Many student activists from the 1970s will mourn the passing of one of South Africa’s great political brains – Frederik van Zyl Slabbert.

A giant of a man (he was a more than average Western Province and Stellenbosch no8) VZ coached and advised many UCT and other students in handling their opposition to the government of the day. He did this quietly and with immense compassion – many meetings were held in the Golden Spur in Newlands in one of the darkened booths.

When some of our colleagues were banned for a period of time (Clive Keegan etc), he helped us to understand the laws – and their loopholes. After all, the Pig ‘n Whistle Sunday social team needed Paul Pretorius on the flank.

Times Media reports that tributes have been flowing in for VZ:“A mobile political library”, “a living embodiment of active citizenship” and a “person who left South Africa better than what it was” — these were some of the tributes to former politician, businessman and academic Frederik van Zyl Slabbert who died in Johannesburg on Friday.

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[Dr Frederik van Zyl Slabbert – RIP]

The Aussie media is full of the trials and tribulations of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s sudden dip in popularity and the steady advance to the top job by Julia Gillard.

Disaffected voters may wish to drift off to the newly formed Australian S-x party which premiered at the recent Adelaide S-xpo.

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           A rare visit to Aix-en-Provence highlighted the week.

The city is buzzing with students and quite a few tourists and is preparing for the main season with a number of exhibitions – mainly centred around Aix’s most famous cultural citizen, Cezanne.

We tried to get to see his studio which was once high up in the hills – it is now surrounded by run down and sinister apartment blocks dressed in dirty washing and cloaked by threatening youths.

A sign next to one of the buildings says it all – (in English too!) “If you park here, your car will be cut up”.

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[Paul Cezanne’s famous still life. Tragically for Aix-en-Provence, his paintings are scattered in museums and galleries throughout the globe. The local museums can only show three or four of his works at a time]

A new feature in Aix is the arrival of the eco-friendly bicycle system which is now a feature in most major French cities. The system is simple – you pop a Euro into the slot and take a bike. You ride it – if the hills are too steep, you click over to ‘electro’ – and then place it back in a slot near to or at your destination. The bike is then re-charged and waits for a new hirer.

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[The Aix cathedral towering above the maze of checkered streets’ next to the Musee Granee]

The South of France is descending into holiday mode with many public holidays in May, the Cannes festival and the Monaco Grand Prix down the road.

We had been told that all the various boutiques in Louramin were now open for the summer. Off we went, radar on full alert. We found this season’s ‘must have’ – an Ecuadorian coloured panama hat.

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And that’s not all. Other more frivolous hats to attract the buyer:

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To complement the hats, macaroons of all flavours and persuasions have been discovered at the new shop Verosan in Coustellet. There are the more traditional sugared versions such as chocolate, fruit, caramel, nuts etc but also a savoury selection – cheese, tapenade, tomato and all kinds of herby flavours.

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[The bright green ones are the top left are ‘parsley and snail’ flavoured macaroons!]

Talking about Coustellet, the farmers’ market is in full swing even if Sunday’s event was marred by the powerful mistral wind that we are currently experiencing.

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[A large consignment of garlic fresh from the farm]

Traditional too at this time of the year is a spurt of Vide Grenier (Flea Markets) and posters advertising them are scattered about. One of our local caves, Lumieres, had one on Saturday and also threw open their cellars for an open house. You could even peer into one of the old tanks, if you were so inclined!

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Au bientot: Lovonne and Simon xx

Another classic from the Northern Territory News. Compulsive reading, wherever you are.

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With the winter weather clearing (hopefully) and after the dreaded Mistral has subsided, we are noticing more and more visitors flocking into Provence.

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[The Provence Flag ]

Each year we see the same mistakes – here are some tips which will hopefully be useful for your holiday:

1. Pack light! Provence is casual, very casual. Most eating, entertaining is done at lunchtime. While the restaurants all provide an evening meal, they often crank their prices up and the locals prefer to stay at home (or at the pool). One ‘slightly’ smart outfit is all you need.

2. Pack light! All the airlines are draconian in their insistence of a 23kg bag limit. Many though offer the facility to pay extra. Pack a limited amount of clothes – you WILL be shopping! The Provencal markets, boutiques and small shops offer fabulous value and are right on trend.

3. High heels and an impersonation of Imelda Marcos is an absolute no-no! Many of the village roads are cobbles, all are up hill and down dale – you do many kilometres of walking. Comfortable, walking shoes. Leave the stilettos at home.

4. The Colossimo! This is the salvation for many shoppers. La Poste offers this package – 7kg at approximately 21euro all up for the package, freight (door to door) to your home. Mark it as a ‘gift’ on the customs form and chances are you won’t have to pay duty when it reaches home.

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5. Hire a Car! While France has one of the best rail and air networks in the world, Provence is essentially a country area and you will have to travel from village to village by private transport. Now, we all know that within the body of every Frenchman beats the heart of a Formula 1 driver but the road system is excellent and road signs good. It’s also ‘sympathetic’ to your hosts if you’re staying with someone as they then don’t have to take you to the Abbeys etc for the umpteenth time!

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[It’s not just the clothing and nick-nacks – it’s also the food!]

We would welcome more tips – we’ll publish them!

To-day is Ascension Day – a day recognised in France and many other countries with the same reverence accorded to Christmas, but without the commercial trimmings.

As it falls on a Thursday, many small shops are closed and will remain so to-morrow and for the weekend. Ascension Day falls 39 days after Easter Sunday and commemorates Jesus ascending into heaven.

Religious symbolism moves beyond the Church with people of all persuasions using this time to pay homage to the olive tree. Many French people plant an olive tree during this time to symbolise the happiness of this time. Interestingly, we filled up our olive oil container at the olive farm yesterday and had to have to obligatory tasting to choose ‘between the November or December pressing’. Spoons are handed out by the farmer – to the men first as it is the men who work in the olive groves and therefore earn the right to taste first!

In England, eggs laid on Ascension Day are said to never go bad and will guarantee good luck for a household if placed in the roof. In Devon, it was an ancient belief that the clouds always formed into the familiar Christian image of a lamb on Ascension Day. If the weather is sunny on Ascension Day, the summer will be long and hot. If it rains on the day, crops will do badly and livestock will suffer from disease. According to Welsh superstition, it is unlucky to do any work on Ascension Day.

In Portugal, Ascension Day is associated with wishes for peace and prosperity. Traditionally, in rural communities, people make bouquets from olive branches and sheaves of wheat with poppies and daisies. The olive and wheat are symbolic of abundant harvest; the poppy stands for peace and the daisy for money. Wheat is kept in the house throughout the coming year as a symbol of prosperity.

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[Preparing the soil in Montpellier – Jean-Pierre and Genevieve are commemorating Ascension Day with the planting of a new olive tree]

THE MOUNT OF OLIVES

Undoubtedly, the most famous locality embodying the name of the olive is the Mount of Olives. Jesus frequently retreated there amongst its cool and shady trees, and even stayed there immediately before the Passover (Luke 21:37). Today the traditional site of the garden of Gethsemane is full of ancient olive trees, and it is easy to imagine it as the place of the oil press, to which the fruit was brought from the trees growing around about on the hillside.

The Mount of Olives is 830m (2794 ft) high and is widely thought to have been the place of the ascension of Jesus. We read that the disciples returned to Jerusalem immediately after the ascension `from the mount called Olivet’ (Acts 1:2).

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[Here it comes]

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[Into position it goes]

This what it’s all about. Forget the negativity and ruminations about crime, security, infrastructure, ‘will they pull it off, won’t they’ – the FIFA 2010 World Cup is all about Africa’s hopes, dreams and the future.

Capturing this dream is a massive challenge but Andrew Verster-Cohen and Frederic Benistant have done this with a pictorial essay which clearly stands out from the crowd.

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Entitled “African Goal”, there’s precious little in the way of copy. It’s all visual and Verster-Cohen’s photographs are evocative and brilliant. Benistant’s creative direction is innovative and, well, creative.

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Passion is the thread that runs through the book. Passion for the ‘world game’, passion for their country(ies), passion for winning, passion for the unbridled joy of scoring goals and passion from people breaking away from the yoke of colonialism and striving to better themselves.

Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew the pioneering African soccer legend who played for L’Olympique Marseille and Ghana sums it up on the back cover: “This book captures the continent’s love affair for football, a sport which means a great deal to Africans.”

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The credits state clearly: “Photographed in Africa; Designed in Africa; Printed in Africa”. Africa, don’t apologise – you have the talent, you have the passion. Now,show the rest of the world!

African Goal by Andrew Verster-Cohen and Frederic Benistant is available at good bookshops. A website www.africangoal.com will be available soon for more information. If all else fails, go to www.verstercohen

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The Wall Street Journal reports this morning:

“Creating a magazine from start to finish in two days sounds like an insane, nearly impossible task. But that’s what a group of writers and editors did this weekend to produce the first issue of the appropriately named 48 Hours Magazine — an experimental project that aimed to use the Internet to shake up the way a print magazine is made.”

48 Hour Magazine
The concept behind 48 Hours was relatively simple: Most magazines traditionally take weeks to produce. But with the Web and things like digital photos, editors could put out a call for photos and articles with a 24-hour deadline and then spend another 24 hours editing and laying out the magazine.

The creation of the magazine is part of a trend called “crowd sourcing” — in which tasks that have traditionally been done by a small group are instead posted to a large forum, with the best ideas and products from the overall group winning the day. It’s a technique best known for the creation of online reference site Wikipedia.

The staff of 48 Hours put out their call on Friday afternoon to about 5,000 people who had heard about the project and signed up to receive an email. The magazine’s editors expected about 500 submissions but ended up with about 1,500, said Mathew Honan, a contributing editor at Wired Magazine and one of the core editors on the project.

Mr. Honan, who apologized repeatedly for being “a little incoherent,” said he had gotten about three hours of sleep over the weekend and that 30 to 40 editors, fact checkers and others had worked in the offices of Mother Jones magazine in San Francisco to produce the issue.

“I’m sure there will be typos and things like that, that wouldn’t be in a magazine that you have a month to produce, but I hope that’s kind of part of the fun and is charming,” Mr. Honan said. “Maybe not.”

The magazine was sent to the printers on Sunday. Proofs of the 60-page edition will be back to the editors in about a week, Mr. Honan said, and the magazine will be shipped after that. A Web version is set to go up sometime in the next few days, he added.

There aren’t any subscribers because the magazine will be sold through a print-on-demand service called MagCloud, in another break from the traditional magazine model. The magazine has four full-page ads, and with advertising and purchases expects to make enough to pay some of the staff and have money to invest in the next issue.

Mr. Honan said the editors plan to produce another edition of 48 Hours and that he thought the project showed that old media could move more quickly and could take advantage of the crowd-sourcing concept. “If you give people an outlet to do something interesting and cool they’ll kind of flock to it,” he said.

News source – reproduced from the Wall Street Journal

We’re back in touring mode. Judy is here and voraciously consuming every guide book she can lay her hands on. Unfortunately, the weather has not really played its part but we’ve managed to criss-cross the valley and surrounds trying to show her the many sights, sounds and smells of our environment.

Apart from the ‘usual’ St Remy-de-Provence, L’Isle sur l’Sorgue she has been able to experience a tour of the Abbaye Senanque, Gordes and feast on some local delicacies : so far.

Thursday was a BIG day. Jean-Pierre and Genevieve arrived from Montpellier to celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary. Some local river pigeons (the ‘greve’) had arrived in our deep freeze a few weeks back and Genevieve took charge of the preparation and cooking.

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[Freshly de-frosted, ready for plucking]

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[JP and G laboriously de-feathering the birds. “After this, we drink champagne”]

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[The last remaining feathers are burnt off on the stove with the gas turned up high]

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[A sauce of lardons, onions, Nomu spices and a few ‘secret herbs and spices’ had been prepared and then a liberal dose of Johnnie Walker Black label poured in the for the ‘flambe’]

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[The prepared meal. 8 of the 9 guests pronounced the meal ‘delicious’ – the other was not brave enough to tackle the repast]

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[Main course was cote de boeuf, bean and corn salad, watermelon salad and a large potato bake. The guests had decreed ‘no gas’ for the cooking and Genevieve pronounced herself ‘barbeque extraordinaire’, taking over the cooking from your truly]

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[Typical Aussie angle for the dessert – pavlova]

On Friday we tackled the autoroute and sped off to Cassis to show Judy the ‘calanques’ (creeks). Lunchtime can often be a problem in the many touristy villages that line the Cote d’Azur with overpriced, undercooked meals tossed on to the tables of eager tourists.

We had been pointed in the direction of Le Vieux Auberge on the right hand side of the harbour and it was a good bet. Not ‘cheap and cheerful’ but food of good quality and good service. Fare is mainly sea food and was well cooked and tasty.

After lunch we took to the boats for the obligatory tour of the calanques. The 3-calanque tour is a good option (you can do 5 or 8) but in those three, you see the gay, nudist and ‘family’ calanques – cover most bases, I suppose.

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[Little nippers being taught how to sail – on the way out to the viewing areas]

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[Close to the shoreline is a disused quarry – these are the loading docks for the stone]

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[A typical calanque with the cliffs towering above you]

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[Judy riding the waves at the stern of the boat]

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[Picture postcard view of the side of the Cassis village as we arrive back in the harbour]

Friday also saw the first international broadcast of 2Oceansvibe radio from the diningroom of Maison Olive. Mother dearest took the pic and watched adoringly from the other side of the control desk.

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[Product placement to be expected]

Saturday evening was Apero-Jazz in the Maison de la Truffe. (Truffle Museum). A number of guests returned to Bastide les Amis after the event – a great time was had by all.

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[What would a trip to Provence be without the shopping? Judy and Madame returning to the car on Sunday.]

Au bientot : Lovonne and Simon xx

The graphic reproduced below comes for the ‘David Letterman show’ in the US.

Letterman weighed in to BP for the Florida spill. Sorry BP but you can’t spin this one.

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