Fizzy DSK drink shameful

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Things are lurching from bad to worse in France with news that a fizzy drink with so-called aphrodisiac qualities has been launched under the initials of disgraced International Monetary Fund boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

And the brew – Drink Safran Kiwi (DSK of course) is about to hit French nightclubs and is blatantly pitched towards the “in-crowd nightclubbers’’ .   Its designer Stephane Briault reckons patrons will mix it with a hard drink.

Did anyone think upon the ethics of releasing such a product carrying such a name?  That the real DSK allegedly tried to rape a chamber maid in New York and got out of a gaol sentence by the skin of his teeth?  What shameful commercialism to capitalise on this alleged act and to add that the drink DSK could be an aid to sex.  There is much to admire in France’s romance culture, but this is surely shameful.


Scuttlebutt and sexism spices up French politics

France’s First Lady, Valerie Trierweiler has vowed to count to 10 before posting anymore tweets following the fallout when she sent a twitter which ruined the political chances of her rival, the French president’s former partner Segolene Royal.

Trierweiler, who has been nicknamed Tweetweiler by the French media, has obviously been punished behind the closed doors of Elysee Palace because she has largely disappeared from public view following the incident.

Her tweet wished good luck to an opponent of Royal in the legislative election last month. It resulted in Royal being beaten by her opponent, Olivier Falorni, despite Mr Hollande publicly backing his former partner.

France has been gripped for weeks with the jealous spat and how Trierweiler’s public snub of her rival undermined the career of Royal, a powerful leader who almost became France’s first female president.

However, Trierweiler’s disappearance from public view  reflects the ire of the President who has been embarrassed by his new partner’s jealous behaviour.

She did not accompany Mr Hollande on the  two big presidential trips this month – the G20 summit in Mexico and to Britain to meet with the Queen.

Instead, Francois Hollande was photographed across the world with Argentine’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

However,  her purgatory was short-lived. Trierweiler once more joined Mr Hollande in the presidential box for the annual military parade for Bastille Day in Paris.

A long-time journalist with Paris Match magazine, Trierweiler, 47, told  French television recently that she will “count to 10 before tweeting’’.

Meanwhile, Hollande tried to reel back media coverage of his household dramas by reinterating the modus operandi of French media to ignore  personal dramas of political leaders.

“Private affairs are resolved in private,’’  said Mr Hollande.  “And I have told this to those close to me so they can scrupulously accept this principle.’’

The President also stated that Trierweiler did not have any official status.

“I think the French people are like me, they want things to be clear, that there is no interference’’ between the President’s private and public life.’’

However, the incident could well be the scent which turns the usually laconic French media into hound-dogs for presidential scuttlebutt.

Meanwhile, French parliamament remains a bastion of unreformed misogyny says The Times.

ANOTHER female French MP, France’s new a housing Minister, Cecile Duflot has been the butt of sexist behaviour in parliament. The 37-year-old has provoked a flurry of comments simply by arriving at parliament wearing a floral dress.

The Times reported that Members of the Union for a Popular Movement (UM P) Nicolas Sarkoizy’s party, were condemned for sexist behaviour when they whistled, hooted and cried “phoaarrr’’ when Ms Duflot, 37, stood to answer questions at the National Assembly.

“I realise more and more than sexism has no frontiers,’’ said Women’s Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.

“We politicians should set a better example,’’ said the 35-year-old.

Ms Vallaud-Belkacem has been featured in some glossy magazines as one of the “babes’’ of President Francois Hollande’s team.

The qujote of the incident comes from the French media: “MPs average age: 55. Mental age 5.”


Sweet Scarlett Rose sweeps sadness aside

Joy of Joys!  I am a grandmother again because today my daughter-in-law Vanessa gave birth to a daughter, making my son, Tyson, a first-time father.  Our happiness at this safe delivery of Scarlett Rose Williams has swept the sadness of husband Olivier’s recent death under the carpet. (It would be naive to think that my grieving is over, but for today, I am happy and weepy with joy.)

Ironically, my son telephoned me while I was driving to my weekly grief group and the news that Vanessa was in labour brought a flood of happy tears.  No more than half an hour later, I am once more weepy with unfinished mourning triggered by delving into the nature of grief at the Tennyson Centre support group.

However, this afternoon baby Scarlett entered the world and I am ecstatic at the news, heading straight out the door of my home to the hospital.  I stop at the florist and choose a bunch of pink roses and a pretty card, my heart dancing with happiness.

A shiver of sadness threatens my joyful anticipation as I walk up the stairs at Ashford Community Hospital past Marion Ward on the first floor, where Olivier spent so much of the last year of his life. This was the place of so much fear and trepidation, of difficult cancer treatment, blood tests and bad news.  But this time, I head up to the second floor, to the nursery and delivery rooms.

They are still in the delivery room and I am ushered into Room 8 where I wait a few minutes until my son Tyson proudly wheels the bassinet in with his tiny daughter swathed in a baby blanket.

When I first lay eyes on her, I almost burst with joy.  Here lies a lovely new little life to brighten our days.   Here lies a perfect child, peacefully sleeping.  And I am the first to see her and I swoon.   She is an exquisite living doll.   She has defineable Eurasian feature which link back to our families’ Germanic/Slavic roots – Slanty eyes, black hair, with the goo of the newborn still plastering it down, defineable dark eyebrows and, oh my goodness, little eyelashes. The shadow-line of eyebrow, though, in a straight line bears her mother’s mark compared with my family’s distinct arched eyebrow line. This is what grandmothers do, having a storehouse of baby features to call upon.

Son Tyson was born with beautiful long eyelashes to the envy of his two older sisters and this babe, too, has every chance of being dark-haired. But who can tell as Scarlett may be much fairer like her lovely mother. And this is the exciting mystery of reproduction. Right now, baby is a bundle of genetic possibilities, which only time will reveal.

The new mother, Vanessa, has given birth in an admirable manner in six hours 17 minutes.  Tyson and I share a few precious mother/son moments with the baby to ourselves before a midwife brings a freshly showered Vanessa back to her private room from the delivery suite.

Tyson and Vanessa with Scarlett Rose

Tyson is awash with emotion telling his story of how the obstetrician called him as the baby’s head crowned and showed him how to cradle it and help her gently slip into the world.

“Of course I wept like a baby,’’ he tells me now.

“She is so beautiful, isn’t she mum!’’

We are both bending over the bassinet as I pull back the covers to see her long, slender fingers.

“She has my long fingers,’’  says Vanessa.

It is at this moment that I feel sad that Olivier couldn’t be here to share this special family moment with us all.  He was so looking forward to the birth, but fate intervened.

It reminds me that life is a continuum, from birth to death and every moment of our allotted time is so precious and such a God-given gift.



My new grand-daughter

My new grand-daughter

Joyful news at last!  On July 26, a new grand-daughter was born to great excitement and I share this amazing family event in two articles – Sweet Scarlett Sweeps Sadness Aside and an emotional piece Grief, Joy – a Strange Emotional Mix.   I am now one year older and my own “Joyeux Anniversaire’’ triggered yet another cauldron of emotions captured in Big Family, Birthday Fun.  A dozen bare-rooted rose cuttings arrived in the mail and herald the beginning of Olivier’s Memorial Garden. In Roses to Bring Magic to Memorial Garden, I write about “colouring in’’ our garden, the bones of which we established together in the last six months of Olivier’s life.

Travellers’ Tales features the jottings of friends on Brittany,  Germany and Sweden and very soon there will be photographs attached!!   (I am a slow learner when it comes to posting photographs on my web, so Dyanna is here to help.) And keep an eye on Life and Style by Nadine Williams for snippets of news and pix.


One last thought, today – August 11 – marks three months since husband Olivier died. I am beginning to understand that grief is the price you must pay by living and loving someone who is pivotal to one’s happiness. However, what is helping me heal is a new awareness that my life is filled with beautiful people who, each in their own way, have swept me into their caring arms (involving me in their lives) creating pleasant experiences. Such as today when friends staved off a sad, lonely day by preparing a delightful home-made lunch washed down with a bottle of Jenneret Riesling from the Clare Valley.  Olivier and I sampled the wine during Vintage and bought a few bottles, so the memory of our holiday in the Clare Valley in February kept him in my heart today as we shared a meal.


Meanwhile, one last word of wisdom from the great Latin American writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who is retiring from public life due to serious illness – “If I would know that these would be the last minutes that I will see you, I would say to you “I love You ‘ and wouldn’t assume that you would know it.’’  On this day, I remember these were exactly the words I said to Olivier, a moment before he died.



Local Community Life Lifts the Sad Spirit

My street is a local tourist walk

The first rule for travelling with grief (because it is impossible to shrug off  the process) is to get out of the house regularly.

Friends have been fabulous taking me to small social events, but it is a bigger step to take oneself out of the house and do something alone. Puppy Oscar has been  a big incentive to take to the pavement, which is what I did this morning by walking to the corner store for a pot of tea and raisin toast. Obviously it is just as easy to stay home and make oneself a cup of tea, so there needs to be an understanding that recovery is stepping back into community life.

A study of seniors aged 55 by the powerul lobby group, National Seniors, bears this out. It has revealed that the type of neighbourhood you live in is related to your general health, mental health and quality of life. Let me tell you about something remarkable which happened this morning, at the delicatessen, which convinced me of the need to spend more time walking to places other than down the lonely path at the top of the Belair quarries.

I am sitting reading Saturday’s Advertiser under the veranda at The Vines shopping centre at Belair.  Puppy Oscar is sitting at my feet, looking cute as a toy poodle can be.  Various older people stop and pat the dog, but they don’t engage with me.  Then a youngish woman, of say 50 years of age, stops and starts talking to Oscar.

“Aren’t you just the cutest puppy,’’ she says when I offer the information that he is only eight months old.

She is wearing a smart track suit – pink pants and a crisp, clean white top with a pink motif across the chest.  I silently vow to buy a smart track suit comme sa for my walking exercises instead of the dull beige baggies and patterned cardigan I am wearing.

My eyes are  moist as I had been talking to Erica, the local chemist, who had prepared Olivier’s Webster packs each fortnight and she has lavished me with sympathy, which triggers tears. However, her  kindness helps me feel part of my  community.

The whippet-thin stranger with her fuzzy fair hair, asks me puppy’s name and says she is a dog-lover and that she has an email address, which begins “paws….’’ .

She seems so lively that I ask if she would like to join me, but she says she is a professional netball coach and is snatching something to eat between games.   I mull over how lovely it would be to feel so vibrant and I feel  compelled to explain my sombre mood, sharing that I am a new widow and trying to adjust to my new state of being by latching myself to café life.

“I lost my partner in February,’’ she confides.

I am gobsmacked that this lovely, friendly personality is a widow, too.

“He dropped dead at our garden gate from an aneurism in his heart.’’

This strikes at my own heart and now I am filled with compassion for her.

“That is absolutely dreadful!,” I say, genuinely shocked. “How old was he?’’

“He was 51.”

Being a journalist, it comes naturally to ask questions and I boldly ask her name. “Janine.’’ She responds.

I would guess she would not be 50 yet and here she is a widow.  And she has no children to cushion her aloneness. Only her professional life.

What an awful life blow.

“We have been together 16 years.’’

Janine is tearless, but her tone is coated in sadness.  I mentally count “five months’’ and ponder that she  can talk about this shocking event in her life in a calm manner.

What serendipity to link us together!  Two widows exchanging our stories on the pavement. And she strengthens me in the belief that I will recover like Janine in a few more months.

We part exchanging our email addresses and I hope we will keep in touch, despite the age difference.

I pick up doggie’s lead and turn to walk home, spirit slightly lifted knowing I am not alone in my feelings.



Roses to bring Magic to Memorial Garden

An exquisite rose at Rustons Roses, Renmark

It’s Thursday, July 19 and I am about to begin colouring in my garden. I have donned by new gardening gloves and am busy working in my fledgling hillside garden with a good friend, who has brought a box full of seaside daisies, which we hope will cover the bare ground up here.

The hillside is the burial ground of at least a dozen bougainvillea, all of which have died in just a few months.  So, it is time to forget about exotic, expensive species and seek more humble plantings.

Hence, the seaside daisy, reputed to spread like wildfire in any environment where there is water. The plantings are significant because they represent the beginning of my memorial garden to Olivier, which in time, will cover our garden plot with a sea of colour.


Friday, July 20: After our humble beginnings yesterday, today we will unpack the dozen bare rooted roses which were delivered to the door by Australia Post on Monday from Ross Roses.  I wrote a month ago about how I chose them by their name because, collectively they reflect our married life. Naturally, I am keen to ensure that they do not die like the bougainvillea and have engaged the help of another friend, who can dig  square holes the depth of a spade.    This task is beyond me following a road accident years ago which impaired my vestibular system and balance.

In my other Belair home on Sheoak Road, I had a beautiful rose garden which flourished during the 16 years we lived there.  It was almost as sad to leave my 50 rose bushes as it was to leave the beautiful dark red brick home with its stunning views.

Interestingly, our garden designer, Diana McGregor is not a rose lover and the initial plan left space for only five standard roses. However, I have added borders of low miniature roses which eventually will edge over the brick pathways. My helping hand today also is not a lover of roses and tells me how he took all of his out of their inner suburban home.

So why do I love roses?  Why did I choose a row of “Seduction’’ standard roses in my former home which I sold to marry Olivier? There are many reasons, the most important being that  they bloom so beautifully for up to six months of the year.  What pleases me is that I can step into my own garden, cut blooms and form floral arrangements to beautify our home. They are beautiful both in the garden and within the home. Roses are remarkably hardy and within the context of the garden design with its focus on exotic and varied foliage and flowering shrubs, I expect the roses will add a spectacular display.

Visitors will walk under an archway draped with the popular French climbing rose “Pierre de Ronsard”, its large double blooms reflecting the “old world’ style of rose. Through the side gate, they will come upon “Amazing Grace’’, an Australian modern bush rose with large pure white crisp blooms, which flower well into autumn. Maureen Ross believes “Amazing Grace” is the best white rose introduced in Australia for decades. However, I chose it to remember – in Olivier’s memorial garden – that this was the theme I selected for his funeral service. Its long stems and delightful fragrance will ensure many floral arrangements in our home.

Roses add natural fragrance to the garden experience and along the pathway, I have  “French Lace”, renowned for its neat bush habit, decorative white buds and sweet scent.   On the other side of the pathway is the low bush rose “Dearest”, a 1960 rose of dainty vibrant pink blooms and also offering fragrance to the garden.

“La France” is also low and will sit amongst a cluster of carnations. It’s  a Hybrid Tea rose dating from 1869 and its creamy petals roll back as they unfold.

Outside my study another “Pierre de Ronsard” will adorn another archway and along the fence will be ’Wedding Day’’,  a Spring flowering rambler – a climber which has masses of small white fragrant flowers.

Roses do require pruning in Winter, but they return 10-fold come Spring and Summer with splashes of colour to please the senses.