I’ve been back for just over a week. Life on the Camino is a complete removal from the London routine. You wake up at 6am, pack your rucksack together and walk through the darkness until the sun rises behind your back an hour later. You finish before the sun becomes too hot and see all the familiar faces at the next albergue. Dinner is 5 languages ricocheting around a local tavern duly serving the 3 course 10 euro pilgrim menu which is the same across the whole of the 780km route from St Jean with the exception of Galicia where they throw in pulpo/octopus as a bonus.


I find something therapeutic in the walking routine. Sometimes your feet are covered in blisters, sometimes the pain in your knee breaks your stroll into a inglorious hobble, sometimes all your mind can think of is your next bed. Often, however, your mind peacefully escapes the Spanish landscape and lands on the people you’re invested in around the world, on the things you want to do when you get back, on the dreams you need to realise.

During the Camino, I got struck down (literally) after drinking some dodgy water from a small village albergue. Without being too dramatic, I felt like I was going to die - vomiting for 8 hours straight. Only after an injection in my rear by a local doctor did the tide start to turn. Two days spent in a Leon hotel and a hefty cocktail of prescribed medication was enough for me to gingerly start walking again. This period of vulnerability was a helpful reminder of how fragile we can all be.

Yesterday was world mental health day. If it wasn’t something I battled with, I’m painfully aware that it is something that I would struggle to empathise with. A well meaning friend said I should just pull myself together during one of my more darker periods and I’m aware that if I wasn’t in that dark place I might have said something equally crass. Similar to how Jordan Peterson reminds us that we look back at history and imagine ourselves as the noble liberators when most of us would be the prison guards.

I think what I’m trying to say is kindness is key. Even if you don’t quite understand why that person can’t just get out of bed or why they isolate themselves even when they need their friends more than ever, why they can’t manage to eat or sleep or sleep too much. Most of us are going through things we can’t see even if they look confident and in control and their instagram is on point.


Life has been relentless since coming back. I’m commuting in from Hertfordshire, early starts and late evenings. It’s good though. London is home and I’m happy to be here.

A presto. TJP


I'm going on the Camino again tomorrow. 500km of walking and 25 days of space. I'm looking forward to the distance from the intensity of London.

When you haven't written in a while there's an urge to acknowledge that absence. I last published something here in January last year. Since then, the main bullet points were getting severely ill in Edinburgh, surviving my final uni exams, recovering through manual labour in Italy and then building a new life in London where I've been for the last 12 months. Through all of this, writing seemed like a luxury that I couldn't afford. I was clinging to any energy I had left and was reluctant to spare it on anything deemed extra to the immediate challenges in front of me. In hindsight I think this was a mistake; Creating, even something small and simple, helps you feel alive. While it takes energy, it often gives back more or gives back something different. 

I was travelling through Washington and California earlier this year and ended up in a hostel in San Francisco that Joe and I went to 6 years ago. About 30 of us went to a local Indian restaurant for dinner and I was sat next to a group of 'lads' from Melbourne. Most of the chat was about where people were travelling to next and reflecting on the pros and cons of American and Australian sports. Towards the end of the evening one of the guys said something accidentally profound that stuck with me. He was talking about his life in Melbourne and said no matter where he goes and how long he's away, Melbourne will always be home for him. His friends, family, the culture, the way of life, the beaches, the food will always be what he came back to. Some people appear to be comfortable settling into a completely nomadic lifestyle but the thought of having somewhere relatively consistent to return to is appealing. 

The constant moving of the last 6 years have been great but also disorientating. The four 'homes' of Rome, London, Sydney and Edinburgh are in continual rotation. Overall, however, London is becoming the place where I return to. It's big enough to keep exploring but with individual pockets of community that you can eventually settle.



An obligatory NYE walk at Belhaven Bay in Scotland sparked the usual planning for the upcoming year. As much as possible I wanted to try and build foundations here. London has its challenges, it can seem like seeing your friends is a once a quarter battle rather than a regular involvement in each others lives. That's not always the case though and when two people are both willing to make the effort there will always be time to connect.

New people too. I'm joining a new lacrosse club, I go to a board games club (lol), being regular at Church and home group, getting more involved in my livery, joining the squash ladder. You have to keep trying, keep putting yourself out there. The people you naturally connect with will be obvious. One of my closest friends is someone I didn't know this time last year and we have played squash every week for the last 7 months.

I'm excited about this time away and equally excited about coming back with hopefully new energy and fresh ideas.

A presto,


Elevation and Contemplation

Cinema has had to fight for its place as an art form. Back in its Lumière Brothers and Georges Méliès origins it was seen as a trickery, as an intriguing way to manipulate light. Little clips were shown at the theatre interspersed with song and dance. If you wanted to elevate the soul or reflect on man and nature you would head to the Louvre and Orsay on the banks of the Seine and not to these idiosyncratic inventors stitching together film. Cinema has evolved and accommodates a wide range of story and emotion that has the ability to profoundly touch what it means to be alive.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen La La Land, Manchester by the Sea and Silence. Each take you away to another world, unforgiving in its most troubling moments yet often uplifting.

[v minor spoilers below]


Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as Seb and Mia

La La Land by Damien Chazelle is the easiest to recommend. It is full of joy while tackling questions about aspiration and love. 

- Is persistence despite continual failure wise? 

- Is being successful at a compromise better than failing at an ideal? 

- What if our dream is not what we thought it was? 

- What if love gets in the way of what we want to do?

There are no clear answers, it’s just a story of two people trying to figure it. Reminiscent of Les Demoiselles de Rochefort except with a deeper focus of character and purpose. It’s a truly special film and one that will stay with you for a while. It’s a musical and its songs have a simple elegance about them. The last musical to get Oscar attention, Les Miserables, has a notably booming soundtrack. I remember my inebriated student friends from first year passionately singing red and black, viewing it as the only fitting way to end a night out; La La Land is unlikely to get similar treatment but its soundtrack is just as worthy of attention. It beautifully catches the hope, sorrow and nostalgia of Seb and Mia and will likely continue live on in your Spotify playlist.


Andrew Garfield (left) as Rodriguez

Silence by Martin Scorsese is a difficult film to watch. It is long, slow and is often distressing. It examines authenticity and challenges the relationship between faith and how we live our lives. I found it a rewarding experience, a film that asks questions we don’t want to face and shows the world in all its complexity.

Andrew Garfield is phenomenal, he prepared deeply for the role and developed an expression of faith that continues beyond his portrayal of Rodriguez. In Silence, Rodriguez’s beliefs of truth and beauty resulted in immense suffering for the people he encountered. Reconciling this perceived injustice with the purpose he came to Japan with stretches his identity to the limit. Persecution on this scale is thankfully rarer today yet beliefs on identity and what it means to be authentic are questions which still demand an answer. Silence is an important film and one in which there is much to take away.


Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler

Manchester by the Sea by Kenneth Lonergan is a poignant reflection of a man reconciling his past with his new responsibilities. It’s a deeply affecting film and it took me a few hours to recover after leaving the cinema. Casey Affleck plays the isolated Lee Chandler who is suddenly thrust back into his 16 year old nephew Patrick’s life. We see flashbacks of a gregarious Lee which is juxtaposed by the present day Patrick who is juggling two girlfriends, hockey practice and his band. Present day Lee is withdrawn and is struggling to navigate a life in Manchester that he had deliberately removed himself from.

This is a powerful film that in different ways to La La Land and Silence challenges what it is to have an identity. Is it something that is fluid or is it permanently marked by the past? If challenges are presented by external circumstance in La La Land, by the deliberate will of others in Silence, then much of the condemnation in Manchester originates from within Lee himself. Manchester by the Sea is a film that recognises that life isn’t easy and sometimes there’s no following value statement on that, it’s just how things sometimes work out.

All three are still out in Cinema (Jan 2017) and I’d recommend catching them in their full big screen glory.

Stimulus and Response

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. 
- Viktor E. Frankl

It is an easy trap to lament circumstance: health difficulties, losing a job, relationship breakdown. Frankl’s key message is the Stoic one of knowing what we can truly control (our thoughts) and then using that as the foundation as to how we positively interact with the world.

We can’t fully control the ‘stimulus’. Yes, many of us are fortunate to be able to make decisions that influence where we are and who we meet but we can’t rely on it. Therefore, we should focus on what we can control — our thoughts, attitude, intentions.

Frankl’s ideas were formed during his time at Auschwitz. Stripped of everything that he could formerly control, how he responded to his environment was critical for his well-being during his time in the concentration camp and beyond.

We all have the power to respond well to circumstance and fundamentally, make good decisions. We should strive to remember that power when we encounter challenges and respond in a way that aligns with what we value.

Strong Opinions, Loosely Held

Convicted, Convicted, Convicted, New Facts, Change Mind — this is the explanation of Marc Andreessen to Tim Ferriss of how to best deal with an uncertain future yet still move forward.

Strong, cohesive views are best born out of challenging your perspective and exploring alternate ideas.

Wisdom isn’t reduced to simply being right, but rather it’s about being truth seeking, having good judgement and recognising the limits of what you know. Marc was explaining his view in the context of investing, but “Strong Opinions, Loosely Held” holds value in business and in our daily communication.

Finding areas out of the general consensus keeps the status quo accountable and in turn allows growth. Blockbuster’s ‘strong view, strongly held’ in regards to its existing business model in 2000 led to it spurning the opportunity to buy Netflix for $50 million; Netflix is now worth $32.9 billion and Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Blockbuster’s ‘strongly held’ view meant it failed to react to the ‘new facts’ of internet based systems. “Loosely held” means we are able to successfully adapt when the world changes.

Strong, cohesive views are best born out of challenging your perspective and exploring alternate ideas. If you confine yourself to one environment, one peer group and consistently read the same angled media then it is unlikely that you will have a world view that is different to the one given to you. It is a passive belief rather than active. The biggest danger with a passive, assumed belief is to then equate ‘normality’ with it being ‘correct’.

We should be encouraged to stick our heads above the parapet with reasoned, strong views. Then, as the world changes, we should be similarly encouraged to reassess and change our views as necessary.


How should I understand Art?

There you are dutifully visiting the local art gallery, staring up at a slightly gloomy portrait from the 17th century and, while you’re partially satisfied that you’ve ticked the cultural box for the day, you’re left wondering if there is something that you are missing. What am I meant to feel? What is this meant to mean? Why does society consider art to be so valuable?

A childhood spent at National Trust properties meant that art has always been around me but for something that is so ubiquitous with a special place in society I struggled to correspond this lofty impression with what I perceived to be a lack of relevance particularly compared with emerging mediums in expressing ideas around life. A trip to the gallery was often accompanied with feelings of mild confusion and blankness; passing comments on particular historical importance or on the prevalent technical themes were not enough to elevate art to the platform that society had given it.

Two things changed this and helped me to understand art in a way that a powerful book or film can elevate our emotions, shift our perspectives and deepen our empathy. Firstly, Alain de Botton’s ‘Art as Therapy’ was instrumental in shaping a positive framework for Art’s role in the world. It’s role being a universal one that can help each of us navigate our understanding of the world. De Botton argues there are 7 key psychological functions of art:

  • Remembering
  • Hope
  • Sorrow
  • Rebalancing
  • Self-Understanding
  • Growth
  • Appreciation

Covered in more depth here: Brain Pickings: Art as Therapy.

Secondly, during my time living in Rome, I came across Chiostro del Bramante that was known to hold regular exhibitions throughout the year. A spectacular venue, it was a short work from my apartment nestled in the alleyways between Piazza Navona and Bar Del Fico. I saw two collections there: Escher and Chagall. For each they created a progressive journey of discovery for the artist and their work. The exhibition space is a series of rooms and passageways that guides you through a designated path of discovery of both the artist and the work. For Escher it brilliantly showed his work chronologically from his literal sketches from his travels in Italy to an ever developed interest in geometry, surrealism and finally abstraction. His remembrance and appreciation of his early travels in Italy was a continual factor in his work. He was asking questions of what is perception, does his impressions of the world truly reflect reality. He lived in Italy alongside the rise of fascism and with his work he was able to beautifully combine ideas of order and structure with those of chaos and futility. His work showed attempts to understand the reality of the world around him and further his place within this world.

Escher — Drawing Hands

Chagall, an early modernist, had an incredible, unique vision of how to bring his thoughts and emotions to manifest into his work. In one of the key rooms, the exhibition took a series of his sketches and brought them to life with music and visual projection. During this time I was studying History of Art at La Sapienza and appreciating Chagall’s synthesis between fauvism, cubism and into surrealism formed a part but not the full depth of my experience. Mindful of Botton’s functions, elements of hope, sorrow, remembrance were present throughout. The exhibition was fantastic in bringing out these elements, encouraging the viewer to participate, to empathise with Chagall’s pain and hope in his work and reflect on how this adapts our own perspective.

Chagall from the exhibition in Rome 2015

If you go to a gallery and come away with just one thing that has encouraged you to ponder and reflect on the way home then it has been a valuable experience. We need to simultaneously reduce the priggish perception of art in our society and broaden the perceived role that art can play for each of us. We should be encouraged to be more confident in our understanding of our emotions and democratise something that in the UK we are fortunate to have so publically available.

We're going to the North Coast

Thurso East

Fog, mist, blurred headlights, rain

We're going to the North Coast

Some things you can't escape

Beached; separate but stuck


Early morning bolt to Thurso East

Together a spurious grasp on reality

Fumbling for direction and clarity

Filming from the van


Big waves, gliding on the water

Jousting one by one

Impossible to tame

Brief control, ever looming


Stretching dark blue barrel

Slams down, white spray jumps

Mirtazapine, pressure, trapped

Fog, mist, blurred headlights, rain

Hic Sunt Leones: A year playing lacrosse for Rome

Playing for the Roma Leones Lacrosse team has been the highlight of my time in Italy. Moving to a big city can make you feel quite anonymous. Getting to know this great group of guys has provided some much needed glue as I settled here. My degree is a combination of language and culture. Culture is fundamentally based around people, their ideas and their imagination helping to form a collective identity for a country. It's impossible to fully understand this in a lecture in the UK which is why thousands of us get sent out on erasmus to experience something completely new.

Only through my time with the squad have I been able to start to understand these proud, interesting people. Most of the team are born and bred Roman with a few coming in from other parts of Italy. Roman slang is prevalent as well as a boisterous almost obstreperous attitude that they wear proudly on the pitch and while they are drinking off it too. Their chutzpah in how they conduct their lives could be misunderstood as arrogance but it is rather born out of a sense of mischievousness and curiosity.

I played my last lacrosse with them at the weekend in a joint community open day with Lazio. Lazio, the biggest sports club in Europe, have adopted lacrosse into their franchise this year so now the city proudly boasts both a Roma and Lazio team. We played our first derby in January which had more of a friendly vibe compared to what Roy and I saw at the Stadio Olimpico in May.

Hic Sunt Leones is the joint cry in how we start and end every game. It comes from the Latin roughly meaning 'here come the Lions'. Fabio, the coach, would gather everyone in a huddle, say a few parting words and would scream 'hic sunt' with us heartily responding with 'Leones'. I always enjoyed this pre-game huddle, it was a symbolic gesture of unity and too often we try and rationally dismiss and undermine how important a symbol or mantra such as this can be. In Philosophy For Life Jules Evans uses Socrates to argue the importance of mottos and mantras. Through repetition and reflection they become ingrained into our habits and attitudes. It's not enough to just have an idea of what you ought to do, you have to dedicate that behaviour as something central in your life.

Lacrosse is a fast, physical, team game. It therefore requires a huge amount of effort, underlined by a required harmony and understanding in the group. My favourite sports have always been on the water. Sailing catamarans or lasers provide a sense of freedom under the backdrop of the powerful ocean. As grass sports go though, lacrosse is hard to beat. The enjoyment of playing the game has always been in tandem with getting to know a great group of people off the field as well. This was one of the main reasons why I started at Edinburgh and was also true here.

Travelling with the team on tours and away games has provided some of the more surreal moments of the last ten months. Visiting Belgium as the only Englishman with 15 Romans to play a traditionally American game highlighted how far away I was from the life I had left behind. It's also a testament to the power of sport in bringing people together which I think is underestimated besides the various physical and mental health benefits.

The last competitive outing for the club was in Turin for the Italian Cup, the 'Coppa Italia'. Ultimately it was a disappointing end for the Roman team. A resolutely officious umpire from Bocconi called a series of dubious penalties in our quarter final meaning we were man down for over the half game resulting in a 4-2 loss to Milan Painkillers who we had beaten the previous month. I was a pretty useless player at Edinburgh and it was rewarding to see how 9 months of training have made a big difference. At Rome I switched to play in attack and under the perseverance of Fabio's coaching I started to rack up the goals, scoring in every game of the final weekend.

Any achievements on the pitch were outweighed by the holistic experience of spending time with the squad. It provided obligatory routine during some of the lows in January and February. Being relied on by other people was usefully empowering and gave a sense of purpose that I sometimes lacked in living here.

I want to thank everyone at the club for welcoming me as one of their own, it's been an experience that I will never forget.

Away in Milan, I'm bottom third from left! 
Twitter - https://twitter.com/pembertont
Insta     - https://instagram.com/timpemberton/

Palazzo Crawl

Dozens of hidden Roman palazzo's opened to the public for the weekend. Ella and I took an extended Sunday afternoon wander to explore 15 of them. Dotted around centro storico side streets, it was incredible how these sprawling homes are hidden amongst of the chaos of ancient Rome.

The two that stood out are the expansive Palazzo Taverna and the rustic, overgrowing Palazzo Capponi Antonelli. Both are on the property bucket list.

When I was in London last month I visited the Hermés exhibition at the Saatchi gallery. It was a beautiful, interactive space dedicated to the idea of flaneury and you, as the flaneur, were taken through a spontaneous wander through 19th century Paris. One of the thoughts I took away from the exhibition was how being a flaneur was being presented in some ways as a concept that is largely foreign from today's society. Instead of intrinsically enjoying a wander our walks tend to be aligned with a specific destination.

The event was set up by the Lazio cultural institute and amongst the courtyards were various craftsmen who specialised in creating wares and interior designs for the palazzos. The above focussed on molding bronze sculptures for imposing front doors.

Aside from the imminent pressure of exams, I'm looking forward to being back in the UK in late June.



Most people view growing up as some kind of linear curve where your experiences build upon each other and as such you steadily develop and progress. People forget this development and progression is rooted in context and only when you truly have a goal in mind can you begin to measure and assess this fluid idea of progress. One of the best books I've stumbled through this year is called Essentialism which explores these ideas.

Particularly in these last 7 months I've felt I've made a little progress in several small areas. My italian has improved, I play lacrosse at a competitive level, I've lived more independently than ever before, I've been able to get to know and understand this great city of Rome and I have new appreciation for art and more generally the role of the arts in the world. Despite the above, I feel it pales in comparison to what could be achieved with a clearer goal and direction.

I think my threshold for having a worthy purpose is too high that it can inhibit any kind of action at all. It's reminiscent of Sylvia Plath's haunting novel 'The Bell Jar' where Esther describes a vision of her being caught in a crook of a fig tree unable to choose mutually exclusive journey to take.

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” 

While caught up in the relative structure of university, choice and direction are trammelled and so choices right now are less polarised. On one level, existential questioning is essential otherwise you will be purely a reflection of your environment with no sense of autonomy. Leaning too far the other way harms the prospects of a life rooted in reality. I value proactiveness, initiative and creativity and would want these to firmly accompany any period of thought and reflection.

It's been a couple of months since I last posted on here and in that time I've been fortunate to explore some new parts of Italy and Rome. A little trip to the region of Veneto surpassed expectations and I can see myself returning to Lake Garda many times in the future. Tivoli is one of the most spectacular day trips from Rome with the beautiful Villa D'este, Villa Adriana and the waterfalls at Villa Gregoriana. There's still a couple of things I need to see particularly palazzo valentini and villa Borghese.

Since illness in January and February, I've recovered greatly during March and April and I've appreciated many of my friends coming out to visit during this time. Reflecting back on priorities, maintaining strong relationships with friends is something I always want to prioritise wherever I am in the world and I've enjoyed hosting many people in my little studio flat/

The UK election last week clogged up a lot of my news feed recently and politics is something I like to read about but would hesitantly openly discuss. One of the best articles spawned out of post election mayhem was actually found on The Tab by this years University Challenge hero Ted Loveday. It's natural for people to find difficulty in empathising with an opposing view when each side whips up hyperbole about each other's 'destructive' plans. Despite that difficulty, empathy is essential and tones of self-righteousness are not helpful, particularly in a political sphere

I have just over 6 weeks to go and both exams for uni and the Italian Cup finals for lacrosse are looming large.

A dopo, TJP

A piece about my time in Pisco for a friends website
A little review for The Italian Insider

Cycling, Pizza and Orvieto

In the past three months there were fleeting great moments that I will look back on, immortalised on a polaroid or remembered through the stories of people I have shared my life with here. I was ill for most of January and February, making it hard to write on here or really do anything creative. There were days where I felt like I was getting better before quickly regressing again. 

Last Sunday I traveled to Orvieto with a close friend from home; it is beautiful little village set on a rock cliff looking out over the stretching planes of Umbria. There's a long circular path in the countryside surrounding the village. Walking along this path provided a rare moment of peace that I'm not able to get in the meandering mayhem of Rome. It reminded me of the Camino and I'm thinking of returning to Spain around Easter in a few weeks.

One of the people I meet for Italian tandem said that there is an atmosphere in Rome that is unlike any city in the world and I'd have to agree. It's not been an easy time here but Rome can surprise you with its intrigue and hidden places of beauty. Galleria Colonna is one of the most spectacular palazzos I've seen. Green spaces are rarely found in the centre but the ones that do exist are worth visiting, in particular the gardens of Villa Medici and the open panoramic view from Giardino degli Aranci. 

Having friends visit is a welcome prod to find new places as well as show off the collection of hidden regulars that I go to every week. My list, all within 4 minutes of my flat/pantheon include: 'ciao checca' for a tasty, simple Italian lunch in a vibrant modern setting, 'Fandango Incontro' - a quiet cafe hidden in a little piazza accessed through an innocuous bookshop, Lindt for gelato - guiltily commercial but genuinely the best, 'Caffe Doria' - for a solid afternoon cake choice and 'Alice' - the best Pizza al taglio in Rome.

I watched the lengthy documentary of the National Gallery yesterday and it was a spectacular insight into a place of incredible inspiration and beauty. It was interesting to see how they remove the barriers to entry to their work, whether that be providing interactive seminars for blind people or engaging storytelling for the younger audience. Empathy was encouraged and this allows a subjective appreciation or emotional impact for everybody whether you have a scholastic background in art or not. 

After 6 months of living here I'm starting to appreciate and enjoy the Italian way of cinema which is very different to most of the UK. I have been to 7 of the small cinemas dotted around the centro storico. Most are independently owned and usually have only one or two screens. My current favourite is the Alcazar in Trastevere, its one screen is draped top to bottom in a deep rouge. I watched Whiplash there, brilliant film, brilliant setting.

It's strange how a few little things added together can have a big impact on how you view the world and how you feel. I spent a few days in Hamburg in February and there's this viewpoint that looks like a vast, smokey Isengard alla Lord of the Rings. Just sitting there with a couple of friends from Edinburgh was simply quite life affirming. Spending time with good friends in a strange, interesting place reminiscing on tales from the previous years. Similarly, a few of my friends and I cycled down the Appian Way a couple of weeks ago. The combination of good company, beautiful scenery and great weather made everything seem a little more vibrant and alive.

A dopo, TJP


It's been over a month since I published anything here, I have several unfinished drafts in my dashboard but never quite managed to complete any of them; Probably because they weren't unanimously positive and I maybe haven't got my head around describing something negative unless in a more abstract or nuanced way.

I wrote something for the university paper - The Student - that was a general recap of the last few months and I'm now back in the rolling green countryside of Chester, a world away from the jostling heart of Rome. There's a beautiful walk on the sandstone trail from Beeston Castle to The Pheasant Inn that we went on Sunday afternoon. It was the shortest day of the year so despite our relatively early start the sun was disappearing as we approached the car on the way back.

Beeston - Cheshire
I've lived in Rome for 15 weeks now and I think I only started to finally feel comfortable in my surroundings at the start of December. It has been a long slog till then. I read a quote yesterday that said "The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality" it came from a brilliant Ted talk which is the best I have seen on the subject. I felt sapped of a lot of energy in October/November which makes being proactive particularly difficult. I started reading again in earnest a few weeks ago making up for a slack couple of months with an eclectic selection of modern day fiction 'Any Human Heart' by William Boyd, business/productivity book 'Essentialism', sports strategy focussed 'Pep Confidential' and I've just started 'Brideshead Revisited' by Waugh.

The cinemas in Rome usually churn out one or two hollywood based films a week which is a welcome addition to puerile Italian comedies but is still lacking strong British dramas which they have in abundance in Edinburgh. I can't imagine a city in the world that has a stronger selection of film to Edinburgh. The triangle of Filmhouse, Cameo and Cineworld means just about everything is on show. The Imitation Game lived up to expectations, sad but incredibly inspiring at the same time.

There are some small signs of hope that I might be able to pass university this year. I've started to do several tandems throughout the week which have been a big help and I have a few allies in my various classes. One of my local friends pointed out the senate library which was hidden in a piazza 30 seconds from my flat. To the right of this is my favourite church in Rome - Basilica Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Unlike the majority of churches which have a range of frescoes littering the ceiling, Sopra Minerva has a midnight blue ceiling covered in stars. There was a Christmas service here last week, the church was lit up with hundreds of candles, the choir filled the building with Italian hymns and as you looked up it reflected the night sky outside.

Christmas in Chester, New Year in Edinburgh and back to Rome in early January.


View of the Vatican


I watched Interstellar last week, a film that takes you away for 3 hours on a journey that combines the epic with the intimate. It's easily one of my favourite films I've seen all year, it leaves you with a raw, invasive feeling of the vast world we live in. It had rained while I was in the cinema as I walked out into the Roman streets at 1am, the cobbles were glistening with the orange glow of the street lamps.

Rome is great to walk around, you have a labyrinth of winding, tiny streets all cramped up in the centre. Enclosed footbridges crossing the street above you, ostentatious sculptures, innocuous entrances leading to hidden, spectacular interiors. Piazza Venezia is more or less the centre of the city. At one end of the square you have the imposing Altare della Patria (Vittorio Emanuele Monument) and at the other Via Del Corso which dissects the city in two with a straight 2 km run all the way to Piazza del Popolo in the northern tip of ancient Rome. The west side of the Corso is where my little flat is, a short walk from the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Campo di Fiori.Through walking in and out of these winding streets for the past month, this ancient jigsaw is roughly in place while leaving enough room for daily discoveries.

Altare Della Patria - aka the bus stop for lacrosse
The cinema is a 8 minute zig zag north from my flat. I only recently found out that I had been walking past the prime ministers residence (Palazzo Chigi) and parliament which are both fairly indiscreet judging by Roman standards. My life and current world seemed very small on the walk back. The intensity and importance on screen contrasting with the casual comfort and drifting I seem to be doing right now. It was a reminder that life is best lived when chasing the things you are truly passionate about.

I mentioned the above to one of my friends here, about surviving/thriving. Maybe I put too much pressure on doing the latter when in many ways survival here is a big step and something that you would take a lot from, even if from your current perspective it seems like you are running just to stand still. She mentioned how being a tortoise and not a hare is what's needed here. Little steps, building a routine, keeping yourself busy with the daily things.

Lacrosse is one of the things that keeps me going here. Training 3 times a week with a group of 15-20 Italians. It's intense but worth the effort. We are travelling to Belgium in 2 weeks to play a team out there. Then in mid December we travel to Turin for the first game of the Italian Championship.



There's this great Ben Howard song called Depth Over Distance, it has the lines:

"Depth over distance every time, my dear
And this tree of ours may grow tall in the woods
But it's the roots that will bind us here
To the ground"

"hold on, though we may be too young
to know the ride we're on".

You can apply the essence of this to a lot of life. I've chopped and changed my surroundings so many times and at each place you have to start from scratch, trying to build some kind of home and community. Something that stretches beyond a routine and into a way of life that you feel nourishes you and builds you up.

From my experience, community is a rare thing. To find a place where people move beyond being a collection of individuals and into somewhere with a kind of shared, selfless purpose. I've been lucky to find it at PSF and in some of the churches I've attended over the years. It can also be found in more transient environments such as the Camino. The sad thing it is missing from a lot of the world.

When I next get pedantically get asked what I want to do after university with my degree in Philosophy and Italian, I'm tempted to reply to simply base myself in a rewarding community somewhere. The obvious drawback to this is that it would encourage stereotypes and would either entail silence or further irritating questions. It's much easier and socially acceptable to say you want to move to London and work in the city. For a lot of people those answers are mutually exclusive, I don't think they necessarily are if you have a less simplistic view of the world.

I had a good chat this weekend with a New Zealander who spent 5 years living in Amsterdam with his family. We bonded over our shared belief and experience of English being far less proficient than people and the media make it out to be. This is particularly the case in Western Europe where the vast majority of people have mastered surface knowledge language skills and promptly progressed no further. The kind that happily points a tourist in the direction of the Pantheon or enough to survive basic greeting formalities.

True communication stretches far beyond this, particularly if you are staying somewhere long term and not just a weekend visit. You want to be able to share thoughts and opinions in depth. While my Italian skills are working to fill that void in ability, in the short term it can feel a little daunting and alienating not to be able to fully communicate. Not to stretch beyond surface level.

Language even in this day of dictionaries and wikipedia is often so nuanced and subjective. Words don't translate and correspond directly. More than anything, words are often merely trying to describe and paint a picture of something that powerfully exists as a separate tangible thing. When we use words to describe our feelings how can we truly explain what is happening inside our brain. Language is also just a component of community, there are other factors that play important roles too, but it also seems the easiest one I can try and fix.

I'm looking forward to a little trip to London this Friday.

A dopo.



  • What 3 words is a fun website. You can find my bedroom using 'scoring enforced climate'. Given the breadth of possibility in the English language, I'm fairly happy with my allocation.
  • I mentioned him at the beginning, but Ben Howards new album is incredible. I listened to it start to finish 3 times this weekend. Check it out.
  • I'm in Italy only for a year. This article helps to explain why the novelty of pizza, gelato and old buildings can wear thin for Italians who have their long term future here.
  • Finally, this video will make you want to go to Canada:

Bella Ponza

One of my closest friends came out to stay for 8 days, we went on a little trip to the island of Ponza. In Beautiful Ruins it used a metaphor which went along the lines of people's lives being like walking on your own winding path. Occasionally you find yourself walking with other people but it comes and goes. With Jonnie it was great for us to just click back again, to pick up from where we dropped off in the summer.

We both can be quite deep and intense with what we do, we require a subtle harmony in our lives for us to function on top form. It was great to mutually help prepare for our respective next steps and to return to our adopted new reality's with a renewed sense of focus. 

The few days in Ponza were some of the best I had all year; freedom to explore and experience a different world without any requirements or pressure. Jonnie arrived late Monday evening, with no previous plans and a meagre 30 minute Google search we made our way to the train station early on Tuesday. We picked out Ponza as Google maps made it look intriguing, plus we had never heard of it before which made it consistent with the spontaneous way we wanted the trip to be. After a successful airbnb search on the train and quick wrong detour to a neighbouring port, which was no longer sending out boats, we arrived at the port of Formio and hopped on a little ship heading out across the med.

We set out at late afternoon and caught a spectacular early evening sunset. I missed this view, of being surrounded by water as the sky briefly explodes into colour before descending into the darkness. When I worked in Greece, the staff used to occasionally go sailing after work. You could almost entirely justify living there for this spectacular 45 minutes of sailing, basking in the fading orange glow of the sun.

It was dark when we landed and with only some hazy instructions on my phone from the airbnb host we headed towards the lights on the hill looking over the harbour. The solitary police car on the island spotted our unusual shorts and flip flop appearance and duly questioned our presence. Apparently they personally know everyone on the island so were easy to spot. One of the guys saw that I was from Chester and couldn't hold back his enthusiasm that he too had been there only a few weeks ago. Italian police had a traditional moody appearance to uphold so the uniform clad italian struggled to quickly regain his stern composure.

We wandered to the harbour in the morning and saw a desk with a piece of paper and various images of speed boats for hire. After a quick phone call and the arrival of the daughter of the family business we had our vehicle for the day. I mentioned the golden rule of living in Italy when I first moved here, the combination of one section of society blocking your progress at every opportunity and then the other side with a complete disregard to following the rules. This was one of the beautiful examples of the latter, to let two 21 year old English boys have full control of 140HP speedboat without having to hand over a single document or any kind of money. They had Jonnie's address but compared to the vast amount of health and safety requirements in the UK we couldn't help but think it was too easy to be true.

We spent 6 hours on the boat and did a full circuit of the island. The weather was still great but the combination of it being October and mid week meant that we were practically alone at sea. We spend so much of our lives ticking boxes, even on our moments away from work we put so many obligations on ourselves. Being out there just motoring along was such a freeing, fun time. We had an anchor at the front so we pitched up at an empty beach and swam ashore. The island mostly comprised of dusty cliffs, the occasional intriguing cave and some expansive sandy beaches that were only accessible by boat.

I had some uni things to get back to so it was only a brief visit. Rome fluctuates between being impossible and incredible. I have moved again, I'm now found in a beautiful little studio in the historic centre. Hopefully I will be here for a long term and can make it more of a home as opposed to the last flat which felt like I was merely stopping by.

A dopo.

Little Adventures

I survived almost a month without wifi in my apartment which is a record that I don't want to break any time soon. People have asked how the experience has compared to previous expectations but I was so focussed on uni and then work that I never really allowed myself to dwell on it. The only real expectation was that it would probably be a volatile but in the end a rewarding adventure. This has been pretty accurate so far with some great moments but also days of frustration when everything in Rome seems to be against you.

Four weeks is enough to feel attached to a place, I have had one of my old friends from Edinburgh staying the last few days and showing him around felt like him a little place on earth that I am familiar with. Rome is best seen on foot, my flat is on the edge of Monti and within minutes you are approaching piazza venezia and the heart of the city.

I joined the Roma Leones Lacrosse Club a few weeks ago and the routine and Italian interaction from that make going to training one of the highlights of the week. Italians train hard, 2 hours of non-stop work in full lacrosse kit in the evening humidity. Training is usually 3 times a week and that combined with 2/3 gym sessions my lethargic summer in the office is already a distant memory. The Leones play in the Italian league so I will hopefully get to go to some of the away games in cities across Italy in the coming months.

3 weeks ago I made a brief spontaneous trip to Edinburgh. It seems I'm always relearning the lesson of getting perspective, removing myself from one environment to refresh and regain a sense of clarity. It was great to jump into an environment of easy company and familiarity. Rome can sometimes feel like a battle but a sense of routine is already forming and the various quirks of life are slowly being appreciated.

On Sunday multiple buses packed with Erasmus students went to the Festa Del Vino in the once quiet village of Marino. It juxtaposed a mass being played out on speaker to hooking up the fountains with wine and pumping free cups to the merry crowd. It was a fun day.


La Dolce Vita

Rule 1 of living in Italy: there is this constant, delicate juxtaposition between copious amounts of complicated red tape and then the Italians, who do everything in their power to avoid it.

As a result of this, life here in Rome is an unpredictable journey but one that is captivating and beautiful. As I'm living here and not merely passing through I have had to take a much different approach to travelling and actually try and build roots here; with that in mind I can happily report I have a phone/ matriculated at the university/ made a couple of friends and, as of Friday, found an apartment!

I will be living just next to Santa Maria Maggiore, it's by a metro station but also walkable to pretty much anywhere. Couchsurfing at Pembos is open to business, drop me a line if you want to come out. It was great to see some friends last week and I very much look forward to another impending visit from a friend in October.

Getting a flat fell into the latter part of Rule 1. They have this huge biweekly buy/sell newspaper called Portaportese. In the back they have thousands of little two lined advertisements for people renting rooms of apartments in Rome. I had mentally named Friday as 'Flat Day' and was determined to come away with something. I cold called in Italian about 12 of the numbers, got a couple of viewings and off I went on the bus to have a look. Within 15 minutes of walking into the first one on my list I had keys in my pocket and was free to move in that afternoon. Ideal.

Sorting university out was more the former part of Rule 1. I read before I came out that if you ever had a job to do in Italy, mentally prepare yourself for that task to take about half your day. It could be something  really simple such as going to the post office but you never know what obstacles will be thrown in your way. The main barrier for me is that different organisations are open in different parts of the city on different days at different times. If you thought UK standard Mon-Fri/9-5 business hours were commonplace around the world, think again. Thankfully I was reading The Obstacle is the Way at the same time which encouraged diligent, perseverance until everything got sorted.

I knew I was only the student at my new university from Edinburgh but the helper at the Erasmus office said he had only seen about 10 UK students come to Sapienza in the last 4 years. I'm suddenly very much the minority at Europe's largest university. I'm enjoying this new international atmosphere but maybe I underestimated how different it is from Edinburgh. The uniqueness has also been noted by my fellow Erasmus students with one German friend commenting how I remind her of Harry Potter, this seemed to me like a rather broad generalisation.

Aperitivos are one of the many social/cultural benefits of life in Rome. Last week most of the students from my Italian class descended on a local bar to enjoy what I hope to be a routine added meal time. Italians eat around 9 so this drink/food activity is designed to bridge the waiting time. Basically you typically order some strong alcoholic cocktail and then you get free food either brought to the table or an unlimited buffet by the bar.

The weather helps the above and also encourages exercise, I have particularly enjoyed cycling, skating and running along the tevere. Plans for next week include applying myself to Italian lessons, completing the move from trastevere to the centre and maybe the occasional little adventure.



Top quote I read today:

"The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn't live boldly enough, that they didn't invest enough heart, didn't love enough" 
Ted Hughes

Also, I'm going to be tracking progress on books soon. Click back later if you're keen to follow and have any recommendations!

The Big Move

Normality is a subjective thing which has the capability to shift and change. When you do one thing for a continued period of time your perspective on the enormity of potential that exists in our world starts to narrow. Leaping out of the comfortable environment that you settle into is the best way to regain that sense of exhilaration and opportunity. The university lifestyle, camino exploration and work routine were all consuming in their own unique way. I finished work in Edinburgh at 3pm on Thursday and at 1am Friday morning I was still in my suit wheeling a couple of big bags down the windy, cobbled streets of Trastevere. There were hundreds of revellers in the street and I enjoyed this obvious dichotomy between my old existence for the past 10 weeks and the new one that would confront me in the morning.

The basic brief is that I will be studying filosofia at Sapienza, Universita di Roma. My lectures will be in Italian and start in October. My language skills are currently a bit suspect, I don't really know anybody here (apart from the family of one of my good university friends) and I need to find a place to live. All of this provides a series of exciting challenges far beyond anything I have done before. 

I am a big fan of Ryan Holiday, he is proactive and thinks deeply; these are two things that people often don't blend together well. A few people I have met through life/travels have said they wish they could have a year of their life simply to read. While I think ideally you can combine a working existence with regular reading, it is very hard to do. I struggle as well, despite best 'post-camino' intentions I only managed to read about a book every 3 weeks while working over the summer. If I ever I had a year to read this would be it, so starting from today I will aim to finish 100 quality books before I return home next summer. I'm making this relatively public to add a degree of accountability. I want to do something like this too. I have no fixed genre or criteria except they have to be engaging. I have about 20 books waiting on my kindle but if you are reading this and have anything that you personally have found of value then drop me a line!

Anyway, it's day 1 and my first job is to head into central Rome get an Italian number...

A dopo,


In the midst of examination gloom, a friend mentioned a little road trip adventure she was taking the following week. After a few conversations and some tentative plans, a merry band of four were soon zooming through the highlands in search of the spectacular Isle of Skye.

I came to the south of Skye with Trees For Life last year. We were mostly tree planting in the south of the island but spent a day off taking the ferry to loch Coruisk and then walking back to the fishing village of Elgol. This time we were staying in the very north of the island near the town of Uig, a place none of us could properly pronounce.

The Edinburgh second semester runs from January to May with only a few sparing weeks separating lectures and exam season. I spent my Easter 'break' this year studying Italian in Modena which elongated the desperation to finally reach the freedom of summer. With one exam left and a whole week to put some revision work in, it was an easy decision to rediscover this special place one more time.

Skye is one of the most incredible places to experience. Sparsely populated, it feels strangely peaceful to simply drive for miles along the winding Scottish coastline. We were there Friday - Tuesday and with the aid of Bel's powerful vehicle we wandered around the island from beaches to fairy pools to incredible walks along the coast.

Old Man of Storr
Walk from Neist Point
Neist Point
Neist point in the most westerly point of the island with a lighthouse pointing out towards the north Atlantic ocean. Amelia and I were walking around the deserted buildings that surround the lighthouse and found a Canon 5D just sitting on the floor. After we picked it up a bearded man turned the corner and reclaimed the camera before walking off again. Later we found out it belonged to Jared Chambers who was there with a group of photographers. Scroll down his instagram to May to see his work from Skye.

The Quiraing and Old Man of Storr are two areas on the north east side of the island, apparently they were formed through subsiding ground leaving these impressive rock formations behind.

Pembo, Meals, Bel, Povo

On the Sunday evening we jumped in the car and drove to an open area of fields that looked out over the west coast. Living in a city means it is often easy to miss such simple extraordinary things like a sunset. Everything was still apart from the wispy clouds that floated around the bay. The orange glow of the sun replicated itself onto the water before disappearing beyond the horizon. 


I'm 6 weeks through a 10 week internship based in London. I've spent the last few days in one of their Edinburgh offices. August brings the excitement of the fringe which is a far cry from any bleak 2am revision moments in May. When I arrived into the airport on Wednesday it still felt like home.

Exams were passed which means next year will be spent abroad in Italy. I will be studying philosophy at Sapienza, Universita di Roma. 

25 days till the big move...

Road to Astorga

I've written several drafts of this post yet hadn't come close to putting anything solid together. Partly because I feel particularly attached to this little journey and want to do it right but also because writing/reading in London is proving tricky without concerted effort to be in a better environment. I watched Boyhood this evening and in a similar way to the Before trilogy it was thought provoking while being relatively understated - I'd recommend it.

Travelling from Menorca was a bit of a hassle and after a taxi, plane, train, bus I found myself wandering around Burgos at 2am in search of somewhere to crash, a surreal car ride with some strangers resulted in a expensive 5 hour sleep in a 2* hotel. I got the bus back to Santo Domingo and would spend the next 4 days wandering back to where I was before continuing to the next big town of Leon.

Coming back to the way I was fortunate to land in a eccentric, happy, varied, daily changing group of walkers from all around the world. Walking more or less 25km a day resulted seeing familiar faces over and over again. Landing in your 5 euro albergue felt a little bit like you were heading home and about to have a big dinner party. This was epitomised in one of my favourite nights at Bercianos del Camino, a tiny village a couple of days short of Leon. At the edge of the village was a huge looming crumbling farmhouse which operated as a volunteer run albergue for pilgrims; with a welcome free communal dinner and breakfast it was an easy sell to our walking group of 10 for the day and we gratefully crashed amongst the rows of creaking bunk beds. After typical afternoon consisting of the local bar, a siesta and reading (Into Thin Air - top book) about 50 of the pilgrims staying descended onto the dining room to enjoy the communal dinner. This meal had a special atmosphere as if everyone was just satisfied to be in there in that moment together. The vast majority of people started walking alone yet now found themselves in a unique shared community with the central aspiration of the way uniting them together.

A lot of people come to the camino at turning points in their life. They have left their job/partner/home and are working out their next few steps. It is a time to recalibrate, rethink and dream about new possibilities. All of this makes people much more open and receptive. Everyone you pass or passes you shares a 'Buen Camino', in the evenings people discuss their lives in the past and what they hope they will find when they return.

I met Pablo, Martyn and Nagori on my second day back and I stayed with them for the remaining 12 days till Astorga. You quickly form deep relationships on the walk. You have hours to listen and understand people, and join them as they work through their hopes and challenges of life outside and inside the camino. I think you need this level of depth to have meaningful friendships. The fleeting nature of our interactions with people in the UK makes this more difficult. Pablo, a Spaniard of course, had previously lived in Edinburgh and had a warm personality that he shared with all the various people we came across on the camino. We stayed with his doting family just outside of Burgos. Spanish homelife for 2 days was incredible. We had too much food and had a chance to get some rest which was needed after a few hard days back to back

Pablo was also the leader in the various renditions of Camino songs that are discovered as you walk along - the favourite being a glorious remastered version of La Bamba, entitled 'para ser peregrino' it contained mostly chat about bread and wine.

Our time in Leon coincided with their annual city festival and there were numerous exuberant marching bands that lined every street playing thumping anthems until the early hours. The city was packed and about 20 of the pilgrims tapas bar crawled our way through the melee. I had a bit of distance to cover till my departure city of Astorga so it was effectively the last time I would be seeing most of them. Through all the noise it was a chance to reflect on the previous couple of weeks. It's a magical thing to do, maybe a little crazy but there is no one I wouldn't recommend it to.

The transition back into a UK, but in particular, a London lifestyle is tricky. I met a 24 year old American after Burgos who recently completed the Appalachian trail; he talked about how after he had finished the trail in Maine and got to the local town he found the general traffic, city noise was like another world for him. He had been walking alone for 6 months through winding forests and his senses were so intune with that environment, the adjustment back to general Western civilisation and society expectations took a long time - and probably weren't at the levels before he set out.

Experiences leave a mark on you, especially ones which placed you in a refreshingly challenging, beautiful environment that is in contrast what you have previously considered normality. Your reality and way of life moulds to where you are.

I'm working in London until September and then I will get on a one way ticket to Italy for my third year at university. I hope to walk the last stint in Galicia over the snow in December.