Taking Rome by storm

The Pantheon

“Is this the first time you play at the Pantheon?”  The question was aggressive.  The questioner wasn’t wearing a uniform, but he had a large Polizia badge hanging round his neck, and resting on a very authoritatively sized stomach.  The badge was not much below my eyeline when I stood up.

I didn’t have time for any of the usually persuasive story about having biked from almost Scotland.  “It is the last,” he said, wobbling his badge with power.  “Here it is forbidden.”

You could see why it would be.  The crowds were big enough for a football match (though well enough behaved for rugby), and had just been dangerously parted by a parade of three horse-drawn carriages.  No authority would be in the mood to tolerate a stationary cellist eliciting mild applause.

Even so, I did get a photo, and a video, to prove that I did play in front of the Pantheon – which has probably seen worse in the 1897 years that it’s stood there.

Rome is a city of many superlatives and magnificences like this.  The Highway Cello journey was conceived as being “from the edge of the Roman Empire to its heart.”  And here that heart seems still to beat.

I’ve been here nearly 72 hours – in Rome, silly, not specifically at the Pantheon – and I’m still trying to believe that the project is effectively over – the goal has been reached, I’ve arrived, I’m in Rome.

So I’ve been going around all the iconic places, and many little hidden corners, shamelessly blocking the tourist traffic, and playing Bach, and Debussy, and old English folk tunes that may or may not have been written by Henry VIII, and Irish love songs, and anything else I can think of, trying to get it into my head that I’m in Rome.

The heat has dissipated, and the forecast is for a comfortable 33C today.  It went out with quite a bang.  Jenny and Alfie had put on a little party, and I’d played some stuff out on their terrace, overlooking semi-suburban Rome – yes, Rome – and I was sleeping on the same terrace because the bedroom was too hot, when I woke up to find I was being blown away.

We’d seen some lightning in the distance, earlier, and suddenly the storm arrived.  The wind was fearsome, and fearsomely sudden, and stuff that wasn’t tied or weighted down was banging and crashing and flying away.  Rome – yes, I’m in Rome – can really put on a show.

They have pizzas here, and ice-cream.  And fountains.  And a river called the Tiber.  And history, and Empire.  And tourists who seem sometimes to want a break from all that just to listen to a cello playing in the shade.

And I’m sitting in a heap, reflecting that I’ve ridden 40 days, and 1800 miles, and climbed the height of approximately 3.3 Everests to get here.  And feeling that odd mixture of finality, and mortality, and emptiness, and accomplishment, that goes with the reaching of a goal.  

A goal, by the way, that would have been a lot harder to reach without all the encouragement I’ve had from patient and indulgent readers – for which, thank you, and thank you again.

When I should, at my age, know that life is not about goals.  It’s only process.  And the process continues, and today’s another day.  So what shall we do today?

16 thoughts on “Taking Rome by storm”

  1. Steven Thompson

    Congratulations Kenneth on a fine achievement.
    I’m going to miss waking up to your blogs.
    My FB post re Siena didn’t bear any fruit, but here are some comments about your trip:
    ‘How brilliantly British Bonkers!’
    ‘A Troubadour’
    ‘Cycling with a Cello?
    What’s not to love?
    Knocks Driving with a Kazoo totally out of court!’

    1. Thanks Steve – I ended up not wanting to stay in Siena, anyway. I played at the back of the duomo, and then moved on. And here we are in Rome!

  2. I’m just so full of admiration :))!
    Absolutely WONDERFUL to think up such a bonkers project!

    What’s next?
    Home and thinking…. :)!?

    Bravo again, Kenneth!

  3. Congratulations Kenneth – what a crazy and brilliant adventure. I’ve loved following your blogs, and I confess you and your journey have provided fodder for a couple of sermons (!) about determination and grit, and the need for rest as well as journeying, and the willingness to be flexible and change plans as circumstances demand. (Hope you don’t mind, but at least it means more of the folk of north Cumbria have heard about this totally mad but inspiring journey.) Enjoy Rome, enjoy some rest and I hope to see you back in Cumbria.

  4. I am glad you had such a marvelous ride. I am surprised by two thinks you didn’t mention: the Siena Palio, which was taking place on the very day you were in that city (where I live part time), and the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrimage tour from Canterbury to Rome the route of which you mainly followed on your journey, particularly in Italy.

    In any case, congratulations on completing your journey so successfully.

    Nevin Brown
    (Friend of Renee Young on Clark Road, Wolverhampton).

    1. Dear Nevin,
      There was a brief mention of the Palio in one of the posts – I didn’t want to be in Siena on Palio day, which is one of the reasons I stayed the extra day just before Siena.
      And yes, the Via Francigena. I had a complicated relationship with the Via Francigena. It’s a long answer…

  5. Kenneth
    Well done for making your dream & goal a reality, what an amazing feat & what a journey, it’s been fun reading your blogs, just the escapism one needs in their everyday lives. Thank you for providing us with such entertainment gripped with challenges, determination & pure love & energy.

    ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’

    Looking forward to the book xxx

  6. My husband Don is planning an adventure. He doesn’t know what yet, but that’s what YOUR adventure has done. He’s been inspired!

  7. Rich and I have been been following your journey every morning. Thank you for sharing yourself with us on this adventure. I will be watching for what escapades you come up with next. Ken, I am so honored that you invited us along for the ride through your brilliant writings. Thank you.

  8. Christine Roberts

    Congratulations Kenneth! I so enjoyed your concert in Mayfield all those days ago and have enjoyed the blog enormously.
    Best wishes.

  9. Kenneth – I do hope you share a few posts of your process of decompressing and recovering from your 40 days through the wilderness. No doubt you will have great insights about getting home and reentry into the routine you left behind.

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