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…