Taking A Break

Much as I have enjoyed the festivities and family time, it is not in my nature to stop and take time off. Unlike most people I am lucky in that what I do is what I love. I have no need to break from it. My brain simply does not shut off to writing and creating just because 5pm comes around. I am hardwired 24/7.

And so most of the time I spent with family was in reality an excuse to sit and type and redraft all day without having to feel like I was neglecting the other responsibilities in my life. I managed to stay off the laptop entirely on Christmas day but that really was it. And I don’t feel bad for that. Why should I? I have a passion, something that engages me from morning til night. It is something tangible. I am proud of my skills and my drive and enthusiasm. I have dreams of grandeur. And this is okay.

2017 promises some incredible experiences, some productive collaborations and a chance to put a lot of things on the map so to speak. And honestly, I have been itching to get back to Manchester and get the calender off to a productive start.

The next five months are already pretty much booked up from where I am standing – my calendar only looking empty from mid May once I return from Venice. Incidentally it’s already booked up again with a return trip in September. In the meantime there are all manner of opportunities waiting around the corner to fill the gaps in my time from fashion shows, to my work at Newstead Abbey, to publishing the revised edition of my book, to finishing my film script.

And I cannot wait.

These are exciting times.

The Pilgrimage

I have recently booked my first holiday as a single person.

I’ve never traveled abroad alone before but I often thought I’d like to. I have no qualms about doing things alone. I am very independent. But it will also have been 3 years since I had a holiday, and if I wait until there is someone else to go with, I may never go again. So I think I’ve earned it. And it means I can do things my own way. Which is essential for the kind of holiday I have in mind.

I’ve opted for Venice. For obvious reasons. I haven’t been there in 10 years and I’ve been 6 times. I have desperately missed it. It may only be genealogy but it feels like home. If I had the money I would have bought a second home there years ago.

Budgets have changed a lot since I was last there. Not only do I have fewer funds to play with, but the prices have doubled. I’ve decided on AirBNB and found a room share in San Polo that’s within my budget. I wanted to go before the holiday season, it’s cooler, cheaper and there are less people. And the only week I could get was at the beginning of May.

Coincidentally I will be in Venice for Tita’s birthday. I think I shall have to spend the day on Murano to celebrate. And by mid May 1818 Byron had moved to the Palazzo Mocenigo though he wasn’t to meet Tita until around early August. So it’s a historically interesting time from my point of view – not taking into account the ENORMOUS history of the city itself.

I’m avoiding all the tourist hotspots and letting fate take charge of the rest of the arrangements so we’ll see where it takes me. Because sometimes you can’t always be in control.

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.

23.12 – every year

23rd December is a date I cannot forget. First and foremost it is the birthday of my best friend of 27 years. It frightens me to think that I have known anyone who is not my own flesh and blood for that length of time. But I have. And friendship endures despite, or perhaps because of, our very different lives.

23rd December is also the anniversary of Tita Falcieri’s death. This year it’s 142 years. Such a long time indeed. Memory endures.

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.

Newstead Abbey

It would be remiss of me not to write something about how I came to now be a volunteer at Newstead Abbey. Especially since back in October when I was first inspired to write this post, I had visited it twice in as many weekends.

I first came here in 2003 but I hadn’t really got to grips with Lord Byron. He was a sideline to my research back then. Tita was my obsession.

But on 15th October this year I attended one of Abbey’s famous ghost tours and I became completely hooked on the history. And even if you went, like me, purely to get in through the door of that great house after dark, you could not help but ‘get the vibe’. At night Newstead takes on a whole new character. If you believe in ghosts and all things that go bump in the night, then Byron and his cronies are most definitely here.

The Saturday after my ghost walk, I came back for a full tour at my own leisure of both house and gardens. Now I’m ready to move in!

Byron has very much become a part of my life now that I am revising my book, furthering the research on Tita’s life and writing the script that that spawned from it. Looking into the nuts and bolts of Byron’s personality has become intrinsic to what I do because it explains why Tita became who he was in later years. They are interlocked by their journey together.

The thing is, I really like Byron and I know that those who are close to his history and the physical remnants of him do too. Like Tita, they are strangely protective of him. Even all these years on he instills a loyalty that isn’t easily explained.

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Lord Byron’s bedroom at Newstead. Most of the items in it are his (authors copyright)

On a wider scale, Newstead is a house oozing with a long and colourful history of which Byron is a relatively small part. And there are many tales of both good and bad that well versed staff are happy to regale you with. For me the connection is all LB but you cannot ignore the incredible past this house has.

Tita, I doubt, ever came to Newstead. It had long been sold before Byron made his last journey past the estate by hearse on his way to the family vault at Hucknall a few miles away. St Mary Magdalene, he was most definitely at, but not the Abbey. But it does contain a number of items which do relate to my ancestor – artefacts from Greece – which if you believe in the paranormal, must contain the imprints of some fairly tumulous events.

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St Mary Magdalene church, Hucknall (authors copyright)

I think it is the military helmet that Byron had made for him in Genoa in 1823 to wear ‘in battle’ that I covert the most. It is an impressive piece of regalia – typical of Byron. But Gamba’s military helmet is also there, a piece of Kaksalis house where Byron died and other fascinating military items that really bring the story to life.

Tita would have had his hands on these things. They would have been packed in Greece for the return to England with Byrons’ body in 1824. My mind tries to comprehend those events and what happened and what came after and it is almost impossible to imagine what it means.

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Byron’s military helmet designed by him and made in Genoa in 1823 – photograph courtesy of Nottingham City Museums and Galleries

All of the above is partly why I have enroled as a volunteer, to absorb some of that history and use it as inspiration. The house draws you in. And you can’t help but feel its pull.

But it’s also about giving something back. Not only is the connection personal but we are incredibly lucky as a nation to have places like Newstead, preserving our great and good cultural heritage. And to have the opportunity to work there and help safeguard it for generations to come is both an honour and a privilege.

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.

Getting Into Characters

Writing my script as the extension to my book has been cathartic. The characters are no longer names and dates and places in academic research material. They were living, breathing, real people. They always were. But historical accounts turn them into something less personal. Like something out of a Jane Austen novel.

By putting them into real scenarios, the scenarios we already recognise from history, and filling in the gaps to create a narrative, I have realised their complex layers. Their motives. Their plights. I’ve had to delve right into their souls to really understand what was going on and the circumstances of their decisions. And my own personality type has warmed to them, more so than before.

I have discovered I share many of Byron’s character traits. That me and Percy Shelley have something in common and that my ancestor, my flesh and blood DNA, is so much more than a name in my family tree. By picking up the pieces of his life that I know to be fact, and weaving them into scenes which turn them into something tangible for the screen whilst still retaining their factual placement, I have found what made him tick and why he made key decisions in his life.

I suddenly came across some new information which made me have to rethink a whole chunk of his life history. At first I was resistant to it, it was so what I wasn’t expecting. But  after a couple of days it really started to shape him as a person. I started to think more critically of him and to finally put that piece into play that I needed to round off his personality – that actually he may have been a bit of a dick at times. That he was impulsive and driven and not always considerate. And I really like that. I’ve worked out where all the crappy bits in my personality have come from. So he’s easy to understand.

In simpler terms, I am connected to someone who was profoundly loyal. Someone who was passionate and wore his heart on his sleeve and who stood by his principles. Someone who doesn’t seem to have been afraid of what he was. Even if sometimes it didn’t show him in the best light. His qualities were and still are admirable and I am insanely proud of him and what he represents. Without it, I would not be here.

These are not characters in a book. These were real human beings. They lived their lives in our not so distant past. They have helped shape our history, inspired us, influenced us. And then they left us.

This is what my film, or mini series, or whatever it is morphing in to this week, is about. It’s not fiction. It’s fact stitched together with occasional drama that could have been the truth.

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.

A Life Squandered

Lord Byron wrote to his mother aged 16 that he would ‘cut myself a path through the world or perish in the attempt‘. Such was his ambition to be something. It is an admirable statement. And he stuck to it. To a degree at least.

For me, a life without purpose is a life squandered. Of course it depends on your interpretation of purpose. Mine is to design and write. Creativity is my life blood. It’s what I have been doing since I was 12. But I want it to mean something. It has to be more than just words.

Every day I design or write or both. To me work is what binds everything together. Get your working hours right, and everything else will follow. And because I love what I do, it doesn’t feel like work. Without these things in my life it does not bear imagining what I would be.

That said, I have squandered huge chunks of my time, let’s not kid ourselves here. But I remind myself that there are many people who will not have got as far as me. I still have time. Whilst you are alive, there is always still time. And regret is pointless.

That is a hard thing for me to say because I am my own harshest critic. But sometimes you need reminding. As for the rest of it, well I am well and truly back on track.

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.

Lord Byron Was Not A Serial Killer

I have a confession to make. I don’t read books. At least, not to any great length. I use them for research but never for leisure and rarely in their entirety. I am always short of time and I cannot sit still for 5 minutes. Yes I know – shame shame shame! But it is all with good reason; at least I think so.

Instead, I have discovered the audio book. I want to read Lord Byron’s poetry. But I find his work impossible under my own steam. Epics like Don Juan take up far more time than I have to spare. People had less to do back in his day. Reading was an all consuming activity. If I can manage one tweet without losing interest it’s a miracle *sad face*.

I discovered Librivox as I searched in vain for the various poems written post 1818 to help colour my film script about Tita’s life. What I found, eventually, was Peter Gallagher’s recordings of Don Juan. At present only Cantos I, V, XIII, XIV, XV and XVI are available but I have it on good authority that the rest are in progress. It is a mammoth undertaking.

Every other attempt to find audio formats of Byron’s work have resulted in what sounds like the labours of a demented serial killer doing a 30 year stretch. Or Clint Eastwood in classic cowboy guise. And why are they always so romantic? Please Youtube contributors stop with the Adagio and Austenesque style imagery. You are doing it no favours. If you read enough of LB’s work you’ll realise Byron doesn’t write about love verbatim. To quote Peter Cochran:

For all his reputation in legend, Byron wrote very little poetry about love itself. He wrote

poetry of lament, of mourning, of regret, of farewell, of mistrust, of jealousy, of warning, of hatred, of gratitude, of reproof, of bitterness … hardly ever of love. He never writes about the moment, but is always bidding farewell.

And I’m not surprised given his chequered experiences with it.

These Librivox fragments have opened up a whole new world for me. Now I can travel about (well I’m a captive audience anyway) and work at my design business whilst ‘reading’. And Peter’s delivery is fantastic. He transfers the wit and satirical vein of Don Juan into words with tone and pace. And like the flick of a switch, now I understand it.

Sadly this is the only recording I have found which fits Byron’s style. The others to coin a Tweet ‘bleed the life out of the poetry‘. I got scarcely a couple of minutes through offerings of ‘Childe Harold’, ‘The Giaour’ and ‘Lara’ without crying stop and cringing inwardly.

Somebody, please continue Peter’s good work and do the poeshie justice. I will love you forever and promote you mercilessly.

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.