by Tilly Smith Dix

A social media friend recently bemoaned too many cliches being posted online as all this inspirational stuff made her gag, she said.

I never tire of being reminded of life lessons. Yes, life toughens us and moulds us, a bit like a garden. Often, one plants a seed or shrub, and they simply won’t grow, whilst something we were not paying much attention to, will flourish. There’s a lesson here. Life has its own flow.

In life, we plan to get ahead or simply to stay in step. When we are young, we are encouraged to develop our professional and emotional skills and somehow, we define ourselves through our management of self. I was going to become a pianist. I loved music, worked hard at it since the age of seven, and with the support of my teachers and mother, this, I felt, was what defined me.

When that dream came to a crashing halt because of circumstances beyond my control, I felt lost. I was sixteen, in a new city, a new school, a fish out of water, so to speak…

Slowly, I evolved, after a few heartbreaking life lessons, and discovered, through a supportive tutor, that I had a gift for writing essays. I found some balance in a new city, at last.

However, this was not going to pay the bills after my studies were completed and I started at the bottom of public relations, and as a PA before that, but earned extra cash through modelling after an agent spotted me in a bank and signed me up. I even had a few small parts in movies, but the money was rubbish, and I rejected the tacky casting-couch regime.

This, however, was not how I wanted to be defined. I always liked fashion and enduring style but wanted to be taken seriously as a young woman with a good mind and not just a pretty face.

To cut a long story short, what I love about almost reaching the rude number in 60 plus, I don’t wish to be defined by anything as, like most of the people of my village, in other words, my tribe scattered around the globe, we are multi-faceted. Simply call us by our name, not yours.

I enjoy writing and photography, I have been an editor, a corporate manager, an agency boss, and I am still a publicist and blogger, as well as a social media inspirer for people over 60.

Oh, and I’ve started playing the piano again, after a sabbatical of some 50 years. I’m just a woman who has lived an eventful life, travelled extensively, had ups and downs, and who continues to live authentically – a grateful woman who lives by her own rules. Cheers to that, and all the men and women out there, who embrace their true spirit and worth. We have stories.

Pictured above, top left, a time for sentimental gifts of old and embracing the inner child. The teddy was given to me many years ago by my godparents in Savannah, Georgia. It is unwrapped every Christmas, with love and laughter, long after they have moved over the rainbow bridge. The cute little riders, bottom left, seem to love their modern transport and are proud supporters of The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation @dashpatch. No space or time for a tree, or a preference for less fussy Christmas decor? The Christmas vase works too. Bottom right, Kiki approves of the Walkers gin-infused fruit tarts box.

What am I proud of? I no longer accept every invitation to a fight I’m invited to, and I decline offers I’m not keen on. I’m too busy embracing life. As for this time of year, I do embrace a great mince pie and the best I’ve sampled so far is the Walkers gin-infused mini mince tarts from Woolworths. Kiki loves the box and it will be destroyed over the next few days. She can ruin the box but I hide the pies!

It is with deep sadness I think of my lifelong friend since childhood passing away a few days ago. Mariekie suffered for some time and her pain could no longer be numbed by morphine. Cancer is a monster. It is with gladness I let her go, free of pain. How would she be defined? A conscientious corporate assistant accountant, a teen beauty queen, a kind person, a woman who loved fashion and fabulous cars, a proud mother, and a person who forgave easily and loved to laugh. She was beautiful and she was loved. I hear laughter when she is welcomed by her family and loved ones who arrived at her peaceful new haven ahead of her. She will be missed. RIP, soul sister. Your light was bright.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it … I say, let it flow, let it flow, let it flow! Let life happen. It has its own purpose, as long as we do our best and learn our lessons well. Otherwise, we may have to start all over again. A good time of the year to reflect, I’d say. I’m starting with gratitude and telling the folks I adore how much I love them.

All in the family

Celebrating an early birthday and Christmas lunch with my precious family proved the perfect occasion to want to burst with gratitude.

Doing a crazy jitterbug Christmas dance with an eight-year-old, with our jazz hands flying and bottoms bumping against each other, giggling madly, is a moment treasured forever. Again, there is gratitude. For starters, I did not dislocate anything doing the crazy dance!

Pictured above: made with love by the pixies for their crazy Christmas Auntie Tilly. What’s not to love.

Hand-made Christmas cards and art created just for me by the pixies made my heart sing. So, if I’ll be defined as the laughing, crazy-dance auntie they’d like to join them on holiday, I’ll take it!

No, I won’t crash their grandparents’ long-awaited Cape holiday with the pixies as that would be selfish but knowing I’d be missed makes all the difference. Okay, so maybe they’ll miss my pavlova more… I’ll take that too.

That’s entertainment

Music of most genres thrill me and on any given day, I’ll listen to classical music, jazz, blues, and whatever sounds good to my musical ear. So, when my dear friend Rika invited me to attend a blues concert at the Frankston Arts Centre, I accepted before the offer could be withdrawn.

Paying tribute to the Three Kings, BB King, Freddie King and Albert King, this event was a triumph. If you love blues, you’d understand. Their music lives on and thanks to Australia’s Geoff Acheson, Dave Hole and Shane Pacey’s superb homage performances, I bet not only were plenty memories stirred up with fans of the blues, but a new generation has become privy to the old masters of the blues.

The guitar-slinging fretboard talents and vocals of these Australian musicians are pure musical pleasure and I’m hoping this world-class show returns to the Mornington Peninsula soon.

These Kings inspired the like of Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Peter Green and the great Jimi Hendrix, who are now forever regarded as guitar gods.

Returning to Frankston Arts Centre for Christmas Carols proved a celebration of the combined talent of professional Australian musicians who have not only performed with our top operatic and symphony orchestras, but who have indeed performed internationally, to great aplomb.

Compere Chris McKenna, who also performs with the tenors, baritone and soprano did a great job engaging the packed audience in the Christmas spirit, with plenty giggles and hearty participation.

Star Opera Australia baritone Roger Lemke, soprano Alison Jones and tenor Roy Best, were backed superbly on the grand piano by young rising star William Schmidt.

Alexandra Partridge, one of Melbourne’s finest cellists, who has played for Orchestra Victoria and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, added warmth and beauty to the concert. I’m still giggling at some of the additional Aussie verses, such as, “riding through the bush, in a rusty Holden ute…” to the tune of Jingle Bells!

Sofa binges

Michel Roux in the South of France streaming on Prime Video proved a blissful trip down memory lane for me, comprising visits to Arles, St Remy, and other delightful villages of the region.

The famous London chef with his French origins, shines a light on simple food, sourcing the fresh produce Provence is famous for.

Getting down to basics in Provence begs simple dishes to celebrate the fresh flavours of this region’s abundant produce, from lamb to fruit and vegetables, herbs, and fish, to cheese and wine.

If you love this beautiful part of France and good, honest food, this series is for you! I enjoyed the synergy between this series focused on simplicity, and Michel’s legendary two Michelin-star eatery, Le Gavroche in London, which he took over from his famous father and grandfather, where the focus has always been on fine dining.

I’ve mentioned one of my favourite British chefs James Martin in an earlier blog and his 2016 Christmas Comforts series on Binge remains a joy, hosting Michelin-star chefs, and celebrity friends, such as the always delightful Sir Michael Parkinson. The recipes are indulgent, the mood jolly, and the conversations lively. Michel Roux Snr, who passed away in 2020, makes an appearance too.

Add the festive food reports from Austria, which brought merry memories of my visits over the years, and a food historian, who offers interesting background to some of the traditional dishes, and you have a delicious BBC food binge. Fancy some Yorkshire pudding with your roast? This one’s for you! Proper, mate.

Documentaries are such fun binges, and I found the tribute to David Geffen on Netflix quite enchanting. He made artists such as Jackson Brown, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Guns ‘n Roses, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and Bob Dylan household names.

Man About Town, with Ben Affleck and Rebecca Romijn, made for a comfy rainy-day movie binge. The story is not new but it’s always good to see a new storyline for couples fixing their problems for a happy ever after. It beats the cheesy Christmas movies for me.

Ah, then there are the oldies, those vintage movies directed by people like Bob Fossie, who could act, choreograph, and dance. Fancy a trip down memory lane with Howard Keel and Doris Day on Binge, look no further than Kiss me Kate – and watch out for Cole Porter and Bob Fosse himself appearing in this movie.

I had a giggle whilst flicking through Amazon Prime Video, where I came across most of the Bond movies. The parental warning on The Spy who Loved Me reads: Mild coarse language and sex, and a mild sense of peril…

Currently trending on Netflix is The Watcher. Based on the true story of the book The Haunting of a Dream House. Greed and the insular lives of old New York suburban money are thrown in the mix and it’s bloody scary. Scarier than my neighbours…

Bobby Cannavale, as always, is great value. Jennifer Coolidge adds her usual odd method persona in the mix, whilst Naomi Watts is a mother protecting her family. Mia Farrow, Margo Martindale, and Christopher McDonald add to this ominous limited series. Pour some wine and don’t watch it alone if you are sensitive…

Eating out

Lorida is situated on Main Road, Mornington, and serves Greek cuisine. My first visit was great, with an excellent tasting platter for two with a generous helping of fried calamari, spanakopita cigars, zucchini chips, kataifi, prawns in honey, lemon and roasted hazelnuts, and dips including taramasalata, tzatziki, hummus, and warm pita.

My second visit was not so good as the zucchini dominated the platter, offering less calamari and smaller prawns. When I suggested to our server this was different to a few weeks ago and the zucchini was a bit much, he returned to say he’d mentioned it to the chef.

We did not finish the zucchini as it was dripping with oil from the batter, whilst the calamari, this time far less than before, was pale. Still hungry, we ordered baklava, which was superb and tasted fresh as this was my friend’s birthday lunch, after all.

Sadly, the second visit convinced me to avoid Lorida in future. Customers matter.

Oliver’s Corner at the Frankston Yacht Club is affordable, relaxed and offers a panoramic view of the pier and convivial beach.

Pictured above, top, left to right: Frankston Pier, calamari and fish cakes at Oliver’s Corner; bottom, left to right, poached eggs on crispy bacon, rosti and haloumi, with fresh orange juice at the Winey Cow.

The sparkling Seppelt Salinger Vintage Pinot Noir Chardonnay from Victoria, lemon pepper calamari with tartare sauce, hot smoked trout fish cakes with pea puree, roasted leek, spinach and herbed cream cheese, and crumbed pepper calamari hit the spot – I will be back.

The Winey Cow in Mornington is my new brunch crush. Feasting on Eggs Norwegian, comprising smoked salmon, panko-crumbed eggs, halloumi, sesame avocado, citrus hollandaise, and squid ink tuille; and the Brunch Stack, including streaky bacon, avocado puree, halloumi, potato rosti, poached eggs and hollandaise, was delecious. Fresh Orange juice and a chai latte complemented a scrumptious start to the day. The diner is always busy, with good reason!

Love on safari in South Africa

Gosh, Christmas is hardly here and romance is calling for planning ahead… love the idea of gifting a safari for Valentine’s at Christmas,

Pictured above: Make a romantic gesture for Christmas, a gift of a romantic getaway to Tau for Valentines leaves enough time to plan…

Come snow or sunshine, wherever we may be in the world, this is a time to celebrate, eat the pudding, drink the wine and dust off our Santa shirts and sweaters, wear red and green as often as we wish, and reflect on a year gone way too fast.

It’s also a good time to assess one’s wardrobe and donate unwanted items to those less fortunate. This is a time to give. Don’t forget, Santa’s watching… it’s okay to be a bit naughty but don’t be a Grinch…

Pictured above: Layered linen, old with new, glam silk, changing a look effortlessly, easy dressing for the Holidays – and pool parties. Ageless basics, mixed with new accessories could elevate the look. White and ivory never date for me, add a splash of cerise, cobalt blue or emerald green, and it brightens the mood as well. As weather patterns are tricky, coats should never be forgotten. Full details of garments are available on my Instagram fashion page @Sixty_is_the_new_40 and stockists featured include: Trenery, Witchery, Jo Mercer, Zara, Silk Maison, Sea of Love, and Country Road.

Cheers to the goodlife, and wishing you ONLY joy for the Holidays, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale, Joyeux Noel, Geseende Kersfees, and happiness in any language of your choice!

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