WARNING was voted Britain’s favourite poem in 1996. It was written in 1961 by Jenny Joseph and is known and loved the world over. Its declaration of defiance, vividly and cleverly expressed, appeals to the rebel in all of us as we secretly yearn to shake off the shackles of propriety, and enjoy the gleeful freedom of cocking a snook at the rest of the world.
The poem is particularly meaningful for this midlife blogger as it was given to me as a gift by my daughter a few years ago; she felt that it described me spot on. My indignant reaction – Hey, I’m not old yet. I do, however, wear purple. The shops are full of it this autumn. Any thoughts from other purple-wearing midlifers?
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 or surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
By Jenny Joseph