Driving in cars, fun on the couch and keeping mum

By Tilly Smith Dix

To the sea…

I’ve always loved driving, even when I got car sick as a little girl, I liked gliding past beautiful scenery. This usually included forests and the ocean along the magnificent Garden Route of South Africa. Garden of Eden, Wilderness and Knysna spring to mind as we lived in George at the foot of George Peak, which is part of the magnificent Outeniqua Mountains.

Memories of sitting on a thick cushion to see through the passenger window of my father’s first car, a green Opel Kapitan, which is now described as 1950s executive-class transport, are precious. The car seemed huge to a little girl and my job was to look after the picnic basket, ensuring nothing rattled as we were driving, with our little black Manx cat, Beertjie (little bear), who loved riding in the car and positioned herself on the backrest of the rear seat, with a wide-angle view through the oval-shaped rear window.

Scenic drives still soothe my soul and living in the panoramic State of Victoria of Australia, I constantly discover new routes to explore. Andrew, the aviator, would prefer to fly but to keep the volume down at home, he will sometimes find himself in the car with me and I know he ends up enjoying the ride almost as much as I do.

Mornington glory – top right, The Rocks.

Last Friday we had a break in the rainy spring weather and drove from our patch overlooking the mountains of the Yarra Ranges to the Mornington Peninsula as I was in desperate need of breathing in the ocean air and gazing out to sea.

I embrace being a constant tourist in my own backyard and this drive delivered joy and beauty in abundance. It took us a mere hour and 10 minutes to reach the town of Mornington, which we’d never explored before but only drove past on our way to Sorrento, which is a favourite haunt of mine.

Mornington was on her best behaviour, with a warm spring sun smiling down over her and a gentle ocean breeze delivering that magical scent I’d been longing for. Her long golden beach and red cliffs beckoned but first, we had to find a restaurant with an ocean view to dine at.

Well, we could not get any closer to the bay, unless we opted to dine on a boat. The Rocks overlooks the yacht basin and is next to the yacht club. Vistas of jetties, boats and pretty beaches made for the best location one could wish for.

The service was superb, the wine, a sparkling rose produced on the Mornington Peninsula, delicious, and the smell of cooking fish proved enticing enough for me to order a fish platter. Sadly, our chosen dishes were over-priced and ordinary. My fish platter was slightly dry and uninteresting and Andrew’s fish burger disappointing too. Plating was unimaginative and we ordered golden fries, which were scrumptious, to pair with our fish as no side-salad, fries or sauce accompanied my platter. The mussels were tasty and fresh, though.

However, nothing was going to spoil this perfect view and our joy shone bright as the couple at the table adjacent to ours started chatting to us. They were delightful and I was not surprised to discover they were Italian by origin and have embraced living on this gorgeous peninsula for many years. Rosaria and Sisto were sent by the gods, who weave the tapestries of life, when people drift into our orbit to leave their mark, often for a season, a reason or forever.

Once our new friends departed, after we’d exchanged contact details and agreed to meet up soon, it was time to stroll on the warm sand and dip my toes in the ocean. No, I did not have a swim as the kelp was creating its own unique tapestry in the surf and I was satisfied simply getting my feet caressed in the gentle waves.

Mornington on the Mornington Peninsula is a visual treat.

On the way home, we listened to a diverse mixture of CDs. South Pacific, performed by Jose Carreras, Kiri Te Kanawa, Sarah Vaughn and Mandy Patinkin. Yes, an unusual mix but it was an old-fashioned sensory overload complementing our gorgeous drive. Memories of my father’s beautiful tenor voice singing Some Enchanted Evening came flooding back and I almost had to flick away a tear.

Our second choice after that impressive musical recording was The Beach Boys. Some may snigger but those boys created some incredible music that has withstood the test of time. Hearing Don’t Worry Baby and God Only Knows brought back memories of my first beach party, where I had a taste of Old Brown Sherry, and falling in love for the first time. Remembering the innocence and dreams of a teen, thoughts of having few regrets washed over me.

Couch indulgences

Living in a country village makes good television desirable as we are some distance from the city. SBS on demand is my current choice for getting cosy on the sofa and Breathe, the story of Robin Cavendish, the longest living responaut in Britain, who was affected by polio at the age of 28, made for excellent viewing. The MBE died in 1994 and his wife Diana, a driving force behind his fighting spirit, is played by the lovely Claire Foy of The Crown. Andrew Garfield is superb in the role of Cavendish.

Another gem, which I’d never heard of, is A Little Chaos, starring the beautiful Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci and the enigmatic Matthias Schoenaerts. Rickman plays King Louis X1V, who employs Kate’s character in the creation of a garden at his Versailles palace. Romance in the shrubs, for sure, and I noticed 48% of viewers reported it a rotten tomato. I disagree and found the movie enchanting with superb acting by the stellar cast.

A further indulgence that has come to my notice, ideal for armchair travellers, is the newly relaunched live webcam at Tau Game Lodge in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve – it should come with a warning, ADDICTIVE  – see for yourself at http://taugamelodge.co.za/main-lodge/live-webcam/

I’m not keen on TV series anymore – too many and sadly, often, the same old same old storylines, formulas and plots. However, I was hooked on the first series of Riviera, starring the mesmerising Julia Stiles and veteran actress Lena Olin, whom I first saw in The Unbearable Lightness of Being many moons ago. The cast includes Jack Fox, who certainly is a fox and from the acting royal family Fox. James Fox is his father, Edward Fox is his uncle and the charming Emilia Fox is his cousin. It’s in the genes…

I was thrilled to see the second series of this riveting saga about the dark side of the art world was now streaming and I promptly binged, watching ten episodes in three days. This is what happens if my spouse does some cross-country flying and I’m working back home. I hope I don’t have to wait long for series three… indulging in the visuals of those dream locations on the French Riviera, which I fell in love with years ago, is a delicious treat.

Fun with fashion and the yummy mummy

Continuing with springter, which has become my new preferred season, I’ve been indulging in spring fashion, whilst never taking my eye off my beloved winter warmers as the weather continues to fluctuate between the two. I’m not complaining as I get to wear my soft cashmere and mohair sweaters half the time, then get to savour the essence of spring on some warmer days.

Why am I not complaining? We’ve already endured a few scorching days and they were grim reminders of my dislike of heat. My body simply was not designed for it and even as a little girl, I used to faint when exposed to hot sun for long. Somehow, it changed briefly in my twenties, when I lived in Cape Town and spent summer days on the beach but I think what probably made it bearable, back then, was plenty of water, a fresh ocean breeze most days, the freezing cold waters of the Atlantic and handsome hunks bearing gifts of iced lollies and Campari and soda. Whenever we did venture to the warmer Indian Ocean side on that magnificent peninsula where two oceans meet, beach time was brief and dining in the cool shaded hubs of Gordon’s Bay was preferable.

Diversity is the fashion hero of our times as anything goes. I’m thrilled to see the soft, flowing femininity of the late Seventies being back on trend and I am besotted with kimono tops, palazzo pants, floral dresses and gypsy-style skirts gracing our wardrobes again. I’m also chuffed (delighted) to have unpacked some such finds, which have been stashed in boxes during our renovation process, so, it’s like having a new wardrobe, unwrapping my vintage stash.

Fashion for springter (winter and spring), anything goes – see more on Instagram page Sixty_is_the_new_40

The casting agency contacted me a few weeks ago to appear in a commercial for Dingo Cement and I was cast as the visiting mother-in-law of a cute young couple wishing to impress her with their attractive new patio floor.

The accomplished talent playing my daughter in the commercial is Katrina Conder and we agreed casting was pretty accurate as we could see a resemblance in our appearance. We had plenty of giggles, getting immersed in our roles, with Katrina often cooing, “love you, Mum,” and me chirping back, “love you too, possum.”

Driving to the shoot location was sheer bliss, as the road from our Yarra Valley to Narre Warren is mostly countryside strewn with pastures, hills, paddocks and scenic beauty. Horses, alpacas and vineyards are included in the scenery along the way.

Clockwise, from top left, pictures left to right: Katrina Conder, Natalie Corteling, Imogen Walsh, Matty Morris, me and Katrina Conder. Scenes from our region.

Filming was on a feistily windy day and our wardrobe stylist Imogen Walsh, and make-up and hair alchemist Natalie Corteling had their work cut out. I tell you, our hair felt a bit like cement after all the hairspray used to make our dos withstand the elements but fun was had by all.

Cheers to the good life – let’s live each day as if it’s the last hoorah. It is impossible to feel jolly every day but it’s worth a try…

When it’s springtime in the valley

by Tilly Smith Dix

So, spring is still a tad illusive but when she shows her pretty smile, she does it in style here in our Yarra Valley, aka, the valley of plenty.

Our planet is in a state of confusion but I’m not going to get hot and heavy about climate change on this blog, not today, anyway, so, I will celebrate the fact that we’ve had some glorious sunshine and mild days, confettied with the colder, wet days and nights.

No use fretting over something we cannot control, Boris, take note, so, on with the fabulous things to do in our region and beyond, immaterial what the weather, or the Mothership Britain, brings.

Don’t mess with my Sherlock

Theatre, which includes amateur theatre in spades, is big in Melbourne and surrounds and we are keen patrons of the 1812 Theatre productions at nearby Ferntree Gully.

Our most recent attendance was for the Ken Ludwig Baskerville Sherlock Holmes Mystery. Have I mentioned that I adore Sherlock Holmes and devoured all the stories I could lay my sleuth-like paws on since my late teens?

To make this brief, which was not the case during my husband and my discussion post-production, I was disappointed. The cast did a great job and I’m sure the director was having loads of fun. However, being a Holmes fan, I was not amused. You see, I take Sherlock seriously and I did not like this scary story being treated as a spoofy comedy. You can set the hounds on me if you wish but I’m sticking to my opinion. I’m too old to change my views, so, there.

Skincare alchemy

I’ve bragged about getting free stuff to review and post on my Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram page and boy, did I hit the jackpot with Sarah of http://www.skincaredoctordirect.com sending me a range of their superb products, specifically geared for my ‘mature’ skin.

Pictured above: from top, clockwise: Skincare Doctor Direct alchemy; my glowing skin; wearing my vintage and some new fashion gifts. So pleased blazers are back and this navy @decjuba jacket is now a fashion staple, not to mention the wide-legged linen pants @trenery – see more on my fashion Instagram page @Sixty_is_the_new_40

We agreed I’d be honest and after testing the products, I’d let her have my honest feedback and if the range was not suitable for my skin, I’d not review it further. Honesty is, as they say, the best policy.

Well, I can honestly say she knows her stuff as she spotted me on Instagram and thought I’d be an honest collaborator. She was right and I’m glad we found each other. Her modus operandi is impeccable and as I’m a stickler for honesty in ethos, we’ve been getting along just fine.

I loved the handwritten note which accompanied the handsome-size package with skincare products. Such small gestures make huge impressions.

The Aspect Hydrating Mask is pure magic. Sarah suggested, in that lovely note, that I could, “pop a serum on first, like the little Medik8 Hydra B5, which should be okay around the eyes first, followed by the mask to do its magic overnight. Just a thin layer of each. You will have new skin in the morning and use once or twice a week.”

Yes, I thought, right, ha. Well, I took a picture, no filter and in bright sunlight in my lounge to show the proof of the pudding, or rather, hydrating mask and serum that turned my skin into a dewy, soft, glowing baby’s bottom-like surface (without the rash), by morning.

The rest of the samples included the C25 Vitamin C Serum for daytime use, followed by a K Centric moisturiser broad spectrum SPF50. LOVE the results and have not hollered at the image in the mirror for at least two weeks.

The Hydra B5 if for extra moisture and ideal for AM and PM use on damp skin after cleansing and I find it light, yet super effective.

It is a known fact that we lose collagen as we age, sadly, and the Tensage antioxidant defence serum is superb. It differs from the C25 serum as it has a stronger Vit C content and includes growth factors. Sarah warned that growth factor products ARE expensive but amazing and she is right. Worth every dollar, I say.

I did find the Tensage defense serum a little rich, whereby I cut down my applications to twice a week only and that works beautifully for me. I guess I’m lucky with good genes from the beautiful parents, long gone to heaven and I thank them, as I often do, for many things I feel blessed with.

So, the eyes, oh dear, the eyes. The windows to the soul and a dead bloody giveaway of our age too. I spend a tiny fortune on good eye cream as I’m trying to fool myself and the world, especially on days I wake up feeling 19 until I look in the mirror and yell at the old chook in the mirror.

Well, the Tensage radiance eye cream, again with growth factors, is a freaking marvel! I could see the results after three days! How IS that even possible? Sarah tells me the range is massively popular in the USA with cosmetic surgeons and still new here in Australia. Well, I see that changing rapidly as it is a wonderful elixir for those crepe lines that creep up on us over the years. Laden with Vitamins C, A, B5 and E, I love the products.

I must also add, I am a stickler for supplements and as I take most of these vitamins orally, I reckon feeding the skin on the surface with the same goodness has to be advantageous.

The Glow oil from Medik8 is a delight, especially on days when you feel a tad prunish and is ideally used over serums under a day or night cream. Again, those lucky genes of mine, or perhaps the Champagne I so adore, proved this a tiny bit rich as I discovered a few spots like a teen but they were manageable. So, I reduced the use to twice a week only to give my skin a rocket up the proverbial when required and it took notice, big time.

Verdict? I’m now an uber fan of Skincare Doctor Direct in Australia. Send Sarah your questions and give your skin the magical boost it deserves before we bare all for summer – see more at http://www.skincaredoctordirect.com

Ya-yas in the Yarra

Two lovely lasses who live closer to the big city paid me the honour of travelling to my neck of the woods of the Yarra Valley for lunch earlier this week.

A day of malarkey, yay! I booked a table at Meletos in Coldstream, which is a mere 13-minute drive from our little house against the hill and this enchanting café overlooking the verdant vineyards did not disappoint.

Pictured above, clockwise from the top: sunrise vista from our little home; Meletos and my lovely ya-ya friends, Dragana, centre, and Ashley, left.

The service was warm, friendly and efficient. The ambience was a delight and I could not help but notice how other diners were expressing their appreciation for the cuisine, vistas and atmosphere.

My confit duck was sublime, not to mention the side order of hand-cut chips sprinkled with parmesan – not a morsel left, in spite of all my chattering non-stop with the girls. They loved their gourmet pizzas and I quaffed some delicious local Domain Chandon brut, which is served by the glass.

I like that Meletos works closely with local producers as this, after all, is the valley of plenty, where cheese, wine, fruit, meat and other produce are plentiful. In my country of origin, there is a saying, ‘local is lekker,’ which means: ‘local is delicious.’ and I love that small producers in our valley collaborate so successfully. Spreading the love and the goodness. Come visit.

I believe Meletos was created by the same family who started Stones of the Yarra Valley and The Stables at Stones. I also see they offer 22 boutique guest room accommodation at The Farmhouse adjacent to Meletos. Now there’s a thought…watch this space!

Cheers to the good life – we deserve it…

Grateful in springter

by Tilly Smith Dix

I love all four seasons but I’ve always had a penchant for cold, wet weather. Must stem from my roots as a little girl living on the Garden Route of South Africa. George, our town, had a prolific vehicle numberplate: it started with CAW – translated by many as cold and wet, and so it was but the folks and I loved it, although Dad sometimes said he could feel the cold in his big toe. I thought that was funny and had visions of him sleeping with that one big toe outside the window at night. I was five.

That being said, I do adore spring, when new life is evident everywhere, from those adorable spring lambs clumsily bouncing around the green pastures to bees busily gathering nectar from a newly launched smorgasbord of blooms.

This year, spring is late as we are experiencing winter chills, rain, sleet and plenty snow in our alpine regions nearby. I’ve also noted that in other parts of this blue planet, where autumn is due, they’ve experienced late summers, with absolutely no autumn but an almost instant transition into the cold of winter.

Above, the vista from our kitchen, deck and living room is never short of magnificent.

I’ve never liked the term ‘trans-seasonal’ – it just happens to be something, same as ‘reimagined,’ that sticks in my craw. Can’t explain why. So, I’ve decided to create some new words, or maybe, someone has already done so and I was busy and not paying attention.

I’m working on ‘reimagined,’ and prefer ‘revitalised’ but will keep you posted.

For ‘trans-seasonal,’ I’ve opted for ‘springter’ for the current winter to spring in our magnificent Victoria. Some might feel strongly about this word rhyming with unmentionable parts of the anatomy and my advice to them is to simply take their minds out of the bathroom. I LIKE springter, the fifth season, and I can wear my entire wardrobe in a week and as many of you know, I love fashion. So, layering of slinky basic outfits, covered by cashmere and wool, has become my thing. It does take some planning but the styling sisters of my fraternity will attest, this simply taps into our deep creative fashionista soul and can be a superb form of therapy.

Above, fashion therapy, some gifted to review, others from my vintage closet, featured on Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram posts.

For example, you’ve had a rubbish day. Your husband did not like the perfect meal you prepared for him or he had cramp. Then the cat got sick and a client proved difficult as their business is struggling because of the Brexit exit. Whatever.

You make a run for your own little space, short of curling up in your closet, and start planning your outfit for all weather eventualities for the next day. Soon, you’ve forgotten about the stinkers conspiring to complicate your life and it’s just you and your wardrobe. I promise, in no time you become a super styling diva.

Word of advice, do NOT enter ANY confrontational arena at this point. You are in a great headspace now. The cat is fine, curled up and snoring, and hopefully, the Mister too, so no need to fret. Now run a luxurious bath, put all the most delicious bath products you desire in the water, go BIG, and have a calming soak as you are now set for the next day, planning to be fabulous in every way, which, of course, you are.

After this hedonistic soak, get some light reading material, something you know will make you laugh and guarantee happy dreams. My current favourite, which involves no stress or Shakespearian navigation to get the meaning of it all, is Ya-Yas in Bloom. Yes, snigger, but I tell you, it works.

That and the wonderful doTERRA aromatherapy oil I got from my sweet cousin Helen. The Balance oil is guaranteed to relax the most troubled soul and she further produced an additional blend, labelled CALM. Okay, her delightful eldest, Cameron, aged eight, suggested her mom gave me the latter roll-on mix. Obviously at eight that little beauty has a great future as a psychic as I have no clue how she came to the conclusion I was in need of such therapy.

Above, some members of our gorgeous ya-ya South African clan in Melbourne and my delicious linguini pescatore at The Brook in Point Cook.

I digress, so, enjoy your feel-good bedtime story and remember to include me in your gratitude list the next day. You’re so welcome.

I was also, again, gifted with a bottle of delicious Immerse sparkling wine by my charming friend and neighbour, also named Helen. Her and her husband own the superb Immerse Winery and Wedding Venue in Dixons Creek. We always have such an effervescent lunch, albeit not as often as we’d like. Tick another box on the gratitude list.

Above, doTERRA oil, New London Jeans, Immerse bubbles and Rodan+Fields toner.

I’ve been indulging my skin with the rejuvenating Rodan+Fields Redefine Intense Renewing Serum for some time and I can see the difference as my skin certainly seems more refined after several months of use. The lovely Ashley, who is part of our South African sisterhood here in Melbourne, suggested I review the Pure Minimising Toner as well and I am impressed. In fact, it also removes any residue of make-up after normal cleansing. Just colour me grateful, again.

My late mom was no fashionista and hardly wore make-up – not that she needed it as she was beautiful. However, she always advised me to keep my skin clean and keep it moisturised as you CANNOT replace your skin. Grateful to my darling mom Annie, now long departed, for that sound advice.

Mom also loved wildlife, in fact, all animals. She would have been ecstatic watching our birdlife in the Yarra Valley.

Above, juvenile crimson rosellas feasting on grass seeds in our wild back garden.

Speaking of gratitude, I truly try to remember to be grateful every day for so many things I take for granted. For example, the women in my country of origin are standing up and protesting against the murder and abuse of their sisters. This is of grave concern to me and I am grateful to have survived a brutal attack in broad daylight so many years ago, after which I underwent four operations to get my cheekbone and nose fixed after a street vendor from Zimbabwe decided to change my profile. Why? I stood up to him when he was trying to con me. Long story short, he got six months suspended sentence in the court case and had to pay a R2,000 fine to the state for their valuable time. He was the only breadwinner in his family, three children at school and a wife who could not work as she had to tend to their kids in Johannesburg.

Yes, I was bitter and angry for about two weeks and got over it. I had NO time to feel sorry for myself. I was alone and had to keep my new business afloat. Luckily, I worked from home, therefore, bandaged and splinted around the facial bones, I diligently took the painkillers prescribed when necessary and got on with business. I also improved security around my home and my car. Just in case.

I also had the support of the most amazing friends, who generated business my way to pay for the medical bills, whilst strangers tracked me down after the article in the Sunday Times appeared, offering me emotional support. Some wanted me to point the perpetrator out to them to ensure justice was done the vigilante way but I could not agree to that. I believe in karma and I know, that wheel turns.

I am grateful, as I am a survivor, not a victim.

From my career in journalism to my job as a publicist, I was always focused on creating a platform for the clients, with me always in the backaground. I still do. However, this new hobby of fashion Instagramming has resulted in my being the client too. Believe it or not, at times I do feel a bit bashful but then I get over it and just have fun. The support of women following me on the Sixty_is_the_the_40 platform is so encouraging and today, two of them agreed I was their spirit animal! This makes me mighty proud as I admire them immensely too! Grateful for these amazing Insta sistas. I don’t see myself as an influencer, more like an inspirer – as I’m older with more life experience.

I’m also grateful for having the opportunity to live in this amazing country. Nothing is perfect but when we start noticing the small things, the bigger blessings appear like magic. For example, yesterday I was carpooling with a fellow South African lass to join our South African girl-clan for lunch in Point Cook on the western shores of Melbourne.

The gorgeous Janine and I swopped stories about arriving here and finding our feet, at times stumbling over some bumps in the winding road, which is common when changing countries. She is now settled and proudly Australian, and I am grateful for feeling more confident about finding my way around this liveable city and its magnificent surrounds. Google maps only gets consulted for exact address locations now. Almost five years ago, I would break out in a cold sweat trying to find my way around the suburbs and Melbourne’s diverse outskirts, spanning from bay to river to mountains and lakes. I finally feel at home and this makes me grateful.

Needless to say, our lunch with the rest of the clan proved another triumph. Those beautiful, warm, friendly faces, the spontaneous laughter and appreciation of good food and other people’s problems are balm for the soul. I might have developed a few more laughter lines and I must try and be grateful for that too, I guess…

I highly recommend The Brook in Point Cook. We were all happy with our menu choices and the service was efficient and friendly. My linguini pescatore with fresh chilli on the side was a delight. The bubbles went down great too, of course, followed by a hot chocolate, which hit the spot on a cold rainy springter day.

Above, pictures featured on Channel Seven Sunrise in their Melbourne Fashion Week slot, which drove new followers to my Instagram pages.

Something else I feel grateful for is getting gorgeous free stuff of my choice to review, style and Instagram on my Sixty_is_the_new_40 page. We all love a bargain but if it’s free and you embrace fashion and beauty products, I have loads to be grateful for. My husband is also grateful as it means I’m not spending my money.

New London Jeans liked my Instagram shots and we ended up collaborating.  I’m mad for their jeans, which will be part of my slow fashion wardrobe staples onwards as these babies are made to last and the fit is sublime.

My fashion Instagram account also got me signed up with a fabulous modelling agency, which I’ve talked about in an earlier blog. When Wink asked me to audition for Melbourne Fashion Week, I questioned it as, a) I am NOT super-model tall, b) I’m 60-plus and c) designers do NOT create catwalk fashion for petite older chooks like me. However, the agency insisted I should go for the audition as diversity was the theme for this year’s fashion extravaganza.

The job went to a stunning woman close to my age who is very tall and athletic with a boyish haircut. The organisers were kind and actually asked me to walk the hall a second time to have another look at me as they liked my walk, I was told. I was interviewed by Sunrise on Channel Seven and photographed by The Herald. This happened while I was trying to keep up with the two six-foot-five chaps I had to walk the walk with.

This all resulted in my being rather wild-eyed and fluttery, I kid you not. When I saw the footage of me on TV a few weeks later, I cringed as I thought I looked positively loopy but I indeed found several things to be grateful for: I made a delightful new friend, a gorgeous young man called Timothy, who chatted to me on the tram on the way to the audition as he happened to be going there too – he now follows me on Instagram and calls me a legend – his parents raised him to be respectful and kind; I got chatting to Vesna, the fabulous model who got the job for the show as the mature (tall) model and  I knew she’d ace it, AND she’d keep up with those tall boys; and, lastly, the Seven TV producers featured some of the best photographs from my fashion Instagram, which drove new followers to my personal Instagram, from where I directed them to my fashion page. They announced my Instagram was ‘exploding,’ which sounds fantastic but in reality I’m gaining about 200 a week and now sitting at nearly 3,500. Grateful.

Life is full of surprises and I’m embracing them with gratitude. Cheers, dahlings, here’s to the good life – we deserve to always be kind to ourselves.

Summertime, and safari living is easy…

By Tilly Smith Dix

The African bush is a riot of wildlife in summer. Game born in spring is now sure-footed and have gained confidence, often peppered with some attitude. Plants that flourish in summer after a dry winter and the spring rains, burst with life, attracting migrating birds that follow summer.

Summer, therefore, is a magical time to visit five-star Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Reserve, where conservation is key.

Ever seen an African wild dog and her young basking in the morning sun, or a lioness and her cubs lazily rolling in the grass, after feasting the previous night?

Fast-forward to lunchtime, when you are dining with a wide-angle view of the large waterhole. In the heat of the day, animals, like humans, have to quench their thirst and all you have to do is dine on delicious food, sip your favourite summer mid-day tipple, and watch the pecking order at the waterhole…

Pictured above, clockwise from top left: The king of the bush contemplates the morning; the dining deck at Tau overlooks the large waterhole; rhino pool party in full view of human diners.

Later, once you have taken a dip in one of the two swimming pools, or had your own siesta, or perhaps observed the waterhole from your own room deck, or had a revitalizing spa treat at the Tau Spa Oasis, a safari drive with your designated game ranger will open up a whole new world in the verdant bush.

This is also a time for game to communicate with each other, sizing each other up, deciding where the hunt should take place, while the hunted become skittish.

Before heading back to the lodge to refresh for dinner, you will stop at a perfect spot for sundowners and refreshments, always under the watchful eye of your ranger.

Dinner is served in a different location every evening, depending on the weather, of course. Be it on the Dining Deck, Restaurant or Boma, you are never far from the waterhole, where the sounds of the night will astound you. Convivial conversations at dinner with your ranger and fellow guests make for an unforgettable experience.

Early morning safaris are spectacular, offering magical light for photography, with a pitstop for Amarula coffee and delicious buttermilk rusks.

Pictured above, clockwise, from left: the lounge offers a birds eye view of the waterhole; a Luxury Room deck overlooks the waterhole; African wild dog flourish here.

Much to the delight of avid followers of the wildlife activity at the iconic Tau waterhole in front of the lodge and all the rooms, a new wildlife web camera will soon be reintroduced, with a dedicated wifi connection to share the prolific wildlife interacting 24/7 via the web.

The lodge is enclosed within the reserve, resulting in the humans being subtly fenced in, while game, including several crocodiles, roam free, including the prolific birdlife.

Chef Cynthia Tait from Australia spent a month training and familiarizing the culinary team with the art of healthy cooking and using more organic seeds, vegetarian dishes and now globally popular Thai flavours earlier this year. For regular guests enjoying the comfort safari food at the lodge, the Tau chefs continue to create deliciously unpretentious cuisine.

The Tau 2019-20 summer rateuntil end-April 2020 starts from R5,850.00 per person sharing per night including:

  • 3 meals, 2 game drives, refreshments on game drives and teas/coffees at meals per day;
  • Excluded from rate are the park entrance fees (currently R180.00 per person per night), tourism levies (currently R10.00 per person per night), Rhino Conservation levy (currently R150.00 per person per night)
  • Book a 3rd night and get the following spa treatment free:

A complimentary Back and Neck OR African Head Massage (30 mins) per adult.

      When booking please quote: Summer2019

The Tau Cubz Club, Tau Spa Oasisand Tau Conference Centremake this an ideal malaria-freedestination for romantic, family, leisure or corporate safaris.

Tau Game Lodge opened its 5-star safari doors in 1995 and offers 30 rooms, from Standard to Luxury to Family Suites.

+27-(0)11-466 8715/17 – taugame@mweb.co.zahttp://www.taugamelodge.co.za

ends.

Tales from the valley

by Tilly Smith Dix

Women who lunch

About two years after arriving in Melbourne, I joined a closed Facebook group of South African women living in Australia. This has turned out to be such a sanguine experience for all of us.

Many of us agree, we did not move to another country to form a South African clan as we want to embrace the culture of our new country and become a part of it. That said, one often longs for your own kind as every culture has its own malarkey and being able to chat and giggle with people who understand and share your roots are true blessings.

This interaction also serves to help newcomers to the country to feel welcome, whilst it is also an ideal sounding board for them to seek advice about some pretty daunting aspects of changing countries.

South African women in Melbourne bonding like supportive sisters.

This can also be a very lonely time, when women are far away from their former support system, such as family, and often, valued domestic helpers!

Over the past two months I’ve attended three lunches with members of the group. Sharing advice, kindness, warmth, emotional support and easy camaraderie with these beautiful women is something to behold. It also makes me proud to be a South African. We are adaptable, strong and resilient but only human – an embraceable clan.

We are, of course, also discovering excellent restaurants in the process as most South Africans like to break bread when they bond. Two of my current favourite eateries are The Baker’s Wife in Camberwell and Mr Tulk next to the State Library in the city.

They both serve international cuisine with a small but delightful wine list. Have I mentioned we like wine?

See more about our real-food dining experiences on TripAdvisor @tildix2016…

Connecting with my inner-child 

Twice in a matter of one month was I invited by children to join them on an outing, which is rather flattering. Their reason? They wanted ‘girl time’ with me. Just colour me glad-glam-gran as it is an honour to be asked to join this exclusive ya-ya sisterhood.

Cameron, aged seven, had a Christmas wish for her and me to go to a show in the city. I obliged, bought the tickets for the show of her choice, which was Billionaire Boy by UK actor and writer David Williams, performed at the Art Centre of Melbourne. Cam’s only gripe was that we had to wait until April for the show!

Well, time flies when you’re having fun and the day arrived for us to hop on metro rail and head for the CBD to see the show. Ice-cream was consumed on the way to the theatre, naturally. The theatre was packed and whilst my young relative enjoyed it, I believe the crafting of disgusting menu items after the show proved more fun – the show featured a scene of obscene cuisine.

I thought it most impressive for the Arts Centre to have offered kids the opportunity to indulge their imagination with glue and colourful paper on paper plates to express their creativity. I won’t mention Cam’s menu ideas as I’d hate to spoil your dinner – it did involve braised rotten toenails…

After a pizza at Il Pom Italian Restaurant and some play time at Federation Square’s ACMI – Australian Centre for the Moving Image – it was time to head back home with a little girl who could not wait for the 50-minute train journey to end so she could tell her family about her day.

A few weeks later I was invited by our friends in Emerald’s little five-year old, Frankie, to be her special ‘older relative/friend’ at a school social in the afternoon. I have to mention that this little cutie has indeed informed me she will be asking her mom to arrange a play-date for her and me soon. Too precious. Can’t wait.

The drive to her school is spectacular and the winter colours of the gardens and natural forests of Mount Dandenong, which is the sister mountain range to our Yarra Ranges, are sublime all-year round.

Cameron and shades of winter in the Dandenong Ranges.

On arrival, I was welcomed by Frankie’s older brother, who attends the same school. He escorted me to Frankie’s classroom and introduced me to her teacher, like a true young gentleman. Seeing Frankie’s face light up at the sight of me, carrying my stuffed toy leopard, as a prerequisite to attending this auspicious gathering was to bring a toy from my youth, proved balm for the soul.

After reading her a story of her choice, Dr Seuss’ Horton Hatches the Egg, no less, we lined up the toys of young and old in estimated order of age, and then had to sketch each other’s treasured toys. I was deeply flattered when a little boy declared my drawing of Frankie’s unicorn ‘very beautiful.’ Born to charm, that little man will go far with the ladies as I assure you, this was not my best artistic effort.

Too soon, and after some playground fun for the littlies, it was time for this ‘old friend’ to depart as school was out. The leisurely drive home via Olinda was revitalising and having experienced joy and looked at the world through the eyes of a child again that afternoon, it felt good to be alive.

A city of culture

We booked our seats well in advance for an evening trip into the city to see Branford Marsalis perform with the Australian Chamber Orchestra at Hamer Hall. Having been a Marsalis jazz fan since seeing the entire family perform a Christmas Bump at the Lincoln Centre’s Rose Theatre in New York several years ago, this Melbourne performance was awaited with great anticipation.

Melbourne, a liveable city with plenty culture.

However, this turned out to be a classical music performance, with zero narration or dialogue by the performers, including Mr Marsalis, who only performed twice during the evening. We love classical music but the fact that we were expecting a jazz performance with the usual warm Marsalis interaction with the audience left us a tad disappointed. I must mention the performances by the entire orchestra were superb.

On a happier note, our neighbours invited us to a local church hall, where patriarch Tim was performing in his first concert as a student of the saxophone.

Well, not only were we pleasantly surprised by his performance and the rest of the Croydon Concert Band but also by the jazz standards they presented with enthusiasm and remarkable professionalism. A great Saturday afternoon on our doorstep and an unexpected triumph.

Extra, extra!

In a previous blog I mentioned I was asked to join a model/casting agency. Well, so, far, every time I have been offered a job as an extra in a TV production, I had to decline because of prior commitments. Most of these gigs come at rather short notice, I might add, with not much pay. However, being in a new country, I figure this is a way of meeting interesting people.

So, when they called and I agreed on availability and pay rate, it turned into a day of great fun, showbiz banter and making new friends on set. At this stage, I’m not at liberty to mention the name of the show but suffice to say it stars the gorgeous Australian actress, Lucy Lawless, who was down to earth and easy to chat to. I am now a fan and will be looking out for the series, whilst hoping my two scenes from a full day of filming don’t end up on the cutting floor.

The fact that I got to interact and pretend to be a different character, got my hair done, nails manicured, make-up done and styled with my fellow extras and the stars of the series, not to mention chatting with the fun director, took me back to my brief sojourn in the movie business in my early twenties. Who’d have thought I’d be doing this fun stuff in my ‘silver’ years – and in another country!

My next gig was equally fun and this time it was for a pharmaceutical company, where working with a remarkable photographer and crew again turned into plenty laughs. I had to be a customer in a pharmacy and make up dialogue to feature the pharmacists in the shoot explaining and of course promoting certain products. My fellow models from Wink Models were a delight. The beautiful Natsuko is an opera singer and karate instructor, my ‘grandchild’ is the daughter of one of the featured pharmacists, and my handsome ‘husband’ Rowan has worked as a double for Brian Brown, no less.

For some inexplicable reason, I picked adult diapers for a supposed incontinent husband, followed by Valium for my shattered nerves dealing with the bed-wetter. After much laughter, play-acting and finally wrapping the shoot, it was agreed we were all getting on in years as nobody chose condoms as a product to be featured. Pretending to be another character, meeting interesting folks and getting paid for it, what’s not to enjoy.

This new journey is certainly turning into a fun ride and it seems like it’s going to get even better…I feel it in my champagne.

Nine to five

In the meantime, work as a publicist continues with clients spread around the world, and a few here in our own valley. Writing has always been my first love and I feel privileged to communicate about my favourite things, including art, fashion, travel and conservation.

Then there is the Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram account, with the focus on wearable, timeless fashion, which is taking off with new followers every day. I am blown away by the support and warm communications between mature women around the world on this platform.

Images from Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram posts.

The fact that some male followers are either looking for a date or a yummy mummy is neither here nor there. After much contemplation about whom to block and whom to allow as followers, I’ve decided as long as they are respectful and might be of benefit by buying some of the featured brands for their partners, they are permitted to follow. Hubby thinks it’s a hoot, of course.

On the home front

Cathycat is still enjoying every moment in her new country. She no longer hunts, thank goodness, as she’s getting old and her arthritic knee takes strain at times. However, the natural meds prescribed by the caring vet at Coldstream Animal Aid is doing the trick. So much so, she now trots up to the ravens in the garden and has shouting matches with them, which sounds rather rude from where I’m standing.

Not wanting the princess to collapse in a heap from stressing over a cheeky crow, I spotted a beautiful green, red and blue feather dropped by the juvenile crimson rosellas frolicking in the garden during such a tirade. I picked it up, made a fuss of it and of course, nosy Cathy soon forgot about her new enemy in order to investigate what I was focused on. She spent the next few minutes chasing the feather, which somehow got stuck in her whiskers. This annoyed her no end as she has a touch of OCD, involving pristine cleanliness around her face.

             Cathy and a rosella feather, Yarra Valley sunrise, and a juvenile crimson rosella.

After this exhausting time in the garden, she could not be bothered with the king parrots whistling in the tree. It was time to turn in, get fed and be tucked in for the night. The possum that climbs onto the deck and looks at her through the glass door only got a brief grunt before madam became more interested in the warmth of the wood burner, which Andrew had stoked up for the cold night. Not a bad day in paradise for the indulged feline.

Cheers to the good life, let’s be more like Cathy and live our best life every day…

 

Wiltshire Life Award for Pertwood Organic Farm

Pertwood Organic Farm has received the Wiltshire Life Award 2019 for Conservation Project of the Year.

Tamara Webster of Pertwood was presented with the prize by Will Thompson of Ramsbury, who sponsored the prize, at the awards ceremony held at the medieval Tithe Barn in Tisbury on 29 March 2019, (pictured below).

Pertwood Wiltshire Life award 2019 Nick Adams and Tamara

Nick Adams, Pertwood’s wildlife consultant, received second prize in the Countryside Champion of the Year category.

The annual Wiltshire Life Awards are held in recognition of conservation, creative endeavours, bravery, community spirit, entrepreneurship, arts, culture, hospitality, and more. Sponsors include Ramsbury, Smith & Williamson and the like.

Pertwood’s over 30-year tradition of organic farming has resulted in a wealth of wildlife residing in the unspoiled, chemical-free environment. The RSPB is keenly involved in monitoring the incredible variety of wildlife species that make this location their home.

The second oldest and one of the largest organic farms in the UK,

Pertwood is located on 2,600 acres of ancient downland. Harvesting oats, barley and other cereal crops, the soil is organically fertilised by the farm’s beef cattle and a flock of some 1,800 sheep.

The farm has the largest corn bunting population in the UK, where raptors, nightingales, skylarks and many other species reside in harmony. Deer, hare, foxes, badgers, a large range of beetles, bugs and other crawling creatures are a testament to the natural health of the soil.

A butterfly bank, in conjunction with a team of butterfly experts, has been created through the planting of butterfly-friendly plants, adding further longevity to the species for the farm and region.

Lower Pertwood Farm Wilf Poppies 2 June 2017

Wildflowers along the Lower Pertwood farm border with the A350, which is the main road between Warminster and Shaftesbury, is a tourist attraction in its own right.  Messages of appreciation for the scenic spectacle arrive daily from locals and visitors to the region.

Pertwood’s established Wildlife Matters newsletter is true to its philosophy of preserving the land and its creatures through every aspect of honouring the environment. 

Pertwood recently launched its 100% organic muesli online.  Packaged in a recyclable box and biodegradable inner bag, the farm remains true to its commitment to a healthy environment.

For further details and online sales go to: http://www.pertwood.co.uk

For media interviews and images: tilly@dix.co.za or martyn@hurstcreative.co.uk

Flights of fancy and city slicking

By Tilly Smith Dix

Apollo Bay Magic

Waking up to a magical view every day is a blessing but being only human, we sometimes get cabin fever. When Andrew is in the mood for some aviation therapy and I’m a bit overwhelmed by work in the home office, he likes to offer a solution. Yes, you guessed it, we go flying.

I’d not returned to the Great Ocean Road since we moved here, which is a shame as we loved exploring it during our first holiday in Australia. Andrew recently flew to the little bay with his flight buddy and raved about it. However, because of heavy rains and rock falls just before our arrival on our first ever visit to this country, we could only drive as far as Apollo Bay because of road clearing operations.

The road was winding and offered scenery to swoon over. It is up there with other magnificent ocean drives such as Chapmans Peak in South Africa’s Western Cape, and the Big Sur Drive of California, both of which I have had the privilege to experience and cherished every time I embarked on them.

What I remembered most about Apollo Bay was the beauty as well as the delicious and affordable seafood platter we indulged in on that visit almost ten years ago at George’s, which is still there.

The Great Ocean Road is an Australian National Heritage listed 243km stretch of road along the south-eastern coast between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford on the Southern Ocean.

Home to the Twelve Apostles, which are deteriorating fast and now reduced to a mere six and a bit, this is a bucket-list destination.

My fondest early childhood memory is that of the ocean in winter on the spectacular Garden Route of South Africa. This remains my favourite time of year to go for long walks along the beach as the summer crowds are nowhere in sight. Moody skies reflected in the ocean are heavenly for this pluviophile.

Our flight from Coldstream to Apollo Bay was smooth and the Sling4 seems made for such flights of fancy. Of course, Andrew is a superb and cautious pilot, making for peace of mind for this sometimes skittish passenger. Flying over the Mornington Peninsula after clearing the picturesque Dandenong Ranges and impressive Cardinia Reservoir, is always a thrill for me as it is a region I adore. In fact, if we were not so firmly ensconced in the panoramic Yarra Valley, Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula would probably be my next home.

Flying over the peninsula and the stretch of ocean between Sorrento and Queenscliff, which we have traversed by ferry in the past, on a cloudy wintery day was idyllic. The vistas of land and ocean and that winding road from Torquay, past Aireys Inlet, where we spent a few blissful days years ago, are breathtaking from the air and landing in Apollo Bay, although a tad windy coming in from the ocean, was a breeze, pardon the pun. My pilot knows his stuff.

A short taxi ride, by which time we were starving, had us seated at Sandy Feet Café & Health Foods, which came highly recommended by our friendly taxi driver. I opted for the fish and chips, Andrew enjoyed the Thai chicken curry, and I washed my fresh catch of the day, mullet, down with a dinky bottle of NV Chardonnay Pinot Noir Limestone Coast South Australia bubbles. Andrew had a cappuccino as he never drinks when piloting – I find that comforting.

Afterwards, we strolled along the high street next to the ocean, then headed to the beach for a scenic walk to the bijou harbour, where we encountered countless gulls and, to our amazement, geese! I posted this unusual sight of a gaggle of geese on a beach on Instagram and lo and behold, a resident of Apollo Bay responded about the gaggle of geese and mentioned the fishermen offer them treats.

We did not venture too close as they can get cheeky and  the Instagrammer mentioned the geese had chased her mother when she tried to befriend them. My darling late mom was goosed and I remember the painful bruising on her inner thigh at the time. I was not falling for their sneaky tactics.

Too soon, we needed to head back to Marengo Airport, which is a 5km hike from the Apollo Bay Harbour. We decided to walk, which proved a delight as most of the road is along the oceanfront. It was quiet with just a few locals walking their dogs and enjoying the quiet after the holidaymakers had departed a week earlier. Perfect timing. We are not fans of crowds.

I highly recommend visiting this gem out of season if you enjoy the quiet. Locals are friendly and chatty.

Our return flight to the Yarra Valley was smooth, with a slight head wind, but we arrived home before dark. My head was clear after savouring that beautiful ocean air. All was well with the world.

Melbourne city slickers

A few days later, we had to travel into the city for a business meeting, after which we indulged in lunch at one of those delightful restaurants strewn along the Victorian lanes of the CBD of Melbourne.

We settled for RMB Café Bar on Degraves Street. Wrapped in our winter woollies, we opted for a table outside to watch the passing parade, which always reminds me of Europe. The friendly service, golden crumbed calamari, fresh garden salad and perfect fries hit the spot. On our stroll back to Flinders Street Station, we popped into Café Andiamo for delicious tiramisu and cappuccino, adoring the Italian vibe.

The ambience at these city eateries always result in my reminiscing about travels abroad, where the relaxed patrons tend to be congenial and on this city visit, we found ourselves chatting to a couple at the next table as if we’d known each other for years. They just happened to be on a city visit from the Mornington Peninsula.

We bid our farewells and promised to stay in touch. During our relaxing commute home on the train, we agreed, this indeed is a liveable city and we feel lucky to be part of it, albeit with one foot in the country, and by choice.

See more about our real-food dining experiences on TripAdvisor @tildix2016…

Cheers to the good life in a liveable world city. Come visit!

Autumn splendour

By Tilly Smith Dix

A golden feast of fashion, beauty and theatre

I’ve always loved autumn. When the days are cooler, the nights cosier and the colours turn to warm, russet hues, I dig out my soft woollen sweaters, sheepskin slippers, (sorry if this upsets my vegan friends), and mohair blankets. Ready!

Spending more time in the kitchen also becomes attractive as this past summer took its toll of my capacity for heat. Probably as a result of less rainfall during the hot season, I guess. Then we had those awful bushfires not far from here. I take enormous pleasure in mentioning the penetrating rain of last weekend, which truly made my heart sing. I think I could hear the grass grow after that glorious downpour.

Serendipity seems to always greet a new season as a new Facebook friend decided to spoil me simply because I showed support by liking her page for Arbonne, which she consults for in Melbourne. She asked me to provide her with my delivery address so she could send me a special thank you by mail.

A few days later, thanks to the speedy service of Australia Post, a parcel was delivered to my mail box, complete with healthy diet shakes and health potions plus a full range of skin products, ranging from a cleanser to toner, renewal serum, corrective eye cream and night repair cream. Well, just colour me happy and watch me shed my dry summer skin for a dewy glow, just in time for autumn.

 

Above: The autumn charms of the Yarra Valley & Ranges near Melbourne.

I have been using the travel-size Arbonne Anti-ageing Skincare Line for almost a week now and it is already obvious what a difference it has made in such a short period of time. I commend Izelle Van Aardt’s marketing skills to promote a product she feels passionate about.

I was a little worried as after cleansing, I applied the regenerating toner, the intensive renewal serum, followed by the night repair cream and corrective eye cream, when my skin felt rather tingly. However, after about 30 minutes the tingling sensation eased off and it felt good. Now, almost a week later, my skin feels tighter yet plumped up and moist. Having closely inspected the areas I most fret over, such as my frown lines, crows feet and the skin around my jowls, I’m confident the elasticity has improved and the lines seem less pronounced.

I’m also happy to advise the skincare kit only expires at the end of July. I recently had a bad reaction to an expired product gifted to me.

As for the Arbonne essentials energy fizz, which contains pomegranate flavour, I have one word: delicious! I poured the fizz into a glass of water on a day I felt a tad tired after a late night slaving over a hot laptop, which resulted in less sleep as I had to rise early in the morning. After breakfast and cappuccino, I still felt as if I was operating in slow motion, hence the decision to give the fizz a go. I kid you not, within 30 minutes I felt more perky and managed a full day’s work without skipping a beat.

Having checked what comprises this wonder elixir, I think the caffeine, calcium and camellia extract did the trick. I’ll keep you posted on the rest of the potions and will use Andrew as my guineapig to test the meal replacement shake as he has advised me of his intention to shed a kilo or two. Not that he is by any means overweight, of course…

 

Above: having fun on Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram – Cathy approves.

I may have mentioned I’ve already started digging out some jumpers and other fashion items from my closet to welcome the new season. Well, I’d like to share my delight in the fashion come-backs for the season, which include the wider culotte pants. Why am I so overjoyed at this? I still have my beautiful wool-blend wide pants from about 16 years ago and they are perfectly on trend!

Of course, the new season will always dazzle one with some fine new colours and designs, which I may or may not indulge in. Oh, okay, I could not resist, I did invest in a loungewear outfit to spruce up my wardrobe and may I say, the fabulous Instagram gals who follow me from around the world have been most complimentary about my acquisition. Shhhhh, don’t tell Andrew…

 

Above: celebrating a golden autumn – I love this tree in Olinda.

The fact that I’m a sucker for a gorgeous short or long pair of boots is no secret among those who adore me and whom I adore right back. Autumn calls for some bright colours to brighten the browns and greys and I could not be happier to slip into a pair of bright red ankle boots, just to show there’s still some spark in this ‘mature’ chook!

When Andrew announced he’d bought tickets for us to see a play at The 1812 Theatre, I was already assembling my old-gold Jenni Button suit of wide trousers and matching jacket, purchased at least 14 years ago in Johannesburg, teamed with a cream Witchery blouse acquired last year. After all, I still believe in showing respect for the performing arts by dressing up and showing up on time.

Breaking the Code, written by Hugh Whitemore and directed by Malcom Sussman, proved a triumph. Not in a million years would anyone watching the play have believed this was amateur theatre. The story, which was about Alan Turing, the iconic codebreaker who made history during World War II, reflected his unconventional lifestyle. Being gay during a time when it was unlawful, made life difficult for this genius. Michael Fenemore as Turing was illuminating in the lead role, whilst the rest of the cast were superb too.

It is rather quaint and old-fashioned to get free sherry, orange juice or choices of wine before the show and ‘supper’ after. The snacks comprised finger eats, which included scrumptious little steak and kidney pies, cheese and biscuits, sweets and fruit – and delicious Yarra Valley bubbles for me. I think the old theatre guard would approve. We certainly do and remain loyal to the amateur theatrical societies in this beautiful region surrounding Melbourne.

Cheers to the good life and autumn in all its glorious golden shades – and if you are entering spring on the other side of the world, may it be enchanting too…

A hit and run vacation

By Tilly Smith Dix

Touching base with my roots in South Africa

Visiting South Africa for only one week is a sin as there is so much on offer. However, with limited time and my workload piling up, that’s all the time I had to spend with a close circle of friends and family in February. Of course, living in Aussie, the travel time is not quite a walk in the park but more like that slow boat to China. I tried to take the long flights in my stride and it was pleasurable, thanks to excellent service on Qantas and Emirates.

I did find the seating rather tight on Qantas flying to Johannesburg via Sydney and witnessed the two sibling passengers seated next to me were struggling with leg room as they were tall.

The return from Cape Town to Melbourne via a connecting flight in Dubai, proved more comfortable on Emirates and I have to admit, the food on Emirates is quite delicious, even in cattle class.

Arriving in Johannesburg is always fun as the welcome from the Rainbow Nation employed at OR Tambo International Airport can be a hoot, a reminder why our roots remain dear to us. After much laughter, welcoming banter and the usual gangster-type taxi ride offers, I made my way to the airport Gautrain Station.

Getting my Gautrain card reloaded took about a minute and within five I was on the train to Sandton, which took 15 minutes. Gazing at the late afternoon traffic on the highways made me grateful for not having to drive! This ever-expanding metropolis has traffic congestion and even from the luxe train I could spot mini-bus taxies ignoring traffic rules and blocking intersections.

I could not help but be thankful for the superb public transport system available in Melbourne. No, I’m not trashing my country of origin but to be fair, one always compares cities when travelling. Part of the human condition.

Transferring to the Rosebank Gautrain Station from Sandton was easy once I knew where to go, so, I do suggest signs be more visible for first-time visitors to the Sandton Gautrain Station.

 

Pictured above, clockwise left to right: Sandton in the rain; view of Forest Town; great friends catching up on Mandela Square, left to right: Caroline Hurry, Carla Antoniazzi, Tilly, Hazel Fouche, Angela Bell and Nicola Chaning Pearce.

My generous friend Anne kindly offered to lend me a spare car during my brief visit as well as accommodation at her lovely home in Forest Town. How lucky could I get? All this as well as great company and loads of laughter – and two cats to welcome me and sleep at my feet.

You’re one in a million, Annie, thank you, it was great spending four nights, three days, and we got some quality time to catch up and enjoy a superb lunch at Reubens in Sandton, where a chef I always referred to as a culinary alchemist, was orchestrating his magic. I worked with Richard Carsten at Lynton Hall in Pennington some years ago.

Our party of four close friends so enjoyed the cuisine, we all vowed to return. Smart move, Reuben, for teaming up with Richard – two maestros do NOT always spoil the broth.

Of course, being in Africa, one is always reminded of the king of the African wild. Listening to the lions roar at nearby Johannesburg Zoo from my room in Anne’s house was somehow comforting, reminding me of my safari getaways to Tau Game Lodge, place of the lion.  Once in Cape Town, vistas of Lions Head served as a further reminder…

 

Pictured above, dining at Reubens Sandton, clockwise from top left: Prawn risotto, salmon and watermelon treat and a rib-eye steak; left to right: Tilly, Anne Whitehead, Daniel and Karen Amorim.

Meeting with a dear friend and colleagues who have become great friends over the years for lunch at Wang Thai on Mandela Square proved a triumph. The food was delicious, the service even better than I remembered, and sitting on the veranda overlooking the cosmopolitan piazza, where you will hear many languages uttered at any given time of day or night brought back comforting memories of my years in this Golden Mile of Africa. How it has grown and evolved…

The modern architecture and skyscrapers of Sandton are impressive and the energy is tangible.

Family time was short and sweet and more memories were made to treasure forever. Lunching with my nephew Jaco and his lovely partner Aderyn made for much hilarity and sharing of family secrets, some of which we discovered were fabricated, which caused further mirth once dissected.

I like ‘hit and run’ visits as I get out before people get sick of me, therefore I’m always invited to return. Highly recommended.

Before I could adjust to the new time zone, it was time to fly to Cape Town with my beautiful sister Rina. Kulula is an obvious, affordable option for travel in South Africa and meeting our eldest sister Lulu, who was flying in from Durban, at Cape Town International Airport was easy and everything was on schedule.

I’d booked a car via Rentalcars.com with Firefly, an affiliate and cheaper option of Hertz. Be prepared for a long walk through the subway at the airport to get to the car rental location. If you have a disability, get the shuttle. However, my sisters, aged 80 and 82, are remarkably fit and welcomed the walk with our luggage on a trolley.

The staff at Firefly were a delight and their efficient service and warmth served as a reminder of the happy years I spent in the Cape. Nowhere in the world do you experience this jolly service. Referring to us cheekily as the three roving beauties and me as the ‘supermodel’ brought plenty mirth into our day – as well as a generous upgrade as ‘women like you should always travel in style.’ How could one fault that?

Arriving at De Waterkant Luxury Holiday Apartment rental office took longer than anticipated as I challenged myself on my memory of the Cape Town ocean-front roads, which, by the way, have improved and changed considerably since my last visit. We finally dropped our luggage at our home for the next two days, 15 Bennet Street, which overlooked the beautiful stadium and Waterfront from the lounge and balcony, with a view of Table Mountain from my bedroom.

The self-contained apartment was stocked with tea, coffee and milk, so, we took a drive to Sea Point to find a late-night store for vital supplies, such as fruit, yoghurt, cheese, biscuits and bread. Friendly, helpful service and some free fruit for the ‘beautiful ladies’ from the shopkeeper had us set for a good night.

The elegant décor got our stamp of approval and the king-size and queen beds made for easy drifting into dreamland to charge our batteries for a full day of driving and exploring the next day.

A fond memory of years ago was awakening to the sound of the foghorn, but with no ocean fog and a mere fluffy table cloth of cloud on the majestic Table Mountain, the horn did not sound its lonely lament. Maybe next time.  

 

Pictured above, clockwise from top left: sisters Rina, Lulu and Tilly; the view from our De Waterkant holiday apartment of Table Mountain; Tilly and Rina on Houtbay Beach; African Cape penguins on Boulders Beach (3 images); Houtbay Harbour, Chapmans Peak Drive; seafood platter at Chapmans Peak Hotel.

The roads were a pleasure and for the first time in many years I managed to drive on the refurbished Chapmans Peak Drive, which should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. One of the most spectacular drives in the world, I had no objection to paying the toll fee as a price cannot be put on maintaining the road of endless vistas of ocean, bays, beaches and spectacular mountains.

The closest I’ve ever come to this kind of beauty has been along the Big Sur Drive in California when travelling between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Chapmans Peak Drive is much shorter but it will take your breath away.

I recall discussions with friends about epic ocean drives of the world, such as the road between Nice and Eze in the South of France. Yes, it is magnificent but I guarantee Chapmans Peak Road will have you equally enthralled.

After a light breakfast, we arranged to meet a relative for lunch at the Chapmans Peak Hotel as he thought we’d enjoy the views of Hout Bay Harbour, which we certainly did.

Our ocean-view drive from Greenpoint went via Sea Point to Bantry Bay, where I lived years ago, on to Clifton and Camps Bay, then we explored Llandudno, before travelling further to Hout Bay. Here, the road winds its way onto Chapmans Peak Drive.

I remember a delightful movie from the 70s, The Dove, based on a true story about a young man who sailed his boat from the US to Cape Town. Who could forget the spectacular view from the yacht over the cool Atlantic Ocean with waves breaking onto the white beaches guarded by the magnificent Chapmans Peak mountains.

Chapmans Peak Drive snakes between Hout Bay and Noordhoek, which has a sublime beach. This long, white beach reminded me of plenty days in the sun and horse riding along that magnificent stretch of beach, which was featured in the classic Ryan’s Daughter film, starring Sarah Miles. So long ago.

Returning to Hout Bay to meet our relative Colin for lunch, we reminisced about fish braais (barbecues) on Llandudno beach in the late seventies, long walks on Noordhoek beach, and delicious Sunday fish lunches overlooking Hout Bay Harbour at the old Red Sails.

When in Rome, or rather, when in the Cape, one should eat fish and it proved a fine choice at the Chapmans Peak Hotel Restaurant. Sitting on the veranda overlooking the Bay, with a fresh ocean breeze to cool us in the shade, was like coming home and all was well with the world.

The fish of the day platter comprised the biggest, most tender calamari rings I’ve ever tasted, king prawns and yellow tail, a favourite of mine. Not fine-dining but good, old-fashioned value for money. Again, the attentive staff, humour and one glass (I was driving after all) of delicious Cape sparkling wine from Stellenbosch was the cherry on the proverbial feast of location, company, and food.

The post-lunch drive to Muizenberg through scenic Constantia Neck was as memorable as I remembered. A perfect day got even better when we stopped to admire the Cape African penguins in their large colonies that have called Boulders Beach their home for many years. Situated on the warmer ocean board of the Indian Ocean, they are thriving and seem to know this location belongs to them as they have no qualms voicing their disgruntlement at being gawked at by humans when they are feeling romantic or strolling around the car park like custodians. Check under your vehicle before you depart, please…

A cold ice-cream wafer, which brought back further happy childhood memories for us all, hit the spot after our walk along the beach. I was tempted to drive to Cape Agulhas, where the two oceans actually meet, but it was getting late and the three musketeer sisters agreed democratically it was time to head to our apartment, put our feet up and enjoy our final night together. The end to a perfect, sunny, magical day, as only the beautiful Cape knows how to charm its way into your cache of special memories.

Having said our bitter-sweet au revoir when I dropped my sisters off at the airport, I headed to Franschhoek, the charming French corner of the Cape Winelands, where my great-great grandmother arrived from Orange in France to marry an established Dutch Settler farmer in the mid-1800s. My treasured friends Bev and Danie have settled there for eventual retirement. Until then, Bev heads up her Sothebys Realty franchise and Danie consults on business, which he knows plenty of after many years in the corporate as well as sports sectors.

True friends are like comfortable shoes you have not walked in for a while. You slip them on and feel you have new journeys to share. We enjoyed some delicious local bubbles at Bev’s local café next door to her office on the Main Street, and that evening we indulged in a superb dinner at Bovine Restaurant, also on the Main Street of the bustling village.

The perfect medium-rare fillet of beef with seasonal veggies hit the mark and the sweet potato fries to share proved addictive but far less detrimental to the hips. Washed down with more delicious Cape sparkling brut, another perfect day came to an end. Dining in the moonlight and being vaguely aware of locals and tourists from all corners of the planet blending amicably like easy cream in this perfect location, surrounded by the dramatic Franschhoek Mountains on a summer’s night, was pure bliss.

Retail therapy

Of course, a girl cannot travel, especially minus her husband, without a little retail therapy to further savour the memory. I had already taken care of this tiny detail before dinner, when I popped into Tallulahs to indulge in a cool pink linen dress by Gordon Smith, and Zigi Boutique for cotton linen blend summer trousers. Fabulous fashion is affordable in South Africa, you won’t break the bank, so, take your credit card. You’ll thank me later.

 

Pictured above from top left: Linen dress by Gordon Smith; Rodan+Fields skin savers; light cotton Zigi pants, ideal for summer travel. See more fashion on Instagram at Sixty_is_the_new_40.

These finds are already proving a hit with my followers on a newly launched Instagram account, Sixty_is_the_new_40  – sometimes one has to invest a little to build a brand. Practising what I preach to my clients, of course…

Flying home to Melbourne was smooth, albeit divided by two long flights from Cape Town to Dubai, then to Melbourne. Emirates and its team did a fine job keeping passengers nourished and comfortable.

A welcome sight was my sweet husband picking me up from the airport, a long drive from our village outside Melbourne, to save me a train and bus trip late at night.

Give me some skin 

Looking at my travel-weary face the next day, I applied the Rodan+Fields Micro-Dermabrasion Paste to exfoliate this tired skin, fed it with Redefine Renewing Serum, eye cream and lip balm. It took 10 years off my skin, I kid you not. Thanks, Ashley of R+F Melbourne for gifting me with these skin-savers. You have a fan.

Hope to see those special South African friends I could not catch up with this time on my next trip – you are never forgotten. Perhaps you’d visit me here instead, you won’t be sorry…

Cheers to the good life… love you all stukkend (to bits).

 

Pertwood Organic Farm launches 100% organic muesli online

By Tilly Smith Dix

Preserving the land and its wild creatures for now and for the future…

Pertwood Organic Farm has launched its 100% organic muesli online. Packaged in a recyclable box and biodegradable inner bag, the farm remains true to its commitment to promote and sustain a healthy environment.

The Pertwood team states it is catering to the mass of consumers who made it their business to demand their favourite organic breakfast cereal be made available again as it was no longer sold in supermarkets. The re-introduced fruit and seed muesli contains no added sugar or salt and is totally wheat-free.  It is the same, tried and tested product, made from 100% British organically grown cereals.

Past consumers also asked for a bigger volume of muesli in each box, so to meet this request, Pertwood Organic Fruit and Seed Muesli now comes in a 1kg pack, (previously it was only available in a 650gm box).

Having adopted an artisanal approach to complement the organic integrity and wildlife-friendly ethos of Pertwood, the team goes live from 7 January 2019 to launch one of the UK’s most popular organic brands online. The online price for 1kg of Pertwood Fruit and Seeds Muesli is £4.95.  www.pertwood.co.ukTo support the farm’s environmental principles, a leaflet detailing some of the wildlife initiatives is included inside every box.

Locals are welcome to purchase their cereal directly from the farm.

All profits from cereals are directed to the Pertwood conservation programme.

Pertwood is the second oldest and one of the largest organic farms in the UK, located on 2,600 acres of ancient downland. Harvesting oats, barley and other cereal crops, the soil is organically fertilised by the farm’s beef cattle and a flock of some 1,800 sheep.

Wiltshire Life has shortlisted Pertwood in its Conservation Project of the Year category for its prestigious April awards event, and the farm’s wildlife consultant, Nick Adams, has been shortlisted in the Countryside Champion of the Year category.

Pertwood’s over 30-year tradition of organic farming has resulted in a wealth of wildlife residing in the unspoiled, chemical-free environment. The RSPB is keenly involved in monitoring the incredible variety of wildlife species that make this location their home.

The farm has the largest corn bunting population in the UK, where raptors, nightingales, skylarks and many other species reside in harmony. Deer, hare, foxes, badgers, a large range of beetles, bugs and other crawling creatures are a testament to the natural health of the soil.

A butterfly bank, in conjunction with a team of butterfly experts, has been created through the planting of butterfly-friendly plants, adding further increases of species for the farm and region.

In late summer and into autumn, the farm was a riot of colour, thanks to the wildflowers which are planted along the farm’s border with the A350,

which is the main road between Warminster and Shaftesbury.  This has proved a tourist attraction in its own right.  Messages of appreciation for the scenic spectacle arrived daily from locals and new visitors to the region. An even larger area will be given over to wildflowers for 2019.

Pertwood’s established Wildlife Mattersnewsletter is true to its philosophy of preserving the land and its creatures through every aspect of respecting the environment.

For further details and online sales go to: http://www.pertwood.co.uk

For media interviews and images: tilly@dix.co.za or martyn@hurstcreative.co.uk