Barbara Taylor Bradford: A Lady of Substance
Why men will NEVER understand the importance of a lady’s handbag – and why Harry could have lost more than his shirt
I sometimes wonder if men truly understand the importance of a woman’s handbag. It’s not really a case of whether it’s Hermès or Prada or M&S, but what’s inside it, what it represents that really matters. For inside every lady’s handbag is often her livelihood, her security, her independence. In this modern, more peripatetic world, it is a portable Room Of One’s Own.
This came into particular focus last week, when I read in the news about the case of a thief who had snatched a woman’s handbag. The male thief, Kamran Latif, had suggested that he merely ‘inconvenienced’ women when he took their bags. The female judge, however, begged to differ.
‘It is not just the inconvenience,’ Judge Zoe Smith told Reading Crown Court, ‘it causes fear as well. Her phone is taken, her cards, her money to get a cab is taken, her keys to the door of her house. Then there is the fear of anyone breaking into the house. It’s a terrible thing to do and girls are left stranded on their own.’
And she was absolutely right.
Before I go on, however, I should make a confession: I am addicted to handbags. I was given my first, a Gucci, by a boyfriend when I was 20, and I have been hooked ever since. In fact, I have just bought my 50th, a Prada, in Rome.
My Hermès bags are my favourites – and I now have 24 of them. All were given to me by my husband of 48 years, Bob. These tell the story of my marriage and are of great sentimental value.
But it’s often the contents of a woman’s bag that is of the greatest significance. There was a time, you see, when a woman was expected to remain at home. Thankfully, this is no longer the case – and her bag is a symbol of that. It contains the keys to her own house or flat and the bank cards that give access to her money. It may contain the tools of her trade (in my case a pen and a Moleskine notebook); the mobile telephone that allows her to contact friends, organise her affairs and make plans; the make-up that enables her to change her look to suit a mood. It makes her feel free, safe, independent. Ultimately, it’s not a case of the label on the outside of the bag, but how the little things inside it help to make a woman who she is.
I once mislaid my handbag outside a hotel, after helping to judge a Mrs (not to be mistaken with Miss) America competition. And when I thought I’d lost it, the panic was terrible.
I was lucky enough to find my bag after just a couple of minutes – it had vanished behind a pile of luggage. But the sense of relief was extraordinary. In fact, I just stood there for a moment, clutching it close and mumbling happily to myself.
Bob just couldn’t understand how I got in such a flap. But that bag – with my passport, money, a favourite necklace and notes for a new novel – was about more than just mere possessions. ‘My life is in that bag,’ I told him. Men, it seems, will never truly understand a woman’s relationship with her handbag, but they come between us at their peril.
and so to prince harry…
...his naked antics and those pictures – well, I adore Harry and couldn’t care less what a man does in his own Las Vegas hotel room, as long as it’s legal and especially if he’s otherwise charming, brave and hard-working.
In fact, my first reaction was to chuckle. ‘Ooh, Harry,’ I smirked. ‘You naughty so-and-so.’
But then the more important question dawned on me: what on earth was his security detail doing? After all, just because some of the guests in his room were pretty young women, doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have been carrying a gun, rather than a camera or a mobile phone, in their bags.
Men tend to think of women as the weaker sex, but I believe they can be as tough and ruthless and dangerous as men. We shouldn’t be fretting that a young man was letting off steam in an American hotel room, but more relieved that he came to no harm. He really could have lost more than just his shirt.
Barbara’s next monthly column is in the 5 October issue.
Daily tip from the lady archive
“HEAVEN forbid that we should go back to the days when beauty was under suspicion and plain girls were assumed to have angelic natures.”The Lady. With Prejudice. 28th April 1938