How I have always envied those slick people who can travel abroad for a whole week, using one small piece of soft, light luggage and co-ordinating, swoppable outfits and still look elegant.
These types invariably have ‘cool’ indelibly stamped in every cell, as they casually stroll off an aircraft and waltz straight through ‘Nothing to Declare’ channels, without having the common touch of waiting by the arrivals hall carousel, mesmerised like the hoi polloi by every piece of luggage being spewed out through the rubbery flaps to do a lap of dishonour, because the first ones are never ours. Those people are far too chilled to watch the variety of cases and bags and mysterious boxes on which we all focus as if they were acts in a once-only televised Royal Variety Performance, for fear of missing our personal piece, even if it is radioactively fluorescent pink and screams ‘I made it – many won’t!’
The people who swan through airports and aircraft with a two ply, cashmere cardigan over the shoulders and a garment for every occasion from bar to beach to ballroom in a small Louis Vuitton bag, are usually called names like Holly or Lucy. The rest of us, the Barbaras and the Mollys, will be either shivering because our 1975 John Lewis jacket for all seasons is inside the bag in an icy terminal, under the opened and leaking packet of squashed tuna fish sandwiches we saved so thriftily for our destination with the little foil-top carton of water which is now punctured by; or we’ll be boiling, because we could not stuff our coat inside an already bulging case on which we had to stamp and jump to close – we would have had no choice but to wear our ‘so out of fashion that it’s nearly in again’ garment on the one day the temperature decided to hit the mid eighties. ]]That’s a distinctly hot look, but not in a beguiling sense, as it is more sweaty than sweetie. only to find we missed the escapee of a bra strap, dangling like a lifeless, lace snake, behind the case as a single stranded mop, cleaning a narrow strip of floor covering wherever it is pulled. White on departure and black on arrival, we’ll realise on landing that in our effort to bring the best and minimise the rest, we will have packed a beautiful piece of lingerie not worn since 1993, which is too small and produces four udders instead of two mammaries.
Well, I managed that cool, one bag look for the first time recently and was so proud of myself, until I realised that yes, it was a small bag and it was a Vuitton of about two decades old, so it was curling up around the edges, a bit like the owner; however, by the time my computer, books and notepads were inside, it weighed a ton and made me walk like Quasimodo. I arrived at my destination with a virtually dislocated shoulder, fearing that the bag-holding hand would be scraping the tarmac with its knuckles on disembarking the aircraft. Having had to feign its weightlessness at check in, the game was almost up when I tried to hoist it into the overhead locker of flight BA 927 and it bounced off the edge to fly back and cuff me on the forehead. In an embarrassed daze, as I could feel a throbbing, egg sized lump forming over one slowly blackening eye, adding to the distinct lack of glamour, I decided to write a letter to all the Hollys and Lucys I know. It would be very short, asking only, ‘How on earth do you do it?’