Monday, 3 September 2012

Intimate Secrets

Last week a security man at London's Natural History Museum asked to search my handbag. I was dismayed. I have, you see, things to hide. Things that I really do not wish London's security officials to know about. Should some of these things come to light, my good standing in the community could be gravely undermined.
The man, however, was ruthless. He rummaged unfeelingly through my capacious companion and exposed my guiltiest secrets to public scrutiny. For all those in the queue behind me could see that within the elegant contours of my leather Bridge bag lurked:


I'm not sure why I carry a potato peeler. Probably it dates from my backpacking days in Eastern Europe when I had to seize any culinary opportunity that came my way. For those who scoff, how do you know you won't find yourself in the middle of a carrot field one day, and require instant gratification?


Yes, I do have those sophisticated tissues in neat plastic packages, but I don't ever open them if I can help it, for they work out at nearly 10p a nose blow. Some of the above probably aren't mine. They are thrust at me, limp with sinister fluids, after the children have borrowed them in a bin-free environment.


I have no idea what this is, but I know what I fear it is: a piece of left-over cake from a children's party. What unnerves me is that the last party either of my children attended was a full month ago.


I don't know how this plastic spider got there either. I was about to bin it when it occurred to me that I could balance it on my editor's in-tray. She shrieked and buckled in the middle of a telephone interview. I had no idea she was an arachnophobic. I've kept it, after that success, because it might liven up the next long meeting about the church fete.


This is a pot of magic medicine. It's efficacy is miraculous. Any childish hurt is almost instantly soothed by a single dose. Some of them contain laughing or dancing or singing spells which help revive the patient remarkably to the enjoyment of all around. I wouldn't dare venture outside without it.


Younger readers won't recognise this. It's called an address book and I use it for putting people's phone numbers in because I can never remember how to programme them into my mobile. New acquaintances, whom I judge won't be around long enough to justify a permanent inked slot, get detailed on Post-it notes and stored in a drawer. Friendships that just might blossom are recorded in the book in pencil. Most of the inked entries are dead.


This is a notebook - a necessity in case I should have a Great Thought. I've had this one for three years and it's mostly full of shopping lists, infant doodles and odd fragments of gossip that I want to remember for my diary. I'm mystified by the scribbled words: 'Barbie - plump, limp and viled with croissant grease' and by a phone number for Bill. Who's Bill?


The above arouses intense jealousy in men. The security guard at the museum insisted on borrowing it while I studied the exhibits and the bloke at the airport harboured it for the entire duration of my holiday. Actually, I've hardly ever used it, but I'm anticipating that it will save the day if I have to perform  emergency surgery or open a beer bottle.



These are the rest of my daily essentials. Things like screwdrivers and measuring tape and train timetables and emergency supplies of Vaseline and Extra Strong Mints. And a plastic fighter aircraft. I didn't photograph the menacing thing I found stuck to the dusty lining. Come to think of it, this exposition of my intimate secrets has been beneficial, for it's prompted me to overhaul the amount of stuff I lug round with me everyday. I've done a clean - and a determined cull: yep, I've got rid of half of those semi-used tissues.

What do you conceal in your handbag?


28 comments:

  1. And despite all that, they STILL let you into the museum?? ;-)

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  2. Trust me, you are not alone, I'm Security Guard although not at The Natural History Museum.

    I have stumbled across dirty pants, diaphragms, unknown sticky things, knives, porno, washing up liquid, fluffy handcuffs, gimp masks, vibrators to name but a few although the worst bag by far contained a bag of DOG POOH!!!

    You get to see it all lol

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    1. How fascinating! I'd love to interview you for a Working Life column.

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  3. Funnily enough, mine looks spookily like yours although old dog treats, poo bags (empty ones!), tampons half out of wrappers and copious amounts of receipts are usually taking up far more space than they should! The potato peeler definitely tops the lot!

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  4. Oh the familiar contents. I too have a pen knife which has even managed to get through airport security (unintentionally obviously!)

    I'm baffled by the potato peeler & being of the older generation no tampons but definately liners! Never go anywhere without those!

    My address book is always with me in which most people get a double entry, one by surname & one by first name. Oh the joys of getting old!

    I marvel at the small handbags some women manage to carry.

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    1. Have noticed my bags get bigger - fuller - with age (my age, that is). My the time I'm 80 I'll need a bin liner to hold all me necessaries.

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  5. I also carry a pocket knife, not the cool swiss army knife like you have, but one my father gave me when I was a child. It's probably as old as me!

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    1. I've no idea where mine came from. It mysteriously replaced the grey steel one that I picked off a pavement 30 years ago.

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  6. Did you get your knife back after the holiday? Mr B had his confiscated full stop when we went of the EuroStar... :(

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    1. I did, thanks, so if you need a beer bottle opening...

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  7. Oh dear, last time I had to empty the contents of my handbag was at a rather cool concert full of achingly beautiful, skinny and trendy types. Laid across the table, alongside the "It crowd's" neat little bags of make-up and snazzy i-Phone covers, were a packet of baby wipes, two nappies.... and a dirty nappy wrapped in a peach coloured nappy bag. I am SO classy.

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    1. They probably envied you those betrayals of a fulfilled domestic life!

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  8. Erm, my only embarrassing item is a spare pair of pants. Used to be for the Bug. Now they're for me...

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  9. Wow you must have a very big handbag? I fear I may have some left over birthday cake in my bag and some raisins that used to belong to small child. I do change my handbags regularly so that does help to keep the contents on the skinny side but the make up bag takes up the most space in my handbag (can;t think why as I don't actually wear very much)

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  10. I giggled all the way through reading that post, thank you!

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  11. Read that with complete mortification identifying with much of it. Am also clearing mine out pronto!

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  12. A potato peeler lol......Loved having a nosy in you bag...I thought my bag was heavy but yours looks...huge xxx I bet the security guard could tell us a few handbag stories lol
    Lovin the blog following now
    my handbag contents....No potato peelers!!!!

    http://janglitzbbeautiful.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/show-meshow-methe-handbag.html

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  13. Yep potato peeler is definately my fave random idea I have ever heard of! Would I scare you to say I rarely carry a handbag! Just a purse and my phone :) Following you now x

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