On Wednesday June 2nd we set off for a 13 day 3,000 mile trip taking in France, Italy and Switzerland.

Ducati’s have an inbuilt urge to return home to the land of their birth and it is our duty as their custodians to let them migrate home every year or so. And so, earlier this year a group of Ducati owning mates gathered together over the compulsory pint to discus and plan the trip.

The trip would be an epic of over 3,000 miles on stunning roads in almost perfect riding weather, the only bad weather would also bring the most memorable hours of the journey.
Having done this a few times now over the last 20+ years, we had a few basic ground rules. We have found it better to research and book Hotels in advance as you can haggle rates, choose something suitable/decent and know exactly where it is on a map and hence take the hassle out of trying to find a decent hotel after a long days ride. Work and family constraints limited the trip to 13 days and we wanted to maximise our time enjoying the bikes on proper Ducati roads so we planned a route with maximum twisties and minimum boring bits. Always a bit of a challenge trying to agree a route between 6+ people that everyone is happy with, but with a few gatherings to discuss where we wanted to go, we finally nailed it down and then booked up Hotels in appropriate locations. As the planning was in full flow, so was the inevitable arms race. My 1992 888 SP4 returned from John Hacketts with a fresh motor and in very fine health. Steve and Ian just cheated and bought new bikes – an 848 and one of the last new unregistered Desmosedicis considerably lightened Ian’s wallet. Neil added a Termi system to his V4 as it obviously needed a bit more grunt and Chris’s 996 SPS had its Showa’s replaced with Ohlins. I managed to put 800 miles on my new motor before we set off and Ian managed the same on his V4 and sending it up to JHP to get the decidedly un user friendly standard suspension sorted. In 1992 when my SP left the factory it had ridiculously hard springs and it’s heartening to see that almost 20 years later, Ducati are still at it. Either they assume that the bike will never venture off a track or that all of its customers weigh 25 stone. The other two in our group were Saxon and Jenny from New Zealand and it turned out for them it was much cheaper to rent bikes in the UK, than ship over their Ducati’s from NZ – shame.

We all gathered at Chris’s house near Guildford early on the morning of June 2nd and waited and waited for Steve (848) to arrive. With no sign of him we eventually set off as we had a Euro Star to catch only to be greeted by him coming along the road. He had left a Garmin 220 GPS unit on the bike overnight and it had flattened the battery – so first breakdown before we had even turned a wheel!

Taking the boat across the channel always seems a bit more adventurous, time for a proper greasy breakfast, sea air and vomiting but the slickness of a 30 minute trip from Dover through the Tunnel is just a whole lot easier. Ride onto the train and just stand by your bike for 30 minutes and then you are riding into France and that lovely feeling of impending adventure as you first venture onto the wrong side of the road. We took the coastal route down from Calais and then some cross country twisties for a few hours and then headed for Paris’s AutoTrain station. We used on bike GPS’s navigate us to the station and apart from the dense traffic it made it fairly easy – the Périphérique was clogged, so no chance to duplicate the antics of the Black Princes lap. With the bikes all properly strapped down on the train we adjourned for beer, wine and food until it was time to board our sleeper train. Our 6 berth sleeper was the size of a small garden shed and more than cosy, but the wine and piss takes flowed and we all dozed off as the train rumbled south. We awoke to blazing blue skies and the Mediterranean Sea glistening below us and unloaded our gear and had a hearty breakfast at Nice whilst we waited an hour for the train with the bikes to arrive. Heading East from Nice gives you two options, the tiny coast road (SP1) – picturesque, slow and suitable for Harleys or the E80 dual carriageway which twists its way through the hills, constantly dipping in and out of tunnels. At Ducati speeds its good and challenging, excellent views/progress and you have the added bonus of the joy of Ducati’s in tunnels with full surround sound.

The weather is seriously hot so we stop every hour or so and take in caffeine, nicotine and water – the very staples of the continental driver. We are heading for Santa Margherita, which is a very picturesque town on the coast and again GPS takes out all the hassle of looking at maps on tank bags to get us to the Hotel. Not all the bikes have GPS so we slow up so we don’t lose anyone in the town and get overtaken by herds of scooters; one is ridden by a girl who is texting with one hand whilst making more than adequate progress through the traffic. Its well over 30 degrees and whilst its cool enough when moving quickly you soon start to cook in the traffic and start having visions of icy cold beers, which are satisfied immediately upon arrival. A fine dinner is consumed overlooking the sea along with the retelling of the day’s moments and ones from trips of old, helped along by copious beer and wine.
Next day dawns hot and we weave out of town and continue East and then South towards Florence on the E80, the world’s second most enjoyable motorway. After Pisa we head inland on dead straight flat roads and the only remedy for the lack of bends is high speed. We had agreed to keep to sensible speeds to aid keeping together, but after 10 minutes of no corners, that little devil in the back of your head makes you up the speed a bit more and then a bit more. A few minutes at 150 then makes 90 seem almost walking speed as we slow to let everyone catch up, especially the Kiwi’s on a CBR600 and R6. The little devil is clearly now in most of us as we take it in turn to blast past each other and run as high as nerve or traffic will allow. As we get closer to Prato the traffic starts to thicken and on my final full bore run I gets 163 on the GPS (off the clock on the speedo) before a truck pulls out on me and the Brembo’s have to do their thing. No bad as I am 6ft 4 and 16st and the tank bag stops me getting behind the screen – seems likely my red friend will go beyond a genuine 170.
The last few high speed runs have left the Jap bikes behind and we wait in a lay-by for them to catch up and after the speed a Marlborough moment is a splendid thing. They don’t appear so some texts are sent and we head off and arrive at the Hermitage Hotel in Poggio a Caiano where we are for the next few days. It’s a pleasant Hotel with a pool, good food and a large secure garage, though you do have a 15 minute trawl through congested roads to get to it from any direction. That afternoon we blast up to Misano to collect the tickets for the MotoGP and then back for a chill by the pool and a few cooling beers.

Next morning some of the group head to Florence for culture and the rest of us head south for fun. We go south past Castelfiorentino and then on smaller roads that take us through the Colline Metallifere hills – quintessential Tuscan hill territory. Lots of hill top towns and endless hilly twisty roads ( P15 & S439) that just egg you on, it takes a few miles to settle into the rhythm of the roads and the grip available. A rapidly approaching sign warns of gravel and this is soon followed by a full on emergency Brembo moment as what the sign should of said was “no road, just gravel” A stop in a fortified hill top town tops up the caffeine and fluid levels and then off taking us further south and then looping East towards Siena. The roads get smaller and twistier, with hardly any straight bits – more SuperMoto than SuperBike, but still highly entertaining and incredibly beautiful scenery when you can snatch a quick look. Towards the end of the day the roads open up a bit and we can up the pace as we head for home and a welcome beer. Easily one of the top 10 riding days of this decade – excellent empty roads.

The next day everyone heads off at dawn for the MotoGP at Mugello and as I would rather ride than watch, I head off North and then East alone to have a play. Italian petrol stations seem to have an aversion to selling fuel on a Sunday, unless you have cash. Many are unmanned and have auto pumps that say they take cards, but don’t so a good supply of 10 Euro notes is essential. As the V4’s aren’t along for this ride I can really get into the flow as my bike will do 130+ miles before needing fuel, whilst a Desmo owner will be getting twitchy with anything more than 65 miles on the trip meter. The longer you ride without stopping the better the pace and flow of the ride. The S566 is exceptionally good, especially with a local on a Hypermotard to chase down and the whole ride passes with that lovely feeling of just chasing the vanishing point. As the ride comes to an end I start to encounter hundreds of bikes heading home after the GP and see some very spectacular Italian Kamikaze riding, mostly on R1’s/GSXR’s and all wearing those highly protective cotton T shirts. I tag in behind a few of them and follow them as they overtake everything, scything through the dense traffic until we reach a Toll entry for the Autostrada. By the time I clear this and get on the motorway the bike is well over 100 degrees and I am not far behind. The best way to cool us both down is speed and so a large dose of it is taken as we fly along a surprisingly empty Autostrada heading for Florence overtaking everything. A few glorious minutes later and I am paying my toll and then coast to the side for a Marlborough moment and have a chat with some Italians on Ducati’s. It’s nice to see that so many Italians are now riding Ducati’s, ten years ago you would be lucky to see one in a fortnights riding and now they are everywhere. When I come to depart my red friend objects and won’t turn over, my Italians friends give me a push and the beast bump starts surprisingly easily. I use the GPS on my Nokia N900 phone to take me easily back to the Hotel. I just sit by the pool dealing with a few cold beers and in a kind of adrenalin high – very chilled and smiling. I go and give my bike a respectful pat on its tank and return for another beer as the others roll in full of chat of the GP and horrendous traffic jams.
The next morning I pull all the bodywork off the bike to see if I can see why the battery went flat, looking for obvious broken wires. After a good search I find nothing obvious and assume it must be an internal fracture somewhere between the alternator and the battery, but without a multimeter it will have a wait until I get home – it is a known Ducati problem. The battery has been on charge all night and the bike fires up fine. Ian’s V4’s rear brake has ceased to operate as the brake line passes too close to the exhausts and the fluid has boiled. Much bleeding gets some pressure back, but a new rear brake line will be required as it’s started to melt under the extreme heat.

Tuesday again starts with blazing blue skies and another hot day looms. We wait until 11am for an Italian friend of the group to join us for the blat up Futa Pass (S65) to Bologna, but he fails to show and as we later discover his 848 has suffered from the well known radiator failure. We take the Autostrada north for 15 mins to quickly clear the urban sprawl and then onto the famous Futa. This exceptionally bendy road is well used by Ducati as a test route and is more suited to SuperMoto than Superbike. The scenery is superb and the bends go on forever until we reach Pianoro for a late lunch stop. It’s already over 35 degrees and as Bologna is a large sprawling city we are all set for a less than pleasant final step. As we follow the signs for the city the Sat Nav on my phone then guides us off the signed route and onto some tiny, one car wide country lanes – more bicycle than motorcycle, but clear of traffic and cool in the shade of the trees. As my Sat Nav counts down the distance to the city centre hotel I suspect that it may have lost the plot as with just 3 k’s to go we are still on tiny lanes. We then emerge onto a wide street that slopes down into the City and enter the city traffic. As we come to one junction less than 1k from the Hotel it tells us to go straight on, the wrong way up a one way street and being Italy I oblige and then another the wrong way and we emerge next to a Police car that pays no interest to five bikes emerging the wrong way from a one way street – the joys of Italy! They seemed more interested in checking out how cool they looked in a shop window, if only ours were a bit more style focused and less interested in motoring misdemeanours. We stay at a Hotel in Piazza Maggiore in the city centre so that we can all take in some culture and as soon as we are checked in and out of leathers we are in a Piazza bar having some. That evening we eat at Ristorante da Silvio, Via San Petronio Vecchio where they do not really have a menu, but just bring you an endless flow of loveless of their choice. A fine evening ensues.
 Another scorcher has us escaping from the city heat and heading north for Borso Del Grappa over the least enjoyable roads of the trip, though some of the straights crossing the open plains allowed some good high speed sessions. We stayed at Hotel Locanda and booked to stay in the main Hotel, they stuck in an overspill building a mile down the road that was pretty grim and not cheap, will be avoided in future. Luckily we head of to Pompone for an excellent dinner and Maurizio kindly drops us all back to the Hotel. You have to choose your Italians roads with care as if the road is the main route between major destinations then it will be heavily trafficked by trucks and coaches and the corners will be polished to a very low traction sheen – not ideal and best avoided – seek roads that commercial traffic will not be looking to take.

The next day we head west along the famous Val Sugana valley with the river raging alongside and mountains either side as we race past Trento and north and then west onto the SS43 and then the SS42 and the Tonale Pass which must rate in the Top 10 of any list of biking roads. Each successive bends just seems perfectly designed to complement the previous one and it just goes on until you get into the near hypnotic state of being entirely immersed in the road.  Progress is gloriously rapid and many lesser makes are dispatched in a blur. As I pass through the archway entering Edolo a restaurant beckons on the right and we all pull over for a late lunch. All of us have the same glazed happy euphoric look and agree that whoever was responsible for creating the last 30 miles should be given an award for services to motoring. We continue to head west for Lake Como and the closer we get the worse the road becomes, crowded, straight and low speed but soon enough we are heading south through the tunnels that snake down the East side of the lake until we jump off the dual carriageway and head down to the ferry to take us West across the lake and then towards the Swiss border. The Swiss can have a sense of humor failure with noisy bikes so we coast gently through the customs post trying to keep our bikes quiet – for the first time of the trip. We run along the edge of Lake Lugano at low speeds and high temperatures as we slowly progress via the traffic riddled roads and eventually GPS takes us to the next Hotel – it’s a sort of 1950’s themed motoring Motel - Hotel Motel Vezia on the outskirts of Lugano, with each room coming with its own secure garage. The owners ride bikes (well BMW’s) and icy drinks are served to the needy before we even check in – perfect.

Next day we run North and take in the curves of the small road that snakes over the San Bernardino Pass. The lower valley is hot and as we climb it cools and we get damp roads and mists that take the edge off the fun. However it gives you the time to take in the view and feel of the place and the smell of a lovely fresh pine forest that we are carving through. The other side of the Pass gives us warmth, dry roads and picture postcard Swiss scenery as we pass Thusis and onto the tarmac masterpiece that takes you from Surava to Davos. As we start on this section so do a group of local bikes and inevitably fun ensues until they are dropped and we continue on without them. It’s a challenging bit of tarmac where getting it right is essential as a mistake will likely involve a very exciting but short free fall dive off a mountain side followed by death. Davos provides a welcome stop for food that sadly provides the worst meal of the trip – don’t eat at the restaurant by the station! The riding continued on superb roads until at the next stop when Ian utters the word that must never be said within earshot of a Ducati, the R word - “reliable”. The effect was almost immediate with my bike failing to start and another going down minutes later with a rear puncture. A bump start got me moving and as if by magic a Ducati garage soon loomed into view and could not be more helpful. My Ducati had some free electricity pumped into its battery, a new tyre was fitted as Ian tried to make up for his faux pas by buying us all ice creams as we sat in the shade outside the garage waiting for the tyre. More good roads flowed and we headed back towards the San Bernardino Pass and a pleasant surprise. On the south side of the Pass we skipped the damp/misty twisties and stayed on the motorway to be rewarded with what must be the most enjoyable motorway section on this planet. Look it up on Google maps – it’s a series of huge fast sweepers that loop back on themselves and are poured down the side of a mountain and covered in super grippy tarmac, it may only be a few miles long but you will remember it for a long time. The buzz from it kept the speeds up as we headed back to the Hotel, beer, dinner, wine and a recount of the days entertainment retold.

Since we arrived at the Hermitage Hotel our riding had been luggage free as Neil had arranged for a Van to follow with all the gear as a V4 has almost no ability to carry anything. Ian manages to squeeze on just 15 litres on his bike between the seat and pipes – through it does need wrapping in copious heat shield to avoid it catching fire. So as we set off from Lugano we all have luggage onboard with my bike just taking some small throw over panniers nestling precariously above the heat of the high pipes. The SPS and 848 had foolproof Ventura bags. We head north for the St. Gotthard Pass and for the first time of the trip we ride into rain. We stop and put on waterproofs as the rain gets biblical and the only rest bite from the watery blast is when we enter a tunnel. The combination of the rain and spray from other vehicles gives perilous little visibility and as the traffic bunches up the risk of a shunt makes the riding decidedly unpleasant. The traffic starts to back up and slow as up ahead the motorway is closed due to a major accident, but we exit the motorway soon after and take the turn for the Pass. Even though we are still in a major downpour the road is now almost empty and with the spray from other vehicles gone, the visibility improves dramatically and enjoyment returns. Whilst I obviously prefer a dry road, I also relish the different challenge of a wet one – and this one is WET. Everything must now be done with several degrees more care, yet you can still push it and find the limits. I am very impressed by the Michelin 2ct tyres that are somehow finding grip when they have to cut through a solid sheet of water hiding the tarmac.

The lovely wide soaking wet turns of the St. Gotthard Pass are soon just a happy memory as we reach the start of the Furkapass and what will become known to us as our attempt at the north face of the Furka. Almost as soon as we start on the Furka which is still delivering monsoon like rain, the weather gets really nasty with a complete whiteout and the worst visibility I have ever driven in. The road is a true high pass which is much narrower than the Gotthard and with tighter hairpins, all naturally accompanied by instant death if you get it wrong. To make the road more exciting (it was quite exciting enough already) large chucks of snow and ice ranging in size from a dustbin to a Mini are falling off the mountain and onto the already treacherous road. On one side, I catch glimpses of solid rock and large jagged boulders where the road has been cut into the mountainside and the other side of the road just vanishes into whiteness. Visibility can now be measured in two words rather than in distance as when a coach looms out of the whiteout I have just enough time to say “Oh F*ck”, before we somehow pass each other in the gloom.
All Ducati’s have a personality and mine is about to let loose its perverse sense of humour. In these riding conditions which are more like an extreme Enduro stage, you need smooth predictable low end grunt to arrive alive. So my Ducati decides that it is now time to only run above 5,000 rpm and run mostly on just one cylinder and then randomly cut onto both. As first gear is long this makes slipping the clutch mandatory to get round the steep hairpins and the sudden random transition from one to two cylinders turns the climb from deeply unpleasant to extremely dangerous. On one hairpin at 5000 rpm the other cylinder decides it would be invigorating to suddenly join in and we have quite a big moment just avoiding plunging off the mountain side into the whiteness. The only good thing is that with such bad visibility I can’t actually see the drops waiting to greet me, should I blunder. I start to wonder how long this climb will continue as a mature decision would be to pull over, but as I can’t see the motor restarting and I am in the mindset to see this though whatever, I continue steeply upwards and the bike runs even rougher as we continue the climb. I am now awash will adrenalin and recognise that my body has now taken itself into a fight/flight state of tension, which is not helping matters so a couple of good deep breaths and shake out of all my limbs releases much of the tension as the climb up to the 2.5 kilometre high summit continues. The shakeout has done its job as the tension dissipates I start to laugh at the situation and wonder if I will reach the top. Eddie Izzards Cake or Death sketch runs through my head, I am hoping for cake.

A few more minutes and the gradient starts to lessen and then suddenly the road seems almost level and then out of the murk I can see a place to pull off the road as the bike is now barely running and discover Chris and Steve have also pulled over. As I stop, the engine dies and I suspect that may be it for the trip and a record will be set for the most unpleasant place to await a breakdown recovery truck. I climb off and take off my helmet and give my mischievous red friend a pat on the tank. The sense of relief is so strong for all of us that we greet each other with a hug. I have known these guys for 15+ years but have never had the urge to hug any of them before. None of us have ever ridden road bikes in conditions like that before. A few beautiful Marlborough moments then ensue as we take in our situation and options. We have lost Ian on his V4 and eventually get him on the phone and he’s still down on the St. Gotthard Pass sheltering in a storm shelter from the weather. We explain the state of the Furka and that he will really enjoy it on a 180bhp GP bike and tell him we will try and carry on until we find a Hotel to stop at. As we stand about chatting in a howling gale the skies begin to clear and we can see the valley below which looks miraculously dry. As Steve is now shivering in the blast we decide to set off and find somewhere better to stop. I am not expecting my bike to start but it does just burst into life, although it’s still only a single and I lead us onwards and downwards to be greeted by the most welcoming of sights – an open Cafe. You hear about people being poorly equipped and being caught out unprepared on mountains and now I can see why. People are sitting outside the cafe in t-shirts with cold drinks taking in the warm sunshine, yet just a few minutes up the road are conditions that would only be relished by the most perverse survivalists. We sit in the sun warming ourselves like seals and soon shed our waterproofs as we laugh over the lethal nature of what we have just done. The roads on this side of the valley are bone dry and a succession of bikes comes howling up and head up past us up towards the gloom. Within minutes they are all heading back down as they are not stupid enough to try and ride in that. Ian eventually rolls in with a huge look of relief on his face and after further caffeine we set off. I am still on only one cylinder but as we drop down the valley and shed height I start to get 1 ½ and occasionally both chime in. As the air warms as we drop hundreds of metres more, the engine starts to pull normally again and as the unpredictable nature of the power delivery departs I can start to enjoy the roads again. Thirty minutes later we are again in hot air and making good progress on very enjoyable blasty winding roads that take us down the valley past Brig and on towards our Hotel in Chamonix.

The next hop is via more splendid proper Superbike style roads as we take the long way to Troyes. Our morning caffeine stop brings us to a Cafe that has a young waitress who is very professionally displaying her most ample and frankly quite spectacular assets for the world and ourselves to appreciate. Before we depart we have persuaded her to pose on one of the bikes for pictures and I can only hang my head in shame at this appalling display of sexist behaviour that would no doubt outrage most of the residents of Brighton. Jenny sits outside the Cafe shaking her head while the rest of us degenerate in a fit of childish laughter. The D979 from Nantua to Bourg-On-Bresse is quite superb and the D980 from Autun to Chatillion s Seine was an excellent way to conclude the day.

We are taking the “D” roads as they are simply the best way to cross France on a bike. In France the motorways are heavily policed with frequent speed traps awaiting the unwary, especially near to the coast, but the old D roads are almost empty and as long as you slow for the seemingly deserted villages, your wallet should not be lightened by French gendarmes still seeking financial redress for Agincourt.

On the final day we continue on more excellent D roads until about an hour from Calais and then hop onto the Motorway for the final session and soon arrive at the Eurotunnel and less than an hour later we are back in the UK. After almost two weeks of near perfect roads, a British motorway is a grim shock to the system. The others head off home via the M25, but I just can’t end my journey this way and head south for a final fix of twisties on the A272. I am heading west into a setting sun and as you enter Sussex and the Downs loom up on your left it seems like a fitting bit of scenery to end the journey with.  Thirty minutes later I am riding up the driveway and soon sitting outside in the warm evening with a beer and a smile wondering how thirteen days have passed so quickly. I can’t quite believe that just a few days ago my red friend and I were scaling the North face of the Furka, or blasting through tunnels overlooking the Mediterranean or doing endless bends through Tuscany. After over 3,000 glorious miles we are home and still buzzing. I push my noisy mischievous red friend into the garage and give it another little pat in thanks for the adventure we have shared.

And finally, if the very lovely young lady who was beautifully filling a Ducati t-shirt in the centre of Bologna ever reads this, I must apologise for my suggestion – but it would have made a splendid picture.

Steve, Ian, Chris, Paul & Jenny await the train

The train is so smooth that the bikes just do the crossing resting on their stands

Gloriously loud with this lot fired up inside a large metal tube

In Paris awaiting loading on the train to Nice

Let the drinking commence

Not exactly luxury accomodation

The wine begins to take hold

The wine is in control

And so to bed

Saxon has been edited out of this picture for reasons of taste

Surprising how much crap you can carry on a bike as we have to unload it at Nice

From the UK to a blazing blue Med in a day



Santa Margherita

Saxon shocked as waiter says he has only had one beer, his reputation is in tatters

so much so that he has to try harder at the next bar

Every morning with luggage involved much faffing about, loading up.

A hill top town in Tuscany, we again quizz Steve why he didn't buy an1198

The fashion Police are summoned

Its a tradition to set things on fire at the GP, something small wont be making it home.

A trip to a restaurant in the back of a van with a driver who thinks speed bumps are funny - hang on tight!

Jenny managed to bring a complete wardrobe including these shoes which she insisted were included

The team prepare for an outing


Mild maintenance

The others add stability aids to Chris's SPS

Bleeding a cooked brake on a V4

Naked 888 as we look for charging gremlin

Ian is repremanded after being spotted drinking water in a bar

Steve's traditional greeting


On the Futa

Futa Video

Jenny Zooms Past Video

Another Fly Past Video

At Sea Almost


"You lot Feck off and keep the noise down"

Has anyone seen my bike?

Tart buying handbag at the Furla shop

Is this handbag available in carbon?

Saxon sees the cost of the handbag that Jenny wants, an airambulance arrives shortly after

We attempt to deal with the European wine lake

We are on the edge of the pedestrian central square in Bologna, about to upset the quiet peace



On the edge of Lake Como

Crossing the lake

Pompone sits in a beatiful valley

New tyre gets fitted and 888 gets electicity

Swiss Cake stop

The Furka


The Fashion Police are called out again

Saxon wimps out of the Furka and insists that Jenny comes with him on the more gentle southern route




Even a Kiwi girl has a limit to how much can be drunk

One glass too many

Four naughty children being taken out for cake

Ian's Mrs gets on her bike for a blast through Chamonix

A small train full of a brass band - I have no idea why

Saxons nicks the bike in a vain attempt to impress some school girls

I can only apologise for the appaling sexist nature of these pics. You can clearly see the look of shame on the faces of Ian and Steve


On the train heading home

Chris comes second in the moustache growing competition

If the roads had been crap we would have stopped more often and taken pics, but they were so good we rarely stopped.

And for those that asked about my Sussex Big Cat sighting - before you take the Mickey too much have a look at: