Autumn splendour

By Tilly Smith Dix

A golden feast of fashion, beauty and theatre

I’ve always loved autumn. When the days are cooler, the nights cosier and the colours turn to warm, russet hues, I dig out my soft woollen sweaters, sheepskin slippers, (sorry if this upsets my vegan friends), and mohair blankets. Ready!

Spending more time in the kitchen also becomes attractive as this past summer took its toll of my capacity for heat. Probably as a result of less rainfall during the hot season, I guess. Then we had those awful bushfires not far from here. I take enormous pleasure in mentioning the penetrating rain of last weekend, which truly made my heart sing. I think I could hear the grass grow after that glorious downpour.

Serendipity seems to always greet a new season as a new Facebook friend decided to spoil me simply because I showed support by liking her page for Arbonne, which she consults for in Melbourne. She asked me to provide her with my delivery address so she could send me a special thank you by mail.

A few days later, thanks to the speedy service of Australia Post, a parcel was delivered to my mail box, complete with healthy diet shakes and health potions plus a full range of skin products, ranging from a cleanser to toner, renewal serum, corrective eye cream and night repair cream. Well, just colour me happy and watch me shed my dry summer skin for a dewy glow, just in time for autumn.


Above: The autumn charms of the Yarra Valley & Ranges near Melbourne.

I have been using the travel-size Arbonne Anti-ageing Skincare Line for almost a week now and it is already obvious what a difference it has made in such a short period of time. I commend Izelle Van Aardt’s marketing skills to promote a product she feels passionate about.

I was a little worried as after cleansing, I applied the regenerating toner, the intensive renewal serum, followed by the night repair cream and corrective eye cream, when my skin felt rather tingly. However, after about 30 minutes the tingling sensation eased off and it felt good. Now, almost a week later, my skin feels tighter yet plumped up and moist. Having closely inspected the areas I most fret over, such as my frown lines, crows feet and the skin around my jowls, I’m confident the elasticity has improved and the lines seem less pronounced.

I’m also happy to advise the skincare kit only expires at the end of July. I recently had a bad reaction to an expired product gifted to me.

As for the Arbonne essentials energy fizz, which contains pomegranate flavour, I have one word: delicious! I poured the fizz into a glass of water on a day I felt a tad tired after a late night slaving over a hot laptop, which resulted in less sleep as I had to rise early in the morning. After breakfast and cappuccino, I still felt as if I was operating in slow motion, hence the decision to give the fizz a go. I kid you not, within 30 minutes I felt more perky and managed a full day’s work without skipping a beat.

Having checked what comprises this wonder elixir, I think the caffeine, calcium and camellia extract did the trick. I’ll keep you posted on the rest of the potions and will use Andrew as my guineapig to test the meal replacement shake as he has advised me of his intention to shed a kilo or two. Not that he is by any means overweight, of course…


Above: having fun on Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram – Cathy approves.

I may have mentioned I’ve already started digging out some jumpers and other fashion items from my closet to welcome the new season. Well, I’d like to share my delight in the fashion come-backs for the season, which include the wider culotte pants. Why am I so overjoyed at this? I still have my beautiful wool-blend wide pants from about 16 years ago and they are perfectly on trend!

Of course, the new season will always dazzle one with some fine new colours and designs, which I may or may not indulge in. Oh, okay, I could not resist, I did invest in a loungewear outfit to spruce up my wardrobe and may I say, the fabulous Instagram gals who follow me from around the world have been most complimentary about my acquisition. Shhhhh, don’t tell Andrew…


Above: celebrating a golden autumn – I love this tree in Olinda.

The fact that I’m a sucker for a gorgeous short or long pair of boots is no secret among those who adore me and whom I adore right back. Autumn calls for some bright colours to brighten the browns and greys and I could not be happier to slip into a pair of bright red ankle boots, just to show there’s still some spark in this ‘mature’ chook!

When Andrew announced he’d bought tickets for us to see a play at The 1812 Theatre, I was already assembling my old-gold Jenni Button suit of wide trousers and matching jacket, purchased at least 14 years ago in Johannesburg, teamed with a cream Witchery blouse acquired last year. After all, I still believe in showing respect for the performing arts by dressing up and showing up on time.

Breaking the Code, written by Hugh Whitemore and directed by Malcom Sussman, proved a triumph. Not in a million years would anyone watching the play have believed this was amateur theatre. The story, which was about Alan Turing, the iconic codebreaker who made history during World War II, reflected his unconventional lifestyle. Being gay during a time when it was unlawful, made life difficult for this genius. Michael Fenemore as Turing was illuminating in the lead role, whilst the rest of the cast were superb too.

It is rather quaint and old-fashioned to get free sherry, orange juice or choices of wine before the show and ‘supper’ after. The snacks comprised finger eats, which included scrumptious little steak and kidney pies, cheese and biscuits, sweets and fruit – and delicious Yarra Valley bubbles for me. I think the old theatre guard would approve. We certainly do and remain loyal to the amateur theatrical societies in this beautiful region surrounding Melbourne.

Cheers to the good life and autumn in all its glorious golden shades – and if you are entering spring on the other side of the world, may it be enchanting too…

A hit and run vacation

By Tilly Smith Dix

Touching base with my roots in South Africa

Visiting South Africa for only one week is a sin as there is so much on offer. However, with limited time and my workload piling up, that’s all the time I had to spend with a close circle of friends and family in February. Of course, living in Aussie, the travel time is not quite a walk in the park but more like that slow boat to China. I tried to take the long flights in my stride and it was pleasurable, thanks to excellent service on Qantas and Emirates.

I did find the seating rather tight on Qantas flying to Johannesburg via Sydney and witnessed the two sibling passengers seated next to me were struggling with leg room as they were tall.

The return from Cape Town to Melbourne via a connecting flight in Dubai, proved more comfortable on Emirates and I have to admit, the food on Emirates is quite delicious, even in cattle class.

Arriving in Johannesburg is always fun as the welcome from the Rainbow Nation employed at OR Tambo International Airport can be a hoot, a reminder why our roots remain dear to us. After much laughter, welcoming banter and the usual gangster-type taxi ride offers, I made my way to the airport Gautrain Station.

Getting my Gautrain card reloaded took about a minute and within five I was on the train to Sandton, which took 15 minutes. Gazing at the late afternoon traffic on the highways made me grateful for not having to drive! This ever-expanding metropolis has traffic congestion and even from the luxe train I could spot mini-bus taxies ignoring traffic rules and blocking intersections.

I could not help but be thankful for the superb public transport system available in Melbourne. No, I’m not trashing my country of origin but to be fair, one always compares cities when travelling. Part of the human condition.

Transferring to the Rosebank Gautrain Station from Sandton was easy once I knew where to go, so, I do suggest signs be more visible for first-time visitors to the Sandton Gautrain Station.


Pictured above, clockwise left to right: Sandton in the rain; view of Forest Town; great friends catching up on Mandela Square, left to right: Caroline Hurry, Carla Antoniazzi, Tilly, Hazel Fouche, Angela Bell and Nicola Chaning Pearce.

My generous friend Anne kindly offered to lend me a spare car during my brief visit as well as accommodation at her lovely home in Forest Town. How lucky could I get? All this as well as great company and loads of laughter – and two cats to welcome me and sleep at my feet.

You’re one in a million, Annie, thank you, it was great spending four nights, three days, and we got some quality time to catch up and enjoy a superb lunch at Reubens in Sandton, where a chef I always referred to as a culinary alchemist, was orchestrating his magic. I worked with Richard Carsten at Lynton Hall in Pennington some years ago.

Our party of four close friends so enjoyed the cuisine, we all vowed to return. Smart move, Reuben, for teaming up with Richard – two maestros do NOT always spoil the broth.

Of course, being in Africa, one is always reminded of the king of the African wild. Listening to the lions roar at nearby Johannesburg Zoo from my room in Anne’s house was somehow comforting, reminding me of my safari getaways to Tau Game Lodge, place of the lion.  Once in Cape Town, vistas of Lions Head served as a further reminder…


Pictured above, dining at Reubens Sandton, clockwise from top left: Prawn risotto, salmon and watermelon treat and a rib-eye steak; left to right: Tilly, Anne Whitehead, Daniel and Karen Amorim.

Meeting with a dear friend and colleagues who have become great friends over the years for lunch at Wang Thai on Mandela Square proved a triumph. The food was delicious, the service even better than I remembered, and sitting on the veranda overlooking the cosmopolitan piazza, where you will hear many languages uttered at any given time of day or night brought back comforting memories of my years in this Golden Mile of Africa. How it has grown and evolved…

The modern architecture and skyscrapers of Sandton are impressive and the energy is tangible.

Family time was short and sweet and more memories were made to treasure forever. Lunching with my nephew Jaco and his lovely partner Aderyn made for much hilarity and sharing of family secrets, some of which we discovered were fabricated, which caused further mirth once dissected.

I like ‘hit and run’ visits as I get out before people get sick of me, therefore I’m always invited to return. Highly recommended.

Before I could adjust to the new time zone, it was time to fly to Cape Town with my beautiful sister Rina. Kulula is an obvious, affordable option for travel in South Africa and meeting our eldest sister Lulu, who was flying in from Durban, at Cape Town International Airport was easy and everything was on schedule.

I’d booked a car via with Firefly, an affiliate and cheaper option of Hertz. Be prepared for a long walk through the subway at the airport to get to the car rental location. If you have a disability, get the shuttle. However, my sisters, aged 80 and 82, are remarkably fit and welcomed the walk with our luggage on a trolley.

The staff at Firefly were a delight and their efficient service and warmth served as a reminder of the happy years I spent in the Cape. Nowhere in the world do you experience this jolly service. Referring to us cheekily as the three roving beauties and me as the ‘supermodel’ brought plenty mirth into our day – as well as a generous upgrade as ‘women like you should always travel in style.’ How could one fault that?

Arriving at De Waterkant Luxury Holiday Apartment rental office took longer than anticipated as I challenged myself on my memory of the Cape Town ocean-front roads, which, by the way, have improved and changed considerably since my last visit. We finally dropped our luggage at our home for the next two days, 15 Bennet Street, which overlooked the beautiful stadium and Waterfront from the lounge and balcony, with a view of Table Mountain from my bedroom.

The self-contained apartment was stocked with tea, coffee and milk, so, we took a drive to Sea Point to find a late-night store for vital supplies, such as fruit, yoghurt, cheese, biscuits and bread. Friendly, helpful service and some free fruit for the ‘beautiful ladies’ from the shopkeeper had us set for a good night.

The elegant décor got our stamp of approval and the king-size and queen beds made for easy drifting into dreamland to charge our batteries for a full day of driving and exploring the next day.

A fond memory of years ago was awakening to the sound of the foghorn, but with no ocean fog and a mere fluffy table cloth of cloud on the majestic Table Mountain, the horn did not sound its lonely lament. Maybe next time.  


Pictured above, clockwise from top left: sisters Rina, Lulu and Tilly; the view from our De Waterkant holiday apartment of Table Mountain; Tilly and Rina on Houtbay Beach; African Cape penguins on Boulders Beach (3 images); Houtbay Harbour, Chapmans Peak Drive; seafood platter at Chapmans Peak Hotel.

The roads were a pleasure and for the first time in many years I managed to drive on the refurbished Chapmans Peak Drive, which should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. One of the most spectacular drives in the world, I had no objection to paying the toll fee as a price cannot be put on maintaining the road of endless vistas of ocean, bays, beaches and spectacular mountains.

The closest I’ve ever come to this kind of beauty has been along the Big Sur Drive in California when travelling between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Chapmans Peak Drive is much shorter but it will take your breath away.

I recall discussions with friends about epic ocean drives of the world, such as the road between Nice and Eze in the South of France. Yes, it is magnificent but I guarantee Chapmans Peak Road will have you equally enthralled.

After a light breakfast, we arranged to meet a relative for lunch at the Chapmans Peak Hotel as he thought we’d enjoy the views of Hout Bay Harbour, which we certainly did.

Our ocean-view drive from Greenpoint went via Sea Point to Bantry Bay, where I lived years ago, on to Clifton and Camps Bay, then we explored Llandudno, before travelling further to Hout Bay. Here, the road winds its way onto Chapmans Peak Drive.

I remember a delightful movie from the 70s, The Dove, based on a true story about a young man who sailed his boat from the US to Cape Town. Who could forget the spectacular view from the yacht over the cool Atlantic Ocean with waves breaking onto the white beaches guarded by the magnificent Chapmans Peak mountains.

Chapmans Peak Drive snakes between Hout Bay and Noordhoek, which has a sublime beach. This long, white beach reminded me of plenty days in the sun and horse riding along that magnificent stretch of beach, which was featured in the classic Ryan’s Daughter film, starring Sarah Miles. So long ago.

Returning to Hout Bay to meet our relative Colin for lunch, we reminisced about fish braais (barbecues) on Llandudno beach in the late seventies, long walks on Noordhoek beach, and delicious Sunday fish lunches overlooking Hout Bay Harbour at the old Red Sails.

When in Rome, or rather, when in the Cape, one should eat fish and it proved a fine choice at the Chapmans Peak Hotel Restaurant. Sitting on the veranda overlooking the Bay, with a fresh ocean breeze to cool us in the shade, was like coming home and all was well with the world.

The fish of the day platter comprised the biggest, most tender calamari rings I’ve ever tasted, king prawns and yellow tail, a favourite of mine. Not fine-dining but good, old-fashioned value for money. Again, the attentive staff, humour and one glass (I was driving after all) of delicious Cape sparkling wine from Stellenbosch was the cherry on the proverbial feast of location, company, and food.

The post-lunch drive to Muizenberg through scenic Constantia Neck was as memorable as I remembered. A perfect day got even better when we stopped to admire the Cape African penguins in their large colonies that have called Boulders Beach their home for many years. Situated on the warmer ocean board of the Indian Ocean, they are thriving and seem to know this location belongs to them as they have no qualms voicing their disgruntlement at being gawked at by humans when they are feeling romantic or strolling around the car park like custodians. Check under your vehicle before you depart, please…

A cold ice-cream wafer, which brought back further happy childhood memories for us all, hit the spot after our walk along the beach. I was tempted to drive to Cape Agulhas, where the two oceans actually meet, but it was getting late and the three musketeer sisters agreed democratically it was time to head to our apartment, put our feet up and enjoy our final night together. The end to a perfect, sunny, magical day, as only the beautiful Cape knows how to charm its way into your cache of special memories.

Having said our bitter-sweet au revoir when I dropped my sisters off at the airport, I headed to Franschhoek, the charming French corner of the Cape Winelands, where my great-great grandmother arrived from Orange in France to marry an established Dutch Settler farmer in the mid-1800s. My treasured friends Bev and Danie have settled there for eventual retirement. Until then, Bev heads up her Sothebys Realty franchise and Danie consults on business, which he knows plenty of after many years in the corporate as well as sports sectors.

True friends are like comfortable shoes you have not walked in for a while. You slip them on and feel you have new journeys to share. We enjoyed some delicious local bubbles at Bev’s local café next door to her office on the Main Street, and that evening we indulged in a superb dinner at Bovine Restaurant, also on the Main Street of the bustling village.

The perfect medium-rare fillet of beef with seasonal veggies hit the mark and the sweet potato fries to share proved addictive but far less detrimental to the hips. Washed down with more delicious Cape sparkling brut, another perfect day came to an end. Dining in the moonlight and being vaguely aware of locals and tourists from all corners of the planet blending amicably like easy cream in this perfect location, surrounded by the dramatic Franschhoek Mountains on a summer’s night, was pure bliss.

Retail therapy

Of course, a girl cannot travel, especially minus her husband, without a little retail therapy to further savour the memory. I had already taken care of this tiny detail before dinner, when I popped into Tallulahs to indulge in a cool pink linen dress by Gordon Smith, and Zigi Boutique for cotton linen blend summer trousers. Fabulous fashion is affordable in South Africa, you won’t break the bank, so, take your credit card. You’ll thank me later.


Pictured above from top left: Linen dress by Gordon Smith; Rodan+Fields skin savers; light cotton Zigi pants, ideal for summer travel. See more fashion on Instagram at Sixty_is_the_new_40.

These finds are already proving a hit with my followers on a newly launched Instagram account, Sixty_is_the_new_40  – sometimes one has to invest a little to build a brand. Practising what I preach to my clients, of course…

Flying home to Melbourne was smooth, albeit divided by two long flights from Cape Town to Dubai, then to Melbourne. Emirates and its team did a fine job keeping passengers nourished and comfortable.

A welcome sight was my sweet husband picking me up from the airport, a long drive from our village outside Melbourne, to save me a train and bus trip late at night.

Give me some skin 

Looking at my travel-weary face the next day, I applied the Rodan+Fields Micro-Dermabrasion Paste to exfoliate this tired skin, fed it with Redefine Renewing Serum, eye cream and lip balm. It took 10 years off my skin, I kid you not. Thanks, Ashley of R+F Melbourne for gifting me with these skin-savers. You have a fan.

Hope to see those special South African friends I could not catch up with this time on my next trip – you are never forgotten. Perhaps you’d visit me here instead, you won’t be sorry…

Cheers to the good life… love you all stukkend (to bits).


Pertwood Organic Farm launches 100% organic muesli online

By Tilly Smith Dix

Preserving the land and its wild creatures for now and for the future…

Pertwood Organic Farm has launched its 100% organic muesli online. Packaged in a recyclable box and biodegradable inner bag, the farm remains true to its commitment to promote and sustain a healthy environment.

The Pertwood team states it is catering to the mass of consumers who made it their business to demand their favourite organic breakfast cereal be made available again as it was no longer sold in supermarkets. The re-introduced fruit and seed muesli contains no added sugar or salt and is totally wheat-free.  It is the same, tried and tested product, made from 100% British organically grown cereals.

Past consumers also asked for a bigger volume of muesli in each box, so to meet this request, Pertwood Organic Fruit and Seed Muesli now comes in a 1kg pack, (previously it was only available in a 650gm box).

Having adopted an artisanal approach to complement the organic integrity and wildlife-friendly ethos of Pertwood, the team goes live from 7 January 2019 to launch one of the UK’s most popular organic brands online. The online price for 1kg of Pertwood Fruit and Seeds Muesli is £4.95. support the farm’s environmental principles, a leaflet detailing some of the wildlife initiatives is included inside every box.

Locals are welcome to purchase their cereal directly from the farm.

All profits from cereals are directed to the Pertwood conservation programme.

Pertwood is the second oldest and one of the largest organic farms in the UK, located on 2,600 acres of ancient downland. Harvesting oats, barley and other cereal crops, the soil is organically fertilised by the farm’s beef cattle and a flock of some 1,800 sheep.

Wiltshire Life has shortlisted Pertwood in its Conservation Project of the Year category for its prestigious April awards event, and the farm’s wildlife consultant, Nick Adams, has been shortlisted in the Countryside Champion of the Year category.

Pertwood’s over 30-year tradition of organic farming has resulted in a wealth of wildlife residing in the unspoiled, chemical-free environment. The RSPB is keenly involved in monitoring the incredible variety of wildlife species that make this location their home.

The farm has the largest corn bunting population in the UK, where raptors, nightingales, skylarks and many other species reside in harmony. Deer, hare, foxes, badgers, a large range of beetles, bugs and other crawling creatures are a testament to the natural health of the soil.

A butterfly bank, in conjunction with a team of butterfly experts, has been created through the planting of butterfly-friendly plants, adding further increases of species for the farm and region.

In late summer and into autumn, the farm was a riot of colour, thanks to the wildflowers which are planted along the farm’s border with the A350,

which is the main road between Warminster and Shaftesbury.  This has proved a tourist attraction in its own right.  Messages of appreciation for the scenic spectacle arrived daily from locals and new visitors to the region. An even larger area will be given over to wildflowers for 2019.

Pertwood’s established Wildlife Mattersnewsletter is true to its philosophy of preserving the land and its creatures through every aspect of respecting the environment.

For further details and online sales go to:

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Yarra Valley to host CACA exhibition

by Tilly Smith Dix

Members of CACA, Chinese-Australian Contemporary Artists, will exhibit at Art at Linden Gate in Yarra Glen from 11 January to 11 February 2019. This will be the first exhibition of its kind in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne.

Born in China and raised in Australia, the artists’ inspiration is drawn from their unique experiences, resulting in exquisite east-meets-west contemporary art.

The gala opening for the CACA exhibition takes place at Art at Linden Gate on Saturday, 12 January from 1-3pm – all welcome, RSVP for catering purposes at:

CACA artists to exhibit their work during this auspicious event, include:

Hong Fu was born in China in 1946 and has had 55 solo exhibitions in Australia, China, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Italy, Hong Kong and the UK. He arrived in Australia in 1990 and has received multiple awards, and was a finalist in the prestigious Archibald Prize, Doug Moran, Black Swan and the Dobell Prize of Drawing. His many portrait commissions include Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, which was selected as finalist in The Archibald Prize, and sculptor Ernst Fries of Art at Linden Gate in the Yarra Valley.

Pictured clockwise from top left: Echo Z Cai, Zai Kuang, Pei Pei He, Hong Fu; Bar Girl by Echo Z Cai; Pen Drawing by Pei Pei He; Geisha by Hong Fu; Children by Zai Kuang.

Chaohui Xie is an Australian educated national with a Masters of Contemporary Art from the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. Her successful solo exhibition at the George Paton Gallery in 2016 was preceded by many group exhibitions, the most recent being the VCA Master Graduate Exhibition at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2017. Her most recent awards include The Lionel Gell Foundation Award in 2017.

Jiaxin Nong was born in China in 1988 and immigrated to Australia in 2009. In 2015 she achieved a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from the Victorian College of the Arts. Residing in Melbourne, Jiaxin embraces the challenges of the two cultures through her painting, sculpture, installation, sound and photography. Her most recent solo exhibitions comprise the 2016 Bewildering, Luren Gallery, SuZhou, China, and the 2013 Of A Tactile Natureat the Loop Project Space & Bar in Melbourne. Her many awards include the 2015 Joel Gallery Emerging Artist Award at the Victorian College of the Arts Graduate Exhibition.

Xiao Yu Bai moved to Australia from Beijing, China in 1996. A Doctor of Fine Arts (Painting) from RMIT University, Xiao also has a Bachelor of Fashion Design from the Academy of Art & Design, Tsinghua University of Beijing. Multiple solo exhibitions include the 2013 Beyond Object, it is #1, Mossenson Gallery, Melbourne, whilst the most recent of a line-up of some 15 awards includes the 2018 Finalist in Calleen Art Award, NSW.

Echo Z Cai graduated from Peking University with a Bachelor of Art Degree in Beijing in 1988. In 2000, Echo met Hong Fu, who became her mentor, with whom she studied oil painting, commencing with realism and impressionism. Since 2003 she has received multiple awards and totalled 11 solo exhibitions and several group shows. A published writer and columnist, she has found her niche in contemporary genres, including sculpture, installation, photography and digital. Her most recent awards include that of finalist in the Nillumbik Art Prize 2018 and the Wyndham Art Prize 2018, Victoria.

Pei Pei He was born in Shanghai, where aged 16 she was forced to leave her family and was sent to work in an isolated rural village during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Her early art training commenced at the end of this era in the late 1970s, when she studied visual art in China. Arriving in Australia in 1987, she eventually managed to return to her love of art through education in 2005, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) from The Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne in 2010. Fascinated by the rhythm and movement of city life and the human spirit, Pei Pei’s unique style of blending Eastern and Western elements through calligraphic brushstrokes creates a serenity as well as energy. Her many accolades include the Archibald Prize in 2018.

Zai Kuang was born in China in 1962 and moved to Australia in 1998. He achieved his Master of Fine Art (by research) in 2002 at Monash University. He was a finalist in the prestigious Archibald, Suliman, Dough Moran, Shirley Hannan & National Still Life and the winner in the Calleen Art, NSW.

Zai’s work takes pride of place in a number of Australian collections, including BHP Billiton and private collections in China, Germany, New Zealand and Australia.

Yinghong Li has a Master of Fine Art from RMIT University, completed in 2009. The artist is also a visual art teacher. Solo exhibitions include The Love Creatures and Mein 2017 at BHCAC in Whitehorse, with an impressive line-up of group shows comprising New Directionsat Hawthorn Studio & Gallery in Melbourne. Awards include the 2014 Gold Prize of Starts Cup in the First Guangdong Arts and Craft Fair for the ceramic Dancing Twins.

Art at Linden Gate was established in 1985 by the highly acclaimed sculptor Ernst Fries and is managed by his daughter Reggie Clark.

Ernst, now aged 84, still has his studio and home on this scenic property.

Art at Linden Gate also offers boutique accommodation for visitors to the spectacular region less than an hour’s drive from Melbourne.



Call: 03 9730 1861

Art at Linden Gate

899 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road

Yarra Glen

Vic 3775

‘Tis the Season to give joy

By Tilly Smith Dix

Folks and things we love

Our lovely younger neighbours often travel and as I’m such an animal lover, I’ve bonded with their chooks, making me the preferred carer of hens during the neighbours’ absence. I’m seriously contemplating turning vegetarian as the hens are smart and affectionate. They enjoy being stroked on their backs and crouch down for the love. They also like my food scraps, so, I’d say a bit of cupboard love might be involved here.

I never expect gifts for minding the chickens as we get loads of free eggs during my chook-minding sessions. However, these sweet folks often present me with delightful tokens of appreciation, which have included lovely wild flower bouquets and sweet treats from their travels.

One such token turned out to be them treating us to an evening at their daughter’s year-end Luther College of Croydon jazz fundraising concert held in Warrandyte. What a treat! Expecting just a normal school concert, the talent and obvious passion for jazz of these students blew our minds and you will need a long hard stick to keep us away from the next concert.

A wonderful part of growing older is our memories, while we have them, hie, and these memories will come bouncing in as reminders of our past while we experience the present. I was believed to be talented as a young girl and loved playing the piano. Aged 14 I performed in a large hall, playing Wagner, Franz Liszt and Stevie Wonder and got a standing ovation. Seems like yesterday, just with many more memories between then and now. The jazz event reminded me of that time and now I was one of the oldies cheering for more!

I have two Helens in my life here in Melbourne. One is a neighbour, with whom I have delightful lunches and she sometimes spoils me with some of their Immerse Estate wines, the latest being a sparkling blanc de blanc, which is hedonistically delicious and perfect for summer. My other Helen is the stunning yummy mummy married to my cousin Jason.

The older we get, the more we realise how dear special family is, especially when you’ve known some family you’d want to push under a bus. Not that I know such folks, of course. This remarkable couple and their three special munchkins have filled my heart to bursting point and they have also managed to twist my old man around their little fingers. I now enjoy joining in glam-gran discussions about their grandkids being the best thing since strapless bras in summer as I now have first-hand knowledge of such special bonds.

My step-daughter and her husband have also produced an adorable little boy, whom we hope to meet in the near future – they live in the US but here’s a warning to them: we are now fully loaded on spoiling grandlets, so, we plan to take it to the hilt when we get to meet the little man, Jacqui and Zach!

Music, food, art and wine for the Holidays

Melbourne and its Yarra Valley offer culture and entertainment galore, complemented by great food and wine. Recent dining delights include a visit to l’Auberge in Lilydale, where the French owner has remained true to form in a converted chapel. Now licenced, their small but ideal bistro menu never disappoints. Leave space for the delicious patisseries – you can smell the Chanel and see the Eiffel Tower, I kid you not. I try a different sweet every time I visit and am yet to find anything I don’t like. I also their gracious table service. I give l’Auberg a 5-star rating for café chic, and the piece de resistancefor me includes the eggs benedict (with salmon). Tell them I sent you.

Pictured, from left, clockwise: Christmas treats at the Yarra Valley Dairy; baby snapper at Round Bird Can’t Fly; Immerse blanc de blanc heaven on the tongue; eggs benedict at l’Auberge.

Still in Lilydale, Round Bird Can’t Fly has become another favourite lunch destination. The presentation is easy on the eye, table service is friendly and efficient, and our recent lunch proved a triumph. I savoured every morsel of my order of baby snapper on potato gratin and a green salad, and my friend waxed lyrical about her quinoa with tahini dressing, falafel, spinach, avocado and pickled cabbage, hummus and smoked salmon. If I was a bird I certainly could not fly after that lunch. For more reviews on dining, do head over to TripAdvisor, who tell me I’m in the top 4 reviewers for Melbourne: tildix2016

I have always loved the idea of affordable art as gifts, especially when you are familiar with people’s taste. This being the season of giving, I’ll be heading off to Art at Linden Gatein Yarra Glen, which is ideally located in the midst of picturesque vineyards. Supporting local artists is a great idea and art is a gift that keeps giving!

The gallery also offers boutique B&B accommodation, with views that will enthral the most stressed city soul. Pop over to the nearby Yarra Valley Dairy for a scrumptious lunch, where the world-class cheese, including my favourite goat’s cheeses, won’t disappoint. The shop offers sinful treats, artfully packaged to enhance any Christmas stocking – and festive table.

Paddock views, accommodation and art for giving at Art at Linden Gate.

We recently attended the AndréRieu Christmas Concert at the Rod Laver Arena in the city. What a show! We took our 92-year-old Kath, who is now in a retirement home, and a great time was had by all. Maestro Rieu’s polished and gracious management of his orchestra, chorus, accomplished tenors and sopranos was a delight; they certainly knew how to bring joy to four generations of a vast audience. Not only are André’s choices of Australian sopranos beautiful but their superb handling of a tune gave me goose bumps. Encore, keep spreading joy, maestro.

Cheers to the good life, and however you celebrate this Festive Season, may it be filled with joy and goodwill…

Yarra Valley Flight Training Adv Aug 2018.jpg


Sixty is the new 40

By Tilly Smith Dix

Turning forty was a gloriously delicious experience for me. I finally felt I’d arrived at an age in which I felt more comfortable in my skin. It was also a time of new beginnings for me. Slightly scary, as I’d moved city, returning to a metropolis I’d lived in before but it was different now as most of my friends from my twenties had either moved country or were too engrossed in family life to deal with a newly single old friend.

A new job made for exciting times as I’d been shaken out of my small-city comfort zone and set about reinventing myself, shedding an unhappy skin and promising myself success and happiness onwards.

Turning fifty proved another milestone and I celebrated it with gusto by embarking on a fabulous winter holiday in London, Italy and Switzerland – solo. Spending time on long-distance trains, from Milan to Genoa, then on to Portofino and Florence, offered much time to reflect and I loved every moment. A few days in Zurich, from where I flew back to South Africa, and I felt it in my bones that my fifties were going to be a blast. 

Photography by the amazing Jessica Apap, logo by fabulous Chiz Judge of Out of the Cage design.

By then I’d achieved success in my job as a publicist and copywriter, owned a luxurious, spacious terraced apartment in glamorous Sandton, and now I realised I might be in a position to slow down slightly and start taking notice of people wanting to spend time with me – men! No, I’d not cut them out of my life in the past ten years but my priorities included quality time with great friends, my business, my family and savouring the fun side of life, such as travel, great food, champagne and gardening for therapy out of my hectic home office!

Shortly before my fifty-third birthday, I met a man with whom I fell in like and then in love. We got married and after a few years moved to another country with our cat.

The day I turned sixty, my husband wanted to know if I wanted a party and I opted to celebrate this big birthday quietly and under the radar as I somehow did not feel ready to tell the world I was now officially a senior citizen – I simply did not FEEL sixty and according to loved ones, I did not look it either. So, being in a job in which most clients were younger than me, I felt owning up to my age would create a category labelled ‘past it’ – and I don’t like being categorised as I feel we all have so many facets to our personas.

Well, to cut a long and winding story short, I have finally come to cherish this new age as it feels incredibly powerful and liberating. Thanks to iconic, fabulous and smart women all over the world, this silver phase is NOT the final stage and there are new adventures and journeys to embrace.

So, taking the bull by the horns, I’ve come out, so to speak, as a now silver blonde passionate about the magic of life. The beauty of this phase is I can do what I like! Whilst there are still many lessons to be learned, I also feel I have plenty to say and teach, thanks to the ever-evolving school of osmosis. Dealing with life on MY terms, knowing when to say NO, or yes, without feeling guilty, is amazing. The stars are also aligned as my planet Jupiter (yes, I like being a mutable Sagittarius) is also positioning me for some spectacular years forward.


Whilst now living with one foot (no, not in the grave), close to the city of Melbourne and the other planted firmly in the magnificent Yarra Valley, I still enjoy stylish dressing and after some prompting by old and newfound friends, including a modelling agent, I’ve now officially launched an Instagram account: Sixty_is_the_new_40– let me know what you think of the gorgeous logo designed by my special friend Chiz.

Dabbling in modelling, which is a throwback to my teens and twenties to have fun and earn extra cash, I’m also trying to keep this silver brain active by continuing to work with a small, select clientele as a publicist and copywriter, while blogging and travel writing remain part of my many passions. My photography is also improving and living in a spectacular region with an abundance of colourful birdlife and glorious nature, I don’t even have to be great at it to produce excellent photographs.

As for social media, I’m working it, darlings, as between Facebook, Linkedin, my now two Instagram accounts, one private and Sixty_is_the_new_40, I think it a small miracle I manage to keep the house clean as well as cook and bake for my husband. Busy, busy, busy, ah, then there is the yoga to keep the bones strong and muscles toned, not to mention elevating the soul to remain mindful. Namaste, just colour me grateful.

Cheers to the good life, darlings…

Sunshine on my shoulders…

By Tilly Smith Dix

The warmer season is spreading its sultry kisses across our Yarra Valley & Ranges, with vivacious shades of cerise and powder pink rhododendrons, pink peonies, lavender wisteria, and bright white jasmine bursting from the constraints of their spring buds. The bees are lazily sampling nectar from this smorgasbord of heady fragrances lingering like a gossamer mist. The parrots, red wattle birds, thrushes and cheeky ravens are chorusing their joy.

We’ve entered the daylight saving phase of the warmer seasons, and identifying the different bird calls in our garden, from the sweet whistle of the crimson rosellas to the joyful chirp of the little black thrushes, the choc-choc of the red wattle birds and the demanding cawing of a juvenile crow, this happy cacophony makes for a spectacular daybreak.

Clockwise from top left: crow feeding in our garden; pink peonies at Art at Linden Gate garden; cerise rhododendrons in our garden.

The young crow is always demanding treats from its bustling mother at the bottom of the garden, which makes for all-day comic relief as it has such a feisty personality. Testing its running skills around the little fish pond, it has taken command of this small territory. Unafraid, it will even try to chase our cat, to her obvious and often vocal irritation. If this pushy juvenile had attempted such antics on our Cathy some years ago when she was younger and more agile, it might have been missing an eye by now.

As I have mentioned at nauseum, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to scenic meanders and just as our long winter was coming to a close, we embarked on a drive on a rainy day for a long overdue visit to the picturesque town of Marysville. The late snow on the nearby slopes had already melted and the drive through vineyards and forestry via Healesville, past the postcard-perfect Maroondah Catchment Lake was magical.

The historic little town of Marysville was rebuilt after a devastating fire some years ago and has managed to reclaim and maintain its alpine village charm.

Clockwise from left: burgundy pot pie at Fraga’s Cafe in Marysville; Steavenson Falls; the road from Healesville to Marysville.

After a delicious lunch of burgundy beef pot pie with golden fries and a fresh garden salad, accompanied by a glass of Yarra Valley bubbles for me and a local cider for himself at a cosy eatery called Fraga’s Café,  we drove to nearby Steavenson Falls. Described as one of Victoria’s most imposing cascades, we were not disappointed.

Interestingly, the falls light itself by night by driving a small hydro-electric turbine which provides power to the floodlights. How neat is that?

The Steavenson River starts its life at an elevation of 350m on the crest of the Great Dividing Range. The forested catchment ensures a year-round flow, resulting in a captivating tourism attraction.

The falls and the river were named in the early 1860s when the Victorian Assistant Commissioner of Roads and Bridges, John Steavenson, set up a base in Marysville, which he named after his wife. From here, he supervised the construction of the road to the Woods Point Goldfields.

Having previously flown over part of the Great Dividing Ranges from Coldstream Airport, it was a treat visiting Marysville by road. Locals are friendly and welcoming, resulting in many visitors from near and far returning to this delightful locale.

Art in our valley and ranges comes in many forms as this certainly is an ideal location for anyone with a creative bone in their body.  The enveloping beauty and prolifically defined seasons would bring out the creative in the most dyed-in-the-wool accountant – no disrespect to bean-counters intended, just saying…

Tarrawarra Museum and gallery in Healesville.

Attending a Yarra Valley & Ranges Tourism presentation at nearby Tarrawarra Museum proved an enlightening evening. The vistas of vineyards, hills, woodlands, dam, wood-ducks and impressive architecture of the museum, not to mention delicious food and wine, made for a most convivial event. The captivating art created by local artists were a perfect diversion during a busy week. My next visit will include sampling lunch in the restaurant to further explore the chef’s culinary alchemy as the catering on the night was a triumph.

During the effervescent tourism presentation, and yes, we had delicious bubbles, I met another art gallery owner, Reggie Clark, who manages Art at Linden Gate, a short drive from Tarrawarra on the Yarra Glen-Healesville Road.

No arm-twisting was required for me to pay a visit to her gallery after a quick lunch at a Yarra Glen bistro a few days later. The property offers self-catering accommodation which has been popular with city folks wishing to savour panoramic country life, the fruits of the vine, art, vineyards, cheese, cuisine and spectacular birdlife of the region.

Clockwise from right: Leaving the Yarra Glen Grand Hotel Bistro; views, sculpture and gallery at Art at Linden Gate near Yarra Glen.

Horses and cattle can be seen in the meadows through the gallery windows and from the room decks by day, whilst kangaroos, wombats and other wildlife complement the post-card charm of Art at Linden Gate by night.

Reggie’s father is the highly acclaimed sculptor Ernst Fries, who transforms stainless steel into art with meaning and enduring emotion.

Naturally, my (often) better half would feel ignored if I did not mention aviation in my review. A 40-minute flight from Coldstream Airport to Lake Eppalock to attend a fly-in to a private airfield named Unusual Attitudes on a bright sunny day, offered superb visibility over our valley of plenty.

Clockwise from top: cloud clearing over Coldstream; Coldstream Airport rural vista; Nanchang CJ-6 at Unusual Attitudes airfield.

The glorious tapestry of life never ceases to amaze me as not only did this bring-your-own-barbeque-picnic prove an intimate gem of a day but new friendships were forged.

While the boys played with and admired each other’s (winged) toys, the gals clustered and chatted like happy hens, known as chooks here in Aussie. Over an ice-cold bottle of Yarra Burn Brut, I met a South African couple who has survived heartbreak and hardship, some of which were covered on Carte Blanche, the actuality television news programme in South Africa some years ago. They are now happily settled in Melbourne and I salute them for their determination to overcome a ‘hard yard,’ as they so bravely describe their past journey.

Stories of woe improve when accompanied by crisp bubbly and a chop or two from the barbie and it did not take long for laughter to once again lift our spirits to remind us that this, despite its ups and downs, is a good life indeed.

Sharing heart-warming stories with a bevy of like-minded women, who treated me like one of their own, resulted in contact details being exchanged and this newbie feeling like she belonged.

Naturally, we admired the aviation demonstrations, of which the Chinese replica of a Soviet Yak, the Nanchang CJ-6, is a real beauty, mate, before resuming our ya-ya sisterhood bonding.

Cheers to the good life, here’s to a fabulous season, wherever you are…

Flight of Angels

By Tilly Smith Dix

Quietly giving his time, resources and the use of his aircraft, Bob Boyd, Managing Director and Chief Flying Instructor of Yarra Valley Flight Training at Coldstream Airport, has been flying Angel Flights to assist families who need to travel to Melbourne for medical tests and treatment since 2011.

I only came to hear of Bob’s kindness when my aviator husband recently accompanied him on a return flight to Hay in NSW, not far from the Victorian border. Bob had flown there several days earlier to collect a young mother and her epileptic child in need of ongoing medical attention.

Bob flies out of Coldstream to towns mostly within the state of Victoria, from where passengers need to be transported to either Essendon or Moorabbin Airports for Melbourne’s top medical facilities. Once his charges have been safely handed over for Angel Flight ground transportation to the required hospital, he returns to his base at Coldstream Airport.

Yarra Valley FT Bob b2 Oct 30 2017 inside cockpit

Bob Boyd of Coldstream Flying School at Yarra Valley Flight Training.

He explains the difference between a mercy flight and an Angel Flight as follows: a mercy flight is required for urgent and life-threatening situations, whilst an Angel Flight assists people to attend their scheduled  medical tests and treatments not available in most country towns. This provides some leeway should weather conditions or other factors compromise a mission flight.

What decided Bob to contribute his valuable time and utilise aircraft of Yarra Valley Flight Training for no remuneration to help people living in more rural outlying regions? “Donating our time and resources to help a sick child, or adult, is the right thing to do,” he says.

“Sometimes an aircraft also needs utilisation, so an Angel Flight serves a practical purpose for our training centre as well,” he states.

Bob welcomes student pilots and other licensed pilots to accompany him on such flights. They gain experience and it helps him to focus on the logistics, whilst his co-pilot ensures luggage loading and the comfort of the passengers are taken care of.

Sharing the responsibility of such a flight with a fellow aviator is of benefit to all concerned, he says.

The qualifications required to participate in this worthy cause are higher than the basic CASA requirements; a private pilot’s licence with a minimum of 200 hours in command, and a minimum of 10 hours experience in the particular aeroplane utilised for the Angel Flight.

Bob encourages other experienced pilots to do the same and suggests they register online at

Bob and his team’s day job comprises flight training at Coldstream Flying School – Yarra Valley Flight Training.

Contact Yarra Valley Flight Training at: 03 9739 1406 – 96 Killara Road, Coldstream, Victoria –

See more on youtube at:


Spring Diversions

Time for the birds and the bees

 By Tilly Smith Dix

Each one of the four seasons holds its own unique beauty. The balmy heat of summer, evocative of lazy days spent near water, preferably with something tall, cold and refreshing to drink while watching someone else in charge of the braai, or barbie as we call it in Aussie.

The golden hues of autumn have always enthralled me, when it’s time to light the fire and cosy up with woollen wraps.

Winter in Melbourne is cold and often wet, which reminds me of winters spent in a place forever stamped on my heart, Cape Town. I have always found winter to be a time of reflection, a bit like looking inwards as you tend to spend a lot more time indoors with your thoughts.

Then, there is that all-time favourite, which has inspired poets and composers through the ages to wax lyrical about the arrival of a chrysalis-shedding time, when the birds, the bees, hibernating animals, plants trees and humans unfurl and shed their winter covers in celebration of this enchanting season.

Spring is a time to pursue the best nature has to offer in its most spectacular regalia. Fancy a safari, when game will behave in the most delightful way to celebrate the abundance of nature, or the winelands and beaches of the Cape or KwaZulu-Natal? The Garden Route remains one of my most favoured spring getaway destinations on the planet, where all the special components of nature merge to thrill the senses. South Africans are spoilt for choice and this is the time, before peak season, to grab a special package before it escalates into that ever-increasing summer rate.

Want to go further afield? Take a river cruise in Provence in France, where the food is authentic, fresh and unforgettable, stop in Avignon, or head for the charm and magic of Italy’s Lake Como instead, where you can still buy freshly baked bread from a little bakery on a corner for breakfast.

One of my favourite spring holidays has been in the Istrian region of Croatia, in and around the picturesque Rovinj, a place I could have happily called home. The sublime scenic splendour of mountains, valleys and coastline will feed your soul and belly – and it is still affordable for South Africans with champagne tastes and beer pockets to travel to.

Croatia 2011 rovinj boats IMGP2171

Rovinj, Croatia.

Of course, you could pop over to our neck of the woods in the magnificent Yarra Ranges near Melbourne. The velvet moss and lacy ferns of the forested mountains, lakes, rivers and creeks, vineyards, delicious food and wine in the magical valley and sublime Dandenongs might just captivate you as much as it did us, resulting in our eventual great trek across the ocean. The birdlife is prolific and their colours and plumage will astound you. They still enchant us every day.

If you prefer vistas of azure ocean, take a meandering drive from Melbourne along the coast of the Mornington Peninsula, spend at least a night in picturesque Sorrento, board the ferry to Queenscliff, from where the exquisite drive along the Great Ocean Road will take your breath away. Don’t forget to stop to take in the iconic Twelve Apostles…

Whether you prefer welcoming spring to the strains of Vivaldi’s Spring Concerto or Billie Holiday singing about spring, (April in Paris), savour every moment. Cheers to a fabulous new season, mate!

As Published in Diversions magazine, spring 2018 edition:

Tilly byline foreword Diversions spring 2018


A (late) winter’s tale

by Tilly Smith Dix

Flights of fancy – and piggery

“It will be fun,” he said. “The food is good, I hear,” he said. “The weather is perfect,” he said.

These are some of the sales pitches my pilot presents when he wants me to join him on a flight. I’m usually content with a scenic drive in this magnificent region of the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, trying to get lost, dining and quaffing vino at a back-road vineyard. Meandering has always been a favourite pastime, especially when the terrain is this panoramic.

Dutiful wife that I am, I capitulated, having buried that recent visit to Shepparton in the recesses of my selective memory-loss app…

So, on a chilly July morning, we set off for Coldstream Airport to uncover numero uno wife for a lunch flight in Deniliquin, NSW. Yes, we hop the Victorian border within an hour and 20 minutes with a healthy tailwind in the Sling 4.

Flying over the thick meringue-stacked cloud, offering sublime vistas of hilltop farmhouses, is captivating and we landed at Deniliquin Airport sooner than I expected. Serving as an RAAF Station back in the day, the superb runway makes for a smooth landing. A taxi arrived in five minutes to transport us to town, where we were told the best spot to have lunch was the Crossing Café.

This little gem is located on the Edward River, which gently flows near the restaurant. Not expecting fine dining but hoping for something that borders on aesthetically pleasing and delicious, the Crossing Café delivered with gentle aplomb. Homely and spacious, the service proved friendly and efficient and the menu choices comforting.

The seafood chowder and garlic pita looked scrumptious and my pilot attested to it indeed tasting as good as it looked. My menu choice of sticky ginger pork belly with Vietnamese peanut slaw was everything it should be. Crispy crackling, deliciously sticky and succulent meat, with the slaw complementing the dish with an exotic twist.

A trio of ice-creams, including orange, berry and salted caramel, proved a perfect finale for us to share.

After a leisurely stroll around the town, which has a delightful park and duck pond at its centre, it was time to meet our taxi driver for our return trip to the airport.

The mantra of most recreational pilots, “time to spare, go by air,” became reality as ominous weather unfurled rapidly more than halfway through our flight home as we were about to soar over the Great Dividing Range, or Eastern Highlands, resulting in my safety-first captain diverting to Mangalore.

Another superbly appointed small airport, this is a bustling pilot training centre during weekdays. Lucky for us, a gentleman pilot spotted us landing and offered us a ride into town. Turns out this nice man from Melbourne was spending the weekend here to play with his plane and visit his daughter.

We spent the night at the Comfort Inn, which proved better than expected. To show appreciation for taking pity on us, as pilots often do for each other wherever they happen to be in the world, we took our friend to dinner at the best show in town, which was not much but we were not hungry and our kind Samaritan was. I’m not going to name and shame as it was one of those club-type dining joints with pokies but no dancing girls, praise be.

I’m not going to tell you I was miffed, worried about the cat back home without food for the night, no toothbrush and the usual cosmetics women require for a night away…

Himself checked the weather online and we managed to get a taxi and grumpy driver to the airfield early on Sunday morning after a light breakfast, when fine weather ensured a smooth flight home.

Suffice to say our feline was overjoyed at our arrival back home and after about 3.6 seconds of showing her love and gratitude, she tucked into a late breakfast with her usual gusto. Luckily I always leave enough water and pellets for her, so she was not at death’s door.

Himself says our diva could have gone without grub for another week without perishing as she is a pudding.  I believe he is being crass about her cuddly middle-age spread and I may just use the same line next time he squeals about lunch being late, remind me, will you?

Having enjoyed the pork belly in Deniliquin, I headed off to Paperbark Café on Mt Evelyn, a ten minute drive from our home, where I met up with some girlfriends for lunch a few days later. Their pork belly spinach roll with sweet potato proved an unpretentious triumph, and my friends declared their calamari with fries equally delectable. The bubbles, as always, were delicious. The girls decided to linger to buy plants, shrubs and rummage through an impressive selection of homeware choices in the nursery and gift shop but I resisted and went home to meet work deadlines instead. Funny how my brain improves after a glass of elixir …

Heavenly sounds

Melbourne Town Hall is home to an organ built in 1929, producing anything from a delicate whistle to a deafening thunder. At four storeys high, the celestial sounds cascading from that magnificent instrument brought a tear to my eye and the audience applauded thunderously in appreciation of the young music students’ performances at a free recital some weeks ago.

The impressive Melbourne Town Hall was designed by architects Reed & Barnes and the foundation stone was laid in 1867.

I am forever grateful to a Facebook friend, who alerted us about this All Stops Out concert, featuring students of the classical organ in Australia and New Zealand.

The hall was packed, proving the strains of evergreen classics appealed to folks of all ages, not just us ‘silver is the new blond or brunette’ brigade!

As a former student of classical piano, music has always affected me profoundly, especially when performed on such a grand scale. If there is a heaven, I had a delightful whiff of it that day. I can hardly wait for the next concert to be announced for 2019 as I’ll be back to be further enthralled!

What made this outing into the now second most liveable city in the world – Vienna stole the erstwhile Melbourne title this year – even more delightful, was meeting up with a Facebook friend, another former South African, with her gang of Aussie girlfriends for lunch on Federation Square before the concert.

The world was a fine place on that day and strolling along Swanston Street to that glorious town hall, looking at city folks and tourists all seemingly joyful on a perfect day, made me feel lucky to be living in such a wonderful city. I’m certain one of those lovingly maintained horses carting visitors around the CBD in their romantic buggies winked at me – probably the bubbles …

I hear spring is on the way but more about that next time as I’m still enjoying this cosy winter and the predictions of more snow in the alpine region this week thrills me to bits. Our neighbour, whose chooks I look after when they travel, has a small vineyard in Mansfield and he has kindly presented us with a bottle of his mulled wine. Time for a hearty evening of gluhwein, I’d say.

Woolly tails

Alpacas are some of my favourite animals and enjoying a day out at Omaru Alpaca Stud in nearby Cottles Bridge proved a captivating experience.

Sian Rickards has turned the stud into a sustainable tourist and photographic attraction, offering tours of her pristine bijou alpaca wool-processing factory. The piece de resistance is a chance to handfeed these woolly beauties residing in rolling hills, complete with their own natural pond.

One of the females recently gave birth to a creamy kid, which stole my heart. Sian explains this was too early for a birth as spring would have been ideal but the daddy committed a peccadillo by managing to break free of his generously proportioned enclosure to go make a lovechild with a willing blonde.

Because of the sins of the father, the poor kid is now named Jailbreak. I think Daddy should be renamed Jailbreak and the gorgeous offspring should be baptised Bambolina. Comfortable being handled by Sian and her visitors by now, the pampered mother and child seem to welcome a cuddle and a chat. Go meet them, tell them I sent you.

Nature works in mysterious ways. I was fascinated to see how the pretty galah was feeding on alpaca poop! Sian, for whom this stud is certainly a labour of love, explained how clean the alpaca waste was and the galah pick the nutritional bits to snack on. Recycling in its purest form and certainly the most spectacular pooper scoopers I’ve ever seen.

Cheers to the good life, no need to wonder about the other side of the rainbow, the pot of gold is right in front of us. We just have to open our eyes and engage with nature, life’s unexpected intersections and the good folks of the world.