Every rose tells a love story

Our garden was a “work in progress’’ when Olivier died and at his funeral I told the congregation that it would now become his memorial garden.  I shared that we had intended to add roses, irises, flowering hibiscus and deciduous trees to the eclectic planting selection of landscape designer Diana McGregor.

We had meant to choose the roses together, to be scattered throughout the garden rather than in one large patch, which I had at my earlier Belair home on Sheoak Road. But time ran out. However, we knew we wanted “Madam President”, a lush hybrid with pink blooms and a carpet rose named White Miedeland because they flowered prolifically in friends’ garden. And every time we saw a picturesque Pierre de Ronsard flowering, we stated that we would have those gorgeous blooms hanging from our archways.

Somehow it never happened until today when I sat down with a rose catalogue and chose 12 roses whose names each bore a connection to our life together.    I wanted to fulfil one small part of our plan, to focus my mind on growing plantings which would bring beauty into my life.

The first rose is named “Wedding Day’’ – the beautiful beginning of our journey together   – a spring flowering rambler from 1950 which produces masses of small fragrant white flowers . So naturally the second rose, a low bush rose named ”French Lace’’ because I wore champagne-coloured French lace on my Caleche wedding gown. Again a fragrant rose, which flowers in decorative buds in small clusters which open into attractive cream  blooms.

It was easy to choose a rose to reflect our wonderful honeymoon in the Loire Valley when I found “Comte de Chambord’’,  that idyllic fantasy chateau in the Loire, one of many that we visited in France in 2008. Its description of the fragrant mid pink tinged lilac blooms which “swirl into a profusion of crumpled petals’’ reminded me of how our love bloomed into full flower along the Loire.

The word “Dearest’’ captures my feelings for my husband and this dainty pink low bush rose from 1960 flowers in clusters and is fragrant and decorative. It will create quite a show in the garden.

A huge part of our lifestyle was our annual trip to France to visit Mammy who lived in St Remy de Provence and I could not look beyond choosing “La France”, an ancient French Hybrid Tea dating from 1869. It produces large globular blooms of silvery pin with deeper reverse and that attractive pattern of roses – petals which sharply roll back as they unfold.

Our eight years together were peppered with many magic moments, which made choosing “Magic Moments’’ mandatory. Not only does it have sentimental value, but it has an irresistible damask rose fragrance and the dainty spiral buds of lavender open to shades of deep pink. The award-winning rose is a winner in the Australian True Blue Collection.

Which brings me to the end of Olivier’s life when “Sweet Chariot’’, named after that negro gospel song “Swing Low Sweet Chariot… coming down to carry me home…’’ about dying and everlasting life, was an important choice. It allows my rose garden to reflect our full love story.

For Olivier’s funeral, I chose the theme “Amazing Grace’’
and a beautiful rendition by Judy Collins filled the chapel with sweet music and words which reflected the many God-given blessings of our life together.

So, with joy in my heart, the first one I chose actually was the bush rose  “Amazing Grace 07’’. Splendidly ice white, it was bred by Bruce Chapman of Melbourne, and Ross Roses experts believe “Amazing Grace’’ is the best white rose introduced in Australia for decades.

Yet, I didn’t learn of it in the catalogue, even though it is a feature rose there.  Friends told me of their splendid white rose in their front garden with long stems for floral arrangements and when I asked them what was its name, they told me “Amazing Grace’’ – a few days after Olivier’s funeral.

So in Spring, when the first flowers appear, I will tell visitors the story of our life through the roses in Olivier’s memorial garden.


Farewell to my lovely Frenchman

It is time to share with you that my darling husband, Olivier Foubert died peacefully on Friday, May 11,  after a 16-month journey with advanced prostate cancer.  One of my Facebook friends wrote that I was so privileged with “the main event of life”, which she says is to experience love at a deep and committed personal level.  Indeed, ours was a warm, sensual, companionate love which filled my emotional needs and he made me very happy.

My eight-year life with Olivier has been a wonderful dance.  He was such a charming man in every way  – a loving, witty, intelligent gentleman, who was brave and courageous to the end.    When I began writing about the impact cancer had on my life, I couldn’t comprehend that it would snatch him from me. My name means hope which perhaps explains why I dwelt in hope for so long. Our time was still filled with incredible moments of joy – our exciting Seachange to Hindmarsh Island, building our new home, moving back into this amazing new living space, establishing our garden, hanging our art collection and entertaining our friends and family in the Alfresco.

Sitting on his desk right now are two special bottles of French red wine consumed in our celebration of life – a Domaine Borie de Maurel, Vendanges 2006 and a 2009 Grand Vin de Bourgogne, Francoise and Denis Clair Cote-de-Beaune Villages.  The last bottle was so special because it triggered memories of our few days at the beginning of vintage in Burgundy.   Olivier first took me to France in 2004 and the memoir I wrote about it, From France With Love, became a best-seller.

It was the Beatles who sang “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”.   Our many dreams are now dashed. Instead of many years of retired living, we have faced Olivier’s deteriorating health.  For our tribute at his funeral, I chose the song Dancing To The End of Love, which reflected our life together. Which leaves only one last thing to say – Farewell to my lovely Frenchman Olivier.  Au revoir. Rest in peace.

Quel Horreur! Cry French Chefs

Quel Horreur! France’s most distinguished chefs  are trembling at the prospect that disgruntled diners can describe dining fiascos in the world’s most influential restaurant guide.

The august Michelin Guide – the bible of gastronomy – has catapaulted into the social media with a new website that has opened to public comment.

The move has “les grands cruisiniers choking over their casseroles amid warnings that Frnace’s whole gastronomic edific coul;d crumble”.

They are horrified at the notion that ordinary diners could say what they thought about the Filets de sole sur mousse or Supremes de poulet la Valliere.

An article in The Times quotes Alexandre Cammas, a respected food critic and founder of an alternative guide Le Fooding, as saying the row showed Michelin’s dominance as an arbiter of haute cuisine.

“The business of chefs like Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon is totally based on Michelin,” he said.

“The top chefs will never admit that they are afraid of having the public comment about their restaurants but the truth is they re not at all sure of themselves and they don’t want this.”

Ducasse, a multi-Michelin-starred icon, reportedly told managers of the guide: “If you leave the comment section open, there will be uproar in the profession.”


Hope for Breast Cancer Cure

A new study holds hope that breast cancer treatment could be far more tailored in future with the discovery that tumours can be classified into 10 specific types.

Researchers analysed 2000 tumour samples from women which they say will lead to more tailored breast cancer treatments.

Cancer is one of the main causes of death in Australia, the most common types being skin, (melanoma) prostate, breast, bowel and lung. An article in The Advertiser’s Education Now lift-out states that current methods of fighting many cancers are “somewhat inadequate in identifying the first symptoms of cancer”.

A key to unravelling the unknown causes of cancer is to understand the cells in which cancer begins. This can then lead to early diagnosis, effective treatment of the disease, and most important prevention.

Although the exact origin of cancer is unknown, researchers believe cancer stem cells are involved in triggering the disease. These cancer stem cells may originate from mutated normal stem cells or from more mature cells that regress to a stem-like state.

Recently, much research has been devoted to defining the exact cell of origin for specific cancers. This will be the first step towards many cancer cures, the experts believe. However, so much work is still required and much money still needs to be raised to enable researchers to continue their valuable work, which has saved so many lives to date.  To prove this point, there are 11 million cancer survivors around the world.



Where the “girls” are.

Still glamorous Chris Nicholls, once a founding partner of Rave Model Agency flew into Adelaide for the weekend with husband Rob for grandparents’ Day at Immanuel College where grand-daughter Chloe goes.  They visited us at Belair on Sunday bringing news of former David Jones model, Jeanette Zealand, who now lives close to Chris at Cooroy Queensland.  Here Jeanette runs her fashion shop, Wildflower, which, despite the tiny size of the town, does very well indeed.

Also on the fashion front. Leonie Milburn who ran Chelsea Fashion either side of the entrance of Chelsea Cinema is still in limbo over her role in the cinema’s future since she vacated the controversial premises.  She has transferred all that stocto at her 2nd shop, Swish at Erindale, which must be busting at the seams.

Husband Olivier is delighted to have discovered former French model Sophie Mehaffey works at The Currant Shed restaurant at McLaren Flat in the wonderful McLaren Vale wine region of South Australia. Sophie has the cutest blue hatchback Renault which is eons old, but remains her pure joy.


Hello Faithful Friends

Another four months have slipped by since I wrote you a note, but our life is a little like a ship rolling in high seas  – one is on the verge of seasickness all the time and it’s a daily problem to stay steady on one’s feet.  Ours is now a home hospice and I write of this challenge in My Journal. Yet, life also continues to present lovely surprises like the lemon cakes and eight dozen biscuits best friend Jenny has made for the conveyor belt of friends, family, nurses, doctors and carers, passing through our home. That French connection is a wonderful bonus, too, when two of our friends –a former French restaurateur and a head cook for one of Adelaide’s prestigious girls’ schools – brought delicious dinners for us to enjoy – on the same day within an hour of each other. It lightens my life as a carer.

My  Absolutely French blog on www.nadinewilliams.com.au has my reviews from the French Film Festival and a snippet on the French presidential elections. There are recipes too on My French Kitchen and some hilarity about our petit chien, Oscar. He certainly is the symbol of the art of living fearlessly in the shadow of life-limiting cancer.


This month, my good friend and former Advertiser colleague, Samela Harris has kindly allowed us, courtesy of The Advertiser, to share an article she wrote on Professor Ian Maddocks, who has indeed been “a living angel’’ in our life as Olivier’s palliative care expert.   There are also a few snippets in Celeb s and Culture and some positive health news for women in women’s lives.

Once more I ask anyone with an interesting story, particularly travel yarns to tell, I would love to publish them (edited perhaps) and thus keep the web relevant when I have so little time.

In Life and Style by Nadine Williams you will enjoy superb photographs of our weekend in Clare and how glad we are that we travelled there for vintage.


Kind regards, Nadine.