Click the hyperlink above to read the synopsis of Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman on GoodReads. Recounting his journey over the years, from a little village in England to the deserts of the Middle East, private boarding schools to children’s care homes, world-wide trade oil tankers to a 19th Century tall ship, working as an escort to set up an accountancy firm, James’ story is honest and compelling. Taking a philosophical approach to life’s twists and turns, James retells of his experience of travel, love, family, business, and adventure. Explaining how his childhood experiences affected his approach to life in later years, his struggle with mental health issues of bipolar mania and depression and how, over the years, society’s own views on the subject changed to include a more open and honest acceptance for people to begin to try to better understand.
- Anki: In my opinion, Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman is a phenomenal memoir. The book holds the attention just after reading the blurb. I wish to start the interview by posing a geography question. What were the major differences that you found between England and the Middle East?
James B. Hansom: Obviously the two are very different, like comparing chalk and cheese.
England has the oldest system of law in the World dating back to the 12th Century, a legacy from the empire of the 19th Century is that England has a very diverse and multi-cultural heritage and being an island has allowed it to weather many storms especially from invasion; however, like most things old it can be a double-edged sword in that things are very stuck in their ways, institutional racism can be an issue, and the island mentality has unfortunately brought us further away from our European neighbors rather than closer together.
Whereas the Middle East truly is a multi-cultural and ethnically diverse place to live, although having a strong class system, is does not suffer racism or crime like other places. Sometimes portrayed by those who do not know the area as intolerant, I have always found honesty and openness which, along with the beautiful culture, makes the Middle East one of the easiest places to live in the World.
Although I am proud to be an English gentleman, the Middle East will always hold a special place in my heart.
- Anki: In Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman, you have talked about bipolar condition. What would be the key point that helped you live a life with the condition? If you could offer one piece of advice to people struggling with it, what would that be? For that matter, what advice would you offer to their friends and family?
James B. Hansom: As a Sailor for many years, one absorbs the rules of the oceans into one’s own life; as such every wave has a peak and a trough. Accepting bi-polar is no different, like a heart-beat you have the highs and the lows, just a little more intense! The mania phases can be really useful as one can get so much done in such a short amount of time, but afterward comes the crash which can halt you from achieving anything; so I guess things take about the same time overall. Everyone deals with it in their own way, and having all the experience and self-knowledge in the World never makes dealing with it any easier – having said that I would recommend the following:
During the manic times try to be patient with others, who may seem glacially slow, and remember to breathe and take your time as much as you can. And when dealing with the down cycle take things equally slow, breathe and try to remember that it’s only a phase; when it’s really bad just try to do the smallest thing, like getting dressed, and try to keep things simple like that. It’s just a case of one step at a time – but as I said none of this will be much help when you’re in the middle of it. But you got through it before, and you’ll get through it again; and once you have the whole thing will, at some point, happen again, so just breathe!
As for people who are around that never-ending cycle, I can only apologize and say that by just being there does help. Like anything there’s good and bad, so make the most of the good and be patient with the bad; after all, we sufferers do!
- Anki: While we are on the subject of mental health, we cannot forget depression. I don’t know whether people have finally begun to open up about their depression or it has started affecting people more, but every other individual struggle with depression at some level. Of course, there are no guidelines to follow. However, in your viewpoint, what could be the best approach to keep depression from overpowering one’s entire approach toward life?
James B. Hansom: Yeah, depression is a bugger; again, all the best words in the world won’t help much when you’re in the grips of a bad bout. When it comes it’s quite sneaky, like a cold brewing in your head; so that when it really comes in you can sometimes not even realize it’s happening. But when it does hit and for no reason you can put your finger on you can’t help but feel completely worthless, stupid and pointless, again I would just say that if you can just do the smallest of things, step by step you’ll get there. I find that I get intermittent bouts that really floor me every three months or so, they last between 3-5 days and there’s nothing you can do but try to distract your brain and ride it out. It’s different for everyone, but just try to remember it’s happened before and it’ll happen again, just breathe, take things slowly and definitely do not make any big decisions while you’re feeling that way.
Just as the sun sets, so it will rise tomorrow; it sounds silly but just that can help a lot.
- Anki: Who is James B. Hansom when he is not an author? What does your average weekday look like?
James B. Hansom: During the Covid-19 lockdown, it’s been really great having my wife and daughter at home, many people have talked about it being a struggle but we’ve enjoyed this opportunity to spend so much time together. Being involved in my daughter’s school work has been fun, as well as doing other learning-based projects with her.
As to general life for me nowadays you could say I live a quiet or ‘boring’ life; but after so many adventures over so many years, always have dreamed of having a family life and been so fortunate to realize that dream, I’m happy just to enjoy every second of it.
- Anki: Who would be the ideal audience for Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman?
James B. Hansom: Predominately the readership is most popular with ladies between 35-60, although I’ve had some amazing feedback from people of every age and all walks of life. I wrote the book to be of use to anyone who is willing to be open and honest with themselves while reading it, and I would hope that anyone who does that will get a lot from the experience and hopefully enjoy the journey we take together.
- Anki: In these dark times when the whole world is struggling with a pandemic, we could all use some inspirational stories. Any real-life story that you would like to share with the readers?
James B. Hansom: During this pandemic, there have been too many people who have lost their jobs; one person I met had been working in a call center for the last year and truly hated the job and had felt they were stuck with no positive aspect for the future to look forward to. In the UK the government set up a furlough scheme whereby an employer could receive full compensation for wages so that no-one needed to lose their job; unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for this person who initially thought they were on furlough but then received an email stating that they had been laid-off and wouldn’t be required to come back into work again.
Obviously despondent because although they hated their job it was the only income they had in their small family and could have resulted in them being made homeless. Not wanting to worry everyone, they used the time to spend time with their two children who were given on-line school work to complete while at home. Part of this was simple computer coding which the kids were encouraged to learn at that school; the parent in question had no experience of coding and really wasn’t comfortable with computers in general, so when asked for help they felt even more like a failure and suddenly everything felt more hopeless than before.
But rather than let their children down, every night while the family slept they practiced the school work challenges and familiarised themselves with what was required so that the next day they could help the kids complete their work. After a week or so they began to find that they were beginning to understand the rudiments of the tasks and having completed all the coding the school work entailed began looking up more coding exercises on the internet.
Before long they were completely absorbed in this new hobby and began to wake up early to learn more and more about the subject; because they had never had any interest or understanding in computers or IT previously they began to develop some pride in what they’d achieved.
Whilst browsing looking for basic warehouse jobs to apply for, and not getting any positive responses during the enforced lockdown, they came across an advert for apprenticeship learning and thinking they literally had nothing to lose applied detailing everything they had been looking at and learned with their coding practice. Two weeks later they were invited to attend an on-line interview and were surprised to hear that the training company was really impressed with their work ethic, knowledge and aptitude for coding, and asked if they’d be interested in becoming a full-time apprentice.
They are currently now in full-time employment undertaking five courses in software development specializing in IT security and database management looking to finish with a Bachelor of Science degree in Digital and Technology Solutions and for the first time in many years are very excited about their and their family’s future.
I guess the moral is that helping your kids with their homework can be more interesting than you’d think!
- Anki: What do you think is the most important rule of thumb for first-time Authors?
James B. Hansom: Make sure you have your work professionally edited, and don’t take their feedback personally; they are not reviewing the art of your work but merely providing an essential function in the production of a published work.
That, and to remember that for every hour’s writing to spend at least three hours really thinking about it first, or you may end up putting a lot of time and effort in the bin only to start again from scratch!
- Anki: How do you overcome moments of self-doubt?
James B. Hansom: I guess this is where having experience with depression can help; remember that every Author will feel differently about their work depending on their mood and that writing a book is an art-form which means that people will always have varying opinions on it.
Take your time to really think about it before you start, put your best effort into it, and know that no matter what reviews you get that you created something beautiful and special to be proud of.
- Anki: After Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman – Part One: Innocence, what are we going to get next from you? May we get a sneak-peek into your next project?
James B. Hansom: Obviously, my next couple of years will be taken up completing all five parts of Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman, but I’m already chewing over another project in my head involving a boy who finds something in his Dad’s closet which takes him on an adventure of a lifetime and changes his World forever – watch this space!
Anki: I would like to extend heartfelt gratitude to James B. Hansom for opening up to the blog. This one conversation of barely a few minutes offers more pearls of wisdom and inspiration than one hour of text can do. I wish you immense success with Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman. I am confident after knowing more about you, readers would be excited to get their hands on all five parts of Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman, as soon as those hit the market.
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