Winter coat

Photo: Before leaving we have to prepare the house and garden for the winter.

We’ve been busy in the garden preparing for the big garage, cantina and portico build in 2020.

We spent two days fitting a 50m Cor-ten border between the garden and what will be gravel in front of the house. It took some doing to get the metal spikes through the soil full of genga (sand like stones that strenghthen when put under pressure), but we’re delighted with the result

We’re particularly pleased with our handiwork joining the 3m strips together. We learnt a new word during the process, “svasatore”, a countersink. The panels will rust over the winter to a uniform colour, ready for our return.

Then planting 38 oleanders

Then get a fence put up

Then cut the vines

It was just as well we got all the work done in good time as we had to leave earlier than planned so that Jan could be with her Dad when he was taken ill.

Our final day was spent shutting down the house and putting it’s winter coat on. Heating to frost protect, water off, security systems on etc.

Then a dash across Europe to get back to London and Northampton, which we did safely and in good time.


Photo: Crostuovo with truffle shavings is mandatory in the autumn at Antica Osteria Da Gustin

If you search for ‘SPN’ in Google you get all sorts of results including Service Principal Name, a spinning class, an IATA airport code (Saipan International) and Scientific Pitch Notation (I have no idea either). What you won’t find is Shit Present Night.

Over the years we have exchanged shit presents with close friends for Christmas. They must be cheap, naff and make us laugh. It’s an antidote to the increasing trend of crazily expensive gifts to impress. Shit Presents need some thinking about and even some handiwork from time to time.

As we were due to return to London, then this year’s Christmas exchange with Mirco and Gessica was in November at Da Gustin. A few years ago we did something similar. It was so hot in November we regretted wearing long trousers. This year we were tucked up inside from the cold and rain.

It was a great night as usual, with so many laughs in English and Italian. So much fun, Friday night gave way to Saturday morning without even noticing. It was also our treat, to thank M&G for all the help they gave us during 2019. A wonderful couple.

During the year Mirco and Gessica had invested in a robot lawn mower. The problem was that it was was a bit moody. Refusing to operate when it was a bit hot, and again when it was a bit wet. It became a standing joke that it was as co-operative as a recalcitrant teenager. It ended up back at the manufacturer in Germany for testing and re-education.

This made our Shit Present Night selection easy. We assembled a kit for the mower, including a branded quilt (probably best not to show that photo) that Jan made. The kit came supplied with it’s own User Manual, so you can imagine what it looked like:

Our shit present from M&G was in two parts. The starter took the piss out of Colin. For many years I’ve had to adapt to Italian living. Let’s just say things aren’t quite as planned and organised as I am. Every time I refer to the frustration of coping with a different way of doing things our friends say the FISHEROMETRO has gone off the scale. They have talked about it for so long they thought I should actualy have one. So now I do.

The main course was something else. As Jan and I worked to install a 50 metre Cor-ten border in readiness for next year’s garden project, they thought something in Cor-ten would be suitable. We already have metal pigs, chickens and kiwis in the garden. Something tasteful? No, it’s Shit Present Night. Make of this what you will but we now have to find somewhere in the garden to put this:

Last lesson

End of term party at Renton, Fano

For the second year running I’ve been teaching English to my Pansèr clubmates. I like to teach British culture as well as the language. To be fair, they really like to learn about our culture. This year they learnt how to fly the Union flag the right way up, how much they don’t like Marmite (an 80%-20% split), how to make a proper cup of Earl Grey and an insight into the lives of Del Boy, Rodney and Grandad. A rounded education I feel.

The last lesson of the calendar year was a quiz. All the questions were taken from this year’s lessons. In honour of my two cycling clubs we divided them into Team Pansèr and Team ICC. In the absence of buzzers they had to shout “Pansèr” or “ICC” before answering. They took it very seriously. Jan had to decide who shouted first, which made her the most unpopular person in the room, even though she made them scones, clotted cream and jam. They had to decide on cream first then jam (Devon) or jam first then cream (Cornwall).

All answers had to be a phrase or sentence. Single word answers were not accpetable. Team Pansèr defeated Team ICC by 22 points to 19. It gave me the opportunity to teach them “We was robbed”.

An hour of quizzing, then beer o’clock.


Our friend Rita’s cousin was playing a gig. Would you like to join us? asked Rita and Patrick. Sure, we said, having no idea what we were letting ourselves in for.

A great time it turned out. Rita’s cousin is the lead singer in an Italian band called CoverDrive (I wonder if they know about the connection with cricket?).

A great evening of covers of songs from The Police, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Deep Purple, The Stones, Led Zeppelin and Billy Idol:

After each song Stefano shouted “Grazeee”. Jan thought he was calling for a “Taxi” each time. After an hour we told Jan to look outside:

Patrick even made a guest appearance, playing bass for Stevie Wonder’s Superstition.

A great night out, getting home after 2am.

Thank you Rita and Patrick.


Photo: One final coffee at Arté Caffé before Gerard and Bernadette drove back to the Netherlands.

For the second time in two years we’ve had to say goodbye to Dutch friends in Italy. After nearly 20 years Gerard and Bernadette sold their beautiful house in Cartoceto to live full time in The Hague.

Over the years we’ve spent many happy times with them over coffee, aperitivi, lunch, dinner and football. We’ll never forget the call we got from Gerard in May 2006. “I found it, it’s with Dutch commentary, but you are welcome to watch it.” We were with Keith and Christine. Jan, a big Liverpool fan and Christine a big West Ham United fan were desperate to find somewhere to watch the FA Cup Final between the Reds and the Hammers. Even though the Giro d’Italia was due to pass right in front of our house within the hour we managed to drive on and off the course to get to their house just in time for the first goal of the match.

Arté Caffé said arrivederci with kisses…

Permission Post

When Jan and I retired in 2014 we received this very special gift from our Oracle colleagues. The oak milepost was to be put in the garden once we had built a garage and modifed the driveway.

We applied for planning permission. It’s more complicated here because we live next door to a cemetry. We’re subject to a “vincola”, meaning there are many more restrictions on what we can do.

What we weren’t prepared for was a 5 year struggle to get permission. The entire internet is not big enough to contain the whole story but as you can imagine it was quite a struggle with many twists and turns.

Finally, we received permission today, Thursday 17th October 2019.

I’m on a weeks cycling training and Jan is in London, so we can’t even celebrate together.

The permission includes a garage, cantina and a portico along the back of the house.

We can’t wait to get started, but we’ll have to be patient. It’s too late to start building now so we’ll begin in the spring of 2020.

By the summer of 2020 we should be able to send photos to our Oracle friends of the milepost in place. Six years after we retired.

Karaoke night

Photo: A complicated set of rules just to sing badly.

If a joke needs explaining then it’s not that funny, goes the conventional wisdom. When it comes to mixing three languages then maybe we can be forgiven, so here goes…

The Pansèrs organised a dinner. The main course was to be goose. Post dinner ‘entertainment’ was karaoke. The Italian for geese is “oche”, pronounced with a hard ‘h’ (similar to how you pronounce the oche in darts but with an ‘eh’ on the end), hence karaoche. You’re right, it wasn’t worth explaining.

As so often, Gio Mare ended up cooking. Banished to outside, we took it in turns to keep him company.

There was so much oche left over there was another oche fest the following night to get through it, but that’s another story.

I think it’s fair to say that Jan stole the dessert show with her New York cheesecake. A proper baked cheesecake. It was delicious.

Colin did make a minor contribution by making the stencil, but his main effort was reserved for eating as much of it as he could get away with.

What does a Liverpudlian, who hates singing, and Karaoke in particular, chose to sing? The Beatles of course.

Colin also took the easy way out with “We are the champions” but some of the traditional Italian folk songs were so dull that even the Italians couldn’t take any more.