A blog considering those secret worlds hanging on our shoulders.

About the only thing worth reading in the now painfully self-conscious NME is where they accost innocent people using headphones in the street, and ask what they’re listening to. It’s basically an exercise in how quickly people can mention something cool, like Royal Blood, rather admit they were listening to the original cast recording of Cats. But it’s an interesting glance into a private world, even if Mr. Mistoffeelees tends to stay there. Another private world is our bags.

A friend recently posted a photo of her with friends displaying what was in their handbags. Instead of the usual knot of used tissues, house keys, and wrappers of Werthers Originals that their partner had no idea they’re addicted to, they took the opportunity to show off how intelligent, good looking and charming they all were by revealing the novels they were carrying. That one of these was my own Life Assistance Agency obviously helped. ‘I couldn’t put it down’, she kindly said. ‘Why, was it glued to your hand?’

Presumably the disentangling of boiled sweets from old copies of the Metro newspaper had occurred off camera, but what a wonderful new #hashtag that could be, #whatsinyourbag – as people reveal their secrets and empty the contents of their bags for public hilarity, horror and respect.

Of course a book is the most important thing to be carrying in your bag, apart perhaps from your house keys, although someone I know has so many bags that she has a book permanently stored in each one rather than risk leaving the house without reading material.  Lesser used bags reveal  old classics and forgotten bookmarks.

I remember my Grandma’s purse. She could have travelled to the far reaches of the galaxy with its contents. Stamps. Luncheon vouchers. Food stamps. Even some money. And an old curled photo. It was the weight of a dumbbell and the world stopped when it opened. I don’t know what novel she had in it, but it could easily have accommodated one.

There was a time when I’d have welcomed interest in the contents of my bag. It was an original standard D-Day British issue backpack and I was obsessed with it, and its contents. As a 9-year old I had the sort of paraphernalia best suited to surviving a nuclear winter – this was the 80s after all – complete with a spam tin, an army issue water bottle (circa. 1962) and a hunting knife blunt enough to eat with. These days my bag is likely to contain a damp gym towel, having soaked through printed off pages of my novel, with corrections now a damp mess; which in places is still an improvement on the original text. Of course you sometimes forget what’s in your bag, at least until the house mice decide to finish off the honeycomb Galaxy bar on your behalf. I was grateful they had only found one of them.

If they’ve made a film about bloody emojis I’m amazed that the inside of a bag hasn’t yet been turned into a £150m feature film. After all, there’s probably 100 tonnes of tissues, old travel cards, novels and make-up being carried around London alone per day, so let’s shine a light. #whatsinyourbag ?

No copies of the Life Assistance Agency were harmed in filming the bag contents.

The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – – 

A farcical road trip around Europe. ‘This is what would happen if the Blues Brothers went on a search for the Holy Grail.’

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –