A Beginner’s Guide to Sod’s Law and Handbag Voodoos.

English: From Mal Corvus Witchcraft & Folklore...

One of the rare voodoos I do not have in my handbag. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When kids turn up at the door to sell me raffle tickets, my eyes glaze over. I dutifully buy a ticket in the full knowledge that I will never win the basket of goodies, let alone the holiday in Ibiza with massages and breakfast in bed. (That sentence was ambiguous. You wouldn’t get the two simultaneously, of course. They never give prizes like that in PTA raffles.) I’ve also got used to the idea that as I scratch the free game card at the supermarket cash-out and read “LOST”, I will invariably hear Wonder Woman squeal with delight as she wins Prince Charming, a Mercedes-Benz and an all-expenses paid shopping trip to Milan at the next till down.

I don’t have any issues with that. After all, I do win more often than Wonder Woman in more incongruous stakes. Like the day two gypsies stole just one bag amidst thousands on the beach, leaving a one lucky young lady miles from home with no worldly possessions other than her bikini bottoms. As regular readers know, the winner was … me. Here are a few more examples of my wins in what I call “the reverse luck stakes” .

  • When a car travelling down the M27 hit the central reservation and flipped up in the air like a giant tiddly-wink before slowly tumbling out of the sky into oncoming traffic, its driver (or should I say “pilot”) probably glimpsed the determined face of a girl who was muttering obscenities as she floored the accelerator and willed her VW Beetle to get the hell out of his landing strip. That girl was me.
  • When I was taken to watch my first (and last) football match, I didn’t see any football. I witnessed the worst stadium-related tragedy in the history of British sport instead.
  • When our local budding arsonist decided that setting light to wheelie bins was no longer enough to satisfy what would could be described as a burning desire for flames, he gave in to temptation and set light to one of the hundreds of cars parked along our avenue. Technically speaking, the car wasn’t mine… it was on loan from my employer.
  • To crown it all, breaking news: PF is presently stuck on an island somewhere off the coast of Africa because the local petrol stations have gone on strike. No petrol, no boat. No boat, no airport. If the family silverback doesn’t manage to get on the plane home next week, I will end up corresponding with a disgruntled, long-haired, modern-day Robinson Crusoe dressed in zebu skin who has shacked up in the trunk of a baobab tree and is sharing bananas with the pet lemur on his shoulder.
Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle

PF calling MM from Baobab HQ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have drawn the conclusion that the slimmer the chances of misfortune are for others, the more likely the predicament becomes for me. These “reverse luck stakes” lead me to check the sky from time to time in case there is a block of frozen airline waste beelining through the stratosphere with my name on it. After all, if only five people have been hit by these urine-saturated meteorites over the last 40 years in the UK, that means that I run a pretty high chance of going down in family history as the girl who was clocked on the head by St Peter’s giant frozen kidney stone.

Sod’s law is intricately linked to another law of possibilities that I call the “handbag voodoo law”. Handbag voodoos are all the things you cart around in your bag that you never seem to need. This lorryload of crap seems to protect you from the wrath of the sod’s law gods, who vent their spleen on you as soon as you leave any of said “useless items” at home.

When my kids were small, I would chuck a spare change of clothes for them into my bottomless handbag. It would fester in the collection of biscuit crumbs, keys, supermarket receipts and biros for months on end until I finally emptied my bag and strode out of the door with my child, forgetting the change of clothes. This immediately sparked the demon on my child’s shoulder into action, and they would promptly either pee their pants, drop their drink down their fronts or throw up.

My mobile phone never rings until I forget it at home. I invariably return to snotty messages from school saying that my child has a temperature and that they couldn’t contact me. The “handbag voodoo” law applies to many other things: Aspirin. Tissues. Biros. Hair bands. Gloves. Elastoplast. Sunglasses. Hand cream. Screwdrivers… The list is endless, and yesterday’s missing handbag voodoo was the lip balm. It had knocked around in my bag until the lid fell off months ago and it ended up welded to my checkbook. So I made the mistake of chucking it away and not replacing it.

English: Gladrags and handbags! A giant handba...

A bag big enough to contain all necessary handbag voodoos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast forward to yesterday, when MM was kicking her heels on the beach with Smelly Dog for the day whilst Bigfoot jumped through hoops for the French military service. The Sod’s Law Gods inspected the contents of my handbag, got their heads together and handed things over to Zeus. The wind picked up, and sand and salt stung my face and dried out my lips. Within two hours, I felt as dried out and wrinkled as a sun-dried tomato and was licking my lips more often than Hugh Hefner at a lingerie show.

So when I got home, I ran to the bathroom, stuck my hand in the cupboard and pulled out the first lip balm I saw. I hastily slathered a huge, comforting layer of it all over my stinging, smarting lips, then hit the sack.

Now. Remember those reverse luck stakes? There is little chance of anyone being allergic to lip balm. Within this group, there is an infinitely small percentage of people who could physically react to a hypoallergenic, plant-based one. That person appears to be me. I woke up looking like a cross between Angelina Jolie and a Dunlop tyre, and have been yelling at Smelly Dog all day as I can no longer whistle.

Looking on the bright side of things, I won’t scare my husband, because he’s stuck under a baobab with the entire cast of “Madagascar”. Come to think of it, lip balm is a damn sight cheaper than Botox injections. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to rub it on my wrinkles.

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Handbag horrors.

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…..