Invited to dinner by friends, this evening we found ourselves at table with an interesting fellow guest. An EU official of Italian origin, he has travelled throughout the world for his work (having spent some time in the Central African Republic he was particularly eloquent about the Aka pygmies he met there) and was much looking forward to a less active retirement in the historic Italian city where he was born and brought up. He had inherited a tract of land and an old, disused, ruined factory building. Since this was smack-bang in the middle of the historic centre and right alongside a beautiful ancient church, the plot represented something of a quandrary and he had always assumed that the city authorities would never let him do anything other than essential work to keep the site safe. All the same, he put in occasional applications, though more in hope than expectation. And then, out of the blue, on the eve of his retirement, the city made him a counter-proposal; it proposed to buy up some of the land to build a car park and, in return, would give him authorisation to build. One quandrary was replaced by another; to build what? The site is too small for a hotel and too big for the sort of flat he would have wanted to live in. So he has decided to organise a competition and invite architects to submit ideas and plans. So much for that less active retirement!