Alexander Averin

Saturday 23 August 2008

Purple Prose

Header picture, Connemara Farm is an oil painting by Elizabeth Ryan

Dear Diary,

I never saw a Purple Cow; I never hope to See One; But I can Tell you, Anyhow, I'd rather See than Be One”
Frank Gelett Burgess

I'll start with a poem today, you all know this one.

Warning - When I am an old woman I Shall Wear Purple

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 slippers, 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 pickles 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.

Jenny Joseph

Here I am again after a week or so of mulling - I love that word, it’s a great excuse for not-writing, a sort of pre-writing, pondering stage.

This morning I came into the waking state slowly, ever-reluctant to return to the land of the living that’s me. But lines were running through my head, blog-post lines and they were all truly purple prose. For yesterday I found a bargain in the sales, a long woollen coat, quite plain but classic and guess what colour it was? Purple. There was only the one coat in the sale, it was a size 14 and it was reduced to £30! I know a bargain when I see one and I had been coveting this particular coat all through last winter but felt I couldn’t afford it. And here it was just waiting for me. I tried it on and it fitted me just perfectly.

I had better come clean and admit that the shop was the Edinburgh Woollen Mill. There I’ve said it and I know what you are thinking. This is an old ladies shop? Indeed it is but there are little gems to be found there if you look hard enough and even Jeff Banks was singing its praises the other day. He was praising the cut and the quality, you know the stuff. The trouble is you see, where I live in mid-Wales there is a dearth of shops and even more of a dearth of clothes shops. This is a blessing in disguise really as it is very hard to be tempted into spending money round here. I am often to be found in charity shops as we have one or two of those and real treasures can be discovered there sometimes: household stuff, books etc as well as clothes. I get a real kick out of finding a bargain.

Anyway back to the coat and all things purple.

Why am I posting this? Most people who visit me here will probably know that I spend a lot of time over at Purplecoo, it’s become like a second home to me now and is filled with special purple folk who I count as my friends. Recently we had ‘homework’ and were asked to post pics of a purple hue. I was on holiday at the time and sent a note in asking to be excused (Purplecoo is a boarding school you understand, its name is Cowarts……don’t ask, you’d have to be there).

I digress again.

Purple to me means the heather-clad mountains of West Cork and it’s a colour that feels somehow near to Spirit which could be why I am drawn to it. It’s dark and mysterious but not as dull and depressing as black. It’s warm and autumnal, it speaks of juicy fruit, sweet berries, plums and aubergines. It paints the flowers in my garden and mixes so well the others. It’s separate from the primary colours so it’s ‘different’ but it’s kind of close to red, another love of mine. It sits so well with pink which I adore. (How could anyone not like pink?). It looks well with white too, a colour that I can no longer wear on its own.

Purple is probably my favourite colour but I hope I’m not taking it too far as I had new reading glasses recently and scoured the shop’s frame displays for some purple ones - I found one pair and bought them of course.

So this will be my better-late-than-never homework, some purple prose and a few other bits and bobs.

When I was a young teenager (sooo many years ago), T, my soon-to-be sister-in-law took me shopping one day in Guildford, the city that she and my brother (and me) were to set up home in after moving down from London. T was helping me buy some new clothes and she also taught me ‘how’ to shop. I’d not had a ‘proper mother’ you see but that’s another story. T unknowingly showed me how to deal with pushy shop assistants in the ‘boutiques’ (remember boutiques? remember pushy sales women?) Ah those were the days. I learned to say ‘I’m just looking thank you’ and I learned how to fly in and out of all the shops, assertively looking for the best clothes at the best price. Anyway I ended up buying a gorgeous wine coloured winter coat and some tops, but best of all my purchases was a pair of purple wool bell-bottom trousers.

I was tall (for those days) and skinny as well and as I was growing up I used to always cover my long bony arms with a cardigan and my legs with boots, if I remember rightly. But suddenly Twiggy was in vogue and my shape was the shape to have; at last I looked ‘right’ and even more so when T took me to a hairdresser and I had my longish thick, unruly wavy hair cut into a very short elfin-type crop. For years after that I kept it short, half an inch all over for a long time, very easy to handle for my lazy self that was.

I’ll never forget those bell-bottoms and also a Biba dusky pink towelling mini dress that I bought much later when I lived in a flat in Guildford. The dress was short-sleeved and so soft it was almost velvety.

T helped me, I will never forget that, it was a sort of ‘makeover’ I guess but before they became all the rage. We are both of a certain age now but I will always be grateful to her for that shopping expedition in Guildford.

I wonder if any items of clothing or shopping trips hold special memories for you?

To be around in the sixties will have to be my Blessing today. There was the music, the art, the fashion, the social revolution, the rise of feminism, the sense of positivity in the air, anything was possible and there has not been a time like it since.

I attracted attention with my new hairstyle and my trendy trousers and my life as a young woman in the sixties was just beginning…..

Anyway after all this rambling perhaps you will understand why seeing a purple coat in a sale has sent me into raptures and why I just HAD to buy it. The decision was made for me. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,


Amanda said...

A purple coat - how fab - enjoy!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I love purple and wear it often! Having very fair coloring, I have to be careful which colors I wear...yellow makes me look quite ill for example. But purple...Love it! Lucky you to have a purple coat.

Inthemud said...

Just fabulous Cait!

I love the Poem and all the purple things. Wonderful!

Frances said...

Cait, I enjoyed your purple prose about purple clothes!

I also liked your 1960's remembrances. Yes, those were some unique times. There was such a special atmosphere in the air. Of course, the Vietnam War provided a deadly backdrop.

Any chance that you might post a picture of that new coat? I loved lots of the 60's clothes, particularly the shoes ... I have saved some of them in an old trunk. My time capsule.


Pondside said...

Congratulations on 'scoring' that wonderful purple coat - and I'm sure it really is just the thing. You'll feel so good every time you put it on this winter.
I hate shopping. I'm short and fashion is created for people who are at least 5'10. It was fine when I was young, as gamine was 'in' but now it's hard to find clothes for a woman of 5'2" - clothes that don't say "I've raided my daughter's closet" or "Oops, I forgot I have a bust"
I love both the poem and the purple cow!

Tess Kincaid said...

I love this purple poem and haven't read it on so long! Purple is such a wonderfully pleasant color, isn't it?

abcd said...

Purple is a lovely rich colour especially for Autumn, hope you enjoying wearing it lots and what about the red hat to go with it or rather not go with it!

abcd said...

Not that I am implying you are old!:-)


Firstly, I just love that new header picture of the Connemara farm - it has so much soul. And I've always loved that Jenny Joseph poem (she lives not very far from me, as it happens). And finally, that coat sounds glorious - enjoy it.

Fennie said...

I too love charity shops - you never know what you are going to find. You are allowed to buy something totally unsuitable and which you will never wear just for the bravado of trying it on. I insist on some charity shop presents at Christmas. I am even wearing one now: a beautiful (and puce if not purple) gilet.

Irene said...

Some of my clothes are multi colored and purple is one of those colors. I see that I gravitate to it as I get older. I flatters my skin color.I am sure I will wear purple when I am an old lady. I would love to have a purple woolen coat. It would make me feel special. Take good care of it and wear it for a few decades. Then hand it down to a deserving woman.

Honesty said...

Never mind the purple coat, I think we should get to see a picture of the long legged sixties/seventies you...!!!

CAMILLA said...

Dear Cait,

A wonderful post, the sixty's was indeed a wonderful time for me too. I wore a lot of Purple then and the fashion was very short, so lots of mini dresses, could not wear one now though. Fancy Cait, I did exactly the same had my hair cut extremely short and wore it like this for about 6 years.

I have a passion for charity shops, there are lots to be found too in the way of vintage, and only last week I happened to purchase two tiny figurines in edwardian manner and only cost me £1.50.!

As for the poem, I just absolutely love it..... it says all that supposedly we should not be doing when we got to a ripe age.

Pink is a colour I adore, it always cheers me when I wear it.