Gingerly I lift the dress up from the shoulder straps. Not quite free of the suitcase, I lift my arms a little higher and lay it out on the bed.

Smoothing out the fabric with my hands, I think: I might just yet pull this off.

From half way around the world to London and then onto a camping holiday around Europe for nearly five weeks.  And all the while it had remained in my suitcase.  Waiting for this day.  Now free of its constraints, it looks good. Really good.

It had been my sister who had come to my rescue.  Aware of my feelings of ineptitude towards all that girly stuff, she had given me a choice of three evening gowns from her collection of six.

My favourite?  The velvet one.  Full length, backless, and the colour of deep burgundy, my sister said it suited my long neck and short-cropped hair the best.

But I hesitate.  Doubt and thoughts of ‘what if’ cloud my mind.

Flashback to a character of my youth and I begin to chant: ‘I think I can, I think I can…I know I can!’  Without any further ado I slip the dress over my head, the silk lining soft against my skin. Doing up the side zipper, I mutter ‘Thank you “Billy Choo-Choo Train”’.

I look at my wristwatch.

Geez! The mini-bus is about to leave.

Quickly I daub some gel to give the hair shape and definition.

That’s done! Now make-up.

A little dabbing of tinted moisturizer to the face, and like the painter mixing dollops of colour on his palette with his paint brush before applying to the canvas, I use my fingers to mix the colours from my colour wheel before applying to my eyes, cheeks and lips.  I finish with a light brushing of mascara.

Next, the attitude.

Not too much so as to alienate, but not too little either. I needed more than my usual levels of confidence to master this one.  Hmmm…time for liberal lashings of imagination.  In my mind’s eye, I see an image of me being gracious. And of those around me responding in a positive way.

The effect on my posture is immediate. Shoulders back, backbone straight, and head aligned with the rest of the body.  The finishing touch, a smiling countenance.

Now I’m ready!

I grab my evening bag on my way out of the bungalow accommodation.  Another look at my wristwatch and I realise I need to pick up the pace.

Walking as fast as I can in high heels through the grounds of the French holiday park, my periphery senses are aware of children playing.  And of people wearing t-shirts and shorts stopping and staring.

Keep going.  You can do this!

At last, a familiar face.  And spontaneous laughter to his reaction.

‘I would have thought there are better ways to catch flies,’ I say.

And like the giant ocean clam with its open corrugated mouth abruptly clamming up, John just as swiftly closes his.

‘I was just checking to see where you are.’

‘Thanks for that.’

Walking in unison towards the mini-bus, my periphery senses kick-in again.  ‘You’re staring.’

‘I know,’ says John. ‘I can’t help it.’

By the time we board the mini-bus, my senses are functioning in a heightened state.  The guide and driver stare at me before silently exchanging facial expressions of surprise.  I hear one wolf-whistle then another.  And one of my fellow female travellers mutters: ‘But your suitcase, it’s so small!’

All accounted for, the driver makes his way out of the holiday park.  I relax as we travel from Antibes along the Cote d’Azur through Nice and onto the principality of Monaco.

Destination, the casino in Monte Carlo. Our driver turns the mini-bus into the sweeping driveway and stops just short of the casino’s main entrance.  We quickly alight.  While I hear him driving away, my focus is the vista before me.

The main entrance stands tall and majestic.  The Beaux Arts architectural style impressive.  And inspiring.  The Belle Époque building formed the backdrop for Ian Fleming’s novel ‘Casino Royale’. And the James Bond movies ‘GoldenEye’ and ‘Never Say Never Again’ were filmed on location in Monte Carlo.

My hands gather a little of my dress to avoid tripping up the steps. Forewarned, my passport is in my evening bag to prove I am not a citizen of Monaco.  But when I reach the landing, I am not stopped. Instead the doorman, smiling approval, opens the door wide to usher me through.

‘Bonsoir Mademoiselle!’

I nod and smile. ‘Bonsoir.’

Entering the building, I try not to gawk at the interior design of mirrors, crystal chandeliers, gold leaf gilding and reflected light.

And while I wait for my fellow travellers to have their identity documents checked prior to entry to this most glamorous of places, I am so happy I could burst.

I did it! Me, tomboy, successfully conquers the glamour thing.

And so it is with living the vibrant life.

Whether it is having the courage to try a new hair style, choosing a different mode of dress to wear or keeping your cards close to your chest during a tough boardroom negotiation; the challenge is to keep people guessing. And that includes you about yourself.

Periodically stepping out of the comfort zone takes guts. Yes, the heart rate may increase in the short-term, but the elation at conquering the unknown! It is the spring source to feeling vital and alive.

So here is my secret for staying young.  Add a little mystery to a dash of gumption. Mix well for the best result.

Copyright Jo 2013

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