Thursday, 2 October 2014

We Are Family - In Memory of Grandma


Spot the difference! Standing in same doorway whilst displaying a love for cats, chunky bangles and wild prints.


Meet Joan, my grandma, born on this day one hundred years ago.


The youngest of three daughters, born in the city of Chester to a railway worker, Joan was a bright child with a talent for acting. Her father was a bully and a notorious womaniser and, despite being close to her sisters and to her mother, she left home as soon as she could, training as a librarian and becoming a travelling library manager for Boots the Chemist, who, until 1966, ran a network of lending libraries throughout the UK.

Joan (as Robin Hood) 1924
Joan, 1936
Joan at the gate of the family home at Moss Bank, Chester in 1920
Joan's mother and father

Independent, working women weren't the norm back in the 1930s and her good looks won Joan many admirers, she had several romances including an affair with a notorious high profile politician. In 1939, whilst working in an affluent town in North Staffordshire, she met my Grandpa, Reg, a newly qualified chartered accountant and married him a year later.

Joan, 1939


Joan and Reg's wedding day, September 7th, 1940
Honeymoon

Upon their marriage Reg was offered a partnership in a large firm of accountants in West Bromwich and the couple moved to Birmingham. The war years weren't easy. Birmingham, being an industrial city, was a target for sustained air attacks by the enemy. In 1942, heavily pregnant with my Mum, she was caught up in a bombing raid in the city centre. After a traumatic birth she was forced to have a hysterectomy. The subsequent death of both her mother and of her older sister, Flo, hit her hard. Joan developed agoraphobia, unable to leave the house un-chaperoned for years.

Joan & Jenni , Birmingham 1945
The three sisters, Flo, Maud & Joan, Easter 1943

In 1952 Reg, a keen amateur cricketer and part-time talent scout for Warwickshire, decided the family should move to Walsall, home to his team who played at Gorway Cricket Club and they set about house-hunting. As soon as Joan set eyes on Stonecroft she fell in love and that was that. She joined several women's groups and became a regular member of St Matthew's Church. Always creative, she enrolled in art school, leather working classes and ran a ladies' sewing circle.

Joan in 1938

Elegant and ladylike, Joan never owned a pair of trousers and always wore stockings, high heels and gloves when she went out. Her pure white hair was styled & set by a mobile hairdresser once a week and her nails were always painted. She was fascinated with people and would often take herself off to the Asian area of town, Caldmore, where she'd sit behind the counter in the sari shops drinking chai, gossiping and giggling with the Punjabi ladies who worked there. When Reg developed complications from diabetes, losing both his legs and his sight, it never phased her, she'd push him down at the cricket club in his wheelchair and collect him later. After he died in 1985 she volunteered in a town centre charity shop where she became a valued member of the team.

On Sidmouth beach, 1948

She loved second-hand shopping and bargain hunting and had an eye for antiques years before they become trendy. Even after I'd left home she'd meet me on a Friday and we'd go to jumble sales, where she'd pick up Victorian mourning jewellery and Georgian ceramics for pennies. I'd often return to the shared house I lived in as a student to find her at the kitchen table chatting away to the crazy characters I shared with, the African tribal princess, the dread-locked crusty, the cross-dresser and the flamboyant gay Austrian school teacher, an elegant vision in her tie neck blouse and camel coloured skirt.

With three-legged cat, Ginger in 1999

She died peacefully in 2008, although as a victim of Alzheimer's, in reality we'd lost her years earlier.

Wearing: Capriccio by Roter of London cat printed cat suit (From eBay, off the original owner who purchased it in 1970)

Living in her beloved Stonecroft, I'm reminded of what a fabulous woman she was every day.

Happy 100th, Joan!

93 comments:

  1. What a fabulous post Vix, I do love a bit of family history and yours is always interesting. You share a good story and fabulous old photos. Happy birthday Joan.

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  2. PS: OMG I don't believe I was FIRST!

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  3. Love to hear about your family history, you seem to have a lot in common with Joan!
    What a fab catsuit, I'm sure Joan would have loved it!

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  4. Your grandma was a wonderful and amazing woman - and quite a beauty! You must get your outgoing personality from her!

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  5. LOVE!!!!!
    your granny was such a wonderful woman!
    (i´m a bit puzzled because i wrote a sad post about my own granny two days before, not sure if i should post it.....)
    you have her smile!
    xxxxxx

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  6. Oh Joan sounds marvellous! I think she would have fitted in with our blogger meet-ups, don't you?
    I love the extensive knowledge and photos you have of your family history, and the fact you live in Joan and Reg's house is wonderful. Such gorgeous pics of little Joan (Robin Hood!) and her glamorous older self; the photo of her looking terribly chic while apparently standing in a field is fabulous (and you look just like her, though you would baulk at the fur stole!)
    People had hard lives though, the losses and trauma of war, illness, difficult living conditions, it's good to avoid a rose-tinted view of the past.
    Look at your little mum! Is that her in the pointy bonnet on the posh pram? I love all the hats, women made such an effort then.
    You've certainly inherited Joan's smile, her way with people, her openess, and her love of style. Your cat suit is fantastic, as is this post - love it, love you! xxxx

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  7. You are wise to have gathered so much information about your grandmother Joan in addition to having known her - and now to live in Stonecroft....oh, the bliss.

    No doubt you are well aware of parts of her that continue on in you. And no doubt there are "parts" still to be discovered.

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  8. Oh I love these posts about your house and family. And I can really see the resemblence you share to Joan and Reg, especially in that honeymoon pic. That's a fab print on your catsuit, too.

    (ps. I replied to the comment you left over on my blog :) )

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  9. Happy 100th to an inspiring woman. And she does sound a lot like you.

    I love the fact you have so much knowledge about you families past, loved the photos too. The one with your nan and your mum what looks to be a day out in town I found interesting. How it seemed that folk having a picture taken was a unusual thing. Now a day's it's just an every day thing.

    Another interesting post.


    P x

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  10. If ever a woman carried blessings from an ancestress...! Joan has bestowed upon you her smile, her beauty, her style, and her fortitude. And most fortunately for your blogging community, she has also imparted to you a taste for eccentrics!

    Thank you, Vix, for sharing with us this celebration of your grandmother's life. Perhaps tonight you could spread a special buffet for the cats while you and Jon raise a glass in her honor? It's said that cats do dance with happy spirits!

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  11. Such a lovely story , she seemed a lovely lady I have really fond memories of my nan too , I remember going up the town (wednesbury) to the market place that was around the clock every friday or saturday , then we went to liptons where my aunt freda worked to get grandad his blue cheese , we never carried heavy shopping as she had this delivered from the co op, We went to roberts chemist to get camphorated oil and eucalyptus when we had a cold to rub on our chests , ohh i could go on , my aunt freda is still with us though she is 84 , just took her an apple pie for her birthday xxx

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  12. You are very alike, lovely pictures.

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  13. Wonderful post and pictures, Vix. Joan lives on in you, in so many ways. And what a challenging, full, historic life she had. xox

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  14. How wonderful that you know your family history so well. That house must carry so many memories in its walls.

    Seems that fashion and vintage has long been a part of your family heritage.

    Fantastic also that you have so many great photos.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  15. What a great family story!
    You look a lot like her, you have the same smile- o

    Arianex

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  16. This is such a sweet post. I can see some of your smile in hers.
    It must feel great living within the same walls she did.

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  17. What a truly precious tribute. She sounds like a force of nature. So beautiful and glamorous.

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  18. Oh Vix, what a lovely tribute to your Grandma! She was very beautiful and stylish. You definitely carry her looks and character. xx

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  19. She sounds like a very special woman. Thanks so much for sharing her with us. You have her smile.

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  20. She sounds like a very special woman. Thanks so much for sharing her with us. You have her smile.

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  21. She sounds like you! How wonderful to have an amazing Grandmother. It annoys me when young people( and society) ignore the older people in the world. Living history people, they lived a life totally different from 2014. The Doctor's Gran lived to 106, she was born in 1894! And almost made it to 2000! The changes she saw. Wow.

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  22. Lovely post for a lovely lady Vix x

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  23. Lovely post for a lovely lady Vix x

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  24. This has just brought a literal tear to my eye. What an amazing piece about a fabulous Grandma.

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  25. I love this post! it's so delightful to learn about this lovely lady. Betty

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  26. What a wonderful post Vix, and what a wonderful lady she was.
    Great read. xx

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  27. What a beautiful post, Vix! You look stunning as always and I love those colours on you, not to mention a jumpsuit covered in felines!! Your gran sounds like a wonderful woman and her influence on you is profound. I had such a grandmother too and feel very blessed. Thank you for sharing Joan with us and letting us meet yet another wonderful woman through blogging. What I like best about Joan is how she obviously liked people and accepted them in all their variety. Her kindness shows in her face. I'm glad she eventually overcame the agoraphobia because she obviously had much to give.
    xoxo

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  28. What a wonderful lady. Thank you for sharing this with us Vix x

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  29. Happy birthday, Joan!
    What a wonderful post!
    It's been really nice to go through the pictures and imagine what it was like to be around her.
    p.s. the first picture made me smile!!!

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  30. Wow, I love your blog and I love your family history stories Vix!
    You definitely have your grandmum's smile. :)
    Happy birthday Joan!

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  31. Aw, Happy 100th Grandma Joan! Chazzing, cats and style are deep in your bones. She sounds like a lovely lady.
    I never knew about Boots libraries! You really look like Joans middle sister! There's such a strong resemblance in the pic where they're kids.
    I'm sure Grandma Joan is looking down at you with great pride. xxx

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  32. Thanks for sharing the story of this beatiful woman, guessing she's proud of you ...
    hugs !

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  33. This post really brings home the value of blogging. A way to preserve and share our history in a sensitive manner. Your story, the photos, all bring your grandma to life for me. She was a remarkable woman to put it mildly. It can't have been easy a lot of the time...I can totally imagine the circumstances of giving birth during a raid precipitating agoraphobia. My Mom is in the process of moving, and we have gone through some things that have been passed down to her. I haven't had any desire to keep the photo books myself, thinking they should go to one of my nieces; but now I am reconsidering if perhaps I would feel a greater sense of connection if I were to know the people in those faded photographs. Thanks for sharing Vix. You are stunning in that cat printed jumpsuit!

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  34. You can see the resemblance I think on the Sidmouth photo.

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  35. What a beautiful woman with a fascinating life story! You do seem to take after her :)
    ps that catsuit is the best ever!!

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  36. Happy Birthday Joan indeed! I'm so happy you shared her story with us. She was a beautiful woman and I think you two have a lot in common. The picture of you both in the entryway to the house gave me goosebumps. I think Joan would have also thought this jumper, although not a skirt was pretty dam fabulous! I love that she hung with the characters and loved people watching and had fun getting chased my men.
    Its funny just yesterday I found my Granny's prayer book from 1920. In it she tucked a few pictures, a quilt she made, her hubby, and a few travel shots with friends, I took it as a reminder as to what is most important in life. I wish we lived close by Vix something I get so bummer we don't. I really wish I could be at the next blogger meet up this month, I just love you girls.
    MISS YOUandlove you more everyday!
    XXOOOOOOO

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  37. Loved the story about Joan she sounded like fab woman, loved the photos too. I love history. Is it her old house that you live in now then? x

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  38. Such a wonderful tribute to a beautiful woman. Vix, you've clearly inherited your beauty from your granny. I see those lovely cheekbones on both of you. How wonderful that you have these photos and you appreciate them. You are such a gem. Joan would certainly be so proud of you.

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  39. You're grandma sounds like a wonderful and interesting lady, and you definitely have her smile! :)

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  40. What a wonderful post ... such a great tribute to your grandmother, who really sounds like she was a special person. It is so neat that you now live in the home that was once hers.

    And of course, I love the cat dress and the shots of you holding Stephen, or is that Polly? (we don't get to see either of them nearly often enough! =^..^=)

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  41. Happy Birthday to Joan. What a stylish dresser she was. I especially like her shoes in the 1936 photo and the honeymoon one.
    You are so lucky to have all those old photos, not many people had cameras to take family snaps as early as the 1920s. I remember being surprised by the Boots library the first time I saw Brief Encounter.

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  42. Woah what an amazing woman! It was wonderful to read about her and to see all the beautiful pictures. I really love learning about people's family histories and this was a real treat! You are so lucky to know so much about her! I am trying to find out more about my family on my dad's side as I hardly know anything, you have inspired me to search. Happy birthday to your beautiful granny. Xxx

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  43. So much love Vix - thanks so much for sharing xxxx

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  44. Thank you so much, dear Vix for sharing with us the life and wonderful style of Joan. I am sure she will ( would) be honoured and close to you and you magic.
    Much love.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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  45. Thank you so much, dear Vix for sharing with us the life and wonderful style of Joan. I am sure she will ( would) be honoured and close to you and you magic.
    Much love.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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  46. What a wonderful Grandma and such a character too. I loved reading about her chatting away in the sari shops and with your friends. And as for her bargain hunting, I can see that its a family gene! Thanks for sharing this lovely post with us xxx

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  47. What a lovingly written remembrance. You're lucky to know so much about her. I only know snippets about my grandmothers.

    And the catsuit! Seriously?!? A cat suit with cats on it! It couldn't be more perfect!

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  48. What a beautiful tribute to a gorgeous lady, it was very moving. You obviously thought the world of her. Happy 100th birthday, Joan. She sounds like a wonderful person, sitting chatting to all your friends, no matter how unusual they may have appeared. And what a beauty she was! I can see you so much in her, particularly in your smiles. Also, that picture of Joan as Robin Hood really reminds me of that fantastic photo of you in your school uniform with your hair in bunches, two little fun-loving peas in a pod. That catsuit is AMAZING! I miss all the treasures, even the ones I spot I forget to bid on! Oops. Xxxxxxxxx

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  49. This is a wonderful tribute!!! I really enjoyed reading her life's story and oh how sad it had to end with Alzheimers- that disease is just the worse- my paternal Grandmother had it!x

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  50. This post is truly wonderful.

    Your grandma was such a beautiful lady, and so stylish too. I love the Robin Hood photograph.

    Alzheimers is, indeed, an extremely cruel thing. It takes people before their time.

    My heart goes out to you today, as you remember your beloved grandmother, and the day of her birth x

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  51. the story of your grandmum, told so lovingly by you. A grand tribute I would say...

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  52. I loved this post Vix, but then I love all your posts.
    Thank you for sharing your family memories. You have so much knowledge of your family history. Sad to say I do not know so much about mine. I have been wondering all day, why I do not know more, as I spent a lot of time with my grandma. I do think a lot was kept under wraps, for what reason I do not know. That makes me even more curious.
    Love from Pam in TX.

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  53. Such a beautiful post Vix and it made me tear up say the end. What an amazing women, I love picture of here in 1936, so beautiful. I love hearing about your family history, it's so interesting.

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  54. This is such a beautifully written tribute to your grandmother , such a wonderful insight to a life well lived in both good times and bad.She sounds a truly special lady with whom you shared so much.

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  55. Absolutely amazing, it bought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this amazing women with us all. XOXO

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  56. How nice! And I see the resemblance in your pictures.

    Once again, too, I have kitty and jewelry envy!

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  57. She sounds like a great person to be related to - what a lovely pictorial post!

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  58. The ladies always dressed to the nines when leaving their.homes.back them. The hair was in place, gloves.snoes, hats, and purses always matched. Loved looking at pictures of my grandmothers (paternal and maternal).

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  59. Thank you so much for this wonderful, warm, and somehow very reassuring post, Vix! Happy 100th Birthday to Joan, a beautiful, lovely, and very vibrant woman - just like you are, Vix. It's fascinating to see the family resemblance in your faces - the cheeks, the smile. And oh - being your own person runs in the family too! You share a lot with your Grandma... Old photos are so precious - and you have plenty, that's such a treasure. I love that you live in her beloved home, but at the same time you decorate it your own way - I love it that you both are so genuine. And you love cats!! Your jumpsuit is wonderful, totally wild. xxxxxx

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  60. We are all made up of those who went before and it is so interesting to have known some of them and heard their stories. Joan's story is fascinating and to have such lovely photos is a treat. Lucky to have shared her interest in collecting and in people. Nice post.

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  61. Joan sounds like the best grandma a girl could have! Love that you live in her old house and keep her spirit alive x

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  62. What a wonderful post! You have such an interesting family history...you were destined to have an incredible story too. Xx

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  63. What a wonderful post! Isn't it great to have so many old photographs, to be able to see your grandma as a kid and as a young lady. I see that you and she have similar features.
    Love your panther dress!

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  64. Such a strong woman with great independence of mind and spirit.
    Your description of her as someone who always wore stockings and gloves reminds me very much of my late great grandmother (my mum's dad's mother) and her sisters. She died when I was a baby so I only know her and her siblings - my mum's great aunts - through photos: heeled shoes, gloves, hats, handbags and scarves. My vast collection of hats/scarves and gloves came down from them.
    What a beautiful set of memories you have of your grandmother; so special.

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  65. This is such a wonderful tribute to a beautiful, fascinating woman. I agree with Curtise, she would have fit in perfectly at one of your blogger meetups.

    I think it's lovely that you have all these photos and stories about your grandmother, who appears to have lived a rich and engaged life. I don't really know anything about my grandparents lives before they became my grandparents.

    Your cat-print cat suit is the BOMB!

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  66. As my mother would say Joan had gumption. I still read you often, love.

    Your fellow cat lover,

    Sarcastic Bastard

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  67. What an absolutely lovely post, Vix. I am in awe of how many photos you have of your grandmother. How wonderful that you live in her home - the sense of family and that feeling of 'belonging' must be so very strong. xox

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  68. Happy 100th birthday Joan, I thoroughly enjoyed reading all about your Grandmother, she sounded a truly amazing woman and I really love how you know so much about her and have so many beautiful photographs - you are a family of incredible women x x x

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  69. Thank you so much for my lovely bedtime story Vix. Yes, it's 8am here but I'm only just getting to bed. Grandma would have approved I'm sure as she sounds like an incredible woman, hanging out with your flatmates and taking on The Man by relishing her library manager job and later on so many more commitments. How sad that she had to have such a major op after your Mum's birth. I see her cheekbones planted firmly on you ... what beauties, the two of you! Thank you for the cat jumpsuit pics, yes, I'll bet Joan adored you my lovely. oxoxoxoxoxoox

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  70. Wow what an amazing picture of you both in the same doorway and how amazing to know so much about her and have all those photographs ~ nowadays it really is rare for anyone to know their heritage ~Beautiful tribute ~Love Heather

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  71. Vix what a truly wonderful heartfelt tribute to your beautiful grandmother Joan. It was lovely to read about her life and the part she had in making you the wonderful lady you are. Thank you for this amazing post. Sending happiness and love to you. V
    PS The catsuit......catsuit is perfection......

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  72. Wow, you have her smile! you two were two peas in a pod.You have so much in common. She sounds amazing. Thank u for sharing some family history with us.:-)

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  73. Love that post. Would love to do something like that about my granny, but I don't have any pics anymore as they are at my parent's home :( Loved my granny, she was my real mother.

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  74. What a loving tribute to Joan this is, she truly sounds like an incredible and fascinating woman.
    To you she has passed on her sense of style, her interest in people and her smile! It was a delight to read about her and I'm sure she would be thrilled to know she has been 'immortalized' on the interweb.
    So sad that like my grandmother she fell victim to Alzheimers. My nan would have been 100 last year, I never forgot her birthday and never will as it was also the day that mum died.
    Loving that crazy wild catsuit!
    xxx

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  75. Aww, it was a marvelous tribute and wonderful photos of your gram. Like you she was beautiful and fascinating.


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  76. Lovely post, she sounds like an amazing woman. Both my Grandma's are in their 90s and I love hearing about their lives through the decades which were so different to ours now but also can see how there are similarities.

    I love that catsuit such a fab print.

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  77. I read you blog all the time but, don't comment, i just felt the need this time, your grandmother and you are very much alike, it reminded me of my grandmother who I stil miss dearly, a big influence in my life, what a lively lady your grandmother was

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  78. Wow! Brilliant post! In some of he earlier photos you're so like your grandmaother in looks! She sounds like a great lady, I love how you still live in the family home, so much history xx

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  79. What a fine tribute to a lovely lady. Thank you for sharing the story of her rich and fascinating life. Beautiful photos, and it sounds like you had some wonderful years together. It's perfectly clear you belong to your family ... you have your grandmother's personal elegance and creativity, and it looks like you have your grandfather's smile! Handsome on him, gorgeous on you!
    And you're looking lovely as always in your beautiful print. We have a torty kitty as well ... as much as one can actually say they have a cat. They have you, as you know!
    Thank you for this charming post, Vix. A pleasure to read.

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  80. A beautifully put together post, I really enjoyed reading about the lovely Joan and seeing all of those wonderful photographs. What a treat. Happy 100th to her. P x

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  81. That FROCK!!! Divoon!
    Jaysus, I love it when you pull out old family pix and stories. I have none, so I am living vicariously through your long lineage! These are amazing pix. You know SO much about everyone! I just love it, and it makes me yearn to know more-well, something-about my family.
    Love Helga XXX

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  82. What a lovely story. My own grandmother (also a career woman in the 30s) is a real inspiration for my style and my life. I say, honour those who deserve our honour.

    You look a lot like her, by the way.

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  83. aahhh what a beautiful and wonderful tribute to Joan. What an interesting life she lead such a lovely post. Left me with tears in my eyes. You have such a lovely powerful family history connection I love reading these kind of posts. dee xxx

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  84. What a wonderful post and you have so many lovely photos!

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  85. I could write an essay-length comment on all the fabulousness in this post!
    Wonderful family history; written with such love.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Zxx

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  86. lovely post!
    joan really reminds me on my granny. always a lady.
    i swoon over joan's beauty and her wonderful & classy wardrobe. i really see why she had so many admirers. even in her later years she was still dresses beautifully.

    thanks for sharing!



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  87. Marvellous post about your Gran! She seems like such a wonderful and beautiful woman! And I do love her wedding dress or coat is it? With the scalloped edge. And you have so many wonderful photos of her taken from many creative angles. I felt like I was watching an episode of "who do you think you are". Lovely tribute Vix and I can see where you get your smile from!

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  88. touching and fabulous post, love to read it and watch the pics!, love you've shared your grandma's inspiring attitude, I'm sure she was brave and fabulous!
    besos

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  89. SO lovely to hear some of your family history! :)

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  90. I always love hearing about your family history Vix and your grandmothers story is wonderful. She looks like she was a glamorous lady and I love the story of her chatting away to your flatmates! I love your catsuit as well - I think I remember seeing this one on facebook? Its just perfect!

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  91. I'm just catching up on your many, recent superb posts- this one being one of the most fascinating. So wonderful that you know so much about your gran's life.
    You are looking fabulous in that cat suit, as always :-)

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