"All in a Don's Day" and "Meet the Romans"
Today is the day that All In a Don's Day -- the new selection of posts from this blog, plus an enlivening selection of comments -- is published. Publishing dates don't mean very much any more, so far as I can see. It's hardly as if the wraps suddenly come off the book on a single day; in fact there have been some Don's Days on sale in my local bookshop for a while, "published" or not.
All the same, it's the symbolic moment, so please raise a glass to us all. (I'm stopping Lenten abstinence a couple of days early to do just that!) And I hope that some people will buy it too. A nice little book is still a handier thing to dip into than a laptop (or a Kindle), and I can promise some good classical stories in the new collection, plus some real life glimspes into the University business. (I think Peter Carson, who first had the idea of publishing these blog books, is particularly keen on the behind the scenes description of how actually people go about marking exams, and more to the point how they read all that damn illegible handwriting . . . a mystery elucidated, he felt.)
Sorry, advert over -- but if you are around Cambridge on 17 April come along to Heffers at 6.30 to toast the book and mingle, plus a short chat from me, I'm afraid. All free, but you need a ticket. Details, if you scroll down here.
As chance would have it (and it really was chance) that's the day (17 April) that my new tv mini series on the Romans (Meet the Romans) has its first episode, at 9.00 on BBC2 (so no carousing too late at Heffers, please!). There are three parts in the series.. and each one is going to look at different aspects of life for ORDINARY ancient Romans, from the child brides to the pushy parents, the hairdressers to the ancient equivalent of the ASBO boys.
I have to say that it's a weird feeling, when you've made a programme, and you're waiting for it to be shown (not on original analogy I'm sure, but it's a bit like the last weeks of pregnancy). And it's oddly similar to, AND different from, that limbo period with a book.
It would be an understatement to say that I am rather keen that people should watch this programme and enjoy. That's blindingly obvious in a way ... but I can't help wondering what exactly drives that keenness, in its almost childlike intensity? With a book there is a semi-commerical side to the anticipation. Sure, no one writes the sort of books I do if they want to get rich. But, all the same, there is something measurable about sales figures and royalties (and such proxies as the dreaded Amazon rankings), even if, realistically, they don't mean that the book has actually been read.
There's no way, for me at least, that viewing figures for the television translate into anything quite as tangible as that. As far as I know (though maybe I am just in the wrong league!), no one has thought of paying you per 1000 viewers. So it's not greed (or the fantasy of wealth) that's showing through here.
Part of the intensity, I couldn't deny, must be vanity -- or, to put it more kindly, a desire to have made something visibly successful. Quite simply, if it isn't successful, you're not likely to get asked to try your hand at it again. And it issomething I've enjoyed and would like to have the chance of another go sometime.
But it isn't just that. And I think, in all honesty, my feelings of expectation and anxiety are, for the most part, a lot more innocent.
The bottom line is that this programme really does capture a big slice of my view of Rome. I like what we've done. It's not just something I've made over a few months; it's what I 've been thinking about for years and years, crystallised in a few months, with all the pluses and (occasionally) minuses that cameras bring (you've got some pictures from the filming here). Corny as it is, I actually want to share it with as many people as I can. And I do want to interest more people in ancient Rome, and in a different way from usual. It's a bit of a mission.
So, on the one hand: yes, it's only a tv series. Let's not get above ourselves, or lose a sense of proportion. How many people will remember it, except faintly and lets hope warmly, by June, let alone this time next year? It won't stay on the shelf like a book, flicked and thumbed, and annotated. But, on the other hand: there's a more than a little bit of me in it, and I'm pretty damn committed to it. What you'll hear is not Beard mouthing a script... they're my words, often speaking to camera just as it came from inside.
On a different and more practical side, I've been in touch already with blog readers whose comments have been included in the new book. We are in the process of getting a copy out to you, but it may take us ten days of so to get them all dispatched (and many are going abroad, and Easter bank holidays wont help the post). I will let you know when I think all have been sent. And we hope also to be able to invite you to a little get together in London in the summer to celebrate, albeit a little belatedly!