What in the earth has happened to British/English villages? They’re ghost towns. Shops are boarded up, the average age of the population is old, the general condition is tumbling down, dirty and generally sloppy.

The second half of our little British Break was spent driving through various Cotswolds villages looking at properties (not for us!) and generally touring the sights and sounds of our heritage.

The only savings grace was the many pot plants and hanging baskets which papered over the cracks.

Very sad. While we understand that England is in an age of austerity, this has not happened overnight. Decay is gradual.

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[The above two pics were shot in Wootton. Character but quiet to the point of ghostly!]

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[A fun discovery in Stroud was seeing South African Nomu spices in a deli window.]

Unfortunately, Stroud which had great memories for us, was a major disappointment. From a really rickety railway station to filthy streets to daggy looking people, we couldn’t wait to drive on back into the countryside.

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[Lovely Victorian Jubilee clock]

It was great to be back in Yattendon and comfort! Peeping out of the upstairs flat window we say a double rainbow – quite unusual.

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The technical definition of a Double rainbow means a double reflection of the sun’s rays inside the rain drops which refract the rays just like a prism apart from reflecting them once(single rainbow) or twice(double rainbow).
A deeper meaning garnered from Yahoo is: one represents a soul leaving as one enters this reality simultaneously, which is supposed to be very rare event. Another old saying is that when sunlight is coming with the rain still falling that the devils beating his wife.- it’s an ‘old deep south’ saying. Take your pick!

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On the Saturday we went in search of ‘action’. And, found it in Windsor. At last, crowds of people all enjoying themselves. Naturally, the Castle is a magnet but the shops were busy, the restaurants brimming and everyone generally having a happy time. Language? Hardly a word of English anywhere!

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One of our favourite walks in Windsor is over the Eton bridge into the tiny village of Eton, famous, naturally, for its post school. Here’s a peek into a closed mews area off the Eton High Street. Money!

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It seems that one of the ways the young lads impress the local ladies, is to jump off the Eton bridge into the Thames river below. We witnessed such a parade:

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[After the first jump, another dare perhaps?]

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[Yep, here we go again!]

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[Eton buildings]

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[A Windsor street scene – worthy of www.popyacollar.com?]

Back in Yattendon we had sundowners in the garden then bade farewell to the UK with the cows razing contentedly.

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Next stop Heathrow! Terminal 5.

Lovonne and Simon xx

South Africa’s first internet streaming radio station – 2Oceansvibe Radio – launched last night in Cape Town.

The brainchild of 2Oceansvibe founder Seth Rotherham and leading DJ Richard Hardiman 2Oceansvibe Radio will be broadcasting from brand new studios in the prestigious Cape Quarter development in Green Point.

Over 350 of Cape Town’s coolest attended the party with guest performances by Ice Cream and the Cocstix, Jack Parow and the talented cellist Carol Thorns.

The Cape Quarter rocked till well into the night and the general consensus was that the radio station would fill a void created by the formatted commercial radio stations.

Initially, 2Oceansvibe Radio will be broadcasting in the mornings from 8am with the Richard Hardiman Show but plans are well developed to extend this through the daylight hours with podcasts of the programmes repeated at night.

“We are being inundated by some major entertainment and sports name with ideas for shows’, said Programme Director Hardiman, ‘ and we hope to announce further additions to our schedule shortly.’

The station carries limited advertisements and has been well sponsored by some major brands keen to jump on to the streaming bandwagon early on.

‘With South Africa’s ever-increasing internet capacity, we are happy to be the local pioneers in what has become a radio revolution overseas,’ Hardiman added. ‘Listeners can log on via their PCs, mobile phones or with a special attachment in their car radios’.

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Seen at the launch –

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[Seth Rotherham (left) and Richard Hardiman (right) behind the new desk]

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[The 2Oceansvibe Radio studio in the Cape Quarter shopping development]

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[Lovonne and Sam Walker]

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[Jack Parow with a fan – Marie!]

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[Seth and Julia Raphaely]

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[Warren (left) and Raymond Godfrey (right) with the Bellini girls. Bellini, an Italian legend, will be launching in South Africa with initial distribution through Pick ‘n Pay and selected ‘hotspot’ bars and restaurants.]

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[Seth with some of the legion of admirers who queued up for photographs]

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[Marie; Sam and Lovonne]

To listen to the station, click on www.2Oceansvibe.com and then click on ‘listen live’. There are various prompts depending on your PC/phone set up but once done, you’ll be able to log on easily. For the car, get help!

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Patrick and Carmen’s granddaughter (our tobacconist and newsagent in Menerbes). Seen at the Coustellet market.

In the age when all we seem to read and write about is the imminent demise of the newspaper, this mornings NY Times reports on a heart-warming tale from France:

Mon Quotien (My Daily)

When Elisa Cammarota gets home from school, she tosses off her knapsack and reads her newspaper from front to back. Anthony Azoulay does, too, though he focuses on articles about soccer and large photo spreads. Both Elisa and Anthony are 10 years old and entering the fifth grade in the fall. And both are regular subscribers to one of the most popular daily newspapers in France.

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On a recent morning, the two children sat at a large rectangular table with several of the newspaper’s editors. The paper, Mon Quotidien, or My Daily, invites several of its readers twice weekly to help edit the paper, except for the front page, choosing stories that will be featured in its seven other pages.

The national editor, Caroline Hallé, was proposing an article about a school in Britain that had bought hawks and falcons to drive off a plague of seagulls that were dirtying the premises.

Alternatively, she proposed news of how divers had recently found bottles of French Champagne that King Louis XVI had sent to the czar of Russia, but had gone down when the ship transporting them sank in the Baltic Sea. “How did Louis XVI end?” asked Olivier Gasselin, 40, the paper’s deputy editor. “Guillotine,” Elisa shot back, without raising her eyes from the notes she was making.

“We propose, they choose,” said Ms. Hallé, 34, who joined the paper nine years ago after working at an Internet news site.

In an age when many children are addicted to computers, iPods and iPads — and when newspapers are feeling the pressure — Mon Quotidien appears to be an anomaly, all the more so in the journalistic climate of France.

Despite great journalistic names like Le Monde and Le Figaro, the French read ever fewer newspapers. On a per capita basis, only about half as many papers are sold here as in Germany or Britain, and readership is especially low among the young. Only 10 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds read a paid-for newspaper in 2007, the last time the government took a survey, down from 20 percent a decade earlier.

In fact, so concerned was the French government with the decline in newspaper readership that it detailed plans last year for a program called Mon Journal Offert, or My Complimentary Paper, to offer 18- to 24-year-olds a free yearlong subscription to a newspaper of their choice. Though the program quickly reached the 200,000-reader limit the government had foreseen, there was little sign that readers continued their subscriptions once they had to pay.

The papers, which appear every day but Sunday, are lively and colorful mixes of news, photos, cartoons and quizzes. A recent issue of Mon Quotidien featured a front-page photo of Paul the Octopus, which successfully picked the winners of 2010 World Cup soccer games. Another featured a tiny new car at the Berlin auto show that folds up for easy storage in tight spaces.

[news source – NY Times]

Australia IS having an election in August – we have it on good authority.

Here’s a selection of this morning’s front pages – from the tabloids of course.

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Looks like we’ve gone from heavy Rudd-spin to no spin at all!

                                       We can’t turn our backs on Provence after such an amazing Spring and Summer of 2010 without a look back at some pictures of memories, places, smells, sounds and senses………..

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[the field of lupins, or was it ???]

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[the amazing lavender season]

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[our garden – really coming into its own]

And then let’s not forget the characters in the markets and the piles and piles of nature’s bounty that we are so blessed to taste and smell….

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[our ‘new’ 300 year old olive tree]

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[experiencing and learning about French traditions from crowns on cakes to lucky charms to lily of the valley for Friends’ Day]

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[finding our way around the new baggage restrictions – trust a Schneeb to show the way!]

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[let’s not forget that little matter of the world Cup!]

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[the de Chevaux – about which a book will be written one day!]

Signing off would not be complete without a mention of the wonderful friends and family who have blessed us with your presence. We’ve had special times…… we can’t publish pictures of you all but this doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate your visits and friendship.

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to: Rachel and Dave; Judy; Charles and Janet; George and Julie; Ray and Sandra; Chris; Dennis; Francis and Veronika; Jannie, Cath and Jonno plus HJ and Sno-P, and of course Sam and Will, Richard and Emma! Naturally no thanks would be complete without mentions of the Le Renard trio (Vicks, Daviiid, Robi and the much decorated Max and Blitz), and the Montpellier mob (Jean-Pierre, Genevieve, Robert and Sylvie). Let’s also not forget our intrepid, loyal and so happy partners in construction and maintenance: Jose and Nicola; Manu; Gilles and Julien along with Veronique and her team.

Merci bien!

Don’t you just love the new baggage restrictions on the airlines?

Madame did some research – can’t we take ‘just one more bag on EasyJet to London as BA will be fine with that’? Yes, of course you can says the EasyJet website – as long as it’s 20kg and you pay a tidy 300 euro!!

So, off we go. Kindly driven to Marigane by Daviiid with two 20kg suitcases and two extremely heavy wheelie cases. Bliss.

No problem with EasyJet. Problem with plane arrival and takeoff but we eventually left after 4 hours! Gatwick was a piece of cake until our Avis car decided that it had a maximum cruising distance of 10km. Then it needed a rest.

Suffice to say, we made Heathrow as an emergency stop and then had a car-swap to Yattendon, near Pangbourne in Berkshire.

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The Yattendon Estate is the amalgamation of several smaller estates acquired by the first Lord Iliffe between 1925 and 1940. In 1955, Yattendon Estate was formed to hold the land and run the in-hand farms. Yattendon Farms was amalgamated with the Estates company in 1975 and on 1st January 2003, the entire business became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yattendon Investment Trust.

Yattendon Court is the original manor house and has now been converted into spacious apartments. The Schneebs kindly allowed us access for a few days.

Our first day was a typical English summer’s day – as you can see from a horse we snapped in a local paddock –

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[Pouring rain].

What do you do when you see driving rain and you’ve had some wonderful French food for the past few months and are feeling a trifle peckish and in need of good old grub? You visit The Old Boot in the delightful village of Stanford Dingley!. A 16th century inn, it now calls itself a ‘gastropub’.

How can one stray from the signature burger with cheese and bacon?

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Let’s not forget the chips on the side – these are NOT frites!

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Madame acquiesced to the local fare – bangers and mash. The sprig of thyme puts the ‘gastro’ into ‘pub’.

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We spend the next few days catching up on retail and admiring the summer blossoms in the villages in and around Yattendon village. Villages such as Pangbourne, Goring, Hermitage and Bradfield.

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[The River Thames meanders through Goring]

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Quite a relief from the scorching heat of Provence. However, although mid-summer, the villages were quiet, the traffic virtually non-existent.

Are the English villages going backwards, we ask? For another day!

Au bientot: Lovonne and Simon xx

We wonder at the behaviour of John Terry, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba during the World Cup and in their private lives.

But what about the example set by their boss, Chelsea owner Roman Abromavich? Here’s an example of HIS spending…….

In the company of Dasha Zhukova and his son Arkadi and three business partners , the Chelsea man stopped over for lunch at restaurant “Nello’s” in New York.

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It was obvious from the start that the high quality and type of food would take priority over cost said restaurant owner Nello Balan. Mr Abramovich began his diner with carpaccio with white truffles followed by Milan lamb with pasta and parmesan. For desert Mr Abramovich tried delicious teramisu. They were drinking champagne and expensive wines. They looked no different than New York tourists said the waiter.

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Bet the waiter enjoyed the $7,328 tip!

[Thanks John W]

The sun beats down mercilessly and one of the quirks of Provence is that peak sunshine temperature is only at 17h00 so just when you think it is cooling down, the ice carries on melting.

The last week prior to our encampment to Camps Bay was spent packing, preparing, trimming and generally getting things in order.

Well, that was the plan!

The last week was a blur of – looking after the Fox-Duncan’s dogs as they made a second sortie up the autoroute to Switzerland; a snap visit by George and Julie en route from Melbourne to the UK; a few lunches (why not?); some marvelling at the lavender and the appearance of he sunflowers and…….

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Madame was cutting some salad on the chopping board and – bzzzz – a hornet bite! Evoking memories of a violin spider incident some years back which necessitated a week in the Monash Hospital in Melbourne, we visited our new Menerbes doctor with trepidation but a few antibiotics and a jab later, all was well.

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[The medieval wash-house in Menerbes has been refurbished and the water is running again! Each village had a wash house and was a great meeting/gossip place. Another bonus for the onset of the season has been the general upgrading and fixing of snow damage on the village roads and garden tidying up.]

Our final lunch at the Verandah was highlighted by Chef Graca preparing a gambas salad ‘par excellence:

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Walking the dogs we marvelled at the lavender fields – this year seems to be so much better than last. Harvesting has commenced and we wait for the prognosis as to the level of the harvest.

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Then, on Wednesday, the TGV deposited George and Julie Meiliunas on to the Avignon platform for a whirlwind 48 hour visit. We sped around the valley and had a great lunch at Cuceron mainly to see some sunflowers and for them to experience ‘le grand bassin’ – and Patrick’s food. of course!

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[George and Julie shelter from the heat with a welcome glass of rose. Lunch was a fabulous avocado, melange of roasted pine nuts and melon salad followed by roast salmon laced with a spicy tomato and basil sauce accompanied by pumpkin and roasted potatoes.]

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[The Salmon etc!]

Then on to the sunflowers – bashing through the fields the Touran managed to get us close enough for a pic:

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And, then the farewells. We joined the Fox-Duncans on their flag waving finale first a dinner with Pierre and Sylvie and then a lunch a La Bergerie with Lars and Anne from Sweden.

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[Lunching at 38 degrees at La Bergerie]

The final Sunday arrived. Coustellet market in scorching conditions. Even the local children huddled in the little bit of shade to listen to the music.

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Then, to sign off Provence in summer and leave it to the lobster coloured, bare chested tourists, some local colour:

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July 4th was celebrated rather calmly in Menerbes – the US flag was flown!

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[We had been noticing how many farmers had been planting fennel. The markets were groaning with the herb. Some serving suggestions are – Healthy sautéed fennel and onions make a wonderful side dish. Combine sliced fennel with avocados, and oranges for a delightful salad. Braised fennel is a wonderful complement to scallops. Next time you are looking for a new way to adorn your sandwiches, consider adding sliced fennel in addition to the traditional toppings of lettuce and tomato.Top thinly sliced fennel with plain yogurt and mint leaves. Fennel is a match made in Heaven when served with salmon.

Perhaps, though the reason why the French are so fond of it (and so are the Italians apparently) is that it is the base for absinthe.]

As we left our driveway, a last peep at the blue hibiscus –

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Sigh. Our travels take us to the UK for a few days and the on to another Cape Odyssey.

Au bientot Provence – Lovonne and Simon xx

The much vaunted paywall experiment by Mr Murdoch seems to have hit the proverbial wall! Newser reports as follows:

“What has putting up a paywall done for the folks at the Times? Driven away most of their readers, predictably. Only 150,000 signed up for “Times+” accounts, and only 15,000 of them actually agreed to pay when their free trial ran out, according to an unconfirmed report on Beehive City, written by former Times media correspondent Dan Sabbagh. “This figure, apparently, is considered disappointing,” he writes.

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And with good reason. Based on those figures only 12% of the Times pre-paywall readership was even willing to sign up for the free trial, according to PaidContent, and only 10% of that group actually decided to pay, meaning a slim 1.2% of original readers have agreed to pony up. Even during the free month, visits fell 58%; they were down by 67% once the paywall went up—which might actually be better-than-expected. It also has 12,500 iPad customers, which is a pretty nice number given the relatively low number of iPad owners.

Read more: http://www.newser.com/story/95915/paywall-drives-off-988-of-times-readers.html#ixzz0uChRj6QP

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