Monday, February 4, 2013

Beryl the Peril

My Nana's name was Beryl.
One of her secret nicknames was Beryl the Peril, which seemed to suit her.
If she'd ever found out, we would have been given a mighty tongue-lashing from that tiny woman who drove her 1960s Mini Cooper, well into her 80s, like an absolute demon.
She died a natural death a few years ago, at almost 100.
I can't say I loved her, but I admired her tenacity and spunk, spending most of her busy days fending off would-be thieves and no-goods apparently dead set on ripping her off.

I've seen a photo of her as a schoolgirl, not long before she married and started a family in Invercargill, New Zealand (knocked-up-at-16-to-devastatingly-handsome-motorcyle-tearaway).
She looked a right "sort" and there's something about these pics of me wearing this original 1920s silk frock that reminds me of her.
Beryl approved of a woman in a modest frock.

I got to know Beryl best during the 1970s and right up until her death in 2006, she was absolutely mad about wearing and surrounding herself with bright colours.
She frequently boasted about her thrifty shopping habits, of buying most of her clothes from op shops, flaunting her fluorescent red and green pairs of crimpolene "slacks" to the world.
She knew she looked fabulous and no-one was going to argue with her.

But I always felt there was something about her that teetered on the edge of maniacal religious sectarianism and pant-less table-top dancing.
In fact I know she would have approved of my frockage and forgiven my saucy glimpse of lacy scanties.

Beryl would never in a million years have approved of a bottle-blond slattern with her roots on display.
But she would have been glad I had a clean hanky and giant clips to "keep your hair off your face".
1920s silk frock - Niddie's Rag & Bone Shop
Johnny Cash earrings - made by Mallory of Create Beautiful Beads
My wedding wrist corsage from October, 2011
Vintage tapestry bag and bangles - thrifted
1940s snakeskin handbag - vintage shop in NZ
Suede shoes - found

Beryl, you were a very strange woman and a scary grandmother, yet a tough and fascinating person.
I don't miss you, but I do think about you this time every year, as you lay in peace beside your own mother.
Desiree xo


  1. my grandma died too this time of the year 9 yrs ago..and yes she could be scary too

  2. I only knew one Grandmother, my Mum's mum, a rebellious beauty who left home as a teenager, had a career and an affair with a very dubious British politician back in the 1930s.
    Beryl sounds marvellous, she would definitely have been proud of you, a fearless and fabulous woman adored the world over! xxxx

  3. My grandmothers are still alive and they have always few lessons to give us even at their age!Style is for sure one of these, I think that at that time everyone was more unique than today, they lived in a era were women should wear hats and gloves on daily basis and sometimes I'd love to dress like them!
    Your outfit is fabulous from ears to toe and the green velvet bow is stunning!
    Love and baci xxxxxx

  4. That dress may be demure, those shoes are NOT!

    I knew both my Grandmothers (and I'm named after my Mom's Mom). My Dad's Mom was scary - I was young when she died but I knew her enough to be intimidated!
    My Mom's Mom lived well into her 90s. She was an ace at Scrabble - she pummeled me every time. She tried her best to tame my fashion wildness, to no avail.

    Thanks for inspiring this moment of remembrance!

  5. Character runs in your family. Your granny sounds like a hoot. I had a great-grandmother named Toots with similar brio.

    Love your outfit. And, even more, love your poses. I need to learn how to pose so playfully. Your blog is becoming a tutorial for me. :)

  6. I think you've gleaned the best of her and fortunately left the rest of it alone. I've noticed that I've done subconsciously in my own family. We get a little bit smarter with every generation.
    You're looking sweeter every year!

  7. "you were a very strange woman and a scary grandmother"-- THIS. I have so much to say back to this one sentence alone, but it seems like it'd be a bit much for a blog post answer. So, I'll just say: I get it!! Your a total stunner in that silk dress (I'm always so scared of silk because it's so humid here and I don't know how to wash it w/o dry cleaning) and those found booties are killin' me!!

  8. I never know either of my grandmother, they both died young. The Doctor's granny on the other grand, lived to be 106! She had some amazing stories. She was born in the late 1890's, and almost made it to the 21 Century.

  9. Desiree, you rock those little silk slip dresses (or actually slips - no difference really!) better than anyone else, EVER! You look cute and saucy and ladylike, all at the same time, which is very clever.
    Nana Beryl does sound scary - maybe not overly lovable but formidable, and interesting. And Grandad Burt, he had a story too.
    The one grandma I knew, now long gone, was a very quiet little old lady, but from my mum's tales about her, she had a flamboyant side to her in her youth.
    Hurrah for crazy grannies! xxxx

  10. You look awesomely saucy is your little slip!!!

    Beryl does sound like quite the character!! I bet she'd have a blog today posting her outfits!

    I was blessed to know both my maternal grandmother and great-grandmother (my dad's mom died when he was a child) Both were quite the personalities themselves.

  11. I love the idea of your 16 year old proper grandmother jetting away into her future with her leatherclad, motorcycle riding beau. And I love the pink ruffle on this slip dress! I bet your Beryl would have liked it (even if she wouldn't have said as much...that's how tough old grandmothers can be!).

  12. love your 20's lady style with a twist! and also love reading about your grandma's great personality!, that old style ladies were sometimes terrific but lovely!

  13. My gran would not have approved of your outfit at all, but then sometimes even Gran's can be wrong. We just wouldn't tell them that in a million years. Maybe she just wouldn't understand why. Why not? I love your Johnny Cash earrings!

  14. Your Nana sounds wonderful yet scary. I was brought up by my gran and she was so forthright it was painful. She had an eye for glamour, liked nice cloths and made everything herself unless it came from Marks.
    Here's to nanas!

  15. How totally frickin' fabularse Beryl sounds! I never knew either of my Grandmothers, but I knew both of G's, and one of them was a real old battleaxe, sharp as a tack and blunt as...something really blunt....she didn't mince words, but you always knew where you stood with her.
    You look like a frigging dream! Just the sort of minx we all, young and old, long to be!!! Such a gorgie frock, I'd wreck such a delicate beauty in a heartbeat, dammit!
    I love heraing about the saucy pasts of the elderly, just wish a few more great stories would come my way. Hopefully I'll be a good story in the future! Maybe as the crazy aunt!
    Wonderful hommage to a fascinating woman!
    Love and Lustipops!

  16. O, and you know you'd only have to flash yer leopard knickers at me and I'd have them off with my teeth in an instant!

  17. you are to gorgeous for words!! xoxo Heather :)

  18. Ahhh so much so much so much...

    THIS is going on a tshirt: 'Beryl approved of a woman in a modest frock.'

    My Granny was a weepy, lonely love who had a terribly sad life... but my Great Aunty Mildred - well, I suspect that she and Beryl would have got on like a house on fire (and then bitched about each other mercilessly!).

    You are splendid in this gorgeous silk frock (I love that you are wearing your wedding corsage) and you paint a perfect portrait of Beryl - thank you!

    Sarah xxx

  19. thanks for sharing ... that's a special story about beryl.
    my mum's mum is luckily still alive and i adore and love this woman so much. to me she is an absolute fashion role model. right after the war she started to create her own dresses ... and all the neighbours thought she would work into fashion. she must have looked amazing in the late 40s and 50s. sadly there arent photos to find. ...

  20. I like your bags. They're gorgeous. The collar is so lovely and the earrings - amazing!

  21. Such a gorgeous outfit, and I what a great tale of Beryl. I loved my father's mum's style best, she was all about 30s and 40s style. She was German, but her style had a very French flare that I loved. You look wonderful as always! xo/Madison

  22. Your grandmother sounds wildly intriguing, which I find you to be! I appreciate your insightful perceptions of her and all that she brought to your life. And what a wonderful pairing of lacy scanties and your wedding wrist corsage!

  23. I'm as green as your hair bow with envy over how sassy and saucy you look! Nothing like dancin' in your scanties to make your day.

  24. Beryl sounds like the sort of woman who 'demands' an article in a magazine (if not some time in therapy ;- )! I love how you continue to reuse your wedding corsage, Desiree, in a very feminine OOTD <3

  25. We have a bit in common - my grandmother was from the south of NZ too and was a tough cookie. Once she and her sister beat up a woman who was having an affair with her sister's husband! She had a daughter called Beryl, my aunt, who moved to Australia and was also a very tough old bird.
    What a great portrait you paint.

  26. My grandmaman died young, 69!
    Elsie her name, i loved her dearly
    I still miss her
    Love the story of beryl the peril! You crack me up!
    What an awfull post i did with my coldFX! Haha! I can't believe it! Oh well maybe the ColdFX did altered my brain or something!
    Yes i'm a fishy!
    Love your 20's inspired look
    Thanks for your sweet comment!


  27. Your dress is cute, but I am in love with your wonderful shoes. What an amazing design. I love them!

  28. You are so far, and so close to my heart. Everytime I look at you, I want to give you a tight hug, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
    Thank you for being YOU!!!

  29. Grandmothers are a strange breed aren't they? I only really know my maternal grandma, some say I remind them of her in my youth, she always approves of my fashion sense but isn't always the easiest person to deal with. I bet your gran would adore you, you are such a vibrant and fun personality. I love this dress and the double bags. xx

  30. aahh she sounds like a fun lady with a sparkle in her eye for just that LIFE. Its nice to think about people and remember them its funny what does make you remember something or someone.You look beautiful by the way today to, dee xx

  31. You are going to be the BEST grandmother ever one of these days (sorry if that sounds scary in itself) - I know I would go crazy for a Mamgee Desiree!

    My hair is always in my face - I shall never be a lady...


  32. Beryl the Peril, what a great name, sounds like she was quite a character! You look heavenly in that gorgeous dress, and I adore the finishing touches of those earrings and shoes - hellllooooo Marilyn Monroe!

  33. This is one of my favourite posts of yours. You look sensational. We both love the 1920s squalid glamour look. I'm sure Betty wouldn't've approved of the squalid bit. How exciting that your Grandad - was he your Grandad? - had a film made about him! Every item is exquisite. I really love the green bow! Keep being gorgeous!

  34. I may not be Beryl the Peril, but I will be driving my Mini maniacally until the day I die! (LOVE my Mini, best car I've ever driven, and I've driven everything from luxury to race cars... ok motorbikes rule too!) I hope I live as long as her! I do think you've inherited her tenacity and spunk, and plus you've got joie de vivre on your side! Love the outfit, I wish I could find such lovelies in great condition. Hey throw some Manic Panic over those roots, it looks ultra cool! (She says after "pinking" her hair tonight!) Keep being your wonderful self and bringing smiles to all you encounter! XXX

  35. I may not be Beryl the Peril, but I will be driving my Mini maniacally until the day I die! (LOVE my Mini, best car I've ever driven, and I've driven everything from luxury to race cars... ok motorbikes rule too!) I hope I live as long as her! I do think you've inherited her tenacity and spunk, and plus you've got joie de vivre on your side! Love the outfit, I wish I could find such lovelies in great condition. Hey throw some Manic Panic over those roots, it looks ultra cool! (She says after "pinking" her hair tonight!) Keep being your wonderful self and bringing smiles to all you encounter! XXX

  36. Beryl sounds like she was a very interesting lady. *hehe*
    That green bow in your hair looks totally AWESOME. I <3 it.
    You look sassy in your outfit. I am surpised you don't have crowds of men staking out your house to catch a glimpse of you. *wink*

  37. I love your tales of Beryl the Peril, but I'm totes fixated on those amazing shoes. You found them? You have a shoe fairy?

  38. I love the story of your Nana. I believe I had a similar relationship with mine. She was quite the gypsy in many ways. Loved clothes. Beautiful. But cold and distant. Lots of stories there but she did not talk about any of it much. You are beautiful as ever!!!


  39. So wow, just wow! I'm just discovering your site from Not Dead Yet's Visible Monday. You're crazy and wonderful and you look fantastic in your granny-inspired dress. Sweet storytelling, too.


  40. I just loved your tale of "Beryl the Peril" and her fierce fashion sense! Did she really get knocked up by the famous Burt Munro?? That is just awesome (although I'm sure she didn't think so at the time). Your 20's frock and poses are tres adorable.

    I only knew one of my Grandmothers and while I wasn't terribly close to her, I do remember games of crokinole in which she almost always won.

  41. Muy bonito los bolsos!!!

  42. You are like a mix of Marilyn Monroe, Cyndi Lauper and Sarah Silverman!

  43. Hello ! Thanks for your lovely comment, I'm fan of your blog for a long time, so I'm more than glad !!!

  44. Beryl sounds like quite an amazing & formidable woman! I dearly hope she would approve of this ensemble - I know that I certainly do!

  45. Beryl the Peril sounds like she was an amazing character and I enjoyed your stories about her. You look just fabulous in that dress!! I sure Beryl would secretly approve even if she feigned disapproval on the surface xx

  46. So pleased I found this vibrant blog - it's just what I need.

    Loved reading about your nan, you have an easy writing style and lovely sense of humor. (We tend to forget the more mature members of a family actually lived real and interesting lives.)

  47. MY GOD THOSE SHOES AND YOUR LEGS! I couldn't stop staring!!

    You look fantastic and I love your personality coming out in all the photos.

  48. I'm so loving this 1920's dress. You would have fit right in with that decade. Your post cracked me up, Beryl sounds like quite the character. I was so blessed to have close relationships with both my maternal grandmothers. I see alot of who I am in each of these incredible ladies.


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