Welcome to the next in this series of short interviews. I ask each interviewee five questions: Who, What, Why, Where, Whatever… and each month I’ll publish the most interesting ones. If you’d like to participate, please get in touch!
This time it’s Mike Kingdom-Hockings in the spotlight!
I’m a Citizen of the World. I have a British passport and domicile, but I was born in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanganyika. My father was of Devon and Cornish stock, and my mother’s family came from Normandy and Brittany. Try asking a Cornishman if he’s English or a Breton if he’s French.
I worked in the IT industry (known as employment for the otherwise unemployable when I started in 1960) until I took advantage of an early retirement plan in 1992. After that, I spent six months pretending to be a teacher in Zambia and moved to Botswana, where I scratched a living doing odd jobs that ranged from contracting to German and US government aid groups to laying earth matting for an aluminium smelter in KwaZulu Natal.
For many years, I wrote a blog about France (France for Freebooters), aimed at the independent traveller who wanted to see things that were not on the mainstream tourist menu. Quite a few expats write blogs about France, but I was living in Botswana at the time.
In 2004 my wife Phyllis and I left Botswana and settled a bit to the left of the middle of France, in an old stone cottage we had been renovating for eight years. We’re still renovating the house and working on the one-hectare garden it sits in, but Phyll has just had a knee replacement and is at last beginning to concentrate on reducing the amount of work needed to maintain the garden, instead of adding to it all the time.
A couple of years ago, I stopped blogging altogether and began writing e-books, published on Amazon in Kindle format. Most of them are aimed at bright children like my elder granddaughter, who is now nine years old, but one (Travellers’ Tales) is a collection of stories originally published on France for Freebooters. Several people contributed to it over the years, but the two who gave me a steady stream of articles were Keith Kellett and Vivienne Mackie, and they are the main contributors to Travellers’ Tales.
I work at home in France. I grab what time I can between obligatory home and family activities, so I work in bursts. Even if I had all the time in the world, I’d probably work the same way. I have a natural aversion to routines.
My life has enough physical challenges to keep me fit, but I need mental challenges to stay sane and avoid becoming senile.
My pension is sort of half-indexed – it increases at half the rate of increase of the UK Consumer Price Index – so I’d be very pleased if one day I managed to write and publish enough books to create a new stream of revenue to plug the gap.
Travellers’ Tales was a one-off, as was the short story Raindrops, with my full name as author. Since then, I think I’ve found my niche – under the pseudonym Grandpa Mike I write non-fiction books for bright 8-12 year-olds (although quite a few older kids and adults also enjoy them). I also use that name for books aimed at their parents. Search for ‘Parenting Humour and Advice’, and don’t be put off by the fact that the cover says ‘A Maverick Guide to Parenting’ – you’ll find quite a few books on Amazon that have an official title that scores well in searches and matches category names, but the cover has a more enticing title as a graphic.
I am also a 10% shareholder in ropeysoles.com, an online retailer of espadrilles, berets and belts. I contribute a little web technology expertise from time to time, and I’m currently working on migrating the site to a modern, smartphone and tablet-friendly platform. That’s taxing my brain a little more than I had hoped, but it’s good for me.
Kay has been an expat for 25 years. She set up the British Expat website more than 15 years ago, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)