It’s in the bag

I can remember, as a child, running off to school with nothing in my pockets except a handkerchief and, if I remember rightly, I didn’t even bother with that in summer. Later, when I was old enough to go out with my friends, I might carry said hankie, the key to the front door at home and some money, in case I wanted to buy a drink or make a phone call. These days, I sometimes wonder where that innocent simplicity has gone.

When I reached man’s estate and went out to work, wearing a jacket and tie, I had more pockets at my disposal and soon found that I had no trouble filling them. There was the wallet – every self-respecting man has to have a big wallet with money, credit cards, library cards, photos of loved ones, bits of paper with essential information scrawled on them and all those other things that you can’t remember why they’re there but you keep because you assume you will eventually need them.

Then there were the pens. You have to have pens – and pencils. Someone might ask “Can you lend me a pen?” and how stupid you would look if you couldn’t. And you might even need them yourself. Next the diary: you have to have a diary to write things down in such as birthdays and holidays. You probably never actually look in it but you still have to write these things in and transfer them every year from the old diary into the new one. And a notebook. You have to have a notebook because you might have to jot down the registration mark of a vehicle speeding away from the scene of a crime. Imagine the police asking you what the registration was and you not being able to remember. Oh, the shame.

Then there’s a comb, because you must always be well groomed. And a pipe, tobacco, pipe lighter and the pointy thing for unblocking the pipe and the penknife for scraping it out. And an old tobacco tin with bits of chalk in it because quite often, if you are a teacher, you go into a classroom for a lesson and find there’s no chalk. So you carry your own.

In your trouser pockets you have your handkerchief, loose change and, of course, your keys, a great jangling bunch that has the house keys, the car keys, the keys to the coal shed and the tin trunk in the attic. These regularly wear holes in your pockets. You try taking your trousers to the dry cleaner’s where the lady sits at a sewing machine all day long replacing trouser pockets but it’s a bit expensive so you end up patching them yourself with pieces of old sheet or table cloth.

The summer comes and you go on holiday. The weather is hot, very hot. You swelter in your jacket but you can’t take it off because of all the stuff in your pockets. Then comes the glorious moment of enlightenment. It comes in the form of a question that forms in the mind like a bubble on the surface of a pond, denoting mysterious processes in the depths: Do I really need to carry all this stuff around with me?

When my moment came, I enjoyed one of those moments of savage joy when the old is unceremoniously destroyed and the new tumultuously welcomed. Forget the pipe, the tobacco, the pointy thing and the knife. Smoking’s bad for you. Forget the wallet: a small purse for money and a credit card will do. Keys? Two are enough: one for the door and one for the car. What else? Oh, yes, hanky. It’ll all go in my trouser pockets. Sorted.

Oh, the freedom! Oh, the lightness! No notebook for speeding criminal cars, no diary for dates I remember anyway, no briefcase-sized wallet weighing me down!

These days, not having a car helps. That’s one or two keys less, especially as modern car keys are really radio transmitters and are enormous. But even so, my keys still burrowed through my pockets with monotonous regularity. It happened again a year ago, when we were on holiday in Cornwall.

“Damn. I have a hole in my pocket!”

“Repair it when we get back to the hotel.”

“With what?”

“Maybe they can give you some cotton and a needle. Or maybe there’s one of those little repair kits in one of the drawers.”

“I’ll just swap things around. Put the heavy stuff in the pocket without a hole in it.”

“Have you thought of a handbag?”

“You what?”

“A handbag. Or a manbag, if you prefer.”

Now Tigger, when she has an idea in her head, can be very insistent and persuasive. We walked down the road and came upon a surfer’s shop. It was about to close for the winter and there was a sale on. Scenting bargains, we went in.

On a shelf were some bags. “Here’s one,” said Tigger.

Without quite knowing how, I paid for it and left the shop with a handbag – or manbag, if you prefer – and very vague notions about what to do with it.

I took to it like a duck to water. It has a long strap that goes over my shoulder and across my chest. There is a big zipped pocket for my purse and smaller pockets for my mobile and Oyster card. Tigger gave me a key ring with an extendable cord so I can take the keys out and use them but they remain attached to the bag which is attached to me. No more forgetting my keys. I didn’t even bother to repair the hole in my trouser pocket.

It turns out, however, that a bag is a bit like a magnet: it attracts things. For example, I bought a magnifying glass to look at insects. Tigger gave me a pair of folding scissors (so useful for opening packets of peanuts!). There is a small pepper mill that goes everywhere with me and a pound coin I keep for the trolley at the supermarket. And pens and pencils, of course: you never know when you might meet a speeding criminal car or a sudoku puzzle. And the little spray can of antiseptic for when I want to eat something and there are no hand-washing facilities.

In fact, the bag is now stuffed to bursting point but a solution is at hand. Recently the zip broke on the front pocket where I keep my Oyster card and which I can press against the detector without taking the card out. Maybe the zip can be repaired but I have a better idea: how about buying a new bag, you know, a bigger one? Then it would be less stuffed. And there would be room for more things. Like photos and bits of paper with information on them. That sort of thing. Just essentials.

I read the other day that manbags are now passé and no one has them any more. Really? Well, chez moi they are still going great guns. They are permanently flavour of the month. I’d be lost without my manbag.

But I really do need a bigger one.

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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7 Responses to It’s in the bag

  1. Eric Hundin says:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Eric Hundin

  2. SilverTiger says:

    Thank you. I’ll do my best 😉

  3. Ted Marcus says:

    I carry something like a man-purse when I travel, in the form of a camera bag. But I put more than my camera and its associated paraphernalia in it. There’s everything from the day’s supply of medications to pens, the PDA I normally carry in my shirt pocket, brochures from tourist attractions I visit, my cellphone, and toilet seat covers. It’s all very handy. But the wallet still stays in my front pocket. And I’d obviously never think of carrying it when I’m not on vacation or on a nearby photo shoot.

  4. athinkingman says:

    I think my car has become my manbag. The boot is full of useful stuff that I never use – papers that I need for work that somehow never got into the house, books I am meaning to lend someone, a box of screws etc. And the back seat is slowly filling up with books and documents and letters. I may not use all the stuff, but I know where it is should I need it in an emergency.

    Like Ted I find my camera bag is a useful tool when I travel. especially for carrying medications, wallet, and passport. It also helps fill up the car on most days. I am also finding that my addictions to gadgets useful for filling the car, though this is becoming very burdensome in some respects. In addition to two cameras (and appropriate lenses and other accessories, batteries, and battery chargers) there is the mobile phone (and charger), bluetooth headset (and charger), SatNav (and case and charger), reading glasses (and case), distant glasses (and case), and the occasional laptop.

    It is so pleasant to sit and home and not have to carry things sometime 🙂

  5. SilverTiger says:

    “Stuff” is like damp and tends to creep into anywhere where there’s a anywhere. Your invaded camera bags remind me of my briefcase when I was working as a teacher. It was anything but “brief”, as I tended to fill it up with things that I might need, such as magazines and books to read if the tube got stuck somewhere, raincoat and rain hat, plastic bag (“in case” I needed to go shopping), etc. I used to get callouses on my hands from carrying the damn thing. Of course, it went with me on holiday when it become even more stuffed with “useful” items.

    As for the car, oh yes: parked outside, it became a sort of garden shed on wheels. “What shall we do with this?” “Put it in the car until we decide.”

  6. haha I love the idea of your manbag – or man suitcase as it is likely to become.

    I am such a minimalist. I rarely go out with a bag. Generally I take two keys and stuff a note in my pocket incase I need to buy anything. I keep my phone in my hand and that is it. Well and a tissue. My mother despairs of me – she thinks it is most unlady like not to carry a bag with make-up and a hairbrush and hundreds of tissues and whatever else she has in her bag. But one can usually make do I find or beg things from others!

    But yes, I do keep quite a bit of clutter in my car although it is mostly child stuff – books, wipes, muzzles – that sort of thing!!

    I hope Tigger feels better soon. It’s pancake day soon isn’t it? Aren’t pancakes a close relative of the omelette? At least it’s pretty obvious how they got their name.

  7. SilverTiger says:

    Tigger doesn’t believe in being “ladylike”, either. That’s one reason why we get on so well – no waiting around while she pats her hair or repairs her makeup. I’m the one who wears nail varnish.

    But she does have a handbag and I call it Pandora’s box because the most amazing things come out of it (and go back in again, of course). I learnt my handbaggery from Tigger.

    We don’t wait for Pancake Day to have pancakes – or crêpes, their more exciting relative. There’s a nice little place in town where we sometimes have crêpes for breakfast.

    Thanks for your good wishes. Tigger seems to be on the mend.

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