Saturday, November 12, 2011


It was my Nana’s birthday yesterday. She would have been 88. Nana died a year and a half ago and I miss her so much. I can still hear her voice and it’s horrible that I can’t pick up the phone and call her. You just think people will always be around, but they won’t.

Thinking back, there were many ways Nana was a chic mentor to me, although I might not have realised it at the time.

She was a tiny thing, less than five feet tall in her later years. Nana was always a ‘normal’ weight, but in the last 5-10 years she became concerned with her weight and eked her Christmas and birthday chocolates out so she didn’t get fat. 'I’m getting a little pot you know’ she would say to me as she patted her flat stomach.

For breakfast Nana would often have a piece of toast, and a coffee with cream. I remember her lunches would be a slice of ham and some fresh salad vegetables on a small oval plate.

She lived near to town in her tidy and stylish flat, and mostly walked to buy a few groceries or to meet my Mum and Aunty for lunch. She kept her home immaculate and maintained her clutter-free status by asking for ‘consumable’ gifts if we gave her anything. Her home style was very classic and elegant, and I now proudly have her sofas in our living room.

I also have her Belle Fiore dinner-set which she started collecting as a young woman, adding on pieces as the years went by. It wasn’t cheap, and she used to buy it from a beautiful shop in town which was a jeweller but also sold fine china. I have always loved this dinner-set. It is English but looks Italian (hence the name which means ‘beautiful flowers’). She didn’t keep it for best either - it was her only set, so she used it every day.

Even though she was 86 when she died and a great-grandmother, she always seemed youthful. When I was in my late teens or early 20s I remembered buying a pair of shoes and finding out she had the same ones. How often would that happen to a young girl? I probably had mature taste for my age, or maybe we both liked the classics.

I borrowed some of her tops and skirts then too. I remember she would offer for us to have a wear or two of one of her new skirts before I shortened them for her. Since there was over half a foot difference in our height, a nice mid-calf length on her would be knee length on me. This was the late 80s/early 90s when mid-calf was THE length.

The elegant scent that always surrounded Nana my sister christened ‘Eau de Val’. Her home smelt lovely and so did she. She favoured spicy florals, and after she had gone and we were sharing out her tops and scarves, her fragrance lingered.

Nana’s hair was mostly in a silky silver bob which she would comb back and then pat up at the back and towards the crown of her head. If she came somewhere with us she would always dash into her light and airy bedroom to powder her nose and put some lipstick and perfume on. And she would always self-tan her legs in the summer so they would look nice with skirts and cropped pants.

Nana remained youthful I think by not really acknowledging her age. She always dressed appropriately and not too young, but she didn’t really identify with her peers. She just always seemed younger than the other women her age who had their hair set and wore floral frocks with a cardigan and comfortable shoes.

She would often pick up groceries for her elderly neighbours and run errands for them. When the local post office closed down she wasn’t concerned for herself, but said ‘what about the old folk, what will they do?’ We found this so cute that she didn’t think of herself as one of the old folk even though she was well into retirement age.

She was a registered nurse and until she was about 70 worked part-time at a rest home. Because she was often older than the residents, visitors would often confuse her for one of them rather than a staff member.

If you called around to Nana’s after work on a Friday, you were offered a brandy and dry ginger-ale. I could only have the one if I was driving home as she did a good pour. When I was first going out with my beloved, we went to a house party where everyone took what they were drinking. He had some beers in a cooler bag. I felt like a brandy so I took my bottle along, with a bottle of dry ginger-ale. The hostess, quite a hard-case beer-drinking girl herself screeched ‘Brandy! That’s an old lady’s drink!’ To me it was a normal tipple choice.

Nana was just plain good fun. There aren’t many grandmothers you would look forward to going and staying the night with, or call around for an after-work drink as a young adult. One day it was my sister and I and she, with a brandy each flipping through Hello magazines. ‘Bloody Rome!’ she exclaimed, as we pored over beautiful photos of the Italian city.

Happy Birthday dear Nana. We miss you.

PS. I chose this image of a Daphne flower, as Nana would often have a sprig of Daphne in a dainty vase on her dining table in the winter, casting its divine perfume. Now that we have our own house, the first thing I am going to plant is a Daphne bush.


  1. What a lovely post. In my experience, we don't ever stop missing the people we love, we just appreciate them all the more. I knew I'd grown up when I quit rebelling against my parents and started trying to be more like them! I, too, have written posts about my deceased family members and found a lot of comfort in the process. Your Nana sounds like she was a wonderful grandmother to have.

  2. A wonderful post, and how lucky you were to grow up with a grandmother like that!

  3. Beautiful Tribute to your Nana were so blessed by her!! May we all leave such a legacy to our families and be as wonderful as a women as your Nana was ~ Love Heather

  4. Hi Fiona, how incredibly lucky you are to have had such an adorable and inspiring grandmother. Sounds like she was a real little dynamo. I shall raise a glass of brandy & ginger ale to her this evening. x

  5. o my gosh fiona, what a lovely post on nana. i feel like i know her and you now a little better. what a beautiful and stylish woman she was. i see now where your pursuit for chic originated. nana would be proud of you.

  6. Beautiful post, straight from your heart. My grandmother died 27 years ago, and I still miss picking up the phone to call her. I also have her china, which I love. Great tribute to your Nana.

  7. What a loving tribute to your nana. i feel like I know her just by reading this. You were very lucky to have someone like this in your life and I love how you are planting something to remind you of her.

  8. Loved this post...reminds me of my own grandmother, who I adore. She's definitely into the no clutter, quality over quantity, etc. She's so adorable...I remember for Christmas one year, she bought me the cutest outfit, and she told me that she asked the woman in the store what was in style for young girls...haha. And, sometimes, when we're window shopping together, she'll be like...the young ladies wear this...haha.

    I think this is a couple years old, but I ran into it the other day. It's the Miss Cherie Dior's so cute, and they use Briggite Bardot's song. It reminded me of your blog, so I thought I'd share. ;)

  9. Fiona your nana sounds wonderful. You've shared with us the impression of a very fine woman indeed.
    What a lovely and thoughtful tribute.
    An absolutely beautiful post.


  10. What a lovely post! Your nana set such a great example of how to age for you (and for us, now that you've shared). I think it's key for people not to think of their age. I think of myself as something far less than my actual years. So many people begin to limit themselves based on how "old they are". Thank you for telling us about your nana. You reminded me of my lovely Granny who has been gone now for many years but I still miss her.

  11. Oh this was a lovely read, my mum just turned 90 and still goes on about her weight and dieting, I hope to rid myself of that demon and just enjoy eating and life.
    To the wonderful older women who have shared and influenced our lives.

  12. You are so fortunate to have had such a great woman in your life. I mourn for my grandmothers but I never had a close relationship with either--good relationships but not close. My maternal grandmother was still raising her own children when I was born (but I think I inherited my love for vintage and antiques from her) so she wasn't ready to be a grandmother too. My paternal grandmother I knew better but she didn't make getting close easy--I know she loved me but she was very into her health problems (real and imagined)and a bit overly critical of people. My love of Scrabble and reading come from her.

    My BFF/cousin and I have talked about how we both feel we missed out on the true grandma role model in our lives. We see how our moms are with their grandkids and it so different than what we had. What you had is priceless. xxBliss

  13. I'm sure your Nana is somewhere knowing that you've written that lovely post about what a chic lady she was.

  14. Wow! what a lovely tribute to you grandmother. I didn't know either of my grandmothers, so feel a slight pang of jealousy that I never had the opportunity to experience the love and wisdom of a grandmother ;-)

  15. Loved reading this, and it's all true. 'Bloody Rome' indeed, I remember that! She had spunk, that's for sure. Great memories. Thanks for writing xx

  16. She sounds like an amazing lady and you have paid a wonderful tribute to her in this post. Thanks for telling us all about her.

  17. That was a lovely post, Fiona, about an equally lovely lady. I truly enjoyed reading about her. As I approach 60 in 2012, I struggle with what style of clothing to wear. Most seems too young or too old. I hope to find a style that suits me as well as your nana's did her. Thanks for sharing about her. You were blessed.

  18. What a lovely post. Thank you for sharing it.

  19. What a lovely post and what a remarkable Nana! Some of your commitment to live a "chic" life surely comes from her wonderful influence. Thanks for another up-lifting post,

  20. I love reading posts like this. I am beginning to deal with the reality that my grandmama will not be with us forever (she's nearly 85), and it's a hard realization. This was a beautifully written portrait of a woman who clearly has had an influence on your own life.

  21. Hi, I'm a new follower from Colorado. I absolutely love this post. My grandmother was elegant and a role model to me in that way, so this really resonates. It's very beautifully written too. Thanks for sharing!

  22. I had a wonderful Nana too. She taught me how to live. What a wonderful tribute you have written here. I thank you so much!


  23. Fiona, what a lovely tribute to your Nana.

    I didn't have that kind of relationship with my either of my grandmothers. I felt loved by them when I was young, but as I grew up I realized that one was extremely critical and always left me feeling I wasn't good enough, and the other didn't seem particularly happy in her life. Neither were an example or an inspiration for how to live my life.

    You are obviously well aware of how blessed you are to have had such a Nana. Thanks for sharing your memories with us.

  24. What a wonderful example for all of us. If everyone were like her it would be a truly good world.

    I am still enjoying the photo from "Living a Small Life."

    A bientot,

  25. This post is amazing, and she sounds like an amazing woman too. Really enjoyed reading this!

  26. Your nana sounds so much like mine! I am in NZ too and her elegance has inspired me and she always had a daphne bush and a little sprig on the table. I have tried a couple of times to grow it (here and in England) and I have found it quite hard to grow - but you have inspired me to try again!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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