Sunday 3 July 2016


Picking up a handbag upside down can prove very educational.  The contents obligingly fall out and give you the chance to evaluate what you have heretofore regarded as without-which-not to carry around.  It made me think about how this has changed over the stages and decades of a life lived 'in case'.

My first handbag was in the shape of a sun-flower and similarly coloured. Inside was a penny, a hankerchief - that is, a piece of linen about six inches square which preceded the paper tissue with which the inside of a contemporary bag is usually littered - rather more money than a penny when I had grown enough to be sent to buy bread or butter. Milk was delivered and, today, carrying the weight of it, I remember the milkman and his horse and cart with nostalgia, and a postage stamp: don't ask.  Oh, and as soon as I was allowed to go to the corner shop by myself, my phone number in case of a crisis. I graduated to a bigger one, square with short handles, which I wore on my wrist from my dozen through my early  teens..  This one contained a purse with proper money, a mirror china-backed with a  picture of a tabby cat, again a handkerchief  and, strictly without my Mother's knowledge, some pink-tinted lip gloss.  Make up was absolutley forbidden until eighteen years had passed so the subterfuge was essential to give a little glow to pale lips.  By now there was also a comb but I remember using it only when I thought I may bump in to the boy who interested me. There was also a season ticket for the 'bus in to town.  Next came a grown-up bag.  By now there were a lipstick, a powder compact with a mirror, a miniature hair brush, a pair of stockings - in case of a ladder, sillly, a pen, which often leaked the fluid ink which worked it,  a diary/ address book, {some of them in code), letters to be posted and a season ticket for the Underground to get me to college.  There was a separate brief case which carried college stuff. Things remained much the same for a few years with the addition of a passport  and some tights until I came to need a rather bigger one. In this I carried, as well as all of the above, tissues, cotton-wool, plasters, scissors, a little packet of bribes - er, I should say sweets - and enough small money to use a public telephone in a crisis. Currently, there are all the things that constitute 'above' in the examples  above , plus a Blue Badge disabled drivers' permit to park, a 'Freedom Pass' for public transport travel, a mobile phone, countless crumpled credit-card receipts, a credit card, a debit card should I run out of cash and a purse with such cash. There is a lipstick, which I no longer bother to use, a hair brush which I do, no tights because I usually wear trousers, a pen with solid ink for doing the crossword when eating alone and a nourishing nut-bar because hunger is uncomfortable.  Like Ernest, my life begins in my handbag.  I trust it won't end there. Prynhawn da


Polly said...

What a delightful view of the passing of time. The weight of your handbag must have tripled!

Anonymous said...

Wasnt there aa time when you carried clean napkins too? I notice you often put in an american translation so i had better say diapers

Laura said...

ll I assume they were on a different bag? Mi kids nappies were in a bag attached to the pram