Red Hat Society

‘When I am an old woman I shall wear purpleRed Hat Society
With a read hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.’
– Jenny Joseph

How cool is this?! The Red Hat Society was inspired by the first two lines of Jenny Joseph’s poem ‘Warning’, when Sue Ellen Cooper, a California artist, gave a red fedora to a friend on her 55th birthday – saying that it was possible to grow old playfully and on one’s own terms. After giving a few more red hats to friends, they bought purple outfits and held the first meeting of the Red Hat Society in 1998. It is dedicated to embracing life, fulfilling lifelong dreams, and friendship.

News of the Society red hat & purplespread at first by word of mouth, then received publicity in some national American magazines. They were deluged with requests to help set up chapters of the Society. They now have a ‘Hatquarters’ and have grown from the few original members to over 70,000 members. It is now an international society which promotes bonding and social interaction among women, particularly among those over 50 years of age (though younger women are welcomed as ‘Pink Hatters’).

Their goal, in addition to the mutual support and social events, is to change the way women are viewed in modern culture through freedom from stereotypes and by encouraging the achievement of (perhaps postponed) goals and dreams. They see physical fitness as the basis of a healthy and rewarding life.

How splendid that a poem has inspired a worldwide movement to help women achieve their full potential – and have a lot of fun! Clearly there is a lot of laughter and smiling in the photographs. Of course, any of us can dare to wear a little purple or a red hat to remind ourselves of our own wonderful spirit and all the possibilities open to us.

Do remember the final lines of the poem:
‘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.’

Roman Cats and the Ides of March

Today, the Ides of March (15 March), has put me in mind of a remarkable visit I had to the archaeological ruins of the Forum in Rome where Julius Caesar was killed on this day in 44 BC. Today the ruins, now called Torre Argentina, are inaccessible to tourists, but are inhabited by hundreds of homeless cats. Roman ruins often house wild cats, but this one is special – a group of highly dedicated people have established a cat sanctuary there.Torre Argentina

I had been walking the streets of Rome, and sat down on some stairs running to the side of the ruins for a rest. A huge one-eyed cat suddenly leaped into my lap, saying, ‘Pet me. Now!’ ‘Yes, sir!’ I said, and pet him until he was satisfied and jumped off. Then I noticed a sign on the wall reading, ‘Save a Roman cat’. I went down the stairs and discovered, in an area beneath the road, a group of women who care for the hundreds of Roman cats in these ruins. I ended up spending a few afternoons of my holiday helping them, by feeding the cats, cleaning out cat cages & litter trays for those who were ill or recovering from being neutered or spayed (which they did for all the cats there), and cuddling the lonely cats. These cats had been abandoned by people who no longer wanted them, and these women cared for them all of them with the few donations they received from passing tourists. Whenever possible, they find people to adopt cats and give them a forever home.

The one-eyed cat who had first greeted me was named Admiral Nelson, because when they had found him, he was injured with a bullet in one eye – someone had thought it fun to take a shot at him. A vet removed the damaged eye, and now Admiral Nelson was the king of all the cats in the Forum.

I wetorre Argentina 2nt back again some years later and was pleased to find that they had expanded their operation with good new cages for the poorly and recovering cats, lots of volunteers, and even a tiny gift shop which sold a children’s book about Admiral Nelson. Nelson had finally crossed that rainbow bridge at the end of his life. But when he had become a venerable old cat and had lost his dominance amongst the other cats, a couple had finally adopted him and gave him comfort and love in his final days.

If you are interested in reading more about the Torre Argentina cat sanctuary, have a look here:

And if you are ever in Rome, drop by and see their fine work. And take a moment to cuddle a Roman cat.

***I know this post  has nothing to do with ‘Writing’, but I couldn’t resist!***