Spatial Dissonance

On my first trip here, I experienced what I guess I’d call a sort of temporal dissonance. I was in a taxi, heading up the Gianicolo towards my hotel. The Gianicolo is a hill that sits in the south-west part of the city, meaning that from the top, you have a perfect view of historical Rome on the one side, and a fantastic view of the Vatican from the other. Now, maybe it was just the jetlag, but sitting back in that taxi, I had an of out-of-body experience: I realised that I would soon be living in Rome, a place I always thought of as almost fictional, a mythic place where all the history happened. The rational part of my brain decided this was my only chance to feel overwhelmed by the city before I would have to get on with day-to-day life, and so I sat back, reeling at the weight of it all.

Strangely, this is the only time I have felt this way. Now, I’m cutting across St. Peter’s Square – a magnificently opulent, overwhelming place – on a daily basis and only when I’m halfway across do I gain any sort of awareness; holy fuck! I’m cutting across St. Peter’s Square!

I’m blaming this on everyone’s favourite scapegoat: videogames. When we first visited the Pantheon, I wondered what was up on the second level of the building. In my imagination, I saw a dark place, filled with wooden crates, lever-puzzles and bad guys with Uzis. But hang on a second… Wooden crates don’t actually exist in the real world, not really. They only exist in videogames as containers for ammo and/or health. And bad guys with Uzis? Jesus. Then I realised, I had seen the inside of the upper levels of the Pantheon. Or, at least, a Pantheon. In a videogame. (Tomb Raider perhaps?) And in the end, a tiny part of me was disappointed by the actual Pantheon because I didn’t get to go exploring all its dark corners.

Gears of War has affected my experience of Rome more than any other videogame. The look of the game, the so-called “Destroyed Beauty“, was heavily influenced by Romanesque architecture. For the most part, the game takes place in wide streets flanked by marvelous, oppressive buildings and everything in a massive state of disrepair. Well, this being Rome, there’s no shortage of Romanesque architecture. Or wide streets. Or marvelous, oppressive buildings. But there’s more to this than simple generalities. On Via Nazionale, there’s a building whose long, winding entrance I would swear is the direct inspiration for the Fenix Mansion part of Gears of War.

I’m still blown away by Rome on a daily basis, especially when I stumble across some particularly beautiful place. But still, a tiny part of me is waiting for the moment that the Locust Horde comes pouring out of the ground. Where’s my Lancer?



A couple of minor breakdowns aside, I think I’m finally starting to get a handle on life in Rome. I’m not exactly homesick, just finding some things really hard. The language barrier has been a lot more of an obstacle than I was expecting. And combined with the distinctly unique Italian way of doing things (which I’m sure I’ll complain blog about in due course), I’ve found myself struggling just to get some stability.

But the stability is slowly arriving. I’m learning my way around, and I finally know where the essentials are, like the supermarket and launderette. I’m even starting to cope with the weather. At the beginning, I would head out and arrive home in a horrible, sweaty mess. Now… well, it’s not as bad. I’ve just been observing the Italians and seeing all the little things they do to deal with the weather. Like not leaving the house between the hours of 12pm and 4pm. Under any circumstances. And always walking in the shade, even if you have to cross a busy street to do this.

There’s another huge factor in coping with the heat: pace. Last week, I was out walking when Toots and the Maytals started playing on my iPod. With this, my pace dropped to a slow, relaxed strut (I challenge anyone to listen to Broadway Jungle and not feel like the baddest motherfucker on the planet). Strangely enough, this change of pace helped a lot, the heat wasn’t as much of an issue. That’s when I noticed that the Italians walk at a similar pace, and with a similar strut although theirs seems to come naturally.


When is Dublin 7 NOT Dublin 7? When it’s Dublin 8

Did you know that, despite being on the north side of the Liffey (where the odd numbered post-codes live), the Phoenix Park is actually in Dublin 8? And it’s not for the reason you might think. Thus spoke Wikipedia:

“There is a very simple, practical reason why the Phoenix Park is in Dublin 8 and it has nothing whatever to do with snobbery but with practicality.

Long before there were postal codes the James’s St Postal Sorting Office looked after the Phoenix Park because it was considered to be closer and more convenient than Phibsborough (Dublin 7). James’s St continued in this role when the postal codes were introduced so Dublin 8 it had to be.”

This interesting fact courtesy of a 20-minute argument in Morelli’s chipper on Thomas Street that almost ended in a fist-fight.


Hello, I’m a Mac.

Macbook signed by Mitchell & Webb
David Mitchell and Robert Webb (PC and Mac in the UK adverts) were in Dublin promoting their new film, “Magicians”. After the screening, they were taking photos with people and signing autographs. So, naturally, I asked them to sign my Macbook.