Just about every woman who has ever figured in my life has been accompanied by a handbag. Old Nana Morris had one, Daughter Frances has one, Shirley has one, my female teaching colleagues all had handbags and my mother had one. Actually, I am lying. None of them had just one handbag. Oh no. They each owned or still own several.
As a very young boy, I was often drawn to my mother's handbag. You never knew what you might find in there. Stray boiled sweets, "Polo" mints, chewing gum, salted peanuts. But I noticed other things too. The smell of face powder and perfume. A comb, a brush, a manicure set, a diary, a bus timetable, tissues, newspaper cuttings, buttons, an emergency sewing kit and other stuff I can't remember. Her handbag bulged and it weighed as much as a chubby baby.
One of the down sides of being a loyal husband is that you sometimes find yourself temporarily holding your darling wife's handbag. This happened to me just the other day when Shirley had to try on a new item of clothing. As usual I felt like a complete berk but I was struck by the weight of said item and exclaimed, "What the hell have you got in here? A couple of house bricks?"
As a butch Yorkshireman whose veins throb with high concentrations of raw testosterone, I have never had a handbag of my own. Yet I have been thinking... Perhaps it is about time that men also carried handbags. It would be a way of expressing our continuing support for women's liberation and our belief in equality.
My handbag would be made from the bristly hide of a violent wild boar. Its tusks would be the handles and I would have "Pudding's Handbag. KEEP OUT!" tattooed on the side. But the main difficulty would be finding stuff to put inside my macho handbag. Currently I carry four things in my pockets - my wallet, some coins, a handkerchief and my keys. I don't need anything else when I step outside our house. Perhaps I'll have to put other items in the bag just to fill it up - a Swiss army knife, a truncheon, an American taser device, an emergency bottle of "Tetley" beer, a toilet roll, a pack of mini sausage rolls and a framed picture of Ken Wagstaff, the legendary Hull City striker.
How have I lived these past sixty one years without a handbag of my own?