Masquerading as an ordinary fifty something, bespectacled college lecturer, there is much more to Harold Birks than meets the eye. A fascinating and quirky childless bachelor, he has the unusual attribute of not owning a single photo of himself, until now.
His life's motto is, 'You never really know' and I guess with people you never do.

Born and brought up in a working class household in Stoke-on-Trent, Harold had, in his own words, 'a relatively happy childhood' living with his parents and two older sisters. His varied working life began at fifteen when he left school with no qualifications and his early experience of life seems to have been somewhat solitary - the lone routine of a window cleaner was followed by the independent running of a hardware shop between the ages of 23 and 36.

A self reflective, self confessed athiest, Harold excelled in indifference at Queensberry Road Secondary School and it was not until he was in his thirties that his passion for knowledge began to thrive. After O' Levels and an A' Level in Economic and Social History at evening class, Harold sold his hardware shop to undertake a BA Hons in the History of Design in Visual Art. A veritable mine of fascinating facts, Harold revels in the knowledge that he took his degree at North Staffs - the then least fashionable polytechnic in England - and his MA in Design History at Middlesex - then the most fashionable polytechnic in England.

This wickedly dry sense of humour has often led Harold to be labelled as surreal but Harold prefers this to be thought of as having an imagination. Conforming to the common perception of a lecturer, he enjoys watching arts and history programmes and documentaries - accompanied by a friendly glass of scotch or bourbon. For one who professes to enjoy reading so much, he oddly never reads a newspaper, preferring instead to listen to Radio 4 to get, 'clued up' on current events.

A full time Senior Lecturer in Design History, Harold enjoys his busy job teaching graphics courses and overseeing dissertations for many design students, which he has been doing for the last seventeen years, the last twelve of which has been full time. Whilst enjoying his home comforts and expressing a fondness for travelling within the UK, Harold seems strangely neither a homely person or an avid traveller. Living in a typically messy, rented bachelor flat in Falmouth, he has a fantastic harbour view and drives to work in a Vauxhall Nova which he would swap for a Bristol if he was fortunate enough to ever win the lottery. Should that coveted jackpot fall Harold's way he would share it with his friends and family and buy a house in Cornwall and Shropshire but it is not something he seems concerned with.

Harold is refreshingly genuine and unmaterialistic. He is something of an enigma, a closet philosopher whose ambitions and aspirations are 'to carry on being inquisitive' and doubtless to carry on his search for meaning. He was profoundly effected by his two favourite books, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller and Ulysees by James Joyce. Interested in history and anthropology, Harold is both fascinated and baffled by the human condition, particularly with people's perceptions of themselves.

Looked up to and respected by his students, Harold describes himself in three words as, 'I don't know' and finds it genuinely surprising that people would describe him as clever or funny - clearly they frequently do - but he is a fine example of both. His observations of life and humanity are sharp and perceptive and our conversation on the concept of the self left me dissecting who I think I am and indeed what others think of me. Probably reacting to my puzzled expression, Harold's knowing smile betrayed a quiet delight in confounding people's expectations.

Dropping hilarious anecdotes into the conversation at unexpected moments and laughing with unselfconscious abandon, Harold reveals that he is a man with a real sense of the funny side of life. How many people can claim to have manure planed sideways down a road or flashed and pulled over a police car to let the policeman know his rear wheel was coming off? Or having been accidentally dropped down the stairs during an air raid, which in true ironic Harold style, he considers as his brush with death at the hands of Hitler!

Harold believes his life's main influence is intriguingly that he had a distinct lack of outside influence, further he holds no-one as a role model - instead and probably more sensibly (because then you can't be disappointed) he admires sets of characteristics: kindness; thought for others and genuineness. Standing at five foot five - the same height as both Napoleon and Kruschev - Harold displays none of the typical signs of the inferiority complex associated with the shorter man. He may have difficulty assessing what people think of him but who doesn't? And he thankfully shows no sign of the self obsessive traits many such íthinkersì become characterised by.

Harold Birks is not what you would expect. If you listen carefully you might hear the whir of thoughts rushing around his mind and it is definitely worth plumbing its depths to see what you can find. Obliging and willing to share the gems of his accumulated experience, Harold Birks is a very, very nice man.