How kind of the authorities to warn us that children, dogs and the elderly should not be left in cars during very hot weather. I don’t admit to being elderly – after all what’s 85? – no don’t tell me – But I’m glad nobody’s going to leave me in a car to roast to death on a hot day, although I think it just about possible that I might manage to open the door and get out before I suffocated as these two very obviously would.
All of which has made me think about our rather odd attitudes to people who’ve passed retirement age but not necessarily their sell by date and have reached the splendidly anarchical age of happy eccentricity. I have always admired Jenny Joseph’s aim for old age and yes, I know I’ve quoted a lot of poetry to you on this blog, but this one is a stunner.
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that 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 am 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 beer mats
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 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!
And can you imagine telling either of these feisty ladies what they should and shouldn’t do?
We might be old – if you can get us to admit it – but we can also be feisty, eccentric, individual and unpredictable just as we were in our teens and twenties and all through our lives. And damn it we feel young.