Category Archive: Uncategorized

Latest Prostate Test

As some readers may be aware, I have my own page on Facebook (search ‘Ian Hughes MA’) where I post titbits of information from time to time.  I’ve just realised (I’m not the brightest!) that I posted the result of my last PSA test there but have made no mention of it here.  I apologise.

As many regular visitors may know, at Christmas 2013 I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. In mid-September I received the result of the latest test. Great news: another all clear!! To make this even better news: I now only need to be tested once per year! Happy Days!!

To say that I am happy and relieved is to miss the point.  It is now four-and-a-half years since I underwent surgery.  Despite the fact that as time goes by a patient may be supposed to feel more confident in the test outcome, in my case at least that has not been the case.  I still become extremely nervous every time I have a test.  Maybe it is because of my own pessimism that I half expect bad news every time I ring for the result.

Whether other ‘survivors’ go through the same feelings or whether they become ‘complacent’ or ‘trusting’ very quickly I don’t know.  All I know is that every time I get the result I have felt a huge relief when it has come back ‘all clear’.  That is one of the reasons why this result is special:  I now only have to go through the stress of the blood test and the waiting once a year, rather then every three or six months.  My next target is to get to the point where it is once every three years.  Wish me luck!!

I Am Not A Stereotype!

People have begun calling me an ‘Historian’.  That’s fine, and is in most ways a compliment.  For someone who came to Ancient History late in the day, and has not yet reached the heights of a PhD, I can accept that with a degree of magnanimity and pride.  However there are a couple of down sides to the label.  Possibly the main one is that I don’t fulfil people’s expectations when they meet me.  Apparently I don’t fulfil the stereotype of how an Ancient Historian should behave.

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Me? A Film Buff?

First, let me apologise for my lack of posts in the last 6 months.  For those not in the know, just before Christmas I had a major football injury:  a broken shoulder, two broken ribs, and a collapsed lung.  I did say it was “major”!   The result was that for quite some time I was unable to work at full speed.  A second factor was that Jo has changed jobs.  She’s on less money now, but is far happier.  The result this time is that I have been working to bring some money into the household.   The net result has been a lack of time/inspiration to write new posts.  Thankfully, work is now almost back on track and a recent question from a friend has set my mind working …

I have many interests.  Too many.  I like Football.  And I like Guitars.  And I like Wargaming.  And I like Guitars. And I like football.  And I like “Aussie Rules Football”:  I ‘support’ Port Adelaide – for no other reason than when I first started watching they played really exciting passing football rather than the hoof-ball some played. Click here to read more »

Adopt an Orca?

When I first started writing these blogs my main aim was to put down my thoughts on writing and my personal experiences of the publishing industry.  The vast majority of these were lost when the website was hacked, with my prostatectomy experience being the only page I desperately attempted to recover.  However, as more time has passed my patience has worn thin and finally disappeared down the plughole of life.  This is because I ‘work from home’.  More importantly, my ‘deadlines’ are not day-to-day or week-to week, but year-to-year.  This gives me a certain level of flexibility with my writing, especially as I now have seven and a half hours to work every weekday. Click here to read more »

Why do I play football?

In the weeks before Christmas I was hoping to finish at least one chapter of the new book. In that way I would be ahead of myself and be able to take things easy over Christmas and the New Year.
 
No such luck. Two weeks before sitting here and typing this I went out in the evening to play football as usual. Sadly for me, a heavy challenge saw me hit the floor with some force, resulting in a broken clavicle, two broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Painful, but I’m slowly recovering.  Sadly, however, this was all on my right-hand side and, as I’m almost totally right-handed, it is only now that I’m beginning to type faster than one word a minute. Not good for a writer!
 
The only upside is that I’m now feeling frustrated and want to get back on with the writing. So after the New Year I’m planning on really getting to grips with the military reforms of Diocletian and Constantine I. How far into January depends on health and the results of further, follow-up hospital visits. Wish me luck!

At last it’s done.

I am pleased and grateful to announce that I have finally sent the script of ‘Attila’ to the publisher. Must admit that I really dislike the final jobs prior to the manuscript being delivered – for example:  checking that the manuscript has the chapters in the right order;  that the maps have been included and that the coding for the placement of the maps is in place;  and that the plates are included, along with the correct captions and the coding for the order of the plates.  I also assemble the index prior to the manuscript going, as in that way when the draft of the printed version arrives I’m good to go with the indexing.  All little jobs which get in the way of the book being a finished project.

Now I’ve taken a day off before starting on the next project.  And I think I’m now allowed to mention it at last.  This is because the concept behind the publisher’s idea is that I’ve still got a head start on any other publishers who may be trying to pinch the idea.  The next book is going to be – at least if I stick to the plan! – an assessment of Constantine I as a general.  Included will an analysis of his battles, as well as an attempt to disentangle the information concerning the major military reforms that took place under either Diocletian or Constantine – or both.   Not an easy task, but I’m game for a laugh!

The information is scattered and open to different interpretations, so no doubt within a month or two the laughter will have stopped and the stress levels will have rocketed!  If I don’t post on here for quite a while you know why!  Who’d be a writer?

Guitar Tone: The Woody Dimension

Over the past few years debate has raged on the internet over whether the wood used to build an electric guitar has any influence on the sound (tone) the guitar produces.

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Gaiseric and Attila

Now that Gaiseric has finally arrived I’ve been spurred on to finish the current work, this time on another ‘barbarian king’, Attila.

Strangely, the abilities and aims of the so-called ‘barbarians’ are – or were, it’s a long time since I left academia – not high on the agenda of historians specialising in Late Antiquity.   Instead, and to some degree understandably, the focus remains on Rome and, to a lesser degree, Persia.  Yet without an understanding of the motives and personal agendas of the barbarians who ‘destroyed’ Rome, it is difficult to gain a holistic understanding of how the many peoples involved interacted.

On the other hand, everything known about these shadowy individuals comes from Roman sources, so is it trustworthy?  Who knows, but since there is little else to go on, needs must ….

Hence the works on Gaiseric and Attila.  In my personal (and obviously unbiased!  Honest!) view any attempt to analyse events from the point of view of the ‘barbarian’ kings allows us to gain insights into why and how these men carved out Empires for themselves – Attila outside and Gaiseric inside the Roman Empire.

For Gaiseric, the information is slightly more detailed and easy to interpret – once the inbuilt biases in the ancient sources are taken into account.  For Attila, it is more difficult.  The sources on Attila are far more fragmentary and open to interpretation.  Even the origin of the Huns is open to question, so what chance is there of reaching firm decisions on an individual?  Nevertheless, it is possible to reach some conclusions regarding his personality and his agenda concerning the Roman Empire.  These are ….  to be revealed in the next book!  You’ll just have to be patient.

With the text for Attila due in the next couple of months it will soon be time to turn my attention to the next book (yes, there is another – and another and another:  I’m being kept busy!)  In the interests of the publisher I am not allowed to mention what the book is about, but it is a return to Roman history, although from an earlier century than the fifth!  Finally, I’ll be able to get away from relying solely on Chronicles and Letters.  For a time at least.  They say a change is as good as a rest, so hopefully after the next book I’ll be firing on all cylinders!

Where’s Gaiseric?

In order to save myself and any prospective readers from queries regarding ‘Gaiseric’, I have been in contact with Pen and Sword.  The delay in publishing is down to the printers installing new machinery.  Doubtless this has taken longer than expected and is now going through the process of ‘degremlinisation’.  (I like inventing new words!!)

Hopefully they will be back up to speed in short order and the books will be available as soon as possible.  I just hope the end product is worth the wait!

Guitar and Obsession 2

Following on from my last post, for those not in the know I listed there my favourite options for guitar ‘tone’ switching.  When dealing with double humbucker guitars such as Gibson Les Pauls, I’ve been forced to admit that the only tonal options which I now prefer are simply a reverse phase for the neck humbucker and a coil split for both.

Readers of the earlier post will also remember that Owen had ‘abandoned’ his own guitars in preference for a black ‘Frankenstrat’ made from parts bought off the internet, coupled with a ‘mad’ wiring scheme from Warman Guitars.  They may also remember that Owen had changed due to the black guitar’s lack of weight.

However, his own latest orange guitar – pictured right, though the photo does not do the guitar justice – does indeed include the tonal options listed above, namely push-pull switches to give both pickups in single coil mode and the neck in reverse polarity mode.  But let’s be fair:  his orange guitar, which is a kit I bought him as a Christmas present, is a far prettier object.  It came without the usual pre-drilled holes for the T-O-M bridge and tailpiece, which allowed me to fit a Warman bigsby-style bridge, as well as the by-now traditional Warman pickups.

Mind you, it weighs a ton ….