At 18, I knew b**ger all about life. My great plan was to be a poet, roaming Europe and spewing out melodies of words that would somehow magically weave their way into a career. I loved indiscriminately, believing bad boys could be made good (I blame Cruel Intentions for that particular erroneous belief). I mistakenly imagined that losing a stone – alright, two – would act as a panacea for all my woes. I thought it a good idea to try to nuke acne with alcohol-based toners and that moisturiser was only for old people. What a moron I was.
On one count, though, I was precociously enlightened: I understood the value of purchasing well-made bags. Having gone wrong at 14 by ploughing my pocket money into a Kookai satchel that broke after a month’s use, I spent the subsequent years stashing away anything that wasn’t spent at Space NK with the hope of one day buying something that would look good while also doing the work of a bag – i.e. holding my things and not breaking during a walk around Welsh Bicknor as the Kookai failure did.
During those saving years, I’d sneak out carrying one of my mum’s handbags whenever I needed something more sophisticated than my then ubiquitous Body Shop cotton bag. Her collection was comprised only of the delightful: stylish, buttery soft, ergonomically-sound bags in dove grey and jet black and cherry red. I’d hook one over my shoulder and feel soignée – and with each contraband outing, my resolution to own one deepened.
At 18, I was ready for the big purchase. After some deliberation, I settled on a Mulberry bag. But not just any old Mulberry bag – oh no, I fell for a super-sized, deep chestnut travel version of the Bayswater that looked a bit like something Mary Poppins could’ve crammed her assorted clutter into had she been short on magic that day. It was robustly made from the sort of thick leather that demands adventure, and I was determined to show it one hell of a time.
The first trip we made together was to the South of France – a fittingly fancy debut for such a creation. Next, to Greece, where it was slammed on the floors of boats as I worked my way around the Cyclades with friends. On to Carvoeiro, Tangiers, Harpenden, New York, Palm Beach, Salzburg, Munich, Cambridge, Oslo, Sienna, Paris, Cornwall, Majorca, Copenhagen and countless others we went, me accruing air miles and wrinkles, my bag becoming travel-beaten and slightly scratched.
With time, we’ve both become better at travelling – it’s softer, now sliding under an aeroplane seat effortlessly, and I’m calmer, worrying less about delays, turbulence, mosquito bites and plans gone awry. It sat next to me faithfully when I devoured freshly-picked strawberries in the Cotswolds, while I took a sneaky dip on a nudist beach in Paros, and that time I cried outside a pub in Rugby – my bag, it comes along with me whatever the road may hold. And therein lies my argument for buying quality: like great love, a well-made bag will last a lifetime.