A very Happy Christmas to everyone – from us both and LSW xx

A gloomy but cheerful night in Lumieres

Long ago when men were men, ladies were ladies and journalists were real wordsmiths, Normal Canale was at his peak.

In a career spanning five decades, Canale was a pioneer tabloid journo. Expert in rugby and boxing (he called it the ‘sweet science’), in particular, Norman Canale sold newspapers. Canale lived with the characters, he ate and breathed them. He drank with them.

‘Snakes in the Garden of Eden’, Canale’s autobiography just published by Don Nelson in Cape Town is a glorious read. The first half of the book chronicles his colourful life, his many wives, friends and – predictably, enemies.

We read about the legendary Cape Times Sports Editor, Dick Stent mocking up the back page on the Cafe Royal bar counter along with a gin and tonic. The iconic Sunday Times editor Joel Mervis comes back to life in the pages.

The second half of the book presents a few of Canale’s great articles. The one on Springbok prop Boy Louw is a gem.

Co-founder of the South African Sports Illustrated magazine, reporter on the Cape Times, Sunday Times, Sunday Express, Rand Daily Mail and more, Canale live life to the full.

As a young cadet, I asked then Cape Times Managing Editor Chris Greyvenstein why he only drank lime juice and soda at the Cafe Royal. “I used to drink with Norman Canale” was his answer! Enough said.

Get this book and read it. It’s available at leading South African bookshops and through the publishers, Don Nelson.

Footnote: One sour note. In the article on Rod Laver, the Rocket is listed as an American. Norman – you should know: Melbourne Sports Park’s main arena is called Rod Laver Arena for a reason – he’s an Aussie!

This review originally appeared on www.2oceansvibe.com and Norman has pointed out that he was referring to Don Budge and that he would not make such a mistake. I doff my non-existant cap, Norm : ACP taught me journo English!

The dolls house is alight with lights – we promised you stacks of these!

We’re trying to get some information abut Hand Baggage requirements from flybe.com – a budget airline operating Europe.

The call centre is ‘too busy’ to take calls because of the weather: understood.

I wrote to the ‘Customer Service’ email ‘hotline’ : I got this request back

Dear Sir/Madam

Thank you for your email.

We would like to assure you that your comments have been forwarded to a member of the Customer Relations Team and you will receive a response in due course however, this will take up to 5-6 weeks.

We would like to assure you however, that your correspondence has been forwarded to all Management concerned for their information.

We thank you for your patience during this time.

Yours sincerely

Customer Relations Admin

It doesn’t augur well for the flight…… did someone say ‘Broken Britain’.

With the winter weather really on us now, we found some tips and hints for coping with the snow and ice when navigating the roads:

It looks mighty glamorous but it's not!

The Car:

1. Wipe some vaseline on the rubber round the doors and boot. This stops the rubber from icing up and tearing away when you open the door. If you can’t get vaseline hardware stores sell a commercial de-icer variation.

2. It goes without saying that you use a commercial anti-freeze windscreen washer liquid. How many people have tried to spray their windscreens and the water has iced up!

3. The same applies for radiator water.

4. Winter tyres – in extreme areas have winter tyres – otherwise make sure you have a set of tyre chains handy in case of …..

5. Petrol/Diesel – in high altitude areas buy your fuel there. It is heavier and the car operates better with it. However, in all cases, keep your tank full as this decreases the chance of condensation in the fuel tank which results in water when it thaws.

6. Don’t use hot water on your windscreen – it can crack. Rather clean off the ice and snow with a little plastic, non-scratch paddle and then wipe down with a warm water cloth.

7. The say that in the body of every Frenchman beats the heart of a Formula 1 driver. However, start slowly and warm up your car properly – it will say thank you.

8. Beware black ice – it’s treacherous. Avoid ‘black ice’ roads.

Happy driving!

A further post will focus on the house.

First entrants into the new doll cabinets!

More to come…….. no. much, much more……

It’s been a week of concerted action. Doll unpacking, metal work arriving and being installed, various cold weather tasks to be completed before the ‘big freeze’ but, alas, Monday mornings’ news from Jose and Nicholas was that ‘it was impossible’ to finish the paving and staircase due to the extreme cold weather forecast.

We have to be patient and wait for this weather to pass.

Naturally, the money has gone to sleep as far as our two indomitable builders are concerned.

Charley the black dog has come for a short stay as his mother alma has decided to go to London to visit the snow for a few days. Predictably, his arrival was a bit chaotic so he arrived without a lead which is mandatory for walking through the village with all the heavy road machinery scattered all over the place. We had to improvise with traffic tape – not quite Louis Vuitton, I’m afraid.

Dignity in shreds

We had briefed Laurent the blacksmith in nearby Robion a week ago and he arrived on Thursday (a day early), to install the pergola, a staircase rail at Maison Olive and the doll cabinets. His assistant/partner welds a mean welding torch and they finished the work with panache.

Laurent - L'Artisan du Fer

Laurent's right hand lady - a champion with the welding torch

Laurent applies the finishing touches

Seconds after the cupboards were finished, the dolls started to populate the shelves

To celebrate the new pergola and the pummelling of the Poms in Perth, we decided on a barb-b-q. Yes, frosty soil, rock hard but the fire was blazing and Madame had her fatty lamb chops.

The garden scene - perfect BBQ weather

The fire! We gathered around gloves and all - but the lamb chops were good

Saturday afternoon was another quaint local village tradition with the 15th annual Christmas Carols service in Goult. A packed church of ex-pats of various shapes, sizes, ages, eccentricities all gathered to warble ‘While Shepherds watched..” etc. The Carols were in English, some French and even a Provencal version. The service was bilingual which helped everyone.

The Nativity scene in the Goult Church

Our chansons in the Cafe de la Poste after the Carols

After the service, we all repaired to the Cafe de la Poste for drinks, hot wine, hot chocolate and more songs and music. A festive time as had by all – fortunately, no gendarmerie at the bottom of the hill going home!

The kitchen sink is now the doll laundry. Each dress is washed and then lovingly ironed prior to going into a cabinet

The completed pergola. Now for the garden project - spring here we come.

Au bientot: Lovonne and Simon xx

Last week we wrote about the French community tradition in Lumieres with the lighting of the Christmas lights. (See www.livingstylishlywell.com/french traditions).

Another tradition is the Holly, the Ivy and the Mistletoe.

Early Christian missionaries found that the most pragmatic way to ‘Christianise’ existing customs was to embrace them, not discard them. Evergreen plants were one such custom.

All evergreen plants have been held sacred for time immemorial – the theory is that they seem able to defy the crippling effect of the harsh winter and then blazing sun after. Holly was considered the male symbol while Ivy was the feminine.

Ivy

Ivy was also the plant sacred to the ancient Greek God Bacchus and ivy was in much abundance during bacchanalian feasts.

Holly

Although holly is the obvious plant for Christmas decorations with its red berries and green shiny leaves, there was a belief that if the house was decorated with prickly holly, then the man would dominate the household for the year. However, if smooth leafed holly was used, then the woman would dominate!

Incidentally holly trees have distinct sexes and if you have a tree that does not bear berries it is a male – get it a mate! Throughout Provence Christmas markets dominate the villages at this time of year and miniature holly trees abound for the Christmas table.

What about Mistletoe? It’s a curious parasitic plant and is probably the oddest and darkest of the three plants. Sacred to the Druids, it was gathered at midwinter solstice (21 December) to be used for any number of unimaginable rites. Collected, it is said, by virgin girl wearing white cloth, it was cut with a sickle.

In ‘Christianising’ mistletoe, it was said to have been on the Cross which became weak with shame and the white berries signified tears. However, its pagan roots go too deep and only in Yorkminster in England is it used in churches.

Mistletoe

In later times, it was part of the ‘kissing tree’ – a sphere of evergreens and candles hung in the house. A young man would steal a kiss with a lovely damsel under the tree.

Some quite amazing pictures have arrived from the Warwick files of an encounter in Zambia between an elephant, her calf and a hungry crocodile:

The Elephant is drinking and her trunk is snatched by the crocodile

The croc starts to wrestle with her and drag her into the water

She's having nothing of it and rears up - the croc hangs on!

Next tactic - drag the croc out of the water, and still he hangs on

Even the calf is helping

They drag and drag and the croc's jaws start to loosen

The croc has let go, but the calf falls on top of him! The end was that the elephants ran off and the crocodile took his wounded pride back to the water

The newly announced route for Tour de France 2011

The map above shows the route for the Tour de France 2011 which has just been announced in Paris. Conspicuous by its absence is our pat of the world. Oh well, we can’t begrudge our dear friends in Montpellier some fun. Interesting is the lack of Mont Ventoux as King of the Mountains – now they’ll be battling it out in High Savoy.

The table below sets out each stage with the relevant dates:

THE STAGES
Stage    Type    Date    Start and Finish    Distance    Details
1
En ligne    Saturday 2 July    Passage du Gois La Barre-de-Monts > Mont des Alouettes Les Herbiers    191 km

2
Team TT    Sunday 3 July    Les Essarts > Les Essarts    23 km

3    En ligne    Monday 4 July    Olonne-sur-Mer > Redon    198 km

4    En ligne    Tuesday 5 July    Lorient > Mûr-de-Bretagne    172 k
m

5    En ligne    Wednesday 6 July    Carhaix > Cap Fréhel    158
km

6    En ligne    Thursday 7 July    Dinan > Lisieux    226 km

7    En ligne    Friday 8 July    Le Mans > Châteauroux    215 km

8    Medium mountains    Saturday 9 July    Aigurande > Super-Besse Sancy    190 km

9    Medium mountains    Sunday 10 July    Issoire > Saint-Flour 208 km

R    Rest Day    Monday 11 July    Le Lioran Cantal

10    En ligne    Tuesday 12 July    Aurillac > Carmaux    161 km

11    En ligne    Wednesday 13 July    Blaye-les-Mines > Lavaur 168 km

12    High Mountains    Thursday 14 July    Cugnaux > Luz-Ardiden 209 km

13    High Mountains    Friday 15 July    Pau > Lourdes    156 km

14    High Mountains    Saturday 16 July    Saint-Gaudens > Plateau de Beille    168 km

15    En ligne    Sunday 17 July    Limoux > Montpellier    187 km

R    Rest Day    Monday 18 July    Département de la Drôme

16    Medium mountains    Tuesday 19 July    Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux > Gap    163 km

17    High Mountains    Wednesday 20 July    Gap > Pinerolo    179 km

18    High Mountains    Thursday 21 July    Pinerolo > Galibier Serre-Chevalier    189 km

19    High Mountains    Friday 22 July    Modane – Valfréjus > Alpe-d’Huez    109 km

20    Individual time-trial    Saturday 23 July    Grenoble > Grenoble    41 km

21    En ligne    Sunday 24 July    Créteil > Paris Champs-Élysées    160 km

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