By Tilly Smith Dix

Never allow the inner child to be suppressed. This is a note to self. Most of us got a tad stir-crazy during this dystopian-like Covid-19 lockdown but as the old song by Billy Ocean goes, When the going gets tough, the tough get going…

Well, not only did I get going, I rediscovered my inner girl. We have to make do with the cards we are dealt and if the situation is not within our control, we have to hustle and reach within to find joy.

I’ve always loved music and studied it for most of my school years. I even performed on stage, playing the piano, covering tunes from Stevie Wonder to Astrid Gilberto – to Wagner. Yep, pretty eclectic stuff and I’m owning it, again!

No, I’ve not started playing the piano again but that will follow as soon as the heirloom is tuned. For now, I’m making like Rod Stuart and playing some of those old Motown records, except, I’m playing my old CDs, full throttle, ranging from Janet Jackson to Diana Krall, Laura Fygi, John Pizzarelli and Daniel Jobim.

You see, I remembered an admirer of many moons ago remarking on my cute hips and I decided I needed to get those hips moving again as surviving on yoga and walking for exercise was just not fun enough. I’d forgotten what great exercise dancing was for the body and as for the mind, well, it puts me into a party spirit – and that’s before I’ve even poured a glass of bubbles at the end of the day!

I hear someone saying, “why play CDs, why not just plug in the iPod,” and my answer is, “move over darling, I enjoy the sound of my three-CD player moving on to the next disc!” Click, and then I get a surprise as I never remember which order I stacked the discs in the player. The simple things should give us pleasure or else we’ll go even crazier.

Still got the moves, baby, I’m on a roll – or should I say a hip-roll…drum roll, please…

The Lilydale Warburton Trail in the Yarra Ranges outside Melbourne.

Walking remains a joy in this exquisite, semi-rural region, when a short walk will get you up close to pristine walking trails, unparalleled natural beauty, paddocks, horses, vineyards, and people enjoying the great outdoors. I remember that old TV-series starring Ted Danson, Cheers, “where everyone knows your name.” Well, not many folks on these trails know my name but the beauty of it is everyone greets everyone else in passing. I find that immensely comforting.

My current preferred route is the Lilydale-Mount Evelyn-Warburton Trail. Pure magic. A kind friend, who knows how enamoured I am of the spectacular birdlife of my locale, even arranged for me to have a copy of the Simpsons & Day Field Guide to Birds of Australia. Blessings everywhere. Just colour me grateful.

You never know what you might encounter on a walking trail in the Yarra Ranges outside Melbourne.

Walking, whilst in the moment, also evokes memories of walks in other parts of the world. During a visit to Nice some years ago when on my second evening stroll along that marvellous Promenade, I encountered locals I’d spotted during the first evening’s stroll. They now greeted me as if I was one of their own. It put a huge smile on this dial and this is one of the many reasons I’d not be averse to returning to that spectacular part of the French Riviera…something to look forward to when international travel restrictions ease.

Traversing the planet

Speaking of travel, I have not forgotten the delicious anticipation of visiting beautiful countries and immersing myself in local culture. For now, I’m more than happy to feed off those memories until it’s time to hit the road and the skies to savour the fruits of the unknown, as well as countries, regions and towns I always loved returning to. Returning to a familiar place is like making contact with a good old friend – you just fit and simply flow from where you last left off – a bit like a comfy pair of slippers. Comforting.

Returning from such travels was almost like experiencing the entire process again, when I’d print a few of the best images of the trip, paste it in an album and transfer all the digital images on to a CD to be stored in the album. Yes, terribly old-fashioned but, hey, whatever floats your boat, or flies your plane, right?

There are places I’ll remember, as the Beatles sang In my Life, that I will never forget. So, I’m using this restricted time in our world to lose myself in the reverie of past travels. Venice’s Grand Canal, the Eighth Wonder of the World, remains in my soul. The architecture, history, food and smaller canals, filled with mystery and romance, not to mention the fact it is submerging faster into the busy waters, brings a smile, yes, that smile on the dial again, to my spirit.

The first time I visited the city of water was in winter. I loved it as it was not crowded, and prices were more affordable. Never one to stick to the beaten track, I strolled along the quiet walkways after the usual visit to the museums and the energy of St Mark’s Square. It is heaven getting lost in Venice.

The magic of Venice.

This is how I discovered some hidden gems frequented by the locals for shopping and dining. I have never tasted such delicious risotto, known as Risi e Bisi, comprising rice, peas and onion, cooked separately and mixed together in a final delicioso symphony of aromas and flavours. After all, it used to be served to the Doge! The fried sardines covered in onions fried in the same oil, hit the culinary spot too, if memory serves me well.

I remember being rather cold at the time, wearing only a trendy trench coat over my light winter wool sweater and purchased two woollen wraps, which were surprisingly affordable. I still wear them and reminisce about Venice every time I embrace their luxe comfort.

My second visit to Venice, about eleven years later, did not start off as the ideal summer getaway but once I removed myself from the cause of my discontent, I had a superb time. It was hot and balmy, so, I marched into Alajmo on St Mark’s Square and the attentive waiter served me the tallest, most delicious pink gin and tonic I’d ever seen – at 10 am in the morning. 

My new friends in Venice.

I also had some delicious olives to complement this elixir. Soon, my traumatic experience was but a vague, distasteful memory as I sat there observing the energy of the crowd comprising visitors from around the world, albeit from a safe distance. All was well with the world.

A gorgeous young couple was seated at the adjacent table and they had just got married, still wearing their wedding outfits and they’d gone to shop for clothes after their intimate ceremony in a little chapel nearby. They were so beautiful, enveloped in this bright romantic light of love. I offered to take their picture and they were thrilled. Not wishing to intrude, I kept to myself but they insisted I join them for a drink to celebrate their joy.

After another ice-cold pink gin and tonic, I left the lovebirds from Kent to bask in their nuptial bliss, donned my sunhat and walked to the quieter canals to savour some tranquil spaces with the locals. Eventually, I took a water taxi along the Grand Canal, where I found a delightful vantage point to observe the throng. This time, I settled down to a scrumptious antipasto followed by a memorable Baccala, comprising creamed cod with yellow polenta, followed by a digestivo…indeed, the good life!

The terraced apartment I’d choose to stay in…

The train ride back to Lake Como, where I was staying, afforded me time to remember every moment of a day that became special because I’d made a decision to make it so. I even chose the terraced apartment I’d live in should I ever return – dreams are free…

Fashion patrol

The gorgeous tribe of Instagram fashionistas and lifestyle bloggers I encounter on my Sixty_is_the_new_40 Insta page continue to inspire me and never have I welcomed such supportive interaction of a sisterhood of likeminded women from across the globe more than now.

A versatile woollen wrap from Venice, acquired so long ago.

Viewing the summer styles currently enjoying plenty exposure in Europe and the USA, I’m looking forward to digging in my timeless wardrobe for ideas to get that boho chic back on track. Happy to see some classics, such as wide-legged pants, wide belts and espadrilles will be there to get my fashion game up.

The LBD – a woollen dress bought in Paris a long time ago still works its magic in my wardrobe.

However, for now, I’m still savouring every snug moment of winter, hauling out wraps, woollen coats, and scarves in bright colours to brighten up any wintery day.

Adding some attitude to the classic LBD – burgundy boots as well as a funky leather jacket from Italy, acquired some years ago, complemented by a vintage scarf.

Speaking of fashion, as I’ve always felt it was closely related to art, I’ve been bingeing on a series titled The Art of More. Well, not only will you see fabulous fashion chic but superb acting. Having dabbled in the art world briefly in my heyday as publicist, this certainly is an eye-opener. The cast is sterling, with the enigmatic Kate Bosworth and, to my mind, the new love-to-hate-him bad boy, Dennis Quaid. Addictive stuff, be warned, so get the popcorn a poppin’.

A vintage woollen dress from Italy gets hauled out of its temporary slumber in my closet for my citizenship ceremony. Slow fashion…

It was on a chilly winters day I was granted citizenship of this beautiful country and my online facilitator expressed his salutations to my dressing for the auspicious virtual video occasion. How could I not? I wore what I’d have worn to the ceremony, had it not been postponed indefinitely as a result of the lockdown. I was concerned the video call might not feel as special as I’d hoped but it turned out to be a most memorable experience. 

As it occurred on a Friday, I naturally partook of a few glasses of delicious bubbles afterwards, kindly delivered by my delightful neighbours, who happen to produce a superior brand of sparkling wine at Immerse Wine in Dixons Creek, Yarra Valley. Cheers, mates, I’m really chuffed.

Here’s to fashion therapy, long may it live, and cheers to the good life, sweeties, stay safe, be brave and don’t forget to dance, even if it’s only in your head…

Ends.

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