Warning – A Favourite Poem by Jenny Joseph


Warning 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 will have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

When suddenly I am old and start to wear purple. “

Whenever I’m feeling low, I pick up this poem and read it aloud if there’s no-one about and it always brings a broad smile.  Perhaps it reminds me a little of my mother and my aunts, their joie-de-vivre and lack of inhibition left us as youths wide eyed and full of admiration especially as we were reserved and shy.   Nevertheless, I am reminded of my own mother who never wore a scrap of make-up save for a sweep of bright red lipstick and would not leave the house without it.  Coupled with a tall straight back and a head held high, she was unmissable in town.

A few years ago I was relieved when the father of my son’s friend (Eddy) told me that he regularly wore his dressing gown in the car when picking up his teenage boys from a midnight party.  Fearing that I might get caught out if I did this, I tended to wear a coat over my nightwear just in case!

Must get some practice in on the rest of Jenny Joseph’s advice but may well omit the spitting! As you can see, I’ve already got the red hat so that’s a start.


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