Choosing A Destination

Choosing a Destination

A blog post by Greg

As the world begins to open up again following the pandemic, and we can begin to look at booking travel with much more confidence that the whole trip won’t fall apart last minute (while still being aware of the possibility), it is time for Felicity and me to start planning our next travel documentary, and of course, that planning has to begin with deciding where we will be going. In this post, therefore, I thought I would take you all vaguely through the process and criteria through which we decide where we shall be heading for our next adventure, and how this has changed as we’ve moved into making the travel documentaries.

If you haven’t seen our adventures so far, we have made four travel documentaries to date, ‘Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty‘, ‘The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals‘, ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities‘, and ‘Romania: Seeking Dracula’s Castle‘. We have also made one travel-adjacent video, ‘Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland‘, although that leans much more towards a wildlife and charity based documentary rather than focussing on the travel.

The first of these destinations, Mexico, was never intended to become a documentary in the planning stages – it was only halfway through the trip that we realised that the footage we were filming and the things we were seeing were something that we could share with people. So this destination was decided purely on the fact that we wanted to see the Mayan ruins and the whales of Magdalena Bay, and we planned the trip around those, purely focussing on what we would enjoy.

Once we had put together the documentary for YouTube, and released it, we knew that we wanted to make more travel documentaries, and the experience of travelling in Mexico made us decide that we wanted to make filming these documentaries a big focus of our life going forward, and to make them our job.

At this stage we were only releasing them on YouTube, and so I knew that to get some traction on YouTube we needed to get more videos out as soon as we could possibly do so, while maintaining the quality, so that people watching the Mexico video would have something else to follow it up with. I was already booked to perform on the Isle of Man a couple of months later, and so as we were already going to be there it made sense to extend the stay for a few days and use the time to make a second travel video there, so we did.

Then we started thinking about the third documentary, and this was the first time that we found ourselves sitting down to decide on a place to visit with the specific intention of filming a documentary. As we were now looking at making the travel videos a business, and as we had already had a big adventure in Mexico at the start of the year, and as at this point in time, beyond putting the videos on YouTube, we hadn’t really figured out how we were actually going to make money from these videos we knew we had to be careful with the budget, which meant we couldn’t go away for a whole month, and that some of the places we wanted to visit were not possible as the way we wanted to film there would prove to be too expensive.

We did, however, want to make it somewhere very different from the Isle of Man or Mexico. Felicity pointed out that she had always wanted to see the Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia, and a little research told us that this was the same area of Turkey that had a number of underground cities which I had read about and was very interested in, and so Turkey immediately became the only choice for us for our third video. We selected a number of activities in the country which we thought would be interesting and would also allow for great footage.

Every step of the way here we had been learning, trying out different things. In Mexico we had really had an adventure of two parts, the first part driving between various Mayan ruins, and the second part spending time in a number of marine and underwater environments in Mexico. We actually split it into a ‘Part One’ and ‘Part Two’ within the video. Looking back on this one now, were we going out there with the intention of filming again, I would have probably pushed towards filming and editing these as two separate documentaries, to allow each of the two themes to have its own clear focus.

With the Isle of Man we had a great time filming, and produced a video which a lot of people seem to have really enjoyed, but I think we both felt that it lacked the ‘travel’ aspect. The Island was a little close to Britain (both in distance and in culture, language, etc), and as we stayed in one place for the whole time, and places were only half an hour or so away from where we were staying, we both felt that we had lacked the ‘travel’, a risk which Felicity had pointed out before we went. I am very glad that we chose to film our second video there, however, because a few people have commented how much they enjoyed the comedy and personality which came through from us in that one, something which we strive to get into every video we make.

As a third video location, Turkey was wonderful, and a change of pace again from the Isle of Man and Mexico. In terms of travelling it was somewhere between the two – in Mexico we had travelled for a month and stayed in a different hotel every other night, in the Isle of Man we had based ourselves in the Milntown Estate for the whole time, while in Turkey we stayed in three different hotels in three parts of the country, each allowing for a different ‘flavour’ to the adventure. We also made sure that ‘experiences’ came to the fore in this adventure – hot air balloons, crawling through underground cities, ATV riding, and THAT horse ride (if you don’t know what I am talking about, head over and watch Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities to see me truly terrified on horseback!). This is the first video we made which has been taken onto streaming sites such as Tubi and Plex (although not the first video to get onto bigger streaming platforms, as I will come to shortly), and so we know that the quality was there by this point. However, looking back on the edit on this one, it is a series of great experiences in a wonderful country, but it is important to look at our videos constructively to see what we can approve the next time, and to me the thing that we still hadn’t got quite as I would have liked was a ‘through line’ to the video, a reason why we started and ended up where we did.

This brings us to our most recently released fully travel-focused documentary, ‘Romania: Seeking Dracula’s Castle. I say ‘fully travel-focused’, but of course it has a historical backdrop to it as well, as we used the history of Vlad III of Wallachia, or ‘Vlad the Impaler’ to his enemies, as the backdrop to the journey, giving us a reason to go to the various places that we wanted to visit within the country, while allowing us the freedom to add places, like the LiBearty Sanctuary and the DinoPark, which were outside of the main ‘Dracula’ remit. We managed, in my opinion, to plot a good route which made sense in the context of the documentary, to include funny moments and our personality, to truly have a travel video travelling from place to place, and to put together all of the things we had learned about planning the travel and putting together the video. This seems to have been proved correct as this is by quite a margin the most popular of our travel documentaries to date.

By the time that Romania was released on YouTube in April 2020 we found ourselves in lockdown for the duration of the pandemic. As I mentioned in the blog post ‘A Treatise On Magic’, at the start of lockdown as shows were cancelling around us (and before we knew just how long it would all last), I told Felicity that I was determined to come out of the situation in some way better than we went in.

With the success of Romania on YouTube, I turned my focus to how we could move from putting our documentaries on YouTube, which, while great for shorter videos or tutorials, was not a great fit for our documentaries and was not going to enable us to turn them into a business. I learned a lot, and by the end of 2020 we had the news that ‘Romania: Seeking Dracula’s Castle’ had been accepted onto Amazon’s Prime Video, where it is still available to buy to watch, and where it has done relatively well (following this we also applied to them with the Turkey video and is was accepted… but between it being accepted and actually going on the platform the company changed their rules and stopped taking independent non-fiction work, a stance that we are hopeful may be changing soon). We also found a ‘Film Marketplace’ who accepted both Romania and Turkey, and have since been able to get both videos onto a number of streaming services including Tubi, Plex and more. Artistically I feel that Romania hit all of the ‘sweet-spots’, and any constructive criticism would be on a technical basis, which it why we have been investing time and money on a range of new equipment, particularly focussing on sound!

This means that as we come out of the pandemic, and can finally get to work planning our first full travel-based documentary filming in two years, that we are finally crossing over to the point where we are actually starting to make a real business out of our travel videos, and take another step closer to being full-time travel documentary makers (to clarify, that means we’ve been making travel documentaries full time, not that we would be well fed and making documentaries about time-travel!). We therefore have to take three types of factor into account when we choose our next adventure location, what I think of as excitement, story, and business.

We begin looking at a country by scouring the internet to find out what places there are to visit in the country, and it is here that we are looking for the ‘excitement’. We have to find places or experiences which get us excited about the prospect of seeing them. For Felicity, the easiest way to find excitement is with wild animals, especially marine wildlife, while for me it tends to be an interesting piece of history, or historical story around a place (can you see how we ended up choosing Mexico for our Honeymoon?). Then, for both of us, something unusual, some form of oddity, is another big draw that will get us excited about a place. When there are countries which don’t give us that excitement we put them to one side to come back to another time – if we’re not excited by the adventure, how can we expect to excite the viewer with it?

After we are excited, we start looking for a story. Is there a clear route across, around or through the country that allows the journey to make sense? Are we able to find enough different places and stories along that route that the documentary will stay interesting throughout, and can we plan the route in such a way that we build to a clear ending? This involves much looking at maps and figuring out potential routes. There is also something that happens at this point within my head which I can’t really explain, which I refer to Felicity as ‘seeing a story’, which is the most important thing to me. While I couldn’t, at that point in time, tell you what the complete story will be, and, as we just film a lot of footage as we go and edit it down later, I couldn’t even begin to tell you what the ‘beats’ of the story will be, I can suddenly see there is a story. This will then slowly clear itself up through the whole process of filming and editing, but it is a gut reaction that the story exists in that country, and it is up to us to find it!

This is all fairly simple – with just these two points we could go anywhere in the world! For the third step, however, we have to strap on our business heads. Any journey we plan, of course, will have a budget, a cost which we will have to cover from our income from the video before we can even begin to make a profit. We therefore have to look at the cost of the adventure, whether we think there is a potential for gaining sponsorship for the journey or will have to pay the costs upfront ourselves, and whether we think that we can gain enough interest in the video to raise the funds to not only cover the costs, but also to make a profit to make it a successful business proposition. We don’t need the documentary to make us rich, but enough profit to allow us to keep going with this line of work, and to hopefully continue to upgrade and improve equipment! We have to look at the total cost and how long it would take us to raise the funds necessary to make the documentary we want to make. Doing a ‘cheaper’ version of a documentary is not an option we look at – we want to make each documentary the best it can be, as we are unlikely to get a second shot at making a documentary about any given country. At the same time, we don’t just want to go for the least expensive potential video on our list, because one that cost slightly more to make may have a theme, story, or location which we think has a better chance of making more income towards the next adventure.

Eventually, we hit on a place that hits all of the criteria, and it just feels that the time is right for that particular documentary, and then it is full steam ahead trying to get everything sorted in time for whenever the next set of dates we have booked off for a travel adventure should happen to fall. So I’d better get back to pouring over maps and researching on the internet so we can find our next adventure!

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

 

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

A blog post by Greg

When we were touring shows in Italy in February 2018, and I realised that we had a weekend free for Valentine’s Day (our last Valentine’s Day before our wedding) I decided to take Felicity somewhere special. Venice was ruled out as we had already been there for the carnival, and so the city of Firenze, or Florence as it is known in English, sprung immediately to mind!

I had been there once before for a brief visit, and knew that it was a lovely looking place, and I also knew that there were several museums based on the work of Leonardo da Vinci (who I have long been interested in) which I was sure that Felicity wouldn’t mind me looking round while we were there – not that I had anything other than a romantic motive for choosing Florence as a destination, of course! I did, however, feel that it gives me the perfect excuse to do a blog post about Da Vinci!

For those of you who have never heard of Leonardo da Vinci (if such a person exists), or more likely if you have a vague idea that he was an artist, an inventor, and that one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was named after him, I will take a moment to give you a quick overview of who he was. This, as a rarity, is something I am actually highly qualified for, as Leonardo da Vinci was the subject of a minor module in my Open University History BA nearly fifteen years ago, so I can probably legitimately count myself as a Da Vincian (definitely a word) Scholar.

Greg enjoying a romantic Valentine with Da Vinci’s machines.

Da Vinci was born in 1452, in or close to the town of Vinci, which was at that time part of the Republic of Florence, Tuscany. At that time there was no unified country of Italy – what we would now call Italy was at that time divided into a series of independent city states, such as Florence, Venice, and the Kingdom of Naples to name a few. His father, Ser Piero da Vinci, was a legal notary while his mother, Caterina, was from the lower classes, and so were not destined to be married, and so Leonardo was born out of wedlock, and his parents each married other people the year after his birth.

Despite their class differences, Leonardo’s illegitimacy, and the fact that they had married other people, Leonardo seems, from what little we know of his childhood, to have been raised by both sides of his family. It is likely that his mother raised him in his earliest years, but by the time he was five he was living with his grandfather on his father’s side, where he had a basic education in writing, reading and maths.

His story really takes off when, at the age of 14, he found a position as a ‘studio boy’ in the workshop of the sculptor and painter Andrea del Verrocchio (who himself had worked under Donatello, another master sculptor, who also gave his name to one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Leonardo worked his way up to apprentice by the time he was seventeen, and spent seven years learning a huge range of technical and artistic skills. In those times a painting or sculpture would be attributed to the ‘master’ whose studio produced it, and so there is much interest amongst art historians about which parts of Verrocchio’s works would have been painted by a young Leonardo, and it is even believed that Leonardo was the model for some of Verrocchio’s works at the time.

When Leonardo was twenty years old, in 1472, having qualified to become a ‘master’ himself, Leonardo’s father set the young artist up with his own studio, from which time Leonardo would get his own name on his artwork, and, through working on commissions for great families such as the Medici family in Florence, the Sforza family in Milan, and other patrons, he would create some of the most famous artwork in the world today, such as ‘The Last Supper’ and, of course, ‘The Mona Lisa’.

I must admit, however, that it is not Leonardo’s artistic works that particularly interest me, but rather it is when the art drifted into science. He gained permission, for example, to dissect human bodies, and made many detailed drawings of different parts of the body, the muscles, and skeletons, and showed interest in how these worked together, and how they allowed for movement.

He also studied and drew other animals as well, including cows, monkeys and bears, but to me the most important of these was his study of birds, because here we link to another string in Leonardo’s bow, engineering and invention!

In 1482 he had written a letter to Ludovico il Moro of Milan, offering to design machines to protect the city as well as machines to assist in a battle against another city, and he continued this work when he moved to Venice in 1499.

A model of one of Da Vinci’s war machines in a museum in Florence

In Da Vinci’s surviving journals there are a lot of inventions drawn, including the horse-drawn bladed chariot shown above. Of course, the term ‘invention’ may be slightly misleading for a lot of these drawings, for while much of what he invented worked and indeed proved useful, other drawings might be most kindly described as works in progress. Realistically these were concept designs, ideas which he had drawn which were either impractical in the real world, or that he just didn’t have the technology, time, or resources to fully work out.

It may seem rude to suggest that the great Leonardo da Vinci would just give up on an idea due to a lack of patience, and perhaps this is unfair. Perhaps it was more that he just lost interest in things when some new idea came along, or that he took too long over the details so that he never got around to completion. A prime example of this would have to be the ‘Gran Cavallo’, the ‘Great Horse’ in Milan.

As mentioned, Leonardo at one point went to work for Ludovico il Moro in Milan, and had offered his services as an engineer as well as an artist, and these two skills would be combined in the creation of the ‘Gran Cavallo’, which was intended to be the largest statue of a horse ever created as a monument to Ludovico’s father, Francesco Sforza.

The aim was to build a bronze sculpture of a horse, with Da Vinci’s usual realism, but standing nearly twenty-six feet high! There were few people who could even begin to take on this challenge, but Da Vinci faced it head on, and went to work with his usual scientific focus. He studied horses intently, making many sketches and producing writings on their anatomy to make sure that every detail of the horse would be correct. He figured out how they could cast such a vast statue, producing another work detailing how the separate pieces would be cast, and the form of the iron supports which would be needed inside the hollow structure to keep it from collapse.

A full eleven years after receiving the commission, Da Vinci produced a full size clay model of the horse, but a month later the Duke of Milan, Ludovico, had to use the bronze which had originally been gathered to make the statue to make cannons instead to defend the city, and the clay model was destroyed at the end of the century by French soldiers who invaded the city, and by rain and cold.

For centuries it was unknown whether Da Vinci’s design would, in fact, have worked, or whether the reason he had gone so long without starting to cast the statue was because he hadn’t really figured out a way to do it. It wasn’t until the 20th Century that an attempt was made to go back through Leonardo’s works and to finally cast the horse, and in 1997, over five hundred years after the clay model was created, ‘Leonardo’s Horse’ was finally placed into position in front of the Milan Hippodrome, which we got to go and see earlier in our tour in Italy!

Leonardo’s Horse outside the Milan Hippodrome

All of this brings us back to Florence, and to Da Vinci’s study of birds, all moving together to the reason why I was so keen to get to see one of the Da Vinci museums in town. Of all the studies that Da Vinci ever undertook, the one that has always fascinated me most are the studies which led to him preparing his ‘Codex On The Flight Of Birds’, and his fascination with the possibility of allowing people to fly!

According to Da Vinci, his interest in birds was linked to his earliest memory being related to a bird landing on his pram as a baby.

 “In the first recollection of my infancy it seemed to me that, while I was in my cradle a kite came to me and opened my mouth with its tail.”

Whether this story was true or not, Da Vinci showed a lot of interest in flying creatures, making numerous sketches and studies of both birds and bats to try to understand what gave them the ability to fly.

There are some who claim that he invented a forerunner to the helicopter, and it is true that one of his early designs for a flying machine, the Aerial Screw, would have used rotation in the same way as a helicopter. It was actually based on the water screw, which was used for drawing water upwards, and although it certainly has the concept of using rotation to move upwards through the air, it was manpowered and so would not have rotated fast enough, even had the concept been perfect.

In fact, despite all of his studies and designs, and even though he wrote about concepts for a flying machine in the Codex On The Flight Of Birds, Da Vinci never actually achieved flight, however I do find it incredible how much his other invention, Leonardo’s Ornithopter, resembles a plane. There is also something wonderful about the way it looks, the idea behind it, and the details he went into, and it was this that I most wanted to see in the museum.

Da Vinci’s Flying Machine

He obviously didn’t understand aerodynamics as we do today, and therefore didn’t have a wing shape which would allow his flying machine to work as a modern aeroplane does. Actually, that sentence is inaccurate because I used the word ‘we’. I’ll be honest, I don’t entirely understand how the aerodynamics work, I just know that they do. Were I to find myself having to invent a flying machine from scratch I would probably do what Da Vinci did – look at birds and conclude that the wings of the plane should flap, and so that is what he designed.

In the Codex he discussed what material it should be made of (not any metal apparently because it would break under stress!), and even goes so far as to give instructions for flying the machine, and how to keep it flying, all with accompanying diagrams of birds in flight to show how they work.

This is why I wanted to see the Da Vinci museum, and why I have long been interested in Da Vinci.

He always strikes me as a practical dreamer, something which I also strive to be in my life. He looked at things which many thought were impossible, and wanted to achieve them, even if he didn’t know how it could be achieved when he set out.

He didn’t however, just hope that things would work, he didn’t wait around for an answer to suddenly drop into his lap or spring into his mind, but rather he set to work studying, examining, enquiring, and trying to find a way to achieve what he wanted!

When I first told Felicity that we could make travel documentaries our lives, I really had no idea how – but I took Da Vinci’s example, and am constantly studying, looking into new ways of doing things, and learning from others, to find practical ways to make our dream work!

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

 

The Ruins Of El Tajin

The Ruins of El Tajin

A blog post by Greg

First View Of The Buildings Of El Tajin

When we chose Mexico as our honeymoon destination (and unknowingly made it the first country which we would make a travel documentary about – Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty) I was particularly excited about seeing some of the ruins from the ancient civilisations across the country.

Our adventure had begun just outside of Mexico City at the ruins of Teotihuacan, which had been a high altitude desert ruin, following which we had driven down to the city of Poza Rica, Veracruz, where an early start got us to the ruins of El Tajin in time for the opening of the site. We had read while preparing for our journey that opening was the best time to get to almost any of the ancient sites in Mexico – not only can you beat the heat of the day, but you also find the site much quieter as the coach groups and organised tours don’t arrive until later in the day (this actually worked everywhere except for Chichen Itza when even arriving at opening had us standing in a long queue outside!).

At the entrance to the site, there are a few modern buildings – a couple of shops, a small museum and a ticket office. There is also a round courtyard space with a pole rising up into the air in the centre. Later in the day this would become the site of the ‘Flight of the Voladores’, a performance piece and ritual performed by some of the local Totonac people, in which they ascend the pole and then gently ‘fly’ back to the ground on the end of ropes which slowly unravel from the pole as it spins around.

Once we got through the entrance and walked along a small path we found ourselves among the ruins of El Tajin, and, as you can hear me remark in the documentary, if fulfilled my hopes of a ‘proper jungle ruin’. I knew that we were still planning to get deeper into jungle ruins in Palenque and Calakmul, but this was our first time seeing an ancient site surrounded by the Mexican Rainforests.

To briefly compare El Tajin with the sites at Palenque and Calakmul which we have previously written blog posts about, El Tajin feels a lot more like a museum site than the other two, which can be seen as both positive and negative. The main site which you can walk around has been fairly well cleared, with the jungle left surrounding it, which meant to me that it had an almost ‘park-like’ feel to it.

The temples are, for the most part, roped off and there are signs asking you not to climb them. After we had sat atop the pyramids of the Sun and Moon in Teotihuacan the day before, and looking back now on being able to climb to the top of structures in Calakmul and Palenque, we really missed the view from the top of these structures which gave an overview of the whole site in the other places.

Put together, the three actually give three different levels of clearance and conservation – El Tajin is very well cleared, very clean, and as I have said it is presented as more of an open-air museum.

Palenque is also largely cleared in the centre, giving a wonderful view of the site from atop the tallest structure (which you are allowed to climb, along with most of the buildings). The main buildings have been uncovered and some partially restored there, but in the main site there are still paths through the jungle, and there are many guides in the car park who can take you into the jungle around the site to see some of the structures still buried deep amongst the trees.

Palenque from atop the Temple of the Cross

Calakmul is far away from the main tourist areas, and staying there requires a drive well off the main road. Three temple structures protrude above the trees, and so when you climb to the top of those you see nothing but treetops and the other two structures poking out above the trees. Many of the structures around the site still have trees protruding from them.

The View Across The Calakmul Site

I would personally recommend that you visit all three of these sites if you get a chance to visit Mexico (along with Teotihuacan, Uxmal for the birds, Yaxchilan for the boat and as many other sites as you can fit in). I would, however, recommend that you visit the three sites in the order that we did, El Tajin, then Palenque, then Calakmul, as this is the perfect way to allow the remoteness and adventurousness of the sites to build as you go along.

One big difference to immediately note between Palenque, Calakmul and El Tajin is that while the other two cities were built by the ancient Maya people, it is still a matter of historical debate who first settled the site, and who built the city at El Tajin. Who constructed the site is not just a question of academic interest between historians and archaeologists, it also matters to the local people, the Totonac people (those who perform the ‘Flight of the Voladores’, who lay claim to the site as part of their communal history.

Archaeological evidence actually shows that there were hunter-gatherers in the area over seven thousand years ago, some of whom would eventually settle in the area as agriculture developed. In the 1100s BC the Olmec Civilisation, the earliest major Mesoamerican civilisation was on the rise in the Veracruz area, and so some make the argument that they are likely to have been behind the rise and building of El Tajin, however, there does not seem to have been evidence that they were in the area in large enough numbers to conclude that they were responsible for the city.

When the city itself was founded in the First Century AD a lot of evidence suggests that the area was populated not by the Olmec or the Totonac people, but by the Huastec people. Like the Totonac people, the Huastec people are still around today, and there are still upwards of sixty-thousand Huastec speakers today, of which a third live in the Veracruz area. The city reached its peak from about 600CE to 1200CE, so there is every possibility that the Huastec people may have founded the city but the Totonac people had continued it at some later point, or that one or other of these two peoples is responsible for the entire founding and building of the city, but at the moment there is not enough evidence to be sure which of these competing claims is correct.

Whoever was responsible, the site is truly impressive with a number of pyramids, and twenty ballcourts, including one with engravings showing how the games would have been played, and some of the rituals around them. The site speaks of a civilisation that was powerful, and had a great deal of knowledge about the world around them, and indeed the Sun and Moon above them, which seem to have been central to them.

Inscriptions On The Ball Court AT El Tajin

One of the most interesting buildings on the site is the Temple of the Niches. This is a seven story structure, and what makes it special are the niches which cover it, of which there are exactly three hundred and sixty-five, matching with the number of days in a year. This meant that not only did the people of El Tajin have the astronomical knowledge to understand that the yearly cycle was three hundred and sixty five days, but also that they had the engineering and architectural skills to design and build a structure with exactly the right number of equally spaces niches, built of stones weighing up to eight metric tons! The amount of knowledge and skill that this would require today would make this impressive, but the idea that this was built well over a thousand years ago in a pre-industrial society just shows how amazing this site is, and why it is so worth a visit!

The Temple Of Niches

We are lucky to be able to visit the site today, because it was only discovered by the outside world by chance when a government inspector in 1785 was in the area searching for any tobacco plantings which would have gone against the royal monopoly laws at the time came across the Temple of Niches, although the inspector did note that the local people knew of the site.

It was in 1831 that a German architect visiting the site first gave a full description of the Temple of Niches, and just over a hundred years later in the mid 1930s the first mapping of the area and clearance of the site began, work which from 1938 was overseen by Jose Garcia Payon, who spent 39 years until his death working to uncover the site!

His work to discover and preserve this site has led to a wonderful place to visit, so if you are heading to Mexico be sure to visit if you can!

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

 

The Temple Of Artemis & The Seven Wonders Of The World

The Temple Of Artemis & The Seven Wonders Of The World

A Blog Post By Greg

Over 2,000 years ago, in the year 225 B.C., Philo of Byzantium wrote a work entitled ‘On The Seven Wonders’, which was the first known list of the ‘Seven Wonders Of The World’. Of course, exactly what should be included on a list of the seven wonders is open to a lot of debate, and because of where and when it was written the list of ‘world’ wonders is focused on the Ancient Greek world and Egypt.

The seven wonders originally listed are:

  1. The Great Pyramid Of Giza
  2. The Hanging Gardens Of Babylon
  3. The Statue Of Zeus At Olympia
  4. The Mausoleum At Halicarnassus
  5. The Colossus Of Rhodes
  6. The Lighthouse Of Alexandria
  7. The Temple Of Artemis

Of these, the only one still actually standing intact is The Great Pyramid, the pyramid built for the Pharaoh Khufu. Considering that it was built in around 2,600 B.C, that also makes it the oldest of the wonders, which just goes to show that the Ancient Egyptians certainly knew how to build a pyramid!

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, at the other end of the spectrum, may never have existed at all! It is not mentioned in any Babylonian texts which have survived, which leads some to believe that the gardens never existed, and were actually a mythical place that Roman and Greek writers wrote about to show an ideal of an eastern garden. It is also possible that the gardens existed but we have no contemporary records of them.

The rest of the wonders have all since been destroyed, but we do know where most of them were sited, and for some of them some of the remains are still available to be seen.

One of these sites is the subject of this post, the Temple of Artemis, which was built on a site near the Greek port city of Ephesus in the Izmir Province of Turkey, and which we had the opportunity to visit during the filming of ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities‘.

We didn’t really know what to expect from the site before we went, although we had by that point in time visited a number of historic sites in Turkey, including the Ancient Greek and Roman Ruins of Hierapolis and Laodicea. At all of the sites we had visited so far we had been impressed with how well cared for the sites were, and the efforts which had gone into their preservation. We expected to see the same at the Temple of Artemis.

I’m going to pause at this point in the blog to say that we visited the site of the Temple of Artemis in November 2019 and that what we saw of the ruins then may have changed now. I also want to point out that in general this is a positive blog, and I try to write about places which I can speak positively about. In this case, however, we were disappointed by this site in comparison to all of the others we had seen.

As one of the ‘Seven Wonders’, we had high hopes for seeing the Temple of Artemis as we left the hotel. We were aware that the temple had been destroyed by Ostrogoths in the 3rd Century A.D., and that archaeologists hadn’t begun to uncover the ruined columns until the 1860s, and that there wasn’t much of the temple still remaining, and we were interested to see how what they had found would be presented.

The ruins which we were going to see weren’t actually the first ruins of the Temple of Artemis. Several temple structures dating back to the Bronze Age had been built on the site throughout its history. The structure which stood on the site leading into the 7th Century B.C. was destroyed by a flood, which meant that a rebuild was necessary.

In 550 B.C. work on a new temple began on the site, and the work took ten years for them to complete. It may have been the first of the Ancient Greek temples to be made in marble, and was dedicated to the goddess Artemis (known to the Romans as Diana), daughter of Zeus, God of Thunder, and Leto. Artemis is probably best known as the ‘Goddess of the Hunt’, although she was also the goddess of wild animals, the moon, the wilderness and chastity.

This version of the temple survived for a little under 200 years, until in 356 B.C. it burned to the ground.

A lot of people these days talk about ‘Reality TV Stars’ and other people who seem to just want to be ‘famous’, and it is clear that there are some people who seek fame at almost any cost. This isn’t, however, a new phenomenon, and it seems that it dated back at least as far as the second Temple of Artemis, and to a man named Herostratus.

According to some sources, Herostratus was a man of low social standing who wanted to be famous at any cost, and would risk the anger of one of the most widely worshipped goddesses in the Ancient Greek world, as he decided to burn down her major temple at Ephesus. This gives rise to the term ‘Herostratic Fame’, meaning fame sought at any cost, particularly referring to people who commit crimes in order to become famous. It didn’t really work for him as he was executed before he could know whether he became famous, and a law was passed making it illegal to write or say his name (a law which clearly some people chose to break as we know of him today).

You might be wondering how the worshippers of Artemis explained the fact that someone could burn down her temple without her stopping them. The answer is that the temple is said to have burned down on the 21st July 356 B.C., the day that Alexander the Great was born, and that Artemis was busy attending that birth and so was distracted while her temple burned down.

Finally, in the year 323 B.C. construction began on the final Temple of Artemis, and was the largest temple built on the site, standing 450ft by 225ft, and 60 ft high, with 127 columns, each approximately 4ft wide. So impressive was the temple that one description of the temple at the time compared it very favourably to some of the other wonders:

“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.”

This temple stood longer than its immediate predecessor, surviving until the year 268 A.D. when a raid by an East Germanic tribe, the Goths, set fire to it as part of a campaign of raids upon various cities. We don’t know for sure how extensive the damage was, as then the history of the Temple of Artemis becomes a little murky as there is some suggestion in 5th Century works that the temple was finally closed due to the spread of Christianity leading to Pagan Temples being closed down or destroyed.

Either way, the temple was lost until an expedition sent by The British Museum in 1869 found the site, and began a series of excavations lasting five years, with some of the fragments of the most recent two temples still on display in the museum today, along with more found in excavations in 1904-1906.

As a result of the destruction, along with the fact that the late-19th and early 20th Century excavations removed a lot of what was left at the site and took it back to The British Museum in London to be preserved and displayed there, there really isn’t a lot left on the site of the Temple of Artemis. The photograph above basically shows what is left on the site (sat below St. John’s Basilica in the background). There is one roughly reconstructed column out of the original 127, and part of another, and then various stones and fragments scattered around the site.

There has clearly been some care shown to the site, because of the restoration of these columns. While we were visiting Laodicea on the same trip to Turkey we had seen two of the team there starting the process of restoring one of the columns there, and the amount of time and effort which it was taking just to get the first few pieces into place.

The site itself, however, looked sad. It was clearly in a park used for walking dogs, and some of the owners had not cleaned up after their dogs. Around the outside were overgrown hedges, and a pool of green water amid the ruins filled with frogs which was nothing like the beautiful crystal clear pool which we had seen people swimming in while we were at the ruins of Hierapolis.

Standing on the site, I couldn’t help but think about the weight of history on the spot. How for over a thousand years people had worshipped in temples on this site, rebuilding them when they were destroyed by floods or fire. People would have travelled just to see the site, and ancient writers thought it an important and impressive enough site to include it in their writings about the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. More recently, the time had been taken to restore what they could of the columns remaining on the site, and this echoed through history back to each of the successive groups of people who had tried to rebuild the temple each time it was destroyed.

There is also something poignant, considering that it was the spread of Christianity, and the Christian persecution of Paganism, which had led to the final closure, abandonment and ruin of the Temple of Artemis that these ruins sit below the site and ruins of the Christian ‘Basilica of St John’, visible from the site of the Temple of Artemis, and much better restored, staffed, sign-posted, and generally cared for.

Overall, I am glad we visited the site of the temple, and if you visit the site then be sure to also visit the nearby Ephesus Museum, where some of the relics and statues from the site can be seen, as well as a model showing what the final temple would have looked like.

I hope that in the future it will be possible to improve the site, and present what remains at the Temple of Artemis in a way more fitting of its status in history!

Thank you for reading, and please take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

 

Laodicea on the Lycus

Laodicea on the Lycus

A blog post by Greg

We got to visit several historical sites during our travels in Turkey. The Underground Cities and Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia, and the Ancient Greek ruins of Hierapolis and Ephesus, as well as St John’s Basilica and the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World’.

Watch ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities’ – Free on Plex

Of all the sites which we visited, however, none had quite the same impact on me as Laodicea on the Lycus in Denizli, and it was one of those wonderful moments which travelling presents where we nearly never saw it at all, and a last-minute decision led to a very special experience.

I ought to point out, from the start, that we took this visit in late 2019, and so I don’t know as I write this at the start of 2022 how much the site has changed from what we saw. I mention this because it was very much the point in time at which we visited Laodicea that made the visit so special.

Part of my interest in history, and historical sites around the world, comes from a class in primary school. One day we sat down to a history lesson, and we were in the heart of studying the Ancient Egyptians. Of course, we had already learned about building the pyramids, about mummification and the River Nile, but the story we were to learn about in that lesson was more important to me than any other I can remember hearing in a history lesson throughout my time in school.

In 1922 Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings. The story of the discovery and excavation of the tomb (which perhaps I will go into in another blog post in the future), and the ‘wonderful things’ which his team discovered, combined with watching Indiana Jones, inspired my interest in history, and a desire to visit ancient sites around the world.

The day before we visited Laodicea we had spent a day looking around Hierapolis and the Cotton Castles of Pamukkale. The ancient city of Hierapolis is amazing, and so much of it has been restored to give a good idea of how it would have appeared back when it was inhabited. It is also a tourist centre, with gift shops and kiosks throughout the site, and museum buildings and displays filled with information. It is a wonderful site to go and visit as part of a trip to the area.

The Entrance of Hierapolis

After our trip to Hierapolis our plan had been to get up the next morning and make the drive to Izmir ready to visit Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis, but looking at the map we had time to visit another site on our way. The hotel had provided us with a welcome pack with ‘things to do in the local area’, and Laodicea was one of several ruins listed. I’m not sure what made us pick that one above the others, but I’m glad we did!

Laodicea on the Lycus, is something completely different from what we had seen at Hierapolis, which we realised as we drove up a small road towards the entrance to the site, stopping briefly at a security checkpoint where mirrors on sticks were used to check underneath our car, security sadly needed due to the importance of the site to Christian people (it was one of seven churches that Jesus tells John to write a message to in the Book of Revelation in the Bible – more on that later) putting it at increased risk of terrorist incidents.

Arriving at the carpark, which is just an open area beside a small ticket office with a few souvenirs for sale, we found only a couple more cars there, compared with several buses which had been arriving at Hierapolis at the same time as us the day before, and as we looked around Laodicea it didn’t get much busier. To one side of the carpark there were a couple of signs giving information about the site.

The city was first built (and I say first built as it was destroyed by earthquakes several times, as I discovered to my slight confusion from the sign at the entrance to the car park) in around about 260BC, although there is evidence of people living in the area three thousand years earlier than that as flint and obsidian tools have been discovered from that time.

According to the sign I read at the city (as shown in the clip above from ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities), the city was abandoned after a ‘devastating earthquake’ at the start of the 7th Century AD, meaning that as a city it stood for just under nine hundred years. This is contested, as Byzantine sources mention it throughout the 11th and 12th Centuries, and have it finally being abandoned in the 13th Century. Which of these is correct will, I’m sure, only be confirmed through further research and study of finds on the site.

This is, in a way, the entire point of this blog, and what I enjoyed most about our visit to Laodicea. It is, currently, a working excavation! They seem to be planning to one day make it a big tourist site like Hierapolis, and it will be an amazing place to visit, but right now it is history in progress! There is a team working there who are uncovering new finds, and also seeking to restore a lot of the site. They were excited about their work and (although we had to leave the camera switched off) took us into the area which they were currently working on, and, despite the language barrier, tried to show us everything that they were discovering and uncovering in that building. Imagine going to any major historic site you have ever visited, but being there as it is being worked on, meeting the people carrying out the excavations.

In a few years this will be a major tourist site. They are restoring it in a big way and there are some amazing sites there – in fact, we even got to see some of the processes of restoring a beautiful theatre, moving large rocks in wheelbarrows on cranes as they try to get the right pieces back in the right places, as you can see in this footage below from ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities’.

One of the reasons why I’m sure that it will become a major tourist site once it has been restored (as well as the scale and quality of the site, of course), is its connection to the Book of Revelation in The Bible, and the fact that it is mentioned multiple times in the book. Religious travellers and pilgrims already head to St John’s Basilica near Ephesus, a little over a hundred miles from Laodicea. St John wrote the Book of Revelation, which includes seven letters to churches in the area which Christians believe were written by St John at Jesus’ request. One of these was the church at Ephesus, and another the church at Laodicea, and so it is fair to assume that when Laodicea is complete as a tourist site that it will join Ephesus as a centre of religious travel.

This is interesting, because in 363AD a council of clerics from across Asia Minor gathered at Laodicea, presumably in the church which was discovered by radar in 2010, and opened to the public in a restored state in 2016.

This council was to decide on a number of issues of church doctrine, and finished up with 60 canons, rules for the followers of the churches involved. Among these canons, canon 59 and 60 deal with The Bible itself. Canon 59 made it forbidden to read any of the books of The Bible which the council decreed ‘uncanonical’, any of the books which featured in some versions of the Bible at that time, or in some teachings, which they decided were not to be part of the ‘official’ Bible going forwards.

It may come as a surprise to some (I know it did to me when I first discovered it in my late teens) that The Bible as we know it is the product of debates and agreements over hundreds of years, and during that time books were added and removed from the ‘canonical’ version of various churches until the ‘modern’ versions of The Bible came into being (and even then there are some differences in which books are contained depending on the denomination!).

At the Council of Laodicea, the canonical books of The Bible were listed in Canon 60, and included most of the books which would be recognised in The Bible today, with one notable exception. The Book of Revelation was not included in the canonical Bible agreed at the Council of Laodicea, that book which had the main mention of both the city and its church. There could be many reasons for this. Perhaps it was decided that the book was too different in style from the remainder of the books, perhaps they raised questions about its authenticity or its holy provenance.

Personally, I can’t help thinking that it may have been left out because of what it said about the Church of Laodicea. That’s right, I’m about to quote scripture!

Today’s reading comes from the Book of Revelation, chapter three, verses 14-18:

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich, and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

I can’t help thinking that if I were sat at the Council of Laodicea, in the Church of Laodicea, and I found that one of the books which we were considering making canonical called the people of Laodicea wretched, pitiful, poor, naked – and not just naked but shamefully naked – then perhaps I might decide that particular book might be left out!

This is, of course, pure conjecture on my part based on human nature – Biblical scholars are more than welcome to disagree!

Whatever draws people to Laodicea some years in the future when work is complete, I am sure that they are going to find an example of an ancient Greek and Roman city which will be incredible to look around. I am, however, glad that we visited at this stage. Yes, not everything has been uncovered yet, and yes a large part of the site is shielded from view where it is being worked on (unless you are lucky enough to be invited in by the team working there). If you get a chance to go and see it while it is still in the excavation stage, however, I would very strongly recommend it – the chance to see a site of this scale and quality in mid-excavation is not one you are going to have too many chances to experience!

We are always looking for incredible ancient sites to visit while on our travels – so please leave a comment below to let us know where the best sites you have ever visited are!

Thank you for reading, and please take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

 

Cetaceans – Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises

Cetaceans – Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises

A blog post by Felicity

My first ever blog post was about the Grey Whales of Magdalena Bay in Mexico. I really tried to keep my blog posts shorter in those early days, but quickly gave up on that. In that first post I talked about my admiration for marine life, cetaceans especially, and I briefly touched on where some of my fascinations with them comes from when I mentioned Spindle Neurons.

These blogs began purely as travel blogs, so I swiftly moved on to describe our wonderful experience in Magdalena Bay. Now that we have been to Scotland to work with the CRRU (Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit) for Seeking Cetaceans in Scotland, for this post I would like to delve a bit deeper into, what I believe are incredible creatures.

The Evolution Of Cetaceans

There are three main groups which Cetaceans are divided into. Archaeocetes, meaning ‘ancient whales’ which are now extinct, Mysticetes meaning ‘baleen whales’ and Odontocetes meaning ‘toothed whales’. For this section we are going back to the beginning, we are going back to the group collectively known as the Archaeocetes. (50-23 million years ago)

There is a taxonomy group called Whippomorpha or sometimes Cetancodonta and it contains all living Cetaceans and Hippopotamuses as well as all their extinct relatives.

That’s right, believe it or not, cetaceans share a common ancestor with the Hippopotamus!

They evolved about 50 million years ago from even-toed undulates (Hoofed animals that spread their weight evenly over two of their five toes such as Deer, cows and Giraffes.)

If you can imagine a creature the size of a wolf with long slender legs and a long narrow tail, that is what the oldest species we really recognise as an early cetacean looked like. They are called pakicetids and lived in parts of India and Pakistan. Their remains suggest they were waders rather than full swimmers.

Pakicetids – Drawn By Felicity

While it is true that visually they don’t resemble modern cetaceans, internally they actually shared some important features with them. The structure of their ear bone and the shape of their ear region is unusual plus the shape of their skull is similar to modern cetaceans although missing the blowhole at this early stage. From their appearance, you may expect their teeth to be somewhat dog-like but with their serrated triangular teeth, they more closely resemble modern whale teeth.

From this early point on the evolutionary ladder, there are several steps, spanning about fifty million years, before you reach cetaceans as we know them today. For the first four or so steps they were not fully adapted to an aquatic environment but in a transitional stage where they spent more and more time in water (some were even believed to have been amphibious at one stage due to the fossil evidence of a foetus positioned for a head-first delivery, as opposed to the tail first position marine species require to prevent drowning during birth) but were still able to go on land. At each step along the way their bodies adapted to the marine environment they would one day inhabit.

Their eyes were once small and placed atop their heads more like a crocodile than a cetacean but by about 40 million years ago they had become the large, laterally orientated eyes resembling those of modern cetaceans.

It was about 35 million years ago that these early relatives became fully aquatic and visually resembled what we picture when we think of cetaceans. They were fully marine and the fossilised stomach contents suggest they ate fish. At this stage, they were called Basilosaurids and while they looked the part, internally they still had a way to go.

Basilosaurid – Drawn By Felicity

At this point, they lacked the melon organ (a fat pad/tissue located in the forehead of modern toothed cetaceans which acts as a sound lens) and thus could not yet echolocate. The nasal passage had moved from the tip to higher up the snout but was not yet in the position of modern cetaceans blowholes. Their ears were also in a transitional stage being functionally modern but still retaining large ear holes, unlike modern cetaceans. The Basilosaurids were about 18 feet long so as large as some of today’s larger cetaceans but one of the most notable differences in my opinion was their brains. Modern cetaceans have very large brains while the Basilosaurids had small brains. This suggests they were solitary and did not have the complex social structures witnessed in many modern cetacean species (they were small-brained and big-toothed which is the reverse to modern cetaceans!)

Along the way, as species diversified, there were many incredible adaptations but as seems to regularly be the case with evolution, we lost many of those species along the way. One such species was called the Squalodon. Existing 20 million years ago, it resembled a modern-day river dolphin but the name actually means ‘shark tooth’. I like the link to dinosaurs with this species (it was originally mistaken for an Iguanodontid dinosaur fossil) but what I like even more is the mental image of all the people that want to kiss and cuddle a dolphin being confronted with this angelic-looking creature with a sharks smile!

Modern cetaceans comprise of two main groups which we mentioned earlier – Odontocetes aka the toothed whales and the Mysticetes aka the Baleen whales. It was about 35-36 million years ago that echolocation and filter-feeding evolved.

 

Modern Cetaceans

Mysticetes (Baleen Whales) are filter-feeding whales. If you picture the largest whale species such as the Rorquals- The Blue, the Fin and the Humpback whales or the Right whales, Grey whales or the smaller Minke whales- they all have Baleen plates. Along the top jaw of these whales, they have what looks like bristles or hair hanging down in curtains. This Baleen is made out of Keratin, the same as human hair and fingernails. The Baleen plates can differ in size, colour, stiffness etc from one species to the next and slightly in how the whales use them depending on feeding technique but generally, the whales open their mouths to take in water. They then filter the water out through those baleen plates which catch small creatures such as krill which then become dinner for the whales.

Baleen Whale Drawn By Felicity

Odontocetes (toothed whales) obviously include all of the cetaceans with teeth instead of Baleen plates. Picture the mighty Sperm Whale, the beaked whales, dolphins and porpoises. They range in size from about 55 feet to 4.5 feet. What makes them special though is the ability to echolocate. Thanks to the Melon organ (mentioned that earlier too) they can use sonar to hunt their prey and do not need to rely on vision. This also allows them to dive deeper in search of food as they do not require light to hunt. The melon acts as a directional, amplifying sound lens so when the cetaceans emit a series of clicks at various frequencies, they can be focused via the melon and as the sound is reflected off objects, the cetaceans receive that information through their lower jaw and through the auditory nerve the information ends up in the brain.

An interesting fact here too – humans and most other mammals have one primary auditory centre in the brain but cetaceans have two suggesting something very complex in sound processing is happening here but we don’t yet understand exactly what!

Through this sense, they can not only see the shape of the object but they can also see inside it. This opened up a whole new world to them and a wider range of hunting techniques and prey options became available to them. It is this ability that makes them ‘more evolved’ than the Baleen whales.

Toothed Cetaceans have some wonderful adaptations. Any diver knows the troubles we can have with squeezes, reverse squeezes or, worse still, the bends. Cetaceans live in the sea but they are still mammals. They can actually suffer these same conditions but have found their own special ways to cope with them. When a human dives, they have to equalize their air spaces to prevent a squeeze, usually by holding the nose and gently blowing against it. Some species of cetacean have a special vein that lines the middle ear cavity which becomes engorged at depth, thus reducing or obliterating the air space preventing the development of the squeeze. There are a few places in their body where this happens to reduce the squeeze and they lack the frontal cranial sinuses that are present in terrestrial mammals.

Another organ susceptible to compression damage is the lung which is why divers are taught above all else that you never, ever hold your breath when diving. Even if you have run out of air and must make an emergency ascent, you blow out a steady, continuous stream of bubbles or else risk serious damage to your lungs. In deep diving cetaceans (and seals), the peripheral airways are reinforced which allows the lungs to collapse during a deep dive. By collapsing the lungs in this way, the gas exchange between blood and lungs is prevented thus the absorption of nitrogen into the blood does not happen. No nitrogen narcosis, no nitrogen bubbles aka the bends.

To cope with this lack of oxygen in the lungs, deep-diving whales (and seals) have a large amount of oxygen stored in their blood and muscles. Cetaceans actually have more blood and a higher concentration of haemoglobin when compared to terrestrial mammals for their body mass as well as a higher concentration of myoglobin, an oxygen storage protein found in their muscles.

Put simply, deep-diving cetaceans, such as the sperm whales and bottlenose whales who have been recorded to dive as deep as 6,000 feet on a dive that can last for up to an hour, have air cavities with venous plexuses (veins) which fill to obliterate any air spaces thus preventing the squeeze. They have collapsing lungs to prevent nitrogen issues such as the bends. They also have special stores of oxygen in their blood and muscles.

As well as these incredible adaptations in the deeper diving cetaceans, some cetaceans have been noted to perform their own decompression dives. This is where, after a long dive, they perform many shorter dives, reducing in depth each time to reduce any adverse effects caused by a deep dive. This added to the fact that a dolphin can replace as much as 95 per cent of the air in their lungs in a single breath (humans replace about 65 per cent per breath) and I think everyone can agree they have some amazing adaptations and have come a long way in those 50 million or so years.

At last count (and it does change relatively regularly as new species are discovered and sadly some endangered ones go extinct) I believe there are over 90 species of cetacean on record inhabiting the worlds oceans, lakes and rivers. Some species, like Orca (Killer Whales) and Bottlenose dolphins have adapted so well that versions of them can be found all over the world. They may not all look the same or act the same but that is down to their versatility and adaptability – they have learned varied and specialised hunting techniques and developed adaptations to let their species flourish.

Orca drawn by Felicity

Other species are not so adaptable and can only be found in limited locations and many are nearing extinction now. Sadly a huge amount of that was down to the whaling industry where humankind obliterated whale numbers to the point that many species are still unable to repopulate and are even now nearing extinction. Though the tourism industry is overtaking the whaling industry, humankind is still responsible for many threats facing cetaceans today – these include overfishing, bycatch, lost fishing equipment which creates entanglement, noise pollution, plastic pollution, chemical waste pollution, oil spillage, whaling and the capture of cetaceans for amusement parks… in so many different ways we are contributing to their depletion in numbers and quality of life but I am not actually intending to go into that in detail here…

We have more information about toothed cetaceans, largely down to the fact you get smaller species of them which have, over the years, tragically been captured and kept in captivity at marine parks, dolphinariums etc. The larger cetaceans are harder to study but as technology advances, we are finding more, less intrusive, ways to study and understand these magnificent creatures.

One of the things that really intrigues me about cetaceans is their brains. I find the majority of animals amazing in their own way. Their adaptations and abilities, their habits and qualities. Life, nature, it is harsh and seemingly cruel so much of the time but in the way it all connects, it’s amazing and beautiful. Ecology is a fascinating subject and like with most things, there is always so much more to learn. For a few species though, I am particularly intrigued by their brains.

 

Brains.

Spindle Neurons I have mentioned in a previous blog post but did not really explain them. I am not a biologist, zoologist, neuroscientist or anything else approaching them which may be helpful at this point but I will do my best to explain it as I understand it…

Spindle Neurons are specialised projection neurons located in parts of the brain. I think of them as like highways or express trains for connecting important information to different parts of the brain quickly. They are usually found in the parts of the brain linked to communication, speech, facial expression, quick-fire responses, memory, emotion, trust, guilt, embarrassment, love, a sense of humour, empathy, intuition about the feelings of others, social organisation, social awareness, self-awareness, rapid ‘gut’ reactions and interoception. These cells are credited with allowing us to feel love and suffer emotionally.

An interesting side note about these Neurons (sometimes called VENs) is that they are decreased in number in sufferers of frontotemporal dementia, schizophrenia and agenesis of the corpus callosum. Patients suffering from such conditions suffer a breakdown in their character, lose social graces and empathy, become insensitive, erratic and irresponsible. People lack social awareness. When a disease targets these cells you get a breakdown of social functioning. A lot of people would say we lose that which makes us ourselves, that which makes us human.

At one time Spindle Neurons were thought to only exist in humans and great apes, they were touted as the brain cells that set humans and the other great apes apart from all other mammals. Now those brain cells have been found in a few large-brained species such as Elephants and Cetaceans. Interestingly considering their shared ancestry, these cells have also been found in hippopotamuses, zebra, pigs and a few other species too. In addition, less evolved versions of these cells have been found in creatures like racoons.

While VENs are most prominent in cetaceans, humans, great apes and elephants, we do not share a common ancestry but rather a case of Parallel Evolution where VENs are concerned. It may also parallel the emergence of a very large brain size in these mammals. If the presence of these Spindle Neurons is related to the emergence of larger brain size or more related to the behavioural specializations that humans, whales and Elephants have in common, I don’t know. The two seem linked to me- a larger brain being capable of higher function and emotional capacity and therefore in need of rapid transmission of this crucial social information. Without that express train, a larger brain could mean a slower brain as all that input would have further to travel.

For Cetacean species, VENs have been found in both baleen whales and toothed whale species. They have been observed in the bowhead whale, humpback whale and fin whale. They are also found in the Sperm whale, Orca/ Killer whale, beluga whale, Risso’s dolphin, and the bottlenose dolphin.

What is more, whales appear to have had these cells for about 30 million years which is at least twice as long as humans and in addition, early estimates suggest they have three times as many spindle neurons as humans do and that is accounting for the fact whale brains are larger than ours.

It is all too easy to transfer thoughts and feelings onto animals. The way my dog responds to me, the way my cat is all over me every chance she gets. They love us but what is love to them? We put our version of human emotion onto other beings where, largely, it doesn’t belong there. That isn’t to say your pet doesn’t love you, but it may not be the way we as humans classify those words, those emotions. Humans are good at anthropomorphising everything around them. I am just as guilty as anyone else but I am aware of it and try to tone it down.

Whale brains have such potential for high-level brain function which is regularly demonstrated at the behavioural level and the presence of these cells offer further proof. The way they communicate through complex songs, the way they recognise their own songs and make up new ones. They recognise each other and form coalitions to plan hunting strategies which they then teach their young. Their evolved social networks are similar to those of apes and humans and, to my knowledge, Elephants too.

As with humans, VENs were found in whales in the parts of the brain (anterior cingulate cortex and frontoinsular cortex) linked to everything I mentioned above but in addition, unlike in human brains, they have been found in the frontopolar cortex at the back of the brain, and they are sparsely dispersed elsewhere too. Scientists, to my knowledge, do not yet know exactly what this means for cetaceans and their brain capacities. It is certainly believed that it enables us to process and act on emotional cues during complex social interactions and this is very evident in many cetacean species.

While Sperm whales have the largest brains in the animal kingdom, we know more about Orca (Killer Whale) brains and what we have discovered is incredible. While it is true that the most intelligent species, such as cetaceans, elephants and primates have the largest brains, it is more than just the size of the brain which contributes to the intelligence of a species. There are four characteristics in the structure of an Orca’s brain which differ from us but make them something incredibly special. If you were to measure the cerebral cortex (associated with memory, language, thought, attention and consciousness) and how thick it is, cetaceans rank highly (but not quite as high as humans and primates) but cetaceans cortices are actually structured differently.

The next thing to look at is the gyrification (how many wrinkles and folds the cortex has. Brains with more wrinkles and folds have more nerve tissue and are faster and more skilful with handling the data. A brain with more gyrification has faster brain cell communication.) Cetaceans have significantly higher gyrification compared to any land mammal. Neuroscientists are actually bewildered at how heavily folded cetacean brains are. To give you an idea, a human brain measures 2.2 for gyrification while the bottlenose dolphin is 5.62. Orca has the record for the most gyrified brain in the world at 5.70.

Orca also have a highly developed paralimbic system. This part of the brain is related to spatial memory and navigation. More meaningful to me though is their highly developed amygdala which is linked with emotional learning and long-term memory.

The one that really gets me though is the insular cortex in Orcas which are the most elaborated in the world. The insula cortex is linked to consciousness, emotions such as empathy, compassion, perception, motor control, self-awareness and interpersonal experience. Again, it is those emotional capabilities that humanity thought made them a step above other creatures and yet the Orca has a brain capable of them in a greater capacity. What’s more, Orcas are the most acoustically sophisticated animal on the planet. Everyone knows that some whales, like male humpbacks, sing, toothed cetaceans echolocate, some cetaceans use sound to shock their prey or to create a wall of sound to trap their prey but many also produce whistles, clicks and pulse calls to communicate with one another but Orca are on another level. Our communication compared to theirs is somewhat primitive. Their brains suggest that in a few areas, compared to them, humanity is primitive.

When I consider some of these cetaceans, elephants, humans and great apes, these species with large brains and these Spindle Neurons, some things they have in common jump out at me – they have a prolonged juvenile stage during which they learn from their elders. They recognise each other and develop lifelong relationships. They work together, hunt together, help one another and protect each other. Cetaceans and Elephants society is also matriarchal. They each have a clear language and they mourn their dead. They are all capable of complex, coordinated social behaviour.

I now think back to stories I have heard and videos I have seen in the past – the dolphin with a deformed spine unwanted by its own kind but who was adopted by a pod of Sperm Whales.

The humpback whale who lifted a swimmer from the water to protect them from a tiger shark. The group of dolphins who surrounded a man swimming with his child and protected them from a shark. The way humpback whales will protect other whales and even seals from Orca. The signs of empathy and altruism these creatures display. The Orca mother on Blue Planet whose baby was poisoned (thanks to humans and our pollution again) and carried the deceased calf with her until there was nothing left to carry. (There are so many stories about Elephants displaying all of these emotional capabilities too including that of their fantastic memory which they are renowned for but this post is about cetaceans)

It all amounts to one big thing to me – they are worthy and so deserving of so much more from us. They are like us in so many ways and may well be capable of a higher level of intelligence and depth of emotion if their brains are anything to go by. I do not see how humans believe it is ok to capture these sentient, highly evolved creatures and put them in tanks. To limit their lives to such a degree and to, in effect, torture them for our own amusement. It isn’t ok to do that to any animal but to the degree it has been done to cetaceans is staggering. Some countries, like Canada, have woken up to this and have banned cetaceans in captivity but so many places in other countries still hold them captive. How people can turn a blind eye to the pollution and damage we are causing to the world around us but especially to the sea, it needs to stop.

If I haven’t already lost you, I know this blog post is particularly long, talk of saving the planet is often where people glaze over. We all know humanity needs to make changes before we destroy the planet but I am often surprised by how little some of the people I talk to know about the impact we are all having on so many animals and in so many ways.

I am sure my knowledge only scrapes the surface but I want to learn. I want to make a difference. That is one of the reasons I went to Scotland to work with the CRRU. It isn’t about saving the planet overall but it is about learning, and putting what we learn to good use to help and protect the cetaceans in the Moray Firth.

This is also why we are donating £5 from each DVD of ‘Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland’ to the CRRU to help support the wonderful work they do! You can get your copy HERE.

Thanks for reading,

Stay safe,

Felicity

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

 

Making A Magic Show – Part Two – Into The Magic Shop

Making A Magic Show – Part Two – Into The Magic Shop

A Blog Post By Greg

In the last part of my blog series about the work to prepare our magic series I talked about searching for old tricks in old magic books, and those have formed the basis of a lot of the effects which will be performed in the series – and indeed some of these have already been filmed.

Some of the effects in the series, however, will be based on more modern tricks, or require special equipment which I can’t make myself, which means a trip to the magic shop!

Magic underway at the Papplewick Pumping Station Steampunk Weekend.

I know that both of the magic shops which I regularly use have really good websites, and I admit that most of the time I order from those because I know exactly what I want, it saves a journey, and a lot of the effects I will want to buy are in a warehouse and shipped directly from there, and so even if I visit the magic shop in person I will still end up ordering the majority of what I need online.

To clarify, therefore, it is significantly more convenient to order through the website of the store and get the effects through the post. In much the same way that it might be more convenient to stick a frozen pizza in the oven than it is to go out and get one from Felice’s Pizzeria in Turin which serves wonderful wood fired pizzas (can you tell I’m on a diet and may be thinking about food too much?). More convenient doesn’t necessarily mean better – it can also mean you miss something a little more special.

Our last visit to Felice’s Pizzeria during a tour in Italy in 2018.

So on Wednesday, as I had an early show on the mainland and then a ferry home in the late afternoon, it seemed a perfect excuse to take myself to a little village just outside Southampton where one of my two favourite magic shops is located, The Merchant Of Magic.

Before going to the shop I had to do my prep work. This is all important for me when going to a magic shop, and even more so when I’m buying effects for a particular show, to make sure I have a clear list of what I want to buy, and a very clear budget. The real trick is to make sure that the total cost of the items on the list is much lower than the budget you have available… because I will want some extra in the budget for reasons I will come to shortly.

Armed with a list of items I wanted to buy for the series, I was ready for the shop. Entering the shop is like entering an Aladdin’s Cave, immediately you are faced with wonders – although how much each of these wonders will mean very much depends on how much you know about magic. Immediately I started to see effects and pieces which would have been bought instantly had my budget been a few hundred pounds higher.

What makes visiting a magic shop most special to me, and the reason for going to the ‘bricks and mortar’ shop instead of always ordering online, is the person behind the desk, and in The Merchant Of Magic this is Dominic.

I feel I ought to point out before I go any further that I have not been paid to write this post or anything like that. This is not an ‘advert’ or ‘review’ for the magic shop – just me being a little over-excited about getting to visit a magic shop for the first time in two years!

When I entered the shop, Dominic was busy with another customer. It wasn’t many moments before I hear the words “Have you seen…?”.

Every magic shop I have ever been in has been staffed by someone who genuinely enjoys magic – and in the case of Dominic he really seems to enjoy showing off every trick. He immediately called me over as well and performed a trick for both of us – under what are very difficult conditions. I don’t know the other customer, but he seemed to have at least a basic level of magical knowledge, and so the chances are that we would be looking exactly where we weren’t supposed to, seeing things we weren’t meant to see, and also, although not deliberately, pre-empting what might happen in that particular effect.

Taking a step back from the magic shop for a moment, this is one of the reasons why it is so useful that Felicity doesn’t want to know how my tricks are done. As far as possible I practice them without her seeing, and she has no real magical knowledge (except what has rubbed off from me over the years), and I always assume my audiences are likely to have a little magical knowledge anyway from having had a magic set as a child or something similar. The bottom line is that Felicity is a good gauge when I wonder whether the method of an effect would likely be spotted by anyone, or just by a magician. On the flip side of that she also provides an extra useful directorial voice.

On more than one occasion she has told me that although she didn’t know how a trick was done, that she saw the moment it happened because that was when my hand went into my pocket, or something looked awkward – and a lot of the time that wasn’t actually the moment the trick was done and it was just my natural movement. However, if a natural movement looks ‘dodgy’ to the spectator and they think they have seen how the trick is done (unless it is a deliberate red-herring and you later prove it not to be the case), then this move needs to be cut from the performance, and so having Felicity spot these things really helps.

Back to the magic shop, and watching the first effect I could see it was a nice effect, and I could see how it would fool people, but it wasn’t right for me and what I do. It was a nice ‘mind reading’ effect, and anyone who has seen my show knows that I like those, but it took movies as its theme, and that is not a theme which really connects with me on a deep level. It was, however, a nice little effect, well performed, and the first live magic I think I have seen someone else perform for well over a year, so it was an absolute joy to watch even if it wasn’t right for me.

I do like a nice mind-reading effect!

We got to chatting about magic, and more effects came out – card tricks, tricks with poker chips, all sorts of everything. One of the amazing things I find about visiting the magic shops which I do, and the people who work there, is that no one seems to have told them that they are supposed to be selling the tricks – they just seem to enjoy performing them and talking about magic. When an effect grabbed me (and there were three effects I came away with which weren’t on my list to buy for the series) and I asked how much it was, there almost seemed to be a pause as he remembered he was in a shop and not just performing for fun as he looked to see how much it was. I finished up my purchases, getting some of the bits I needed for the series and making a note of what I still needed to order online, and reluctantly had to drag myself away from this little private show in order to get back in time for my ferry home. Even as I left Dominic mentioned another trick which he would have to show me next time!

In essence, the trip to the magic shop was exactly what a trip to a magic shop should be. I like performing magic, obviously, and I like learning about it, working on tricks and discovering new methods.

I also enjoy watching magic. It fills me with a sense of wonder and joy, I enjoy it when I can see the skill of the performer and the cleverness of the trick, and I particularly enjoy being fooled – and I mean, even just for a few moments, being deeply truly fooled. Having a trick performed on me where not only can I not immediately see how it is done, but where I can’t even begin to pre-empt where it is going. At least one of the effects in the magic shop gave me that feeling, and there was one specific moment where the impossible happened, and for a joyous moment the whole of physics seemed to make no sense. It is a feeling I always hope to impart on others, and it is a joy when it happens, a joy well worth taking the extra effort to come off of the internet and go into a bricks and mortar shop!

As I sit here surrounded by magic books, plans, new purchases and lists of things I still need (and thinking of one effect which I saw on the shelves in the magic shop, didn’t get, and then suddenly had an idea for which would work wonderfully in the series and wondering if I can squeeze the budget to accommodate it), I am more determined than ever to make this magic series a success – and the sign of success for me will be if I can bring that sense of joy, wonder and amazement to some of you in the same way that visiting the magic shop did for me.

Thank you all for reading, and hopefully I will see you at a live show soon!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

The Audience Returns…

The Audience Returns…

A post by Greg

Over the past week I performed four shows.

Fifteen months ago that would have seemed like such an unexceptionable sentence that I would never have thought of writing it in a blog. In fact, for much of the year it could have been considered a slow week – and back when I was touring in Italy I was regularly performing twenty shows a week!

An Audience In Pre-Covid Days!

The past year, however, has obviously been different for all of us. For a few days in December I did manage to perform some magic for people waiting in line to see ‘Father Christmas’ at an event at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway  in Havenstreet, where I was safely separated from everyone by standing elevated in a railway wagon… until I got ‘pinged’ by track and trace and had to self-isolate.

ANY’s view from our Havenstreet ‘stage’.

It has been 14 months, since I performed the ‘Non-Psychic ‘Psychic’ Show’ in Crewe, since I had a ‘proper’ live audience, not people I have seen over a computer screen or with extreme pandemic safety measures performing for a queue. Then the government restrictions being relaxed on 17th May suddenly made it possible for me to properly perform outdoor shows once more, and one day later, on the 18th, I was set to perform for an audience of sixty school children in the garden of the hotel where they were staying on a residential school trip to the Isle of Wight, and had my magic show booked for performances over the next two nights (with half of the group watching each night).

My ‘virtual stage’ for most of 2020.

I had wondered for a while what that first performance back would feel like.

Obviously I knew there would be technical changes to the show for safety reasons – I have had to temporarily cut anything which would need close audience interaction or a lot of passing objects backwards and forwards for example – so no ‘pick a card’ tricks (not that I do many of those anyway). On a ‘feeling’ note though, would it feel good to be back, would if feel strange, or would it feel like I had never been away?

Now I know the answer. If I had to sum up my first performance as a magician back with a live audience a few miles from home in a hotel garden on the Isle of Wight, the word I would have to use is ‘fast’. It felt quick, everything flew by.

I had deliberately chosen tricks with a quick set up to allow me to get into the show as quickly as possible after arriving, so obviously the set up was fast, but from the moment the children started to take their seats on the grass and I opened my mouth to perform, it felt like the show took off! Everything was going well, I was excited, and everything felt so fast.

It was only as I picked up the last trick that I had intended to perform that evening and looked at my clock that I realised why everything had seemed so fast, as it dawned on me that the reason the show had felt so fast was that it had been – I had performed what should have been a full hour of material in 40 minutes, and now had twenty minutes left to fill!

Luckily I always have extra material with me, so in the moment I just moved on and did more pieces, and it was only afterwards on my drive home that I dissected why I had dashed through the material, and I came to the conclusion that there were two reasons.

The first reason was that I had been excited! Of course I had, I was performing a full show for a live audience for the first time in fourteen months, and that excitement made everything a little quicker than usual – this was something I would have to watch over my next few shows.

The second factor was to do with applause! You know when you go to a  live show and people clap at the end of tricks (at least they do if the performance is good)? For the last fourteen months I hadn’t had the applause running through shows – the ‘(Almost) Live’ shows were not interactive with audio, and in Zoom shows I keep the audience on mute except when they are participating in a particular trick, and so had replaced applause with hand waving.

Performing Over Zoom – Photo thanks to Jeanette Macklin

The bottom line is that I hadn’t heard laughter and applause in that way for over a year, and had become used to a ‘video’ sense of timing, meaning that I had actually been treading on my own laughs and applause in that show, instead of allowing the tricks to ‘breathe’ and the audience to actually get their applause out! There is an art to timing the right moment to continue the show during laughter or applause, to not let it die out to an awkward silence, but not to cut it off too early, and I had not thought about this part of adjusting to a live audience again.

Having fully debriefed myself, I was, overall, really pleased with my first show back performing live, and even more so the second night when, with the proper course corrections, the show ran much better to the time I had expected!

With live shows returning, but also with work now well underway for the ‘Greg Chapman Magic Show’ series to film over the next few months, I am looking forward to a future that allows me to combine what I enjoy from both live shows and filmed shows!

Thank you for reading, and please, stay safe!

 

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

 

Making A Magic Show – Part One – Choosing The Tricks

Making A Magic Show – Part One – Choosing The Tricks

A Blog Post By Greg

This is the first of a new series of blog posts which I am intending to write over the next few months, in between our other posts, about one of our upcoming projects. When I look back at the first blog post I wrote introducing this blog in December 2019 I wrote that ‘the main focus of this blog will be travel, history and magic, but do expect other topics to crop up as we go along’, and I am pleased, looking back over our blog posts,  even from the lockdown, that we have actually stayed within that remit rather well. If I were to add another category, I would probably say that the main focus of the blog is travel, history, magic and wildlife, mainly as it relates to creating our videos. Of course we veer off into tangents now and again, but these threads seem to run through it all.

This series of posts is going to fit firmly into the ‘magic’ category, as over the next four months one of our big projects is going to be to create the first series of ‘Greg Chapman’s Magic Show’, a magic show series which we are intending to film over the summer, and then make available on a number of streaming sites come the Autumn. I have decided to document some of my process while working on the magical side of this show in these blog posts, as I though some people might be interested in how I am going to go about creating the magic for this eight-part series!

Given that we are looking at each episode running at thirty minutes, and that my pieces run at an average of about five minutes in length (with quite a range in lengths making up that average!), this means, if my maths skills are working, that I need to put together approximately 48 effects ready for the series. On the basis that there will be at least one which I will get all the way through the preparation stage on and then decide when it gets to the edit that I don’t like how it looks on camera, lets round that up and say I’m going to have to put together fifty different effects over the next four months. Usually I might add a dozen or so new effects to my shows over the course of a year, so this is a big task, and one I am very excited about!

I’m going to pause, just for a moment, to talk about the difference between a ‘trick’ and an ‘effect’. I have heard these used interchangeably by people who do not work in magic, and sometimes by people who work inside of magic, and even when I hear magicians who do separate them when talking about them, they define the words slightly differently from each other. I think that it is probably worthwhile letting you all know how I define the differences between the two, so that we keep the distinctions clear during these blogs.

The ‘trick’ is the actual magic thing which happens – the ball disappears, the rabbit appears in the hat, the rings are magically linked together. These are the things which require technical skill, or knowledge, or equipment, or some other ‘sneaky method’ to accomplish. The magic trick laid bare is nothing but procedure, and if you ever see someone just perform a ‘trick’ then you are likely to go away wondering how they did it, but not to feel entertained or enriched by it. For me, if someone just shows you a trick in its most basic form then you are more likely to look at it like a riddle, something where you just want to know the answer and feel slightly ‘left out’ because you are being shown a mystery without a solution.

The ‘effect’ on the other hand, is how you take that trick and turn it into a performance, to make it entertaining, to imbue it with a sense of ‘theatre’. This can be done with words, music, or just by actions and looks, but it draws you in and leaves you, when done well, with a sense of having been entertained, and at its best it allows you to become a child again and not even wonder in the moment how the magic is achieved. Certainly, afterwards, you may go back and wonder, but in the moment you are entertained by a performance, not being confronted by a riddle.

As an example, consider for a moment the ‘Rabbit Out Of The Hat’ trick which I presented at the end of part three of the ‘Greg Chapman’s Magic At The Waterworks Museum’ virtual show (if you haven’t seen it, you can go and watch that HERE).

The trick here is a simple one – it is having a series of objects appear out of an apparently empty hat.

However, rather than just standing there, showing the hat empty, and then removing rabbits one at a time, I present it as the story of how the rabbits are running around inside my clothes, and it becomes the story of the rabbits leaping out of pockets, along sleeves, through trapdoors and into hats. It works in elements of how the rabbits are trained, the mistakes they make, and turns the rabbits into characters, and the trick into an effect.

For me, personally, magic is all about the effect. I don’t look at magic in an adversarial ‘I’m going to fool you’ kind of way. I know full well that if you really want to know how my tricks are done, especially on video, you can watch them multiple times and probably get pretty close to figuring out what is happening. Of course, I know that the majority of people won’t – my job is to make the whole show so entertaining that you won’t want to spend the time it would take to try to figure out how things are done, I would rather you just enjoy the effects.

Having said that, I also want the magic to appear ‘magical’ – and so as I’m presenting the effect I don’t want you to know how the trick is done, I want you to experience it as a piece of magic.

So at the moment I am starting at what, for me, is the first step in adding a new effect to my performance, I’m just trying to do it with fifty different effects at the same time. When I decide I want to add a new effect to any of my performances it usually starts with the trick first. Then I turn to the books!

This is the phase I am currently in, as I read through my collection of old magic books (along with a few new additions purchased from eBay!), and for me the older the book the better in a lot of ways, to find tricks that I can adapt, modify, pull apart and put back together. My reading here is as diverse as the ‘Tarbell Course of Magic’ (a special thank you to James Bonine for sending me the first four volumes of this at the start of lockdown), volumes made up from what was originally a mail order course in magic from 1926, through books of plans for building large stage illusions, and even several books written to teach magic for children which often have hidden gems which can be rethought and reworked.

Next to me as I type this is a volume of the Tarbell course, and sticking out of the side of it are lots of small ‘Post-It’ notes marking pages where a trick has appealed to me as I am reading through. On the first read through each book to find tricks I deliberately keep my options open – at this point all a trick needs to get a sticky note is to appeal to me in some way.

My next read through these tricks is more critical, and I am applying a number of criteria to them to whittle down the numbers. A lot of this is fairly subconscious, and it is a ‘gut-feeling’ whether or not I’m going to start working on a trick, but some of the thinking I can explain.

My first question is stylistic – does it fit my style. Obviously, given the style of this series, and my shows in general, I’m a little old-fashioned in my aesthetic, and so any tricks which use a lot of technology, or are focussed around technology, such as magic tricks with mobile phones, for example, are discounted. There are some tricks which I enjoy the sound of, and can imagine being performed perfectly by another performer, but which don’t suit my style at all. Those lose their sticky notes!

The next question is one of practicality – can I get hold of or build any props or apparatus I would need in order to create this trick, can I do in time for the shows, and can I do it with the very limited budget which this first series will have. If the answer is no to this question then these pages lose their sticky note – but do get noted down in a separate notebook for potential inclusion in a future show.

My third question is quite a personal one for me. Do I know somebody who has created an effect around this particular trick which I consider to be perfect, or pretty close? For example, I wouldn’t perform the multiplying bottles trick – Tommy Cooper’s routine for that was such a perfect presentation of the effect that I don’t think I could take it in a different direction which would avoid comparison, and I certainly don’t think I would do it better than his performance. Any trick which I feel that way about goes. There may be tricks which I know perfect versions of, but where I can envision an effect and presentation which I would put to it which would be from such a different angle it wouldn’t result in people comparing the underlying trick – those get to keep their sticky notes.

Finally, I begin to think about effects. When reading about the trick do I get a glimmer of an idea about a possible presentation? Is there a way that I can make this trick my own and build something around it to make it right for my shows? Does it suggest a story, or a bit of business which I can create? Does it remind me of something from my life, or of a message which I want to share? Is there a joke which immediately leaps into my head. Is there another trick which would link with this to create an effect between them?

If a trick passes all of these tests it gets written onto a fresh page in my notebook, ready for the next step in the process… which I will take you through in the next part of my blog series!

In the meantime, if you are interested in my magic or our upcoming magic series, please consider heading over to our Ko-Fi page and supporting the series. For just £3 you can get our ‘Join The Team’ perk (HERE), and get behind the scenes details and emails from us as we work on all our projects, but for just £50 you can become an Executive Producer of one of the episodes of the magic series (HERE), with your name as executive producer in the end credits and, as we work on the series, some extra behind the scenes videos with Greg rehearsing, working on, and discussing some of the tricks for the upcoming series!

Thanks for reading, and please, take care!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

Lasting Magic

Lasting Magic
A blog post by Greg

It must have been about thirty years ago – I was old enough for a strong memory to have formed, but not over eight years old, as the Paul Daniel’s Magic Show went off the air in 1994.
I was sat there, less than nine years old, and Paul Daniels was telling a story about King Arthur and his sword Excalibur. He told (and forgive me if I have some details of this story wrong – I have never been able to find this episode since) of the power of the sword, and that anyone holding it couldn’t be harmed. He told an audience member that the sword itself had been melted down, and segments of it were sold as small model swords in souvenir shops. He had one of these souvenir swords, looking a lot like a paper knife, which he handed to a spectator.

Paul Daniels then pulled out a small guillotine, just big enough for a finger. He showed the blade of the guillotine, he had the audience member put their finger through the hole in the guillotine while holding the small model of Excalibur, and then brought the blade down on their finger. The blade magically passed clean through the finger, and somehow the person’s finger survived unscathed!

I think about that trick often. My parents tell me I had a ‘Paul Daniel’s Magic Set’ when I was young, but I don’t remember it (by the way, anyone with an overwhelming desire to send me a gift, there are lots of second hand Paul Daniels magic sets on eBay…). I don’t remember the magic set I had, or the tricks I apparently learned, but I remember Paul Daniels performing that trick, and years later I understand why.

Performance. Magic is not about a trick, it is about how you perform the trick. The story Paul Daniels built around that relatively simple trick (yes, I have a version of the trick these days, but I rarely perform it) captured my imagination so strongly that I remember both the performance and the feelings it created to this day.

Fast forward to February 2019. I was now a professional entertainer, and a large part of that entertainment was the performance of magic. I now had five ‘idols’ in my profession – Penn Jillette, Teller, Derren Brown, Mr Alexander… and Paul Daniels. I got to go out and perform magic for people, and I was a committed ‘live’ performer.

I worried about videos of my act getting online, I wanted everyone to experience it ‘live’ and only live. I watched magic on television, and, with a few exceptions (Penn and Teller’s Fool Us and Derren Brown’s tapings of his live shows spring to mind), there were fast cuts, camera tricks, editing tricks, and they left me feeling cold. This modern form of television magic was popular, but not for me, not to my taste.

Then the pandemic struck, and I started to perform shows on ‘Facebook Live’, and it remained important to me that any magic I performed was performed ‘live’ on the show, but I started trying to find a lot of new tricks so that I could perform new tricks every fortnight and not burn through all my live material.

Over time I realised I didn’t actually need to perform the magic live for the camera. By using fixed camera angles and no cuts I could record the magic and people could still see that it wasn’t being done with camera tricks and clever editing. I could pre-record the shows without destroying the magic. I also came to realise that I really enjoyed working on the new magic, and that if the performance is right, that people wouldn’t mind if they saw the trick in real life after seeing it on video.

Then I listened to an interview with Paul Daniels on a podcast called ‘The Magician’s Podcast’. Of course he’d figured all of this out well over thirty years ago, long before I first saw him perform on television, before I was even born!

He talked about the importance of prioritising the performance over the trick, about the joy he had creating new effects to fill 150 episodes of his series, and he talked about the importance of knowing the point in a magic trick after which you can’t change camera angles, where you have to stay with a fixed shot to prove there are no camera tricks.

Then, in March 2021, I got an email from the Waterworks Museum, Hereford. For the second year running they wouldn’t be able to host the ‘Hereford Steampunk Weekend’ due to Covid restrictions. Last year they had run a ‘virtual festival’ and I had filmed a short clip for them, but this year they had a new idea. Could I create and film some magic show videos specially for them?

Of course I could.

We were constrained by space – we were still in lockdown and so filming would have to be done in the confines of the Mercave Studio, our studio and rehearsal space within our workshop in the back garden.

We were constrained by time – I would only have about three weeks to write the show, learn the tricks, film and edit the three twenty-minute shows.

We were constrained by budget – live shows and a return (hopefully) to performing regularly won’t be until at least June, so we couldn’t spend a fortune on new set pieces or tricks.

Despite all of these constraints, however, I realised something important. I really enjoy creating magic shows in a format which works on camera. I like looking through old magic books, searching online magic stores and auction sites, finding new magic (and very old magic) and creating my own performance around it. I like looking into how I can theme tricks, to make them varied, in this case to fit in with the Waterworks Museum.

After years of shunning the idea of my performances being on video, because I hadn’t enjoyed most recent TV magic shows, I have found that by looking to my childhood for inspiration, by looking at the Paul Daniels Magic Show and a style of television magic which some may consider ‘dated’, I had found a great deal of joy.

By the time this blog comes out, you will be able to watch my virtual shows, ‘Greg Chapman’s Magic at the Waterworks Museum’ parts one, two and three on YouTube by clicking on the images below:


This feels like a new beginning, a new step in my magical career. Of course I will still be performing live – in fact I will be performing a live follow up to the virtual shows at the Waterworks Museum Hereford on Saturday 7th August this year (for details and tickets visit www.ticketsource.co.uk/gregchapman).

Before the pandemic, as regular readers of this blog know, Felicity and I had already begun a move to producing more video content with our travel documentaries, which started out on YouTube, but have now started to appear on streaming services like Prime Video, Tubi and Plex. Of course, therefore, I want to combine these two elements of our work, and so I have decided that one of our filming projects for 2021 will be an eight part magic show series to be released through streaming sites and on DVD, which, although it will be done in my own unique style, will take stylistic inspiration not from modern magic specials, but from the magic performed in theatres around the end of the Nineteenth Century, and the Paul Daniels Magic Show. I am already pouring over some very old magic books to discover hidden gems of tricks which I can use as the basis for new pieces of theatrical and entertaining magic.

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show has now been released and can be ordered on DVD at: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

More information about Greg Chapman’s Magic Show can be found on IMDB at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt14659472

Thank you all for reading!

Stay safe,

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg