Wednesday 24 February 2010

What's your bag?

Handbags. No, not pitching for a fight, just talking about the common or garden handbag (or pocketbook or purse for my North American readers).

Kate tagged me to divulge what is in my handbag and I agreed because I think it’s more than a random set of ‘things’ – a woman’s bag is a mirror of her personality.

A friend of mine looks askance at my bag. Hers is small – immaculate on the outside, pristine on the inside. In it she keeps a (clean, pressed) hankie, a purse, a small diary and her reading glasses. That’s it. I say ‘friend’ but if I’m honest we’ll never be ‘real’ close tell-it-all over several bottles of wine friends because we are just too different. Her life is neat, compartmentalised, ordered. Mine, on the other hand, lurches from chaos to calamity. She's not the kind of friend who would understand that you're feeling down/overwhelmed/teary/a bit bonkers. She'd look puzzled and suggest you need more sleep or a bout of gardening.

My dear late (and hugely lamented) friend Sarah Dening always said that to dream of a handbag was to dream about your identity, what defines you as a woman. If you dream of a handbag she suggests you ask yourself these questions:
• Has a change of circumstances undermined my sense of identity?
• Am I afraid of losing my worth as a woman?
• Am I trying to model myself on someone else?

Interesting questions, one and all (and, if I'm honest, it's probably a YES to all three).  Let’s see what my handbag and its contents reveals about me and my life (both outer and inner).

My bag is soft brown leather with a vivid pink lining. It was a present from my mother when she was very ill, not long before she died and so it is hugely precious. It came from a little shop just down the road and is a very non-prententious, very non-designer bag. It's always been slouchy but once it was relatively smart. Now the leather is scuffed, the lining is’s been well-used and has a few years’ use left in it yet. So it feels very much a symbol for how I feel as a middle-aged, madly juggling, generally worn out, slumped in a corner woman.

In it, you will find right now:
• A bright pink Prada purse. Real Prada. Bought for me by my dear friend Jane who knows that the only time I get the real thing is when she buys it for me. ‘Every woman needs a bit of Prada’ she said. I love it but never quite feel it’s ‘me’.
• An iPod. My son’s. Can’t use it, haven’t a clue. Makes me feel stupid every time I look at it.
• My Moleskine notebook. Goes everywhere with me. I find inspiration hits, not when I’m sitting at my desk but everywhere else. My memory is shot so I carry it round with me.
• Several pens. I live in mortal terror of not having a writing implement.
• Diary. Never look at it but hey, it’s there.
• A book, if not two. At the moment it’s a YA novel called Shiver.
• A small torch. We still can’t get into The Bonkers House by the front door (there be monsters) so we have to navigate steep and uneven and winding steps up into the garden. A torch avoids (hopefully) broken legs.
• Glasses case. Never has glasses in it.
• Sunglasses. Ray Bans (Wayfarer Dekko) I bought at Miami airport over twenty years ago. Happy memories of a wonderful press trip to Grand Bahama.
• Memory stick.
• Rescue remedy; arnica; lip salve
• Hand cream (La Compagnie de Provences, lavender)
• Fingerless mittens, in nubbly blue wool, knitted by Pipany
• Several small grey model soldiers. Used to decorate a cake for James back in November and now bivvied in my mobile phone pocket. Note: mobile phone NOT in bag. Never is. Never know where it is.
• Gum shield (spare for James)
• Tampons in metal container and loose
• Jo Malone Lime Basil and Mandarin cologne. Cheers me up.
• A scrunchie. Why? No idea.
• Several shopping lists, receipts, business cards, flyers
• A layer of dust.

That’s it. What does it say about me? I guess that I’m just another working mother: a bit disorganised, a bit haphazard; trying hard to be prepared for all eventualities (so maybe a bit anxious); phobic of phones; desperately wanting to write and be creative; too lazy to have a turnout; not particularly vain (note the lack of makeup and mirror) or is that just plain given up?

So, over to you. What is in your handbag? And (if you fancy) what do you think it says about you?

I reckon if you like this one, just go for it. But, in the spirit of tagging, I would love to know the innards of the bags of:

Crystal Jigsaw
Fire Byrd


Fire Byrd said...

OMG if I write a whole post about my handbag everyone will know how bad my OCD is!
Put it like this I don't have clutter and everything is in a case/bag of some sort.
And of course cause I'm so affected it's a designer one.
Uuumm can I be brave enough to let the world know how anally retentive I am......
I'll let you know if I do it!

Exmoorjane said...

Tee hee... Go on..... You were the very first person who sprang to mind for this...and your bag has a story to tell. jx

Milla said...

I love reading your blogs because it always reminds me how lovely you are. Gush. Tho, this recalls Arvon, non??

Ladybird World Mother said...

!! This made me laugh so hard. Once went on a nice Christmas supper with some girl friends, and just happened to empty my bag out to give them all a good laugh... so much detritus in my bag... and when it was all out on the table, we marvelled about how it ever fitted into the bag in the first place. Amongst the crap were... toy cars (3) scissors, glue stick (s), a pair of my daughter's pants, an old tea bag (???), photos, crunched up and moth eaten, but much looked at, plus a whole array of rubbish. Literally, rubbish. Old bits of paper, pen tops, sweet wrappers, etc. Plus normal stuff like purse and such. Oh dear. And dust. Yuck. Loved this post. Looking forward to seeing what other people have in theirs. Me Not Neat Neither. Never will be, however hard I try, to buy little boxes and purses to put things in. Never works. xxx

lizvater said...

I bought one of those 'handbag organisers', which aims to reduce clutter and be portable between bags, so you're never without handbag essentials. Now it's stuffed with receipts, dog poo bags, some herbal teabags both in and out of wrappers,random foreign coins, a battery (?), an overdue parking ticket and some stick-on eyes with wobbling eyeballs. So now I can transport my chaos BETWEEN handbags. It's not just THROWN together...

Exmoorjane said...

Milla: damnit, you're right. We DID do this at Arvon. Hmm, think we need a refresher course.

LWM: I KNEW there was someone else I wanted to tag! Yes, I used to have that bag with the pants and toy cars in it. Glue is dangerous.

Liz: what? A handbag organiser?! Aaagh. The dog poo bags are in my pockets (nice) and yes, I used to have a teabag (some herbal jobby) in my bag for aeons - now it's joined the dust.

lizvater said...

Check this out. Only imagine mine stuffed to the gills with rubbish and oomska ...

Fire Byrd said...

Ok it was write this tag or do the housework... I really must get sorted sometime today!
Feels like one of the most revealling things I've ever done. And so unlike other peoples bag contents.
Glad your back here writing lots I've put you back on my roll so as not to miss a word so don't disappear now!

English Mum said...

Ooh I LOVE this! And I love that your handbag is soft and gorgeous but hiding a shocking pink interior - isn't that a bit like you?! xx

Exmoorjane said...

Liz - actually....I can sort of see the point except that my bits would all fall down the edges...

Fire Byrd: yippeee, off to read now. I go through phases with blogging...feast or famine. Will try to keep up. ;)

EM: oooh, you psychqueen....hmm, so boring on the outside and ripped to shreds inside? :)

Frances said...

Hello Jane,

Do you not carry money in your handbag? Maybe my tired eyes missed that mention.

Promise to try to answer your tagging. (I think that someone else tagged me with this a while back, and I never got round to it.)

Best wishes to you and your lads. xo

Jude said...

I'm so glad you're back Jane..
you do make me think, when I'm not laughing...
Do you not have dog treats in yours..?

Exmoorjane said...

Frances: Money (what little there is of it!) is in the Prada purse (wallet)..

Jude: hey, lovely to see you... Dog treats tend to be in my pockets...though I once had a pig's ear in my bag!

Faith said...

Hi Jane, been missing you on purplecoo! Your bag sounds tidy compared to mine. I revealed the contents once on pc and prob never again as everyone else's was much tidier - can't understand how anyone can live with just a purse and some keys!

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

I love this - might even do it! Your bag sounds interesting and generous, like you.

Pipany said...

Half the time I don't have a bag as I seem to carry around so much stuff for the kids. I almost dream of having one all my own. How sad is that (no answers necessary!). Glad the mitts proved useful Jane and good to see you back x


Ooh, fasciating stuff, Jane. Like the sound of your lovely, friendly bag with it's chic lining and your Prada purse. Know the fear of being without a writing implement - although I usually have many, many pens, I rarely have anything to write on except the odd ancient bus ticket or a paper hanky. However I'm the opposite of you on two important points - always have mobile and always switch it off accidentally whilst rummaging around to answer it, and never have a diary - no one ever asks me out these days, and on the odd occasion they do, it is scribbled onto one of the aging bus tickets.

(Suddenly occurs to me - I hardly ever travel by bus these days, so why am I always finding bus tickets? Hmmm. Must be something to do with my identity. Fascinating...)

Great blog, by the way.

eyeoptix said...

I've always been a fan of Ray Ban Sunglasses especially the Wayfarers. These specs are simply timeless!

Frances said...

Jane, I have caught you tag, written a bit about my functional, but defintitely not stylish bag, and passed the game on to some other parts of the world.

Fun to see what goes in bags across the world.


Mrs Worthington said...

I love this idea - will get the girls onto this at my next get together. I envisage a lot of hilarity

Fennie said...

I love that bag as identity suggestion. So glad that I'm not the only person in the world that hasn't a clue about iPods.

Rob-bear said...

Bears don't have bags. But this is interesting reading. Peculiar, but interesting.

DD's Diary said...

Oooh, how lovely, thank you Jane, I adore handbags and also a bit of a rummage around the psyche - in fact I changed over bags yesterday for Spring (how OCD is that????) so I won't have the layer of dust but plenty of other horrors ....

LittleGreenFingers said...

I always carry nappy and wipes in mine - and these frequently fall out at times when, you'd really rather they didn't - usually on a rare night out when you were rather hoping to seem like a professional, sane and 'with it' woman.

Kitty said...

I love this Meme, Tattie's done it and tagged me, so therefore...

I love how to you it's so boring but to everyone else, utter fascination.

Interesting list there - similar to mine but what's happened to my lipbalm? I'm panicking now. I usually have about four sorts, and lo - none.

Fred said...

I'm not very good on handbags. I always start off with good intentions, I shall treat it with loving care, carry only essential items blah, blah. It last about a week before the usual detritus takes over and the poor thing gets tossed onto the floor of the car like an old rag.

Chris Stovell said...

Jane, I've presented you with an well-deserved award over at mine. Thanks again for your support, m'dear.

CAMILLA said...

Hi Jane,

Miss you on the Coo, love reading about your post on handbags. Have had my very large brown leather one for ages, it's getting a tad tatty I must admit. Small bags never are enough for me, well not what I pack into them anyway.

Inside bag..... notebook and pens always, the softest leather Nica purse bought for me by a very dear friend. Evening Primrose handcream, inhaler (just in case I have an attack), small pack of nivea wipes and body-shop lipstick and lipbalm. Mobile phone, that's if I have not lost the damn thing and left it somewhere else.

Lots of love to you Jane and your family at the Bonkers House.


Jinedin said...

Love the blog. I have The Magic Bag, which contains a number of dinkys, amongs other things.
Hope you don't mind, but in honour of a great blog, and your introducing me, via your links, to Purple Coo, I've tagged you chez moi

Norma Murray said...

Jane, you are just the person I'd expect to have a bag with a vivid pink lining. Lovely, revealing blog as usual. I'm off now to catch up on all those you've tagged.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Someone else with a need to have spare pens for the spare pens in my bag . Not to mention the tiny Ikea pencil lurking from the last visit .
The rest of the junk I tend to carry round in my head , if you see what I mean . I envy single minded , together people who can concentrate on one thing at a time . Mind you , sometimes a rummage can throw up something surprising , a bit like your toy soldiers .

Jon Storey said...

I know I haven't got a handbag but can I play please?

In my 'manbag' aka trouser pockets, I have today:

A handkerchief (enough said to spare the delicate)

A penknife (probably illegal these days but how else do I open feed sacks and hay bales, also very useful when I go out fighting at the Derby and Joan Club!)

Two doors keys (home and my mother's cottage)

Less change than will buy me a newspaper!

Lipsalve (a chap should never be without)

Card wallet containing sundry receipts, a Debit and Credit Cards (largely for show in these straightened times!)

Some fluff and dust and small quantity of hay?

A note to remind me to do something important several days ago ( see

Oh yes, and an air rifle pellet!

There we are, my sad life is revealed to all

Jon Storey said...


Those two comments containing the oriental script are VIRUS !! Do not open, delete immediately!

Cait O'Connor said...

Very interesting Jane but then everything you write is. Miss you on the Coo.
I will have a bash at this bag thing.

Unknown said...

I recently changed bags so the contents of mine is quite sparse now. Could go as far to say tidy...

This post made me smile.

Rachel said...

Sounds just like my handbag. And I not a mother. Ok, I don't have toy cars but I do have all manner of other rubbish...

Dena said...

Absolutely love the oufit - from the ray ban sale
down to the boots!

casquette ed hardy said...

nice post!!!!!!