It’s the time of the year when the fruit trees groan with fruit and the locals preserve nature’s gifts for the long winter months ahead.

We were informed via the hedge which divides our property: on Lundi (Monday), we ‘attack the jam’.

It was with a degree of excitement that Lovonne went next door to the Godmother of Menerbes, Genevieve, to learn the art of jam-making.

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We’re ready to go.

Take 2kg of apricots and 2kg of sugar. Hand mix well together until the sugar starts to dissolve into the fruit. Stand for 24 hours.IMG 5043

Then bring to boil and boil for 13 minutes – stirring every now and then.(the French are exact – not 12 or 14). Double-checking by dropping a few drops on to a plate which has been kept in the fridge to test the consistentcy.

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Take sterilised jam jars and begin to spoon your jam into the jar..

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Place on counter – upside down – till cool..

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And if you’ve never tasted the apricot jam (abricot confiture) on a newly-baked baguette, then you’ve never lived. Of course, Genevieve has many years of practice in the fine art but I can say with certainty, that our batch was tres bon!

Oh, and Lovonne learnt this all in the French vernacular – with some translation help from Jean-Pierre.

The following three pics track the metamorphosis of a tired and hungry traveller, to chilled in the South of France and then all togged up for gay Paree…

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Now that’s what I call a holiday!

The early part of the week saw the various mates and partners of the younger generation leaving for the UK and preparations went into full swing for the arrival of the Ululapa crew – hungry, happy and dare we say it, thirsty.

Provence in moving into holiday mode. The lavendar is out, the sunflowers are starting to peep through the green fields and the vines have been prepared and now ‘nature takes it’s course’.

The markets are ablaze with colour, music, great food and drink and, fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your perspective) less flooded with tourists than in previous years.

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[St Remy market – in full cry]

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[a small casual repast for the Ululapa crew]


[we lag, we eat, we lag, we eat]

Sunday’s now traditional lunch at Le Petit Jardin was celebrated with champagne, courtesy of Pappa. His debt? Losing a bet on the Wallabies vs France match –


[Pappa in full cry]


[the lavendar is coming – pic taken at the famous Abbaye Notre-Dame de Senanque]

Shopping has moved into full swing and it is essential that ATMs are within an arm’s length of every one of the crew. The boys spend a considerable time outside the shops – however, the world can be assured, we have every problem known to man discussed, debated and resolved.


[the world in OK, relax]

A bientot

Lovonne and Simon


Resisting the urge to add to the millions of words written about MJ, one has to comment on the inappropriate placement of this pic advertising a parenting forum in Fairfax publications.

No matter where you go in the media, it’s hard to avoid Rupert Murdoch and his children.

UK media reports at the weekend had Rupert Murdoch’s second daughter Elizabeth as an early contender to be CEO of the troubled ITV commercial TV network, a day after the UK’s media regulator, Ofcom, recommended that BSkyB, the Pay TV company dominated by the Murdoch family, should make its premium content available to competitors at wholesale prices.

That brought a hostile reaction from BSkyB, which criticised Ofcom, saying it will take all “available legal avenues” to challenge the decision.

Ofcom started examining the British pay-TV market in early 2007. It is now proposing a “wholesale-must-offer” system which would require BSkyB to offer its premium channels, which include Sky Sports 1 and Sky Movies, on a wholesale basis to retailers such as Virgin Media, whose merger BSkyB blocked by buying a dominating near-18% stake.

BSkyB owns 17.9% of ITV, which it has been told to sell, but it is resisting this. James Murdoch, who runs BSkyB, bought that stake and BSkyB, has lost the best part of a billion dollars on that anti-competitive lunge (which blocked a merger between ITV and Virgin media). UK and US media laud him for being “clever”.

It is hard to imagine how any one could have imagined that Ms Murdoch would be an acceptable CEO to ITV to competition regulators, which are trying to open up competition by forcing BSkyB (run by brother James) to share its content with competitors, while controlling ITV’s future with a stake he won’t sell, despite regulators telling him to sell.

It’s another clear example of how the Murdoch family places itself above the norms in competition policy: and how they and their media mouthpieces pay lip service to the ideas of competition. BSkyB has taken its case to the Court of Appeal, a measure of the lengths to which the Murdochs will attempt to hang on to an anti-competitive position.

It will be off to court if Ofcom persists with its plan to force BSkyB to slash the prices it charges other companies for its sports and movies channels by up to 30%, meaning customers of its pay-TV rivals could effectively subscribe for less (such as Virgin Media and BT Vision).

A Sky spokesman told the UK media: “We disagree fundamentally with Ofcom’s approach, analysis and conclusions,” adding that the broadcaster would fight the “unwarranted intervention”.

Ofcom said it was concerned that the profits Sky makes in its wholesale business were “likely to be reflected in high prices paid by consumers”.

The Ofcom move was criticised by BSkyB’s partner in the monopoly on soccer, the Premier League.

The failure last week of the Setanta Pay TV channel has increased BSkyB’s dominance of premium league soccer. ESPN (part of Disney) bought the Setanta Premier League rights, but will sell them through BSkyB, which means it now will show most of the Premier League games on its Pay TV platform. It had been only able to bid and show four of the five packages of games, now it will show all five.

Will a weak UK Labour Government avoid a fight with Murdoch by not acting on the Ofcom proposal?

[thanks, Crikey]

“Monkey urinates on President” tells the story of a press conference by Zambia’s President Rupiah Banda.


LUSAKA (Reuters) – A monkey urinated on Zambian President Rupiah Banda as he spoke to journalists at a news conference on Wednesday.

Banda softly shouted: “You (monkey) have urinated on my jacket,” and paused as he looked up to see the animal playing in a tree just above his chair.

“Perhaps these are blessings,” he said continuing his address amid laughter from the audience of journalists and diplomats at the State House presidential offices.

Several monkeys play around the grounds of Banda’s residence and his office. There are also many species of antelope and birds in the State House grounds.

This week, French President Nicholas Sarkozy used a historic state-of-the-nation address to proclaim that the burqua, or face-covering, was a symbol of women’s subservience that was “not welcome in France”. Sarkozy backed calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the issue, following suggestions from a government spokesman that the face-veil could be banned in public places — which amounts to an outright ban, since even the Taliban saw no need for women to veil in private spaces.

The burqua is worn by only a tiny proportion of Muslim women in France, but Sarkozy’s speech is yet another act of political stigmatization against an already marginalized community. According to a prominent local commentator, Sarkozy is “falling back on the same kind of manipulation that has allowed him to win previous elections, and does not care about the consequences for anyone else.” She added that after watching the footage of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy smiling proudly in the background during the speech, she thought that Sarkozy was also out to impress his wife.

Many Muslim women, including many hijabis, are deeply uncomfortable with face-covering. It is so vanishingly rare among Muslims in the West that many observant Muslims have only encountered it at a distance. In Australia, a disproportionate number of the women who observe this practice seem to be converts. Their stated commitment to face-covering as their “personal choice” is rendered problematic by the fact that many of them don’t believe that personal choice over dress standards should be extended to women in Muslim-majority societies. While they believe that covering the face is commendable rather than obligatory, they defend the mandatory covering of women’s hair in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.

But as Sarkozy’s speech illustrates, they are not the only ones who think that choice is a one-way street — you can choose, so long as you choose what I tell you to choose. There is no single experience of face-covering, just as there is no single experience of the bikini. Some Muslim women describe face-covering as providing a sense of privacy and comfort. It is true that some Muslim women and girls practice various forms of veiling under family and community pressure (while other Muslim families are equally horrified when their daughter begin to cover). But those are not the kind of dynamics where government intervention can serve any useful purpose. As my friend observed, after politicians began to attempt to regulate the hijab back in 1989, many teenage girls adopted it as a form of rebellion. Sarkozy’s speech seems likely to add a similar cache to the burqua.

[thanks Crikey]

Image [Zuma giving the finger to ‘everybody’]

The latest spat about South African President’s latest utterings remind those of us with long memories of when the Beatles were banned by the SABC for saying that they were more popular than Jesus.

Image [the one and only]

Here’s some classic stuff from the Times in Johannesburg. Classic stuff.

The SA Council of Churches (SACC) is trying to “privatise” Jesus and turn the Christian religion into a cult, the Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust claimed.

“As the friends of Jacob Zuma Trust in Gauteng province we are not happy or impressed by the attempt on the part of the SACC to want to private (sic) the Christian religion and Jesus Christ in particular,” it said in a statement.

“We refuse, like many other South African Christians, to allow the SACC to conduct itself as if they own Jesus Christ. It has become clear that this religious body wants to turn the Christian religion into some sort of a cult belonging to a particular grouping.”

The trust was responding to statements made by the SACC that President Jacob Zuma was “confusing matters of the secular world with matters that are considered to be sacred”.

The SACC in turn was reacting to Zuma’s telling a rally in Mpumalanga at the weekend that the ANC “will rule until Jesus comes”. He has previously made the same remark.

The trust said: “We wish the SACC will in future consult with other Christian bodies before thinking that they are the only Christians in this country. It must further desist from embarrassing the Christian community by claiming to be the only body that should give us permission to pray.”

The trust’s Gauteng chairman Gaya Mlangeni said Zuma, like SACC members, was a Christian and had “a right to invoke any element of that religion”.

“Indeed we agree with the president that the ANC will rule this country until Jesus comes.”

SACC secretary general Eddie Makue said the ANC leadership should be mindful that South Africa was a democratic country whose residents determined who should be in power.

“The ANC must be mindful of the mortality of human beings and the immortality of God… mindful that Jesus Christ is one in the triune God that we worship.

“We want to remind political leaders that we are living in democracy and in democracy choices of the people are determining factors, and therefore no leader can pre-empt what the decision of the electorate will be.”

Also, he said Zuma should be aware that there were other religions in the country and guard against making divisive statements.

“Finally, we trust that the leadership within the ANC will be sensitive to how their messages are received. They must guard against alienating other religions by statements that they make.

One must be mindful that although the Christian religion is a majority, there are other religions like Muslim and the Bahai in the country.”


Scary stuff

On Wednesday this week, Nicolas Sarkozy, the rightwing French president, will address his parliament in a key mid-term speech. But his audience will not merely be on the lookout for policy initiatives. In recent weeks French MPs have a new game to play with their maverick, megalomanic leader: spot the cultural reference.

For where once Sarkozy proudly flaunted his distaste for all that could be qualified as intellectuel, he now has the fervour of a recent convert for all things culturel. Instead of boasting he is a “total fan” of Sylvester Stallone, now he apparently prefers Luchino Visconti’s art-house movie Death in Venice. Where once he waxed lyrical about the French equivalent of the Carry On films, Les Bronzés, now he is reported to be more likely to spend his evenings in front of the works of Jean-Luc Godard.

In recent weeks he has stunned journalists by quoting controversial French writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline, reading passages aloud from Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Words and arriving for lunches with copies of works by Emile Zola under his arm. Inviting contemporary cult pessimist writer Michel Houellebecq to dinner at the Elysée, Sarkozy confessed to having read not only all his guest’s previous works but all his bleak poetry, too.

The change is so radical that news magazine L’Express devoted its cover and seven pages to it last week under the headline “The Story of a Cultural Revolution”, going as far as to wonder if the president might finish as a “BoBo”, a member of the bourgeois, bohemian, educated and largely leftwing Parisian middle class who voted en masse against Sarkozy in 2007.


Many attribute the change to the influence of the president’s wife, Italian-born singer and songwriter Carla Bruni. From the wealthy Tedeschi family, Bruni has a long history of intellectual engagement. Among her many previous lovers are one of France’s best-known popular philosophers, Raphaël Enthoven, and his academic and critic father, Jean-Paul. Her sister is a well-known actress. The shift in Sarkozy’s musical tastes is seen as proof of the “Carla effect”. Previously he listed figures such as Johnny Hallyday, France’s ageing rocker, as favourites. Now he has private meetings with Bob Dylan and Marianne Faithfull. “Apparently he had never seen a film of Fellini… but he has changed thanks to her. With me he was very polite and charming,” the latter told Paris-Match.

The idea that it is Madame Sarkozy who is behind the president’s newly discovered sensitivity to the arts provokes defensive denial from his close circle. “It is not out of the ordinary that a wife influences her husband’s choice of reading material,” said one aide. “But I assure you that the president has always been very profoundly interested by the deep and rich intellectual life and the vibrant and contemporary culture of France.”

Ironically, part of Sarkozy’s electoral appeal was his rejection of both the dignified grandeur of his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, and tastes associated with the bourgeois elite that dominates the French political, cultural and economic establishment. Sarkozy’s electoral base was in part made up of working-class and lower-middle-class voters who did not drink wine, eat Camembert or read classic French literature. But his unabashed middle-brow tastes, disdain for intellectualism and evident materialism offended traditional conservatives and many on the left, who charged him with being “bling”.

The “cultural upgrade” represents a return to a more classic vision of the president’s office. The Ray-Bans have gone, there is no more jogging, the hamburgers once said to be Sarkozy’s favourite dish have disappeared and the Rolex has not been seen for months. Instead there is Maupassant, Stendhal, Montherlant and Sartre.

Some are sceptical. “He’s doing the sort of syllabus we teach 16-year-olds,” said a literature teacher in the run-down Paris suburb of Bondy. “I’m all for adult learning. I just wonder when he finds the time. I haven’t sat down with a good book for months.”

Note: This articles has been paraphrased from the Guardian. We have a link to this august journal here in Menerbes – the original owners Lord and Lady Gavron, live behind us.

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