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The big day is Thursday when Asterix the Gaul turns 50. The French cartoon character was born on 29 October 1959 in the pages of the first issue of the weekly magazine Pilote. To mark the occasion there is a special new Asterix and Obelisk edition on sale throughout the world. In Paris the event is being celebrated with concerts, exhibitions, artwork and even an acrobatic display by elite fighter pilots from the French air force. Not to mention the plethora of t-shirts we’re going to be subjected to.

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It’s all getting ready for 5 December 2009 when the draw for the World Cup takes place there. Beautiful and a great addition to the Cape Town facilities – are you listening Stormers??

[thanks, 2Oceansvibe]

“You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for,that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.” – Anonymous.

[thanks, Sue]

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[thanks, Nick]

The Canadian border is a short 90 minute drive north of Burlington. The post at Rock Island is infamous as the entry point for some of the 9/11 bombers.

Once you’re through the post (“Take off your sunglasses when you talk to me”), the countryside changes dramatically. You go back in time. From the lush foliage and great highways, the road surface becomes pitted and bumpy (we’ll never complain about the South African road surfaces again) and the scenery dull and uninspiring.

What is French Canada and, in particular Montreal like?

Lets’ try and be objective:

The Pros:

  • an eclectic mix of people, speaking French with a different accent to what we’re used to but friendly and unassuming
  • an interesting Old Port with a most beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral and a more modern Cathedral of Saint Sulpice(1984)
  • a modern but small city
  • good food and plenty of restaurants serving great quality at inexpensive prices

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[the Notre Dame]

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[lighting a candle for Dereck]

The Cons:

  • total absence of reliable road signs (very stressful, not even the scarcely seen police know the way!!!)
  • when you walk into the foyer of your Best Western 4-star downtown hotel and see a mouldy fountain clad in plastic bouganvillea, you know you’re in trouble – don’t, don’t stay there!
  • more strip clubs and peep shows than you can poke a stick at
  • tacky and characterless

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[Halloween display in the Old Port area]

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[Montreal’s obsession with s-x is prevalent in all the souvenir shops]

With the weather closing in and the prospect of snow and sleet, we decided not to risk the Pontiac on the Canadian roads any longer and cancelled our planned two days in Quebec City.

Back through the border and off to Chatham we go….(via Kennebunkport)

Lovonne and Simon

Erica went south with the parcels. We loaded up the Pontiac and took the 1-93 north to Burlington, Vermont.

Forget what you have seen in pictures. You can’t beat the real thing. The foliage stretched for miles and miles. The colours change with every hour and being interspersed with evergreens tree, it is a riot of colour.

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Vermont is cheddar cheese country and therefore, famous for its barns where the cows winter during the icy snow which envelopes the area.

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[a typical Vermont barn]

Burlington is a university and college town. Vibrant with students. The B&B was delightful but the following day we took a trip to the little village of Stowe deep in the heart of the forests.

Around every corner, we found more views of leaves, trees, farmlands and the quaintest and friendliest people. The scene reminded us of a model train set scene. Winding roads, little houses and people bustling about the ir business.

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[a house in Stowe – note the traditional school bus : just like the movies]

Some 10km from the village is the home of the Von Trapp family from Sound of Music fame. The Baron, Baroness and his nine children moved here when they left Austria in 1938. They toured constantly in the USA singing their way to fame and fortune, buying a 2,000 acre property in Stowe.

It’s a little Austria and now the family descendants run a huge lodge, farm, time-share and tourist enterprise.

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[part of the lodge]

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[the hills are alive…]

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[farm entrance in Stowe]

A final word from the Stowe authorities – this is a sign featured in the local pub..

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Now, it’s off to Canada..

Lovonne and Simon

Our American Adventure started with some robust exchanges at Cape Town airport with the British Airways staff who could not understand that our five bags were, in fact, only four. However, creativity won the day when we shrinkwrapped two bags to form one solid blob of plastic. Now we had four – now we could travel and not auction the contents of our bag on the pavement as had been suggested.

Ten hours later we touched down in London and after scoffing some bacon butties in the BA Terminal 5 lounge (quite smart), a two-movie flight later and we were in Boston.

Avis delighted us with a bright red Pontiac (‘my first red car ever’ Madame informed the clerk), a side wipe of the New Hampshire tax-free liquor outlet and without further ado, we were knocking back the rose and Sam Adams at the Coachman Inn in Kittery with Erica.

Our dinner choice was Warrens. We should have known. It was remarkable for the fact that we were served our main course as the starter landed. However, food became secondary…

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[a typical first night – or was it the second?]

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[food all at once]

The purpose of the Kittery visit, however, was not food. It was shopping. Kittery is world-famous for its 5km strip of factory outlets selling all the big brands at huge discounts.

We did not realise how hard the recession had hit..

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[what had been 80% off did not even help]

and another:

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[yes, that IS Van Heusen!]

Bargains were aplenty – try a pair of Columbia corduroy trousers for $5 – or, two coffees at Vida E in Camps Bay!. The packets grew and grew. Fortunately, Erica has a large Lexus V8 – the Pontiac had long since given up.

Dinner on the second night redeemed our view of American cuisine. A little restaurant called Anneke Jans tucked away next to the entrance to the gi-normous US Naval base in Plymouth delighted us with its simplicity and great food.

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[the happy chefs]

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[the happy trio – note the new GAP white top and Polo orange jersey!]

Hey, ho, it’s off the Vermont we go

Lovonne and Simon

A professor at CCNY for a physiological psych class told his class about bananas. He said the expression “going bananas” is from the effects of bananas on the brain. Read on:

Never, put your banana in the refrigerator!!!
This is interesting..
After reading this, you’ll never look at a banana in the same way again.

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Bananas contain three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose & glucose combined with fiber. A banana gives an instant, sustained & substantial boost of energy.

Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number one fruit with the world’s leading athletes.

But energy isn’t the only way a banana can help us keep fit. It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses & conditions, making it a must to add to our daily diet.

Depression: According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood & generally make you feel happier.

PMS: Forget the pills – eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

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Anemia : High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood & so helps in cases of anemia.

Blood Pressure: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure. So much so, the US Food & Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit’s ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure & stroke.

Brain Power: 200 students at a Twickenham (Middlesex) school (England) were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break, & lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.

Constipation: High in fiber, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.

Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach &, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes & re-hydrates your system.

Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body, so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

Morning Sickness: Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up & avoid morning sickness.

Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling & irritation.

Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.

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Overweight & at work? Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate & chips. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods every two hours to keep levels steady.

Ulcers: The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture & smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronicler cases. It also neutralizes over-acidity & reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.

Temperature control: Many other cultures see bananas as a “cooling” fruit that can lower both the physical & emotional temperature of expectant mothers. In Thailand, for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool temperature.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer tryptophan.

Smoking &Tobacco Use: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. The B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium & magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

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Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain & regulates your body’s water balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be rebalanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack.

Strokes: According to research in The New England Journal of Medicine, eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%!

Warts: Those keen on natural alternatives swear that if you want to kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin & place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Carefully hold the skin in place with a plaster or surgical tape!

So, a banana really is a natural remedy for many ills. When you compare it to an apple, it has four times the protein, twice the carbohydrate, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A & iron, & twice the other vitamins & minerals. It is also rich in potassium & is one of the best value foods around. So maybe its time to change that well-known phrase so that we say, “A banana a day keeps the doctor away!”

PS: Bananas must be the reason monkeys are so happy all the time! I will add one here; want a quick shine on our shoes?? Take the INSIDE of the banana skin, & rub directly on the shoe…polish with dry cloth. Amazing fruit!!!

[thanks Norman and Lizzie]

Travelling through the US of A, I have been amazed at the nature of how the media business has been turned upside down over the past 72 hours – and dear Rupert Murdoch is at the centre of it.

Watching CNN’s ‘State of the Nation’ on Sunday morning a White House spokeswoman, Anita Dunn launched a vicious attack on Fox News as the “unapologetic media arm of the Republican Party”. She then gave a full 10 minutes to lambasting the viewers with examples of Fox’s ‘right wing bias, unethical reporting, ridicule of everything that the Obama administration has done etc’. She went on to say that the White House was ‘distancing itself’ from the Fox News programmes and, in effect, declared war of the network. CNN then hauled up a parade of journalists, TV pundits and, interestingly, a bunch of people who are reputedly big in the ‘blogosphere’ (one lady a Miss Nah, was captioned as a leading political blog writer and Playboy freelancer!). Each one of this parade roundly condemned Fox and its right-wing bias. Some heavy stuff.

 

Flicking the remote to Fox gave a another perspective. Holding court was none other that Senator John McCain (remember him?). The subjects – more troops to Afghanistan, better military strategies at home and abroad, Obama’s Nobel prize (guess what he thought of it!), how there are 40 million Healthcare-uninsured people in the US and what was going to happen to them. Mc Cain and another parade of sound bite experts carried on for two hours slamming the Obama administration on anything and everything. They slammed the digital world, calling the use of the term ‘blogosphere’ juvenile.

 

Interestingly, one pundit remarked that this was a fight over the centre. Obama could appease his left-wing factions easily. Fox could drag the centre into the right’s camp.

Naturally, the two networks replayed and replayed the segments throughout the next two days pausing only to refresh the commentary and re-state their positions. As I write (it’s Wednesday) it has not stopped.

Compare this activity to a week ago when SkyNews UK waged a consistent campaign against Gordon Brown challenging him to a presidential debate with David Cameron on Sky (naturally). Then, Rupert took the muzzle off the red top’s big barrel – the Sun blasted out that they were now withdrawing their support of Gordon Brown and the Labour Party and it was Viva Tories!

One can only reflect – is this Rupert’s last stand using the traditional media (his comfort zone) to blast out his political opposition or is it a desperate fight against the new way of doing politics: tweeting, face book, virals, blogs, and dealing with minor but influential groupings.

How this plays out is anyone’s guess!

We are sad to report that our beloved cousin, Dereck passed away last week after a long and painful illness.

Druk was taken away from us at too young an age. When we last saw each other at the 2008 Saamtrek, he was full of life and fun. As he had always been – caring and loving. When Andre popped his shoulder out, it was Dereck the elder brother who accompanied him to the hospital.

There are a lifetime of memories for both of us.

The farm ‘Blikfontein’; Lovell buying him his first car – a Fiat 600; the trips in the Renault; being chaperoned to the hops; the constant flow of banter at the Saamtreks; the first Benson and Hedges cricket matches; bumping into each other at airports when he was on yet another UTC launch; his love for Sue, Kirk and Stuart (and then their respective spouses and his beloved grandchildren); his empathy and love for his mother, Barnes and her special sisters. His leg pulling and tete-a-tetes with Andre and the rest of the cousins.

We can go on and on. A tragic loss. Druk: at last you are out of pain. We grieve for you and will always hold you dear in our hearts.

At each Saamtrek, we always pause and remember those who are no longer with us. The next gathering will be different – that pause will be a little longer.

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[what a handsome fellow – and those legs!]

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[always at the front of the queue in 1985!]

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[Dereck’s last Saamtrek – 2008]

Our thoughts are with Sue, Kirk, Stuss, Andre and families.

Lest we forget – Lovonne, Simon and Will xxx

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