Keep Calm and Carry On Into 2013

My father Frank with great grandson Theo at his 94th birthday late last year.

As you read this, it’s your first reason to celebrate  the dawning of 2013 because despite all the doomy prophecies, the world did not end.  And despite the war in Afghanistan,  Middle Eastern strife,  the US “fiscal cliff’’ and worries about the debt-laden European economy, our corner of the world here in Australia enjoys peace and prosperity.

There are many other reasons to look forward to 2013 with optimism.

Most important, despite the tragic past two years of my own life, when  husband Olivier was a victim of advanced prostate cancer,  cancer survival rates are higher than ever.  Count how many of your friends have beaten cancer or are in remission?

Despite the fact that chronic disease is taking a greater toll with the ageing Baby Boomer population and the War Babies now into their 70s, we will live longer than our parents’ generation.

Consider that at the beginning of the 20th century, Australians had a life expectancy at birth of about 55 years for men and 59 years for women. Compare that with my wiry father born in England in 1918, who will celebrate his 95th birthday in 2013. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that his longevity will be no isolated case with men’s life expectancy at birth in 2008-10 to rise to an average of almost 80 years (79.5) while women’s will be 84.
Demographers are even predicting  that achieving 100 will be the new 80! This means we have one of the longest life spans in the world and the capacity to enjoy a very long bucket list.

It depends on your age group, but if you’ve got a mortgage and that’s 35 per cent of all Australian households, you can look forward to even lower interest rates over the course of 2013. Most economists are tipping another 0.5 per cent down from the official cash rate now at 3 per cent.  This will see the standard variable mortgage rate sitting at about 5.7 per cent saving homeowners with an average $300,000 mortgage about $35 a week.  This prediction will not be greeted with the same “Hoorah’’ by retirees dependant on interest on their savings for their quality of life. After years of stagnant superannuation returns following the GFC, they have become dependant on healthy interest rates to boost their retirement income.

The housing market is likely to remain flat, giving first home buyers a chance to snap up affordable properties from vendors desperate to sell.   Wise home-buyers will continue to stay in their homes unless forced by circumstances to move.  Renovations are expected to continue to be buoyant and home builders, whose industry has been stagnant, will have an anxious wait to see if lower interest rates encourage new home buyers to sign building contracts.  A slash in new first home buyer stamp duty of 30 per cent as in Victoria would stimulate the industry here in SA.

Whether we are Republicans or Monarchists, we will celebrate another royal baby early in the new year.  We will soak up all the baby news in gossip magazines in the lead-up to the world’s most famous bub. Will it be a boy or girl? Who will it look like?  If baby is a girl and looks like dad, then this will cause a frenzy of delight that bubs will resemble Princess Diana.  And what will he/she be named? A contemporary name such as Harvey or Brendon or a more Royal Henry or Charles?  What about Matilda for the Queen’s great grand-daughter? But my money is on Elizabeth Mary Anne. Whatever. It will bring a fun element for 2013.

On a more serious level, 2013 will bring both a State election in SA and a Federal election for us all. Then, after all the toxic rhetoric and fiery character attacks from both sides, it will be time for the People’s Choice after three years of a minority government with Australia’s first female Prime Minister at the helm.   Whatever the pundits predict, it will be two unpopular leaders facing the electorate for judgement day, hopefully over performance and policies.  It’s odds on the issues of the Carbon Tax (Gillard’s broken promise) and the flood of boat people arriving at our shores will be high on the Opposition’s pile of political ammunition. It will be intriguing to see if Julia Gillard can sustain her toxic personality attack on the character of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott through to a probable election in August.

Whatever surprises the New Year holds for us individually in our personal lives, keep in mind that famous British slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On Regardless’’.

Meanwhile, , I wish you a Happy New Year and that life treats you kindly.






Family Joy is the gift of Christmas

Vanessa presents Scarlett

It is a pity Christmas comes only once a year because it brings such joy and happiness. Ours was a wonderful Christian family celebration beginning with the Christmas Eve children’s service at Concordia Chapel followed by merriment at home with French champagne, fruits, chocolates, dips and nuts. This set the scenario for gift-giving.  Gifts are such a delightful gesture of love and my little bounty included a precious personalised calendar featuring  grand-daughter Scarlett, plants for my garden (hoorah) and home-made jams. However, the greatest surprise for both parents – Sandra and John and myself – was theatre tickets to see Les Miserable and dinner beforehand on January 9.  We are never too old for the Oohs and Ahhhs that such a thoughtful gift engendered.

Scarlett received a toy shop of goodies, among which were my own gifts of two bonnets, books and a Peter Rabbit money box. She brought back delightful memories of her father, Tyson’s first Christmas when he was six months, a month older than her. He had received a big parcel but what interested him was the wrapping paper – shiny bright blue celephane with silver stars on it.  He learnt quickly to scrunch up the paper let it go and watch it unfold.  He was fascinated and we laughed until our sides ached…this serious little face, intrigued with a piece of paper rather than the gift inside.

When  my children were young, we always exchanged gifts early on Christmas morning, but at Tyson’s home with Vanessa’s parents also present bringing their strong European tradition, we exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve.  This left Christmas Day free for feasting. And, oh what a delicious spread, made lovingly by my daughter-in-law Vanessa and her mother, Sandra, whose collective cooking skills are  not to be challenged.  This left me with the unenviable task of buying the oysters at Samtass Seafoods on Christmas Eve and in what I considered a smart move, I avoided the city and went to the Richmond Road outlet. Wrong!  At 10:20am the shop assistants were up to order number 310 and I had just taken a ticket numbered 479.   However, the crowd was in Christmas spirit and the hour long wait was quite a social experience with a line-up winding outside the shop onto the pavement.  No-one was impatient, or nasty or abusive at the long wait.  Here was a united nations of people planning to celebrate Christmas Aussie style – buying tonnes of shellfish – prawns for the barbie, fresh oysters and crayfish, but also whole snapper, cockles and smoked and pickled products.  Little conversations broke out throughout the ranks despite the fact that we were packed in like sardines.

Joy and laughter dominated our Christmas day.  We laughed heartily when Vanessa produced Scarlett dressed in the popular Christmas pudding outfit from K-Mart, which clearly pleased Scarlett because she refused to miss a minute of the action, screaming at any attempt to put her in the pram.  The adult children ran random photographs on the television screen of our combined family life – the Herbigs, the Williams’s and the Fouberts -and my saddest moment was when  photographs of Olivier’s and my wedding popped up and there we were blissfully happy cutting the cake.   How my life has changed since that glorious day almost five years ago. Yet, despite the flow of tears, it was strangely comforting also to know that he was with us for the day, through the wonders of technology and in those memories triggered by such happy images of our family life.

Scarlett oversees Christmas breakfast

However, Christmas Day belonged to Scarlett, who oversaw the breakfast, sitting on the table in her sitting chair, like a real pudding, seriously observing us all.  Somehow her parents got her to sleep long enough for us to have lunch when we enjoyed  a magnificent spread. It began with oysters naturelle and Kilpatrick and prawns followed by orange-baked ham, stuffed chicken, pudding with brandy custard and trifle doused with liqueur and finished off with cream.  Afterwards, I was given the right to choose a movie – Angels and Demons – for us all to watch and we didn’t get to the cheese until 6pm. Olivier would not have been pleased at this downgrading of the cheese platter and had he been here at the head of the table, cheese would have been served with salad before dessert.  They recalled his very French idiosyncrasy with deep affection and toasted his memory with a 1996 Bethany wine, kindly provided by Tyson’s boss, Stuart, his guest for the lunch.

Vanessa’s l’art de la table

So, I have survived my first Christmas without Olivier and I know he would have been pleased at the joy and happiness of the day. (See my foods blog for more photographs.)





Depardeau flees France

France’s favourite actor son, Gerard Depardeau has caused an outcry by renouncing his Frenchness and handing in his French passport because he is incensed at the socialist Hollande French Government implementing a 75 per cent wealth tax.

And he isn’t the only one.  Depardeau, who has many business interests in France besides his popularity on screen, has been joined by countless other French people keen to retain their earnings.

In one prestigious apartment block in Paris, an average of two families a week are moving out.

Depardeau has moved to a small Belgian village just inside the border but many others are moving to Switzerland.

He snet a letter – published in the weekly Le Journal du Dimanche – chastised his country’s Socialist prime minister, Francois Hollande  for insulting remarks over his decision to move to tax-friendly Belgium.

The letter propelled him into the spotlight for raising the sensitive issue of tax exiles as France looks to fill state coffers with a stiff tax on the rich.

“We no longer have the same country. I’m a true European, a citizen of the world,” Depardieu wrote in the letter. He said his 2012 tax bill — 85 percent of his revenue — is fully paid.

The exodus follows France losing its precious triple A rating to slide to double A.

Gift-giving the spirit of Christmas

Scarlett dressed for Christmas

So this is Christmas.  Trees with twinkling lights in so many windows, wreaths on doors, Father Christmases in every shopping centre and big red bows tied around street trees. Sometimes one spots a nativity scene in a shop window.   And every now and then houses in rows will be  decorated with millions of coloured lights. Reindeer pulling sleighs, or elves carrying gifts and almost always Ho Ho Ho Santa Claus himself will be included in the display.

Whole towns such as Lobethal and Loxton are jammed with cars wanting a first-hand look at the majesty of Christmas which has transformed  the towns into a sea of twinkling lights.

In Lobethal there is the live nativity scene and carol singing in the main street  – and my nephew Jason, his wife Rhianna and their young six month old baby son, Theo will be Mary, Joseph and the babe this very night.

Churches are adorned with nativity figurines, Christmas trees and advent wreaths of pine needles  already lit with the first candle to herald Advent, the Christian Church’s period of preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ.  However, that  familiar nativity scene of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in the stable in Bethlehem, with angels gathered and shepherds hovering, is disappearing from culture’s Christmas scenario. Christmas has become a commercial orgy and a party fest. This is a sad reality in a so-called Christian society.

All this decorates my external world, yet I wonder if anyone would understand that I am not in the mood to decorate our beautiful home with a big Christmas tree and garlands like husband Olivier and I did last year.   It was such a grand family two-day celebration –  Christmas Eve feasting with Olivier’s children and grand-children; church on Christmas morning with my own three  children and the big Aussie lunch, orchestrated more by my adult children than myself.

Or the year before that when we lived at Hindmarsh Island (before Olivier’s diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer) when I blissfully painted tree branches in white and delicately placed decorations on each spindly branch.

Scarlett on her grandma’s knee

However, this year, I prefer to be reflective on our Christmases past and I am thankful that I kept Olivier’s sentimental Christmas cards in which he wrote an endearing French message of love and good cheer each year.

Of course, I will switch on our Christmas lights, which Olivier draped across the alfresco and over the front gable of our new home and I have hung the Christmas wreath, I made with such pride last year, on the front door.

Yet, last Christmas Olivier knew it would be his last unless a miracle happened. So I am facing my first “Noel’’ alone without him, and the thought is enough to get my eyes swimming once more with a thin veil of tears.

Sadness will no doubt lurk. However, the Christmas message “Unto Us a Child is born’’ reflects the joyful event in our family with the birth of Scarlett, my grand-daughter in July.  She has been a powerful injection of love and has brought  a lesson on the unpredictable cycle of life’s tragedies and joys. It means Christmas 2012 will be also the first at the home of my son Tyson, daughter-in-law Vanessa and my lovely new grand-daughter, who will be five months on Boxing Day .   Vanessa’s parents, John and Sandra, will also be staying over and I will awake, as I always have on Christmas morning amidst loved ones.  Their home will have all those delicious Christmas smells of mulled wine, gingerbreads and pudding spices, of cinnamon, cloves and ginger, butter,  brandy and seasoning..  My gifts will be under their pretty  Christmas tree which already sparkles colour and which has candy hooks scattered around.


It occurs to me that despite all the tinsel, it is the gift-giving that ignites the Christmas spirit. Today I begin to buy gifts for the family. Laden with bags of my purchases, I feel joyful that it is Christmas. Because it is the thoughtfulness one puts into selecting gifts that epitomises love and family celebrations. Which is why I am happily wrapping gifts for my other  three grand-children, Samuel, Angus and Josephine, whose telephone calls on Christmas Day will make my first Christmas without Olivier a joyful occasion.



New questions hover over Jacinta’s suicide

Forme Darwin Hospital PR officer, Vanessa Hein.


The tragedy of the thoughtless radio prank which led to the suicide of nurse Jacinta Sadanha  is just awful.  Greig and Christian when they apologised on television appeared crushed, tearful and full of remorse.  The   London news footage of Jacinta’s husband and two children with the young daughter covering her eyes was heart-wrenching; the world audience could feel their desperate grief.

The Australian duo has worn the blame, but I do wonder whether hospital management had any part in that woman’s despair.  What I have been thinking is How was Jacinta treated by the hospital management after the prank?   We don’t really know whether she was treated with understanding and support or whether she was abused by management or  ostracised by her nursing colleagues. We will never know. But there are questions which should be levelled at King Edward VII management.  Were the nurses  treating the Duchess of Cornwall  briefed on the likelihood of prank calls?  Were any procedures put in place to handle telephone enquiries to the ward, even from the Queen?  Was she briefed to put ALL telephone enquiries through to her superior?  My thought is that Jacinta was totally unprepared for the telephone call.  In my 40-year full-time working life, I have experienced serious, damaging bullying by the odd manager.  One in particular had me shaking in shock at the metamophosis of a man, whom I thought to be a commanding kind senior manager, who turned into a raging, threatening bully at a mere discrepancy.   This experience, particularly, leads me to wonder whether hospital management had any part in that woman’s despair.

Vanessa Hein, a former PR colleague of mine, wrote the letter below, published in  The Advertiser this week.  She  worked at a major Australian public hospital for three years as a PR officer and in her covering email she said she had had her eyes “well and truly opened’’ with not only hospital politics, but the lengths the media will go for a story.


Did anyone at 2DayFM (perhaps a  producer or researcher) stop to consider the consequences of what is termed “never more than a harmless prank” before the call was made to Kind Edward V11 Hospital ?


Together with Greig and Christian, what were they thinking?  Have any of them heard of the term “patient confidentiality”?  What did they think would happen to any of the nursing staff or the Duchess of Cambridge if the call made it through.  Do they know what pressure nurses are under in the normal course of their duties let alone having to scrutinize phone calls?


Once a upon a time the media had lateral vision. How “blind” are the decision-makers at 2DayFM?


Some people and some situations should be off limits.  Sadly, this proved to be one of them.


May Jacintha Sadanha rest in peace and her family be given the comfort they need as Christmas approaches.”


However, in her covering email, Vanessa also added the following thoughts which are also valid.  “Blind Freddy would have known there would be some form of trouble.  Hospitals, airports, the fire service, the ambulance service etc should be “off limits” to prank calls from the media. Simple!”



Cricket Champions at three score and 10

Our national cricket champions

The recent Over 60s National Cricket Championships played in Adelaide last month revealed two  local champions – Des Fuss (left from Moonta and wicketkeeper Michael Willson formerly of Kangaroo Island,  (right) who were selected for the Over 70s National Cricket  2013 Team.  Both men have captained the South Australian Over 60`s teams in the National Championships for the last 2 years at Canberra and Armidale.


Along with Michael & Des, two other South Australians were also selected in the National side –  Jim Curtis from Adelaide and Graham Ashby from Mount Gambier.

Michael, an opening bat and wicket keeper, averaged nearly 50 run in opening partnerships in the recent four games of the National Championships at Adelaide. Des is an all-rounder while Jim and Graham are hard hitting batsmen` There is a possibility that the Australian team may tour England next year.


Meanwhile the Over 60s national team has a new SA recruit – Roy Schulz – who in his heyday was a crack bowler in the Murray Bridge region. The team will go to the US in April.

For more information contact Keith Miller ph 8370 9063.