Jimmy and Joan

By Alison November 12, 2013 6 Comments 2 Min Read


I was in the supermarket browsing magazines and hastily deciding that I had already bought every Christmas themed issue, the publishers had dreamed up, I started to push my trolley down the aisle, making a shopping list as I went. And then there they were,  the oldest couple in the whole wide world. Hunched and muddled and gripping each others hands as they dithered over the purchase of a copy of Woman’s Own.  
 “Joan, she might have it…”
“Well if she has she can swap it with someone on the ward can’t she? It will pass an hour or two won’t it?”
” She might not have her specs with her…”
” Ooh Jimmy, that reminds me, we need to pick up our specs…”
And on and on it went. And because I couldn’t squeeze past them, I stood quietly and waited. And waited. And learnt that Jimmy wasn’t sure if Joan was up to the journey to the hospital, and he was worried about having to eat a late dinner if she was. And that neither of them liked Carol Vorderman. And all the time he held her hand and kept one arm in the small of her back, while I watched and eavesdropped and decided they must be in their nineties.
And then he looked up and saw me, his rheumy, twinkly eyes fixing on me, as he apologised for getting in my way.
Oh don’t worry, I’ve got all the time in the world“, I told him. And I meant it, for there was nowhere else I had to be, no-one waiting for me. No-one expecting anything at all.
But instead of smiling and letting me past, he grabbed my hand in his paper one and  said “Oh no you haven’t! Joan tell her, she says she’s got all the time in the world, but she hasn’t has she?
And Joan looked at me wisely, and shook her head, no, she said, you haven’t
And I tried to explain an entire day free of obligation and all the time Jimmy held my hand and Joan gripped my arm, and they talked in unison and said ooooh no, you’ve got things to do! And I said no, and they said yes, that time was whipping on and wouldn’t slow down until I got to their age, when days were as long as years but they were to old to get on with all the things they should have been doing at my age. And that there wasn’t all the time in the world at all, that I needed to get on, to not waste a single moment waiting around for doddery old fools like them when I could be out there doing and dreaming and hugging my babies. And my Mum. And seeing all the wonderful things life still had to offer.
So there we were, me and Jimmy and Joan. Now blocking the aisle in a cosy, unexpected, awkward hug. In Asda. Me and my old people. For weren’t Jimmy and Joan, my grandparents names? And maybe in another time and place, had life been kinder, less difficult, less exhausting, it might have been them telling me to get my bottom into gear. To stop waiting and get on with it…
It might have been them…
P.S The wonderful images in this post are part of a project by photographer Jan Langer called Faces of Century… 


  1. Annmarie says:

    I’d rather have side by side stills. The movement makes me nauseous.

  2. Chris says:

    This was a lovely story beautifully observed and written. It brought tears to my eyes. I am nowhere near the age of Jimmy and Joan, but would agree with them: make to most of what time you have. Now I know that may seem maudlin, but I kind of miss my little boys (now 25 & 27) though I love my young men.
    We don’t listen to the wisdom of very old people enough; they are just like you and me, but have simply been around a bit longer!

  3. hollygoheavy says:

    Oh, this was gorgeous. I’m like Chris, I’ve got tears in my eyes, but it’s because I see time rushing by all too fast lately.

  4. chrissie says:

    Time goes by way too fast. My daughter is almost 40 and I recall being that that age as if yesterday not 20 yrs ago. Gulp ! What do you do though ? I fill my days always busy but time flies…

  5. Kate says:

    I love seeing old couples who have been together for decades and still adore each other. I loved your description of Jimmy holding Joan’s hand and touching the small of her back.

  6. Not shocking, but every day I meet people who are fascinated by what I do and how I live. The desire to travel is there, but fears and excuses usually prevent people from doing it. I understand that few people can drop what they are doing and travel around the world for three years, but traveling overseas for even a few months is within the realm of possibility for many people at some point in their lives. Even on an island in the middle of the Pacific, people who would probably never leave their home island talked to me of wishing they could see New York or London for themselves one day. I think the desire to explore and see new things is fundamental to the human experience.

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