Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Always The Colour Purple

I can’t think why,* but I was asked whether I wanted to come back as a guest blogger this week.....
I’ve always loved the colour purple. I think it might be something to do with it becoming popular during my formative years. The richness of the different hues of red and blue, blended together, has always appealed to the artist in me.
When I was fourteen I got myself a Saturday job at Dakins, a local grocers. I was allowed to work four hours only, as I was under 16, but those four hours (and the 10/- wages) began to open my eyes to a whole new world. There were no uniforms - this grocer was obviously ahead of his time as the tiny shop was already being converted into a ‘self service’, unheard of in suburban London in the sixties - so I was able to hone my (slightly outrageous) fashion sense without fear of reprisal.
The colour purple - along with lime green and orange - was really in vogue at that time. Perhaps it was a kick back at the dull browns and beiges of the war years, but whatever the reason, those colours immediately jumped out at me and became instant staples of my Chelsea Girl wardrobe.
Poor Fred, the grocer, probably dreaded those Saturday mornings. I would turn up each week in some different combination of bright purples, greens and oranges, and spend much of my time ‘out the back’ supposedly filling a basket to replenish the shelves, but actually looking at my reflection in the darkened windows, adjusting the length of my mini skirt, pushing up my 30aa bust and retying my leather thong sandals, whose laces were supposed to end at my knees but frequently fell down to gather around my ankles. I apparently considered these outfits totally suitable attire for a young shop assistant, up and down ladders and bent down at low shelves.....
It came to the Christmas do which was to be held in a local hotel. I needed to push the boat out and catch the eye of the handsome young delivery lad who, up to that point, hadn’t given me a second glance as he dashed past on his way to the kitchen - more interested in getting the best cake than eyeing up the mad Saturday girl.
My mum, as always, came up trumps. She was going to make me a shift dress (oh Mary Quant, eat your heart out!) It would be purple, and it would match the flat purple Mary Janes that I’d seen in Dolcis. Coloured tights had not yet seen the light of day, so American tan would be the stocking of (very little) choice.
I have a black and white picture of all the Dakins staff. Fred is in the middle. I am at one side, looking shy. Handsome delivery lad is about as far away from me as he can get. When I look at the picture I remember nothing about the night apart from the conversation I’d overheard as we gathered together for the photo. Fay, my adopted grandma figure, had tried to persuade HDL to stand next to me - with a bit of a nudge nudge, wink wink - much to my embarrassment. The only part of the conversation that I heard clearly amongst the muttered response was, ‘I hate purple....’ That was the end of that little romance before it had even begun.
I did have a bit of a run in with the colour purple a few years ago. It was icy and I’d left the house to buy a new kettle. At the top of the five steps going down our path I slipped on a thin patch of ice and bounced down the whole flight, whacking my backside on each concrete edge, landing at the bottom with a final crack of my head and my phone flying across the garden. I crawled over to the phone and rang my husband, crying. The bruises that appeared over the next few days were spectacular - every one of those popular colours from the 1970s - and a few more thrown in. I had yellow, brown, green, orange - and of course, the inevitable purple. The bruise covered the whole of one cheek of my backside - and that’s no mean area.
I made the big mistake of sending a picture of this monstrosity to my daughter, who not only showed it to everyone she worked with but promptly posted it on Facebook. When I subsequently had to go up to the hospital to have it checked my daughter offered to come with me. She was about to go to work and was in her police uniform, which obviously confused the medics, who seemed to be under the impression I was a criminal being escorted. When the consultant was about to examine the bruise he asked me if I wanted the PC to leave. I told him wearily that it was fine - she was my daughter and had already made me (or rather, my behind) quite famous online....
*If anybody’s interested, Crazy Color Hot Purple, Crazy Color Pinkissimo..... I might be an OAP but I’m not going down without a fight....

And of course, the only poem that can possibly go with this piece is Jenny Joseph’s which I have always loved for obvious reasons.... 

When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple
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 and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Thanks for reading.....Jill

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Twitter: @jillreidy
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Steve Rowland said...

Good to see you back on the Dead Good Blog, Jill, albeit temporarily. It's always a pleasure to read your posts - and wow, Jenny Joseph's poem gets two endorsements this week.