m i l a n o

[ 18:22 friday 1 november – via solferino, milano ]

it’s a little more than two years since i was sitting here in fofo’s apartment, writing a wanderer despatch describing my preparations to depart for london and thence for ghana. my heart was fresh with the exotic pulse of the south, i knew i would be back. and i haven’t been in milan since.

indeed i wasn’t expecting to be here now, but my powerbook needed repairs so i deposited it in rome and took the opportunity to sneak up to this end of italy. first a couple of days with sebastian in the rich hill country east of florence, then onward to this misty grey canvas on which my friends splash their brilliant colours.

this isn’t just a metaphor. everywhere i walk in these streets of hurrying unsmiling faces i come across delicious fragments of graffiti deposited by bobo, roberta and fofo. each one brings a grin to my face. the three of them are stubbornly getting on with the beautiful mischievous truthful work they want to do, in all manner forms, media and collaborations. it’s wonderful to be with them again.

two months ago i was on a hydrofoil speeding towards the first user trials of the learning web system, excited and a little nervous. those days in london were frantic. twenty-four hours before the trials the system died completely and resisted attempts to revive it. we stayed calm, worked through the possibilities. i went to bed around two in the morning, with richard still trying more options and keeping up pressure on the technical support team responsible for the server.

when i woke up the next day everything was working perfectly. it turned out the server’s hard disk had chosen this moment to fail, an extremely rare incident. fate often seems to have loki’s sense of humour. the trial group of sse students from around britain assembled in the early afternoon, along with the staff from bethnal green, and over the next four hours we worked through all the main aspects of the system. it couldn’t have gone better. it rapidly became apparent that my carefully-prepared explanations were redundant, everyone just wanted to dive in and work out how to use the different features by playing with them. so i left them to it, staying on hand to help out when a question arose or a bug cropped up. richard stayed at the end of the phone line ready to resolve any problems that occurred.

at the end of the session i felt exhilarated and exhausted. three years after my first speculations trampoline had completed the first step of its journey from concept to reality.

so much has happened since then. i returned to italy with james fink and we spent several delicious days in southern tuscany with don matteson. last time i met don he was a hard-nosed foreign exchange trader in london. this time he was living in the mediaeval hill-town of montalcino writing a book and preparing to participate in the grape harvest. quite a transformation.

then i dashed back down to stromboli, arriving barely twelve hours before mum and dad who to my joy came to visit for a week. i got them the house next to mine, up the torrente where the rustling bamboo stretches up the side of the volcano.

what can i say, it was just fantastic. the weather was idyllic. the dreadful mass of tourists was gone. the island was in a state of post-season euphoria. we went out on the catamaran with antonio, alessandro and valentina to swim where the lava comes down into the sea. we ate magnificently. mum and dad met all my friends on the island. they both made it up to the top of the volcano and saw some spectacular eruptions. i was overjoyed to have the opportunity to share it all with them. too soon it was time for them to leave, hastened by approaching storms. i waved them off from the quay with a lump in my throat.

then it was time to immerse myself in my work again. with learning web completed the next challenge is to raise finance to develop the full trampoline system. to kick-start this process i’ll be spending most of november on a blitzkrieg tour of the united states, spending time in san francisco, seattle, chicago, washington and new york. it begins on wednesday.

warren langley has made this possible and is arranging a succession of meetings along the way with potential investors and others who have valuable insights into the technology sector. i’m unlikely to come back with cheques in my pocket but i will learn a massive amount and initiate some relationships which may result in investment in due course. warren’s constant level-headed support for the venture is one of the things that gives me the confidence to keep pushing ahead whilst the markets collapse around us. this is going to be a tough challenge.

for the past month i’ve spent twelve to fifteen hours each day sitting in front of a computer, spewing out draft after draft of proposal documents, researching subjects ranging from constitutional systems in 6th century bc athens to complexity theory and emergent phenomena, solidifying technical elements of the system with craig and marshalling support from every direction i can find.

craig and heidi meanwhile have become the parents of tiny kai and are living on an island off the norwegian coast. craig’s contributions to trampoline are now made in moments snatched between changing nappies and holding back the forces of baby-driven chaos.

in the final days of september i asked my friends gustl and valerie if they would let me live in their house on stromboli through the winter. they spend four months on the island each summer and for the remainder of the year are based in vienna. to my delight they agreed. their house is one of the most spectacular on the island, even more connected with the sea than the house in which i lived last winter. on the first of october i loaded all my belongings onto the back of leonardo’s ape, bounced across the island in clouds of smoke, and unloaded everything into their house. every minute i spend there inspires me.

when one walks amongst blossom one must be prepared for thorns. a couple of weeks ago i was presented with some truths about the world i might have preferred not to know. it changed my perspective a little and made me feel very alone for a few days. but reality is always preferable to illusion. i am strong. i continue on my path with undimmed faith and determination.

: caro***

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