and small towns on the coast. One of my favourites is Wells-next-the-Sea, a charming, now largely silted up old port in an area of outstanding natural beauty.ponycargirl
I noticed that traveling is one of your hobbies. Where have you traveled, and what site was your favorite?
I’ve travelled quite extensively in Europe and I’ve visited the US six times. (Slightly ‘off beat’ countries visited in Europe include: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania).
Naming a favourite place is difficult. How does one compare San Francisco or New Orleans, for example, with Dinkelsbühl or Locarno?
I grew up in London, and have always liked large, vibrant cities, like New York, Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Hamburg. Favourite places that I have visited include Rome, Venice, Prague, and also much smaller places like Brasov and Sibiu. One of the most beautiful, intriguing and strangely mysterious places that I’ve visited (twice) is Sighisoara (Transylvania). In Germany, one of my favourite towns is the well preserved Hanseatic city of Wismar; another is the (over preserved) town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
I’ve always like cities with dramatic changes of height in the centre. The effect is often dramatic. This is one of many reasons why I so like Prague, San Francisco and Edinburgh, for example.StarStruck60
If money was no object, where in the world would you choose for a long holiday?
I’d love to explore parts of Mexico, Central America and one or two islands in the Caribbean. It would be wonderful to visit Mexican baroque churches and palaces, Aztec and Maya ruins, the Yucatan Peninsula, take a trip to Aruba and then to round it off with a stay in Dominica. (Expensive tastes!)ponycargirl
It is clear that you do a lot of reading. Is there a book that you read over and over again? Who is your favorite author?
(I am talking really major authors like Shakespeare for granted and not listing them).
I’ve come to read quickly and selectively. There is no book that I’ve read over and over again for pleasure, though there are some chapters and short sections of books that I have re-read a number of times. Many of the authors I like have written works with a political or historical dimension, and I note that they are all depressing – works like "Nineteen Eighty-Four", Koestler’s "Darkness at Noon" and Elie Wiesel’s "Night" spring to mind. No, I don’t have a favourite author. Among German-language authors I particularly like Robert Musil’s devastatingly astute observations on the Mitteleuropa of his time.Pagiedamon
Shed some light on the elusive bloomsby persona. What should we know about you?
I joined FT shortly after a visit to London in 2001 and as usual had stayed in a bed and breakfast place in Bloomsbury. (It’s one of the areas of Central London where one can stay without having to pay the earth).
The signon name has the advantage of being short and a little out of the ordinary. On the other hand a couple of people have told me, with a smile, that they think it’s pretentious.Thanks to all who participated.