By Tilly Smith Dix

Well, just colour me in autumn shades of blissfully happy. Why, say you, when so many folks are already complaining about the colder season setting in?

This is the time for comfort food, cosy log fires, scenic drives, delicious cake, hot chocolate and my favourite, layering up for cosy comfort.

Cooking also becomes more fun as one does not feel like a slave in a hot kitchen. Rocking a full apron over comfy woollen sweaters, the scene is set for some hearty soups, warm puddings (date pudding is my favourite), and delicious casseroles.

Yes, I know in other parts of this blue planet others are now entering spring and I’m happy for them – new beginnings! Changing seasons is a beautiful thing and Mother Nature remains a marvel, in spite of too many humans doing their utmost to mess her up…

I’ve often featured the myriad colourful bird species gracing my garden with their presence. I, however, never take for granted the sweetness and peace of doves. I currently have a honeymoon couple canoodling on my deck daily, looking at me as if I’m a voyeur. Love makes them bold, I guess…who could blame them as the sunrise spectacular playing out over the Yarra Ranges certainly creates a profound sense of owning the panoramic views.

A childhood memory of me nursing an injured dove, giving it warmth in my bed, springs to mind. The poor creature was wrapped in soft old towels in no time, in its own bed, an open shoe box, as I ended up in the bath, pajamas, sheets and all, as the poor bird was covered in lice, which took a quick liking to the taste of my five-year old skin! I do remember my parents stifling giggles, shame on them, I was mortified. Happy ending, the dove survived and could be set free after a few days.

Lovey dovey on the deck at sunrise over the Yarra Valley.

Cathy, me and the sofa

Speaking of trends, I’m kinda bored with the endless violence, loud music, space-age speed and unrealistic and often hard-edged contents of most movies and have decided to take a sabbatical from new movies, unless they come highly recommended. Call it my new therapy. It’s like wearing an old, comfortable pair of slippers. You know their flaws, but you know they’re going to keep your feet warm and toasty.

I might get shot at dawn for this criticism, but I honestly was bored watching the 2017 version of Murder on the Orient Express. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the cast, I never tire of the story and visually, it was magnificent. However, Kenneth Branagh really made a meal of promoting brand Branagh, I fear. I worship Dame Judi Dench and adore Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Lucy Boynton and Willem Dafoe, not so keen on Johnny Depp anymore, but that’s personal, savvy…

I was addicted to Agatha Christie stories from my teens right up to my late twenties. Could not get enough. Mystery, glamour, always catching the bad guys so elegantly.

So, last night I watched the 1974 movie again. Directed by the late, great writer, producer and director, Sydney Lumet. The cast, similar to the most recent production, was very much a who’s who in Hollywood too, with the amazing and now sadly deceased Lauren Bacall, Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery and the still fabulous Jacqueline Bisset, whom I had the privilege of interviewing when she visited South Africa in the early 1990s. She was modest, gracious, and so natural and easy to converse with. I remain a fan.

As for the other late luminaries cast, such as Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, John Gielgud and Ingrid Bergman, all I can say is some current stars and directors have enormous shoes to fill.

The music by Richard Rodney Bennett was sweeping and sophisticated, fitting for a grand event such as the Orient Express.

I did, however, find a delightful more recent movie on Netflix, titled Boundaries, starring one of my all-time favourite actors, Christopher Plummer, who sadly passed in February, with the beautiful and always authentic Vera Farmiga. I highly recommend this movie, a true gem. There are some telling lessons here and several great laughs. The one-liner that had me howling with glee, causing Cathycat to look at me with deep concern, was Plummer’s character telling his daughter, played by Farmiga, she was the Pied Piper of mange!

Vera’s character attracts stray dogs in need of physical and often emotional help. This movie gives one some quirky ideas about overcoming family drama and old grudges. I may watch it again.

Yep, it’s just dawned on me, many of the stars I admired greatly for so long are now dead. My late dad used to say you knew you were getting near the finishing line when most people you admired are dead. Scary but, in my defence, these folks were all plenty older than me…just saying.

That being said, life is for the living. The past is there only to draw good memories and valuable lessons from. Otherwise, the present is now, and we should savour every moment. Yes, we must plan and dream about a good future but the here and now is going to be in the past tomorrow! Deep, right? Simple, though.

Friends with benefits

Yep, that got your attention! Sorry, no sexy stories here, only good vibes about friends and family who have our backs, as we should have theirs.

Never, in my lifetime, has there been a time when I have felt more grateful than now. Given this pandemic, causing suffering and loss in so many ways, from physical and mental health, to financial disasters, having our tribe in our corner, is key.

With loved ones offering emotional comfort and some even financial assistance where needed, it has to be said, silver linings are more evident than ever. Never underestimate how much we need each other in good as well as bad times.

My sweet late mom believed in putting out caring energy. She often said the people at which you direct the much-needed comfort very often might not be the ones to return the favour when you need it but that in the end, the Universe equals it out. Now I hear a tune by The Beatles, The End, in which the lyrics end with: “And in the end, the love you make, is equal to the love your take….” Somehow, that works for me. More so than when I bought that album, my only Beatles Album, Abbey Road, all those years ago.

Feeding the beast

Ah, food, glorious food, so many choices, such eclectic choices and, joy of joys, we are able to eat in restaurants, drink wine and fix the world with the folks we adore spending time with.

I’ve reviewed Between Us on Maling Road, Melbourne before. However, I had a dish there recently, which was so spectacular, I simply have to mention it again. Next time you’re in Canterbury, try the crayfish tail, prawns, poached egg, sauteed dill spinach and sourdough bread. Washed down with a glass of delicious bubbles, and the world is hunky-dory, darlings!

I’ve just discovered where the term hunky-dory comes from, thank you, Professor Google! Apparently, it’s from a street called Honcho-dori in Yokohama, Japan, where sailors coming ashore go in search of all the things sailors on shore-leave go looking for. So, there’s your sexy story, happy now?

Scenes from Waves on the Beach Restaurant, Frankston. Top right, prawns, chorizo and sour dough, lamb cigar, and golden fried calamari.

Another delicious meal consumed in the good company of my lovely tribeswoman Rika, was at Waves on the Beach in Frankston. Can’t fault a restaurant with great service, ocean as well as city views, and scrumptious food! Ah, and then there is the French bubbles, which, to our delight, happened to cost less than a glass of local. Go figure…

As usual, our eyes were too big for our stomachs after a scenic drive around the Mornington Peninsula. Ocean air will do that to you.

Crayfish tail, baby spinach, prawns and hollandaise on sour dough at Between Us.

We picked three small dishes, to enjoy tapas style, and this proved a resounding culinary triumph. Lamb cigars, golden-fried calamari, and king prawns and chorizo bowl. I’ve not been to Spain as Italy and France always had a stronger draw for me but this kind of dining may lure me there! Hook, line and sinker, I’m a new fan of Waves on the Beach. In the words of Arnie, “hasta la vista, baby – I’ll be back…”

Book worm

Receiving a book to review is always a challenge as I’d like to deliver a glowing review but what if it stinks! As I honestly try to remain authentic, I tell all the collaborators who liaise with me I’ll not give a bad review of their product or books. However, if I don’t like it, I’d rather advise them and return their gift.

So, when I received a book from Smith Publicity in the US, written by Eugenia Zukerman to review, Like Falling Through a Cloud, I was captivated from page one.

           

A poignant book of poetry about her trying journey with Altzheimers, by Eugenia Zukerman, Like Falling Through a Cloud. Available on Amazon.

This is a lesson in learning to deal with early onset of Altzheimers with grace and dignity. I cried and laughed. Eugenia’s creative mind refuses to give in without a challenge, painting her journey with poetic prose, often outraged. I salute this incredible woman and her courage is an inspiration. Some of her musings reminded me of my late mom’s struggles when her memory started to fade during the onset of Parkinsons, as well as my adored Melbourne relative’s current struggle with dementia. I highly recommend this book and if this does not bring poetry back on literary trend, I’ll eat my hard copy.

I could not have summarised it better than my favourite cellist, Yo-Yo Ma: “Eugenia Zukerman reminds us of the delicate balance between human fragility and resilience.” Indeed. Respect.

Fashionistas unite

I’m besotted with the new fashion trends for winter as it is so reminiscent of my youth. Feminine, sometimes edgy, flowing, or boho elegant. In fact, anything goes. You love Audrey Hepburn’s elegant style from Breakfast at Tiffanies? Got it. You like the trendy style so colourful and sassy back in the day when Carnaby Street was top of the pops? You’re in!

Never a follower of specific trends, especially if I thought they did not suit me, except for those enormous shoulder pads we wore in the Eighties, which only looked okay if we were 6 foot plus and stick skinny, cringe.

Layered up for autumn. Much of the above featured items are from my vintage closet – slow fashion is my forte. Okay, I’m a sucker for good quality that lasts. The vibrantly coloured jumpers as well as the check knit are current, ranging from Seed Heritage to Country Road to Witchery, great Australian designs to complement any revived classics. Detailed descriptions and tags are available on my Instagram @Sixty_is_the_new_40 page – locations for the shoots featured above are at home and at The Loft in the Mill, Olinda.

By now, my male readers are losing interest as we all know, most of them love the feminine form to be displayed with very little left to the imagination. Do not fear, my good chaps, we will not be wearing shapeless cheesecloth and caftans covering every inch of our female form. We are simply leaving more to the imagination, in a classier style. Move over burlesque, fabulously elegant is back.

From trend-setting leather and suede trousers to snug blazers, to comfy coats, wear it with panache. Confidence is feeling fabulous.

Cheers to the good life and to all the amazing people in our lives…happy autumn or spring, wherever you may be – just choose happy!

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