The last time I told Bigfoot to look in my handbag for something, a mixture of terror and disgust crossed his face. He passed me my bag, muttering « Here. You do it ». He was right to be concerned : it’s a bottomless pit containing so much junk that even Ali Baba would pale at the idea of opening it.
This sad state of affairs led me to wonder recently about the poor person who would be obliged to rummage through my handbag for a source of my identity if I was ever run over by a double-decker bus. So out of pure curiosity, I emptied my bag this morning to get an idea. And here’s the verdict. Before anyone finally discovers the passport and driving licence buried beneath the accumulated rubble of my daily activities, he or she will first discover the following exotic sundries:
Three screwed up paper handkerchiefs. A handful of Halloween sweet wrappers. Several supermarket receipts. One plastic toy cow, covered in sand. A foam dart from Rugby-boy’s toy. Two shopping lists. One mobile phone. One pair of sunglasses. Three chapsticks. A pile of visiting cards. An entire family of tampons. A cheque book, two credit cards and my tatty leather purse. A flier for a recently discovered book store. My blood test results and a phone bill that never made it to the domestic goddess filing cabinet. Keys. Lots of them. Little My’s cardigan. A silk scarf. The envelope containing the cheque for the phone bill, which screams helplessly from the depths of its sarcophagus every time I walk past a letter box. Oh, and the crumbs from the baguette I balance over the top of all the aforementioned junk on the walk home from school every day. A handbag therefore betrays the age and lifestyle of its owner; it is a blueprint of a woman’s very existence.
I never had that handbag that other girls danced around at school discos when I was young. I was a tomboy, so my pockets were big enough for the only things I had to put anywhere: my hands. I didn’t have much in common with the other lesser-spotted teenaged birds and thus avoided dragging make-up, hairbrush and other Barbie equipment around with me. Yet I was shortly to discover the sinister reality of the working world: career-girl clothes have fake pockets. I couldn’t jam everything into my sensible brown leather briefcase, however hard I tried. I was therefore dragged, kicking and screaming, into the handbag world: the only solution for my keys, money, and papers.
A few years later, I upgraded to a larger, mini rucksack-style model and added the first time mother’s kit to the equation. Baby wipes, a spare nappy, plastic bags, an emergency jar of baby food, a Tommy Tippee and a gum soother joined the phone and filofax in the swelling ranks of « just incase » items inside The Bag. As my family grew, I began to feel an increasing need for a Mary Poppins number which would mysteriously ingurgitate my ever-increasing quantity of rubbish. My brothers-in-law came up trumps last year when they offered me a fabulous carpet-bag tribute to Perfidious Albion with a Union Jack printed on the side. It has a huge appetite and happily swallows absolutely everything I throw inside it.
Beware of the handbag. Despite its innocent appearance, it can get you into serious trouble. Come on, hands up… who else has already come out in a cold sweat at security controls out there?
My all-time best was at a Swiss airport, many years ago. I had flu, and was doped up to the eyeballs with paracetamol in a bid to lower my temperature. I said goodbye to P.F and the children, and queued for the plane that would take me home to Britain for my grandmother’s funeral. In a desperate bid to stem the welling tears, I started rummaging through my bag for my passport. My stomach promptly did a somersault as my fingers traced around the outline of Bigfoot’s black plastic toy pistol, which I had confiscated, then promptly forgotten, the day before.
Dropping it in the bin was out of the question, unless I fancied creating bedlam and checking out the airport police offices instead of attending Grandma’s funeral. I coughed nervously and eyed the electric blue-lashed girl behind the counter, wondering if she was the type to press a panic button and scream hysterically. Feeling like a repentant Ma Baker, the only thing I found to say was « I’m going to take something out of my bag and put it on the counter. Please don’t scream, it’s not a real one ». She looked at it with wide eyes, and said « I’m very sorry, you can’t take weapons on the flight ». No shit, Sherlock. After five minutes of phone calls and grumbling from the huge queue growing behind me, Bigfoot’s gun was taken off to the lost and found desk. And as far as I know, that’s where it still is today…..