They call her the backbone of England
Though her own is now crumbling away.
Her hips creak like old wooden floorboards,
And her eyes they have seen better days.

But I could stay in her presence for hours
As she talks of the times that she’s had,
How she danced with the Vice-Roy of India
Or the Sultan of Islamabad.

She has never a cross word to offer,
Nor would dream of a comment to hurt,
Her feet may have slowed to a shuffle,
But her mind remains quick and alert.

She sits in the chair near the fire,
With a warm woolen rug cross her knee,
And watches the young girls with envy
As the young men they wickedly tease.

She could teach them a thing about courtship!
Of the fun that she had when a girl,
Of her coming out dance in the thirties
And her dress trimmed with mother-of-pearl.

Of the summer she met her beloved,
‘Neath the palm trees of Juan les Pins.
On her birthday he asked her to marry,
This adorable, beautiful man.

They were together for forty-five summers,
‘Til his cancer in June ’83
She cared for him all through the winter,
When death from his pain set him free.

She tells it with no sign of bitterness,
This inevitable pattern of life
A man who can love without ending,
His adorable, beautiful wife.

(Written for a wonderful woman I met touring the Galapagos in 2004)