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.

End of an era

After nearly 20 years in Italy our friends Bernadette and Gerard are returning to The Netherlands. We reckon we’ve known them for about the last 14 of those years.

Earlier this year they put their house on the market, expecting it might take a year or two to sell. After a week they had a buyer and a signed contract. A bit of a shock but they were on their way.

We had one last lunch at Yankee in Fano before the weather turned. It’s not the final goodbye as they will be staying with us for their final few days in Cartoceto after their furniture starts it’s journey back to the Hague.

World wedding

Photo: Even our car got dressed up for the ocassion.

The world converged on Cartoceto for Margherita and Gerhard’s wedding. Family and friends gathered from around the globe. Our small contribution was to host Gerhard’s parents, Fred and Rina, and his brother Chris. As they are South African they could at least stay in an English speaking home. They were very easy guests. They ate out every day but we enjoyed several coffee drinking sessions. We introduced Rina to Liquore all Liquirizia. Her life will never quite be the same again.

Fred, Chris, Rina and Jan enjoying a coffee session on the terrace.

At the pasta making lesson Fred confused his name with Jan and called her Fran. Maybe I should have responded in kind and called his wife Corina. Fran became a standing joke, as did Fred’s sister’s description of her Airbnb. “I need to go back to my château”. As her name is Fleur then Château seemed appropriate.

We had volunteered our car to drive Margherita to the ceremony. During the morning of the big day it rained. Fred and I had to dress the car between showers and cover it each time.

The good news was that the rain stopped in the afternoon so the open top drive to the wedding was on. Margherita decided she wanted to be alone for her last drive as a single woman so I had the privilege of driving her. This was the most appropriate music I could find.

In accordance with Italian tradition I hooted the horn at every passing car and every person we saw. I used the horn more times that day than I have since owning the car.

The ceremony was in the restored Teatro del Trionfo in Cartoceto. The leading characters all taking to the stage whilst the audience looked on and applauded.

At the end of the performance, the stars of the show faced their fans at the Stage Door

Then on to La Locanda del Gelso for another Italian wedding tradition. More food than an entire army could eat. Anti pasti, two primi, two secondi, dolce, coffee and liquer. Not surprisingly we got to bed about 02:30 on Sunday. A wonderful day.