Lockdown boogie

By Tilly Smith Dix

Never allow the inner child to be suppressed. This is a note to self. Most of us got a tad stir-crazy during this dystopian-like Covid-19 lockdown but as the old song by Billy Ocean goes, When the going gets tough, the tough get going…

Well, not only did I get going, I rediscovered my inner girl. We have to make do with the cards we are dealt and if the situation is not within our control, we have to hustle and reach within to find joy.

I’ve always loved music and studied it for most of my school years. I even performed on stage, playing the piano, covering tunes from Stevie Wonder to Astrid Gilberto – to Wagner. Yep, pretty eclectic stuff and I’m owning it, again!

No, I’ve not started playing the piano again but that will follow as soon as the heirloom is tuned. For now, I’m making like Rod Stuart and playing some of those old Motown records, except, I’m playing my old CDs, full throttle, ranging from Janet Jackson to Diana Krall, Laura Fygi, John Pizzarelli and Daniel Jobim.

You see, I remembered an admirer of many moons ago remarking on my cute hips and I decided I needed to get those hips moving again as surviving on yoga and walking for exercise was just not fun enough. I’d forgotten what great exercise dancing was for the body and as for the mind, well, it puts me into a party spirit – and that’s before I’ve even poured a glass of bubbles at the end of the day!

I hear someone saying, “why play CDs, why not just plug in the iPod,” and my answer is, “move over darling, I enjoy the sound of my three-CD player moving on to the next disc!” Click, and then I get a surprise as I never remember which order I stacked the discs in the player. The simple things should give us pleasure or else we’ll go even crazier.

Still got the moves, baby, I’m on a roll – or should I say a hip-roll…drum roll, please…

The Lilydale Warburton Trail in the Yarra Ranges outside Melbourne.

Walking remains a joy in this exquisite, semi-rural region, when a short walk will get you up close to pristine walking trails, unparalleled natural beauty, paddocks, horses, vineyards, and people enjoying the great outdoors. I remember that old TV-series starring Ted Danson, Cheers, “where everyone knows your name.” Well, not many folks on these trails know my name but the beauty of it is everyone greets everyone else in passing. I find that immensely comforting.

My current preferred route is the Lilydale-Mount Evelyn-Warburton Trail. Pure magic. A kind friend, who knows how enamoured I am of the spectacular birdlife of my locale, even arranged for me to have a copy of the Simpsons & Day Field Guide to Birds of Australia. Blessings everywhere. Just colour me grateful.

You never know what you might encounter on a walking trail in the Yarra Ranges outside Melbourne.

Walking, whilst in the moment, also evokes memories of walks in other parts of the world. During a visit to Nice some years ago when on my second evening stroll along that marvellous Promenade, I encountered locals I’d spotted during the first evening’s stroll. They now greeted me as if I was one of their own. It put a huge smile on this dial and this is one of the many reasons I’d not be averse to returning to that spectacular part of the French Riviera…something to look forward to when international travel restrictions ease.

Traversing the planet

Speaking of travel, I have not forgotten the delicious anticipation of visiting beautiful countries and immersing myself in local culture. For now, I’m more than happy to feed off those memories until it’s time to hit the road and the skies to savour the fruits of the unknown, as well as countries, regions and towns I always loved returning to. Returning to a familiar place is like making contact with a good old friend – you just fit and simply flow from where you last left off – a bit like a comfy pair of slippers. Comforting.

Returning from such travels was almost like experiencing the entire process again, when I’d print a few of the best images of the trip, paste it in an album and transfer all the digital images on to a CD to be stored in the album. Yes, terribly old-fashioned but, hey, whatever floats your boat, or flies your plane, right?

There are places I’ll remember, as the Beatles sang In my Life, that I will never forget. So, I’m using this restricted time in our world to lose myself in the reverie of past travels. Venice’s Grand Canal, the Eighth Wonder of the World, remains in my soul. The architecture, history, food and smaller canals, filled with mystery and romance, not to mention the fact it is submerging faster into the busy waters, brings a smile, yes, that smile on the dial again, to my spirit.

The first time I visited the city of water was in winter. I loved it as it was not crowded, and prices were more affordable. Never one to stick to the beaten track, I strolled along the quiet walkways after the usual visit to the museums and the energy of St Mark’s Square. It is heaven getting lost in Venice.

The magic of Venice.

This is how I discovered some hidden gems frequented by the locals for shopping and dining. I have never tasted such delicious risotto, known as Risi e Bisi, comprising rice, peas and onion, cooked separately and mixed together in a final delicioso symphony of aromas and flavours. After all, it used to be served to the Doge! The fried sardines covered in onions fried in the same oil, hit the culinary spot too, if memory serves me well.

I remember being rather cold at the time, wearing only a trendy trench coat over my light winter wool sweater and purchased two woollen wraps, which were surprisingly affordable. I still wear them and reminisce about Venice every time I embrace their luxe comfort.

My second visit to Venice, about eleven years later, did not start off as the ideal summer getaway but once I removed myself from the cause of my discontent, I had a superb time. It was hot and balmy, so, I marched into Alajmo on St Mark’s Square and the attentive waiter served me the tallest, most delicious pink gin and tonic I’d ever seen – at 10 am in the morning. 

My new friends in Venice.

I also had some delicious olives to complement this elixir. Soon, my traumatic experience was but a vague, distasteful memory as I sat there observing the energy of the crowd comprising visitors from around the world, albeit from a safe distance. All was well with the world.

A gorgeous young couple was seated at the adjacent table and they had just got married, still wearing their wedding outfits and they’d gone to shop for clothes after their intimate ceremony in a little chapel nearby. They were so beautiful, enveloped in this bright romantic light of love. I offered to take their picture and they were thrilled. Not wishing to intrude, I kept to myself but they insisted I join them for a drink to celebrate their joy.

After another ice-cold pink gin and tonic, I left the lovebirds from Kent to bask in their nuptial bliss, donned my sunhat and walked to the quieter canals to savour some tranquil spaces with the locals. Eventually, I took a water taxi along the Grand Canal, where I found a delightful vantage point to observe the throng. This time, I settled down to a scrumptious antipasto followed by a memorable Baccala, comprising creamed cod with yellow polenta, followed by a digestivo…indeed, the good life!

The terraced apartment I’d choose to stay in…

The train ride back to Lake Como, where I was staying, afforded me time to remember every moment of a day that became special because I’d made a decision to make it so. I even chose the terraced apartment I’d live in should I ever return – dreams are free…

Fashion patrol

The gorgeous tribe of Instagram fashionistas and lifestyle bloggers I encounter on my Sixty_is_the_new_40 Insta page continue to inspire me and never have I welcomed such supportive interaction of a sisterhood of likeminded women from across the globe more than now.

A versatile woollen wrap from Venice, acquired so long ago.

Viewing the summer styles currently enjoying plenty exposure in Europe and the USA, I’m looking forward to digging in my timeless wardrobe for ideas to get that boho chic back on track. Happy to see some classics, such as wide-legged pants, wide belts and espadrilles will be there to get my fashion game up.

The LBD – a woollen dress bought in Paris a long time ago still works its magic in my wardrobe.

However, for now, I’m still savouring every snug moment of winter, hauling out wraps, woollen coats, and scarves in bright colours to brighten up any wintery day.

Adding some attitude to the classic LBD – burgundy boots as well as a funky leather jacket from Italy, acquired some years ago, complemented by a vintage scarf.

Speaking of fashion, as I’ve always felt it was closely related to art, I’ve been bingeing on a series titled The Art of More. Well, not only will you see fabulous fashion chic but superb acting. Having dabbled in the art world briefly in my heyday as publicist, this certainly is an eye-opener. The cast is sterling, with the enigmatic Kate Bosworth and, to my mind, the new love-to-hate-him bad boy, Dennis Quaid. Addictive stuff, be warned, so get the popcorn a poppin’.

A vintage woollen dress from Italy gets hauled out of its temporary slumber in my closet for my citizenship ceremony. Slow fashion…

It was on a chilly winters day I was granted citizenship of this beautiful country and my online facilitator expressed his salutations to my dressing for the auspicious virtual video occasion. How could I not? I wore what I’d have worn to the ceremony, had it not been postponed indefinitely as a result of the lockdown. I was concerned the video call might not feel as special as I’d hoped but it turned out to be a most memorable experience. 

As it occurred on a Friday, I naturally partook of a few glasses of delicious bubbles afterwards, kindly delivered by my delightful neighbours, who happen to produce a superior brand of sparkling wine at Immerse Wine in Dixons Creek, Yarra Valley. Cheers, mates, I’m really chuffed.

Here’s to fashion therapy, long may it live, and cheers to the good life, sweeties, stay safe, be brave and don’t forget to dance, even if it’s only in your head…


Lady sings no blues

By Tilly Smith Dix

The sunrise magic of the Yarra Valley.

We will all have our stories of woe and joy to tell when this COVID-19 lockdown eventually ends. In some instances, that story may be a rather meaty book, me thinks.

What I have learned during this time will hopefully help me deal with situations differently in the future. I see this as a positive.

What I have learned during this lockdown

I am quite mutable and accommodating, until I feel I’m being manipulated, managed, disrespected or bossed. I get rebellious and claustrophobic, triggering memories of similar predicaments in the past.

I now speak my truth and I try to do so kindly, and if it is not appreciated, I can live with it. Our mental health, now more than ever, is of great importance, after all.

Thank you, smutty, sneaky Corona, you have not beaten me (and this is one test I’m happy to say, I tested negative for), as you have made me stronger and more determined than ever to live my best life and not tolerate bad behaviour from anyone in my fold.

Boundaries and respect are key elements in relationships and here, I hear the voice of reason from my late dad. 

Dad could sense BS, my sweet mother never could. I am the product of both of these amazing folks and, I’m not sorry to admit, the older I get, the more I’m my father’s child. When he was your friend, he was generous, kind and warm. However, if you disrespected him or overstepped boundaries, your ticket was punched, he’d communicate his disappointment to you. He’d forgive you and not bear a grudge. However, you had no return ticket.

Time to say goodbye

Some very dear friends lost loved ones before lockdown. There is nothing more final than death. I knew I could not erase their pain. I simply sent them regular messages to let them know I was thinking of them. Having been friends for so many years, they knew, whenever they were ready, I’d call to talk and listen. Until then, I was with them in thought. Yes, you feel helpless when folks you love are in pain, however, you also have to realise you cannot fix their pain. Only they can work through it and time, hopefully, eases the pain and makes their loss more bearable.

I was having a conversation with one of these treasured friends and we were discussing divorce and the pain suffered by so many people going through breakups.

Having lost both her father and her husband in death last year, my treasured friend was appalled at the cowardly way some people leave relationships. Her words resonate, deeply: “Life is precious and yes, people change, and they fall out of love – or their values change and they wish to continue on a different path to the one they’d committed to with their partner. However, NEVER leave without saying goodbye. Do the right thing. Face the music, play open cards, be honest.

“Breaking up is never easy but just man up or woman up before you close the door. Tomorrow, that partner you abandon could get run over by a bus, contract a terrible disease, or virus, and you’d never rid yourself of the guilt of having behaved like a coward by just disappearing from a life you had committed to. UNLESS they have a gun and you know they’d use it.”

Of course, domestic violence, we agreed, calls for different measures and one word comes to mind: RUN. Then, never look back. Yes, this sounds flippant but having seen plenty of that as a journalist, that calls for another blog, another time.

Back to the good life

Many grandparents have lamented the fact they could not spend time with their beloved little people during this pandemic. I’m thrilled to have been the sounding board for one of my much-adored munchkins, who chose me to critique her reading prowess on Facetime. 

Cameron is eight and a half and I believe her mum has done a superb job in home-schooling. I can only imagine trying to harness three youngsters into a home-schooling routine. Salutations, Helen.

Yes, I know, usually my blog is more light-hearted, including fun places to travel to and dine at. This, sadly, is not a topic to be covered at the moment as travel is on hold for some time, everywhere.

Tourism is suffering and destinations coveted by many are in lockdown until further notice. However, there is light at the end of this dreary COVID-19 tunnel.

Some luxury hotels and lodges are now offering voucher systems, whereby guests can pay it forward. For example, purchase a voucher at a highly reduced rate and book your dates later. This creates revenue for the hotels and lodges, affording them the means to continue improvements and stepping up their operations, conservation and eco-tourism, whilst implementing strict health and safety measures to ensure guests enjoy a dream holiday without risk of contracting the dreadful virus.

Waterhole parade of elephants at Tau Game Lodge

Word in the industry is prices will drop at first but, once tourism is back on track, rates will escalate to cover the losses suffered during lockdown.

In my previous blog I published a link to eco-friendly five-star Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Reserve of South Africa, which offers a 24/7 safari indulgence on its live webcam at: : http://taugamelodge.co.za/main-lodge/live-webcam/     –  for more on the safari voucher trend and a chance to win an additional night at Tau, go to: http://jozistyle.joburg/tau-competition/  

Romance is still blooming and planning a wedding or honeymoon at Tau is eloquently reviewed by Wersha Bharadwa at: https://www.weddingideasmag.com/tau-game-lodge-review-safari-honeymoon/

Stay home

Bingeing on movies and series have become the norm and quite frankly, if anyone ever says watching more than four hours of television a day is detrimental to your mental health, I’ll slug them. I now know how, having watched some kick-ass movies lately.

It has SAVED my mental health as I, like many others, have had way too much to contemplate and worry about during this trying time and there comes a day when you just DO NOT WANT TO THINK. You meditate for so long before even that starts doing your head in.

Having worked long hours for many years, I missed out on movies and series that could have brought many lighter moments into my, often, stressful work routine.

Well, I’ve been making up for lost time, BIG time. Older series such as Diagnosis Murder, Nash Bridges, Becker and Friends have made me giggle and it is fun trying to remember the era of your life during which those series were filmed. Sets you off on a whole new track, in fact, mostly a carefree one…

Made at home – Moroccan lamb stew with brown rice

A movie I missed some years ago and managed to watch on SBS on Demand this week was the delightful Florence Jenkins Foster. Hugh Grant, Meryl Streep and Simon Helberg bring this poignant story, based on Florence’s life, into perspective. At times hilarious, one cannot help but feel admiration for this woman, who was so much more than a rich, wannabe opera star – with a terrible voice.

In fact, a beloved relative, now sadly in the foggy confusion of dementia, told me about seeing this movie with some of her then social club members some years ago when she was still operating on all cylinders, which included driving her car when aged 90.

Her verbal review on the movie was brief, and it went something like this, “I cannot understand why this actress was cast in this role. She sure as heck cannot sing. They should have cast someone with a better voice.” 

Adorable, right? I gently explained, at the time, that Meryl Streep was indeed a pretty good singer but the character she portrays in the movie was obviously tone deaf. I was given a disbelieving glance and offered some tea, whereby the subject was closed.

Kath, this adored relative, used to love walking and, somehow, I think of her when I walk around my scenic local lake, where we are now allowed to partake of exercise whilst adhering to social distancing.

I never tire of the sublime beauty and constant surprises offered by nature on my doorstep. My current passion at the lake is watching the darters fish, frolic and sun themselves after feasting. 

I never realised they were also known as snakebirds until I noticed one in the water, with just its long neck protruding, and I honestly thought it was a snake. It tossed fish out of the water and caught it mid-air, the rest of its body only emerging from the water to dry its mighty wings in the sun on a rock, clearly marked by its excrement.

A darter dries its wings after feasting at Lilydale Lake

The darter’s swanlike grace in the autumn sun stopped me in my stride. Ain’t Mother Nature grande.

Walking, of course, stimulates the appetite and I am always keen to return home to defrost a home cooked dish from my stash. My current favourite is scrumptious Moroccan lamb stew. Jamie Oliver would be proud of me.

Reading, as always, has proved a further saviour of sanity during this time and I’m so enjoying reading one of my favourite authors, the late great Pat Conroy, ‘s Beach Music again. I read it years ago and am savouring every word of the superb Southern scribe’s stories again. He certainly could string a sentence together and spin a fascinating yarn…

Fashion therapy

With fashion stores closed for so long, online sales are booming here in the land of Oz. Good news indeed as that part of the economy might survive this pandemic. 

As always, my fashion Instagram page has offered welcome respite from lockdown-blues as I get to rummage through my closet, get creative, improve my photographic skills and be girly.

Further inspiration came from an unexpected series discovered on SBS On Demand, Made in Italy. What a treat as it took me back to that epic fashion revolution that took place in Italy in the 70s. I always coveted Italian style, not to mention their superbly designed shoes. My first outfit and killer heels were purchased at a friend’s mother’s boutique, which specialised in Italian designs. It was a fashion investment as I wore those shoes and outfit for many years.

In the TV series, the gorgeous Irene, editorial assistant at a fashion publication in Milan, waxes lyrical about how a great belt and shoes will elevate an ordinary outfit. Never a truer fashion word spoken. Having travelled to Milan and cherished every stylish moment, not to mention the delicious cuisine during my stay, I felt I was part of the crew.

Imagine interviewing a young Armani, Valentino or the incredible Missoni team as a cub fashion reporter. Fashion Nirvana, I’d say. I do hope there’s a second series, I can hardly wait…ah, and that romantic scene, and setting, at Lake Como was the proverbial cherry on the tiramisu for me. Been there too, so, this was a two-for-the-price-of-one for me: fashion and travel: a winning combination for this down memory lane tripper.

I’ve also been lucky with a few unexpected fashion gifts to beautify my Instagram page @Sixty_is_the_new_40 and mixing these up with classic outfits to complement current trends is pure fashion eden…

Bigger jackets are back on trend and having walked down that bumpy big-shoulder-pad road before, I’m wiser this time around. I recently had some classic big blazers altered to be more tapered for my small frame. I’ll leave the bigger shoulders to the younger and taller gals. They’d rock it so much better.

That’s the beauty of growing older, you don’t follow blindly when it comes to fashion as you’ve learned to bend the trend to suit your own style.

Cheers to the good life, being wiser, defying age, being true to ourselves and comfortable in our skin – we WILL get through this. We will emerge from this chrysalis and flutter and glide like the spectacular butterflies we are, richer in spirit from the many lessons we have learned during this trying time…


Paying it forward to travel

by Tilly Smith Dix

During this strange global time and travel now being on hold until the world settles after the health lockdowns, armchair travel, or virtual travel, seems the ideal way to escape the news of the world and isolation blues – or simply Pay it Forward to secure a flexible travel safari date at Tau Game Lodge in South Africa for you and your partner – or family…

Booking dates are flexible and these are the special voucher packages on offer at this world-renowned 5-star safari destination. Valid for a travel date of your choice between May and November 2020, subject to availability – flexible for later dates, depending on Government travel restrictions.

The Tau Lion Special 2020: Treat the Lion King in your life to our pride voucher @R13,750 per couple sharing for two nights (actual value R19,757). The package includes: accommodation, 3 meals per day, 2 game drives per day, drinks and snacks on safari drives, a gift basket (valued R500), a spa voucher to the value of R150 when spending R300 or more, which could be used towards any treatments or spa products as well as a Tau Curio store voucher to the value of R300 (when spending R600 or more) and all levies. When booking for 2021, the rate would be R17,780 (actual value R27,960).

The Tau Lioness Special 2020: Treat the lioness in your life to our pride voucher @R13,750 per couple sharing for 2 nights (actual value R19,757). The package includes: 2 nights’ accommodation, 3 meals per day, 2 game drives per day, drinks and snack on safari drives, a 30-minute couples back and neck massage (a deep tissue back massage to relax tight, sore muscles), a bottle of sparkling wine in the room PLUS a romantic bed turn-down on the 1st night, and all levies. When booking for 2021, the rate would be R17,780 (actual value R27,960).

The above vouchers exclude: all items ordered from the bar, curio purchases, telephone usage, laundry services and all other extras. Drinks consumed at the lodge are charged on consumption.

Full advance payment is required to purchase vouchers – email taugame@mweb.co.za

The highly addictive Tau live webcam will keep you mesmerized on: http://taugamelodge.co.za/main-lodge/live-webcam/

Daily sightings via the Tau Game Lodge live webcam at the world-renowned waterhole include: African wild dog, elephant, lion, the entire spectrum of antelope, a plethora of birdlife, all stealthily observed by the residing crocodiles…

The Tau Game Lodge team ensures your safari needs are met with their warm, efficient, 5-star service, whilst nature provides a superb canvas for game to be observed in its most prolific form.

For 25 years Tau Game Lodge has enthralled visitors from every corner of the planet, including honeymooners, conference guests, families and groups of friends who simply want to celebrate the best a safari could possibly offer.

Familiar with the habits and quirks of every species of game, including the Big Five, and birdsspotted along the way, the rangers inform you about nature’s medicine chest, comprising the medicinal aspects of the flora you encounter along the way. They extend their heart-felt knowledge over dinner, which makes for memorable conversations under the stars around a camp fire, as well as in the modern out-of-Africa ambience of the Tau indoor dining areas.

The background sounds of the bush, from a lion’s roar to the barking of a jackal or the trumpeting of an elephant, are just some of the myriad safari memories to be made at Tau.

The lodge is enclosed within the reserve, resulting in the humans being subtly fenced in, while game, including several crocodiles, roam free, including the spectacular birdlife.

The Tau Cubz ClubTau Spa Oasis and Tau Conference Centre make this an ideal malaria-freedestination for romantic, family, leisure or corporate safaris. The two lodge swimming pools, of which one is an infinity pool, also offer vistas of the bush and waterhole. G&T, darling?

Tau Game Lodge opened its 5-star safari doors in 1995 and offers 30 rooms, from Standard to Luxury to Family Suites.

+27-(0)11-466 8715/17 – taugame@mweb.co.za – www.taugamelodge.co.za


Strange times and silver linings

The good life before our world changed

By Tilly Smith Dix

My first visit to Australia sparked a kinship with several dream locations. The first was the idyllic bays of Sydney in New South Wales, including Rosebay and Manly, then I travelled along the Mornington Peninsula of Victoria, close to Melbourne, where the ocean views evoked memories from my childhood on the Garden Route of South Africa.

Boarding a large ferry, reminiscent of travels on the choppy English Channel to Calais, but just so much prettier, from the delightful and aptly named Sorrento to Queenscliff in Victoria, Australia on that epic first visit to this country, took my breath away on a diamond bright, summers day.

Not long after that, I discovered Mount Dandenong with its quaint, picturesque villages dotted along a region fondly known as The Hills, and its nearby wine county sister shire in the Yarra Valley. I knew if ever I moved to Australia, I’d wish to live in one of these locations.

Now, ten years since that enlightening journey, I have been living in the Yarra Valley for several years and still savour every moment of exploring this fascinating region of Victoria.

Caption: clockwise from top right: Arthur’s Seat Cable Way; Rika Keyser; scenic drive in Red Hill; Dromana Beach and Dromana Pier.

The Mornington Peninsula

I count myself extremely lucky, with no less than two caring new friends living on the Mornington Peninsula. No, I did not run a contest to find the best gals in a dream locale, it was tempting but fate was kind.

One of them, the gorgeous Rika, a fellow former South African who moonlights at Mornington Peninsula Tourism, recently took me on a mystery drive, which introduced me to a whole new aspect of the region, the delightful boutique wine trail.

The drive through hills, forests, olive groves and vineyards, with dazzling views of the ocean, drew me closer to the region and I promised to visit often – and soon.

We dined at Green Olive on the Redhill trail, where we enjoyed a mild late-summers day, our outdoor table positioned next to one of the rustic veggie patches of the restaurant, offered tranquil vistas of the olive groves and a large pond, surrounded by trees and presided over by ducks. The ducks wander into the olive grove, where they happily dine on the odd weed infiltrating the grove. Putting nature to work, perfect.

Caption: clockwise from top right: sunrise over the Yarra Valley; rainbow lorikeet in my neighbours’ cape myrtle tree; the Green Olive; Cathy in autumn mode; golden sunrise over the Yarra Valley.

The Tapas Menu was a triumph and I intend working my way through more of the same next time. The local tipple of bubbles was not disappointing either.

We then drove to Arthur’s Seat, where visitors were making the most of a perfect day to enjoy the spectacular views from the gondolas of the cable way. Murray’s Look-Out commemorates Lieut. John Murray, who named the mountain Arthur’s Seat in 1802.

Rika is a walker and has established several walking groups in the region. Driving down the mountain, we stopped for a brief stroll along Dromana Pier and the crystal-clear waters of the bay proved further balm for the soul.

Returning to her home in Mount Martha, Rika provided me with a further scenic tour via Safety Beach, where boats of every size and description abound. I recall looking down from the highway to Sorrento years ago, thinking this could be an ideal spot to live as it brought back memories of my teens living in a sailing community on the Swartkops River Estuary in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

All this within 75km of Melbourne. What’s not to love. Lucky me, my friend is so knowledgeable about tourism in the region, I suggested she started her own day-tour agency. When our world returns to normal, AC (after Covit-19), ask for Rika Keyser at the Mornington Tourism hubs. She knows her stuff.

A week later, I returned to Mount Martha, this time to enjoy a leisurely home-cooked lunch at my gorgeous Italian friend Rosaria’s home. Her charming husband Cisto was not at all fazed having two talkative Sagittarian gals sharing stories. Well, he is Italian and they do seem to have a greater understanding of the female psyche. He even managed to get a word in edgeways.

Caption: clockwise from top right: Ashley Kahan, Rika Keyser and Ronel Burger; salmon and zucchini at The Pontoon; watermelon cake at Black Star Pastry; the tribe arrives at The Pontoon; St Kilda Street scene; St Kilda beach; ducks and pond at the Green Olive.

Another gorgeous day in paradise and I’m happy to say their adorable feline approved of me. Rosaria’s spinach ricotta lasagne was scrumptious and it went down great with the bottle of Immerse Sparkling Brut I took along from the Yarra Valley. (Another spot to have a wedding, renew wedding vows or book a delicious weekend lunch, of course, is Immerse at Dickson’s Creek. Tell them I sent you!)

I went prepared and driving home from the charming Rosaria and Cisto’s cosy home, I listened to some of my favourite Italian crooners, which included Andrea Bocelli and Il Volo.

St Kilda, Melbourne

A further sensory overload of the best kind was a catchup over lunch with some of my South African tribeswomen here in Melbourne. Always sanguine, they are a delightful bevy of gals. This time, we met under the clocks at Flinders Station, from where we caught a tram to St Kilda.

Our visit to the Rain Room, presented by The Jackalope Art Collection on the Jackalope Pavilion, was surreal. It was a most ambition curation, which the ladies enjoyed thoroughly. No umbrellas required as visitors are not supposed to get wet, given the sensors depicting the human form and only spilling ‘rain’ around them. However, you had to keep at arms-length to allow the sensors to do their job. A training exercise for what was to come when social distancing became a new rule in our world, but how were we to know…

Some guy ignored the rule of not moving rapidly and keeping his distance as he wanted to catch up with his wife. This resulted in little old me getting soaked as he rushed past me. I did not shout out as I figured they must be on honeymoon, with him rushing to be by her side and all …

I had to lock my city-slicker heels in a locker and wear the smallest pair of Crocs the organisers could offer on loan to walk on the metal grid platform of the Rain Room, which turned out to be like boats on my bony feet, causing enormous mirth among my compatriots. Minnie Mouse came to mind. Proud to say, I took it on the chin, ha.

En route to lunch after the exhibition, we popped in for a decadent coffee and what is described as the most Instagrammed cake in Melbourne – the strawberry watermelon cake at Black Star Pastry. It tastes even more dreamy than it looks. Highly recommended and we all agreed to return soon.

Serendipity dining in St Kilda is not always recommended as restaurants were usually busy but after a scenic stroll along the Esplanade, we decided we needed to dine with a view of the bay. This was indeed a splendid walk down memory lane as on my first visit to Melbourne, a few years prior to moving here, I had a delicious but very basic meal of the catch of the day and potato wedges at the now beautifully renovated Pontoon.

Some years ago, it was almost destroyed in a fire and the owners have turned it into an outstanding, contemporary bar and restaurant with a dreamy view of the bay. It reminded me of lunches overlooking the pier and ocean in Malibu, California. However, I found The Pontoon more classy, with a convivial vibe, excellent service and scrumptious cuisine.

My perfectly grilled Tasmanian salmon with sautéed zucchini and mushroom was simply perfect. The rest of the girls agreed, this was a restaurant fit for many return visits from our tribe. The chicken and roasted cauliflower looked a treat too. After a glass – and more by some, no names, right – we reluctantly made our departure to board a tram back to Flinders Street Station, where we all caught our respective trains home before rush hour. We are united in our love for our city and our adoptive country.

When our world changed

Two weeks later I had my second cataract surgery, another sterling job by Dr David Frazer and his amazing team at Yarra Ranges Health. Then the world, as we know it, changed, probably forever.

Covid-19, the Coronavirus, now referred to as China’s virus of shame, took the world by surprise. The wet markets of Wuhan in China are reportedly a hotbed of possible viruses carried by wildlife sold as pets and food. This, apparently, is where this virus spread to humans.

Bats and other wildlife will carry viruses, which their specific species are equipped to handle. However, when such animals are placed in close proximity to other wildlife, especially in the stressful conditions of captivity, disease will occur. So far, the most informative link about this pandemic I have found is on CNN Live TV, written by Nick Walsh and Vasco Cotovio.

In the meantime, countries are closing borders, schools are closing until further notice and offering home school solutions. Airlines have retrenched staff, pilots are advised of earlier retirement whilst in self-isolation after international flights, and people are getting sick and dying. The aged and frail are most vulnerable.

Life is surreal and we see dystopia unfolding. What seemed macabre when watching series such as The Handmaid’s Tale stream not so long ago, we are now in the midst of immense uncertainty. People self-isolate or are ordered to do so, depending on their individual situation. Public transport is a problem as social distancing is tough on a full train, tram, bus – or plane!

Further concerns are that of this animal virus, now easily transferred to humans, being transferred back to their pets and other animals too. Scientists around the world are in a race to find a cure and a vaccine.

Much washing of hands, sanitising, wearing masks and ensuring there is enough loo paper and dry foods while we are in lockdown, are the new normal.

A week after my eye surgery, I had a sore throat, after which my glands kicked into overdrive. I ensured I had enough food and supplies for 2 weeks and have self-isolated since then. I called the Corona Hotline and my symptoms did not qualify for a test. I was relieved.

Silver linings

I’m happy to report I’m feeling better but as we are now in stage three of the current lockdown, I’m going nowhere, unless it’s to buy essentials and for crucial medical check-ups. Having to postpone a dinner with much adored family I’d not seen for some time was tough but the decision to keep them safe was not hard. This will pass and we will see each other again to break bread, drink wine and contemplate the strange time we have managed to overcome.

Further silver linings, my social media platforms are gaining more followers every day as we cannot spend all our time working from home, cooking, cleaning, meditating or worrying about the unknown. We need to interact with likeminded souls, albeit in a virtual world. So, while Mother Earth is having a welcome respite from abusive humans to some extent, we become more aware of not only our need to communicate but the need for others to feel a sense of belonging too.

Then, there is television. A good movie or series always proves pure escapism for me and I’ve been catching up on movies I never saw when they were on circuit years ago. I guess I was working too hard? Don’t Look Now, with Donald Sutherland and the gorgeous Julie Christie had me spellbound. The trend of streaming series has also taken my fancy. Whiskey Cavalier is great fun, and Maggie Q is mesmerising in Nikita.

This isolation has resulted in my passion for stylish fashion being stepped up and doing my own photography for my Instagram fashion page (Sixty_is_the_new_40), has resulted in my technique improving rapidly. Setting the timer for lights, camera and action is kinda fun. Cathycat seems to enjoy the energy I generate during such shoots and being a diva, she thinks it her right to wander into a shot any time she pleases. Problem is, the camera captures the back of her, and I know she’d never approve such a shot as her piquant form is not featured from the best angle. Pear-shaped, says I in a stage whisper…

Caption: autumn vibes and self-isolation become more fun when a girl can play with her vintage wardrobe and spruce it up for a new season. My two hero-pieces, the shawl-coat from Zara (centre), and the knitted forest green dress, (centre far right), is a Witchery Fashion treasure – see more fashion fun on Instagram @Sixty_is_the_new_40

I have always loved autumn and the current colours are reminiscent of the Seventies, when rich ochres, warm browns and deep forest greens were the colours of choice. Of course, black and beige never date in my wardrobe, so, it makes for an organic palette to play with when mixing textures and styles to bring some new zest to a mature wardrobe.

I’m pleased to see folks are dressing up for skype and online video meetings – dress up and show up, I say, even when in lockdown, be fabulous. Not sure how to show off killer heels to add some spunk but I think I’ll rest my feet on the desk when I have a virtual meeting again. Could be fun, after all, my new motto is I’m older, not over…

Shoes, of course, play a major role in style and mood and I’m delighted to say I do not need to spend another blue dime on shoes or boots for autumn as I’m sorted. Before packing the season’s shoes into their covers and boxes for hibernation out of season, I clean the leather with beeswax and lanolin. Where required, they are also given a thorough water-resistant leather spray to prevent any damp from damaging the leather. I have shoes that have lived in my closet for about 20 years and now they are back on trend!

I’m ready and my humble ivory tower with million-dollar views of the verdant valley, is not such a bad place to hole up during these unusual times. I still get awakened by possums on their nocturnal journey and the birdlife remains unparalleled.

When it was announced on the news that Coles and Woolworths were offering preferential shopping on weekdays between 7 and 8am for senior citizens and frail people with disabilities, my response was, “how thoughtful to consider these folks.” Then I realised I was one of them. I did have a giggle but wasted no time getting to Coles to stock up with necessary groceries and what has also become known as white gold, loo paper. Why people have been stockpiling these is beyond me but hey, who am I to judge. We all have our passions, hie.

Virtual travels

As for travel, that is a luxury we have to put in the pending folder for now. However, I’m savouring the trend of virtual travel and The Australian recently published a superb article about armchair travel, in which they mention the world-renowned Tau Game Lodge in Madikwe Reserve in South Africa’s North-West, bordering Botswana. I recall dream safaris here, so, be transported and check https://www.taugamelodge.co.za/main-lodge/live-webcam/    the 24/7 live webcam – you’ll be voluntarily glued to your armchair for some time, so, I suggest you get your nibbles and G&Ts sorted before you get into sublime safari mode. Just you and the game at a waterhole…see more online travel in The Australian at: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/travel/virtual-travel-comes-alive-with-live-streams-webcams-and-tours-online/news-story/8f07088330c5a4f823f233886d6174c7

Plenty humour going about of course, thank the lawdy for that, and I found it a hoot when an Instagram friend posted the following: “I have a luxury, super-soft, pack of 20 toilet rolls. I’m looking to trade it for a cottage by the sea.” Another giggle was posted by a Facebook friend: “Tell Dolly to tell Jolene she can come take my man.” Lockdown drama abounds, I hear. Keep smiling and keep laughing, it’s good for the soul.

Let’s hang in there, look after ourselves and each other – and be safe. Love thy neighbour and I must say, I have been blessed with the best. They even acquired an extra chook so I could have an egg a day from the feathered ladies I offer my fruit and veg scraps to every day.

Cheers to the good life, perhaps not the one we are used to, but we can do this…

Embracing the roaring 20s

By Tilly Smith Dix

The year 2019 was an interesting, and often challenging year and I’d like to think of it as a time to deal with karmic issues, mostly relating to past lives. For those who do not believe in reincarnation and completing lessons from a previous life, simply see it as an uphill struggle.

I have to admit, I was keen to see the back of it and am embracing every sweet moment of 2020. Yes, the farewell to the past was bittersweet, ending with an emotional rollercoaster of the worst kind. To top that, this beautiful country was burning in the worst possible way, with human lives, properties, livelihoods, homes, animals, wildlife habitat and everything to sustain their worlds lost in raging fires.

So many people have come together, uniting in offering assistance in any way, big or small, to people and animals in distress during this time. I was thrilled to hear that DSassi, a gorgeous boutique in Maling Road, was donating proceeds of their sales to the cause. I love the versatile white Italian linen shirt-dress I acquired from them on my birthday, which is proving a hit on my fashion Instagram page @Sixty_is_the_new_40…

I have covered some of the devastation on my Facebook page, so, for now, I wish to focus on the good and not the ugly as so many of my loyal followers have told me how much they look forward to my uplifting news and stories. I’ll try not to disappoint this time but had to mention the sadness and I wish for this country, its people and its animals to rise from the ashes and be stronger, resilient and more united than ever before.

Needless to say, the end of a year should come with a warning sign, “do not over-indulge,” as it is the time for good folks to get together to break bread and raise a glass of elixir – or too many.

Caption: from top left, clockwise: Cameron, Ashton and Olivia telling Santa they’ve been good; my birthday gift from Country Road; Aunty Tilly’s ‘famous’ pavlova.

My birthday proved a feast of three days, lucky me. Wonderful friends, who are like family as we chose to love each other, took me for lunch at BetweenUs on the historically charming Maling Road off Canterbury Road. It was a treat spending time with them and their two smart, gorgeous and entertaining kids.

The ambience was festive and sophisticated, the service stellar and the cuisine a triumph. My Italian-themed chicken schnitzel, with parmesan, a green salad and mustard potatoes, was succulently more-ish.

The following day, Sunday, my little Melbourne family took me for lunch at Meletos in the Yarra Valley, which I have reviewed on my blog before and it did not disappoint. Those designer pizzas are sinfully delicious and I love the thin crust – you feel less guilty about being naughty with those carbs.

Caption, lunch with the gorgeous South African tribe in Melbourne at The George; and the image top right is a famous landmark in Sassafras.

The next day my lovely friend Rika drove from Mount Martha on the Mornington Peninsula to meet me in Sassafras, where the hearty breakfast menu at Ripe was perhaps too hearty but I finished every morsel anyway. Ever tried pulled pork (slow roasted) on potato rosti and poached egg with hollandaise? It hits the spot, no contest.

The run-up to year-end is also about Christmas parties and I must admit, I’ve missed those gatherings with clients and friends, which I took for granted for so many years, now living in another country.

In early December, the fabulous South African women in Melbourne Facebook group gathered at The George. The gathering of the tribe was arranged by the lovely Ashley, who has lived in Melbourne since her late teens and is reminiscing her roots by mixing with all of us newbies.

The venue is stunning, the service smooth and the food ticked my every discerning box to perfection. I polished off my perfectly grilled Asian-spiced steak and used a second glass of bubbles as the excuse to help my digestive system deal with such a big chunk of meat.

Conversation, as always, was effervescent and brimmed with comradery. Such a joy, having bonded with these beautiful souls. We all agree, we did not move to another country to launch a new South African colony. However, it is heart-warming to spend time with women who just understand each other and accept each other without judgement. Sisters unite.

Ten days before my birthday in December, I had cataract surgery and was given the all-clear to drive after a post-op eye test on my birthday morning. I was so thrilled and not surprised as the surgery was successful. I HIGHLY recommend the Yarra Ranges Health Services.

The Lilydale day clinic, where the surgery was performed, has a superb team and I was in my element as they comprised Australians as well as a surgeon and staff from across the planet. I felt I had the best in the world tending to me and you could sense how much they cared and loved their jobs. I’m looking forward to my left eye being operated on by this team soon. Gosh, I just want to adopt them! Will check with my yoga coach if my third eye needs special care too.

Christmas was a comfort and a joy. I spent Christmas Eve with my sweet family and Jason and Helen prepared a veritable feast. I baked my now ‘famous,’ as per the children, pavlova and the children sang Christmas Carols. Little Ashton, just over two years old, was a fast learner, picking up clues from his gorgeous older sisters Cameron and Olivia. They were in top form to show Santa how good they were.

Ashton also gave his stamp of approval for my pavlova. He decided to try it first and like a true master chef, put on his serious face before dipping his spoon into the pav. His little face lit up and he declared this was “very yummy.” Too cute for school, that one.

Caption, from top left, clockwise: Juvenile king parrots seen through my kitchen window;  loving my big white shirt birthday gift from Dsassi; golden deep fried crumbed egg, chorizo, spinach and haloumi on sour dough at Espresso Warriors; featuring some favourites from The Laluna Lifestyle Boutique and Country Road for my Sixty_is_the_new_40 fashion Instagram page.

I did not think I could ever eat again but on Christmas Day I went to friends in the Hills for lunch and again, it was a feast. I took a pavlova and as there was none left after lunch, I assume they enjoyed it. Again, the laughter, kindness and joy of good people and their kids made this another memorable day.

During the Holidays I had to pop to Eastland Shopping Centre in Ringwood for some supplies and treated myself to a delectable brunch. Have you ever had crumbed deep-fried eggs on chorizo, hollandaise, haloumi and spinach? I was blown away. Not only did it look designer but tasted heaven. The fresh watermelon juice proved a perfect complement to the rich textures of this dish at Espresso Warriors.

Of course, this is also the time of year when we dig out our bright Christmas colours to complement Santa and his trimmings. I got really lucky as I received birthday vouchers from two of my favourite brands, Witchery and Country Road, both forever fashion designs. My colours of choice? Vermillion and emerald green. I’m now sorted for several Christmases to come. I’ve always been a fan of summer knits in Italian yarn. Timeless and chic.

With all the eating and quaffing champagne, a girl has to take special care of her skin, of course and my treats arrived in November already from the fabulous Skincare Doctor Direct range in Australia. The Emepelle Serum is ideal during the day as it so light. I used the Circadia light day Sunscreen over that for extra protection in the summer heat and it paid off.

I highly recommend the Emepelle Night Serum. It is nourishing, restorative and lives up to its claim of being luxurious to the touch as my skin certainly feels silky soft. Featuring innovative MEP technology, powerful antioxidants, niacinamide, peptides and hyaluronic acid, it reawakens luminosity in ageing skin.

Twice I week I pamper my skin with the Aspect fruit enzyme mask, followed by the Aspect Hydrating Mask. You’d never know I had anaesthetic or over-indulged in bubbles. Oh, I have to also mention I’d had a bout of glandular fever prior to the Festive Season, so, those meds would also have ruined this mature complexion, normally.

Caption: rejuvenation for the skin from Skincare Doctor Direct in Australia, tried and tested and it gets ten out of ten from this ‘mature’ chook.

Another year-end event was an exhibition of the late great Robert Klippel’s work, titled Assembled, at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art in the Yarra Valley. The man was a master and I’d say a forerunner in recycling materials, ranging from wood to metal – to plastic! Innovative, quirky, brilliant and art to withstand the test of time as well as tell many stories. Some of his work comprises components of original IBM computing. Brilliant.

I don’t travel as much as I used to as my budget no longer allows for it but as life is short and I enjoy the finer things in life, I embrace the myriad eateries and wineries I am surrounded by in this spectacular region and enjoy the train rides into the city for an occasional glam meet-up.

Cheers to the good life – may 2020 be a winner in every way for us all…

Driving in cars, fun on the couch and keeping mum

By Tilly Smith Dix

To the sea…

I’ve always loved driving, even when I got car sick as a little girl, I liked gliding past beautiful scenery. This usually included forests and the ocean along the magnificent Garden Route of South Africa. Garden of Eden, Wilderness and Knysna spring to mind as we lived in George at the foot of George Peak, which is part of the magnificent Outeniqua Mountains.

Memories of sitting on a thick cushion to see through the passenger window of my father’s first car, a green Opel Kapitan, which is now described as 1950s executive-class transport, are precious. The car seemed huge to a little girl and my job was to look after the picnic basket, ensuring nothing rattled as we were driving, with our little black Manx cat, Beertjie (little bear), who loved riding in the car and positioned herself on the backrest of the rear seat, with a wide-angle view through the oval-shaped rear window.

Scenic drives still soothe my soul and living in the panoramic State of Victoria of Australia, I constantly discover new routes to explore. Andrew, the aviator, would prefer to fly but to keep the volume down at home, he will sometimes find himself in the car with me and I know he ends up enjoying the ride almost as much as I do.

Mornington glory – top right, The Rocks.

Last Friday we had a break in the rainy spring weather and drove from our patch overlooking the mountains of the Yarra Ranges to the Mornington Peninsula as I was in desperate need of breathing in the ocean air and gazing out to sea.

I embrace being a constant tourist in my own backyard and this drive delivered joy and beauty in abundance. It took us a mere hour and 10 minutes to reach the town of Mornington, which we’d never explored before but only drove past on our way to Sorrento, which is a favourite haunt of mine.

Mornington was on her best behaviour, with a warm spring sun smiling down over her and a gentle ocean breeze delivering that magical scent I’d been longing for. Her long golden beach and red cliffs beckoned but first, we had to find a restaurant with an ocean view to dine at.

Well, we could not get any closer to the bay, unless we opted to dine on a boat. The Rocks overlooks the yacht basin and is next to the yacht club. Vistas of jetties, boats and pretty beaches made for the best location one could wish for.

The service was superb, the wine, a sparkling rose produced on the Mornington Peninsula, delicious, and the smell of cooking fish proved enticing enough for me to order a fish platter. Sadly, our chosen dishes were over-priced and ordinary. My fish platter was slightly dry and uninteresting and Andrew’s fish burger disappointing too. Plating was unimaginative and we ordered golden fries, which were scrumptious, to pair with our fish as no side-salad, fries or sauce accompanied my platter. The mussels were tasty and fresh, though.

However, nothing was going to spoil this perfect view and our joy shone bright as the couple at the table adjacent to ours started chatting to us. They were delightful and I was not surprised to discover they were Italian by origin and have embraced living on this gorgeous peninsula for many years. Rosaria and Sisto were sent by the gods, who weave the tapestries of life, when people drift into our orbit to leave their mark, often for a season, a reason or forever.

Once our new friends departed, after we’d exchanged contact details and agreed to meet up soon, it was time to stroll on the warm sand and dip my toes in the ocean. No, I did not have a swim as the kelp was creating its own unique tapestry in the surf and I was satisfied simply getting my feet caressed in the gentle waves.

Mornington on the Mornington Peninsula is a visual treat.

On the way home, we listened to a diverse mixture of CDs. South Pacific, performed by Jose Carreras, Kiri Te Kanawa, Sarah Vaughn and Mandy Patinkin. Yes, an unusual mix but it was an old-fashioned sensory overload complementing our gorgeous drive. Memories of my father’s beautiful tenor voice singing Some Enchanted Evening came flooding back and I almost had to flick away a tear.

Our second choice after that impressive musical recording was The Beach Boys. Some may snigger but those boys created some incredible music that has withstood the test of time. Hearing Don’t Worry Baby and God Only Knows brought back memories of my first beach party, where I had a taste of Old Brown Sherry, and falling in love for the first time. Remembering the innocence and dreams of a teen, thoughts of having few regrets washed over me.

Couch indulgences

Living in a country village makes good television desirable as we are some distance from the city. SBS on demand is my current choice for getting cosy on the sofa and Breathe, the story of Robin Cavendish, the longest living responaut in Britain, who was affected by polio at the age of 28, made for excellent viewing. The MBE died in 1994 and his wife Diana, a driving force behind his fighting spirit, is played by the lovely Claire Foy of The Crown. Andrew Garfield is superb in the role of Cavendish.

Another gem, which I’d never heard of, is A Little Chaos, starring the beautiful Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci and the enigmatic Matthias Schoenaerts. Rickman plays King Louis X1V, who employs Kate’s character in the creation of a garden at his Versailles palace. Romance in the shrubs, for sure, and I noticed 48% of viewers reported it a rotten tomato. I disagree and found the movie enchanting with superb acting by the stellar cast.

A further indulgence that has come to my notice, ideal for armchair travellers, is the newly relaunched live webcam at Tau Game Lodge in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve – it should come with a warning, ADDICTIVE  – see for yourself at http://taugamelodge.co.za/main-lodge/live-webcam/

I’m not keen on TV series anymore – too many and sadly, often, the same old same old storylines, formulas and plots. However, I was hooked on the first series of Riviera, starring the mesmerising Julia Stiles and veteran actress Lena Olin, whom I first saw in The Unbearable Lightness of Being many moons ago. The cast includes Jack Fox, who certainly is a fox and from the acting royal family Fox. James Fox is his father, Edward Fox is his uncle and the charming Emilia Fox is his cousin. It’s in the genes…

I was thrilled to see the second series of this riveting saga about the dark side of the art world was now streaming and I promptly binged, watching ten episodes in three days. This is what happens if my spouse does some cross-country flying and I’m working back home. I hope I don’t have to wait long for series three… indulging in the visuals of those dream locations on the French Riviera, which I fell in love with years ago, is a delicious treat.

Fun with fashion and the yummy mummy

Continuing with springter, which has become my new preferred season, I’ve been indulging in spring fashion, whilst never taking my eye off my beloved winter warmers as the weather continues to fluctuate between the two. I’m not complaining as I get to wear my soft cashmere and mohair sweaters half the time, then get to savour the essence of spring on some warmer days.

Why am I not complaining? We’ve already endured a few scorching days and they were grim reminders of my dislike of heat. My body simply was not designed for it and even as a little girl, I used to faint when exposed to hot sun for long. Somehow, it changed briefly in my twenties, when I lived in Cape Town and spent summer days on the beach but I think what probably made it bearable, back then, was plenty of water, a fresh ocean breeze most days, the freezing cold waters of the Atlantic and handsome hunks bearing gifts of iced lollies and Campari and soda. Whenever we did venture to the warmer Indian Ocean side on that magnificent peninsula where two oceans meet, beach time was brief and dining in the cool shaded hubs of Gordon’s Bay was preferable.

Diversity is the fashion hero of our times as anything goes. I’m thrilled to see the soft, flowing femininity of the late Seventies being back on trend and I am besotted with kimono tops, palazzo pants, floral dresses and gypsy-style skirts gracing our wardrobes again. I’m also chuffed (delighted) to have unpacked some such finds, which have been stashed in boxes during our renovation process, so, it’s like having a new wardrobe, unwrapping my vintage stash.

Fashion for springter (winter and spring), anything goes – see more on Instagram page Sixty_is_the_new_40

The casting agency contacted me a few weeks ago to appear in a commercial for Dingo Cement and I was cast as the visiting mother-in-law of a cute young couple wishing to impress her with their attractive new patio floor.

The accomplished talent playing my daughter in the commercial is Katrina Conder and we agreed casting was pretty accurate as we could see a resemblance in our appearance. We had plenty of giggles, getting immersed in our roles, with Katrina often cooing, “love you, Mum,” and me chirping back, “love you too, possum.”

Driving to the shoot location was sheer bliss, as the road from our Yarra Valley to Narre Warren is mostly countryside strewn with pastures, hills, paddocks and scenic beauty. Horses, alpacas and vineyards are included in the scenery along the way.

Clockwise, from top left, pictures left to right: Katrina Conder, Natalie Corteling, Imogen Walsh, Matty Morris, me and Katrina Conder. Scenes from our region.

Filming was on a feistily windy day and our wardrobe stylist Imogen Walsh, and make-up and hair alchemist Natalie Corteling had their work cut out. I tell you, our hair felt a bit like cement after all the hairspray used to make our dos withstand the elements but fun was had by all.

Cheers to the good life – let’s live each day as if it’s the last hoorah. It is impossible to feel jolly every day but it’s worth a try…

When it’s springtime in the valley

by Tilly Smith Dix

So, spring is still a tad illusive but when she shows her pretty smile, she does it in style here in our Yarra Valley, aka, the valley of plenty.

Our planet is in a state of confusion but I’m not going to get hot and heavy about climate change on this blog, not today, anyway, so, I will celebrate the fact that we’ve had some glorious sunshine and mild days, confettied with the colder, wet days and nights.

No use fretting over something we cannot control, Boris, take note, so, on with the fabulous things to do in our region and beyond, immaterial what the weather, or the Mothership Britain, brings.

Don’t mess with my Sherlock

Theatre, which includes amateur theatre in spades, is big in Melbourne and surrounds and we are keen patrons of the 1812 Theatre productions at nearby Ferntree Gully.

Our most recent attendance was for the Ken Ludwig Baskerville Sherlock Holmes Mystery. Have I mentioned that I adore Sherlock Holmes and devoured all the stories I could lay my sleuth-like paws on since my late teens?

To make this brief, which was not the case during my husband and my discussion post-production, I was disappointed. The cast did a great job and I’m sure the director was having loads of fun. However, being a Holmes fan, I was not amused. You see, I take Sherlock seriously and I did not like this scary story being treated as a spoofy comedy. You can set the hounds on me if you wish but I’m sticking to my opinion. I’m too old to change my views, so, there.

Skincare alchemy

I’ve bragged about getting free stuff to review and post on my Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram page and boy, did I hit the jackpot with Sarah of http://www.skincaredoctordirect.com sending me a range of their superb products, specifically geared for my ‘mature’ skin.

Pictured above: from top, clockwise: Skincare Doctor Direct alchemy; my glowing skin; wearing my vintage and some new fashion gifts. So pleased blazers are back and this navy @decjuba jacket is now a fashion staple, not to mention the wide-legged linen pants @trenery – see more on my fashion Instagram page @Sixty_is_the_new_40

We agreed I’d be honest and after testing the products, I’d let her have my honest feedback and if the range was not suitable for my skin, I’d not review it further. Honesty is, as they say, the best policy.

Well, I can honestly say she knows her stuff as she spotted me on Instagram and thought I’d be an honest collaborator. She was right and I’m glad we found each other. Her modus operandi is impeccable and as I’m a stickler for honesty in ethos, we’ve been getting along just fine.

I loved the handwritten note which accompanied the handsome-size package with skincare products. Such small gestures make huge impressions.

The Aspect Hydrating Mask is pure magic. Sarah suggested, in that lovely note, that I could, “pop a serum on first, like the little Medik8 Hydra B5, which should be okay around the eyes first, followed by the mask to do its magic overnight. Just a thin layer of each. You will have new skin in the morning and use once or twice a week.”

Yes, I thought, right, ha. Well, I took a picture, no filter and in bright sunlight in my lounge to show the proof of the pudding, or rather, hydrating mask and serum that turned my skin into a dewy, soft, glowing baby’s bottom-like surface (without the rash), by morning.

The rest of the samples included the C25 Vitamin C Serum for daytime use, followed by a K Centric moisturiser broad spectrum SPF50. LOVE the results and have not hollered at the image in the mirror for at least two weeks.

The Hydra B5 if for extra moisture and ideal for AM and PM use on damp skin after cleansing and I find it light, yet super effective.

It is a known fact that we lose collagen as we age, sadly, and the Tensage antioxidant defence serum is superb. It differs from the C25 serum as it has a stronger Vit C content and includes growth factors. Sarah warned that growth factor products ARE expensive but amazing and she is right. Worth every dollar, I say.

I did find the Tensage defense serum a little rich, whereby I cut down my applications to twice a week only and that works beautifully for me. I guess I’m lucky with good genes from the beautiful parents, long gone to heaven and I thank them, as I often do, for many things I feel blessed with.

So, the eyes, oh dear, the eyes. The windows to the soul and a dead bloody giveaway of our age too. I spend a tiny fortune on good eye cream as I’m trying to fool myself and the world, especially on days I wake up feeling 19 until I look in the mirror and yell at the old chook in the mirror.

Well, the Tensage radiance eye cream, again with growth factors, is a freaking marvel! I could see the results after three days! How IS that even possible? Sarah tells me the range is massively popular in the USA with cosmetic surgeons and still new here in Australia. Well, I see that changing rapidly as it is a wonderful elixir for those crepe lines that creep up on us over the years. Laden with Vitamins C, A, B5 and E, I love the products.

I must also add, I am a stickler for supplements and as I take most of these vitamins orally, I reckon feeding the skin on the surface with the same goodness has to be advantageous.

The Glow oil from Medik8 is a delight, especially on days when you feel a tad prunish and is ideally used over serums under a day or night cream. Again, those lucky genes of mine, or perhaps the Champagne I so adore, proved this a tiny bit rich as I discovered a few spots like a teen but they were manageable. So, I reduced the use to twice a week only to give my skin a rocket up the proverbial when required and it took notice, big time.

Verdict? I’m now an uber fan of Skincare Doctor Direct in Australia. Send Sarah your questions and give your skin the magical boost it deserves before we bare all for summer – see more at http://www.skincaredoctordirect.com

Ya-yas in the Yarra

Two lovely lasses who live closer to the big city paid me the honour of travelling to my neck of the woods of the Yarra Valley for lunch earlier this week.

A day of malarkey, yay! I booked a table at Meletos in Coldstream, which is a mere 13-minute drive from our little house against the hill and this enchanting café overlooking the verdant vineyards did not disappoint.

Pictured above, clockwise from the top: sunrise vista from our little home; Meletos and my lovely ya-ya friends, Dragana, centre, and Ashley, left.

The service was warm, friendly and efficient. The ambience was a delight and I could not help but notice how other diners were expressing their appreciation for the cuisine, vistas and atmosphere.

My confit duck was sublime, not to mention the side order of hand-cut chips sprinkled with parmesan – not a morsel left, in spite of all my chattering non-stop with the girls. They loved their gourmet pizzas and I quaffed some delicious local Domain Chandon brut, which is served by the glass.

I like that Meletos works closely with local producers as this, after all, is the valley of plenty, where cheese, wine, fruit, meat and other produce are plentiful. In my country of origin, there is a saying, ‘local is lekker,’ which means: ‘local is delicious.’ and I love that small producers in our valley collaborate so successfully. Spreading the love and the goodness. Come visit.

I believe Meletos was created by the same family who started Stones of the Yarra Valley and The Stables at Stones. I also see they offer 22 boutique guest room accommodation at The Farmhouse adjacent to Meletos. Now there’s a thought…watch this space!

Cheers to the good life – we deserve it…

Grateful in springter

by Tilly Smith Dix

I love all four seasons but I’ve always had a penchant for cold, wet weather. Must stem from my roots as a little girl living on the Garden Route of South Africa. George, our town, had a prolific vehicle numberplate: it started with CAW – translated by many as cold and wet, and so it was but the folks and I loved it, although Dad sometimes said he could feel the cold in his big toe. I thought that was funny and had visions of him sleeping with that one big toe outside the window at night. I was five.

That being said, I do adore spring, when new life is evident everywhere, from those adorable spring lambs clumsily bouncing around the green pastures to bees busily gathering nectar from a newly launched smorgasbord of blooms.

This year, spring is late as we are experiencing winter chills, rain, sleet and plenty snow in our alpine regions nearby. I’ve also noted that in other parts of this blue planet, where autumn is due, they’ve experienced late summers, with absolutely no autumn but an almost instant transition into the cold of winter.

Above, the vista from our kitchen, deck and living room is never short of magnificent.

I’ve never liked the term ‘trans-seasonal’ – it just happens to be something, same as ‘reimagined,’ that sticks in my craw. Can’t explain why. So, I’ve decided to create some new words, or maybe, someone has already done so and I was busy and not paying attention.

I’m working on ‘reimagined,’ and prefer ‘revitalised’ but will keep you posted.

For ‘trans-seasonal,’ I’ve opted for ‘springter’ for the current winter to spring in our magnificent Victoria. Some might feel strongly about this word rhyming with unmentionable parts of the anatomy and my advice to them is to simply take their minds out of the bathroom. I LIKE springter, the fifth season, and I can wear my entire wardrobe in a week and as many of you know, I love fashion. So, layering of slinky basic outfits, covered by cashmere and wool, has become my thing. It does take some planning but the styling sisters of my fraternity will attest, this simply taps into our deep creative fashionista soul and can be a superb form of therapy.

Above, fashion therapy, some gifted to review, others from my vintage closet, featured on Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram posts.

For example, you’ve had a rubbish day. Your husband did not like the perfect meal you prepared for him or he had cramp. Then the cat got sick and a client proved difficult as their business is struggling because of the Brexit exit. Whatever.

You make a run for your own little space, short of curling up in your closet, and start planning your outfit for all weather eventualities for the next day. Soon, you’ve forgotten about the stinkers conspiring to complicate your life and it’s just you and your wardrobe. I promise, in no time you become a super styling diva.

Word of advice, do NOT enter ANY confrontational arena at this point. You are in a great headspace now. The cat is fine, curled up and snoring, and hopefully, the Mister too, so no need to fret. Now run a luxurious bath, put all the most delicious bath products you desire in the water, go BIG, and have a calming soak as you are now set for the next day, planning to be fabulous in every way, which, of course, you are.

After this hedonistic soak, get some light reading material, something you know will make you laugh and guarantee happy dreams. My current favourite, which involves no stress or Shakespearian navigation to get the meaning of it all, is Ya-Yas in Bloom. Yes, snigger, but I tell you, it works.

That and the wonderful doTERRA aromatherapy oil I got from my sweet cousin Helen. The Balance oil is guaranteed to relax the most troubled soul and she further produced an additional blend, labelled CALM. Okay, her delightful eldest, Cameron, aged eight, suggested her mom gave me the latter roll-on mix. Obviously at eight that little beauty has a great future as a psychic as I have no clue how she came to the conclusion I was in need of such therapy.

Above, some members of our gorgeous ya-ya South African clan in Melbourne and my delicious linguini pescatore at The Brook in Point Cook.

I digress, so, enjoy your feel-good bedtime story and remember to include me in your gratitude list the next day. You’re so welcome.

I was also, again, gifted with a bottle of delicious Immerse sparkling wine by my charming friend and neighbour, also named Helen. Her and her husband own the superb Immerse Winery and Wedding Venue in Dixons Creek. We always have such an effervescent lunch, albeit not as often as we’d like. Tick another box on the gratitude list.

Above, doTERRA oil, New London Jeans, Immerse bubbles and Rodan+Fields toner.

I’ve been indulging my skin with the rejuvenating Rodan+Fields Redefine Intense Renewing Serum for some time and I can see the difference as my skin certainly seems more refined after several months of use. The lovely Ashley, who is part of our South African sisterhood here in Melbourne, suggested I review the Pure Minimising Toner as well and I am impressed. In fact, it also removes any residue of make-up after normal cleansing. Just colour me grateful, again.

My late mom was no fashionista and hardly wore make-up – not that she needed it as she was beautiful. However, she always advised me to keep my skin clean and keep it moisturised as you CANNOT replace your skin. Grateful to my darling mom Annie, now long departed, for that sound advice.

Mom also loved wildlife, in fact, all animals. She would have been ecstatic watching our birdlife in the Yarra Valley.

Above, juvenile crimson rosellas feasting on grass seeds in our wild back garden.

Speaking of gratitude, I truly try to remember to be grateful every day for so many things I take for granted. For example, the women in my country of origin are standing up and protesting against the murder and abuse of their sisters. This is of grave concern to me and I am grateful to have survived a brutal attack in broad daylight so many years ago, after which I underwent four operations to get my cheekbone and nose fixed after a street vendor from Zimbabwe decided to change my profile. Why? I stood up to him when he was trying to con me. Long story short, he got six months suspended sentence in the court case and had to pay a R2,000 fine to the state for their valuable time. He was the only breadwinner in his family, three children at school and a wife who could not work as she had to tend to their kids in Johannesburg.

Yes, I was bitter and angry for about two weeks and got over it. I had NO time to feel sorry for myself. I was alone and had to keep my new business afloat. Luckily, I worked from home, therefore, bandaged and splinted around the facial bones, I diligently took the painkillers prescribed when necessary and got on with business. I also improved security around my home and my car. Just in case.

I also had the support of the most amazing friends, who generated business my way to pay for the medical bills, whilst strangers tracked me down after the article in the Sunday Times appeared, offering me emotional support. Some wanted me to point the perpetrator out to them to ensure justice was done the vigilante way but I could not agree to that. I believe in karma and I know, that wheel turns.

I am grateful, as I am a survivor, not a victim.

From my career in journalism to my job as a publicist, I was always focused on creating a platform for the clients, with me always in the backaground. I still do. However, this new hobby of fashion Instagramming has resulted in my being the client too. Believe it or not, at times I do feel a bit bashful but then I get over it and just have fun. The support of women following me on the Sixty_is_the_the_40 platform is so encouraging and today, two of them agreed I was their spirit animal! This makes me mighty proud as I admire them immensely too! Grateful for these amazing Insta sistas. I don’t see myself as an influencer, more like an inspirer – as I’m older with more life experience.

I’m also grateful for having the opportunity to live in this amazing country. Nothing is perfect but when we start noticing the small things, the bigger blessings appear like magic. For example, yesterday I was carpooling with a fellow South African lass to join our South African girl-clan for lunch in Point Cook on the western shores of Melbourne.

The gorgeous Janine and I swopped stories about arriving here and finding our feet, at times stumbling over some bumps in the winding road, which is common when changing countries. She is now settled and proudly Australian, and I am grateful for feeling more confident about finding my way around this liveable city and its magnificent surrounds. Google maps only gets consulted for exact address locations now. Almost five years ago, I would break out in a cold sweat trying to find my way around the suburbs and Melbourne’s diverse outskirts, spanning from bay to river to mountains and lakes. I finally feel at home and this makes me grateful.

Needless to say, our lunch with the rest of the clan proved another triumph. Those beautiful, warm, friendly faces, the spontaneous laughter and appreciation of good food and other people’s problems are balm for the soul. I might have developed a few more laughter lines and I must try and be grateful for that too, I guess…

I highly recommend The Brook in Point Cook. We were all happy with our menu choices and the service was efficient and friendly. My linguini pescatore with fresh chilli on the side was a delight. The bubbles went down great too, of course, followed by a hot chocolate, which hit the spot on a cold rainy springter day.

Above, pictures featured on Channel Seven Sunrise in their Melbourne Fashion Week slot, which drove new followers to my Instagram pages.

Something else I feel grateful for is getting gorgeous free stuff of my choice to review, style and Instagram on my Sixty_is_the_new_40 page. We all love a bargain but if it’s free and you embrace fashion and beauty products, I have loads to be grateful for. My husband is also grateful as it means I’m not spending my money.

New London Jeans liked my Instagram shots and we ended up collaborating.  I’m mad for their jeans, which will be part of my slow fashion wardrobe staples onwards as these babies are made to last and the fit is sublime.

My fashion Instagram account also got me signed up with a fabulous modelling agency, which I’ve talked about in an earlier blog. When Wink asked me to audition for Melbourne Fashion Week, I questioned it as, a) I am NOT super-model tall, b) I’m 60-plus and c) designers do NOT create catwalk fashion for petite older chooks like me. However, the agency insisted I should go for the audition as diversity was the theme for this year’s fashion extravaganza.

The job went to a stunning woman close to my age who is very tall and athletic with a boyish haircut. The organisers were kind and actually asked me to walk the hall a second time to have another look at me as they liked my walk, I was told. I was interviewed by Sunrise on Channel Seven and photographed by The Herald. This happened while I was trying to keep up with the two six-foot-five chaps I had to walk the walk with.

This all resulted in my being rather wild-eyed and fluttery, I kid you not. When I saw the footage of me on TV a few weeks later, I cringed as I thought I looked positively loopy but I indeed found several things to be grateful for: I made a delightful new friend, a gorgeous young man called Timothy, who chatted to me on the tram on the way to the audition as he happened to be going there too – he now follows me on Instagram and calls me a legend – his parents raised him to be respectful and kind; I got chatting to Vesna, the fabulous model who got the job for the show as the mature (tall) model and  I knew she’d ace it, AND she’d keep up with those tall boys; and, lastly, the Seven TV producers featured some of the best photographs from my fashion Instagram, which drove new followers to my personal Instagram, from where I directed them to my fashion page. They announced my Instagram was ‘exploding,’ which sounds fantastic but in reality I’m gaining about 200 a week and now sitting at nearly 3,500. Grateful.

Life is full of surprises and I’m embracing them with gratitude. Cheers, dahlings, here’s to the good life – we deserve to always be kind to ourselves.

Summertime, and safari living is easy…

By Tilly Smith Dix

The African bush is a riot of wildlife in summer. Game born in spring is now sure-footed and have gained confidence, often peppered with some attitude. Plants that flourish in summer after a dry winter and the spring rains, burst with life, attracting migrating birds that follow summer.

Summer, therefore, is a magical time to visit five-star Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Reserve, where conservation is key.

Ever seen an African wild dog and her young basking in the morning sun, or a lioness and her cubs lazily rolling in the grass, after feasting the previous night?

Fast-forward to lunchtime, when you are dining with a wide-angle view of the large waterhole. In the heat of the day, animals, like humans, have to quench their thirst and all you have to do is dine on delicious food, sip your favourite summer mid-day tipple, and watch the pecking order at the waterhole…

Pictured above, clockwise from top left: The king of the bush contemplates the morning; the dining deck at Tau overlooks the large waterhole; rhino pool party in full view of human diners.

Later, once you have taken a dip in one of the two swimming pools, or had your own siesta, or perhaps observed the waterhole from your own room deck, or had a revitalizing spa treat at the Tau Spa Oasis, a safari drive with your designated game ranger will open up a whole new world in the verdant bush.

This is also a time for game to communicate with each other, sizing each other up, deciding where the hunt should take place, while the hunted become skittish.

Before heading back to the lodge to refresh for dinner, you will stop at a perfect spot for sundowners and refreshments, always under the watchful eye of your ranger.

Dinner is served in a different location every evening, depending on the weather, of course. Be it on the Dining Deck, Restaurant or Boma, you are never far from the waterhole, where the sounds of the night will astound you. Convivial conversations at dinner with your ranger and fellow guests make for an unforgettable experience.

Early morning safaris are spectacular, offering magical light for photography, with a pitstop for Amarula coffee and delicious buttermilk rusks.

Pictured above, clockwise, from left: the lounge offers a birds eye view of the waterhole; a Luxury Room deck overlooks the waterhole; African wild dog flourish here.

Much to the delight of avid followers of the wildlife activity at the iconic Tau waterhole in front of the lodge and all the rooms, a new wildlife web camera will soon be reintroduced, with a dedicated wifi connection to share the prolific wildlife interacting 24/7 via the web.

The lodge is enclosed within the reserve, resulting in the humans being subtly fenced in, while game, including several crocodiles, roam free, including the prolific birdlife.

Chef Cynthia Tait from Australia spent a month training and familiarizing the culinary team with the art of healthy cooking and using more organic seeds, vegetarian dishes and now globally popular Thai flavours earlier this year. For regular guests enjoying the comfort safari food at the lodge, the Tau chefs continue to create deliciously unpretentious cuisine.

The Tau 2019-20 summer rateuntil end-April 2020 starts from R5,850.00 per person sharing per night including:

  • 3 meals, 2 game drives, refreshments on game drives and teas/coffees at meals per day;
  • Excluded from rate are the park entrance fees (currently R180.00 per person per night), tourism levies (currently R10.00 per person per night), Rhino Conservation levy (currently R150.00 per person per night)
  • Book a 3rd night and get the following spa treatment free:

A complimentary Back and Neck OR African Head Massage (30 mins) per adult.

      When booking please quote: Summer2019

The Tau Cubz Club, Tau Spa Oasisand Tau Conference Centremake this an ideal malaria-freedestination for romantic, family, leisure or corporate safaris.

Tau Game Lodge opened its 5-star safari doors in 1995 and offers 30 rooms, from Standard to Luxury to Family Suites.

+27-(0)11-466 8715/17 – taugame@mweb.co.zahttp://www.taugamelodge.co.za


Tales from the valley

by Tilly Smith Dix

Women who lunch

About two years after arriving in Melbourne, I joined a closed Facebook group of South African women living in Australia. This has turned out to be such a sanguine experience for all of us.

Many of us agree, we did not move to another country to form a South African clan as we want to embrace the culture of our new country and become a part of it. That said, one often longs for your own kind as every culture has its own malarkey and being able to chat and giggle with people who understand and share your roots are true blessings.

This interaction also serves to help newcomers to the country to feel welcome, whilst it is also an ideal sounding board for them to seek advice about some pretty daunting aspects of changing countries.

South African women in Melbourne bonding like supportive sisters.

This can also be a very lonely time, when women are far away from their former support system, such as family, and often, valued domestic helpers!

Over the past two months I’ve attended three lunches with members of the group. Sharing advice, kindness, warmth, emotional support and easy camaraderie with these beautiful women is something to behold. It also makes me proud to be a South African. We are adaptable, strong and resilient but only human – an embraceable clan.

We are, of course, also discovering excellent restaurants in the process as most South Africans like to break bread when they bond. Two of my current favourite eateries are The Baker’s Wife in Camberwell and Mr Tulk next to the State Library in the city.

They both serve international cuisine with a small but delightful wine list. Have I mentioned we like wine?

See more about our real-food dining experiences on TripAdvisor @tildix2016…

Connecting with my inner-child 

Twice in a matter of one month was I invited by children to join them on an outing, which is rather flattering. Their reason? They wanted ‘girl time’ with me. Just colour me glad-glam-gran as it is an honour to be asked to join this exclusive ya-ya sisterhood.

Cameron, aged seven, had a Christmas wish for her and me to go to a show in the city. I obliged, bought the tickets for the show of her choice, which was Billionaire Boy by UK actor and writer David Williams, performed at the Art Centre of Melbourne. Cam’s only gripe was that we had to wait until April for the show!

Well, time flies when you’re having fun and the day arrived for us to hop on metro rail and head for the CBD to see the show. Ice-cream was consumed on the way to the theatre, naturally. The theatre was packed and whilst my young relative enjoyed it, I believe the crafting of disgusting menu items after the show proved more fun – the show featured a scene of obscene cuisine.

I thought it most impressive for the Arts Centre to have offered kids the opportunity to indulge their imagination with glue and colourful paper on paper plates to express their creativity. I won’t mention Cam’s menu ideas as I’d hate to spoil your dinner – it did involve braised rotten toenails…

After a pizza at Il Pom Italian Restaurant and some play time at Federation Square’s ACMI – Australian Centre for the Moving Image – it was time to head back home with a little girl who could not wait for the 50-minute train journey to end so she could tell her family about her day.

A few weeks later I was invited by our friends in Emerald’s little five-year old, Frankie, to be her special ‘older relative/friend’ at a school social in the afternoon. I have to mention that this little cutie has indeed informed me she will be asking her mom to arrange a play-date for her and me soon. Too precious. Can’t wait.

The drive to her school is spectacular and the winter colours of the gardens and natural forests of Mount Dandenong, which is the sister mountain range to our Yarra Ranges, are sublime all-year round.

Cameron and shades of winter in the Dandenong Ranges.

On arrival, I was welcomed by Frankie’s older brother, who attends the same school. He escorted me to Frankie’s classroom and introduced me to her teacher, like a true young gentleman. Seeing Frankie’s face light up at the sight of me, carrying my stuffed toy leopard, as a prerequisite to attending this auspicious gathering was to bring a toy from my youth, proved balm for the soul.

After reading her a story of her choice, Dr Seuss’ Horton Hatches the Egg, no less, we lined up the toys of young and old in estimated order of age, and then had to sketch each other’s treasured toys. I was deeply flattered when a little boy declared my drawing of Frankie’s unicorn ‘very beautiful.’ Born to charm, that little man will go far with the ladies as I assure you, this was not my best artistic effort.

Too soon, and after some playground fun for the littlies, it was time for this ‘old friend’ to depart as school was out. The leisurely drive home via Olinda was revitalising and having experienced joy and looked at the world through the eyes of a child again that afternoon, it felt good to be alive.

A city of culture

We booked our seats well in advance for an evening trip into the city to see Branford Marsalis perform with the Australian Chamber Orchestra at Hamer Hall. Having been a Marsalis jazz fan since seeing the entire family perform a Christmas Bump at the Lincoln Centre’s Rose Theatre in New York several years ago, this Melbourne performance was awaited with great anticipation.

Melbourne, a liveable city with plenty culture.

However, this turned out to be a classical music performance, with zero narration or dialogue by the performers, including Mr Marsalis, who only performed twice during the evening. We love classical music but the fact that we were expecting a jazz performance with the usual warm Marsalis interaction with the audience left us a tad disappointed. I must mention the performances by the entire orchestra were superb.

On a happier note, our neighbours invited us to a local church hall, where patriarch Tim was performing in his first concert as a student of the saxophone.

Well, not only were we pleasantly surprised by his performance and the rest of the Croydon Concert Band but also by the jazz standards they presented with enthusiasm and remarkable professionalism. A great Saturday afternoon on our doorstep and an unexpected triumph.

Extra, extra!

In a previous blog I mentioned I was asked to join a model/casting agency. Well, so, far, every time I have been offered a job as an extra in a TV production, I had to decline because of prior commitments. Most of these gigs come at rather short notice, I might add, with not much pay. However, being in a new country, I figure this is a way of meeting interesting people.

So, when they called and I agreed on availability and pay rate, it turned into a day of great fun, showbiz banter and making new friends on set. At this stage, I’m not at liberty to mention the name of the show but suffice to say it stars the gorgeous Australian actress, Lucy Lawless, who was down to earth and easy to chat to. I am now a fan and will be looking out for the series, whilst hoping my two scenes from a full day of filming don’t end up on the cutting floor.

The fact that I got to interact and pretend to be a different character, got my hair done, nails manicured, make-up done and styled with my fellow extras and the stars of the series, not to mention chatting with the fun director, took me back to my brief sojourn in the movie business in my early twenties. Who’d have thought I’d be doing this fun stuff in my ‘silver’ years – and in another country!

My next gig was equally fun and this time it was for a pharmaceutical company, where working with a remarkable photographer and crew again turned into plenty laughs. I had to be a customer in a pharmacy and make up dialogue to feature the pharmacists in the shoot explaining and of course promoting certain products. My fellow models from Wink Models were a delight. The beautiful Natsuko is an opera singer and karate instructor, my ‘grandchild’ is the daughter of one of the featured pharmacists, and my handsome ‘husband’ Rowan has worked as a double for Brian Brown, no less.

For some inexplicable reason, I picked adult diapers for a supposed incontinent husband, followed by Valium for my shattered nerves dealing with the bed-wetter. After much laughter, play-acting and finally wrapping the shoot, it was agreed we were all getting on in years as nobody chose condoms as a product to be featured. Pretending to be another character, meeting interesting folks and getting paid for it, what’s not to enjoy.

This new journey is certainly turning into a fun ride and it seems like it’s going to get even better…I feel it in my champagne.

Nine to five

In the meantime, work as a publicist continues with clients spread around the world, and a few here in our own valley. Writing has always been my first love and I feel privileged to communicate about my favourite things, including art, fashion, travel and conservation.

Then there is the Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram account, with the focus on wearable, timeless fashion, which is taking off with new followers every day. I am blown away by the support and warm communications between mature women around the world on this platform.

Images from Sixty_is_the_new_40 Instagram posts.

The fact that some male followers are either looking for a date or a yummy mummy is neither here nor there. After much contemplation about whom to block and whom to allow as followers, I’ve decided as long as they are respectful and might be of benefit by buying some of the featured brands for their partners, they are permitted to follow. Hubby thinks it’s a hoot, of course.

On the home front

Cathycat is still enjoying every moment in her new country. She no longer hunts, thank goodness, as she’s getting old and her arthritic knee takes strain at times. However, the natural meds prescribed by the caring vet at Coldstream Animal Aid is doing the trick. So much so, she now trots up to the ravens in the garden and has shouting matches with them, which sounds rather rude from where I’m standing.

Not wanting the princess to collapse in a heap from stressing over a cheeky crow, I spotted a beautiful green, red and blue feather dropped by the juvenile crimson rosellas frolicking in the garden during such a tirade. I picked it up, made a fuss of it and of course, nosy Cathy soon forgot about her new enemy in order to investigate what I was focused on. She spent the next few minutes chasing the feather, which somehow got stuck in her whiskers. This annoyed her no end as she has a touch of OCD, involving pristine cleanliness around her face.

             Cathy and a rosella feather, Yarra Valley sunrise, and a juvenile crimson rosella.

After this exhausting time in the garden, she could not be bothered with the king parrots whistling in the tree. It was time to turn in, get fed and be tucked in for the night. The possum that climbs onto the deck and looks at her through the glass door only got a brief grunt before madam became more interested in the warmth of the wood burner, which Andrew had stoked up for the cold night. Not a bad day in paradise for the indulged feline.

Cheers to the good life, let’s be more like Cathy and live our best life every day…