by Tilly Smith Dix

I’ve mentioned the piano tuner and piano removalist, Lachlan Brown, in a previous blog, and finally booked him to tune my piano last week. Well, not only did he do an exceptional job, as the piano needed some minor refurbishments after several big moves in the past 11 years, which included a trip across the ocean, but I got a free show to boot!

This highly skilled and multi-talented man recently told me about his translating ancient Chinese poetry into English, to which he has now also composed music.

Nosy as I am, I asked about it and for my trouble, I got a concert whilst he demonstrated my old concert upright being back in fine form!

Being a private audience to his new compositions and eloquently translated poetry about nature and the country, made for a memorable morning. Then, as a bonus, being privy to his rendition of one of my favourite Rogers and Hammerstein tunes from South Pacific, This Nearly was Mine, made my heart soar.

I was dumbstruck, yes, unusual for me, as the entire process profoundly touched my soul. After Lachlan’s departure, I got onto YouTube and again listened to this wonderful song, which was now haunting me. If this musical is your thing, listen to Julian Ovenden, or Brian Stokes, perform this timeless tune, they are sensational. Thank me later.

I worked on cloud nine for the rest of the day, grateful for these amazing surprises life bestows on us, scattering stardust in my little home on a cold, drizzly Monday. Namaste.

Next chapter? Pianist Len Voster, he who now owns my antique organ, will be recording these sweet sounds created by Lachlan! This story about lesser degrees of separation just gets better. Life’s not half bad…

Then I thought I got even luckier as one Lerynne West at sent me an email via one Alexandra Karuska, informing me she was donating the generous sum of €5.8m to li’l ol’ moi! Geez, I was about to crack a bottle of French but luckily, I curbed my enthusiasm when I realised, I did not know these people! Who are these people?

I once worked with a Lyrene but as you can see, the spelling of her name is different, plus she has children to leave her millions to and she never bought me as much as a cappuccino in the old country, so, I settled for a glass of local bubbles instead. I thanked my lucky stars I did not respond to the sender of the fraudulent message and drank to the fact that I’m not as dumb as I often feel. Hie.

As dear Dad used to say, “it’s okay to sometimes act a little crazy but don’t be stupid just because you are blonde.” Cheers to that, mates. Even my excellent electrician, Jackson, says I’m delightfully eccentric. He claims there are far too many boring people on this planet. I like that! Gosh, at my mature age, I welcome any compliments. Give that young man a Bells! He also does a great job, at affordable rates. Check him out at J. Lewis Electrical Services.

Let’s own our joie de vivre and if people call that crazy, it’s their loss. Authentically peculiar is the new vogue, my rule…

Breaking bread

Speaking of those few degrees of separation, I recently met with a lovely Instagram friend, Gretchen in Mt Eliza, where we had a delicious brunch at Ad Hoc. It is pure delight meeting new people who feel more like old friends. The world truly is filled with special people, we simply must open our eyes and hearts.

My scrumptious eggs benedict on crispy bacon were perfect, the chai latte delicious and spiced just right, whilst Gretchen took delight in her benedict special, which was made with smoked salmon. I’ll be back. Simply yum.

Some people get depressed and grumpy when it rains, I get high. No, not like that, silly, I just love rain and cold, so, I’m a self-confessed pluviophile. An old pal in Cape Town used to call such days, “Janis Joplin, cheap red wine, and slit your wrists,” days. None of us ever felt that low but I guess it summed it up for some folks.

I recently had some business to attend to in Mornington and popped into Betty’s Burgers as the art deco building reminded me of Miami. I don’t do burgers often, but was I glad I did this once-a-year-burger flip. Fresh, tasting of pure beef, I then popped to the waterfront for a quick pic of the bay on a drizzly day. This midweek treat certainly charged my EQ battery to deal with the rest of the week. Simple pleasures, right? Again, we simply have to see…

Scrumptious eggs, above, at Ad Hoc in Mount Eliza.

Rainy days in Mornington, above, and Betty’s Burgers.

I’ve written about the expat women of Melbourne before and finally, after all those lockdowns of the unmentionable virus, we managed to coordinate our diaries as we are spread across the greater suburbs and outskirts of this liveable city. We agreed, with all these animal-related pocks doing the rounds, we’d better catch up before we start seeing veterinary surgeons for new vaccines!

Five of us gathered in South Yarra at a magnificent heritage estate, Como House, where the food is a treat, the service friendly and efficient, and the location pure old-world charm.

Sharing our life journeys since our last gathering between lockdowns in 2021, it was clear we were all more relaxed, having taken control of the stresses and strains life hurls at us from time to time.

Suffice to say, time flew way too fast, the bubbles were delicious, the stories even more so, and none of us had lost our sense of humour. You can take the girls out of South Africa, but you’ll never take the country out of our spirits. Again, I felt extremely lucky to catch up with these special souls.

Our bubbles of choice proved a perfect complement to our respective dishes, and I highly recommend the Jules Faulker Rose from France at one dollar more than a bottle of bubbles from New Zealand! I know the French can be full of themselves but hey, when it comes to bubbles, they have plenty reason, Oui, on sait

I settled, happily, for the steak frites porterhouse with madame sousou butter. Not ashamed to say, I finished the 250g!

Catching up with the girls at Como House, above.

At the movies

Watching Elvis at Karinga Village Cinema Gold Class, nibbling on prawn and vegetable spring rolls, and wedges, with delectable aioli choices and bubbles, is my idea of movie magic.  Riveting, this Baz Lohman masterpiece. Spellbinding. Three hours too short! I could have watched another hour of this spectacular film.

As for Austin Butler, sensational and mesmerising in character as Elvis. Someone wrote when he stares into the camera, it melts. I’d say it more likely explodes!

Tom Hanks as the evil Colonel Parker, superb. Giggles galore too, reflecting the reactions of women in the audience back in the day. Hysterical females, throwing underwear at Elvis on stage, caused riots. The US bible belt did not react well, and Elvis’ movements were banned, especially being filmed from the waist down on television. Pure sin, straight to hell, ha!

My, how times have changed? Some performers now come on stage almost naked, and top talent have been known to simulate sex acts on stage to the thunderous applause of audiences wanting more.

This reminded me of seeing Tom Jones performing live in Cape Town many years ago, when a friend promptly ripped off her unmentionables and hurled it at the stage. I thought she was going to faint! I was so embarrassed. She was a teacher and totally dropped her prim pose. Her boyfriend nearly fainted too, declaring their pending engagement was off!

I did have questions. What happens to these panties? Is there a special museum, paying homage to the brave panty-throwing brigade? The mind boggles. I’m not judging, seriously, just pondering this phenomenon, and leaving such a show, especially in winter, without proper protection of the nether regions…

Should I even get that crazy, I’ll go buy some big-girl pants, Bridget Jones style, and throw that at the he-god. That should get his attention, right? Might knock the sucker out. Chuckle.

Back to my story at the movies. Keeping social distancing in mind, of course, savouring a movie in gold-class style certainly is the answer. Comfy, spacious reclining seats, food and drinks on order and delivered to your seat, way to go. I’m ruined for life.

Book worm

I’ve become a tad disgruntled with some of the current books and modern authors. There are many superb writers but when I want to relax on a chilly winter’s evening, I want to be certain I’ll not be disappointed.

Great writing and above all, superb storytelling, are my top priorities when opening a book. No, I don’t like to read online and have not yet succumbed to acquiring a Kindle. I love the energy of a printed book and using a bookmark. Yep, call me old-fashioned, I’ve been called worse.

So, as I am with some old movies I’ve watched many times over the years, returning to a good book after many years, is like embracing an old friend.

A writer I’ve never tired of, is Pat Conroy. A while back I read Beach Music again, after some 20 years, and loved every word and nuance, again, always brilliantly described by Conroy, now sadly departed. So, I dug around my library, which is now seriously bijou due to living in a smaller space, and found another old love, South of Broad, by this evergreen author.

Again, I cherished every word. Some authors write for authors. Some write for avid readers. Pat Conroy, to my mind, came up trumps in both categories. Reading his stories, one is never bamboozled with complicated or over-written diction. Yet, when you stop, as a modest writer, to pay attention to his words, you realise, how, gently, he educates and, I’m certain, helped many improve their linguistic skills over many years.

South of Broad, in true Conroy fashion, paints a picture of colourful characters and never leaves one in doubt about the author’s love and understanding of the US South, with his beloved Charleston ruling as a city of many layers.

Hilarious, heartbreaking, shocking, and depicting characters so enigmatically, I’ll read this book again, as I do with all his books, probably in 10 years’ time. Perhaps in five as I’m sure my memory will worsen by then…

The pragmatist, Leo, has problems. He gets in trouble for protecting someone else, and at an early age, struggles with mental problems after his 10-year-old brother commits suicide.

His mother is a former nun and the principal of his school. His father is a sweetheart. Leo befriends a group of orphans, who have had the worst of times and so begins friendships and bonds that bind these characters for life, until death.

Having been to San Francisco several times and having an eternal love-affair with that eclectic, fascinating city on the bay, I’ll leave you with Conroy’s description of this city, which does hold a piece of my heart, but his character, Leo, does not share my sentiments: “In California, the mad, deep breath of deserts is never far away. The sky above San Francisco is often so dazzling a blue that it merits the overripe description of cerulean, or comparison to lapis lazuli. Its clouds are sea-born and formed in the odd depths of its mysterious bay, where the fog moves inland in a billion-celled, mindless creature, amoeba-shaped and poisonous, like a stillborn member of the nightshade family.

“Southern fogs calm me as they paint the marshes with their milk-stained fingers. The San Francisco fog is a silver-lined hunter of the predator class, and I always find it troubling. When I awaken to its fog horns, they sound like the exiled whimpering of a city in endless sexual distress.”

TV indulgence

Love a travel series with a personality that seems like an old friend? Look no further than catching James May in Italy, he of the motoring shenanigans, on Amazon Prime. Funny and delightful. Something couples could watch without fighting over the remote.

Dinner with Friends (2001) on Binge, starring the lovely Andy McDowell, superb Denis Quaid, slick Greg Kinnear, and edgy Tony Collett, depicts the anatomy of a good marriage and friends in bad relationships. Insightful and real. I highly recommend it.

Gino’s Italian Family Adventure on Binge is a delicious journey with Italian chef Gino D’Acampo and his British family.

Gino’s love for his birth-country, traversing from Sardinia to Naples, is highly addictive. He also proves the world is older than 3,000 years by featuring ancient ruins of structures built even before the Romans or Egyptians.

Teaching his English-speaking children how to pronounce bruschetta: b-r-u-s-k-e-t-t-a, had me in stitches! The fact that he pays homage to my favourite Italian hard cheese, pecorino, which is made from sheep’s milk, was heart-warming. I prefer it to parmesan, mia culpa.

As for magnificent Sardinia, I never got there on my magical visits to Italy, but this is the best virtual tour of this bucket-list island I’ve experienced. I love Gino’s emphasis on the Italian way of life: “Simple. Family, Great Food.” Divino. He even teaches his mother-in-law to pop a cherry. Salute. Chuckle…and Mama loves Gino.

Spring safari

Speaking of travel, I see Tau Game Lodge is offering sublime packages for spring, between September 1 and 20 December 2022 – check it out at

With over 250 bird species, Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve of South Africa, is a birder’s paradise. This is the waterhole, above, where guests observe the endless parade of game and birds – watch out for the opportunistic crocs!

Style is never out of fashion

I recently watched an excellent documentary on Binge, titled American Style. Yes, many will argue the fact that the USA has produced some iconic style over the years. However, many of its designers were trailblazers and will go down in fashion history as world leaders in style.

Remember Grace Kelley and Oleg Cassini? Jacqueline Kennedy and Oleg Cassini? Anyone worth their salt in fashion, immaterial of age, would agree, Halston was a style god. In fact, in this brilliant doco, Halston and his fellow US designers, Bill Blass, Stephen Burrows, Oscar de la Renta and Anne Klein, were the stars in the 1973 Battle of Versailles Fashion Show.

Why? They did not rely on elaborate props and backdrops to show off their designs, but let the garments speak for themselves through design, and the movement of the models, dancing to the beat of contemporary music. A triumph, and the start of an era when models looked like living, breathing, moving people, allowing the garments to flow, instead of looking like deadpan mannequins.

I was a teen model and loved strutting and moving, even dancing, down the catwalk to the rhythm of popular music. It was such fun! We were slim but nobody looked hungry, grumpy, or resembled heroin chic. How could looking like death be depicted as chic? Ever? We had the best time, when choreographing a fashion show was pure art, and fashion was wearable!

So, it’s to these fashion icons I’m paying homage. Freedom of style is a gift to savour. We are presented with seasonal fashion four times a year. We have the freedom to have our own style at any time of year. Can’t remember who said that but I like it.

Paying homage to classic designs that remain winter stars in my cupboard, above. From the black Witchery wrap, to the blue alpaca wool scarf, to Trenery car coats, an old butter-soft leather coat, knitted dresses, hats, heels and the classic trench coat, also Witchery, these items remain forever new as slow-fashion gems. See my IG page for more style tips @Sixty_is_the_new_40

When buying clothes, think about the garments complementing us, and with which existing items in our closet such new pieces might merge successfully. Slow fashion is not just a trend, it is a lifestyle. Find a style that will suit your personality and shape. It need not be followed religiously. We are supposed to break the mould from time to time, otherwise we’d be oh, so boring. Just be authentic and own your look…

My motto this month? Find your superpower, own it, live, be authentic and whilst we will never be everyone’s cup of tea, let’s be our own delicious cuppa – the rest will follow, our tribe will find us!

Cheers to the good life, living our best life. Not there yet? Start planning and projecting. If we start with the easy stuff, like the beauty of nature, the kindness of strangers, the people we care about us and for whom we care deeply, surely the good life will follow…

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