Tourists find Katmandu in recovery mode

My Sydney friend has taken her first post-retirement trip to Nepal to do her bit to boost the tourist industry in that impoverished country,which has suffered from   massive earthquakes in May and June this year killing more than 8600 people and destroying more than 500,000 homes.  Here is her first report.

“Well, we are here in Katmandu.   I think it’s one of the
poorest countries in the world and it appears to me that the country has been brought to its knees by the earthquakes. There is dirt and dust and mess (from the earthquake damage) everywhere. No proper footpaths makes it difficult and there
are electricity wires on the ground (not live)
that you step over all the time, which compound the problem moving around easily.  In contrast, we are staying in a palace for the first three
nights. My friend Caroline is an intrepid travelling companion and  she enjoys
everything with gusto. We will be trekking in three days time.  Had a
fabulous thali dinner for $3.50 last night – beautiful food.  The people
here are lovely but you can see that life is tough.  Even in the midst of such chaos, I know it’s such a great
experience to travel here. xxx Jane

Jockey Michelle beats racing discrimination

Is there a greater thrill in November than enjoying a girlie Melbourne Cup luncheon when trailblazer jockey Michelle Payne became the first woman to win at Flemington? And she was riding my Sweep pick – Prince of Penzance! It’s such a cracker of an Aussie story. And the Lyceum club crowd cheered when she publicly berated the blokes who tried to have her removed as the horse’s jockey with a rousing “get stuffed”.

“I just want to say to everyone else, “You get stuffed’, because they think women aren’t strrong enough but we just beat the world,” she said after winning the 2015 Melbourne Cup and dobbing in the part-owners of Prince of Penzance who wanted her removed as the jockey.  And our group of women warmly applauded when she hugged her Down syndrome brother Stevie, a strapper at the stables. Winning because he backed her with his ten bucks bet was far more important to note than the $6 million winnings from the race. Another very high hurdle of discrimination against women jumped over.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Congratulations to Michelle on being named The Australian’s Australian of the Year.  A well-deserved accolade.

Le premier mot…


Behind the lack of blogging on my website over the past year, I have had a secret project. I have been very busy completing a 100,000 word manuscript telling the story of how I have pulled myself back from the deepest pit of grief following my husband Olivier Foubert’s death to patch myself up again (think of Humpty Dumpty here) to re-engage with a love of life. Recovery from grief is like childbirth. No-one can take this gruellinig path for you and we are simply not equipped to cope well with sorrow.  But your family and friends can walk with you as you grope towards the light once more, trying to awaken the person you once more. I have taken my journey from grief – about returning to France with a girlfriend, about friendships, about food and phobias and learning how to have fun again – and written my story hoping it will help others facing terrible loss.  My greatest hurdle was learning to cope with sudden loneliness – and so I spent two weeks in Paris alone to regain my sense of self.  Although its my personal story, grief is a universal emotion and is intrinsically linked to love. In our older lives, love and loss are as bound together as the adage of our youth that love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.  I don’t know if I will be successful in getting my story published. Presently, it is in the hands of my literary agent. I wait patiently, but regardless, writing my stuff has been cathartic – and I feel healed. I can proudly write that whatever the outcome, my story, with the working title Bon Voyage Mesdames  is the best thing I have ever written.

Adelaidians can show solidarity with Paris

The Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherall and Ambassador to France in Australia,Christophe Lecourtier, will be speaking at a public vigil to show support and solidarity for the victims of the attacks in Paris and to the people of France.

The vigil will be held tomorrow night –  Tuesday  November 17 from 6pm to 7pm at the Soldiers Memorial Gardens in Unley (adjacent to the Unley Shopping Centre).

Speakers will include the Ambassador and the Premier. A minute of silence will be held and internationally renowned soprano Gisele Blanchard will lead the singing of the Marseillaise, the French national anthem.

Feisty Michelle wins big race and our hearts

If ever the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s great horse race, defined us as Australian, it was when the first woman jockey, Michelle Payne rode Prince of Penzance over the finish line at Flemington.

It was a sensational ride to victory against all the odds  ridden by a slip of a lady who even some of the horse’s owners wanted removed as jockey.  And Prince of Penzance had the equal longest odds in cup history at 100/1 racing against

Michelle’s story of her childhood dream  come true to win the Melbourne Cup reflects her life as one of 10 children  of the Payne horseracing family who had endured their fair share of life’s body blows.

The race itself had all the elements of why the Melbourne Cup stops the nation.  This year, the favourites were way back in the field and instead the 100/1  Prince of Penzance, romped home in a dream ride. With Michelle in the saddle,  the least favoured had grabbed the glory.

However, the magic began before the rac when Michelle’s brother, Stevie, who has Down syndrome, and is strapper for Prince of Penzance, drew the barrier for the magnificent animal.   It must have been a good luck omen.  Stevie, who lives with his sister, then  placed a $10- bet on his sister winning the race. Yet another barrier – attitudes to people with Down syndrome – was broken in an instant as Stevie explained his own hopes for his sister’s success.

When she won Australia’s most glamorous horse race, despite the gaggle of sporting commentators, owners and an adoring crowd, Michelle first hugged her brother. Then she mounted the podium, cracking the whip during  her victory speech to chide some of the part-owners who didn’t want her to ride, telling them in Aussie lingo to “get stuffed’’.

“I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed, because women can do anything and we can beat the world,’’ she railed.  She used her moment of glory to expose the chauvinism in Australian racing circles and said female jockeys were as good as men – as she had proven in the toughest race on our turf.

However, there is yet another powerful lesson in this true Aussie tale.   Prince of Penzance had flashed past all those foreign-owned magnificent horses (backed for millions) to show that an Aussie horse would win the race which honoured the late great Australian  race horse owner, Bart Cummings.

Michelle swept aside many societal stigmas and endemic discrimination in one mighty ride.  She lost her mother when she was only six years ago and the family of 10 siblings were raised by their trainer dad.  For the sake of horse racing, the tight-knit family faced grief when Michelle’s sister lost her life in a racing accident in 2007.

No wonder the Melbourne Cup  stops the nation. Because Michelle and her brother Stevie, won our hearts.   Watch this space for announcement of an Aussie film.




Regular exercise can slash breast cancer risk

Hit the pavement running ladies, or hire that exercise bike to stave off breast cancer.

According to a French study of postmenopausal women, regular recreational physical activity seems to have a rapid impact on breast cancer risk in women over 50.

The research from the Institut Gustav Roussy in Villejuif involved data from 59,308 women enrolled in an ongoing European investigation into links between cancer and nutrition.

However, the striking result was that 30 minutes of walking a day can reduce the chances of breasts cancer in women over 50.

Researcher, Agnes Fournier said older women who exercise can slash 20 per cent of their risk of developing breast cancer.

“We found that recreational physical activity, even of modest intensity, seemed to have a rapid impact on breasts cancer risk,’’ she said.

However, the team in France warned that the reduced risk only applied to women who had undertaken exercise in the last four years. Exercising when younger, or more than four years earlier, does not have the same impact it reported.