Faithfully translated into prose more easily digested by the modern reader, unembellished and unedited, this illuminating historical source is presented as if its Elizabethan author were alive today.
In 1598 merchants of the City of London paid for a Present to be given by Queen Elizabeth to Sultan Mehmet III of Turkey. In return the merchants hoped to secure trading concessions, and the Virgin Queen to turn the Sultan's military might on her Spanish enemies. The Present was a carved, painted and gilded cabinet about sixteen feet high, six feet wide and five feet deep. It contained a chiming clock with jewel-encrusted moving figures combined with an automatic organ, which could play tunes on its own for six hours - or by hand to the point of exhaustion.
The Present was dismantled and dispatched on a merchant ship early in 1599. It took six months to get from London to Constantinople. With it went four craftsmen. They were Thomas Dallam the organ builder, John Harvey the engineer, Michael Watson the carpenter and Rowland Buckett the painter. Dallam was just twenty four years old.
On their odyssey they encountered storms, volcanoes, exotic animals, foreign food, good wine, pirates, brigands, Moors, Turks, Greeks, Jews, beautiful women, barbarous men, kings and pashas, armies on the march, janissaries, eunuchs, slaves, dwarves and finally the most powerful man in the known world, the Great Turk himself
After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in French and German and with an MBA from INSEAD I spent fifteen years criss-crossing Europe and the Middle East for an American bank. In the mid 70’s I was posted to Greece. When we were transferred we left an old stone house on the island of Evia, which we go back to every year.
My fortieth birthday present to myself was to quit salaried employment. The main reason was to write full time. I reviewed the modern French novel and then science fiction for the TLS. Published works include three comic novels - “Sail or Return”, “The Monogamist,” “Thanks, Eddie!” - and the best-selling guide to European cultures “Mind Your Manners,” currently in its third edition and available in twenty languages. “Management Mole” was about going back as a temp in the back offices of the kind of organisation I used to manage.
Meanwhile I tried my hand at various entrepreneurial ventures. An attempt to establish a franchised chain of baked potato restaurants in Moscow came to an end when the Russian Mafia became interested. I had more success with INBIO Ltd, which imports Russian biotechnology for environmental protection and with a project to control the spread of water hyacinth on Tanzania‘s Lake Victoria. These ventures resulted in books such as “It's All Greek To Me!” and “I was a Potato Oligarch.”
I now write full time again. When I am not at the keyboard I sing and play the baglama, a miniature bouzouki, in a Greek band in London. I love to travel, especially around the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Journeys have inspired “The Sultan's Organ” and “For Love of Helen.” And of course whatever I am doing I read whenever I can - in print and on Kindle.read more