The Picture of Doreen Gradely

One very boozy night, Doreen,
When she had just turned seventeen,
Knocked back her Asda Chardonnay
And stared at her friend Trisha - ‘Hey!
But have you just been drawing me?’
‘I have,’ said Trish, who’d got a B
In her mock A-Level Art, and now
Practiced when others would allow.

Doreen inspected Trish’s work
And was impressed, but with a smirk
Said, ‘Trish, you’ve made me look a saint,
Which is exactly what I ain’t
And don’t intend to be, so why
Have you made me a sweetie-pie?’
Trish said, ‘I’m influenced by Giotto,
Whose Madonnas didn’t look half-blotto
Like you, but saintly.’
                                      Nancy smiled:
‘Hey - I’ve been reading Oscar Wilde,
A book where a portrait of a youth
Changed as he aged, and told the truth
About him while it moldered in the attic.
The girls heard this, and grew ecstatic.

Oscar Wilde

Said Doreen: ‘Great idea. Yes I’m
Content this pic should suffer time,
Not me.’  Trish, though,  objected:
‘No, my art should be respected.
I don’t want it growing horrid
When Doreen’s love-life gets all torrid.’

Nance was disappointed, so, assuaging
This, Trish said, ‘The thought of ageing
Is fine, but be it understood,
The Doreen of my pic stays good.’
What? Doreen? Good? They laughed a bit,
But finally they settled it.
Said Doreen: ‘Hide the pic away,
And in some far and future day,
We’ll look at it, and just maybe,
It will show a more virtuous me’
Doreen and Nancy, who were jokers,
Chanted some magic hocus-pocus.
Sending the whole kaboosh up rotten.
Then very soon it was forgotten.


Forty years on, and our Doreen,
No longer young, is a broad who’s seen
More than a bit of life, a lady
Some portions of whose past are shady.
She’s a well-covered, friendly dame
Whose ways are very much the same
As they, alas, have always been
Since she was boozy seventeen.
She makes no bones about being sinful;
She now as then enjoys a skinful
Of wine or gin. She’s good at jokes,
And, though it’s not the fashion, smokes;
(And she may have sniffed the kind of chemical
That turns the Daily Mail polemical.)
These days, now she’s well over fifty
She is still reckoned pretty nifty
With the men. Throughout her life
She’s loved, and has sometimes been a wife.
With her kisses sweet and honeyed
She’s charmed especially the moneyed.
Who now, though they regret the alimony,
Recall her still as fun and funny.

Let’s not dwell on her history,
For there are parts of her CV
That won’t bear much examination,
Though she recalls with some elation
Times that were the more delectable
For being utterly unrespectable.
Did she court danger? See her shrug;
Good lawyers kept her out of jug,
And as she asks in tones quite brisk,
‘What’s life without a bit of risk?’


This weekend she has come to stay
With Trisha, who is now R.A.,
Doing very well in the arty line.
Well, she’s been generous with the wine
And both have much enjoyed a chat
About old days, and this and that
Old lark and this and that old friend.
Then, suddenly, at the evening’s end,
Trish smiling says, ‘Remember this?’
She holds an envelope. ‘You looking Miss
Angelical, all sweet and soft.
I found it clearing out mum’s loft.
I didn’t open it. I thought
We’d said things of some magic sort...
Doreen, do I remember rightly?
So shall we look?’
                                 The pair were slightly
Nervous, and both gave a start
On catching sight of Trisha’s art.

It is and is not our Doreen.
It is not her at seventeen.
It’s her, but aged a different way
From the she we know today.
If all her naughty energy
Had been repressed, and then if she
Had one day said angelically
I now renounce all sin and fun
As many noble saints have done...
This is the woman that she could
Have been, quite frighteningly good.

The face is thin; the eyes are fierce
Accusing orbs whose looks could pierce
The confidence of her inferiors.
She is as moral as she’s serious.
You sense, of course, she’s very woke.
You sense she never heard a joke
She didn’t disapprove of. She,
Sure of superiority,
Has standards others never reach,
So she assumes the right to preach;
And spends her life composing bitter
Little bits of spite on Twitter,
Expressing vicious mockery
Of those less virtuous than she.

Says Trish, ‘Doreen! if you’d reformed,
Could you have really been transformed
Into this miserable old bag,
This dreadful moral-bullying hag?’

Doreen laughs: ‘Being good – my arse!’
And pours herself another glass.

George Simmers

If you have any thoughts on this poem, George Simmers would be pleased to hear them.