Confessions of a bag lady

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I am a bag lady. I cannot resist them. So when I passed a shop with the most beautiful handbag I’d seen for a while, I couldn’t stop myself going in to check the price. It was elegantly flat, not the sort of handbag that I could cram with the wallet that holds all my cards and cash, my photographs that always go with me, and lurking receipts; the other wallet with my cheque books, the small half-empty bottle of Chanel no 5, my spare specs, my lipstick case, my little notebook and diary, my fold-up hairbrush brought back from Holland by a friend, my sparse makeup case, and a pen. It was a soft apricot coloured leather and shrieked class.

It was half price in a sale and was still three or four times as much as I’d normally pay for a nice handbag – if I needed one. And there-in lies the rub. I have a number of handbags which, each time I bought them were intended to be the last handbag I  ever bought, as they were such good quality and so timeless in design that they’d never date, I convinced myself!

At the bottom of the pile is a very good and hardly used classic tan handbag which I definitely thought would, as my husband is prone to saying – see me out. Hardly used, actually, because superseded by an elegant slim-line dark brown leather handbag… then there’s the exquisite twenties black snakeskin pochette which I often use in the evening, fought for at an auction, and the thirties brown snakeskin clutch discovered in an op-shop, perfect for my brown winter clothes.  The Burberry, found for a song in a sale, always sparks up my winter blacks worn with a cream silk scarf as well, and a very nice boxy black satin evening handbag given me by my daughter is also well-used.

And then there’s the very beautiful black handbag in the softest leather with wide plaited handles, giving it a subtle appearance of haute couture… a wedding anniversary gift after my husband had watched me lusting after it.  The large cream leather Dorothy- shaped bag is perfect for summer, and for my landmark 70th birthday I bought the really big red leather handbag which looks so good with black, though I don’t wear it with my red shoes as it looks too dated and matched  if I do that. For travelling – wonderful on planes when I want to disguise just how much hand luggage I have – is the huge black tote bag, which has eased many frantic last minute packs and panics. And last year my daughter brought me back from Istanbul (not Constantinople as Danny Kaye would say) the handbag I always use now. It says it’s Prada, and I don’t dare to insult her or hurt her by asking whether it’s real, or a clever beautiful fake. Either way, it’s stood the test of time and looks hardly used.

So do I really need another handbag? The inner dialogue went on for several days… you don’t need another. You could get rid of all the ones you hardly use. It’s too expensive. But I have my little nest egg saved for these extravagances. In a world of conspicuous consumption, and desperate poverty you should not be buying something you don’t need at huge expense. But it’s half price, and I’ll never have the opportunity to have anything half as beautiful, precious, or valuable ever again. That is the most snobbish and shallow thing to even think. But it would go with all my blacks, and with all my browns, and so many other things. I could wear it to lunch on Friday and it would just make my boring old trousers and top look so much more elegant ….Get over it! This inner battle tormented many waking moments, and even broke in on my sleep as I turned over. Sometimes I would wake up quite clear in my mind that I did Not need another handbag, and then the siren voices began again with all the same persuasions.

The sale lasted for another week, and I could pick up the bag when I went back to the big smoke to deliver my grandson’s 22nd birthday present. By yesterday I still hadn’t made a decision, leaving it to fate and a last minute gut feeling. I drove into town with the present and a birthday card, and since the grandson’s parents were away, I thought I’d spoil him with all his favourite cakes I used to treat him and the others with when they were little. So parking the car outside the delectable cake-shop, I chose a selection of cream dough-nuts, choc slices, iced tarts, chocolate éclairs and the rest.

Swinging out with the big box of goodies in my hands, I came on a traffic warden bending over my little car, which was in a free parking space. “Don’t worry”.  I beamed at him, “I’m just going.” He looked bleakly at me. “I’m not giving you a parking ticket. I’m giving you an infringement notice”. Walking blindly to my fate, I was unfazed. “What’s an infringement notice?” I blithely inquired. He pointed to the notice on the windscreen, which I have to say, I never bother to look at. “Your warrant of fitness is overdue. It’s a $200 fine.” And he walked off.

No words came to my lips. No point in saying but they must have forgotten to remind me at the garage like they always do. Conscious that there was no-one to blame but myself I glared at his back as he carried on peering officiously into the windscreens of other cars. A wave of hate swept through me as I thought of his pinched face, cold grey eyes, and pursed prim mouth. And then I thought of all the negative energy and hostility and anger he must attract all day, and I wondered how it was for him and for his family when he went home every night bringing that miasma of misery with him. My anger towards him died, but I was still sore. I tried to remember not to sweat the small stuff, and also to remember that this was one of the things I couldn’t change, so to let it go…I clung to the words I’d read in a small book on Epictetus which I’d found on a second hand book stall two days before…  which amounted to not fussing about the stuff you have no control over… but.. but  – it didn’t give me as much serenity as I hoped for.

Why couldn’t  ‘they’ give us a week’s warning or something, I thought bitterly to myself. And then I remembered Socrates As he waited in prison to receive the poisoned hemlock for the crime trumped up against him of corrupting the youth of Athens with his ideas, his friends offered to bribe the guards, and help him escape to another city and avoid death. But Socrates refused – saying that if he did so, he would break his social contract with his city, which he had no desire to do, therefore he would abide by their rules. My resentment faded. Yes, I’d flouted the rules of my society by my carelessness or irresponsibility.

Chastened I delivered the birthday goodies, and drove straight home. The handbag seemed irrelevant now. Not only had I squandered half the money needed for it, but it didn’t seem to matter anymore. Isak Dineson, who had plenty of trials in her life, wrote that all sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them. She was right… not just the handbag, but the infringement notice are no longer significant… it’s now emotion recollected in tranquillity, to quote Wordsworth. And this morning I was at the garage at 8am to comply with the rules of my society!

 

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

The roasted almond and lentil loaf has had a few takers, so here’s the recipe, not as simple as most of my cooking… wash and boil until soft half a cup of dried lentils. I’ve used red lentils and puy lentils, and they are both good.  While the lentils are cooking, gently toast in a frying pan without any fat, a cup of ground almonds. When lightly browned, set aside. Heat a table spoon of oil and gently fry a finely chopped onion, a stalk of chopped celery and a grated carrot with all the moisture squeezed out of it, plus a teaspoon of dried thyme, sage and finely chopped rosemary. When soft, remove from the heat and stir in the toasted almonds, cooked lentils, four slices of bread crumbled into breadcrumbs, quarter of a cup of tomato sauce, one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and one of balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper.  Mix it all together with an egg and press firmly into a loaf tin lined with well-greased cooking paper long enough to overhang the edges.  Bake in an oven 180 degrees for forty-five minutes.

I actually think it tastes best the next day either cold or lightly heated. Cut it in thick slices and serve with the rich gravy from the last post. This is enough for six, and makes a meal served with new potatoes and green beans or asparagus, which is plentiful here in the Antipodes at the moment.

 

Food for Thought

Suffering occurs from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power. As part of the universal city that is the universe, it is our duty to care for all our fellow men. Those who follow these precepts will achieve happiness and peace of mind.

Translation of Epictetus’ words. Epictetus  AD 55- 135, was an ancient Greek, Stoic philosopher who thought we should live our beliefs. Born a slave, he became a Greek sage. Born in Turkey, taught in Rome, banished to Greece.

 

 

 

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68 Comments

Filed under cookery/recipes, fashion, food, great days, humour, life/style, philosophy, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

68 responses to “Confessions of a bag lady

  1. Good one!
    I think Socrates went a bit over the top.

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  2. After that traumatic episode with the $200 fine, I think you DESERVE the new handbag, and let’s see a pic of it too, please!

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  3. Wow! What a powerful message! I have some days I can cope with life’s frustrations and others where I have no choice but to admit I have no control but nevertheless feel like escaping to the sea for a few days & not have to deal with life’s turbulence 🙂

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  4. Dearest Valerie,

    I’ve always wondered if you had any vices.

    Now I know.

    Aloha,

    Doug

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  5. I have the same struggles with books, although thankfully they don’t cost nearly as much, especially since I almost always buy them either at Half Price Books or at library sales. 🙂 As for the ticket or infringement notice, I always get annoyed with myself when I have to pay for something I could have and should have avoided.

    If you don’t mind me mentioned it: “all sorrows can be born” should be “borne.” Doug and Rochelle can tell you that’s the sort of stuff I always notice, even in a wonderful post like yours.

    janet

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    • You are absolutely right about the word ‘borne’ – I should have corrected it, I took it straight from the quote I read, without thinking it through.
      Oh yes – I’m worse about books than I am about handbags… they are crawling all around the house, having long outgrown all the book shelves and even the new ones I keep inserting… mounds of them on tables, chairs, the floor …
      So good to hear from you

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      • We just moved from our home of 28 years to a much smaller house. I don’t know how many boxes of books I have but the movers remarked more than once how many books I had. 🙂 Of course, they had to lug the boxes around.

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  6. BTW, you’d love the upscale women’s clothing store here, Clothes Mentor, where you can get name brand purses for half price or less. I’ve seen purses for $700 there…at half price. 🙂

    janet

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  7. A bad day rather than a bag one, it would seem.
    You didn’t even swat the man at the garage who didn’t remind you? I’m sure you have some stored-up hostility waiting to be let out …

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  8. Love that “emotion recollected in tranquility” quote. Now that small, half-empty bottle of Chanel No. 5 will have to stay put. (I carry the same bottle with me). 🙂

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  9. Luanne

    Oh my, what an ordeal. What is “fitness” for an auto? What does the government specifically want from you (besides money)? Be careful not to get me started on this subject. As to handbags, my husband is the bag gentleman in our house. He always wants me to have a new bag! I have so many and they are barely used, and I feel guilty getting an new one, but he always insists I pick one out and gives me a gift card to purchase it with! Then he hovers about while I select it! As I was reading your descriptions of the marvelous bags you own, I was thinking, yes, I could take photos and describe my bags haha. I do like certain ones best . . . . I am that way with books more than I am with anything else, although I have a fierce doll collection (also hubby’s fault).

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    • It’s a certificate to say that the car is in good running order and the car has to be tested every year ! You sound as though you have a wonderful husband – a real treasure! I’d love to see a photo of your handbags ! Yes, you’re right, books will always win over any other addiction, but I love the idea of a fierce doll collection !!! Lovely to hear from you…

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      • Luanne

        That is similar to our smog check which is done according to the age of the vehicle, so not necessarily every year.

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  10. Your feelings of anger and meanness striking out to the man with cold grey eyes struck me still…I am sure he felt powerful and “RIGHT”! But you are so correct…all those ugly feelings do surround him and go home with him every evening and wake up with him every morning.

    He is to be pitied. I am so glad you were able to let those threads of misery go and know that you did not add to his horrid daily grind.

    Love your Dear Friend…every time I read what your write I understand why your soul is so beautiful!

    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

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    • Dear Linda, thank you for your loving message. I love it that you enjoy my posts…as I enjoy yours… though I hardly know what to say about souls… plenty of turbulence swirls around mine, as you could see in this post, Dear Friend. Love to the the boys as well… they must smell lovely after their shampoo !!!

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  11. chennicole2013

    I love the Isak Dineson quote: “All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story …”

    Your description of temptation seemed so accurate to me, the way you went back and forth for days with reasons for and against. You were tormented by “this inner battle.” and couldn’t decide. I have no interest in handbags beyond utility, but I know the feeling. In my case it takes the form of a desire for a pastry or piece of cake I don’t need.

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  12. Amy

    I can related much of your inner battle… I think you should get the bag, it’d be very comforting. “…always another handbag round the corner” 🙂 Wonderful post, Valerie!

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  13. They sound like great handbags. And I love the Istanbul (Not Constantinople) song reference.

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  14. Gosh, didn’t see that coming. Felt sure you were going to treat us to the successful, triumphant purchase of a new handbag! And your adventures have reminded me that I have WOF and registration and car insurance to attend to before the end of the month. Definitely no handbag buying for me this month. Thanks for the lentil loaf recipe.

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    • Hello, thanks for your comment… no, no handbags this month with the cooker blowing up and having to buy a new one etc etc!!! Hope you enjoy the Almond/lentil loaf… I actually have a much nicer one I’m going to resurrect, which my children used to love, and still remember…

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      • Looking forward to that recipe! Oh no, a cooker as well! And did you smile quietly, when the earnest, youngish salesman (and it usually is a man who sells us domestic appliances!) assures you that the appliance will last at least 25 years and doesn’t realise that the buyer might not need such longevity in an appliance. Well, sometimes I don’t smile but, on the whole, it is amusing to consider our life span in terms of domestic appliances 🙂 Possibly?

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  15. Thank you for this lovely lesson. In a world turned on its side, it was most welcome.

    Like you I adore handbags and often have these inner dialogs with myself. Similar with shoes. Terrible these vices of ours. Now I will hopefully be able to remember this wonderful lesson of yours, it is a great one.

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  16. Valerie, this is a nice story and I’m sure it resonates with all of us at some times in our lives.
    I think you have been a very good girl trying to find some good in that pesky person who fined you 200$. Goodness grief, that is a lot of money.
    You have no handbag now, but you have entertained us with your moral story.
    Next time be bad, okay? Just for the sake of another story. 🙂

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    • Dear Paula, I loved your comment – you made me laugh out loud ! I really value your encouragement to break out and be bad !!! Alas, I’ve done it so often – with books, antiques, clothes, plants, the list goes on ! My husband used to say he was putting a prohibition order in all bookshops, antique shops and nursery gardens !

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  17. I think he probably has a target to achieve, the poor man has been robbed by his employer of being able to gift his compatriots with a warning or even a ” give us proof that you have the warrant within 48 hours and we will waive the fine”, No, today it is about generating revenue to patch roads and pay for infrastructure, our infringements have become a necessity for some to make a living and the conditions of their wages prevent them from extending any generosity. They are living out their own karma I guess.

    Sadly, it is clear the handbag was not meant to be, but I predict one of the others you mention is going to experience a revival, time for a change and to discover the new in what we already have. 🙂

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    • Hello Claire,
      I’m think you’ve hit the spot with revenue collecting syndrome – and also with karma !!!
      Yes, the handbag is just a distant beautiful memory, thank you for taking the time to read about my woes!!!

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  18. I felt a similar pain when I discovered I had forgotten to pay the monthly amount required on the credit card. Penalties added and a budget already so tight there is no fat to spare. I had to remind myself to breathe and remember that “all will be well”……but it takes some doing to clear the emotions around such things.
    I hope the “tuck shop” cake feast was appreciated by your grandson:-)

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  19. I sometimes wish I had a vice. I’m such a minimalist, that it makes it difficult for anyone to even get me anything, let alone myself. But your main message is in not fretting over the things we can’t change or control. So very true. I must try this recipe.

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  20. What was remarkable about this post was how many choices were presented: the type of handbag that included decisions on the contents of the bag, colour pairing of scarves and trousers, the appropriate social events etc. Then there were the choices involving money which led to the global challenges of poverty vs consumerism. And lastly, the choice of how to respond to negativity and embrace the better path. I am convinced that the happiness in our lives are dictated by our choices.

    You chose wisely.

    “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”
    ― Aristotle

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    • Rebecca – what a fascinating reply, and point of view…you’ve made me look again at the whole sequence – and indeed- I’m starting to look at the whole sequence of my life in that context !
      I love Aristotle’s quote – apart from everything else, it gives such dignity to the smallest events. thank you good friend…

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  21. Oh I feel so bad for you Valerie as I too am a bag lady by your definition. The bag will soon be in the hands of someone who will undoubtedly not give the love you would have!
    Here in Canada we don’t have car fitness but likely should. We do though enjoy a 48 hour warning on burnt headlights, tailights and other infractions. If you get the warning you have to take it and your car to the nearest police station so they may verify it has been fixed. I used to think it was a pain in the neck but now see that it is far better than a large fine.

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    • Lesley, so good to know that I have companions across the seas who share my addiction !
      And I’m sure you’re right – no-one else would have loved that bag as I would !!! Que sera sera !
      Trying to forget about the fine !!!

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  22. Ug, a $200 fine:( Perhaps you can still buy a handbag but a slightly less expensive one? x

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  23. would look forward to seeing the pictures of your handbags and purse collection . 🙂

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  24. Thank you so much for reading and sticking with me – what a marathon read you’ve been having !
    Still getting back into camera mode., so the revealing pics of the pile of handbags are not available yet !!!!

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  25. Oh, Valerie, you really had me laughing today! I have the same weakness with scarves. They seem to call to me from shop windows as I walk by!

    200$ oh my! You are wonderful to have subdued your anger – a wonderful moment of compassion and patience!

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    • Hello Letizia, Lovely to hear from you…
      Scarves eh?…you too ?… I hadn’t realised this was another addiction until you mentioned it, but I do have dozens !!!
      Thank you for your kind words… as I struggled with the implications of the horrendous fine… ah well, everything passes !!!

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  26. Nice to meet another bag lady!! I donated so many handbags and purses to our church for their rummage sales and it is a temptation to buy more. But since I am working on that spiritual discipline I am finding it easier to say no…actually we just went into my favorite shop the other day and I left empty handed!! That is progress for me!! I also liked your quote at the end of the article. You always have such great insight and words of wisdom, it is a joy to read your articles.

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    • Patty, so good to hear from you, and thank you for your generous words… so you are a bag lady too ! Though I have resisted temptation this time, I’m not being too tough on myself ! As a vice it doesn’t actually hurt me or anyone, except my pocket – occasionally! I class it under the pleasures we are permitted to enjoy, as I don’t think the Source gets any pleasure from seeing us depriving ourselves of small pleasures !!!! Love to you, Valerie

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  27. Valerie – this is such a fabulous read! What a rollercoaster of inner turmoil. Oh, we’ve all had days like those! And it’s so wonderful to read your description – you capture it all so, so beautifully. I’m just like that with books too – though I’m singularly bereft as far as handbags go! It’s strange that I have so few, really. I was fascinated by my grandma’s handbags when I was a child. I used to love all the different clasps, shiny colours and intriguing compartments! I do so recognise the bulging contents of the handbag syndrome… I’m the same – and often blame this on my mum being a cub scout leader in her youth – always be prepared! Her handbag is a ton weight! And I tend to take after her! So many women are the same – and I always wonder how people with tiny handbags containing so little ever get by!

    So lovely to see the Istanbul (not Constantinople) reference. That was one of my favourite songs as a child! I was always putting on my dad’s old 78 record (with flimsy brown paper sleeve) and playing it to death (I think our version was by The Four Lads) – in between, I’d also play over and over The Ink Spots singing the Java Jive (another favourite from my parents’ records). Happy memories!

    Melanie

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  28. Melanie, so glad you enjoyed my bit of fun… interesting, even though you’re not a handbag junkie, you still had a fund of thoughts on the
    subject !
    Yes, I don’t know how people cope with tiny handbags! So glad you got the Istanbul , not Constantinople reference – those things stay in the memory, don’t they ! Thank you so much for your lovely comments, and the way you enter into the spirit of what I’ve written – you are such a satisfying and supportive reader, Valerie

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  29. “All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story” I love that wisdom and I love your story. I’m not a bag person at all but a book shop I can’t leave empty handed!
    Your words about the cold eyed traffic man reminded me of a poem called Vultures in which the Commandant of a concentration camp leaves his day job and calls in to but sweets for his children on the way home. Thereis much more to the poem that I’d love to share but ……..
    Your recipe sounds delicious for veggie friends. I shall be trying it.
    Thank you again – this Sunday morning of reading is proving to be as pleasurable as I had anticipated! 🙂

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    • Sally, you are such an appreciative reader – thank you so much for the fun of all your comments, and your insights..
      .I know what you mean about books…I ‘m not safe anywhere near a bookshop – or a garden centre, come to that!
      My husband used to say he was putting prohibition orders in all book-shops, antique shops and garden centres !!
      The poem you mention sounds like an unforgettable one… who was it by? Lovely to be in touch..

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      • Oh we have so much in common! Garden centres and flea markets are also my downfall! I’ll look up the poet’s name as I can’t, annoyingly, remember it – and I taught the poem for years!
        It is lovely to be back in touch. All the best to you and yours.

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  30. I’d best not comment, Valerie. I strive to not carry a handbag. When I need one, I am aware of the possibility of leaving it behind. I like winter when I can wear jackets with wonderful hidden pockets in which I can stash essentials.

    My life is on the calendar in my computer. As a back-up, it’s on an external hard drive. Each morning, my reminders pop up when I turn on my computer. As you suggest, I give myself a week’s notice on some items. Otherwise, I’d be snookered.

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  31. Your method of describing everything in this piece of writing is
    genuinely nice, all be able to easily know it, Thanks a lot.

    Like

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