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The stories are ones we know, for the most part—Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Robin Hood, Alladin. The only uniquely British tale is that of Dick Whittington, the poor boy who became Lord Mayor of London.

Panto has many conventions. First, the hero, in a Shakespearean reversal of roles, is usually played by a young actress, along with the hero's love interest. Then there is the Dame, an older woman played by a man in drag. In drag too are the Good Fairy and the Wicked Witch, who may be part of the story. There is a chorus, which changes costume often, and sometimes children who dance. Also sometimes famous actors and actresses take part.

Usually a great mess is made either by cooking or baking something on stage, helping children get even with parents who make them tidy up. Songs taught to the children in the audience, which helps to keep them busy. They also are confided in by hero and villain and encouraged to shout warnings and advice.

There is often silly dialogue engaging the audience and prizes for the children who are called up to the stage and asked questions to win.

To keep the parents amused, the dialogue is full of double-entendres that they must hope the children do not understand.

Last year we went to a Chanukah pantomime in the East End of London. It met all the norms except the melodies were based on Jewish songs and the story was of Queen Esther. Other changes are coming, as Panto is increasingly based on TV shows and popular books like Harry Potter, not part of the canon. Another cross-cultural version is Bollywood Panto based on Indian actors and costumes.

Take it in if you have the chance. It is splendid British fun, and, unlike the London theaters, costs only 3 to 10 pounds sterling for most shows. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Alladin is most popular this year.

Vivian LewisContinue Reading:

 

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Dec. 20, 2010:

"Kathleen, in your Dec. 9 e-letter about banking havens, you named Belize Bank to be the best.

"We have an account with Belize Bank, and we wanted to have them wire money from that account to us in the United States. This is the response we received from the bank:

"'The San Ignacio Branch has informed us that for funds to be wired back to the United States, they would need to obtain Central Bank approval. They would have to request an income tax clearance and provide the Central Bank with account statements of your account to prove funds were transferred. Consequently, the total cost of B$65 will be separate from the transaction fees.'

"It is not as easy to get your money back from the bank as it is to send it to them, it would seem. People should know these things prior to sending money overseas."

--Dan J., United States

First, an important clarification. We have never recommended Belize Bank. We have recommended banking in Belize and, specifically, Caye International Bank in Belize.

It seems from your note that you have set up a local account in Belize with a local bank (Belize Bank). Belize has currency controls in place, and you do need clearances and approval to be able to wire U.S. dollars out of the country from a local Belize bank.

Again, this is never what we've recommended.

Understand the difference between a local bank and an international bank. And the difference between a local bank and a private bank.

While Belize Bank is a local bank, Caye International Bank is a private international bank, from which you should have no trouble wiring U.S. dollars back to yourself anywhere in the world.Continue Reading:

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Dec. 20, 2010:

"I'm here in Vietnam, scouting for my Overseas Retirement Letter report in early 2011," writes Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice, "and I'm happy to say that I do think this would be a good choice for an adventurous retiree.

"You would need to be pretty flexible here, and a sense of humor would be an important plus! But foreigners are certainly able to live here, and many do--subject to the whims of the provincial governments (similar to state governments) and the visa regulations of the day.

"We spent a week in the mountain resort town of Da Lat and found that in this area the provincial government is not open to the idea of expat living. There are few foreigners living there, and those who are seem to be English teachers or married to Vietnamese citizens. Finding housing seems nearly impossible, and it's a relatively small town. I don't think that there is enough here to keep someone interested for long, even if they could (by some bureaucratic miracle and lots of bribe money) work out the legal and housing arrangements. So I've scratched Da Lat off the list.

"However, our next stop in the search for retirement havens led us to the small coastal city of Nha Trang. An R&R spot for the military during the war, Nha Trang has evolved into a popular beach resort that has a lot of possibilities for long-term living.

"The provincial government here has no problems with foreigners, and Nha Trang has a fairly substantial year-round foreign population. There are many excellent restaurants, bars, and even a mall and a large supermarket.

"Prices are very low. Apartments with Western amenities rent for around US$200 per month, and you can rent a Western-style house for less than US$500 per month.

"Nha Trang is surrounded on three sides by mountains, and there are beautiful waterfalls, mud baths, and hiking possibilities. Offshore are several beautiful islands and good diving, fishing, and snorkeling. We are staying in a part of town that is probably around 50% foreigners. I think that this would be a great place for the right type of person to retire, and this is where I'm going to focus my ORL feature..."Continue Reading:

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

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