When I heard the news of Jenny Joseph’s death last month I had to pick up her poem Warning again. She was 85 when she passed away, but only 28 when she wrote this poem, the age I was when she died.
I’ve been thinking about old age and retirement a great deal recently. I feel like I’ve been wishing away the years of work ahead in favour of the downtime at the end of it all. It’s not a healthy way to live, wishing away the future, hoping for a time when who knows what health or economic issues might have an impact on my rose-tinted view of retirement. Better to start practising now as Jenny Joseph recommends.
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 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 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.