2018 Yearly Wrapup

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Here we are again – saying goodbye to one year and welcoming in another. As always, I’m continuing with my yearly tradition and writing a year in review post and…what a year it’s been, not only in my history career but in my personal life as well.

The first big event of 2018 was our trip to Rome, in the first week of February. What a trip it was – we spent three full days squeezing in as much of that gorgeous city as we possibly could, visiting places we hadn’t been before and seeking out places that were linked to the Borgia family. Some of my favourite places from the trip include the Castel Sant Angelo, seeing Vanozza Cattanei’s gravestone listing the names of her children, the Borgia apartments and the Salita dei Borgia.

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March saw the release of my course on the Medici family over on MedievalCourses as well as being on Truce, a podcast, talking about Girolamo Savonarola. In April I was signed off sick from the day job for a couple of weeks and spent the time visiting local museums – I visited the Solent Sky Museum, Tudor House and the SeaCity museum. The visits certainly kept me busy and it was so nice to explore some of the historical sites in my hometown.

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During the May bank holiday, my partner and I decided to take a walk across the city and head to Netley Abbey. If I ever say I’m walking there again, someone PLEASE stop me! We did have a wonderful day out, though – the ruins of Netley Abbey are utterly stunning and very peaceful. We also spent a good few hours wandering around the Royal Victoria Country Park where I was particularly taken with the cemetery. I also booked my very first author talk!

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Cesare author talk Sept

I turned 30 in July and, following a rather messy night out a few days before, I spent the actual day getting a new tattoo! It’s become something of a birthday tradition to get inked on my birthday so, for my 30th, I got a very special tattoo done – Cesare Borgia’s signature!

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August was, on a personal level, a month of incredible highs and incredible lows. My little brother got married at the end of the month and we had an absolutely wonderful time – I was so proud of him and my sister-in-law. It was a gorgeous ceremony in a beautiful location in Falmouth. But unfortunately, the morning after, my grandfather suddenly passed away in his sleep. He’d had a brilliant day at the wedding and had been so chuffed to see his first grandchild get married. Rest in peace, Grandad. I love and miss you.

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As 28 September rolled around, during two weeks where I’d been signed off work (again), I gave my very first author talk at Southampton Central Library. The nerves were very, very real but I had an absolute blast giving the talk and will certainly be doing more in the future!

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October saw my favourite event of the year – the Winchester History Weekend! It’s always an absolute pleasure to attend the talks given at this event and this year we booked to see Dan Jones & Marina Amaral talk about their new book “The Colour of Time” – they discussed how Marina coloured her photos, how Dan Jones discovered her, the process behind writing the book and let me tell you. It was awesome. We had the chance after the talk to meet the both of them and, funny story, when it was my turn to get my book signed Dan Jones looked at me and said “I know you from the internet!” and asked how the blog and writing was going. Both him and Marina are absolute sweethearts and it was an honour to meet them both!

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We also said goodbye to my Grandad in October – I travelled up to Leamington Spa for his funeral. It was a very emotional couple of days.

On the day I got back from Leamington Spa, I went ghost hunting! Two friends and I had booked a night at Tudor House Museum in Southampton with the Paranormal Adventures team so, after a quick nap when I got home, off I went to meet them from work (as I was still signed off at that point) and we went ghost hunting! What an experience it was – a lot of very creepy things happened, including one of my friends seeming to channel the spirit of a young lady, a very intense Ouija board session and some creepy goings on up in the attic!

Now, I’ve been somewhat quiet here during the last few months of the year. And that is because I’ve been spending a lot of time concentrating on my current work in progress. It’s been an uphill climb however now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The first draft is VERY close to completion! So I should hopefully have more news on that during the first few months of 2019.

2018 has closed on a very sad note, however. On Saturday 22 December we said goodbye to our beautiful grey chinchilla, Cesare. The poor mite had been unwell for a while and dragging his back-end, struggling to go to the toilet. A xray showed a strange white mass which both the vet and specialist couldn’t identify. It was down to my partner and I to research what it could be and we discovered that it was 99% likely to be a kidney stone. By this point our boy was far too weak and would not have survived further x rays or even surgery – when we noticed he’d been passing blood in his urine we made the very difficult decision to have our boy put to sleep. Cesare had such a personality on him and really was the sweetest of boys – his passing has certainly left a hole in our hearts and this festive period has been difficult without his craziness. Love and miss you, Cesare.

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I’d like to wish each and every one of my readers a Happy New Year – thank you for all your support this year, you’ve been wonderful. Stay safe tonight and here’s to a happy and prosperous 2019!

2017 in Review

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It’s become a bit of a tradition for me to sit down on New Years Eve and write a little something to review what’s happened in the year that’s coming to an end. And here we are again. It’s been…well, it’s been a year full of ups and downs and it’s been exciting in many, many ways.

Publication wise, 2017 has been wonderful. I started out the year with an article in Tudor Life Magazine on English Royalty and the Borgias, for The Tudor Society (an amazing website with loads of cool stuff for members. Swing on by and sign up) before signing a contact for my second book, Girolamo Savonarola: The Renaissance Preacher.

My Savonarola Journey throughout 2017 was just amazing and it’s something I will never forget. In May, my partner and I went to Florence for our holiday – except it wasn’t just a holiday, it was a research trip as well and my opportunity to walk in Savonarola’s footsteps. We spent our days wandering the hallways of San Marco and the Palazzo Vecchio, we stood before Savonarola’s memorial plaque, I sat in both of Savonarola’s cells, I stepped into churches and the Cathedral where he had delivered his fiery sermons. And during that week I felt closer to my subject than I ever had done before. But it was also an opportunity to drink in other parts of Renaissance history – we walked in the footsteps of the Medici, of great artists and scientists. It truly was a wonderful week over in Tuscany, a week of history, plenty of walking, lots of wine and amazing food!

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View from the closed terraces. Photo by me

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Exterior of San Lorenzo. Photo by me.

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Mini Savonarola marking the place of his human counterparts execution

June saw the release of my first ever online course – The History of the Borgias – a very brief course giving an overview of the infamous family for anyone looking to learn the basics. I certainly learned a lot myself in doing the course – and these things are always learning curves. Confidence, it seems, is my issue when it comes to speaking in front of a camera and that is something that I know I need to work on. Confidence, after all, is the key behind public speaking and that is definitely something I need to look to when being in the field of history. It will come! I’m still super pleased with the outcome of the course, though, and really looking forward to working with Medieval Courses in the future (watch this space for news on that front!)

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Girolamo Savonarola: The Renaissance Preacher was released into the world on 8 August 2017 and to date is my proudest achievement. That probably sounds really big-headed, doesn’t it? But it’s the truth. It was a long and eye-opening journey from start to finish and seeing the finished product in my hands was just…well it was mind-blowing, really. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has brought and reviewed it so far and a thank you to everyone planning to read it! I’d also like to extend a huge thank you to my wonderful publishers MadeGlobal for giving me the chance to publish with them again – I couldn’t imagine a better, more professional, bunch of people to work with!

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In October my partner and I took ourselves off to the BBC History Weekend at Winchester where we had an absolutely lovely evening listening to talks by Ian Mortimer and the fabulous Janina Ramirez – I even got books signed by both of them as well as pictures with both! I even shyly gave Dr Ramirez a copy of The Renaissance Preacher. Both talks were absolutely wonderful and we both learned a lot. I was particularly struck by the way the Reformation really began and how it linked all across Europe.

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This year I also hosted two very big interviews with two gentleman who are both heroes of mine – the fantastic Dan Jones stopped by to give some advice on how not to procrastinate and tell some stories about how it was he got into history. And then, Mark Ryder dropped in for an interview in which we talked about his role as Cesare in Canal +’s Borgia Faith & Fear, his experiences playing the infamous warlord and which historical characters he’d like to play in future. A huge thank you to both Dan Jones and Mark Ryder for stopping by this year. I also gave my first ever interview over on Adrienne Dillard’s website, talking about the release of The Renaissance Preacher, my ways of getting over writers blockĀ  and who I’d invite, living or dead, to a dinner part. If you can, do go and pick up Adrienne’s books as she a fantastic author and a lovely person – Adrienne’s books can be found on Amazon.

All in all it’s been a very successful year and I hope that such positivity can carry on into 2018. There are a lot of exciting things planned for 2018, the first of which being a trip to Rome in February. This is a research trip mainly, for what will end up being my third book. I can’t say anything yet on the book, but watch this space for details! I also turn…the dreaded thirty!

I’d like to wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year. If you’re going out tonight then see in the new year safely and in the same way, if you’re staying at home and watching Jools Holland then stay safe and enjoy yourselves. I shall be cracking open the Prosecco and, if Jools Holland gets too much then I’ll probably end up playing video games. I’ve written my last words for 2018 both here on the blog and for my latest project so here it goes…

See you all next year!