In 1994 I bought a one-way ticket to Milan with the intention of leaping into the unknown and starting a new life there - note that these were the days before low-cost air travel, before the euro and most significantly before everyone used the internet. It was a time when going abroad really was going to a foreign country.
If anyone asks me why I did that - which of course they inevitably do - I never know quite how to respond, how to put it into words. The best I can do is say that it was a crazy idea that I got into my head and wouldn't let go of until I had at least attempted to put it into practice.
And somehow I did, despite speaking hardly any Italian at the time and not knowing anyone. I think it was the fascination with the notion of starting from scratch, with nothing, landing in new city. I wasn't especially running away from anything, there had been no acrimonious break-up to get over a la Eat Pray Love. I just wanted to try doing something that had no rational explanation.
I had concocted the idea in my head - I started telling everyone I had decided to go and live in Milan - I'd never been there but I thought it sounded glamorous, most of my friends were gay men at the time and I knew they'd be impressed. And in fact one of them came up trumps, in the most unlikely fashion. Milan may be famed for fashion, it was astrophysics that gave me the way in. My friend Peter, who has since become quite famous and writes a beautiful blog called Telescoper - is a cosmologist who was working in such a specialised academic field that he regularly worked with departments around the world - namely Milan. He was due to go there for work and kindly offered to take me as his companion which meant a place to stay for over three weeks. And so It began.