‘Tis the Season to give joy

By Tilly Smith Dix

Folks and things we love

Our lovely younger neighbours often travel and as I’m such an animal lover, I’ve bonded with their chooks, making me the preferred carer of hens during the neighbours’ absence. I’m seriously contemplating turning vegetarian as the hens are smart and affectionate. They enjoy being stroked on their backs and crouch down for the love. They also like my food scraps, so, I’d say a bit of cupboard love might be involved here.

I never expect gifts for minding the chickens as we get loads of free eggs during my chook-minding sessions. However, these sweet folks often present me with delightful tokens of appreciation, which have included lovely wild flower bouquets and sweet treats from their travels.

One such token turned out to be them treating us to an evening at their daughter’s year-end Luther College of Croydon jazz fundraising concert held in Warrandyte. What a treat! Expecting just a normal school concert, the talent and obvious passion for jazz of these students blew our minds and you will need a long hard stick to keep us away from the next concert.

A wonderful part of growing older is our memories, while we have them, hie, and these memories will come bouncing in as reminders of our past while we experience the present. I was believed to be talented as a young girl and loved playing the piano. Aged 14 I performed in a large hall, playing Wagner, Franz Liszt and Stevie Wonder and got a standing ovation. Seems like yesterday, just with many more memories between then and now. The jazz event reminded me of that time and now I was one of the oldies cheering for more!

I have two Helens in my life here in Melbourne. One is a neighbour, with whom I have delightful lunches and she sometimes spoils me with some of their Immerse Estate wines, the latest being a sparkling blanc de blanc, which is hedonistically delicious and perfect for summer. My other Helen is the stunning yummy mummy married to my cousin Jason.

The older we get, the more we realise how dear special family is, especially when you’ve known some family you’d want to push under a bus. Not that I know such folks, of course. This remarkable couple and their three special munchkins have filled my heart to bursting point and they have also managed to twist my old man around their little fingers. I now enjoy joining in glam-gran discussions about their grandkids being the best thing since strapless bras in summer as I now have first-hand knowledge of such special bonds.

My step-daughter and her husband have also produced an adorable little boy, whom we hope to meet in the near future – they live in the US but here’s a warning to them: we are now fully loaded on spoiling grandlets, so, we plan to take it to the hilt when we get to meet the little man, Jacqui and Zach!

Music, food, art and wine for the Holidays

Melbourne and its Yarra Valley offer culture and entertainment galore, complemented by great food and wine. Recent dining delights include a visit to l’Auberge in Lilydale, where the French owner has remained true to form in a converted chapel. Now licenced, their small but ideal bistro menu never disappoints. Leave space for the delicious patisseries – you can smell the Chanel and see the Eiffel Tower, I kid you not. I try a different sweet every time I visit and am yet to find anything I don’t like. I also their gracious table service. I give l’Auberg a 5-star rating for café chic, and the piece de resistancefor me includes the eggs benedict (with salmon). Tell them I sent you.

Pictured, from left, clockwise: Christmas treats at the Yarra Valley Dairy; baby snapper at Round Bird Can’t Fly; Immerse blanc de blanc heaven on the tongue; eggs benedict at l’Auberge.

Still in Lilydale, Round Bird Can’t Fly has become another favourite lunch destination. The presentation is easy on the eye, table service is friendly and efficient, and our recent lunch proved a triumph. I savoured every morsel of my order of baby snapper on potato gratin and a green salad, and my friend waxed lyrical about her quinoa with tahini dressing, falafel, spinach, avocado and pickled cabbage, hummus and smoked salmon. If I was a bird I certainly could not fly after that lunch. For more reviews on dining, do head over to TripAdvisor, who tell me I’m in the top 4 reviewers for Melbourne: tildix2016

I have always loved the idea of affordable art as gifts, especially when you are familiar with people’s taste. This being the season of giving, I’ll be heading off to Art at Linden Gatein Yarra Glen, which is ideally located in the midst of picturesque vineyards. Supporting local artists is a great idea and art is a gift that keeps giving!

The gallery also offers boutique B&B accommodation, with views that will enthral the most stressed city soul. Pop over to the nearby Yarra Valley Dairy for a scrumptious lunch, where the world-class cheese, including my favourite goat’s cheeses, won’t disappoint. The shop offers sinful treats, artfully packaged to enhance any Christmas stocking – and festive table.

Paddock views, accommodation and art for giving at Art at Linden Gate.

We recently attended the AndréRieu Christmas Concert at the Rod Laver Arena in the city. What a show! We took our 92-year-old Kath, who is now in a retirement home, and a great time was had by all. Maestro Rieu’s polished and gracious management of his orchestra, chorus, accomplished tenors and sopranos was a delight; they certainly knew how to bring joy to four generations of a vast audience. Not only are André’s choices of Australian sopranos beautiful but their superb handling of a tune gave me goose bumps. Encore, keep spreading joy, maestro.

Cheers to the good life, and however you celebrate this Festive Season, may it be filled with joy and goodwill…

Yarra Valley Flight Training Adv Aug 2018.jpg

 

Sixty is the new 40

By Tilly Smith Dix

Turning forty was a gloriously delicious experience for me. I finally felt I’d arrived at an age in which I felt more comfortable in my skin. It was also a time of new beginnings for me. Slightly scary, as I’d moved city, returning to a metropolis I’d lived in before but it was different now as most of my friends from my twenties had either moved country or were too engrossed in family life to deal with a newly single old friend.

A new job made for exciting times as I’d been shaken out of my small-city comfort zone and set about reinventing myself, shedding an unhappy skin and promising myself success and happiness onwards.

Turning fifty proved another milestone and I celebrated it with gusto by embarking on a fabulous winter holiday in London, Italy and Switzerland – solo. Spending time on long-distance trains, from Milan to Genoa, then on to Portofino and Florence, offered much time to reflect and I loved every moment. A few days in Zurich, from where I flew back to South Africa, and I felt it in my bones that my fifties were going to be a blast. 

Photography by the amazing Jessica Apap, logo by fabulous Chiz Judge of Out of the Cage design.

By then I’d achieved success in my job as a publicist and copywriter, owned a luxurious, spacious terraced apartment in glamorous Sandton, and now I realised I might be in a position to slow down slightly and start taking notice of people wanting to spend time with me – men! No, I’d not cut them out of my life in the past ten years but my priorities included quality time with great friends, my business, my family and savouring the fun side of life, such as travel, great food, champagne and gardening for therapy out of my hectic home office!

Shortly before my fifty-third birthday, I met a man with whom I fell in like and then in love. We got married and after a few years moved to another country with our cat.

The day I turned sixty, my husband wanted to know if I wanted a party and I opted to celebrate this big birthday quietly and under the radar as I somehow did not feel ready to tell the world I was now officially a senior citizen – I simply did not FEEL sixty and according to loved ones, I did not look it either. So, being in a job in which most clients were younger than me, I felt owning up to my age would create a category labelled ‘past it’ – and I don’t like being categorised as I feel we all have so many facets to our personas.

Well, to cut a long and winding story short, I have finally come to cherish this new age as it feels incredibly powerful and liberating. Thanks to iconic, fabulous and smart women all over the world, this silver phase is NOT the final stage and there are new adventures and journeys to embrace.

So, taking the bull by the horns, I’ve come out, so to speak, as a now silver blonde passionate about the magic of life. The beauty of this phase is I can do what I like! Whilst there are still many lessons to be learned, I also feel I have plenty to say and teach, thanks to the ever-evolving school of osmosis. Dealing with life on MY terms, knowing when to say NO, or yes, without feeling guilty, is amazing. The stars are also aligned as my planet Jupiter (yes, I like being a mutable Sagittarius) is also positioning me for some spectacular years forward.

 

Whilst now living with one foot (no, not in the grave), close to the city of Melbourne and the other planted firmly in the magnificent Yarra Valley, I still enjoy stylish dressing and after some prompting by old and newfound friends, including a modelling agent, I’ve now officially launched an Instagram account: Sixty_is_the_new_40– let me know what you think of the gorgeous logo designed by my special friend Chiz.

Dabbling in modelling, which is a throwback to my teens and twenties to have fun and earn extra cash, I’m also trying to keep this silver brain active by continuing to work with a small, select clientele as a publicist and copywriter, while blogging and travel writing remain part of my many passions. My photography is also improving and living in a spectacular region with an abundance of colourful birdlife and glorious nature, I don’t even have to be great at it to produce excellent photographs.

As for social media, I’m working it, darlings, as between Facebook, Linkedin, my now two Instagram accounts, one private and Sixty_is_the_new_40, I think it a small miracle I manage to keep the house clean as well as cook and bake for my husband. Busy, busy, busy, ah, then there is the yoga to keep the bones strong and muscles toned, not to mention elevating the soul to remain mindful. Namaste, just colour me grateful.

Cheers to the good life, darlings…

Art at Linden Gate to host CACA

By Tilly Smith Dix

Members of CACA, Chinese-Australian Contemporary Artists, will exhibit at Art at Linden Gate in Yarra Glen from 11 January to 11 February 2019.

The gala opening takes place on Saturday, 12 January from 1-3pm – all welcome, RSVP for catering purposes at: artatlindengate@gmail.com

CACA strives to merge the two cultures in artistic harmony, resulting in members receiving multiple awards since the group’s founding 20 years ago.

Born in China and raised in Australia, the artists’ inspiration is drawn from their unique experiences, resulting in exquisite east-meets-west contemporary art.

CACA goes beyond traditional Chinese art forms such as ink painting, calligraphy and folk art.

Two of the artists have created outdoor sculptures, one of which comprises hebel blocks and set to flow through the fence into the paddock at Art at Linden Gate. The sculptures will be installed in time for the exhibition to enable visitors to view the artists’ work in detail. These creations will complement the panoramic vistas of the magnificent Yarra Valley visible through the gallery windows.

CACA members to exhibit at Art at Linden Gate gallery are:

BAI Xiao Yu; CAI Echo;  CHEN Ping; CHEN Zhong; FU Hong; HE Jimmy; HE Pei Pei; KUANG Zai; LI Yinghong; NONG Jiaxin; and XIE Chaohui.

Art at Linden Gate was established in 1985 by the highly acclaimed sculptor Ernst Fries and is managed by his daughter Reggie Clark, pictured above, bottom right.

Ernst, now aged 83, still has his studio and home on this scenic property.

Art at Linden Gate also offers boutique accommodation for visitors to the spectacular region less than an hour’s drive from Melbourne.

Art:  www.artatlindengategallery.com.au

Accommodation: www.artatlindengate.com

Call: 03 9730 1861 – Art at Linden Gate, 899 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, Yarra Glen, Vic 3775

 

Sunshine on my shoulders…

By Tilly Smith Dix

The warmer season is spreading its sultry kisses across our Yarra Valley & Ranges, with vivacious shades of cerise and powder pink rhododendrons, pink peonies, lavender wisteria, and bright white jasmine bursting from the constraints of their spring buds. The bees are lazily sampling nectar from this smorgasbord of heady fragrances lingering like a gossamer mist. The parrots, red wattle birds, thrushes and cheeky ravens are chorusing their joy.

We’ve entered the daylight saving phase of the warmer seasons, and identifying the different bird calls in our garden, from the sweet whistle of the crimson rosellas to the joyful chirp of the little black thrushes, the choc-choc of the red wattle birds and the demanding cawing of a juvenile crow, this happy cacophony makes for a spectacular daybreak.

Clockwise from top left: crow feeding in our garden; pink peonies at Art at Linden Gate garden; cerise rhododendrons in our garden.

The young crow is always demanding treats from its bustling mother at the bottom of the garden, which makes for all-day comic relief as it has such a feisty personality. Testing its running skills around the little fish pond, it has taken command of this small territory. Unafraid, it will even try to chase our cat, to her obvious and often vocal irritation. If this pushy juvenile had attempted such antics on our Cathy some years ago when she was younger and more agile, it might have been missing an eye by now.

As I have mentioned at nauseum, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to scenic meanders and just as our long winter was coming to a close, we embarked on a drive on a rainy day for a long overdue visit to the picturesque town of Marysville. The late snow on the nearby slopes had already melted and the drive through vineyards and forestry via Healesville, past the postcard-perfect Maroondah Catchment Lake was magical.

The historic little town of Marysville was rebuilt after a devastating fire some years ago and has managed to reclaim and maintain its alpine village charm.

Clockwise from left: burgundy pot pie at Fraga’s Cafe in Marysville; Steavenson Falls; the road from Healesville to Marysville.

After a delicious lunch of burgundy beef pot pie with golden fries and a fresh garden salad, accompanied by a glass of Yarra Valley bubbles for me and a local cider for himself at a cosy eatery called Fraga’s Café,  we drove to nearby Steavenson Falls. Described as one of Victoria’s most imposing cascades, we were not disappointed.

Interestingly, the falls light itself by night by driving a small hydro-electric turbine which provides power to the floodlights. How neat is that?

The Steavenson River starts its life at an elevation of 350m on the crest of the Great Dividing Range. The forested catchment ensures a year-round flow, resulting in a captivating tourism attraction.

The falls and the river were named in the early 1860s when the Victorian Assistant Commissioner of Roads and Bridges, John Steavenson, set up a base in Marysville, which he named after his wife. From here, he supervised the construction of the road to the Woods Point Goldfields.

Having previously flown over part of the Great Dividing Ranges from Coldstream Airport, it was a treat visiting Marysville by road. Locals are friendly and welcoming, resulting in many visitors from near and far returning to this delightful locale.

Art in our valley and ranges comes in many forms as this certainly is an ideal location for anyone with a creative bone in their body.  The enveloping beauty and prolifically defined seasons would bring out the creative in the most dyed-in-the-wool accountant – no disrespect to bean-counters intended, just saying…

Tarrawarra Museum and gallery in Healesville.

Attending a Yarra Valley & Ranges Tourism presentation at nearby Tarrawarra Museum proved an enlightening evening. The vistas of vineyards, hills, woodlands, dam, wood-ducks and impressive architecture of the museum, not to mention delicious food and wine, made for a most convivial event. The captivating art created by local artists were a perfect diversion during a busy week. My next visit will include sampling lunch in the restaurant to further explore the chef’s culinary alchemy as the catering on the night was a triumph.

During the effervescent tourism presentation, and yes, we had delicious bubbles, I met another art gallery owner, Reggie Clark, who manages Art at Linden Gate, a short drive from Tarrawarra on the Yarra Glen-Healesville Road.

No arm-twisting was required for me to pay a visit to her gallery after a quick lunch at a Yarra Glen bistro a few days later. The property offers self-catering accommodation which has been popular with city folks wishing to savour panoramic country life, the fruits of the vine, art, vineyards, cheese, cuisine and spectacular birdlife of the region.

Clockwise from right: Leaving the Yarra Glen Grand Hotel Bistro; views, sculpture and gallery at Art at Linden Gate near Yarra Glen.

Horses and cattle can be seen in the meadows through the gallery windows and from the room decks by day, whilst kangaroos, wombats and other wildlife complement the post-card charm of Art at Linden Gate by night.

Reggie’s father is the highly acclaimed sculptor Ernst Fries, who transforms stainless steel into art with meaning and enduring emotion.

Naturally, my (often) better half would feel ignored if I did not mention aviation in my review. A 40-minute flight from Coldstream Airport to Lake Eppalock to attend a fly-in to a private airfield named Unusual Attitudes on a bright sunny day, offered superb visibility over our valley of plenty.

Clockwise from top: cloud clearing over Coldstream; Coldstream Airport rural vista; Nanchang CJ-6 at Unusual Attitudes airfield.

The glorious tapestry of life never ceases to amaze me as not only did this bring-your-own-barbeque-picnic prove an intimate gem of a day but new friendships were forged.

While the boys played with and admired each other’s (winged) toys, the gals clustered and chatted like happy hens, known as chooks here in Aussie. Over an ice-cold bottle of Yarra Burn Brut, I met a South African couple who has survived heartbreak and hardship, some of which were covered on Carte Blanche, the actuality television news programme in South Africa some years ago. They are now happily settled in Melbourne and I salute them for their determination to overcome a ‘hard yard,’ as they so bravely describe their past journey.

Stories of woe improve when accompanied by crisp bubbly and a chop or two from the barbie and it did not take long for laughter to once again lift our spirits to remind us that this, despite its ups and downs, is a good life indeed.

Sharing heart-warming stories with a bevy of like-minded women, who treated me like one of their own, resulted in contact details being exchanged and this newbie feeling like she belonged.

Naturally, we admired the aviation demonstrations, of which the Chinese replica of a Soviet Yak, the Nanchang CJ-6, is a real beauty, mate, before resuming our ya-ya sisterhood bonding.

Cheers to the good life, here’s to a fabulous season, wherever you are…

Flight of Angels

By Tilly Smith Dix

Quietly giving his time, resources and the use of his aircraft, Bob Boyd, Managing Director and Chief Flying Instructor of Yarra Valley Flight Training at Coldstream Airport, has been flying Angel Flights to assist families who need to travel to Melbourne for medical tests and treatment since 2011.

I only came to hear of Bob’s kindness when my aviator husband recently accompanied him on a return flight to Hay in NSW, not far from the Victorian border. Bob had flown there several days earlier to collect a young mother and her epileptic child in need of ongoing medical attention.

Bob flies out of Coldstream to towns mostly within the state of Victoria, from where passengers need to be transported to either Essendon or Moorabbin Airports for Melbourne’s top medical facilities. Once his charges have been safely handed over for Angel Flight ground transportation to the required hospital, he returns to his base at Coldstream Airport.

Yarra Valley FT Bob b2 Oct 30 2017 inside cockpit

Bob Boyd of Coldstream Flying School at Yarra Valley Flight Training.

He explains the difference between a mercy flight and an Angel Flight as follows: a mercy flight is required for urgent and life-threatening situations, whilst an Angel Flight assists people to attend their scheduled  medical tests and treatments not available in most country towns. This provides some leeway should weather conditions or other factors compromise a mission flight.

What decided Bob to contribute his valuable time and utilise aircraft of Yarra Valley Flight Training for no remuneration to help people living in more rural outlying regions? “Donating our time and resources to help a sick child, or adult, is the right thing to do,” he says.

“Sometimes an aircraft also needs utilisation, so an Angel Flight serves a practical purpose for our training centre as well,” he states.

Bob welcomes student pilots and other licensed pilots to accompany him on such flights. They gain experience and it helps him to focus on the logistics, whilst his co-pilot ensures luggage loading and the comfort of the passengers are taken care of.

Sharing the responsibility of such a flight with a fellow aviator is of benefit to all concerned, he says.

The qualifications required to participate in this worthy cause are higher than the basic CASA requirements; a private pilot’s licence with a minimum of 200 hours in command, and a minimum of 10 hours experience in the particular aeroplane utilised for the Angel Flight.

Bob encourages other experienced pilots to do the same and suggests they register online at www.angelflight.org.au

Bob and his team’s day job comprises flight training at Coldstream Flying School – Yarra Valley Flight Training.

Contact Yarra Valley Flight Training at:  www.YVFT.com.aucall 03 9739 1406 – 96 Killara Road, Coldstream, Victoria –

See more on youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqPH62FNJ9Q https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eb20PSxChc

 

Spring Diversions

Time for the birds and the bees

 By Tilly Smith Dix

Each one of the four seasons holds its own unique beauty. The balmy heat of summer, evocative of lazy days spent near water, preferably with something tall, cold and refreshing to drink while watching someone else in charge of the braai, or barbie as we call it in Aussie.

The golden hues of autumn have always enthralled me, when it’s time to light the fire and cosy up with woollen wraps.

Winter in Melbourne is cold and often wet, which reminds me of winters spent in a place forever stamped on my heart, Cape Town. I have always found winter to be a time of reflection, a bit like looking inwards as you tend to spend a lot more time indoors with your thoughts.

Then, there is that all-time favourite, which has inspired poets and composers through the ages to wax lyrical about the arrival of a chrysalis-shedding time, when the birds, the bees, hibernating animals, plants trees and humans unfurl and shed their winter covers in celebration of this enchanting season.

Spring is a time to pursue the best nature has to offer in its most spectacular regalia. Fancy a safari, when game will behave in the most delightful way to celebrate the abundance of nature, or the winelands and beaches of the Cape or KwaZulu-Natal? The Garden Route remains one of my most favoured spring getaway destinations on the planet, where all the special components of nature merge to thrill the senses. South Africans are spoilt for choice and this is the time, before peak season, to grab a special package before it escalates into that ever-increasing summer rate.

Want to go further afield? Take a river cruise in Provence in France, where the food is authentic, fresh and unforgettable, stop in Avignon, or head for the charm and magic of Italy’s Lake Como instead, where you can still buy freshly baked bread from a little bakery on a corner for breakfast.

One of my favourite spring holidays has been in the Istrian region of Croatia, in and around the picturesque Rovinj, a place I could have happily called home. The sublime scenic splendour of mountains, valleys and coastline will feed your soul and belly – and it is still affordable for South Africans with champagne tastes and beer pockets to travel to.

Croatia 2011 rovinj boats IMGP2171

Rovinj, Croatia.

Of course, you could pop over to our neck of the woods in the magnificent Yarra Ranges near Melbourne. The velvet moss and lacy ferns of the forested mountains, lakes, rivers and creeks, vineyards, delicious food and wine in the magical valley and sublime Dandenongs might just captivate you as much as it did us, resulting in our eventual great trek across the ocean. The birdlife is prolific and their colours and plumage will astound you. They still enchant us every day.

If you prefer vistas of azure ocean, take a meandering drive from Melbourne along the coast of the Mornington Peninsula, spend at least a night in picturesque Sorrento, board the ferry to Queenscliff, from where the exquisite drive along the Great Ocean Road will take your breath away. Don’t forget to stop to take in the iconic Twelve Apostles…

Whether you prefer welcoming spring to the strains of Vivaldi’s Spring Concerto or Billie Holiday singing about spring, (April in Paris), savour every moment. Cheers to a fabulous new season, mate!

As Published in Diversions magazine, spring 2018 edition:

Tilly byline foreword Diversions spring 2018

 

A (late) winter’s tale

by Tilly Smith Dix

Flights of fancy – and piggery

“It will be fun,” he said. “The food is good, I hear,” he said. “The weather is perfect,” he said.

These are some of the sales pitches my pilot presents when he wants me to join him on a flight. I’m usually content with a scenic drive in this magnificent region of the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, trying to get lost, dining and quaffing vino at a back-road vineyard. Meandering has always been a favourite pastime, especially when the terrain is this panoramic.

Dutiful wife that I am, I capitulated, having buried that recent visit to Shepparton in the recesses of my selective memory-loss app…

So, on a chilly July morning, we set off for Coldstream Airport to uncover numero uno wife for a lunch flight in Deniliquin, NSW. Yes, we hop the Victorian border within an hour and 20 minutes with a healthy tailwind in the Sling 4.

Flying over the thick meringue-stacked cloud, offering sublime vistas of hilltop farmhouses, is captivating and we landed at Deniliquin Airport sooner than I expected. Serving as an RAAF Station back in the day, the superb runway makes for a smooth landing. A taxi arrived in five minutes to transport us to town, where we were told the best spot to have lunch was the Crossing Café.

This little gem is located on the Edward River, which gently flows near the restaurant. Not expecting fine dining but hoping for something that borders on aesthetically pleasing and delicious, the Crossing Café delivered with gentle aplomb. Homely and spacious, the service proved friendly and efficient and the menu choices comforting.

The seafood chowder and garlic pita looked scrumptious and my pilot attested to it indeed tasting as good as it looked. My menu choice of sticky ginger pork belly with Vietnamese peanut slaw was everything it should be. Crispy crackling, deliciously sticky and succulent meat, with the slaw complementing the dish with an exotic twist.

A trio of ice-creams, including orange, berry and salted caramel, proved a perfect finale for us to share.

After a leisurely stroll around the town, which has a delightful park and duck pond at its centre, it was time to meet our taxi driver for our return trip to the airport.

The mantra of most recreational pilots, “time to spare, go by air,” became reality as ominous weather unfurled rapidly more than halfway through our flight home as we were about to soar over the Great Dividing Range, or Eastern Highlands, resulting in my safety-first captain diverting to Mangalore.

Another superbly appointed small airport, this is a bustling pilot training centre during weekdays. Lucky for us, a gentleman pilot spotted us landing and offered us a ride into town. Turns out this nice man from Melbourne was spending the weekend here to play with his plane and visit his daughter.

We spent the night at the Comfort Inn, which proved better than expected. To show appreciation for taking pity on us, as pilots often do for each other wherever they happen to be in the world, we took our friend to dinner at the best show in town, which was not much but we were not hungry and our kind Samaritan was. I’m not going to name and shame as it was one of those club-type dining joints with pokies but no dancing girls, praise be.

I’m not going to tell you I was miffed, worried about the cat back home without food for the night, no toothbrush and the usual cosmetics women require for a night away…

Himself checked the weather online and we managed to get a taxi and grumpy driver to the airfield early on Sunday morning after a light breakfast, when fine weather ensured a smooth flight home.

Suffice to say our feline was overjoyed at our arrival back home and after about 3.6 seconds of showing her love and gratitude, she tucked into a late breakfast with her usual gusto. Luckily I always leave enough water and pellets for her, so she was not at death’s door.

Himself says our diva could have gone without grub for another week without perishing as she is a pudding.  I believe he is being crass about her cuddly middle-age spread and I may just use the same line next time he squeals about lunch being late, remind me, will you?

Having enjoyed the pork belly in Deniliquin, I headed off to Paperbark Café on Mt Evelyn, a ten minute drive from our home, where I met up with some girlfriends for lunch a few days later. Their pork belly spinach roll with sweet potato proved an unpretentious triumph, and my friends declared their calamari with fries equally delectable. The bubbles, as always, were delicious. The girls decided to linger to buy plants, shrubs and rummage through an impressive selection of homeware choices in the nursery and gift shop but I resisted and went home to meet work deadlines instead. Funny how my brain improves after a glass of elixir …

Heavenly sounds

Melbourne Town Hall is home to an organ built in 1929, producing anything from a delicate whistle to a deafening thunder. At four storeys high, the celestial sounds cascading from that magnificent instrument brought a tear to my eye and the audience applauded thunderously in appreciation of the young music students’ performances at a free recital some weeks ago.

The impressive Melbourne Town Hall was designed by architects Reed & Barnes and the foundation stone was laid in 1867.

I am forever grateful to a Facebook friend, who alerted us about this All Stops Out concert, featuring students of the classical organ in Australia and New Zealand.

The hall was packed, proving the strains of evergreen classics appealed to folks of all ages, not just us ‘silver is the new blond or brunette’ brigade!

As a former student of classical piano, music has always affected me profoundly, especially when performed on such a grand scale. If there is a heaven, I had a delightful whiff of it that day. I can hardly wait for the next concert to be announced for 2019 as I’ll be back to be further enthralled!

What made this outing into the now second most liveable city in the world – Vienna stole the erstwhile Melbourne title this year – even more delightful, was meeting up with a Facebook friend, another former South African, with her gang of Aussie girlfriends for lunch on Federation Square before the concert.

The world was a fine place on that day and strolling along Swanston Street to that glorious town hall, looking at city folks and tourists all seemingly joyful on a perfect day, made me feel lucky to be living in such a wonderful city. I’m certain one of those lovingly maintained horses carting visitors around the CBD in their romantic buggies winked at me – probably the bubbles …

I hear spring is on the way but more about that next time as I’m still enjoying this cosy winter and the predictions of more snow in the alpine region this week thrills me to bits. Our neighbour, whose chooks I look after when they travel, has a small vineyard in Mansfield and he has kindly presented us with a bottle of his mulled wine. Time for a hearty evening of gluhwein, I’d say.

Woolly tails

Alpacas are some of my favourite animals and enjoying a day out at Omaru Alpaca Stud in nearby Cottles Bridge proved a captivating experience.

Sian Rickards has turned the stud into a sustainable tourist and photographic attraction, offering tours of her pristine bijou alpaca wool-processing factory. The piece de resistance is a chance to handfeed these woolly beauties residing in rolling hills, complete with their own natural pond.

One of the females recently gave birth to a creamy kid, which stole my heart. Sian explains this was too early for a birth as spring would have been ideal but the daddy committed a peccadillo by managing to break free of his generously proportioned enclosure to go make a lovechild with a willing blonde.

Because of the sins of the father, the poor kid is now named Jailbreak. I think Daddy should be renamed Jailbreak and the gorgeous offspring should be baptised Bambolina. Comfortable being handled by Sian and her visitors by now, the pampered mother and child seem to welcome a cuddle and a chat. Go meet them, tell them I sent you.

Nature works in mysterious ways. I was fascinated to see how the pretty galah was feeding on alpaca poop! Sian, for whom this stud is certainly a labour of love, explained how clean the alpaca waste was and the galah pick the nutritional bits to snack on. Recycling in its purest form and certainly the most spectacular pooper scoopers I’ve ever seen.

Cheers to the good life, no need to wonder about the other side of the rainbow, the pot of gold is right in front of us. We just have to open our eyes and engage with nature, life’s unexpected intersections and the good folks of the world.

Winging it in the Yarra Valley

By Tilly Smith Dix

Ask any boy what he’d like to become when he grows up, and eight out of ten times the answer would be to be a pilot. The trend is fast catching on with young girls too.

The remarkable team at the Yarra Valley Flight Training (YVFT) is passionate about flying and teaching their pupils to become competent flyers.

Given his first flying lesson by his dad as a present for his 14thbirthday, Ian Ryan, Senior Flying Instructor and Head of Operations at YVFT cannot remember a time since that magical day that he was not thinking about flying aeroplanes.

“That birthday gift from my dad while I was on a school music tour, proved the catalyst of all my adult decisions. It was an inexplicable desire that is universally understood by pilots,” says Ian.

Yarra Valley Flight Training plane Coldstream Airlfield Oct 30 2017

Yarra Valley Flight Training at Coldstream, Victoria.

He managed to get his next flying lesson at the age of 15, after which he obtained his RPL (Recreational Pilots Licence) at the age of 17. By the time he turned 19, he had his navigational and full private pilot’s licence.

A qualified analytical chemist with a BSc, Ian’s passion is his chosen profession, realising others’ dreams of becoming pilots – and flying most days of his life.

Ian is firmly ensconced in the scenic Yarra Valley and finds the locale of countryside, nature, bush, winelands and mountains and the close proximity to the city and ocean an ideal location in which to reside and work.

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Ian Ryan of Yarra Valley Flight Training.

“Many of our flight students live in the city and enjoy the easy, scenic drive into our spectacular valley. With student ages varying between the ages of 15 and 50-upwards, it is not unusual for a family of three generations to sign up for flight lessons,” he says.

Dick Gower, award-winning aviator of some 58 years with over 11,000 hours under his Senior Instructor’s belt, remains involved as a consulting instructor.

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Dick Gower of Yarra Valley Flight Training.

As a young boy aged 12 living in Townsville, a friend of his father arrived in a de Havilland Gipsy Moth and took Dick for his first flight around the satellite aerodromes built around the area during WW2. “That was it for me, I had no doubt that what I wanted to do was fly aeroplanes for the rest of my life,” he beams with that familiar twinkle in the eye.

His first solo flight took place at RVAC Moorabbin in a Chipmunk in 1961.

His technical support experience on aircraft avionics, electrical, fuel and hydraulic systems on piston, turboprop and jet transport aircraft, together with his qualifications as an electrical and electronics engineer, result in a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with new as well as fellow aviators.

As an aircraft design signatory, Dick established Australia-Pacific Aviation Service Pty Ltd in 1990, providing consulting and expert witness services relating to accident, engineering and insurance matters.

He qualified as a commercial pilot, holds a US commercial pilot licence on multi-engine aircraft on land and sea, is a seasoned flight instructor, with instructor training approval in aerobatics as well as formation flying.

Dick received the Col Pay Award for a lifetime of service in general aviation in 2017, which was reported in The Royal Aeronautical Societyand Australian Flyingmagazine last year. Further service and awards include recognition through the highly regarded Les Mason Award for his outstanding contribution to Antique Aviation in 2009.

Dick’s advice to aviators is to learn all they can and to be generous in sharing their aviation knowledge with the industry and would-be aviators.

Bob Boyd, founder and MD, remains at the helm as Chief Flying Instructor (CFI), and is confident about the YVFT school expanding and the team sharing its wealth of aviation knowledge with a new generation of young pilots. The training centre has Part 141 approval.

What is on offer to student pilots at YVFT:

Recreational and private pilots’ licences as well as aerobatics and formation flying qualifications are the norm for the flight school at present.

Scholarships are available from the Australian Women’s Pilots Association for both men and women, which can be accessed via YVFT in Coldstream.

A great demand for pilot training in the Yarra Ranges adds to the myriad attractions and activities on offer in this picturesque region.

General aviation at YVFT in Coldstream includes:

Aviators at the Coldstream Flyers Club own aircraft, lease aircraft, or invest in a plane by forming a syndicate to share the costs. Some have acquired aircraft to refurbish, while others have built aircraft from scratch as an extension of their hobby. Several commercial pilots fly smaller aircraft in their spare time to de-stress from flying passenger jets.

Many pilots opt for aircraft rental by the hour from YVFT, where the fleet includes a Tecnam P92 Echo Super, a Piper Cherokee Warrior I, a Piper Cherokee Warrior II, a Piper Cherokee Six, and a Cessna C150.

The well-established flight school provides GA (General Aviation) and RA (Recreational Aviation), including CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence), training.

How to qualify as a pilot:

In brief, to qualify for solo flight level status is competence based, as per CASA regulations; an RPL (Recreational Pilots Licence) comprises a minimum of 25 hours, to which Navigation, Controlled Airport, and Controlled Airspace credits can be added; a PPL (Private Pilots Licence) requires a minimum of 40 hours of flying; and a CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence) includes a minimum of 200 hours of flying. A Flight Instructor course comprises a minimum of 50 hours of flight.

Contact Yarra Valley Flight Training at:

03 9739 1406 – 96 Killara Road, Coldstream, Victoria – www.YVFT.com.au

Media enquiries: Contact Tilly Smith Dix at tilly@dix.co.zaor call 0452247149.

 

Straight from the heart

 

By Tilly Smith Dix

We all deserve a GREAT life and we, via our communications with the Universe, our souls, our surroundings and our loved-ones, could make it a superb life – but we need to make the effort and be stoic, determined and remember to fill our lungs with the golden light that surrounds us whenever possible. Champagne, being golden, also helps from time to time, of course…

Immersing ourselves in a different culture in another country takes time and insight. We are the newcomers here, so, we have to respect the folks we have chosen to share our journey with. What I’ve gathered is not to try too hard as that seems desperate and we all know how we tend to shy away from desperados! My advice, for what it’s worth, even to self, is to be kind, be understanding as well as authentic without losing one’s identity as that is what will help us conquer plenty.

My experience has been to not take anything for granted but to keep exploring opportunities and engaging sincerely with people coming into our lives. After all, this adventure should not only become a lifestyle choice but a road to new discoveries, opportunities, people, places, animals and nature, thereby garnering unexpected pleasures.

There is much to learn from our pets. Take our previously abused cat, who landed in the lap of luxury when she walked into our home demanding to be adopted almost seven years ago. Not only did she adapt to our lifestyle, she has also embraced our new home in another country. Why? She just wants to be around the people who love her, enjoy having her basic needs catered for, a warm bed, sunshine in the garden, security and a sense of belonging.

Having been lucky enough to establish a career I am passionate about, I retained long-standing clients and continue working with them from afar, be it as a publicist or freelance writer. The internet is a bloody marvel; so much so, that a client of many years said I could produce results for his destination from the moon, as long as there was good internet service on that big cheese. Not that I’d want to go to the moon – I prefer gazing at it and howling at it with gusto from time to time. As a tiny three-year old member of my family so wisely informed me recently, “Aunty Tilly, we like crazy,” I rest my case as it obviously runs in the family, darling Olivia.

After pounding the phone, the internet and often pavements to meet, greet, impress and try to gather new clients in a new country, I did end up with some new connections. However, amazingly, while one focuses on one thing, generating energy towards some goal, this glorious Universe will send new opportunities our way, from directions we never anticipated! I like to think of it as the bounty of the ripple effect.

One such opportunity was to blog about authentic, sustainable, fabulous fashion, when a fellow South African now living in Sydney approached me through Facebook to promote her versatile designs. When this incredible woman and her admirable and equally beautiful daughter eventually brought their La Luna Lifestyle fashion and accessories to share with Melbournians in a pop-up boutique in chic South Yarra, we felt as if we’d known each other all our lives. Claude Lalouche, the veteran French movie director, called it a tapestry of life and I’ve stolen his line.

Having overcome many obstacles and challenges in her life, it gives me enormous pleasure to salute Belinda Phillips of La Luna Lifestyle for her drive, style, determination and now highly successful fashion and lifestyle boutique in the plush suburb of Vaucluse in Sydney. She is living, breathing, beautiful proof of making a success of a new life in a new country.

Just taking a drive to one of my many happy places in the nearby Dandenongs is therapeutic. When Andrew takes time out from house renovations to de-stress in an aviation environment, I often hit the road to have some alone time. Acting like a tourist in my own backyard is fun and choices of sampling delicious food, and a glass of elixir are plentiful. People watching, birdwatching, and an eye for interesting vintage architecture are further balm for this soul.

On one such occasion, a nature fire burn-off crew was working on a mountain road nearby, preparing the forest for summer before the winter rains commenced. Pleasant, informative and organised they were, and this 20-minute wait proved further therapy. Car engine switched off, soothing jazz playing on the radio and surrounded by rural mountain beauty in its finest form, afforded me and the other motorists with unexpected time out.

Striking a pose as a model is something I’ve not done for some 30 years. However living in an era where silver is indeed the new blonde, I’m having fun as a Silverfox MGMT model. Diversification is proving to be rather fabulous.

I’ve spent so many years behind the camera, the sheer frivolity of being in front of it left me slightly unhinged as I’d always strived to be appreciated for my mind and accomplishments before being revered for my appearance. Feeling so much more comfortable in my skin now that I’m sporting more silver than blonde I, quite frankly, cannot give a damn if anyone labels me a glamour puss now. I’m finally starting to feel I’m living the good life, savouring every morsel of this new life.

Enter Filip Konikowski, photographer and his team, which includes Casey Malady, make-up and hair-stylist. Being styled and buffed is bliss and I finally understand why supermodels like their jobs as you arrive looking, in my case, like a pale posy and emerge a gorgeous bloom.

Happy to declare I’ve had my first shoot, which took me away from my home office for a full day, and getting paid for being styled and enjoying seven wardrobe changes. Meeting some amazing people involved in the modelling and advertising industry proved a bonus as we all connected in the most delightful way, with much laughter and giggles shared. NOT like work at all!

As the advert is not released yet, I cannot divulge more but suffice to say the make-up and hair-stylist Grace, teamed with Sam of Style.Union, did a sterling job of turning us all into the most stunning, glamorous retirees, whilst my shoot daughter, the beautiful Sal, also of Silverfox MGMT, was flown in from Sydney.

Of course, glam grannies also need grandchildren and having had some training in the past two years since my beloved cousins moved to Melbourne with their adorable babies, spending time with little sprogs hired for the shoot proved a further joy. Who could resist a delightful child hugging you, even though they are being paid to do so? I’m liking this glam gran stuff, so, bring it on, possums.

On this particular day, the route home took me past a famous local artist’s home in Prahran. Having seen an article about David Bromley in The Weekend Australian, I had to stop to take a quick photograph during the peak traffic hour. Always passionate about vintage architecture, I have found many treasures to behold in this city – what’s not to marvel at when people of a young country value their history. The fact that this artist made such an iconic architectural building his home, proves his heart is in the right place.

I have mentioned we moved here to embrace a new culture and country. However, when you end up on a Facebook group of fellow expats residing in Melbourne, you tend to grab the opportunity to join about 26 of them for a hearty girls lunch on a Saturday. With our age-groups varying from young moms to mature moms to glam grans, it proved a triumph. New friends made, sharing our very own brand of humour in another country – a unique, resourceful, mutable tribe indeed.

New traditions are now set in motion and such keystone events create a much needed sense of belonging. Yes, it’s taken some time but it is heartening when it all starts coming together and you look forward to the next gathering.

One such event is the annual winter solstice Shortest Lunch meander through the smaller vineyards of the magical Yarra Valley, where lunch, jazz, wine and great company make for a most convivial day.

We have also celebrated yet another wedding anniversary here and have started another tradition, that of enjoying an intimate lunch at the Healesville Hotel in the quant nearby town of the same name. Warm, professional service, delicious wine, scrumptious food, just the way we like it. Elegant without pretence, ticking another box marked gratitude.

While life is turning out to be pretty good, stress will take its toll, and here’s where I’ve ventured into a further activity from my distant past, meditative yoga! The weekly sojourn has become a time of quiet, when mind and body are soothed by the gentle voice of Cheryl Jenkins, who has a vocation for teaching people to be grateful for the small as well as enormous blessings we often take for granted.

Waking up to the celestial vista of the Yarra Valley from our compact hillside home overlooking much of the picturesque valleys and mountains beyond, is a reason to celebrate. Just looking through a window at any given time of day, we encounter the most spectacular birdlife, quietly, or sometimes noisily, feasting in the myriad gumtrees surrounding our wooded region.

Cheers to the good life – just colour me grateful…

Two world-class tourist attractions in South Africa unite for epic April 2019 festival

 by Tilly Smith Dix

Iconic Blue Train joins Stars of Sandstone 2019

South Africa’s biennial Stars of Sandstone in the Eastern Free-State is recognised as the world’s most diversified steam and heritage transport festival. The Stars of Sandstone, set for 4-14 April 2019, will now be hosting The Blue Train, celebrated internationally as one of the world’s most luxurious trains, for an epic two-day stop at the Festival from 3-6 April 2019.

For more than 70 years, the Blue Train has pampered discerning travellers from all corners of the globe, enjoying top billing with luxurious international rail journeys, such as the Orient Express. Pack your silks and jackets, not forgetting your steam safari trunk for Stars of Sandstone 2019, and think movie-star fabulous when you luxuriate in the mystique of this adventure.

The memorable 3-night, 4-day Blue Train indulgence to Stars of Sandstone 2019 commences with a 07h00 check in at The Blue Train VIP Lounge at Pretoria Station. Pre-departure drinks and snacks are served after boarding. Butlers will usher you to your 5-star suite before departing for Ficksburg. Brunch and dinner are served in the stylish Dining Car, and High Tea is hosted in the glamorous Lounge Car. Post-dinner drinks, cognac and Cuban cigars are available prior to retiring to your plush compartment.

Luxe Blue Train, a 5-star hotel on wheels.

On day 2, board a Stars of Sandstone steam train after a leisurely breakfast on the Blue Train. Brunch is served in the Dining Car, whilst dinner will be hosted in the Waenhuis Restaurant at Sandstone Estate.You will then be taken on The Stargazer Express steam journey to savour the romantic night sky at Grootdraai. Overnight in your suite on The Blue Train, your glamorous home from home for four days.

A complimentary shuttle service will be ferrying guests between The Blue Train and The Stars of Sandstone Steam and Heritage Festival 2019.

The Stars of Sandstone 2019 is set to be bigger and better than ever. Featuring over 25 operating locomotives traversing Sandstone’s 30km 2ft narrow gauge railway, ranging from the 1895 Lawley used on the Beira Railway to a former South Africa Railway (SAR) Class 91 diesel engine built in the US in 1973, the unique, family-friendly festival will once again attract visitors from across the planet.

Sandstone’s most recently restored locomotive, a 1915 Baldwin US-built former SAR Class NG-10, will be unveiled on 5 April after a recently completed two-year restoration project.

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The Stars of Sandstone is a bucket-list festival for all ages.

The exhilarating atmosphere and sharing the sheer joy of unforgettable sights, sounds and experiences of vintage cars and aircraft, tractors, steam engines, military vehicles, and the Sandstone team of 24 working Afrikaner oxen pulling Voortrekker wagons, will make for everlasting memories. Small wonder Sandstone serves as a location for international cinematographers wishing to capture vintage rail and transportation of yesteryear. Located on a state-of-the-art working farm, the estate and its railway offer spectacular vistas of the majestic Maluti mountains and the sublime natural beauty of this region bordering Lesotho.

Paying homage to steam and transportation of a bygone era at Sandstone Estates.

The Blue Train has 26 suites, comprising: 23 De Luxe Suites and 3 Luxury Suites, all offering breathtaking views of the diverse South African landscape. Private en-suite bathrooms, butler service and gourmet dining, not to mention sumptuous interiors, make for an idyllic adventure.

This bespoke Blue Train and Stars of Sandstone 2019 excursion includes:

  • Three nights’ pampered accommodation on board The Blue Train from Pretoria Station to Sandstone Estates return;
  • Snacks, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), cognac and Cuban cigars;
  • Blue Train gifts and butler service on the train;
  • Two days’ entrance to Stars of Sandstone 2019 plus shuttle service between the Blue Train and the festival.
  • Excluded: French Champagne, caviar, purchases from the boutique shop, telephone calls on the Blue Train and any purchases/extras at Stars of Sandstone.

Contact: 

Dave Richardson for fares and bookings for The Blue Train Stars of Sandstone 2019 journey at: daver@sandstone.co.za – mobile +27 (0) 82447 9167 – landline +27 (0) 11 805 4692

For more information on the Stars of Sandstone 2019 Steam and Heritage Festival, go to: www.starsofsandstone.com – and watch the 2017 event at https://youtu.be/937ZkuLyj7w

Stars of Sandstone 2019 bookings:

http://www.starsofsandstone.com/index.php/info-booking/southern-african-residents

http://www.starsofsandstone.com/index.php/info-booking/international-residents

Follow us on Instagram: @sandstoneinaction – Twitter: @SandstoneHerit – Facebook: Stars of Sandstone – LinkedIn @Tilly Smith Dix