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Remembering a

Most Remarkable Woman

 From a Conversation with Marianna Leach

(Jo's granddaughter)   25th January 2011

Joanna: Looking back, I don't feel that my life is a blank sheet of paper. I feel that a lot of things have happened to me - some of them have been bloody awful and difficult to cope with, but as I have often said to other people, they have thrown into relief the good times, so that I have really appreciated the good times. Because I had two bloody awful husbands to start with, I appreciate Mike being a wonderful husband and Dave, in a completely different way, being a wonderful husband. I went through agony with my first and second husbands, but the pattern of life has to be a rich pattern; that's the important thing. What I feel I want to leave behind - I'm not going yet anyway - are certain things that have perhaps enhanced people's memories of me, or that I've done things. I'm glad that there have been times when I have influenced peoples lives; they are not going to . . . for instance, I don't think any of the men I have been with are ever going to forget me.

Marianna: (laughing) I don't think that anyone who has ever met you will forget you!

Joanna: The important thing is . . . I know I'm a perfectly ordinary person with a little bit, but not a huge talent. I know I have had a lot of friends and people I have managed to help. And some people I have managed to influence and some people don't like me, but at least [my life] has not just been a blank page. The main thing is to enjoy every moment and not keep on spoiling it by thinking 'oh well perhaps next week I won't be here'.

Now I want to go down tomorrow morning and have a look to see if the snowdrops are out yet. There are also some lovely snake-head fritillaries that I go and enjoy. I think, 'aren't I lucky to see these again'. I thought last year that I might not actually be here to see these snowdrops this year. So one has to be very, very grateful. When I think of all the wonderful people, Schubert and Mozart and countless others, who had so much to offer yet have died when they were thirty-five or younger; they were snuffed out much earlier than I'm being snuffed out. There are lots of people that don't live to my age of seventy-three; lots of people. It's lovely to know that I've got friends who love me enough to want me to carry on. It would be awful if everybody was just waiting for that 'stupid old bat' to pop off!

Marianna: No, that’s definitely not the case. After mum, there’s my family in Poland, but you and my mum have always been on par in my life. It's hard to explain 'my grandmother' to a lot of my friends, because they have grandmothers that they have seen maybe at special occasions, or stayed with here or there, but we've had things happen and we have got closer and I have been able to talk to you about everything, which is actually quite scary. There are sometimes conversations that come up that I want to close my ears too, even though I'm twenty-five, eeeeek!! I feel 'come on you're my grandparents; I don't want to know about this!' Well you know . . . you've not only been my grandma but you've been my friend; you've been my confidante; you've been someone I've looked up to. You've been so strong and stuff like that.

Joanna: Well it makes me feel I wish I had done better.

Marianna: But you did the best already.

Joanna: Well there are lots of times when I didn't; but there's bound to be that. But I think I did try. As I said to Jenny once when she was much younger and she was going on rebelling against me and the fact that she was my child and everything. Well I said, 'You can't expect me to be a goddess; I'm human'. All I can say is that I may have failed often, but I have tried and I have done my best. There have been times when I haven't paid people enough attention, or thought about them as much as I should have done. But there is a lot in life; life's so full of things. There's things to do and sometimes one can help people by doing these things and not necessarily concentrating on them entirely. There are quite a lot of mothers who are wonderful mothers and their children are their lives, but it doesn't necessarily help the child to deal with its own life, especially if they have been looked after completely by a mother and not allowed to develop their own ways of overcoming their difficulties.

Marianna and Jo