Some years ago I was doing an intensive Italian language course for a month at a college in Viareggio, Tuscany.
It was July. Incredibly hot but in a lovely location, fringed by a pine wood that led to a beach; an absolute joy.
I used to cycle through the pines after morning lessons, which was the perfect way to wind down after studying, especially when you arrived at the long golden sands that stretched down to the sea.
Anyway, the course began with the most surprising encounter – one which to this day still amazes me.
I was sitting in a class full of students from all over Europe, there to study Italian like myself.
Our Italian teacher began the first lesson by asking us, in turn, what we did and where we came from, not unlike ‘Blind Date’.
Now, picture the scene.
Most of us were young students, casually attired, but seated beside me was a very dapper gentleman, sporting a silk cravatte, with greying hair.
He was very well dressed and in his 60s; charming and English like me.
In actual fact we were the only English people in the class so we helped each other with our own linguistic idiosyncrasies.
As the teacher came round to me, I replied that I was a student from Lancaster and then she turned to my partner.
‘Hello,’ he said, ‘I’m Tony Edwards and I’m the manager of a rock band. You might have heard of them - Deep Purple’.
And so he was.
We were all pretty astounded, but he was friendly and down-to-earth.
With a villa in Tuscany, he just wanted to brush up his Italian.
Tony turned out to be a great class-mate.
He was as naughty as a schoolboy but as nice as they come.
We giggled over our mistakes and stood corrected by our very strict Italian teacher.
At break-time we would chat about life and he was always very encouraging.
Inspirational in fact.
Sadly, I read that he died a few years ago, but I still have his card and I’ll never forget him.