I lost my purse yesterday when I was out for a meal with my friend and his family and I discovered it wasn’t in it’s usual place at the back of my bag. As many people probably already know, misplacing a wallet or a purse is like loosing a very small, significant part of your life. Being a writer I don’t carry (or often possess, for that matter) very large sums of cash. Sometimes I have a ration of spare change, but notes don’t last long in the depths of my purse, so I wasn’t really too worried about anyone helping themselves to my feeble amounts of cash. Doesn’t make too much difference to my humble lifestyle. However, I was concerned my bank-card, which when you think about it is essentially a portable bank vault, and while that doesn’t contain finances to write home about, it does contain the only means by which I have to live. Accustomed as I am to shelter and occasionally eating a decent meal, I had to cancel my cards at the local bank.
My purse is electric blue, and I’ve owned it since I purchased it at a market when I was eleven. I remember this because it has ‘Millennium’ written on a silver strand on the front, and at the time I bought it (in October 1999) we’d almost reached a new one; for some reason I found, and still do find, this to be important. I’ve kept it so long because I’ve never found need to replace it; near the zippers the material has started to fray, but otherwise it’s still perfectly functional, and I’ve grown rather fond of it’s eccentric colour. There was a time I was considering updating, when I was around 15 or 16, but most of what was available was either leather, black or a boring combination of the two. I’ve never seen one quite the same shade anywhere.
There are other things in my purse, everyday items most individuals keep within the confines of their wallets. I have only two loyalty cards, one for my current place of employment at a local game retailer, and one for Waterstone’s. Whenever I use one I slip it back into the pouch on-top of the other, but I don’t use either very often nowadays. Games are little out of the budget most of the time, and Waterstone’s isn’t the cheapest establishment for a book-lover to indulge her addiction to the written word. Usually, though, it’s the Waterstone’s card that can be seen upon opening the back pocket of the purse, because when I do have a little extra money, and I want a quick buy, I’ll go into Waterstone’s and grab my next read from there. There’s a Nectar card in there somewhere, but that never sees the light of day anymore. Ironic, since the closest and most used supermarket to where I live is the only one that accepts it.
Also riffling around in the back pouch is a Library card, and some old receipts detailing when books are due back for renewal, from the self-check-out machines they installed earlier this year. I get a little paranoid about the machines mixing up data, and convincing the world I haven’t returned a book I did so weeks ago, and then sticking me with an unfair fine. Machines tend to go a little goofy where I’m concerned, much like they do Harry Dresden, the main protagonist of the Dresden Files which are books that make frequent appearances on my aforementioned receipts. Behind my library card is a printer ink reminder clipping, so I don’t have to remember which cartridges to buy for my home-office printer, because while words fascinate me, codes and numbers frustrate me, and move around in my head when I try to pin-point them. When my best friend Andreas was feeling down once, I popped into a quirky shop and got him a little wallet card by Edward Monkton, about a chill-out dog. He thanked me by buying another one about love – I keep that behind the card-holder, for when I feel low.
There are two pictures in my wallet, one in the window-display for a drivers license (I have no other use for this window), and another I keep secreted in the pocket between the coin pouches. My sisters and I smile out from the license window, and a memory of beautiful times sits patiently concealed. When I feel sad, I take that out as well, and I’m reminded of how happy the world can be sometimes, and while that’s as cliché as roses and chocolate, I don’t mind. I secretly revel in my own cheesy parts of my life story. Hidden along with that photograph is an American quarter from Delaware, and a French cafe bill I received on a school trip to France in year 9. It’s faded now, but I can still read what I ordered, and the amount it cost summed up in francs. A year after that trip, I cleaned out my purse, and I kept that bill because I thought it would be worth something. I got a little giddy when I cleaned it out again my second year of University, and realised the French had converted with the rest of Europe to the Euro, and laughed at my unintentional foresight, and still couldn’t throw it away.
Recent additions to my collection of portable life necessities is a stamp-sheet for the Americano coffee house, which contains nine smiling coffee takeaway mugs plus the free smilie they print onto the card for good-will. They’ll let you get any drink with this coupon regardless of size or price, so I usually spend a couple of days a week in the cafe reading with an ice-tea, and then when I feel in the mood for a treat. I’ll get a milkshake or a chillichino with a full card. I think I also have a receipt for one a free smoothie bought with one of their (I suppose) loyalty-cards, as well as a Greek-Breakfast cup which they make there and I adore, and which I splash out on when I’ve had a good-writing afternoon and skipped lunch. I acquired another of these stamp-loyalty-card things when I was taken to an Asian buffet for my birthday this year; it only has one dinner stamp so far.
I keep a Buddhist deity with me in my purse for protection and so I am always mindful of my actions effecting others. In the pouch where that card resides I also put spare change for the homeless who I pass when I go under the subway when walking back from my “keeps-me-in-writing-job”, and sometimes the musicians as well, especially if they play a song that reflects how I’m feeling as I walk by. I’m visiting Leeds in a few weeks and I placed my tickets there inside just a day ago when I picked them up from the station – these were the items I most worried about loosing, because they were expensive and important, and I haven’t the cash to buy anymore.
I was thinking about all this as I searched for my property today, my portfolio in a purse, and I thought about someone who might discover it on one of the routes I took yesterday, and what they might think of the person who owns it. Funny how you can define who a person is and what they do and how they live, just by the contents of what they carry money around in. The way we manipulate the world is extraordinary.