It’s Christmas! The snow has melted, the mistral has gone back to wherever it hides and the days have become calm and quite mild. We had a flurry of rain but that has gone too.

All the better to enjoy the festivities. There was much running around gathering up the last of the Chapon, ham, veggies (crisis – no round corguettes) and all was going well until an invitation to Cafe de la Poste in Goult for lunch.

Mayhem!

Ex-pats, Fox-Duncans, Charlie and Alma, poor food, consolation bottles of fine wines (Domaine de Verriere – first rose producer in the Luberon), French music with Gerard and his flock, and we staggered home and into bed at 17h30!

Christmas Eve was catch up – a lost day at this critical time is not good for Madame’s planning. The Eve dinner was Danish at Le Renard. Joined by Margery from the local Lumiere Cave, we started with traditional Rice Porridge (legend has it that is is prepared under the duvet – don’t believe it, I found no feathers), then on to Duck breast with red cabbage and other assorted veggies and finished off with Christmas pudding.

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[Margery gave Vicky a hunky beefcake rugger bugger calendar – no comment]

Christmas lunch was at the Bastide.

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The majority of the guests arrived on time, all spick and span and ready for the fun. Many concerned minutes followed by threats to go down the road and trace Alma, Charlie and her bad-tempered vehicle. However, a bark at the door announced Charlie followed by brussel sprouts, parsnips, bacon, dishes, packets, make up, velvet pants and high heels and then came Alma!

We had Kris Kringle and then the chefettes took to the kitchen to get the famous sprouts and parsnips on the boil. It was one glass of champers for each sprout.

Starter was occker-Aussie. Avo, shrimps, salmon, salad. Bloody brilliant!

Then came the chapon.

Before:

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After:

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Also a new dish – the ‘layered summer vegetables’ (in winter) – zuccini, brinjal, tomatoes. garlic and rosemary.

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We polished that off and then moved to the M&S Christmas pud.

Total blow out but tasty.

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There was much hilarity at the end of the day. Darkness has fallen and we bundled everyone into their cars – Alma’s started first time but she had to stop half way down the hill : dear Charlie has decided that the leftovers were his and was quietly tucking into the chapon, duck and bacon basket. The little car wiggled and waggled its way back to its home.

Boxing day – off to Marseilles for the Schneebs’ – Luberon bolly stocks in peril.

Au bientot and a Happy Festive Season – Bon Fete.

Lovonne and Simon xxx

Saint Ignatius Award for the Missionaries of the Year

It wasn’t long ago that investment bankers were referred to as Masters of the Universe or Big Swinging D-cks. But the global financial crisis has relegated investment bankers to the popularity of used car salesmen or real estate agents; with many simply removing the “Big Swinging” prefix.

A UK study reported that bankers destroy 7 for every 1 of value they create, while former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, the respected Paul Volcker, opined that there was “little evidence innovation in financial markets has had a visible effect on the productivities of the economy”, and that the “only useful thing banks have invented in 20 years is the ATM”.

This didn’t appear to bother Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who claimed that the world’s highest-paid bankers were merely doing “God’s work”.

It’s going to be interesting to see if they’ve learnt anything from 2009 – I doubt it but as you reflect on the year over your mince pies and claret, you could dream a little.

Happy Christmas.

Here’s a list if categorising people by the magazines they read:

Vogue

People who use the names of seasons as verbs …

Playboy

Men who, if they were women, would read Marie Claire …

Elle

Snobs who lost money in the financial crisis …

The New Yorker

People who laugh at things that aren’t funny …

Time

People waiting to get a colonoscopy.

[thanks, Jezebel]

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If you want to seethe Top 10 – some amazing shots – go to www.time.com/bestandworstlists.

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Inevitable.

The world leaders let us down in Copenhagen. So, (as usual) if we want the job done right, we’ve got to do it ourselves. One place to start may be to substitute high-emission meat with low-emission meat on the dinner table.

Some animals do a lot more burping and farting than others. To give you a feel for who’s who in the zoo, here’s a chart:

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Pity they don’t mention turkeys – but we’ll say that they belong in the chook family.

Our weeks have been broken by the visit to London and Yattendon (see London Swings) but now we’re back and preparing for the big festivity: Bon Noel.

Everything was going swimmingly until the snow arrived. We were tapping away contentedly on our laptops when a knock at the door revealed Giles, the gardener screaming ‘robinere’ at the top of his voice. After much gesticulation and laughter we were shown how to turn off the garden taps to stop the pipes from bursting – the forecasters had predicted snow!

And did it snow. Bitterly, and I mean bitterly cold conditions and at least 25mm of snow fell on Friday and Saturday. You’ve probably read about the Eurostar and chaos with all transport. We were no different in the Luberon valley.

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[The back garden at the start of one of the snow storms]

We’re also baby sitting Charlie de la Poste for Alma who has popped over to London for a carol service. He’s loved the snow – our white duvet has not!

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Then, on Sunday morning after a long lunch with the Fox-Duncans and a fun Carols service with hordes of ex-pats (all looking like they have just left the MCC clubhouse) and locals in Goult, we awoke to find no water.

At first we blamed it on the work being done in Menerbes on the sewerage. No. No, such luck. We phoned SDEI, the water folk, and to our surprise they arrived in half-an-hour (by now it was 5pm and Madame was thirsty). We were down to our last bottle of water and all the loos had been used and flushed!

The water meter had blown up-literally. A new meter later and we were back in business. Then followed a lesson from SDEI – “cut pieces of styrofoam and wedge them all around the two water meters : cover the manhole with a warm cover”.

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[If you look carefully at the end vines, you can see the ‘noble rot’ grapes still there – it’s iced dessert wine]

Earlier in the week, the lightning had smacked our Sky decoder. The technician arrived, fixed it and we’re back in business. Then, to cap off a week of ‘what can go wrong next’, crisis of all crises, Madame’s coffee machine started to play up and she has not been able to get any ‘creme’ on her latter in the morning.

We’ve discovered a technician 30km west of Avignon so its been an early 7.15am start in the rain and dark to have it fixed in a little garage in the village of Valliguieres.

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[Nativity scene at the Goult church]

Over the years Cath and Jonno have given us Swarovski crystals for Christmas. At last, we can make a bit of a show with them – on their house-warming gift of a candelabra –

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The supermarkets at this time of the year groan with seafood. Here’s a display at the Auchan Hypermarket in North Avignon – visited on the way back from the coffee fixing expedition.

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As the fragrant smell of one of the famous fruit cakes drift through from the kitchen, we would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a safe, peaceful and recession-curing 2010.

Au bientot

Lovonne and Simon xx

Here’s the latest Brand survey from Oz – provided by BT Weekly:

Top 10 Brands in Australia
1.Google
2.Nokia
3.Vegemite
4.Microsoft
5.Sony
6.Bunnings Warehouse
(the Southern Hemisphere’s largest hardware chain)
7.Ikea
8.Coca-Cola
9.Tim Tam
10.Wii

Big:

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Small:

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Grazia magazine!

Bottom 10 Brands
1.Investra Property
2.House of Windsor Foods
3.Australand
(property developers)
4.Grazia (magazine)
5.Fidelity (investments)
6.Hudson (property)
7.GE Capital
8.Theos Bottle Shops
9.Aurora Coffee
10.GQ

Australians Google any and everything. They’re glued to their Nokias, chuck a chicken on the barbie, indulge with Tim Tams and everyone has the hots for Hugh. Breast cancer has the strongest pull on their heartstrings, while Apple and Wii keep Australians constantly amused.

The latest BAV study examined 1,200 brands covering 139 different categories. More than 4,000 Australian consumers were surveyed online as part the WPP agency’s database of consumer perceptions of brands.

There are also losers in Australia’s multibillion-dollar brandscape. Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) is punch drunk, while four of the top losers are clothing brands, Mambo, Stussy, Sportsgirl and Quicksilver. Several premium luxury brands have been hammered by the financial crisis with watches, jewelry and hotels slipping badly.

Consumers have also delivered a wake-up call for the car industry. BMW has fallen of its perch with Citroen and Land Rover also in decline. In other categories, NineMSN has taken a bath, while lamb has been given the chop in favor of chicken as Australians’ favorite meat to BBQ.

From Times Online December 18, 2009

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Gallic publishers hailed an historic victory over Google after a Paris court ruled that the internet giant had breached copyright by making hundreds of book extracts available online. It was ordered to pay E300,000 (£266,000) in damages.

The judgment came in the latest clash between the French Establishment and the Californian search engine, which has been denounced in Paris as a danger to the nation’s culture.

With France taking the lead in a campaign against Google’s plan to become the world’s online library, President Sarkozy announced this week that he would spend €750 million scanning French literary and artistic treasures. He hopes that they will form the backbone of a French-led rival to Google.

The court case was brought by Hervé de la Martinière, the French publisher, who said that Google had no right to digitise entire works without authorisation and to make extracts available on the internet.

The court found against Google only over 300 works available online, saying that the group had “committed acts of breach of copyright, which are of harm to the publishers”.

The ruling said Google cannot “seriously argue — unless it is casting doubt on the reason for the Google Books search engine — that creating a digital file from a book is not an act of reproduction.

“Digitising constitutes a reproduction of a work that must, if it falls under copyright protection, be done with the approval of the author or the copyright holders.”

Serge Eyrolles, chairman of the French Publishers’ Association, was jubilant. “This shows Google that they are not the kings of the world and they can’t do whatever they want,” he said.

“We are not going to be stripped of our heritage for the benefit of a big company, no matter how friendly, big or American it is,” Mr Sarkozy said last week as he outlined his drive to prevent Google becoming the main online provider of French culture.

Mr Mitterrand said French culture should not be allowed to “fall into private hands”.

You’ve got to say that the French take their ‘culture’ seriously!

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