I bought a lovely new handbag at the weekend (my new, going into the city, chic black tote) and I immediately emptied out the bag I was using and transferred everything to the new bag. This made me realise the enormous amount of stuff I cart around with me every day. At various points over the years I have tried to carry less; it never works out. Almost without fail, whenever I decide an item is non-essential and that I can perfectly well do without it for a couple of hours, I am completely wrong. This is what is currently in my bag:

Filofax (pocket size) – I’ve only just started using this again after failing to make an online diary work. Carrying my Filofax with me again is like getting a security blanket back. I’ve had one since I was about 15. It is a yearly ritual of mine to settle down with the new diary insert and carefully transfer over all the important dates from the previous year. Every second year or so, I overhaul the address section too. I have only just stopped carrying the map of central London, although I do also have a map of Manhattan.

Moleskine notebook – this holds my TBR list. I take it to Borders or B&N. Generally, they have nothing on my list, so I come home with a load of other books and have to put in an Amazon order for the TBR books. There are also a few notes on bottles of wine I have liked, and for some reason, my packing lists go in here as well.

iPod – my constant companion. Audiobooks have changed my life. Currently listening to A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libby Bray, which is both annoying and compelling, and so doubly annoying. I was so convinced that the author was using anachronistic language that I looked a few words up in my Dictionary of Etymology, and found that Thackeray used ‘bohemian’ in Vanity Fair, and ‘tip-top’ dates to the 18th century, so both are certainly appropriate for the Victorian era. Being proven wrong was, of course, even more annoying. There is also some music on there but not enough for me not to be bored with it. For extreme emergencies, there is the entire series of Firefly so that I can continue my somewhat one-sided love affair with Nathan Fillion.

Mobile phone – don’t know why I bother, usually when it rings it’s a wrong number. I hate this phone. I downgraded to pay as you go because I don’t make or receive enough calls to justify a monthly bill. So now I have this crappy phone that is apparently constructed out of post-it notes and the bits of metal you pull off the top of cans of pop. Since I am really quite besotted with gadgets, the nastiness of this particular one causes me undue upset.

Book – currently The Glass Key by Dashiel Hammett.

Gloves, black leather lined with cashmere – my hands have no circulation. It’ll be June before I stop carrying gloves, and I’ll be wearing them again in September. In fact, my feet have no circulation either, and even my dearest friend has been unable to deny that if I’m wearing a skirt and it gets a bit nippy, my legs look like they’re made of Spam.

Aveeno handcream – because my hands have no circulation and therefore dry out to the consistency of old onion skin.

Bliss superbalm with SPF 15 – because I’m addicted to lip balm. I have two others, presumably rattling round in other bags or in coat pockets. They always turn up eventually.

Vincent Longo sugar mauve lipstick – my new lipstick! Bringing me to a grand total of three, all in slight variations on the same colour. I love make up (all those boxes and brushes and shiny things), I just have no idea what to do with it. So I wander around Sephora admiring the packaging and then usually come out empty-handed.

Car keys – can’t really leave home without them unless going on a walk. Also attached to my car keys is my fob to get me into work, and the swipey card for the gym.

Chewing gum – given to me by Marcy. It is a strange, raspberry mint flavour that is oddly pleasant.

Mints – bought buy me, partly because I liked the tin. Usually it’s either mints or gum, not both.
25% discount card for Coach – bastards! Couldn’t they have sent that before I bought the bag?

Wallet – never with any actual cash in it, only shrapnel and plastic, stamps, other people’s business cards, old receipts (useful for wrapping chewing gum in)… Still, this is the wallet I bought myself to celebrate getting my MA so I like it.

Fountain pen – I have used a fountain pen since I was 11 and got one of the old stainless steel Parkers for my birthday. I had that pen until I was in my early 20s, and I was distraught when I lost it. I emailed around the company I worked for at the time, explaining that I had had the pen for years and it was recognisably mine because it had my name engraved on it. No one had it, but someone emailed back asking me if I was a Virgo, on the grounds that only a Virgo could keep hold of a fountain pen for that long. I am indeed a Virgo. This pen is the latest incarnation, bought at the Pen Shop in Oxford. I am faithful to Parker.

A biro – because I was caught in New Haven on my way to a Greek lesson without a pen, so bought this one. And am clearly determined never to be so caught short again.

Travel pack of Advil – because every few months I would find myself popping off to CVS for Advil when surprised by the sudden onset of period pains. Also, because if I get dehydrated I get horrible headaches. So now I have Advil scattered everywhere.

Actually, I thought there was a small box of matches in there too, picked up in a restaurant, but they have disappeared.

Now, if anyone feels like sharing – what are the items you must have with you?

Beetle watch

A community of beetles has taken up residence in our apartment. They are the small, red-with-black-spots beetles that when I first arrived here I took for ladybirds. Apparently they are not ladybirds but they seem equally harmless and endearing. Most members of the beetle community live in our bedroom and this has given rise to a new morning and evening ritual of counting the beetles.

This game is not as straightforward as you might think, because the beetles like to hide in corners and since we have 5 windows, 3 doorways and a ceiling beam in our bedroom, there are plenty of corners. Usually it takes at least four counts for us to reach consensus, and only then can we turn off the lights, happy in the knowledge that all the beetles are accounted for. The average count is around 10, although it hit 27 one day last week and at that point my husband vacuumed them all away.

Occasionally a beetle will wander on to the bed; I will then transport it carefully to a window ledge near its fellows. A couple have drowned in water glasses (I rescued one this evening); and every now and again we hear the crack as a carapace hits the floor. Sometimes the beetles wander elsewhere and can be seen crawling up lampshades in other rooms. There are usually a couple in the kitchen, so I have taken to checking the chopping board and work surfaces since I accidentally swept one into the sink and scalded it to death one night (although I fished it out, it didn’t make it).

The thing is, it’s starting to seem normal to be surrounded by beetles.  I think it would be quite a shock to commence the evening count and find there were no beetles to be counted. In a small way, they have sidled into being a regular part of my life, as you may tell by the fact that I talk about the beetle count as though it’s a perfectly regular activity. Any day now, I’ll be talking to them. (Ok, I already talk to them, but only when rescuing them or when they are in a patently dangerous location. Not in the way of having a bit of a chat with them.) I’m starting to feel a bit protective: this evening, the count reached 13, which was apparently some kind of watershed, and I pleaded for them not to be (in a whisper) ‘vacuumed’. And so they remain.