“A woman’s mind is as complex as the contents of her handbag; even when you get to the bottom of it, there is ALWAYS something at the bottom to surprise you!”
This week I took delivery of this beautiful Lulu Guinness bag that I have had my eye on for a while. I wanted it this Summer but I refused to pay the full asking price and so I waited and waited until the price would come down. It never did.
Then earlier this month, I noticed that it was being sold on the TKMax website and so as a huge treat to myself for Christmas, I decided to buy it. I will get my money’s worth. Nowadays handbags are my only vice. Having a metal cage in my back means that my days of wearing heels are long gone. I am no longer a size eight to ten and wearing fashion items is now in the past, as with my permanently boiling menopausal body, comfort over style always wins.
I have always loved handbags since I was a little girl. In nearly every childhood photograph, I am stood with some huge adult handbag that is a hand-me-down from my Mum. My parents took to calling them ‘cram-bags’ instead of handbags. The reason being that in my effort to look grown up I would cram them with a variety of objects that I thought made me look older. Comb, pencils, pens, fake make-up, nail-file, hairgrips, pack of cards, dolly. You name it, it was in my cram-bag. I blame my addiction to handbags on my first trip abroad to Italy in 1975.
In October 1975, my parents took us on a trip to Italy. I think my Dad had left working as an electrical engineer at Player’s factory and he used the lump sum to take us on a holiday of a lifetime. The holiday we went on was with Thomson holidays, which in the seventies was considered incredibly posh. We were going to visit Venice, Florence and Rome. I think my Dad saw it as the honeymoon he never had with my Mum. They got married in 1966 and had spent their honeymoon in a caravan in Chapel St Leonards. It can’t have been much of a honeymoon, as when they got there, my Mother’s grandparents were there too. Yet this trip was going to be an amazing new adventure for my parents, who were still relatively young and in their twenties. I can remember just about everything from that holiday. I must only have been six. But the memories from that trip have stayed with me forever.
Our first stay was in Venice. Before we landed, I can remember my Mother preparing my brother and I by telling us about the Italian way of eating. My mother was a huge fan of the chef, Elizabeth David and she made the best bolognaise and lasagne years before it became popular in this country. Even now my kids love my pasta dishes and lasagne, which are entirely based on my mother’s recipes. I can recall my Mother telling us that we had to be open to new tastes and appreciate the Italian culture. Imagine then her disappointment, when on the first night we arrived we were given chicken and chips. I can see her now, asking if there wasn’t something more Italian that we could taste instead.
In Venice we went into St Mark’s square and fed the pigeons. I can remember that wherever we went Italians would ask to touch my deep red hair. I found it all rather creepy, but my parents obliged because they did not want to upset the Italians. Today I am sure that red hair is a very common sight in Italy but in those days, it was evidently rare.
My Mother wanted to absorb the Italian culture and visit all the art galleries. I can recall one visit to the Uffizi Gallery and standing with my brother looking at the Venus de Milo painting. Sadly, the art meant very little to us, as we were too busy pretending that we were spies taking snapshots with our small boxes of cards that we pretended were cameras. In Florence I also shared a room with my brother that was next door to my parents’ room. We spent all night calling the reception on the hotel phone and driving them mad.
One of the days in Florence we visited the Mercato Nuovo, noted for the bronze statue of the boar known as Il Porcellino. People rub the nose of the boar and it is said that those who do will always return to Florence. In the market they sold the most beautiful leather bags and it was there that my obsession was born. My Mother purchased a very expensive leather handbag. I can still smell it now. Leather has such a natural and primitive smell and yet it is also quite sensual. The handbag lasted her for many years and so it was truly a good investment. I was treated to a much smaller bag and sadly I now have no idea where the bag is or if it still exists somewhere in the loft of my Dad’s house. I probably broke it by cramming it full of all my toys and hairbrushes.
My handbag addiction probably came into full force when I was no longer able to wear high heels. I think I started with a bright red patent bag from Hobbs. Over the past few years I have bought Prada, Vivienne Westwood and Moschino bags, as well as Kate Spade and Lulu Guinness. I am not particularly loyal to a brand and I am not sure what it is about a bag that makes me want to buy it. My husband thinks I am barmy, but I always say that they must sing to me. I suppose I mean that the bag must look as though it would bring me joy. A few years ago, I bought one of those handbag organisers from Amazon that enables you to keep the contents of your handbag in a plastic wallet that you then can place inside the handbag that you wish to use. It’s perfect for when I want to quickly change my bag.
I never sell on my bags once I have finished with them. I suppose like a little girl with her dolls, I prefer to keep them and then pass them onto my daughter to use. It’s a real comfort that she also likes bags and loves to cram them full in the same way that I did. She’s also got her eye on my current Lulu Guinness bag but she’s going to have to wait a while for that.