Predictably, Roger Federer dumped Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (11) in the Australian Open final to boost his tally of men’s majors to a record-extending 16. Murray’s drought continues, as does Great Britain’s (150,000 years if you believe the Fed).

With Tiger Woods’ rapid descent into oblivion the question to be posed is: after Mohammed Ali, is the Fed the greatest sportsman/person of them all? Maybe, just maybe, he’s even bigger and better than Ali?

If records are anything, then he is. If being a gentleman, great sportsman and an eminent student of all that is good in his chosen profession, then he is.


[pic: The Age]

Tennis Blog lists five things we learned from the 2010 Australian Open men’s final:

1. Federer is no dummy

Federer was accused of sour grapes when he put down Murray’s defensive style. But he wasn’t wrong. If Federer attacks and is on his game, he’ll beat the Scot more often than not. The first two sets, Murray hit a combined 12 winners, compared to Federer’s 28. The aggressiveness Murray showed against Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals was nowhere to be seen until the third.

Now, it’s perhaps easier to play aggressive against Nadal than Federer, but getting the first big strike on the ball in a rally sends the Swiss backward. Unlike in the Nadal match, Murray rarely served and volleyed — once to be exact.

2. Murray’s serve is still off

Murray needed a good serving performance to keep Federer at bay, and guess what, that deserted him, too. Murray’s combined first-serve percentage was 57. And in the first two sets, he only hit two aces.Then in the tiebreaker, Murray connected on four of 12 first serves.

“I didn’t serve well the first set,” Murray told reporters, adding he thought he did better thereafter. On the other hand, Federer served at 66 percent for the match.

3. Fed has no hard feelings, we think

Federer’s verbal volleys toward Murray on Friday suggested he doesn’t like the 22-year-old all that much, but he at least paid him a bit of respect early. After Murray hit an astounding two-handed backhand down the line, from well out of position, Federer applauded — not something he normally does.

But Murray missed similar shots the entire evening, the kind he made in thrilling fashion against Nadal and Marin Cilic in the semis. Comfortable at the net, his volleys were off. Touch shots, such as drops, also went astray. Murray made 36 unforced errors, high for him (29 in four sets versus Cilic). Nerves.. big occasion..Federer pressure.

4. Murray isn’t discouraged

Barring a fabulous clay-court season, Murray won’t be one of the favorites at the French Open. And playing on grass takes some getting used to, even if he reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2009. So Murray’s only other real shot at a major this season might come at the U.S. Open, where he lost to Federer in the 2008 final.

“I worked really, really hard to try to do it and give myself the opportunity,” Murray said. “So far it hasn’t been good enough. But I’m sure one day it will be. When it comes, maybe because of the two losses, it will be even better.”

5. The umps love Hawk-Eye

Enric Molina, Sunday’s umpire, had a pretty quiet time in the chair, just the way he would have wanted. There was no swearing by Fed this time. But in the first set, Murray asked Molina about a ball that was called long. Molina, in a line often uttered by officials sitting on the fence, said it was “very close.”

Not really. It was astray by some distance, relatively speaking.

And, let’s not forget – anyone with South African connections likes to claim just a teensy-weeny bit of the Fed (his mother is South African).


We’ve been sent some pics taken during Pam’s Marvellous Me!bourne Grand Tour.

Here’s some of the festivities with Jimi and Mary, Mark and Adrian, Sophie and Hannah’s first earrings (pierced) and Jonno enjoying a glass of Penfolds.











[Thanks Jon and Cath]

Just as we were congratulating ourselves that we had survived winter and the daffodil buds were starting to peep out from their hibernation – down came the snow again.

We awoke on Wednesday morning to that calm eerieness which signifies – le neige (the snow). Not a huge dump but enough to bring back the dreaded black ice and make things difficult for walking and driving.

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We had expected a quiet week.

Erica went back to the US on Monday and we had anticipated packing up and cruising through to departure for South Africa.

No, not to be.

We had a suprise – but welcome – visit from Jean-Pierre and Genevieve to do business with their house, a luncheon along with Alma and Charlie and then managed to have the VW Touran serviced in French for the first time. All good, managed.

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[The new pots have been placed in position and now await calmer and warmer weather for contents]

We have had some of our furniture colour washed in Provencal style to fit in with the two houses and have found Roland and Corinne in Bonnieux who do a superb job:

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[Regency furniture from Ronald Scott (remember them?), now a la provencal]

Robi and Daviiiid Duncan took us for lunch to a great little restaurant in the non-descript hamlet of Le Chene. Situated in the old school, the restaurant Le Petit Ecole, seats only 20 and is one of the old classrooms. You sit as school tables and the walls are adorned with old maps showing France’s colonies in Africa over the past 300 years. Fascinating stuff and the food’s good to!

Then a call from Jose, the builder. We had briefed him for a quote to finish off the rear of the pool house with a kitchen, toilet and much needed storage. Other odd jobs were thrown into the quote as well as a wood storage shelter in the car park.

Jose phones. “I need a meeting at 11h00 on Saturday”. He brings Julian as his interpreter. “I’m starting on Monday”, he says. “Jose”, we tell him, “we are leaving on Monday”.

“We start Monday, we send photographs” is the reply we receive. That’s it, building recommences on Monday!

This started a frantic round of salvage and stone processing yards as we had to find and arrange a stone basin, the fittings etc. Deposits are paid and off we go again.

In the midst of this we have waved farewell to Sara, welcomed Sara and Paul’s new home owners Casey and Jen and were invited to lunch with Alma and Charlie at the Cafe Veranda in Menerbes (superb as usual). And, we have been adopted by the village Golden Retriever. We do not know his name or who he belongs to but he now follows us and barks to be let in to the house:

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[Beautiful boy – he only speaks French, though]

Whew! Monday is Marignane Airport, Gatwick, Heathrow and then Cape Town for the month.

Au bientot. Lovonne and Simon xx

                   A TESCO store in Wales has banned customers from doing shopping in their PYJAMAS. Locals regularly pop in wearing night clothes and slippers.


Giving new meaning to the term ‘trakkie daks’, many are young single mums from the surrounding estate, which is notorious for the large number on benefits. Staff have noticed more and more pushing trolleys in PJs after dropping their kids off at school in the morning. Other shoppers have complained that the sight makes them “uncomfortable and embarrassed”.

Mum-of-two Elaine Carmody fell foul of the new dress code yesterday at the branch in St Mellons, Cardiff. She was told to abandon her trolley and escorted out by a guard. Elaine, 24, said: “I’ve got lovely pairs of pyjamas with bears and penguins on them. I’ve worn my best ones today, just so I look tidy. “Loads of people go in wearing jogging bottoms. What’s the difference?”


A notice at the entrance bans nightwear and urges shoppers to dress appropriately to avoid causing offence.

A spokesman for the store said the move was a response to customer feedback. He was not aware of any other branch having similar signs. Many shoppers at the store backed the ban yesterday. But others on the estate were furious and vowed to switch to a rival supermarket. One mum said: “This is pathetic and shows how snobbish some people can be. Do they have any idea how difficult it is to get three kids off to school when you’re a single parent? You haven’t got time to get all dolled up.”

Not for nothing is Tesco the world’s best retailer!

[news source: The Sun]

We’ve just taken delivery of our first Anduze pots – something that Madame has wanted for many years. The collection started with the arrival of the white Anduze pot (interior) which was a birthday present from Jean-Pierre, Genevieve, Robert and Sylvie.

The first Vases’ d ‘Anduze appeared in the sixteenth century. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries these large vases appeared only in the gardens of the French landed gentry. However in the nineteenth century, the wealthy families of the local silk merchants in the Anduze region began planning attractive gardens and adopted the orange tree, which was previously only seen in the royal glasshouses. The orange trees were planted in Anduze vases as the trees would need to be protected from frost in the winter, and brought inside. As a result they quickly became popular throughout the region.

black webjpg 1809 anduze vase[1]

[an Anduze pot circa 1800]

Legend has it that a potter from Anduze in the Cevennes region of southern France was inspired by Italian medici vases which he saw at the fair of Beaucaire. These pots were decorated with garlands, fruit and flowers.

The Anduze Vase has not always had an easy life:- although intended to be brought indoors for the winter, they were often forgotten and left out in the garden. They survived the winter with their elegance intact, but the glaze was often seriously flaked & cracked by the frost. This gave a marvellous patina which is recreated today by the families of those original potters, in the form of the antiqued vase d’Anduze, where the vase is aged to appear hundreds of years old. Alternatively the potters are still making the original drip glazed vase d’Anduze of the seventeenth century, “aux coulers de soleil”.

Off the Touran went to Anduze – pot hunting. We discovered a family business on the outskirts of the town and after the young son (about 30) had waggled his eyelashes at Madame, we had purchased one large pot and one small one.

We tried to establish whether we could fit the larger one into the boot of the Touran – no, too heavy. So, free delivery (if we bought two large ones!) was negotiated.

Great. Delivery date arrived – so did a small Renault complete with owner, his wife, the dog, two large pots and as our order had swelled via the email, three small pots

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[please note the dog]

As the manufacturer and his wife were doing the delivery themselves, and Menerbes is obviously a posh place to come to, they were dressed to the nines.

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[ready for a bit of delivery action]

The small pots have been placed up the front steps of Maison Blanc and the large ones will form part of a spring project – the front area. I hear whispers of cypresses, boxsters, and fountains. No doubt, Gilles will arrive at some time, there will be a hive of activity and photographs will be released.

Until we get the nod, we watch and wait.

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[thanks, Megeve!!]

It’s now secret that the winter of 2009/10 will be remembered long after others as the winter of snow, ice and devastation in Europe.

We’ve discovered that after the initial excitement of the ‘winter wonderland’ and the 100s of pictures you take, the snow closes down normal life, clogs up the roads and when thawing, turns everything into a mass of black ice – not good for walking on, driving on or trying to move over.

The supposedly harmless and photogenic icicle is a case in point. It can sheer away from a roof and become a potentially fatal javelin.

So pretty –

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Till one breaks off –

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Stand under that – or under this :

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Even in Megeve, they warn the pedestrians with signs everywhere –

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[Attention! Icicles above!]

                   No apologies for writing on and on about Megeve. It’s that special.

Les Croix de Megeve

In keeping with the majority Roman Catholicsm in France and its neighbouring countries, Megeve is not unusual for having a multitude of religious symbols.

However one of them is different – the Megeve Cross (Les Croix de Megeve). This cross had its origin in 1750. The village was past of the House of Savoy (more about that later) and consequently, young men had to travel to the Turin (Italy) area to do military service. This was a commitment of seven years.

In most cases, they left loved ones behind with promises of betrothal on their return. After six years of hard military work, the conscripts would return to Megeve on leave.


They would then re-kindle their relationships and on return to Turin, visit the local goldsmith and pay over their savings from the past six years – a cross was ordered : the Megeve Cross.

The picture denotes the cross how it has evolved to-day. In past times amendments were made whereby Christ on the Cross was on one side (in the flat part) and the Virgin Mary on the reverse (a later addition to ward off the march of Protestantism.)

To-day, the embellishments would make the price of the cross prohibitive.

The soldiers then spent their last year of training and returned to the village in the mountains with their Cross and a year’s wages. They presented these to their loved ones who had waited patiently for them, and became married.

The Cross never leaves the family and is passed to the ‘daughter most deserving’. Dominique Joly a descendant of the first jewellers has a manufacturing and retail store in Megeve and is the sole supplier of the Megeve Cross to the local inhabitants – typically in gold or silver and 3cm or 4.5cm high.

The House of Savoy

University of Cape Town students in History 1 and 2 will never have forgotten how we tried to unravel the House of Savoy and its machinations over the centuries.

Suffice to say that it was formed in the early eleventh century in the historic Savoy and High Savoy region (Megeve is in the High Savoy).


Through gradual expansion the House of Savoy grew from a small county in the region of northern Italy and France to ruling the whole of the Kingdom of Italy and what we know to-day as Switzerland.

Historians argue that when the House of Savoy was abolished in 1946 in the aftermath of Italian fascism, it was the longest surviving royal house in the world.

The House of Savoy had many reiterations with the most famous being that of Victor Emmanuel 111. The residences of the House in Turin and neighbouring sites are protected by World Heritage status. Family members still insist in using the titles of Count, King etc.

Currently, the leadership is contested by two cousins – Victor Emmanual (claims the title King of Italy) and Duke Amadeo (claims Duke of Savoy). In May 2004, their rivalries overflowed and during a dinner hosted by King Juan Carlos of Spain, Victor punched Amadeo twice in the face!

The House of Savoy still lays claim to their privileges even though the Italian and French governments totally ignore their claims. Victor Emmanuel’s son, Emanuele Filiberto works as a hedge-fund manager in Geneva.


[Palazzo Carginano – one of nine palaces in the Turin region. Now under control of the Italian state]

When the Rothschild family decided in 1910 that their usual ski haunt of St Moritz was becoming too commercialised and boring, they searched for a new spot. A spot they wished to make ‘the finest ski resort in the world’.

They settled on Megeve.

Situated in the Haut-Savoie department in the Rhone-Alps region of south-eastern France it borders on Switzerland (Geneva is 60 min away) and is close to Italy.

In 1921 Baron Noeme de Rothschild opened an important hotel in the village and this saw an influx of celebrities into the area.

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[a young Brigitte Bardot enjoying the night life – she still visits from her home in St Tropez]

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The Hotel Mont Blanc. Note the Bentley motor car on the right. Legend has it that wealthy Italians from Turin and Milan drive small cars in their own country and keep their Bentleys, Maseratis etc in Megeve where the taxman cannot see them.

This hotel has the famous restaurant ‘Les Enfants Terribles’ – the other branch is on the Champs Elyss in Paris.

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[view from Jean-Pierre and Genevieve’s lounge and kitchen – another major hotel is up on the right hand side of the picture]



The wealthy Europeans know how to play – and play they do. Various events are held over the snow season (December-April) : Snow polo; snow golf; World Junior ski championships; World Curling championships – the list goes on and on. During the summer, the village gives itself over to golfers and mountain hiking.

Megeve is brim full of exclusive and non-chain boutiques (other branches in St Tropez), restaurants, night clubs, jazz clubs, and casual bars where you can lean against the counter and sip your apres-ski hot wine watching the passing parade.

Many locals travel to their chalets in horse drawn carriages or merely skim across the freshly groomed ski channels on each road.

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[a stream runs through part of the village with many quaint stone bridges]

In all there are 3,000 registered inhabitants with numbers swelling to 8,000 during the snow season. There are 445km of ski slopes with over 10 lifts and 10 aerial tramways. In addition, the Mont Blanc ‘domaine’ nearby has a further 95km of cross-country skiing.

Megeve was also featured in the 1969 film Downhill Racer, starring Robert Redford and Gene Hackman. Sacha Distal, a famous French entertainer was long regarded as the ‘king’ of Megeve, hanging out with his wife Francine and other luminaries such as Jean-Paul Belmondo, Yves Montand and Johnny Hallyday.

On promenade with Dick:

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Baron Rothschild – you got it right!

                         For years, spooked by the spectre of Napster and what file sharing did to the music industry, book publishers have sat on their hands rather than develop models for digital delivery. The lack of a viable platform hasn’t helped much either. But now the success of Amazon’s Kindle and the looming possibility of a tablet computer from Apple — likely to be a “game-changer” if the iPod is anything to go by — not to mention demand from readers, has begun to force their hands.

In fact, it’s speculated that iSlate (favoured name) will be launched as soon as Wednesday 27th February by Apple. Available in spring ’10 in he USA and the rest of the world by September ’10.


[a suggestion of what the iSlate could look like]

There’s little doubt that 2010 will be the year of the e-book. Make what you will of Amazon’s e-book sales figures (rumours say they give away copies faster than an ailing broadsheet), but it’s clear that the Kindle has broken the e-book into public consciousness. E-book readers are among the most downloaded apps for iPhones.

Google Books’ digitisation-of-everything project has also put the wind up the entire sector. And the popularity of free file-sharing sites featuring pirated current bestsellers has put paid to publisher’s fond hopes that they could hold out for a tightly enforceable digital rights model before entering the digital fray.

Let’s also not forget that Variable Data Printing (colloquially called Print on Demand) is here and gobbling market share over conventional printing techniques.

When Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol was published last year Amazon reportedly sold more copies in its Kindle version than hardback copies. Within 24 hours free versions had appeared online on sites such as Pirate Bay, Rapidshare and BitTorrent and within days over 100,000 pirated copies of the book had been downloaded.

Smart punters have known for some time that new media doesn’t simply replace old. Nothing just “dies”. And the same will be true of the traditional codex book. Radio was supposed to kill the book. So was television. The internet wasn’t meant to help much either. For all the hype about “new media” the world-wide book publishing industry and book sales have grown steadily in recent years.

If publishers are smart and can scramble together a decent model, they’ll be able to get both forms of media working side by side much as cinema screenings and DVDs do now, using the strengths of each to exploit various niches and to appeal to different users and use contexts.

Some genres, such as novels and anything instructional are perfect for digital delivery. Where tactility is paramount — lavishly illustrated large-format books for example — print will remain king. E-Books will suit highly mobile people in a hurry; print will suit those for whom the processes of book-hunting and reading are necessary ritual.

Disruptive technologies have a way of blindsiding established players in a major media industry. That’s what iTunes did to the music industry and the net is doing to newspapers. Big players with the most to lose are often the slowest to move. But right now publishers have no choice.

What about the magazine publishers? Anyone willing to take a punt?

[original source material – thanks to Crikey]

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