I am trying to convince Phil that Macaulay needs a shower before he goes to reside with my sister for a week.

Macaulay does not like baths. He stands in baleful reproach up to his elbows in suds, punishing us telepathically, sending out searing thought waves.

We have discovered he is not opposed to the odd shower. He still looks miserable and victimised, but the thought warfare is a little less nuclear.

Phil says, “He smells fine. He doesn’t need a shower.”

I say: “Rub him with your hand and then smell it. Go on. Then tell me he doesn’t need a shower.”

Phil does so. His Oscar-winning I-Smell-Nothing acting skills come into play. “No, he says, “he just smells of dog. He’s fine.”

Time to rope in Maddie and a little artless truth. “Maddie”, I say, “give the dog a stroke and then smell your hand.”

She does, and as her hand reaches her nose her face screws up, prune like, and she exclaims in horrified delight: “Dad, he smells like a barnyard!”

The conversation meanders away as I wax lyrical about microbiology and the tiny civilisations which accompany smells, and various members of the family stampede to wash their hands.

Phil mentions casually that he might shower the dog after all.

Macaulay will be away for more than a week. It is the longest he has ever spent outside our orbit. My sister is taking him to the New Forest where he can bother ponies and chase squirrels.

We will be packing up the old dented bus and heading off down to our shabby chic retreat on the Kent coast, where there is a view to die for and a jacuzzi on the deck, and over a cup of tea we can watch the tankers jousting in the English Channel.

Tonight the dog sleeps in a different kitchen as we watch the lights of France blinking gallicallyΒ across the water.

Typically, while we leave at eleven, it is seven and I have not packed so much as a sock.

We have four cases to pack before our departure, each with seven sets of smalls and enough kit to steer us through the coming week.

We have a motley assortment of receptacles,Β cadged from charity shops and the kindness of friends.

Felix’s is the most respectable. He sports a wheelie Spiderman case which he steered round Charles De Gaulle like a Formula One racing driver. It’s small-ish; the seven pairs of shorts and seven t shirts will fit in, just: but when we open the suitcase again the clothes acquire a rocket-assisted quality, and shoot out, relieving some of that potential energy within the case.

Mad has a big blue army surplus holdall. She never complains. It holds not only clothes, but her parliament of cuddly owls and the little make up case with her transparent mascara and seventeen varieties of lip gloss.

Phil has a posh case I once pounced on in a charity shop. It’s a weekend case, with all the brevity of a British bowler hat, and I bought it for him for Β£2, especially for overnight work stays. But he’s going for seven days, you remind me: how will he fit enough clothes in?

Simple: he packs enough for two days and washes stuff nightly when we get down there.


I have an old Marks and Spencer’s Gladstone bag, a Mary Poppins special. While I can’t fit the hatstand in, it does incorporate an outrageous amount of paraphernalia.

I could really do with one of those old-fashioned trunks.

Ah, the stuff of stories: the trunk was a box which might be up to one and a half metres wide, made of pine and covered in leather. Later it might be fashioned from metal. But what a chest filled with hope!

It would fit on a carriage as it flew across the moors towards Thornfield, or down to Bath for the season, or away from Miss Pinkerton’s academy towards a new life, or it might be even free of a carriage, sailing on a boat across the wide Sargasso Sea.

One might even push truth a little and say that a certain undead gentleman made his way from Transylvania to England using something not dissimilar.

The Ancient Chinese used trunks, and as I walk round my beloved Dover Castle in the coming week I shall see reconstructions of an ancient king’s luggage, each piece a splendid many-coloured chest which can be filled with treasure and carted round on progress.

The motor car and the aeroplane rendered a suitcase, made of lightweight fabric, a much more practical option. But I would wager that mothers, as they packed for their families, eyed the departure of that voluminous trunk wistfully.

One could fit the kitchen sink in there.


Image source here







40 thoughts on “Luggage

  1. packing,the stuff of nightmares for most. i am sometimes spot on, and once took an overheavy suitcase filled with the most unlikely clothers (i blame that one on the tranquiliser that made me dozey for two days)

    1. Life is easier now the kids take on their own. But I do tend to procrastinate with these things, Sidey. It’s quarter to nine and we leave at 11:30. Not a stitch in any suitcase yet…

  2. I actually do have a trunk! I always used to go to and from university by train, and suitcases didn’t have wheels then (or none my family could afford, anyway) so all my worldly goods that I couldn’t carry were packed in the trunk and taken off by British Road Services a couple of days before the start/end of term. It’s dark green and is still in our loft, though I’ve forgotten what we’re storing in it – whatever it is, we haven’t needed it for the 20 years we’ve lived in this house…

  3. My suitcase is slightly smaller than a trunk, but slightly larger than an average suitcase. It’s made of some kind of hardened plastic and has wheels. It’s very rare that I fill it. This is probably due to the fact that it is very rare that I go away.
    Enjoy your holiday, Kate!

  4. We have a trunk that is almost 40 years old. It’s been to SA and back at least 4 times; travelled the oceans; been a toy box, a tv stand, a storage container…right now, it is a memory box, holding Tory Boy’s childhood crap. It has been painted and re-painted more times than I can remember. Sturdy and solid and won’t be ripped apart by an airline carousel. I love it.

      1. It is. Nothing fancy; just a crate. But solid and reliable and currently buried under the crap pile that is Tory Boy’s/our storage room.

        I’ll blog about it when I find it πŸ™‚

  5. Have a great holiday Kate and family. Hate packing too, leave it to the last minute. Dislike the returning cases as well, full of the dirty washing and bits and bobs collected on the way.

    1. It’s 10:42 and we’re almost done, Rosemary, thank goodness. I’m not meant to be on the computer, but collecting a prescription and dropping off the dog. Ho hum πŸ™‚

  6. Oh, I too procrastinate over the packing and no receptacle seems suitable.
    That’s too large, and that one’s too small.

    And we always end up taking too much stuff as no one in our family is the slightest bit minimalist. And however much ‘too much stuff’ there is, there is always ‘something’ we have forgotten to push in. I take bets on how long it will be before someone shouts,
    “Oh no!”
    and the rest say
    “What have you left behind?”

    We are usually only 5 mins down the road and can’t possibly go back because we are already running late πŸ™‚

  7. Ah, I always bring too much, overpack and procrastinate myself until the very end.
    Tom has a trunk. He doesn’t use it when we travel, however. It was his dad’s army trunk and Tom used it in college for all his art supplies. He still does.
    I love old steamer trunks and wonder at the mysteries they hold.
    Safe travel and have fun.

    1. It is rather beautiful, isn’t it, Sharon? And it’s for sale- the link at the bottom takes you to a trunk seller. But I suspect we might have to win the lottery to buy it….

  8. Next time . . . ask Phil to pet the dog and then LICK his hand! It is far easier to smell an off carton of milk than to bravely take a swig! πŸ˜›

    Have a GRAND holiday . . . whatever you carted down to Kent in your luggage.

  9. The shabby chic retreat with jacussi will make it all worthwhile πŸ˜‰

    We went to Cornwall a few days after my mum died. My packing was basically opening the wardrobe and chucking anything I saw into a bag. Minimalist? No. Organised? No. Co-ordinated clothing? No need to even ask! None of it mattered.

    Enjoy the holiday.

  10. Loved the post — especially the description of poor Macauley awaiting his fate in the bath. Made me remember my poor little Blackie who acted like you were sentencing her to death by giving her a bath. Though, afterwards, she was always a total doofus and ran around happy as all get out, rubbing against the walls, the furniture and us, and then danced around until I rewarded her with a cookie. (I miss having a dog!)
    Tim and I have managed to get packing down to a fine art — and as minimalist as we’ve become we still manage to bring home stuff we never wore. Always makes me shake my head.
    Hope you have a fantastic vacation.

  11. What I like is the way the the phrase “with a jacuzzi on the desk” was just snuck into the middle of the post.

    I love the trunk too. Wouldn’t be able to lift it, mind.

    Have a great break.

  12. Kudos to Felix. He’s obviously secure in his masculinity. It’s taken me ten years to convince my husband it’s okay for a man to pull a wheelie suitcase instead of lugging it the old-fashioned way.

    Hope you all have a wonderful vacation. Macaulay, too, even though his had a difficult start.

  13. I hope you’re having a good holiday, Kate and that the weather is kind.

    My old “Pukka” trunk (wooden frame, faded green canvas, powdering leather straps and my family name painted on the lid) had to be left behind in my last move when I ‘downsized’. Actually, I never saw it as something romantic – I went to boarding school and I hated packing my trunk a week before so that PLA (Passengers Luggage in Advance) could take it the 144 miles to my school before I followed on the School Train. It was incredibly heavy (even empty) and was actually pretty badly damaged by modern porters dropping it in disgust. I wasn’t really sad to see it go. End of an eara – but before I took it to school it had travelled round the world in ships.

  14. Hope your holiday is absolutely fabulous for all of you, Kate – including Macauley, who I’m sure you’re all missing! Here’s to a joyful reunion πŸ˜€

    1. We are rather missing him, he does love the beach here. However, he has the forest, which is his favourite environment…and life is quite restful all of a sudden…

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