6 October 2020

By Tilly Smith Dix

When all else fails and I feel at the end of my tether, I become flippant. It’s a survival tool and some folks find it annoying.

Well, that is just wrong, I say. Read between the lines, especially when the world is tipped on its butt, which, many refer to as ‘getting down under,’ but I will not ever say that as it would be offensive to my adoptive country. So, I’ll stick to the planet, just for a while, being tipped on its derriere and trying to keep its knickers in place to save further embarrassment. Made you smile?

It has been upsetting to see people being nasty and taking their lockdown frustrations out on others. Why should diminishing someone else improve our own status? Narcistic behaviour seems to have become more prevalent and seriously, it is most disconcerting. This, I believe, is the time to find a hobby that can be pursued from home.

Find an interest, pursue it with passion and who knows, it could turn out to be the best therapy and improvement of self. A friend’s husband took up online painting with watercolours. He has not only surprised himself but his family too. They now struggle to get him separated from his easel. He is no longer grumpy and who knows, his new hobby might even fetch a tidy sum should he ever choose to exhibit his work.

One of the most gorgeous, caring, inspiring women I follow on Instagram was interviewed in a British tabloid, in which they highlighted her past struggles, her strength, and her determination to overcome abuse and hardship. She finally triumphed as a successful, independent single mother, model and Instagrammer, proudly owning her age, which is almost 60.

I was so thrilled when I saw the article. Then, the trolls took her to hell and back with their vitriolic responses on the publication’s social pages. Frankly, if I was planning to move to the UK, this would have stopped me in my tracks. Such vile, poisonous comments speak volumes about the people who spout such bile. After my initial fury, I realised how many people simply take their frustrations, especially during the current world health crisis, out on others.

So, I jumped into the discussions and am delighted to say the amazing, sophisticated, kind tribe I’ve come to think of as my sisters in arms, readily came to this beautiful woman’s defence and united we stood in declaring, ‘trolls must go.’ She now also realises this was not about HER, but about people’s own unhappiness within themselves. She is doing great!

We are in the same storm and paddling different boats, canoes and life-rafts, and some are struggling more during this time than others. I think it is to our emotional advantage to be honest about what we are going through. Folks who care WILL listen. We need to share. If someone asks, ‘how are you,’ we need to feel confident in responding with, ‘I am struggling today.’

Thus, when we are having a better day, it is a good idea to reach out to others, thereby creating a chain, so to speak. When we hear about someone else’s struggles, we often realise our burden is so much less, compared to theirs. An instant shift takes place, and gratitude becomes our focus – we realise we are better off than we thought.

So, to hopefully reach more people going through a tough time during this trying pandemic and the restrictions placed on being normal and that which we always took for granted, this message posted on social media helped me on a day when I truly needed it:

He said, “In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm. I realised, through it all, that in the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” Albert Camus.

Spring shyly unfolds her pretty petals

For some reason, nature here in the verdant Yarra Valley has displayed the undiminishable magic of spring, yet, the temperatures have tended to stay on the wintery side. The parrots in the garden are atwitter with expectations and a little black thrush is building a nest in the eaves of the garage between the current dwellings of two possums, who don’t get along, I might add.

When their early evening hissing gets too loud, I pop my head out the door, look up at them, and advise them to, ‘put a sock in it, be nice.’ They look at me with big eyes, remain quiet for a few minutes then dash off on their nocturnal travels.

Rhododendrons announce the arrival of spring in the garden
Blooming magic

The scent of spring is poignant in the wild garden and the rhododendrons are bursting with blooms, when only two weeks ago I accused spring of being too shy. The only shy thing I can think of at present is the temperature, which is not rising much. However, knowing how I’ll complain about water retention and the swelling of feet, not to mention sleepless nights during the heat of summer, I’m not hurrying her along. She is beautiful in any guise, even if somewhat reluctant.

Spring fever is also bringing new hope. Here in Victoria, I would go slow on travel for now, but how I look forward to heading to some favourite nearby wineries to indulge in scrumptious lunches and sipping delicious wine. My first port of call on my doorstep will be Oakridge, where I’ll find an outdoor dining space with panoramic vistas of the rolling hills and vineyards of the Yarra Valley. Projecting positivity feels good – join me at  www.oakridgewines.com.au

The vineyards and vistas of the Yarra Valley from Oakridge Wines Restaurant

I see travel restrictions in South Africa have eased and tourism will once again be revived, at least for local travel. During a recent phone conversation with Renate Oostmeijer, General Manager of the Johannesburg Office for Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve, she reported bookings were already reaching new highs for December and well into next year. Pour me a G&T, garcon, and just let me be at that wild and wonderful waterhole  – see more at www.taugamelodge.co.za

Dining overlooking the waterhole at Tau Game Lodge, South Africa

On the Couch

Binging has kept me sane during these surreal months of isolation. If our world becomes too structured and controlled through lockdown and social restrictions, I say get into another world and laugh, cry, get scared, solve a mystery and savour at least one tipple whilst doing so. No kicks on Route 66 (been on that, not the fix I’d hoped for), but certainly on the screen!

My neighbours recently pampered me with a bottle of French indulgence, Saint-Martin Brut, and I savoured every sip. I laughed louder, cried harder and cheered enthusiastically while immersing myself in the small screen.

A tall glass of delicious went down a treat as I watched episodes of The Catch on 7Plus – addictive, I kid you not. Won’t spoil your fun by letting the cat out the bag. Suffice to say the protagonist, Alice Vaughan, superbly portrayed by the gorgeous Mireille Enos, confirmed my belief that dynamite often comes in petite packages and when they rock stilettos and titian tresses, the impact is devastating on the bad guys as they just don’t see it coming!

Peter Krause, as Benjamin Jones, a slick conman, is delightfully convincing. Be prepared for many twists and surprises. Just the way I like it. Sonya Walger as Margot Bishop is a stunning bad girl, and boy, will she get your eyes a popping with her vivid persona. I know the boys will love this too, every man’s private fantasy, I am told…say no more…

Snacks ready, tipple ready, go! Next? Ah, Velvet, a superb Spanish series about a fashion dynasty on Netflix came highly recommended by a gorgeous friend. A sterling production which apparently cost plenty to produce for our entertainment on the small screen.

For at least one hour a day I get lost in Grace & Frankie’s world, also on Netflix. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are the quintessential opposites in personality, and as for Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston as the gay husbands, simply hilarious, and at times touching, pardon the pun. June Diane Raphael as Brianna, Grace (Jane Fonda)’s feisty daughter, is a hoot. Hilarious, witty, sophisticated and ever so stylish, my kinda show. Cheers, darlings! Life could be worse.

United sisters of fashion

Someone told me years ago that women who look after themselves too well are vain, frivolous and shallow. I was very young and already keen on projecting an image of a woman who is well-groomed and successful. I believed in creating an image for yourself of the person you wished to become.

At the time, I was probably too taken aback and reluctant to be confrontational but today, what I would say to that sour-faced, bitter soul, is: Firstly, never judge a book by its cover. Secondly, if you look good, you feel good. And, it is common knowledge that people who look their best get further in life. I’m not talking obsessive self-absorptions, so, don’t jump to the wrong conclusion here.

Shopping my closet when spring changes her mind about the temperature for the week is a creative outlet. The garments are mostly vintage from my cupboard. The good stuff hardly dates and if it does, it gets stored with fragrant soap and little sachets of salt to keep it dry and to deter moths. The newest items in the images above are the chinos from Country Road, top left, of early this year and the two-tone shoes above left, from last year at Nine West. Fun with fashion, fabulous therapy. The floral skirt, above right, is silk and made in Paris, bought in Sandton, Johannesburg about 20 years ago.

In fact, working with the amazing team of The School of Etiquette some years ago, which received its training in Washington and The Hague, confirmed the following. If you LOOK successful, you are perceived as successful. Now just ensure you have the necessary knowledge, skills, good manners and street-smarts to do the job well and the deal is clinched.

During this lengthy time of isolation, playing with my wardrobe brought back vivid memories of my teens and twenties, when fashion was my goddess and getting creative with my existing wardrobe has, quite frankly, saved me a fortune in therapy. Reviving fashion from years ago and giving it a new life is not quite The Indian in the Cupboard but more like Style in the Closet…

On my Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram fashion page, I have forged a sustaining bond with women across the planet, from Prague to Paris to Portland to Perth – to Parys, and beyond. It’s not just about pretty pictures. It’s about people’s stories and I tell you, sharing life experiences, trials, tribulations, joys, lifestyle, laughter and fashion with likeminded women of the world is pure feminine joy. Boy, it’s good to be a woman!

Interestingly, many men follow our posts too, mostly posting complimentary responses. Then, there are those who cannot differentiate between fashion posts and dating posts. How sad is that? Before blocking one desperado recently, I first had to Google what MILF even meant as he used the expression in a response to my posts that day – twice. Once I understood, my block button finger got busy. Still not sure if I should feel flattered, thought…

It is frustrating that much work still needs to be done to get certain men to understand we are NOT looking for a date, husband or cheap thrill when we are sharing fashion ideas and lifestyle stories on social media. On we march…and I hope in the end, the trash will take itself out. So nice when that happens.

To the good, honest, respectful men out there, thank you for flying the flag. You are appreciated. Teach your sons to do the same and call out those confused, misguided souls when they mess up.

Cheers to the good life and the many good people I’ve grown to appreciate, respect, admire and adore during these strange and trying months. You rock my world, thank you. Don’t hide your light, ever.


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