I was reading a book of the countries favourite poems as voted for by the public – when I say country I am talking about the United Kingdom – when I came across this poem by Jenny Joseph that has a resonance with us.
I’m not sure how many others who first read it have like us at various time during the advancing years actually used it as a theme for their own meandering but whether anyone else has we certainly did.
It usually went along the lines of –
When I am old I will wear purple
And carry a cabbage in a string bag
And talk to strangers on the bus
And fart in public and not apologise
In fact the photograph was taken some years ago and the photographer asked me to say something to make it more natural in appearance and the first thing that sprung to mind was “When I get old I’ll wear purple.”
It is one of our favourites
The original of the poem of course is very much better.
When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” by Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
© Jenny Joseph, SELECTED POEMS, Bloodaxe 1992.