Time for some bag stuff……

Well, I thought that this blog would combine, as its name suggests, a bit of stuff about bags and a bit of stuff about travel, both slight obsessions on my part. But trying to work in a bit about handbags is not quite as easy – I could show the bags that I have bought on my travels as I usually come back with a pile of them, locally sourced, local designs and manufacturers whose styles will work back in London. A bit too show and tell. Limited interest too as I think handbag obsessives are a bit anoraky or possibly show up on spectrum disorder charts, rearranging their collections by size, brand or colour. Closet librarians too. 

But, I have discovered a group on social media, specifically where people can swap and sell a particular brand of handbag. It just popped up as a suggested group and, bingo, I have been sucked right in. There are a few ground rules, no fakes or you are banned, honest descriptions with faults identified, first person to offer the price gets to buy. For selling or swap offers, no self promotion or bumping the thread to the top of the list. It seems to work and no one tries to be too subversive. 

It is a cathedral of understanding there. People understand the need to top up the collection, and ooh and ahh at individual photos of new purchases or a single photo of an entire collection. I am noticing that quite a few collections follow a similar colour palette – I am wondering whether this makes me a bit odd as I buy a mix of colours, whatever colour takes my fancy. And the number of bags and purses which some people have acquired definitely gives me rank amateur status.  As a slightly competitive obsessive, I may have a bit of serious catching up to do. But I am not a single brand sort of person, which makes me wonder if these major players  also  belong to  other  groups too and can display an equal quantity of different brands. I really am an amateur.

But, I am learning more about the brand, picking up knowledge about discontinued styles, limited edition colours or leathers. I may yet become good enough to go on Mastermind. And, such a nice bunch of people too, happy, jolly and helpful, a good standard of literacy too compared to some of the other social media groups to which I belong. Oh dear, that does sound a bit snooty! Dyslexia aside, perhaps there is a correlation between the ability to write a sentence or to run spellcheck and the earning capacity to fund the purchase of bags at up to a grand a pop. Perhaps our educators could improve literacy standards by sternly reminding the kids they teach about this little observation. Stick in at your spelling and punctuation and you shall be rewarded with designer handbags opportunities. 

Disappointingly, there seem to be no men as members of this group, well none that seem brave enough to post updates or comments.  Members happily report the thoughtful surprise gifts bought by their partners and husbands, but the men seem to stay well away from this group. It is spectacularly female. And quite fast and witty – poor old Madonna had a bit of a stage prang involving a costume, on a live awards ceremony broadcast too. Within a flash, someone had posted an advert for the sale of a cloak whose neck fastener needed some attention, potential buyers to contact Madge.  


The advantages of a fractured ankle….

There seem to be few that I can think of. Being tied, figuratively rather than literally, to the sofa is not the most enjoyable experience of one’s life. Whilst not exactly longing for the the crush of the daily fight that is known as the Central Line, I am, strangely, missing the morning tactics involved in deciding whether or not to get on that tube or to wait for the next one. Risk analysis in action.

Of course, when normal Central Line service is resumed, I shall perhaps look back fondly at these sofa days.

Armchair travel can be quite a big thing for us all. Armed with a subscription copy of Conde Nast Traveller, I am readily transported to the finest hotels in the most exotic locations, the adverts for non-travel related luxury goods only adding to my armchair luxury lifestyle. A digital edition of National Geographic makes me feel quite worthy and, despite its relative lack of luxury escape, can also send me in a direction of travel (oh, how I am missing management speak too, who’d have thought?). Unable to get to the front door without a bit of effort, I can be experiencing what’s new in shopping in Delhi, restaurants in Oregon and hotels in Frankfurt.

And the reality is only the touchscreen click of finger away. That plus a credit card.

The sofa days have provided a good opportunity to book trips for the summer and next Christmas and to finalise the hotels for a trip at Easter (the orthopod assures me all will be fine then), but these are all things that I would have done later on in the year and would actually have enjoyed chasing down the best deal then rather than now.  

And dealing with insurers has been a revelation. I knew that I would have to let them know about this incident, ironically having managed to get myself back to Heathrow in one piece saved them a fortune on the previous trip. I waited to call them until after the visit to the fracture  clinic so I could give them details of the most recent x-Ray situation and report back what the orthopod had said in reply to my direct question about whether it would be healed for the forthcoming trip. My very friendly insurers were happy with that advice, do not require it in writing, and will cover the trip because it was booked before the incident.

And then the insurers ask the killer question – have you booked anything since this incident? Oh yes, a flight in August to Bangkok with a side trip to Burma to be arranged and I have booked a trip to India at Christmas (and have booked same airline, same dates, same accommodation as the recent fateful trip, joking to the orthopaedic consultant that I should book an appointment with him in a year too just in case I fall down the same pothole). The nice friendly insurers say that they cannot cover me for these future trips because I have booked them during the currency of a fractured ankle. They can charge me £x amount now as a policy excess charge which will cover me. I point out that they are covering me for a trip at Easter, about 4 and 8 months before the trips for which they will not cover me. I have a fractured ankle. Fractured ankles usually heal. I confirm that I am not awaiting surgery for this fracture either. The ankle is expected to be better by Easter. A fracture does not usually recur unlike some other medical conditions.

They do a bit of computer jiggling and put me on hold. Yippee. As long as the fractured ankle has healed by the time that I go on either of these future trips, they will cover me for any trouble I land myself in (or new pothole into which I fall). Unless I am travelling against medical advice.  There is no need to confirm anything in writing and they do not require any medical certification. She laughs when I remind her how much money I probably saved them on the last trip by deliberately not seeking medical attention there, having successfully self-diagnosed what was wrong, adding that I was only thinking of them!  

So, back to the sofa to start mugging up on Mandalay and Bagan or Yangon. Nice choices to make.


The perfect strawberry daiquiri at sunset or later

Roll up, roll up. This is a challenge and a half. They are all good, all three, almost neck and neck, but I have to make a decision and pick one out, probably by, er, necking a few more of them down.

Something a bit Alice about this challenge. Drink me. Drink me.

Every day, I see the man on the beach who sells trays of strawberries, walking from beach shack to beach shack, selling to the kitchen staff and to those in charge of the cocktails.  Occasionally, sun worshippers, often strawberry pink themselves, respond to the passing call of ‘strawberries, strawberries’ and buy a box to enjoy at their sunbed. Me, I wait.

I wait until sunset approaches. It wouldn’t be decent any earlier. As part of the preparation, a decision has to be taken from a sunbed, whether to stay and slink up to a table at that shack just ahead of the sunset, predicting the time when it will not be too late to get a table facing right out to sea and the sunset, or whether to go elsewhere, not knowing how many other people have decided to go there too. Tough holiday decisions, I know.

The classic sunset choice has to be Boom Shankar at Colomb Bay, a ten minute stroll along the beach from Patnem, not allowing for distractions en route. There is a bit of a stampede for the tables overlooking the bay as the sunset view is one of the better sunset views on this planet, even without a strawberry daiquiri to mark it. But timing is all and it’s a bit uncool to be the first there. But you don’t really want to be sitting further back as you just don’t get the full panorama. There’s a happy hour too – I think you get a 20 rupee saving per cocktail. Not much to write home about, but an approximately 15% discount does equate to one free in eight, far better than a Cafe Nero coffee loyalty card. Boom Shankar, the undisputed original purveyor of the strawberry daiquiri in the area. A frozen cocktail, served, overfilled, in an old fashioned glass – you have to make a quick start on it before the overfill starts to melt and soaks the tablecloth. It is difficult not to make a quick start though. Rich in crushed strawberry content, I used to think this was the best in the world, easily beating a Manhattan bar’s offering at almost ten times the cost. But it is a bit like a grown up slush puppy, a bit on the sugary side, fairly light on the white rum taste. The view is unsurpassable though, more so  if there are a couple of local kids having fun and messing about in a rowing boat on the bay when the sun sinks to its final levels.


The second strawberry daiquiri in my top three is from Tantra, a Patnem institution with welcoming staff and, in the style of Cheers, a bar where everyone knows your name. I am not sure how they know my name, but they do. Definitely like being in your local, even if the view and setting is a million miles away from any local hostelry in this city. Served in a large tulip shaped stemmed glass, packed with strawberry purée and any strawberry lumps which have got stuck in the chopping blades of the blender, there is a good acidic kick from the squeezed limes too. An underlying taste of white rum finishes this one off nicely. You sometimes get a strawberry pushed onto the rim of the glass, not quite as often though later in the evening. I think they get so busy that they forget. Occasionally, depending upon the number of tulip shaped glasses already in use, it’s served in a highball glass. The combination of the sharp limes and the rich strawberry content make this one feel like a health drink, not at all sweet as far as cocktails go, and it is rude not to have a second. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of these as a sundowner though – it tends to be a gin and tonic or a beer as it would feel a bit too Del Boy to have a cocktail there that early! No photos of a strawberry daiquiri here though as it’s always a later evening drink, just a sunset view of the local lifeguard hard at work and a boat watching the sunset.

396575_316252901752020_1446787145_n[1] From phone 750

For beauty and looks, head to April 20. A fine strawberry daiquiri, the most expensive of the trio, served in a classic cocktail glass, always with a large whole strawberry set into the rim of the glass. Elegance in a glass.  This is one to contemplate before sipping. No rustic lumps of strawberry left behind in the purée, a good balance of flavours and a high rum content too. Not overly sweet, but missing the contrast of the sharpness of the limes marks it down just a notch from Tantra’s offering. Again, it is difficult not to have a second. This one feels wholly appropriate at sunset, an upmarket restaurant feel rather than a beach shack, looking out across the beach, maybe an on the hoof football kick about taking place, a standoff of local dogs seeing who can bark the loudest or a show-off doing some beach yoga poses or a bit of juggling. And, occasionally, a sunset to die for, not perhaps quite as breath taking scenery as that from Boom Shankar.


So, there are winners all round. Boom Shankar for the setting, Tantra for the taste, and April 20 for the presentation and style. And they do all taste fabulous in their different ways.

I may think about tasting some others next visit, purely in the interests of my research.