We all spend money unwisely from time to time, but never more so than when feeling low, or uncertain about life in general, or when needing a confidence boost. I was at such a juncture in March 2009. I spent £910 on a Prada handbag.
Even this was by no means the most a self-indulgent woman could spend on herself at the time, not by a long way, but it was still a lot of money to squander on a leather-and-brass object that might look very impressive in the right circumstances, but was inappropriate for day-to-day use.
I was of course mainly paying for the name, Prada being one of those top brands in the fashion world. It was nevertheless a very well-made bag, indisputably an object of desire. And when first bought an instant conversation-piece. But £910 was over the top. In the leaner times that lay ahead, I came to wish that I still had that £910 in my savings account.
Still, the Prada handbag looked and felt wonderful, and the pride of ownership was very real. Here are some early shots of it.
But I quickly saw that I'd have to keep it for best, and purchase a more ordinary bag instead for day-to-day use. I settled on a very nice, practical, but comparatively humdrum black Radley cross-body bag that saw service for several years until replaced by the larger orange Italian cross-body bag I now use. The black Radley and the orange Italian were not cheap bags, but each was a perfectly reasonable buy, an expense you could easily justify. And although attractive, they weren't going to be risky to carry around, or to place on the floor when eating in a restaurant. I was always aware that the Prada bag was a magnet for opportunistic crime, sending 'take-me' messages to sneak thieves and street snatchers. I stopped carrying it into Brighton, or up to London, and thought very carefully about what I put into it, just in case the Prada was whisked off my shoulder, or deftly picked up off the floor when I wasn't looking. It seemed way too vulnerable.
After a few months it was relegated to the wardrobe. It was still my 'best bag', but now only for weddings and funerals, and going to the opera, and for dressed-up evenings on cruise ships - assuming I ever cruised again. It became no more than a bag to be disinterred at long intervals, and briefly used for a special occasion. During 2017 I have deployed it only once, at a funeral last January. I didn't bother taking it on my recent holiday up North and in Scotland.
To be honest, it's not a bag I would now buy. It's too shiny and brass-encumbered for my current tastes. It doesn't look right in a supermarket, not even in Waitrose. It doesn't look right at National Trust properties, nor in the country, nor on a beach. It has no internal compartments beyond two little pockets: so finding anything put into it is a pain, as you have to rummage around and waste time.
It can only be carried in the hands, or on the arms, or held on one or other shoulder. It doesn't leave both hands free, as a cross-body bag will. So it's impractical in the way that expensive high heels are impractical. It belongs to a short-lived era when I needed such a bag to help me recover from an emotional battering, and assert myself again. It did the job. But now it has no job to do, and frankly I could easily manage without it.
But I expect I will keep it forever. My Prada bag is just too good to give away to charity, and I don't think any of my friends would actually want it. It's too glitzy for Sussex. It might be sold on eBay, of course, but it isn't pristine enough to command a really worthwhile price tag. It would attract bids, but not top bids. It would be such a shame to let it go for only £200 or so. And I am not strapped for cash, as I was back in 2011 when I still had the unsold Cottage on my hands, and was running two houses on only one pension.
Possibly in years to come it will be my link with a time of change that has passed into personal history, and is in danger of being forgotten. A tangible relic. So maybe I should preserve it carefully, as a future museum piece, as a reminder.