Tales from a poet – Meet Josie

Tales from a poet

Meet Josie

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It all started with some poems sent through the post.

Our customer Josie Hollands, 83, sent us a letter to tell us her thoughts on the meals she had purchased from Parsley Box and accompanying her letter were several handwritten and typewritten poems.

Her poetry was accomplished. Rhythmic and engaging, easily flitting between heavy topics and more lighthearted fare. Some have even been published.

To thank her for both her thoughts on our meals and her wonderful poetry, we gave Josie a call. During the hour and a half that followed we heard about her life story and were read numerous poems written by her throughout her life.

In 1941, when Josie was only 18 months old her mother, herself aged just 31 passed away from Leukemia. She left behind a husband in the RAF, a 3 year old daughter, 18 month old Josie, and a newborn daughter, aged only 8 weeks.

As can be expected after such a tragedy, Josie’s childhood was a difficult one.

This was not aided by Josie being born in 1939. She says the uncertainty of wartime resulted in her initial schooling being severely interrupted.

“I didn’t have the proper schooling that most people would have. I was clever at English, but I couldn’t do maths. I didn’t pass my 11 Plus or my 13 Plus.”

Josie left school at age 15 and sat an exam for a local college. She was accepted onto a commercial course to learn shorthand and typing.

“I thought it was brilliant – the college where I went to there were men, there were boys. I thought it was great I really did!

After completing her two year course, Josie with no idea what conveyancing was, managed to secure a job as a solicitor’s conveyancer’s clerk, dealing with the legal paperwork necessary for buying or selling a property.

“I used to have a chip on my shoulder because I was told that I was thick and I didn’t think that I was.

She continued in this career for a number of years before meeting her husband and leaving work to raise her two sons. Once her sons were in college, she returned to work, eventually being promoted to conveyancer herself.

Not bad, she says for a young girl who didn’t pass her 11 plus exams.

“It just goes to show, you can have all the qualifications in the world but if you haven’t got common sense you won’t get anywhere.”

Nine years later she was forced to give up her career after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

It was during this recovery that she noticed an article in the newspaper proclaiming “would-be poets, would you like to see your name in print?”

Josie had always had a mind full of poetry.

“I’d just feel it in my head and it would all come tumbling out.”

She said she would constantly walk around with scraps of paper in her pocket on which she would scrawl snatches of poetry, never to be finished.

She glances down at the notepad by the phone on which she is speaking to me and reads a ‘scratching’ she has made here at a previous time.

She reads:

I wish I were a sunbeam, travelling in space

As it seeks its destination to finally erase

Oh to be a million hailstones, crashing to the ground

Bouncing on the windows as they tumble all around

Josie says this is a perfect example of how her mind works…. an idea will come to her and her brain will fill in the poetic gaps, so to speak.

Keen to see ‘if she was any good’ Josie submitted the following poem to the newspaper and it became her first published piece.

poet image dreams

And the rest, as they say is history. Josie continued to write poetry after retiring from work and would go on to have many more poems published and merits received.

Fundamentally, Josie has always believed that poetry is to be shared. She enjoys nothing more than to know she has brought joy to someone purely through words written on a page.

“I like to feel that whatever I do, if it gives people pleasure then it gives me a kick.”

Toward the end of our conversation, she recalls chatting with a neighbour who was feeling the weight of the world due to the pandemic. Josie’s response to cheer her up:

“I say to her, do you want me to put a smile on your face and she says ‘oh go on then’ and I do Spot the Spider and I can guarantee that it will always make people laugh and if it makes them laugh then it makes me laugh.”

Josie’s attitude is something we can all learn from; perseverance in the face of adversity, courage to learn and sharing our talents simply to bring joy to others.

Amazing life, amazing lady. It has been our absolute pleasure to hear and share Josie’s story.

Do you have a story to share?

Have you led an interesting life or had a fascinating experience?

We would love to hear about it.