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…


2 thoughts on “Tales from the valley

  1. Your inner child sounds joyful. And how grateful you must be to be included in such an elegant group of ladies that understand your cultural roots….. Plus, **jaw drop** You Met Zena!!! (I’m so happy to hear she was nice :):)

    Liked by 1 person

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