For generations, my family have been travelers, entrepreneurs, and raconteurs. I am the same. We come from wool/cotton/silk. Originally from NW Britain, we have lived in Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Romania, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, S Africa, Germany, Wales, Scotland, England, Argentina, USA, Canada, India, and China.
I have a special love of deepest Switzerland, of Spain and the vast Hispanic world, of Tuscany, and all of Catalonia.
I salute the Rom people, who by some strange chance saved the lives of both my maternal and paternal families several times. I enjoy inventing, wikipedia, transmitting knowledge, dance, ballet, flamenco, ranchero, African music, country, delta blues, reggae, schlager, alpmusik, techno, house, my own bad music, and Levantine cuisine.
I have lived on internet or its predecessors, and social media, for ever, am an intensive user but not a techie.
Born: August 20, 1945, Manchester, brought up in Italy, Scotland, and Spain.
Citizenship: UK, Switzerland.
Worked: Americas, Asia, Europe, Africa.
Fluent: English, Italian, Spanish, French, functional German.
Supporter: slum charities, young choreographers and troupes with good stories and good music.
Old nick-names: Señorito Miguel, Don Mike, Idaho Mike, Micu țigan.
Swiss School, Milano, Italy
Merton House, Penmaenmawr Dwygyfylchi, Wales
Malvern College, Malvern, UK
Boys Highland Band, Dunbartonshire, and Cadets Band, Malvern, UK (drummer)
Academia Coronel Ladislao de Berzeviczy, Barcelona, Spain (cavalry)
Cambridge University, UK (Hispanic, Arabic, and Francophone Studies)
West of Scotland University, Paisley, UK (textile engineering, color engineering)
Shirley Institute, Manchester, UK (textile engineering)
Clyde Explorers Club (mentoring gang youth in Glasgow, Scotland area)
Chavannes-des-Bois Fire Brigade, Switzerland (volunteer fireman for many years)
Civil Protection, Switzerland (nuclear, biological, chemical detector)
THE LONG READ...
Until age 10, I lived in Tuscany, where my father was rebuilding some Scottish textile mills damaged in WWII. The mills were my playground and I have always been happy around textiles and factories. Later, I attended the tri-lingual Swiss School in Milano where most of the kids' Swiss parents were in textiles or sewing machines (Italy was rebuilding after WWII thanks to its textile industry). My father was a friend of bicycling champion and war hero Gino Bartali, so I got the bicycle bug, and a custom signed frame, very young. Much of the time I traveled across Europe, mostly in Germany, with my eccentric grandmother and aunt, who would create chaos in grand hotels (very cheap after the war), playing soccer in the huge empty corridors in vintage hand-knitted bikinis (my father hated his mother so he would give her money to travel anywhere as long as it was distant). My grandmother was a freelance organist, so we would play and sing in little churches (many hymns are the same in German and English), often when their musical staff had all been killed in the war. To get a bed for the night, it was usually enough to offer to play the organ for the next church service or work on a farm. Usefully, my grandmother spoke fluent German because as a very young single mum she had worked for a family of German Hanseatic merchants in Liverpool who had taught her music, and she ended up playing organ at the German church.
SWITZERLAND 1st chapter
As a kid, when my father was rebuilding a textile mill at Intra on Lake Maggiore near the Swiss frontier, I loved traveling into Switzerland on the yellow Swiss Post buses (kids alone were normal then), to stay with farm families in the Alps. I became attached for ever to deepest Switzerland, to long hikes in the high forests, to reading animals' feelings, to cold nights in cowherd huts, and loved trying to communicate in the old dialects spoken by these taciturn mountain people.
At age 8, this was a bad year. Beloved school-friends in Milano died, I spent weeks in solitary quarantine with a contagious illness, I was told that my affection for Italy was misplaced because I had a new queen in a place called Britain, and I was sent to boarding school in North Wales. There I went into revolt and got daily physical beating. Due to this brutality, to the constant showing of war films at the school, to the pain when my friends died, and to a few other unmentionable horrors, I took the irrevocable decision to not have children. Surprisingly, the school encouraged us to run loose in the afternoons, which meant endless speed-hiking in the beautiful mountains of North Wales, friendly wild ponies to talk to, incredible wildlife, rescues of exhausted sodden sheep stuck in mountain bogs, and joyous crushes on sweet Welsh shepherd-girls.
At age 10, my parents moved from Milano to Glasgow, which I loved. As hobbies, I apprenticed voluntarily with a master-gardener and planted veggies and fruits for the local big homes, and repaired electric trains for rich collectors, both of which became quite a business. At age 12, I did my first startup with some entrepreneurial Scots girls, washing found golf balls and painting "Champ !" on them. For a kid with a fast Italian racing bike, Scotland and its thrilling scenery was an exalting place to live. The beginning of a life on a bicycle. And as a drummer in the local pipe-band and at society balls I also learned to swing a kilt (a useful life-skill).
At age 13, we moved to Spain. Spain was still recovering from the recent Civil War and trying to transition straight from the Middle Ages into the Swinging 60s. There was electricity in the air, young people were hungry to try the new lifestyles, and there was lots of money to be earned by cheeky teens with languages, travel experience, and a pair of Levi's and heeled riding-boots. A lot of people were making money very fast and the newly rich would pay us anything to exercise their excessively fancy horses and teach their spoiled kids everything from Latin to history to good manners to how to be a nuevo teenager. I also studied across Spain in musty old colonial libraries and randomly wrote a thesis on explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, whose path I have mentally and geographically crossed many times during my life. As a result of all these influences I built a deep emotional bond with Hispanic culture, literature and music. Very deep.
At age 18, inspired by a long sojourn in Andalusia, I dusted off my thesis and traveled to Oxford, failed the entrance exam (the examiners' language skills were abysmal and I told them, a bad idea). Fortunately a mentor got me back on track so I took the train to meet the Cambridge examiner (fabulous language skills and we talked for two hours and dinner), and they accepted me to study Arabo-Hispanic and Latin-American history and literature. I soon realized that without immersive exposure to classical Arabic, I would not reach degree level. So I switched to French literature, discovered the beauty of alexandrines, and got the degree. At 21, I went to work for Coats in Glasgow, the world's largest thread company. They sent me to West of Scotland University at Paisley to learn engineering, production management, and ergonomics. After that I worked in their mills in Spain, Scotland, Italy, Germany, and Austria.
SWITZERLAND 2nd chapter
At age 24, I married a Swiss girl whom I had met at Cambridge, and got a job with DuPont de Nemours in Geneva in their new products group, working with Nomex para-aramid, Kevlar aramid, Teflon PTFE, Kapton film, and Tedlar PVF. These products were so revolutionary that they often required the companies who used them to re-invent their business models; all good training for my later work with startups.
SWITZERLAND 3rd chapter
After 10 years traveling worldwide for DuPont, at age 34, I went freelance and started advising companies on modernization of their technologies, soon becoming very involved with startups (see Startups page) for the rest of my life. About the same time, the Swiss village where I had lived for many years gifted me Swiss citizenship which I received with incredible emotions after so many years of being in and around the Alps as a kid and as an adult.
My technical knowledge is varied but generalist. I have specialized knowledge of technical materials, industrial design, and creativity planning.
a. Refurbing vintage silk hank-winders to slow-process knot-free embroidery threads, expanding the market for automated high-speed embroidery in ethnic fashions.
b. Speeding up 3-D spectrophotometry and automated dye mixing for thread-dyeing, facilitating a new market of overnight color-matched thread delivery.
c. Using the UK's first industrial mainframe computer to map tri-dimensional color-space, so that every color and depth of shade could be given a numeric co-ordinate, leading to better color reproducibility in many industries.
d. Developing dyeing of para-aramid fibers to open new markets in worker-protection and fire brigades.
e. Developing quilted para-aramid clothing for F1 motor-racing, extending fire-protection times.
f. Organizing the first European Hot-Gas Filtration Symposium in Düsseldorf, leading to improved filtration of pollutant emissions at asphalt and TiO2 plants.
g. Creating a club of German industrial laundries to develop high-tech calender felts, reducing waste.
h. Developing the first Kevlar vests and helmets against armor-piercing munitions.
i. Working with Louis Vuitton and designer Clino Castelli on futuristic luggage materials for the America's Cup Challenge trophy. The fabrics used a Kevlar/Polyamide wrapped-core yarn technology, originally developed for the first Lycra swimsuits, woven and 'locked' by heat-fusion. The concept was later used for fused racing sails.
j. Working with the European Space Agency on ultra-thin polyimide film with vacuum vapor deposited gold coating, used to wrap satellites, significantly reducing payload weight.
k. Working with polyimide and PVF films in many industries (electronics, architectural, horticultural, aeronautical).
l. Working on some of the first ultra-light drones (yes, in the 1970s !), made viable for the first time thanks to the lightness of Nomex paper honeycomb and Kevlar/Carbon composite structures. This is a very long story.