A Be Mobile Member Story - Jeanette Davies

Oct 19, 2023 6:54am

The purple haired wren

“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.”

        Jenny Joseph




I was sent this poem from Jeanette, our protagonist in this story, although this is just the first four lines. It’s one of her favourite poems and it represents her style, well half of it really. I can certainly imagine her wearing purple and trading the butter for satin sandals, but not spending her pension on brandy. In fact, at the time of writing this story, Jeanette has dyed her hair purple.

I would describe Jeanette as cheeky and rebellious but also disciplined and hard working. She is yin and yang.

Where does her uniqueness stem from?

What life experiences shaped her?

To find out, let’s make our way to the rolling green fields of Northern England.



Although being born in the North East of England, Jeanette and her family moved south early on. She spent her childhood in many places; Northumberland, Berkshire, Sussex, Hertfordshire and her favourite county, Oxfordshire. Jeanette tells me “it was a period of opportunities for those prepared to move” and her parents certainly took these opportunities.

This meant Jeanette usually only spent three years or so in one place. She was always the ‘New Girl’ at school, which can be a tough reality on a young lady finding her way. But this forced her out of the comfort zone and into the wild of the world.

When she was seven years old her parents gifted her a second hand bicycle for her birthday. Her Father had repaired it and painted it blue - “best present ever” she says. This extended her boundaries.

She exclaims “I was never happier than when I was exploring the countryside on my bike or with my dog, climbing trees, swimming in the river and generally finding trouble.”

It’s so refreshing hearing Jeanette talk about her young years in this way. She didn’t have any helicopter parents flying overhead, watching her every move and in turn she developed self reliance, resilience and curiosity about the world around her.

It’s clear Jeanette’s resilience partly stems from her childhood however her time serving as a Wren cemented her stoic work principles and enviable discipline.




At age 22, fresh from Teacher Training College and looking for adventure, Jeanette joined the Wrens. You will probably know that wrens are a chirpy, little bird but they are also a division of the Royal Navy of Great Britain. Let me explain.

In the years of The Great War of 1914-1918, the British Navy’s main mission was to protect shipping routes, primarily from submarine attacks. The casualty rates amongst the men were high. This is when British women stepped up to help their country. In 1917, Dame Katharine Furse (a British nursing and military administrator) was invited by the First Lord of the Admiralty to form a “Naval Organisation of Women.” Various names were discussed but the favourite was The Women’s Royal Naval Service and the name 'WRENS' was approved.

During her service, Jeanette took on all the challenge and responsibility she could burden. Running and regular fitness tests become something to revel in. Shoulder to shoulder with other Wrens, she regularly took on the Commando Assault Course and the Endurance Course.

Leaping over obstacles, plunging into cold water, and climbing ropes taught her courage and resolve.

I love how Jeanette sums up her time as a Wren - “serving with the Royal Marines taught me about courage, determination, self discipline, integrity, teamwork, unselfishness, and cheerfulness. It also taught me to take opportunities when they arise, to challenge myself.”

We talk so often about the benefits of exercise for our muscles and joints yet Jeanette’s experience reveals to us another benefit. Through physically challenging ourselves and not giving up when things get tough, we build mental fortitude. Hard work creates toughness for the hard times and make the easy times more enjoyable.



In 2012, Jeanette’s husband was offered a six year contract with the Royal Australian Navy. Together they travelled to foreign land and for Jeanette, a life of exploration continued. Nine years later and they are happy as Larry, or happy as Gary I should say. Jeanette never stops talking about her beautiful cattle dog Gary, pictured giving her flowers.

Jeanette is dedicated to her community, her immediate family and friends, the Be Mobile community and the wider community in her local Northern Beaches area. She has worked tirelessly in her role at Veterans Centre Australia, a charity supporting Veterans and their families. She has even started the 'Be Mobile Boomer Bookshare' club which is all about sharing ideas and coffee in the community!

But one thing Jeanette has continued to do her whole life is move… and move constantly! She is a regular up here at the Be Mobile Studio attending her thrice weekly strength sessions. She dances the whole way through the class, can be seen doing handstands against the wall and despite all of her mucking around she gets her strength work done, without fail!

Jeanette is a pristine example of someone who gets the hard stuff done no matter what. She is always doing ‘something rather than nothing’ and this has served her well. She understands that exercise is not only for creating discipline and resilience, it is what builds our mind and body to take on what life throws our way. Recently Jeanette had a serious surgery with a prolonged recovery period. She thanks herself for putting consistent effort into her exercise to keep her strong and understands that just like financial superannuation, we need physiological superannuation. More muscle, more bone density and a stronger heart for when life kicks you down.

“When you start your exercise journey, the important thing is to start, run your own race and don’t compare yourself to others. Have fun and build yourself up – and the more you do, the more you will want to do.”

Use her example as inspiration to work hard for the hard times and remember that mindset is perhaps the most important factor to being fit and strong for life.

Jeanette’s view on ageing is refreshing and hopeful. Her frank sentence sums it up well - “Getting older is inevitable, and a luxury.” These wise words encourage us to accept ageing but like any luxury, not take it for granted.

So what better time than now to read her favourite poem, Woman in Purple by Jenny Joseph.



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 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 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.


Jenny Joseph