FOR a number of years now, writer, photographer, stand-up-comic and folk musician Mike Harding has written a monthly column for The Great Outdoors, Britain's premier backpacking and trekking magazine. Witty, acidic and sometimes frothing over with barely concealed grump, the articles have plumbed the heights, and soared to the depths of all that is best and worse in travel writing. Here, gathered under one roof for the first time, is a selection of some of the best of those literary burblings.
In these pages you will meet Yorkshire Transvestite and hero Maurice Wilson, you will climb the Devil's Bollocks, and hear the story of Akala and the Monk's Ghost. May you read them in health ...
MIKE HARDING'S monthly contributions to TGO achieve the near impossible - he has an uncanny ability to produce fun and laughter out of almost any situation, the most extreme being his self deprecating descriptions of suffering extreme Delhi-belly in the direst of circumstances. I can even forgive him for describing me as Macaroon McNasty. Cameron McNeish, editor, The Great Outdoors magazine
MIKE HARDING was born in Crumpsall, Manchester in 1944, into a working-class Irish-Catholic family. His ability to commit his childhood memories vividly to paper was encouraged by his English teacher at St. Bede's School, Father 'Foxy' Reynolds, now sadly dead, but whose teaching Mike will never forget.
Throughout the early years Mike developed a love for music, playing in Skiffle and Rock bands in the 60s. He has fond memories of sharing the bill with The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Hollies, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders and the late Eric Spanner and the Rhythmaires. Among his early musical influences, Mike lists Lonnie Donegan, Jesse Fuller and Lancashire folk-singer, the late Harry Boardman. Mike served his apprenticeship in the pubs and clubs of Great Britain and still joins in sessions in Manchester's Irish pubs if he gets half a chance!
After working as a dustman, bus conductor, road digger and carpet-fitter, Mike took a degree in Education, paying his way by working at night in Folk Clubs. The lure of the bright lights proved too much and he became a full-time entertainer instead of a teacher. His success began in 1967 when, during a gig at Leeds University with The Edison Bell Spasm Band, he began to tell jokes to fill in the awkward pauses while the band tuned up.
In 1975 the record The Rochdale Cowboy flung him from folk music into the mainstream of live entertainment. Since then he has earned acclaim in all fields of his work including national concert tours, television and radio appearances, travel writing, comedy writing, poetry, playwriting, short story writing and photography.
A love of the countryside led to his realising a life-long dream, when he bought a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. He was President of The Ramblers for a three year term and is now a lifetime Vice-President. He is in constant demand to speak on environmental and ecological issues and has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society