Friday, February 17, 2006


let's be realistic. i'm not likely to get any more of my london-rome trip writing up here any time soon. but i've been turning over a few ideas lately for ways of keeping up some kind of regular writing practice. i finished with couch surfing a couple weeks ago, and have had income of various kinds trickling in, but half the boxes are still piled in the corner, scraps of wood akimbo. it was all a nice excuse for biding my time.

well, my sister helped kick my ass out of neutral, with this anagram tube map.

i wrote back to her:

my nearest station for all places of residence since moving to london, in chronological order:
centenary chalk
a vax hull
invests seers
squealer slurs (or retard cottonmouth if you go the other way)
imp coil
gender bonus
nether bangle (two addresses consecutively)
energy pen set
escargot news (cause i feel like counting my storage locker)
dark tonsil glands

that was a fun game.
so much for procrastination.
time to get another job.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Still Searching

This is my thirtieth post. Imagine that. What? You're still here? And even after my longer silence?

I'm on my fourth sofa. Thanks to past hosts and those who've extended offers. They are so numerous I bet I could keep surfing into the new year without losing any friends.

But I don't want to do that, cause I want to unpack, get rid of lots of stuff, and get on with things. In aid of this objective I have leads on both jobs and flats, but aren't going to say anything about them here for fear of jinxing myself. Yes, superstition is strong.

Do check back in a couple more weeks; there'll be something, even if not much.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Not quite night night

OK, I'm back in London, as you know, and pretty busy trying to get my life in order. Obviously the trip is finished. That kind of empties this blog of any purpose, so I'm going to have to put it to bed soon. But I've had requests for posts having to do with the food I ate along the way, and snakes (no, these don't overlap). I also plan to put up the total itinerary as it actually played out, with stats on distance walked each day, that kind of thing. Seeing as I'm still homeless, though, my hustle is directed elsewhere, and all this writing is going to have to wait a bit. If you're interested in it, check back in a couple of weeks.

Otherwise, bon voyage.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Home Sweet Home

I'm back in London, of course. Oddly, I'm not getting that 'everything looks fresh' feeling I've had on returning here before. Maybe that's because I've lived here longer now than any other place I've been since leaving the nest. Whatever. It wasn't something I was particularly looking forward to anyway. Really, I just wanted to see familiar people again (which I've started) and put my life together.

You can help with this last thing, possibly. I need a job and somewhere to sleep between socialising and working again. Ideally I'll be able to keep plowing the Whitechapel/Bethnal Green/Stepney residential furrow I've been working the last few years, but I can't afford to be too picky. Send it all my way.

As for work, by all means let me know if you or someone you know (of) is looking for a violin/bow maker/repairer, researcher, sound engineer, stage manager, dogsbody, pretty face (I can try).

Happily, I have loads of wicked friends, but more are always welcome. Especially if they have details of the zombie crawl on saturday (which I lost by daft email erasal), or some other kick-ass hallowe'en party.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Stop that train...

Nobody seems to be able to find ferries that run around Spain and Portugal, so train it is. That puts me in Paris tomorrow, and I do hope to make it to Bar Dix in the evening for sangria goodness. I'll be the one with no hair. That's right, I went through with it and had my whole head shaved by a proper barber. Cheeky bastard left my eyebrows and took my nose (shoddy work), but I still tipped him more than two bits. It was a good shop. The mirrors had loads of looney tunes figurines along the top of them. I forgot to take a before picture, but that's just as well. With three months worth sticking out at all angles I looked pretty lousy.

Felt sharp for the night out, though. As it turns out the sound was weak and nobody danced, but I discovered that I still remember how to drink. Now if only I could remember how to stop.

See you London folk on Wednesday. If you didn't get a flyer for the Pick Me Up party and want to come email me today and I'll forward it on to you when I hit Paris.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Everyone Votes Vespa

Except my mother, predictably, sensibly.

But no one offered the info I needed, like cost of insurance, likely resale income in the U.K., driver's licence validity, probable gas mileage... But it's a moot point. The bit of research I've done makes it clear that I can't afford it.

Which leaves only two options, since I've not looked at the Easyjet website and I'm bloody well not going to.

I've found ferries from Civitavecchia to Barcelona and from Bilbao to England, but can't for the life of me turn up away to get from the Mediterranean around to the Atlantic. Help!

Alternatively, I'll train and hitch, which will likely put me in Paris for Tuesday night. Paris kids, wanna hang out? I've got a sangria craving only Bar Dix can satisfy.

Once I've got it all figured out I'll post again. In the mean time, I'm gonna try to enjoy being where I am. Might even go dancing tonight. If I can remember how.

P.S.The one about the viper will have to wait. I don't know how to tell it yet. The ending makes me uncomfortable.

20 October 2005

I decided to diarize again, if only for Thursday. Wouldn't have felt right not to, really. I give you some of it.


While I ddrink my coffe the manager gives me directions for avoiding the Via Cassia, passing through Campagnolo. But it sounds complicated, longer. So while the highway scares me I think I'll stick to it just to finish as soon as possible.

As I leave at 9 the rain is only light. I count down the first couple of kilometres, 35, 34. About 9:30 it starts to come down harder, under the umbrella of course. Several drops on my trousers, then they're quite wet. The outside of my boots look wet but my feet feel dry still. Then my trousers are sticking to my legs and as it pours down harder still I feel the tops of my socks soak throuth above the boot. Then the water keeps going: down to the ankle, the heel, the arch, finally the toe, and both feet are sodden. Each step seems to squelch.

Now the road is slick, shiny, the gutter a small river, but with my feet soaked through it dowsn''t matter and I carry on straight as long as I can see the ground under the torrent. Only briefly do I think about turning back, waiting for better weather. But I'm wet through, may as well carry on.

Some nice truck drivers swerve over towards the second lane so as not to splash me as they pass, others don't. I can barely hear the traffic over the pounding of water on the umbrella. Sometime, though, I wonder whether a rumble is thunder or a distant truck. 33, 31.
Another brief stop under an anonymous awning, during which the rain stops completely. I eat the second maple syrup candy, which I'm sure is as potent as lembas cake. The rain starts again but lightly. I mutter to nowhere 'Is that all you've got?' Which is silly, as it starts raining harder, building up to as hard as it was first thing this morning I think, but can't tell as I'm already very wet.

It feels like a country road, hedge rows tight on the sides, but industrial stuff to the left and railroad to the right beyond them. The verge gets muddy, the water murky. In onw place it has pooled and I have to climb through brambles on the side. As I do a larger van goes past quickly and I get the wake from head to toe.

Eventually the 'ROMA' sign, but of course nothing changes. I take a picture anyway.


Nearly cried when I got to St. Peter's. I didn't look to my right as I skirted around the columnade so as to enter the piazza from the top. It was full of cars, the sky was still grey. There was lots of security around so I couldn't swim in the fountain like I'd hoped to. Maybe it was cowardice, but I just don't particularly fancy spending time in an Italian prison or a Vatican dungeon. I did splash some of the water over my head and felt refreshed, if not satisfied.

At the hostel, a drummer from Montreal appears with news of a baroque ensemble playing that night, featuring Viktoria Mullova, bill of Handel, Vivaldi, Sammartini, Bach. Very tired by that point (the last two days were 42 and 37km respectively), but enjoyed it thoroughly.

Yesterday rained some more, though not as hard. I saw some stuff, went to some places. As cool as Rome seems, I can't help thinking about getting home. Good company in the evening helps.

Today was sunnier, and I've started to think about trying to get a couple weeks' work here, but all the people I've been hanging out with are leavng on Monday too, and it still feels right to.

Monday, October 17, 2005

St. Peter's Or Bust!

Just finished three short days, now it's three long ones. Left Tuscany yesterday. Have to admit the cypresses weren't doing it for me. Until I got to Sant'Antimo, that is, with the combination with vines and olives. Gnarly oaks too. Still, I already miss the Mediterranean pines on the coast, clinging sometimes to their cliffs. You know the ones I mean. They don't have branches; instead, arabesques.

That's all, as the shop's closing. The story about the 5 foot viper I saw will have to wait.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ah, modern life

There's a bird here that has a call that sounds like a mobile ringing in the bag of someone two seats in front of you on the bus.

San Gimignano is famous for being a well-preserved medieval town. Once, it had dozens of towers; now, it has only seven. Not counting the crane. (What are they building in there?).

My first view of the town, over hills with vines and olive groves, was beautifully enhanced by the sight of the provicial prison, and a pass made by two low-flying fighter jets.

But I'm not bitter. Just a little grumpy still from the week of bad weather that only let up as I got to Volterra. Rolled in there nearing 6, getting dark and cold. I find the hostel shut, and don't much fancy walking a couple miles back out of town to the campsite. So I go to the tourist info office, where they confirm that the hostel is closed, but that there's a convent I can stay at. WOOHOO, and Hot-diggety! Turns out it's just a seminary, but I got my own room for hostel price. In the morning I went down to breakfast to find the hall full, unespected for a weekday in off season. Everyone's speaking some slavic language or other. So I'm drinking my coffee, trying to decide whether to try conversation in Italian or English. Suddenly they're all singing! I remind you this was in a seminary, with great arched ceiling, solid acoustics; it sounded glorious. Yay. I found out they're Hungarian, by the bag that held the gift they gave to the fellow who seemed to run the accomodation. In the end, English worked better than Italian, but French got a look in as well.

Several times in the last couple of days people have switched back to Italian after an initial salvo in English with me, which feels pretty good. Even though my vocabulary is still lousy, at least I'm on the right track accent-wise. I need to start learning the conditional, and the future might be handy too, though for the moment I don't have much of one.

No, because now that I'm on my last scheduled rest day, in Siena, I've got only 8 days of walking left (knock on wood), putting me in Rome on the 20th. Which isn't a momen too soon. I'm SOOO ready to go home. But I'll enjoy the last stretch while considering the 4 options for getting back.

1)Combination of hithc/bus/train. Lots of hassle, potientially expensive, but good in that I'd get to visit people in Germany and Paris perhaps.

2)Fly. Probably the cheapest and least hassle, but also the worst environmentally and no fun at all.

3)Buy a Vespa P200 in Rome, ride it back. This is definitely the coolest option but I need help with it. What will the import tax be? Where can I find a cheap one? Will my Canadian class 5 driver's license be enough?

4)Sail the seas. Ferry from Civitavecchia to Barcelona, around to Portugal somehow, on to the Island. Very classy, possibly expensive.

I promised myself I wouldn't book anything until I got to Rome, so weigh in with tips if you've got'em.

Also, noting the date I get to Rome, I should be back to London in time for the next Pick Me Up party, on the 26th, somewhere on Wardour Street. Want to welcome me back? Get yourself there. For a flyer, get yourself on the Pick Me Up Put Me Down list and it should come in the next week or so. And you'll like the list if you like me, I suspect.

I normally like Rob Brezsny, and while he had a wrong spell with me last winter, he's been back on form lately. This week is eerily on, as I'd planned to do something violent to the cheap watch I bought just before leaving London.

Why do I always end up climbing towers on my rest days? And why did it have to be only my last rest day that was rain free (so far, knock on wood again)?

Bought my second book of the trip today. Wasn't going to read anything, but I've stopped diarizing (hence non-sequiturs aplenty) and needed something to make me happy in the evening. So in Forte dei Marmi I picked up 'The Shadow-Line' (Conrad), which this the job a treat, but I'd finished it by the time I got to Pisa. Today, I opted for 'Invisible Cities' (Calvino) because one of the first lines is 'In the lives of emperors there is a moment which follows pride in the boundless extension of territories we have conquered, and the melancholy and relief of knowing we shall soon give up any thought of knowing and understanding them.' which I read at first with 'travellers' for 'emperors'. I wanted something to last me all the way to Rome but I have a feeling this'll be an even quicker read than the Conrad. 'The Portable Dante' (including all of the Divine Comedy on top of La Vita Nuova) would have been ideal but isn't quite portable enough for my shoulders tastes.

Finally, did I do anything in particular to get front-paged by Blogger? I hope there isn't someone out there expecting a pay-off, cause I'm gonna be the one mooching when I get home.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Crooked Town

15 euros to climg the bastard thing, would you believe it. Gorgeous view, but you sure don't get to stay up for long. I wonder how many pisani/pisane look at it the way I look at the Tower of London--neat for sucker tourists but hardly worth the full cost.

Only 13 days to go, from the looks of it, though the Siena-Rome leg is still a bit vague. Lots of campsites are closed now, plus it's been pretty miserable weather for the last 4 or 5 days, raining a bit every day. So I've stayed in hostels more than before. Just need to figure out where they are for the last couple hundred miles.

With any luck, I'll be back in London just in time for Hallowe'en parties. No idea what I might be, unless the Santa outfits are near the front of my storage locker. Though I'm a bit thin for Santa, so maybe I should follow Luciano's suggestion and walk back. Having lost a bit of weight, I could retrace my steps to find it.

Monday, October 03, 2005

More rest

Well, I'm still in Riomaggiore. I did try to leave yesterday. The weather was bad enough to cancel all the boats down to Portovenere so I took the drastic measure of catching a train to La Spezia. There, I discovered that all the shops with maps were closed (not entirely surprising on a Sunday), that the hostel was halfway back to Riomaggiore, on the top of the hill with bad bus service and no washing machine and likely no view of the sea. So I turned around and had my rest day here. Tomorrow I'll try to leave again, in spite of not having maps for the whole distance I want to cover, which shouldn't be a problem however as I'm just going to stick to the coast anyway.

If for some currently inconceivable reason I do bounce back here again though, I'm going to take that as a sign and look for work. Otherwise, I'll be in Pisa in a couple of days, and San Gimignano a few later.

Questions for you the readers:
What's with tickets on Italian public transport? Are they a Stupid Tax*? I mean, on the buses I've ridden in cities on rest days, I've seen no ticket inspectors and hardly anyone validates a ticket. On trains at least I get that there are conductors from time to time.

Doctors in the house, this one's for you. I was under the impression that the feet are at their smallest (volume-wise) in the morning after one has been horizontal for a while, swelling a bit during the course of the day as you spend time vertical (hence the better-ness of buying shoes in the afternoon). If I haven't just made this up, why are mine huge in the morning, shrinking steadily as I walk on them?

Also, what's this swelling on my arm? Oh, no, never mind. Just another mosquito bite.

*an explanation of 'stupid tax', from the originator of the term, taken from the 'Christina in London' blog (oh, just google it if you're curious):
When you're stupid (like me), you end up paying various stupid taxes. When most people think of stupid taxes, something like lottery tickets probably comes to mind. This can also loosely be interpreted as a tax on people who can't do math. Alternatively, an economist would argue that there is an extra utility created by the fun of playing, which is why people purchase them, but this isn't central to the arguement here.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Liguria eats and feeds

Yes, I'm on the coast still. It eats time, film, and money. But oh, how it feeds the soul.

Swam at San Fruttuoso at dusk. And again at Lèvanto. If I'd skipped the Portofino promontory (and San F.) I'd have got to Lèvanto a day sooner. So instead of swimming, I'd have been wetsuited among the surfers whom instead I only watched as I came down the hill into town. A half day board rental was only 15 euros, but when I mentioned to the guy in the shop that it was for the next day he told me the swell was on its way out. Sure enough, when I went to the beach at 7am the next morning the waves were gone. Still, from the two dips I conclude that swimming in the Mediterranean is good for you. This is scientific. I strongly suspected this truth before, and now I have incontrovertible proof.

Cliff jumping is also good for you (though I suspect this requires a strong heart, more tests needed), at least at Riomaggiore, where I was last night. And where I am again tonight, as I doddled too long this morning, only got as far as Porto Venere, so took the boat back since I liked it so much here and because Alberto, the guy I was walking with for the end of the day, offered me dinner in Manarolo, the next town over. Maybe I'll drink with some Croatians later. Yes, I'm more sociable again, after initial shyness in the new language.

Must run and shower before dinner. Tomorrow, boat in the morning to P.V., to check out Byron's grotto, then up to La Spezia, and inland, melancholically. I'll miss the coast; it's been good to me.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A warm breeze

That's right, these are more salty words wafting your way, don't you wish you were here, too? Ah, the Mediterranean is great, even if hazy while I'm in townnow.

Last Saturday I missed a random soul/funk night. This Saturday I missed Desmond Dekker! And not even because I wasn't in the right town. No, no, I'm in Genova alright. It's just that the doors were at 10, and with two supports d'you think he'd be on before 1am? Neither do I. And after a long haul from Campo Ligure, my feet just couldn't take my weight for that much longer, never mind hold a skank. So just around the time everyone else was going out, I was going to sleep. By the time I get to Rome it'll probably have been 3 whole months without dancing, so when I get back to London someone better find me a Keb Darge night fast or there might be conniptions.

Turin turned out great, and I stayed there rather longer than planned, thanks to a last minute connection from Stephen. A big shout out to the fantastic company of Luciano, Francesca, Milla, Alex, Susanna, Maurizio, not forgetting Stefano. And a general hoorah for having bad weather on a rest day instead of a road day, which meant less crowds at the cheese festival in Bra.

Now I'm on the coast again and it's hot. I might even shave my beard tonight, though I'd planned to grow it until Rome (all the Italian papers last weekend proclaimed the arrival of autumn, but my English blood disagrees). We'll see what the day holds. Already I've bought maps and trail mix, eaten falafel (not Italian, I know, but I needed vegetables), and blagged my way into a museum. I was willing to pay the 9 euros, and spend the time with the paintings, even though I'm not keen on museums for this trip. I just wanted to find the room with the Paganiniana first, make sure I had the right spot. And 'playing' dumb tourist got me into it. So I skipped all the canvas, and spent an hour with the 'Cannon' Del Gesù (that's a violin, for those of you...). I'm gonna try not to geek out on you too much here, but it's really amazing. The modern setup doesn't look quite right, even though it's really well done. And it's too high to get a decent look at the scroll (which seemed bigger than the pictures make it look). Still: soooo gorgeous. I tried to spend some time with the Vuillaume opposite it, also owned by Paganini and sold eventually to one of his pupils, cause hey, it's a Vuillaume. But by comparison it just looked so vulgar, only held me for a few minutes.

What else... Oh yeah. Grapes and dogs. There are a lot of both between Turin and here. The vendemmia started in the area last weekend or early this week, and one kind fellow gave me some freshly picked grapes (dolcetta, and I've forgotten the name of the other kind, should have written it down) as we chatted some more in the town square, having walked the short distance into town from his vines, which supply enough wine for family only, unfortunately for me--the grapes were tasty.

The dogs have been decidedly less friendly. Every villa has at least one, and they're all loud, aggressive. Usually the gate is closed or they're on a chain, but not always. I've had a series of closer and closer calls. So, for the record, if by mischance I should get mauled to death by some rogue beagles, someone better build me a roadside shrine or there'll be some haunting for sure. And if I make it back alive, keep your dog on a string around me as my distrust for the species might take a while to fade.

Since my low mood only lasted the two days from Asti to Acqui Terme I'm back in high spirits (blame the sea air if you like), and it'll be with a happy step that I head along the coast tomorrow, making La Spezia in 4 days or so. Some of you threatened to meet me in Rome, in which case you might like to know that I think I might get there around October 20th, but I can't be too precise just yet.

Right. I need to go have some ice cream to cool down.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I like the Alps

They are nice. That's all I can say, I'm at a loss for words. And, the internet being what it is, I have no recourse to the wild waving of hands and jumping up and down that might otherwise help.
Highlights that spring easily to mind, in no particular order:
tasty food, in France and in Italy
mountains (imagine that)

But Leonie flew back to old blighty yesterday, so I'm back on my lonesome, and still in town because yesterday evening was weird. On the bright side, I saw a wine glass player, which I'm taking as a sign that I should be an aquaphonist in the band when I get back to London (Holly, Helen, Robin, others, get yourselves ready!). I also saw the Trio di Torino please a home crowd with a programme of Chausson pieces, at the Teatro Reggio.

It's hot in Turin, too, but I like it less than Geneva, probably because my attempt at going dancing last night (a soul and funk night! right next to the Po river!) came to naught.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The next few days

Léonie and I went map shopping this morning, and have the next week plotted more or less. We'll be spending nights in the folloing places:

5sep--Refuge d'Anterne
6sep--Refuge de bel Lachat
7sep--camping in Le Praz
8sep--Refuge des Mottets

Then it's over the pass and down into Italy, towards Courmayeur or La Thuile at first, then through the Gran Paradiso park, and into Turin by the 15th. Internet's likely to be scarce until then.

Geneva is hot. I like it here.