With the rebuild of my house due to happen in a year or two, (D.V., weather permitting, builders and associated tradesmen being free, the gods smiling, the stars in favourable alignment, temporary accommodation available, and assuming I live that long) I am taking stock. Should I think about a new (old) car? Will the washing machine see me out? Shall I take a course in teddy-bear stuffing? Is it time to wear purple?
For those unfamiliar with the reference to wearing purple, I should tell you that Jenny Joseph’s famous poem starts “When I am an old woman / I shall wear purple …” It is a defiant, quirky poem listing the things she is going to do when she’s old enough to please herself instead of behaving as she ought. With purple she proposes to wear “… a red hat which doesn’t go / and doesn’t suit me.” But hold on a second, Jenny, red goes magnificently with purple, just think of fuchsias. If I should wear purple, red would be my first choice for shoes. But I digress.
Ms Joseph goes on: “I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired / and gobble up samples in shops / and press alarm bells …” No, none of that appeals. Nor does running with a stick along public railings, or picking flowers from other people’s gardens – although I’ve been doing that for years. Doesn’t everybody? A geranium with its easily snapped stalk pushing its way out through a fence is fair game and grows oh-so cheerfully wherever it’s poked into the ground.
Pressing on, Joseph says “I shall go out in my slippers in the rain …” Yep, I’m with you there, already do that, when I don’t go out barefoot. “Wear terrible shirts…” I don’t have any, but I do have a collection of AJ’s old skivvies which are beginning to look suitably terrible. “Hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes…” Pens and pencils, yes loads, beermats no, and my hoarded boxes are empty except when I can fit one box into another. Memo to self: stop it at once, it’s insane, what are those men going to say when they arrive to deal with my belongings for storage and have to pack my boxes full of boxes into their boxes?
Oh well, plenty of time. They aren’t coming for ages. There’s time, as Joseph concludes, 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.”