Sleeping with the enemy – Tilly the Good Life

Sleeping with the enemy – Tilly the Good Life

By Tilly Smith Dix

To most of us, buying a home is our biggest investment, not only to make a healthy profit when the time comes for us to sell and move on, but also because it is our safe place, our sanctuary, the place where we wish to live in harmony. A place where we can create a lifestyle that becomes an escape from all the craziness of the world. A comfortable cocoon.

When our homely haven becomes a battlefield, it is up to us to identify the cause of such discontent and fix it. If the cause of that dark cloud over our home happens to be a bad relationship that cannot be salvaged, we part company and create a new happy place.

However, if the cause of our ongoing discontent in our home environment is a bad neighbour, we address the issue with intelligence and grace. When our valiant efforts are constantly thwarted, and our home no longer feels like a haven because of others’ disrespect for our property, or our person, we address the problem through the right channels.

If you live in a block of units, as I do, you address such  problems with the owners corporation management company, who would then liaise with the owners corporation committee.

Sadly, as many of us have experienced dealings with such committees and chairpersons, too many residential estates are badly managed, and mostly by some chairperson on a power trip, believing, if they’ve lived in a block for many years, they own the block.

This is where consumer councils play a major part as they also have a division that tends to owners corporation rules and should their advice fall on deaf ears when it comes to the management of such establishments, that council will refer the matter to VCAT (Victoria Civil Administrative Tribunal), the governing body for residential and corporate property disputes.

It was recently brought to my notice through the Consumer Council of Victoria that a committee of only two members, which includes the chairman, is not recognised, especially in a block of 14 units, comprising ten owners.

Yet, in this specific case, the chairman continues to have the final say in any matters brought to his notice by the management company for the estate! If such a chairman has been known to have had heated arguments with several residents through the years, with some disputes ending in physical punch-ups, surely, such a person should not be in control of a residential community!

Should the self-serving chairman have bullied people into doing things his way, yet he continues to break the rules of the block himself, he should surely be relieved of his position by the owners corporation.

A neighbour recently moved after renting her unit for some 12 years, of which the last seven years have proved hell for her and her young son. She lived in fear and stopped complaining about the criminal behaviour of a family that moved in across the road from her after they started harassing her, throwing dog faeces at her house, banging at her door, and calling her names.

Their reason? She complained about their noise, constant water flow down the common driveway towards her property from their non-stop car washing and seemingly mechanical workshop run from their garage. She also objected to their dog using her property as a toilet as the stench on her porch was appalling.

When she complained to her rental agency, they obviously communicated with the management company of the block. This resulted in her car number plates being stolen and her tyres slashed outside her garage!

When she advised her neighbour, the chairman of the owners committee, of this frightening behaviour, his response was to not complain or call the police as the bad behaviour of the offending family will escalate. Of course, this chairman also told other residents he did not address the offenders’ unacceptable behaviour as per the owners corporation rules as he did not wish his family to be targeted by them.

Since moving away for her and her son’s safety, this former resident now calls me regularly as she was aware of my ongoing problems with the family in question, who’d caused damage to my property and their dog, which is not registered with the local council, was using my property as a toilet, as it had done to hers.

The smell of urine and dog poop on my porch was disgusting and my security cameras picked up on their always off-leash Pitbull being the culprit. A friend once sent me flowers, which were trashed by the dog when left on my doorstep as I was in the shower at the time and unable to open the door to the delivery person!

When I asked these people to respect my property, things got worse and indeed escalated. They were throwing eggs and human faeces at my home! This resulted in an intervention order issued by the local court against the member of the family who caused earlier damage to my wall and nature strip.

My questions are: how could an owner be allowed to continue renting his property to such tenants when they are constantly in violation of the residential estate rules; how does a chairman and a home owners committee allow such behaviour to continue, turning a blind eye for many years as they do not wish to be involved; and how does an owners committee management company continue to take leadership from a committee of only two?

What do the police say? Move, as until we have proof of these known offenders doing the damage, we cannot do anything to assist! The police have had many conversations with these people, after which they do curb their destructive enthusiasm somewhat, but not for long. However, after some recent events, where vehicles with false registration numbers started causing deliberate damage to my pebbled nature strip, targeting my unit alone after a member of the lawless family took photographs of my nature strip’s position on the residential property, the police are now investigating. This could take time but surely, at some point, such people should be brought to book as they create an unsafe environment for everyone else on the block, many of them with young children.

As we say in my land of origin, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It will take time addressing these issues through the correct channels but this owner is not selling in the current dipped market! I’d have to sell for less than I purchased my home just over two years ago and moving to another neighbourhood would certainly require more capital, which I don’t have unless I sell for a realistic price.

Realtors I trust and have dealt with for some years advise me my property looks better than any of the other units in my block but unless the other home facades are presented as well as mine, the value of my home will remain lower! As an owner paying a levy, which has now almost doubled since acquiring the property just over two years ago, I have every right to seek professional action.

As for sleeping with the enemy, I wake up to birdsong in my bijou garden in my ongoing quest to have a happy haven, instead of constantly being reminded of these disrespectful people living only metres from my front door.

I have landscaped the front garden of my property, which is essentially owners corporate common property, at my own cost and approved by the then bigger committee as I was told by the esteemed chairman the owners corporation did not promise to maintain this common property area! Yet, it is stipulated in the rules and maintenance therefor is included in the quarterly levy!

The offensive neighbours continue to throw items at my roof, such as old dog toys, running shoes, and other objects, so, I don’t even bother to get up when I hear bump in the night anymore! I’d like to add I do not interact with them at all!

I endeavour to deal with these obstacles in a mostly sanguine manner, by focusing on my lovely friends, writing jobs, my family, living life, and the charming private garden I’ve created, where a thrush couple is nesting in one of my hanging pot plants! These birds are so trusting, I’m allowed to water the plant carefully as I don’t wish to wet them or their remaining nestling!

I’m keeping an eye on the ravens and typical (Indian) mynas trying to interfere with the nest as I suspect two chicks were taken by a marauding raven as I heard a commotion whilst the ravens seemingly had the upper hand when Mr and Mrs Thrush were so bravely defending their home. I know how they feel!

Observing the dedication of the male thrush in delivering food to his nestling and relieving Mrs Thrush of her nest duty so she could forage for food and bath in the birdbath, is commendable. I know of some humans who could take lessons from Mr Thrush. He is a true gentleman.

He valiantly chases off the enemy and I feel privileged to have gained the trust of these sweet songbirds. They know I won’t harm them as when I chase the scavenger birds, they seem to know I’m not chasing them as they stay put on my veranda. Smart little birds.

This seems like dejavu as years ago, I had a similar couple of thrushes nesting on my patio in Sandton, South Africa! So, there is much pleasure to treasure in nature when humans show their dark side…

Pictured above: The thrush family, my roses, and Kiki takes time to smell the roses.

I hear Joan of Arc calling but I’m damned if I’ll be burned at the stake. This is 2023, not 1431, and I’m trying to keep my faith in the Universe, the law, the system, and karma!

Speaking of Mr Thrush, it is heartening to see men who respect women and believe in doing the right thing. I recently watched Hugh Grant being interviewed, and he stood up for Prince Harry leaving the UK. He recalled how Harry as a young boy saw the British tabloid media try to destroy his mother and the vile paparazzi playing their part in her death. “As a man, a husband, and a father, it is Harry’s job to protect his family, so he did the right thing moving to the US,” he said.

I’ve always liked Hugh. Okay, there was that dreadful night in LA with a stranger who was not so divine, but he was so much younger then, and has obviously grown plenty over the years, now a father and husband. I like his forthrightness and he might be socially awkward at awards events as he does not care a hoot about ‘whom’ he is wearing – it’s a suit and he bought it! Go, Hugh!

I think I’m going to ask him to come sort out my residential problems… he might know people! Calling Mickey Blue Eyes… or how about Denzel Washington as The Equalizer?


Moulin Rouge at the Regent Theatre in Collins Street, Melbourne, proved a triumph in every theatrical and musical sense. I was a tad concerned it might not live up to the superb film of 22 years ago, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, not to mention Richard Roxburgh and Jim Broadbent, but it ticked all the boxes and I bet Baz Luhrmann approved.

The song choices were sensational, featuring Rolling in the Dark by Adele, Heroes by David Bowie, Bad Romance by Lady Gaga, and of course, the always titillating Lady Marmalade by Labelle and much more. I thought Des Flanagan was completely believable as I watched his character of Christian changing from an innocent new bohemian dreamer in Montmartre, to a more self-assured young man in love. Alinta Chidzey was a coquettish Satine but I have to be honest, the character lacked the vulnerability reflected in the movie role, so beautifully portrayed by the then ethereal Nicole Kidman.

Pictured above: Melbourne, a green city of culture, style, and great theatre.

Pot-Pourri at my nearby Frankston Arts Centre proved a most delightful way of spending a Friday lunchtime. Extracts from Westside Story, Man of La Mancha, Carmen, Cats, Chicago, Turandot, Cabaret, la Traviata, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and songs by Leonard Cohen, Andrea Bocelli, and Josh Groban were superbly performed by a stellar ensemble.

The professional group comprises: soprano Tania de Jong, who is also a global speaker and social entrepreneur, having performed in some 40 countries; soprano Rebecca Bode, who was a full-time soloist with the Victorian State Opera and later with Opera Australia, having performed worldwide – she is also the MD of MTA Entertainment and Events; tenor Jonathan Bode, who is an allrounder of international acclaim in theatre, musicals and opera; baritone Jonathan Morton also has a BSc in chemistry, whilst being an IT whiz and plays the didgeridoo. He has performed with the Victoria State Opera and in major musicals, and he is a director of MTA Entertainment and Events, as well as Pot-Pourri; pianist Joyce was the perfect accompanist as she did not try to outplay the vocalists, the sign of a true professional.

A Christmas Carol at the Comedy Theatre on Exhibition Street in the city was sensational. A powerful reminder of how ghosts persuaded Scrooge to change his miserly, miserable ways! (I’d like to get in touch with those spirits, perhaps this is my grownup Christmas wish, to make the bad neighbours turn into nice people, ha!)

The smash-hit production of Charles Dickens’ classic was adapted for the stage by Jack Thorne. Owen Teale as Scrooge was dramatic, powerful, and riveting. Superbly supported by a magnificent cast, I’d like to mention the adorable little Mira Feldman as Tiny Tim. The musicians and orchestration simply blew my mind too.

The Archibald Prize 2023 touring exhibition at the Mornington Civic Reserve was captivating. The exhibition captures the public imagination like no other, and I liked how it showcased Young Archie in the foyer gallery, celebrating the art of local students. The exhibition features public figures and cultural identities from all walks of life, reflecting stories of our times.

A delightful Sunday spent with my lovely relative Helen, wife of my cousin Jason, and mom of my beloved pixies. She has a degree in art and to teach in Australia, she had to obtain her Masters, which she has now done! No mean feat with a husband in corporate and three kids at school. This exhibition proved a marvellous eye-opener into the art world of our new country.

Pictured above: Head in the sky, feet on the ground by Julia Gutman, the Archibald Prize 2023 winner; geese near the lake at the Mornington Civic Reserve.

Fabulous food

Recent visits to the city affirmed that Melbourne is a dining mecca. My choice of coq au vin (blanc) of course is a French classic and I broke my rule of never eating chicken when dining out and I’m thrilled I ordered the braised free-range chicken, button mushrooms lardons, with baby potatoes in a rich wine reduction as it was sublime! When in Paris… okay, this is Melbourne, but Bistrot d’Orsay is situated in the chic quarter of Collins Street, where any fashion-loving Francophile could have their pick of exquisite eateries.

My friends agreed, the dish was as good as any one of us ever tasted in France, and I was told the risotto comprising a wild mushroom ragout, parmesan, and truffle oil, was scrumptious too. On a second occasion I opted for the steak frites, which was tasty, complete with café de Paris butter, but it was more of a minute steak, rather thin.

Two delightfully convivial occasions were savoured, once with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Brut, and during the second lunch a week later, we sampled the Howard Park Petit Jete bubbles from WA. It was so poignantly reminiscent of long-ago trips to France, I almost started humming The Marseillaise…

Situated across the road from the Regent Theatre, this bistrot could become a habit. Santé!

Pictured above: Bistrot d’Orsay, coq au vin, and Betty’s Burgers.

Betty’s Burgers is easy for fast dining with a modern take on the American diner-style eateries so typical of yesteryear. The brioche rolls are fresh and feather light. The lobster roll with a side of fries proved an ideal light meal, accompanied by a glass of prosecco before the evening performance of A Christmas Carol at the Comedy Theatre next door!

Sofa spud

Moving On, on Binge, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, Malcolm McDowell and Richard Roundtree is easy to watch and I of course loved Jane Fonda’s wardrobe. A mature lesson in karma. I loved this movie released in 2022.

Still on Binge, I watched an old Jane Fonda movie, starring a young Robert Redford, and Willie Nelson, The Electric Horseman. They don’t make them like this anymore, a 1979 gem. I recently watched Jane and Robert in a movie about romance for seniors, Our Souls at Night but to be honest, I preferred their 1979 film as I was disappointed in the recent storyline, which did not blow my skirt up, wink-wink…

Franco Zeffirelli was legendary, and I was too young to see The Taming of the Shrew when it was released in 1967, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Wow, those two had chemistry! Check it out on SBS On Demand.

The Wolf of Wallstreet released ten years ago, is still an incredible story of our times and brilliantly produced by Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. Based on the book by Jordan Belfour and starring Rob Reiner, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, and Leonardo DiCaprio, I was hooked. I knew of people like that during my time in financial markets years ago!

Documentaries I’ve enjoyed on Binge include: Untouchable, the life of Harvey Weinstein; Natalie Wood – What Remains Behind, sensitively produced by her daughter Natasha – a Hollywood tragedy and mystery, gone too soon; Europe’s Waterways is a 5-part series and it goes beyond just the glamour and fun of travel. It covers biodiversity, good souls taking care of nature, white wild horses, black cattle, birdlife, and the heartfelt conservation of fish. Starting in the Camargue, up the Rhone River, past Arles, and ending in Poland, this was pure armchair therapy of places I’ve loved to visit in the past and a pleasant education on destinations I was not familiar with.

Summer safari

When summer unfolds its glorious sunshine, game born in spring is already sure-footed and confident, often peppered with some new-found attitude. Wild plants that flourish in summer, now attract migrating birds that follow the sun.

The African bush is bursting with wildlife, which is a magical time to visit five-star Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve, where conservation is key.

Sustainable, eco-friendly, prolific wildlife, malaria-free, the Big Five and all the smaller game in-between, with some 27 major species roaming free in this natural habitat safeguarding nature for future generations, contribute to making Tau a bucket-list safari destination.

Pictured above: a Standard Chalet overlooking the waterhole at Tau Game Lodge.

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

Tau is pure, understated 5-star luxury and family-friendly, offering a Cubz Club for children, baby-sitting services, and special safaris and education for youngsters, affording the adults some quality safari, leisure, and Tau Spa Oasis time, and a Conference & Events Centre.

The Tau Summer 2023/4 packages start from R34,265 per couple for two nights.

Be mesmerized on:

Just over an easy four-hour drive from Pretoria and Johannesburg –

Style for the holidays

It’s that time of year and a great time to do an annual spring clean. I’ve done half of it, taking items in good nick to the opshop (charity/opportunity shop). I’m meticulous about what I get rid of as I mostly acquire items that don’t date fast. Quality lasts and I tell myself I’m being kind to the environment by looking after clothes and accessories, buying only if it will complement at least three items in my existing wardrobe.

I’m about to pack the heavy winter clothes away and place little sachets of cloves and salt in tissue paper to keep garments from getting damp in the big suitcase used for such seasonal rotations. The cloves keep bugs away and smell so much better than mothballs! Remember grandma’s old cupboard laden with mothballs? Eek!

So, before I dash off to find suitable outfits for the Holidays, leisurewear, and glam shiny items to celebrate in, I look at what is already in the wardrobe. I also rediscover items I’d retired temporarily – it’s like acquiring something new but you know what to do with it the second, or third, time around!

When I unpack such items, I immediately know if it’s going to make a statement and put me in a festive mood, or, if it has finally reached its sell-by date. In other words, I will never wear it again for several reasons, often, simply because it no longer suits my style, or, it really is never going to make a style comeback, or it is not as flattering as I remembered it!

Toss it in the bag and know it will make someone else happy to acquire the previously loved pieces, plus, proceeds of the sale at the opshop will go to a charitable cause. This is the time to be mindful of those less fortunate than us.

Still wearing old leather pants? The cut has improved over the years and if we don’t have the budget to acquire new leather items, the coated denim that has blithely snuck into the fashion world over the past few years easily passes for real leather, and it is so much more affordable. I love the comfortable fit and decided the leather and thick suede pants I’ve treasured for some 20 years are just not comfortable! When I dropped these off at Vinnies, I knew someone else would be happy to wear these quality garments.

Of course, this created some space in the closet, which resulted in my happily accepting gorgeous new items of my choice from some of the incredible Australian brands that provide me with their fashion to promote on Instagram.

I do declare, I am a sucker for cotton, linen, and silk shirts, as they are so versatile for styling for most occasions. I’ve banged on about big shirts for some time and recently wrote about it in my monthly style article for @Startsat60 online magazine as big shirts are fabulous to style with, plus, they are so forgiving if we gain a little holiday curve here and there…

Ah, and this being The Season, there is always the shimmer and bling. Whilst I’ve never gone a bundle on too many scintillating garments, I stick to one item as the focus piece to complete a party look, building the outfit around it. Perhaps a top, pants, skirt, jacket, or shoes.

Pictured above: Holiday dressing made easy. Basic items to build a look from day, to evening, to festive cheer. Big shirts are easy, shimmer is fab in moderation, and denim, silk, and linen are always reliable pieces to mix and match. I’m loving the hues of blue, pink, and green. The joyfulness of the Fella Hamilton Sandy Stretch pull on jeans and Collared Suzy Stretch denim jacket in mint gets my vote for versatile holiday style.

Happy Holidays, and cheers to the goodlife, wishing you and yours all you need. We all need a little more kindness by year-end, so, I’m starting the season by being kinder to myself too.

I hear someone whispering, “so difficult to be kind to some of the thorny relatives we have to see this time of year,” and here’s hoping my technique of dealing with those difficult people we simply cannot bring ourselves to adore, will help you too. I greet them and smile, hug, wish them well, but I always have my eye on someone I enjoy chatting to as the escape plan, waving at them overtly, excusing myself from the grumpy one, and then happily settling into having fun with the kinder people.

I do this on arrival so the dutiful job is done and dusted as the day or evening progresses – I might lose my pose later when the bubbles start playing tricks with my graciousness, hie!  May the fat man in the red suit be a sweetheart… Cheers!

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