AN 'AMBASSADOR' for Chester is retiring after 15 years steering the city's international activities.
Chris Lines was a founder member of Chester International Links Association (CILA) in 1991 and has since been responsible for co-ordinating the group's activities across the world.
At the end of December the Mickle Trafford resident will retire from Chester City Council after 35 years as an officer but he says his days of organising international visits are not yet over.
'I have been fortunate to visit Chester's Italian twin town Senigallia through my work and I think it is a wonderful country that personifies all the good bits of Europe.
'My daughter has married an Italian and my wife Liz and I are hoping to buy a house over in Italy and spend some time there in the future.'
Mr Lines hopes to learn enough Italian to integrate with the locals in his second home and says he was 'sad' when learning languages after 14 became optional in the UK.
He said: 'We are very lucky that so many people speak English but I think we should make an effort to learn to integrate with other people.
'Not bothering to learn a language means you are almost ignoring other people and their cultures - that is the message that is going out from the UK now.'
Mr Lines became involved in Chester's international links programme after the city began to search for a twin town.
He remembered: 'We wanted it to be accessible, to have some similarities to Chester and thought the language should be one of those studied in Chester schools.
'It soon became apparent that most other towns and cities already had twin towns so it wasn't as easy as we thought. We hoped to link with places like Santiago di Compostella in Spain and Albi near Toulouse in the south of France.
'We also investigated the origins of the 20th Roman Legion, who founded Chester, to see if we could twin with one of their home towns. But we found out they were largely mercenary soldiers from Spain.'
Chester got its first twin town Sens, in France, after Mr Lines' French counterpart answered an article in an international magazine.
Chester then adopted Sens's existing twin towns Loerrach in Germany and Senigallia in Italy. The city has also joined the Walled Towns Friendship Circle.
Mr Lines will continue to work part-time with his successor, Maud Duthie-Van der Venne.
He said: 'There are so many things happening now in Chester, particularly with young people coming over here to improve their English and trading links.'
The chairman of CILA, Cllr John Price, said: 'Chris has been a wonderful ambassador for Chester and has taken both the Walled Towns Friendship Circle and international links to new heights.'