A Cauldron of Emotion in Jill’s Poems

Jill Gower with her Shape of My Life

Sometimes it takes serendipity to reach out to strangers and decide on the spur of the moment to meet them at a local coffee shop to learn something of another woman’s difficult life.

Such is the story of how I came to meet local poet, Jill Gower, who has written the story of her life in gripping prose and had it published in her booklet Shape of My Life.

Jill is an Adelaide Hills dweller like myself and she wrote to me about my memoir From France
With Love and how she read of  La Huchette, a nightclub in Paris where my late husband met his first wife, Colette when they were both teenagers.

“On page 25 there is mention of La Huchette, a club in Paris.  I was thrilled to read this, as when I was 16 years old (I am now 70)  I went to Paris (from the UK where I lived then)  and visited this club, something I have never forgotten.  I am a poet and my autobiographical book is with my publisher.  In my book there is a poem dedicated to this visit,’’ she wrote.

While catching up on many neglected emails while I coped with grief, I found hers and contacted her to get a copy of her book.

The first attraction which breaks down instinctive barriers to strangers is that we Hills dwellers share an unspoken bond, a quiet understanding that we live in a paradise dotted with gums and pine trees and an enviable lifestyle. It’s a camaraderie which people on the Adelaide Plains don’t readily understand.

So, I met this Hills sistuh, who was a cuckolded wife, divorced,  married a few times and only a few years older than myself.  Her life course had a familiar ring, except that I was a new widow and she had been divorced for many years.  She wanted to show me her book “because poetry needs to be promoted more’’.

Her youthful looks belied her 70-plus years aided by flaming red hair, which she unashamedly advises is “the bottled kind’’.

Hers had been a particularly emotionally painful life as a woman.  Both of her husbands had affairs, and the second time, after a long, although volatile marriage of almost a quarter century, Jill was utterly crushed.

“There is someone else

He says he has found his soulmate

I am devastated\hysterical

Still love him

Still believe that

We are soulmates

I am in denial

I refuse to tell our daughter

Tell him he must be the one

She is distraught

….It is over

And the pain is physical

Days pass like each has no end

The doctor comes

Sits by my bed

Holds my hand

Gives all the comfort he can

But nothing stops my tears or pain

Friends come and go

My parents

My children

I cannot eat

Cannot function

My youngest daughter

Becomes my mother

Puts her own grief on hold.


Hers is raw, emotive poetry which captures the whole cauldron of love, death, grief, joy and particularly, pain. There is plenty of it inflicted by the  men  in her life, which began in an English field when she was 16 leading to her first pregnancy and first abandonment by her teenage lover and ended with the separation from her second husband.

“I am quite happy in my peaceful life without any emotive issues to cope with,’’ says, Jill, who is convenor of Hills Poets in the Adelaide Hills.

She is a regular reader at Friendly Street (poetry group) and has judged the Spring Poetry Festival in 2009 edited Frost and Fire, the first anthology for the Hills Poets. Her first collection of poetry Elastic Time (Brand New Line) was launched in May 2010.

Shape of My Life, published by Ginninderra Press is dedicated to Jill’s children and is available on www.ginninderrapress.com.au.



French TV program triggers Ghan Deja Vu

It was so thrilling to see a dose of Australia on French television on 20 Heures, the daily news/current affairs program  which filmed a segment on The Ghan trip to Alice Springs. The program goes to air on SBS  daily at 8:40 am to 9:20am as a repeat of the night before screened in France. It was excellent. (I can make these evaluations because I was in PR 20 years before I set foot in a newspaper office where I worked for another 20 years).


The friendly lady behind the bar on the Ghan was especially “welcoming’’ and Australian in her friendliness.  Particularly spectacular were the side trips (now included in the fare) of the camel drive.

Great Southern Rail publicist Melanie Reid had organised a journalist and cameraman from Telematin (the French morning program) to go on the train earlier this month.

“But to see the story also appear on 20Heures was a big surprise,’’ she said yesterday.

For me, the program  triggered a memories when Olivier and I took The Ghan to Darwin tucked up comfortably in a  Platinum Cabin – an amazing luxury – and it is nice to be able to recall such happy moments in our marriage without tears.  (We were married just over four years when Olivier died in May last year.)  Clearly for Olivier and it was a once-only trip on a remarkable train journey across our island continent to experience its diverse landscape.


PS: Anyone interested in reading more of our journey, it is on my Travellers’ Tales blog, but back in 2010, so some stories back now.  It was for this trip that Olivier bought his excellent Nikon DX Camera with tis special lens to take photographs through glass while moving. All photographs on my website www.nadinewilliams.com.au are taken with this camera.



King of Magic Mountain Still Reigns At 70


Frank Sebastyan and his beloved restored jukebox

Adelaide’s own ‘ silver bodgie’’, former rock star and amusement industry entrepreneur, Frank Sebastyan has turned 70 with a karaoke night for family and friends at the Stamford Plaza Crystal Room.


Nowadays instead of handling a microphone, he swings a tennis racket with great successful for a late bloomer at the sport.

And his adoring fan club who attended all agreed that Frank is ageing well with an exciting lifestyle of travel, sport and family, although it was revealed by his  life-long best friend, company director John McDonald, that he has had successful transplants to preserve his flowing locks.

Prior to the event, Frank agreed to an interview to reveal the secret of his tanned, trim body and his seemingly endless energy at three score years and 10.

Marital bliss heads his long list, which is not surprising given that he and his wife, Christine, celebrated 50 years of marriage back on June 1.


And in his usual unabashed manner, Frank reckons that having a great loving relationship all his married life – heads his secret tally to vitality at 70.


“You do need a good intimate sexual life,’’ says Frank, who worked at three jobs early in their marriage as their family expanded to three daughters.

Frank and Christine at Mont St Michel


His wellness list also includes sport, extensive travel adventures and spending time with the grandchildren – five of whom sang his praises at his Karaoke night.


Frank also sang a few songs, including Love Is In The Air, although his long life as an entertainer and as lead singer for Frankie and the In-Sect is mostly behind him.  His voice is still the same as when he would sing for 1000 teenagers on any Saturday afternoon in the top room of the Arkaba with his band The In-Sect  in the 1960s.   When the band hots up with a six-nights-a-week gig contract for 2 ½ years at the Arkaba, Frank becomes a full-time entertainer.


“The band was unique and hot, enjoyed hit records on the 5AD chart and wowed the crowds,’’ says Frank proudly.


Music seeped into his soul early in life when his sister Margaret joined the army and left him her Radiola radiogram. Then Frank who reckons he looked like James Dean when he was young (and loves flash cars just as much) got a casual job at the Koffee Kup in Moseley Square where an original Wurlitzer 1015 Jukebox played in the corner.


From working in the record bar in Myer he moved upwards to music director for 5DN, responsible for its catchy “Beautiful music’’ format which kept 5DN rated No. 1 for 11 years.


Music dominated his life, and he started buying jukeboxes, pinball games, video games and pool tables building up  – with Christine – an amusement business they called  Automatic Music Distributors.


He earned the entrepreneur hat establishing the highly successful Family Fun Factory chain, Downtown and Magic Mountain on the Glenelg Foreshore with powerful corporate backing and his ally John McDonald a driving force.  Frank was president of the Hindley Street Traders Association for many years and president of the National Amusement Machine Operators Association Ltd. and Frank and Christine were delegates to the international summit meetings of the amusement industry held in London and Germany.


Frankie has forgotten about the microphone nowadays.   Instead, tennis has become his favourite passion in the last few years. He has become a successful seniors player playing for South Australia in Perth at the Tennis Seniors Australia Championships in the Perth in January and his team winning in their age bracket at the recent 26th Tennis Seniors SA Teams Carnival in Berri in May.


“I love tennis and it’s certainly a later life conversion,’’ he says. “I had a few hits when I was a boy at Sacred Heart College and then when I worked at 5DN as its music director I would play tennis with co-workers including Ken Cunningham.


“In my late 30s I joined the Tranmere Tennis Club, but I only started competing seriously in my 60’s.’’


“The highlight was receiving my South Australian State shirt in Perth.’’


In his effervescent style, he has always been a follower of flamboyant fashion and for his birthday soiree he wore flash D&G chrome sandshoe-look–alike shoes he bought from Rome.


His coloured shoes and gaudy socks are legendary in Port Adelaide where he has been a faithful Power and Magpie supporter all his life, entertaining at the clubrooms.


He maintains a box at AAMI Stadium and famous Carlton AFL champion, coach and former Magpie Craig Bradley who is a life-long friend, wrote a long accolade to his mate Frank for his 70th party.


Frank has written his own life story, self-publishing “My Story’’ which includes the latest chapter of his chameleon life – after retiring with back injury, he became a catwalk model with Tanya Powell model agency and was “father-of-the-bride” at Adelaide’s bridal shows for five years.


“I do want to say that choosing Christine as my wife all those years ago was my best decision and I love her as much today as then.  So I think that means that the most important thing to ageing well is love.’’




Garden awakens to greet early Spring

With the arrival of an early August  spring, I seem to be living in a bird aviary, so prolific is the birdsong.  The plumber who is installing a tap in readiness for summer, comments; “Those birds are the noisiest I have heard.’’  And ,speaking above the chorus around us, I agree.

The sun shines in a cloudless blue sky despite the chilliness of the dregs of winter and on all sides, the garden is waking up to the gentle touches of Spring. The lillies are blooming their trumpets of  wonderful white velvety flowers and the snowdrops their tiny bells bobbing throughout the garden.

A solitary jonquil flowers by the letter box.

The tender green tips on the bare pruned roses promise a Springtime flower burst and the neighbouring Manchurian Pear tree is pregnant with fuzzy buds sprouted along the still leafless branches.

Nest-building is the order of Spring according to the mutton bird which is diligently tearing strips off the torn stocking, binding the barren gledisia tree to its stakes. Time and time again he returns pecking until yet another shred comes loose.

Those kookaburras, too, have returned to sit on the same gum tree branch, which hangs over the side fence and their raucous laughter makes me happy to be alive. A solitary black crow hops from one side of the garden to the other, perhaps looking for the population of caterpillars crawling on everything or else seeking out the snails hiding under low leaves.  And above, lorikeets streak like multi-coloured lightening bolts around the house, settling in a deciduous tree along the driveway. They shreak their pleasure.   And always there are magpies galore.

My side garden

However, the sign of Spring which means so much to me is outside my study doorway where Olivier planted masses of ordinary irises as soon as we moved into the new house.  Jammed in behind the retaining wall, they seemed doomed, but here they are sprouting their striking purple blooms as a living memory to my late husband’s green fingers.

Now, as I have written before, it is becoming a memorial garden for Olivier.  I have a regular gardener who has made such a difference to the hillside garden planting the carpet roses and transplanting borage and statice from the front garden.  This week, the landscape designer, Diana McGregor visited to inspect the lavender hedges, which do not seem to be thriving like they should on the threshold of Spring.  One border hedge is English lavender, the other is a rarer French lavender. Four have died since last Spring , leaving gaps in the borders.

Diana is not pleased with the lethargy of the garden overall and because of its dripper system,  which should be delivering sufficient water, Diana decrees the soil is stale and lacks nutrients. It desperately needs fertiliser. She delivers her verdict with the serious tone of a GP giving bad news on one’s health.

“It all lacks a kind of lustre for early Spring,’’ she says.

Kookaburra pays a visit

“Those leaves on the Christmas bushes should be glossy instead of flat. It all needs a good fertiliser and about this much mulch’’, she says, indicating a layer of about 10 cms with her thumb and forefinger.  This is as mandatory as if she had written out a prescription.    Each plant – and there are countless varieties of perennials, shrubs, climbers, herbs and grasses – is still only moving into its second Spring and as with anything tender and young, it needs to be nurtured, especially when trying to thrive in soil which not too long ago was a building site.

Meanwhile, I have bought a stunning  statue of an angel watching guard over Olivier’s beloved pond (his unfinished business as he intended to renovate it.) The angel is deliberately rusted to look old and stands sentinel over all of the happenings in this challenging fledgling garden which is giving me so much pleasure.



Judy’s Art Life in Shades of Grey

Judy Morris in her home studio


One of Australia’s eminent neuro scientists, Associate Professor Judy Morris, has taken off her  white lab coat to draw intricate art of the natural world and the human body.

She, who once used special dyes to see brightly fluorescent light in human nerve cells now prefers to use shades of grey – charcoal and pencils to create works to rival photographs .

After a stellar 24-year career as a Flinders University research fellow in Anatomy and Histology,  she has metamorphosed into an award-winning  full-time artist in just four years.

Judy, who was the National Health & Medical Research Council Principal Research Fellow when she retired four years ago,  has surprised herself at her  success.

Her workplace is now her home at 26 Hawker Avenue, Belair which has been enlarged to create a stylish upstairs studio. It will be open to the public this weekend on Saturday and Sunday afternoons as part of the SALA celebrations.

Lingering health issues in her mid-50s caused her to retire from science and turn to art.

“I felt I wanted to enjoy other things in my life that I had never had time to pursue,’’ she says.

She took  a course in art history at Adelaide University planning to become a curator. Instead, she was inspired to try her own talents after viewing an exhibition by Hans Arkeveld, a West Australian artist.

“I have been drawing full time for four years now.  I like to try and find different perspectives on ordinary thing, but it does involve showing more detail than people are used to finding in artwork.’’

Her keen powers of observation and attention to detail, once pivotal for scientific research, seemed ideal basics to becoming an artist.

She began her artistic journey in 2009 and other than undertaking  two short courses in drawing – one with the renowned nature artist Gilbert Dashorst at the Botanic Gardens – Judy is largely self-taught.

”I was inspired to get the pencils out again by seeing other people’s work and I was thinking “Oh, I can draw that’’,  she recalls.

Judy Morris has been a finalist twice in the prestigious Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize and her first solo exhibition held at the Flinders Medical Centre featured 32 drawings on anatomy using her personal trainer and herself as models.

“I cannot believe I have achieved all of this because I didn’t set out to achieve anything……. Things simply evolved,’’ says Judy.

She first turned her eye to the natural world, animal and plant forms, which she captured through a range of media, exploring the boundaries between drawing and photography .

Her graphite and coloured pencil drawings highlight the intricate beauty of natural objects she has found in her garden, or bushland or the foreshore.

She is also a master at capturing the human form with pencil and charcoal drawings ranging from portraits to renderings of body structures. She first drew her parents and one of her favourite models, is, however, her personal trainer and his body form is seen in artworks on the wall of her attractive work space.

“I am attracted to form, a beautiful shape and how the light hits it,’’ she says. “Light and shade is very important to me, but there is something in my brain that wants to see more.’’

Now each day she works in charcoal and pencil drawings in her new studio. She points to one of her body studies hanging behind her. “There are hundreds of hours of work in this work.’’

In 2007, Professor Morris was awarded the inaugural Nina Kondelos Prize by the Australian Neuroscience Society for outstanding contribution to basic or clinical neuroscience research by a female neuroscientist.

Previously her career was entwined with her husband, Professor Ian Gibbons, as Co-Chief Investigators of the “Autonomic Neurotransmission Laboratory” within the Department of Anatomy & Histology and also the Centre for Neuroscience, a major research area within Flinders University. He is still professor of anatomy in the School of Medicine at Flinders University.

Although”  satisfying work’’ Judy says the constant search for grant moneys to continue operating  the laboratory’s research and administration costs was very stressful.

In the early 80s, she discovered a whole new class of chemicals called Peptides and for the first time they were being seen in nervous cells all over the body, in the brain and every part of the nervous system.  “We were using special dyes and you could see brightly fluorescent light in the nerve cells and every day we would go and see the nerve cell and we could see something no-one else had ever seen. It was very exciting.’’

“My research was amongst the first in the world to show that nerves carrying signals between the spinal cord and the major organs of the body (heart, blood vessels, gut, reproductive organs, skin) use multiple chemical messengers to keep the organs working, “ she says.

“With my colleagues I developed ways of using fluorescent dyes to show up to five or six chemical messengers contained within a single nerve cell. ‘’

She doesn’t see anything remarkable about switching from science to art and recalled that her father was always drawing. But in high school she needed to decide between art and science.

“Everything we do in our lives is informed by science but most people don’t think about it that way. Science is seen as a cold, hard impassionate thing completely separate from their everyday life.’’



Shriver writes a shattering book about Kevin

Review By  Fiona White.

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver is a shattering book and tackles many taboo questions head on:  Is mother love a totally natural instinct?  Is it Nature or Nurture which determines a child’s character?  Are some people just born ‘bad’?


By choosing to write in an epistolary style, Shriver allows the character of Eva to express many socially taboo thoughts and feelings and to reveal her bewilderment at the tragic circumstances leading to her son’s imprisonment.  She agonises that she might have contributed to his sociopathic attitude by being a ‘bad’ mother and shows the depth of her guilt.


The first half of the book moves slowly and I found the self-absorbed, calculating character of Eva hard to like.  However, the pace of the narrative picks up as Kevin reaches his early-teens and the latter chapters make compelling reading.  ‘Watching a train wreck in slow motion’ comes to mind because we know early on in the book that Kevin has committed murder and we want to know how, where and why.  Suspecting that Kevin had been so unspeakably evil as to deliberately blind his little sister was the turning point for me: this was a taste of the truly awful event for which we were inexorably heading.


I found the character of Franklin very frustrating.  If both parents do not present a united front to their child over discipline and standards of acceptable behaviour, any half-smart child will soon manage to drive a wedge between them.  Franklin appears astonishingly blinkered to the possibility of his son’s manipulation and pathetically eager to accept any explanation Kevin cares to offer in justification of however egregious a transgression.


One has to question the wisdom of Eva dwelling so often and so openly in front of Kevin on the teen-age school killings – it seemed almost to present him with a challenge.


Ultimately Kevin succeeded in depriving his mother of everything she held dear: her business, her home, her wealth, her daughter, her husband.  Was his ultimate intention to have her to himself and not to have to share her energies and affections with anyone or anything?  He had recognised clearly the shortcomings of his father and the strengths of his mother.  He could now contemplate his future with the care of his mother and without competition from his sister.  Criminal he undoubtedly was; smart and self serving he unquestionably is.  Disturbing, very disturbing!


I don’t believe that his mother failed Kevin – parenting is a lottery at the best of times.