Family Fun When Felicia Turns 40

News that princess-in-waiting, Kate Middleton is staying in a hotel surrounded by her family and close friends before her Royal wedding, reminds me of my own family’s humble hotel experience.

Daughter No. 2, Felicia was throwing a 40th birthday in Melbourne at Mosq, a popular Moroccan restaurant close to our zany hotel, The Cullen.

She joked that it was her last chance to be a bridezilla, so her day was to have all the trappings of a bride, minus a bridegroom.

When Felicia (who lives in out of the way Williamstown) discovered that our hotel was within walking distance of Mosq, the adult children descended upon us late afternoon and soon a make-up artist knocked on our door.

Unwisely, I had hiked around Melbourne in the morning, forgetting that it was only 10 days since I had a gall-bladder operation, so when they arrived,  I had collapsed on the bed exhausted and party-preparations unfolded around me.  However, there was a power in observation and I lay quietly and mused how beautiful my adult daughters were in adulthood.  Grand-daughter Josephine had her usually untidy golden hair shaped into wringlets and I wondered at her natural feminine charm.

How peacefully Serena handled her children. How Jon’s presence gave fatherly authority over the grandsons, Samuel and Angus.  The men came and went buying take-away coffee and newspapers. Husband Olivier read.

Felicia’s friend Narelle  spread her kitbag of makeup across the kitchen bench and used myriad pots, creams, lipstick and eye shadows to transform her into a mystical 1920s beauty to match her  wavy hairstyle. A last overall powder brush and it was  Serena’s turn.

The last time we Williams women were together comme sa, was Serena’s wedding day 10 years ago. Three divine grand-childre, who filled my hotel room with joy, are the fruit.

I arose from my bed to slip grand-daughter Josephine into her frilly pink chiffon dress and her sparkly party shoes, which I had bought for her in Adelaide. Grandsons, Samuel and Angas sat happily on the floor, watching fascinated asFelicia painted false nails a deep purple.

Husband snapped the whole beauty circus; Jon disappeared to acquire champagne to celebrate and I surveyed the happy chaos.  Girlie clothes were scattered everywhere. Towels, shoes, bags galore and bath robes in a jumble.  When I caught a glimpse of myself in those walls of mirrors, I shuddered. I looked a bedraggled bag lady against these beautiful daughters of mine… but I  had no time to restore myself – they needed to rush off to receive guests. So, that’s me in the yellow polka-dot shirt and black shorts, but my smile shows how happy I am to be the matriarch of such a colourful family.

Vale Jackson

How valuable it is to listen to others because, my friend Jayne, told me how to say goodbye to our beloved funny, fluffy small dog, Jackson.

“Take him in your arms, Nadine’,’’ she said. “Whatever you do, don’t just leave him with the vet because he will feel abandoned at that last moment.’’

So,  my lovely, fun-loving, faithful friend is in my lap and I weep because I have just felt Jackson’s heart stop beating as the vet’s injection takes effect. But, he did not guess because I stroked his forehead as I always did and spoke softly and lovingly to him as he gazed one last time into my eyes.

He had begun to suffer with rampant cancer in his prostate and  forearm.  This merciful act closes a long 13 year relationship and we will never forget the fun, friendship and faithfulness he has brought to our lives – not only husband Olivier and my domestic life, but also my son Tyson and his wife Vanessa. They called him “Jacko’.

Yet, he was an unexpected gift.  He arrived in my life as air freight – in a small plastic cage – and I recall fondly the day I collected a small, Shitzu/Maltese puppy from Qantas at  the Adelaide Airport.

“Jack’’, the name my daughter bestowed upon him, was quivering in fear and his white fur was caked with his own poo. But, he was the prettiest doggie I had ever seen and he needed a new name now that he was mine. So, I called him Jackson.

Daughter Serena had bought him from a pet shop as her own 30th birthday present and I oohed and aahed at the beautiful white puppy at the time. But soon afterwards, the Kennett Government in Victoria called an election and Serena, who was a press secretary, began working 12 hour days. When she telephoned to ask if I would take “Jack’’, I grabbed the chance even though we already had Tyler.

Jackson was always a well-behaved boy and learnt to understand French, too, when I met and later married my French/Australian husband, Olivier. He always spoke to him in French and miraculously Jackson always knew to beg and dance when he said “fais  le beau”  (act beautifully).

“Allez!’’ meant charging to the front door for his daily walk. And if I was lagging behind, doing up shoelaces or looking for a scarf, he would charge back into the house and bark for me to hurry up – in English, of course!

Jackson would rouse at me when I worked a long day before I married, leaving him alone in the house for more than eight hours. The moment I opened the  door, he would rush outside, and turn around and deliver a round of indignant barks.

He spent much of his early life in the company of our big, golden labrador, Tyler, who adopted him from the moment I arrived home from the airport. Jackson simply curled up within the arch of Tyler’s body draped on the floor, and as any baby, fell asleep.

As he grew, Jackson became a Houdini breaking out to find a string of girlfriends,  so frequently that I became on first-name terms with Port Adelaide and Prospect councils’ dog catchers. He had some lucky escapes until one day when I was holidaying in the Outback.

My friend Jenny was caring for him and when she went shopping with her daughter, he dug under a locked gate and was hit by a car on Port Road and thrown into the median strip. The car did not stop, but luckily the driver behind stopped and picked up the broken, whimpering creature.  A dog lover, he took  him to a veterinary surgeon whose secretary came herself and knocked on the side door of our house.  Jackson had broken both hips and they needed permission to operate.  For two days she had telephoned the number on Jackson’s collar and no-one answered (I was out of range) and she took compassion on my pet.   Luckily, it was a rare moment when 18-year-old Tyson was actually home.  It was time to have doggie desexed – and Jackson became a homebody.

When Tyson left home, he took Tyler with him and Jackson became top dog relishing our 100 per cent attention. He lived at my husband’s feet for the last five years of his life and as he aged, he did become grumpy with other “foreign’’ dogs who bothered him to play.

He brightened many human lives, though and Jackson would want me to thank his other “friends’’ who cared for him as Oli and I lived our busy lives.  Tyson and Vanessa were his second set of adoring parents whenever we travelled and he loved Jenny and her dog, Bailey, while Jayne and Locky, who so lovingly cared for him during our last holiday in Perth, had a special place in his heart. For them, he tolerated their pooch, beautiful Hugo.

Jackson will always be in our memory as a joyrful, playful little fellow.

Diane von Furstenberg

Here is a gem of wisdom about design from evergreen fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

“There is design and there is art.  Good design is total harmony.  There is no better design than nature. If you look at a branch or a leaf, it is perfect.  It is all function.

Art is different. It is about emotion.  It is about suffering and beauty, but mostly suffering!”

Relay for life

My son, Tyson, who lost his dad in November, and his wife Vanessa are doing something very special. They have mounted a Relay For Life team raising funds for The Cancer Council of South Australia and have raised more than $1000 with sponsorship and the hard work of fund-raising.  Vanessa has cooked trays of honey biscuits at  Christmas and pretty cup cakes since and has sold hundreds of  them.

Tyson has manned the barbecue for a fund-raiser at home and held a snooker competition where people had to pay to compete – and also for their supper!.Their efforts have been in memory of Tyson’s father, but it has become a fun family event with Vanessa’s dad also joining the team – Will Power 23. The team event will be held on Saturday, April 9 at the Santos Stadium and  funds raised goes directly to research into methods of cancer prevention and community education programs in early detection and management.

Love survives “minefield” of marriages

Bride-to-be Philipa Charlesworth, of Goolwa, exudes all the joy of a first-time bride as she shows off the exquisite Pacific-island design of her wedding gown which she will wear in Tongo in June.

Yet, it is the fifth time she will marry.

And she gushes about her sweetheart like a teenager in the throes of puppy love.

Which is appropriate because she tells how her wedding to Goolwa real estate identity, Bruce Pattullo will right a wrong inflicted on them 40-odd years ago.

In Romeo and Juliet style, the teenaged lovers were torn apart by his family pressure.

“We had promised ourselves we would get married when we were teenagers and that is the only reason we need to marry at  our age,’’ says Philipa,  a blonde woman with a hearty laugh and vibrant style.

It will be the fourth marriage for Bruce, but the couple are unfazed by the cynics, who may well roll their eyes at the marriage tally.

But Philipa recalls their reunion, only 18 months ago, when she flew from New Zealand to see Bruce for the first time in 46 years. “I was standing there at the airport and I saw him coming towards me and as he reached me, we both said “Yes’.

Within months,Philipa had packed up her New Zealand life and moved in with Bruce at Goolwa in South Australia.

Behind her, Philipa had trodden through a minefield of former marriages, although she admits her last marriage of 16 years’ duration which she left for Bruce, was a “very, very good marriage’’, but devoid of sensual warmth, which she craved.

“My first marriage was a complete disaster: I was nearly 20 and pregnant on my wedding day,’’ she recalls. “It lasted six months.’’ Ironically, Bruce’s first marriage also was a brief affair.

But when the doting lovers swear their vows –her with fresh Tongan flowers in her hair and on her dress and he wearing matching shirt – their respective relationship history will simply fall away.

Philipa was 16 years old when she first met Bruce, a gangly 17-year-old, at a school dance in Christchurch. They became first-time lovers and were inseparable for the two years of their romance.

But Bruce was summoned home by his farming family and returned to the North Island leaving Philipa on the South Island with her own well-to-do farming family. They wrote to each other  daily and Philipa would race home from school at lunchtime to read Bruce’s letter. Until the day she received a “Dear John’’ letter from Bruce: “I was completely devastated… absolutely heartbroken and unconsolable,’’ she recalls.

As the 40-odd years passed and Philipa married and divorced three times, remarrying for a fourth time,  Bruce had a similar history of three disastrous marriages followed by a long-time de facto relationship.  Both left their respective partners for each other.

Philipa Charlesworth was a New Zealand rural woman of note, who had built a fine reputation as a Hampshire sheep breeder and international stud judge on Teviotdale, the historic family farm. She still has extensive family business interests in New Zealand as co-owner of extensive land holdings in Christchurch’s CBD, much of which have been damaged or destroyed by the recent earthquake.

One is tempted to ask “Why” at 60 would she want to leave it all and begin again?

Because, tucked away in her personal things, Philipa always kept a photograph of the school dance when she met Bruce.

He  hung around in her mind like unfinished business.  “I seemed to be driven by a desire to know how he was faring in life.’’

When they compared notes their experiences seemed to be parallel failures. Bruce’s second wife left him with one young son to raise. For Philipa, Marriage No. 2 was to a shepherd working on her father’s farm and she admits it was rooted in rebellion against her family.

“I had led a privileged life and I wanted to be independent and for the first time I left the family farm to find out who I was,’’ she says.

“You could say going to work in woollen mills was a bit ridiculous.’’ Trouble was, she went to board with the shepherd’s parents, a vastly different home life from her own.

“My father was beside himself when I left,’’ she recalls.

“His was a close family and had a Sunday lunch together while mine was a stiff Victorian upbringing, where we never talked.

“I got friendly with the shepherd himself when he came for Sunday lunches, and when my father found out I wanted to marry him, he didn’t speak to me for seven years.’’

Drink destroyed this marriage:  “He became an alcoholic, but because I was pregnant with my second child,  of course, you stay much longer than you should,” she says recalling their dairy-farming life milking 230 cows daily.

By the time she endured a third marriage at the hands of threatening, violent  man, she was so traumatised and broken that she vowed never to marry again.  The greatest tragedy of Philipa’s life happened in this marriage when their three-year-old daughter, Felicity, drowned in a friend’s swimming pool.

“We were separated when I lost my daughter. He was Felicity’s father, but he had an horrendously bad temper and I became terrified of him.

“He had a huge collection of antique fire arms and was always threatening me with them.’’

“One thing that people don’t understand about women in threatened violent relationships, you don’t know whether you are going to live or die from one moment to the next.”

She tells how he would use the threat of violence to wield power and control over Philipa.  “His behaviour was absolutely mad and dangerous and he was an enormously strong  adrenalin-seeking stunt man.’’

Throughout this horrifying period of  personal stress and turmoil, Philipa’s lifeline was her stud stockbreeding success – her determination to breed champion the “Teviotdale” (the stud previx)  Hampshire Down sheep. She has been involved not only in breeding her prize flock, but in showing and judging throughout New Zealand and overseas.

It was in this environment that she met and was eventually wooed into marrying a kindly, but non-communicative fellow Hampshire Downs sheep breeder. Edward Charlesworth,  at 50, had never married.  However, it was her fourth marriage. They added growing olive trees to Philipa’s sheep work and they also bred rare poultry and Peking ducks.

“I will always see myself as a rural woman, even though I now live in Goolwa,’’ says Philipa.

When she contacted Bruce in May, two years ago, she had been married for 17 years.

“I just wanted to know how Bruce was, to be friends with him,’’ she explains.

“Edward and I had built up a very good life together, but something very deep within me was an emotional void.

“I cried bitterly when I had to tell him I was leaving to live with Bruce.’’

“The sad thing for me was he saw me through all my operations and illness (Philipa suffered from ulcerative colitis from the age of 19 and eventually had all her large  colon removed).

“ I was a broken woman in every way when we met. He restored my faith in men and he put no pressure on me for sex, but in the end I became his mother, his aunt, his sister, anything but his wife.

“I was unfulfilled emotionally and sexually. I missed intimacy. I missed that verbal exchange so much.’’

Her community life was a huge part of who she had become and her love for Bruce meant leaving it all behind. She was president of the New Zealand Hampshire Breed committee, a judge and inspector, council member of the New Zealand Sheep Breeders’ Association and on the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Show Committee.  As president of Christchurch Polo Club, she was an event organiser for many years. Her two adult children and two grand-children live in New Zealand.

“Year after year I was the queen of my breed of sheep.’’

She had contacted Bruce16 years beforehand. However, he had brushed off any re-connection as he was in a new relationship.

“I really only wanted friendship with  him because I had just married Edward.’’

But in May 2009, the timing was right.

“I rang him up on the telephone and said “Hi, I woke up this morning at 4 o’clock and I thought I  must talk to you…just shake your hands, or have a cup of coffee’,’’ she recalls.

This time, he responded  “Please keep in touch; you will ring me again, won’t you?’’

She told her husband that she wanted to reconnect as friends, so they communicated by email and skype and they talked for many hours and bonded through those long conversations – the one big thing missing in her marriage.

By October, they arranged to meet on the Gold Coast – for the first  time as older people.

“I hadn’t seen him since I was 17 and a half. He was totally different from that young boy; he was a mature man and yummy to look upon .

“But it was so so right. After those eight days together, there was no going back for either of us.’’

So, it was that in  January 2010, Philipa left it all behind to move in with Bruce in Goolwa, the river port near the mouth of the River Murray in South Australia.

Did she ever acknowledge it was an awesome price to pay.

“I always loved Bruce; there was never a time that I didn’t love him.

“We want to put right that  promise which was prevented by family intervention,’’ recalls Philipa.

The couple are building a new home on the Goolwa foreshore and have a scamp of a West  Highland Terrier, called Misty. They are both members of the Goolwa Regatta Yacht Club and race regularly.

Her wedding day will be her 63nd birthday.

“I have never known anything as amazing and so special, so fitting and vibrant.

Everything works between us and if I don’t have anotheryear in my life to live I would be grateful for the 18 months we have lived together.

“I have never been happier.’’