Thursday, 23 July 2009

Armed only with Blue Bag, I’ll take on the world and win!

A couple of years ago, the nice man who works in the launderette was worried about me. He thought he’d done me a favour, but I was acting very strangely.
The big plastic bag into which he packed my clean clothes was usually the one in which I returned my dirty ones, but that week it had torn, so I’d stuffed my dirty clothes into my old beloved Blue Bag.
I never gave it a thought, until I went back to collect my clothes.
“Howya doin’ Charlie!” he smiled, grabbing one of the regular plastic bags off the shelf. “Here’s your clean washing, now!”
“Bu-bu-bu- but where is my Blue Bag?”
“Oh that old yoke? Sure, it was filthy, so I threw it in with the rest of your wash!”
“You washed it? You washed it? You washed my Blue Bag? You, oh, you, oh my god.”
”You all right Charlie?”
My face had gone white, my eyes rolling around in their sockets as my brain hit the express return journey back to some place hundreds of thousands of miles away, decades before.
It’s November 1984, and a 24 year-old version of your colyoomist has just spent ten quid on a blue Cubmaster sausage bag. I’ve just quit a lucrative but soul-destroying job in marketing and I’m off to travel around the world.
In the 1970’s I’d hitched around Europe with an A-frame rucksack and a small satchel bag, but I’d been young and ignorant.
When The Guru went off to India, all he took was a small sausage bag, He explained that in the Third World they put rucksacks on top of buses and somewhere else on trains, and he didn’t like to be separated from his stuff.
Being a less frugal packer than himself, I bought a slightly larger version than his: dark blue, with white straps, it was hanging on a hook alongside a hundred similar cheap bags, above the doorway of a tourist shop in Oxford Street.
Best money I ever spent.
Regular colyoomistas will know that your scribbler is not a man into ‘things’. My pulse does not thrill at the thought of owning stuff, but my Blue Bag I love, unashamedly.
Now, as I celebrate its 25th year with me, its effect upon me is as strong as ever.
Recently I was over in England celebrating a brace of 50th birthdays. It was going to be a decadent few days, involving a marathon of train rides, planes and pubs, beers and breakfasts.
Fearful of being out of practice, I hoisted Blue Bag onto my shoulder and immediately felt a shot of power run through me.
All was good. Nothing could touch me.
Together Blue Bag and I have travelled twice around the planet. We have hitched over 200,000 miles.
When about to hit the road, I buy one of those bright orange plastic mountain survival bags, into which I pack a complete change of clothes for keeping warm and another change for cooling down. Add spare footwear, a few creams and potions, and then I roll that orange bag into a tube and place it into Blue Bag.
Everything I needed to survive is now safe and waterproof inside Blue Bag, and yet it’s light and easy to carry.
Wherever I was, whatever the weather, be the terrain tropical or tundra, I’d always have a dry set of clothes. At night I simply put Blue Bag inside the huge orange bag, and then slide in myself.
My paranoia does not allow me to relax in a tent. Whilst out in the immense wonders of the universe I prefer to see it, to look up at the stars and know what’s going on around me.
I never understood tents. The entire wild world is just outside, but you are crammed into the teensiest space you’ll ever sleep in.
No, if I’m out there I like to be part of it and not apart from it. If it lashes rain, then all I need to do is slide down further into my orange bag, and roll the top over.
Come morning I am dry, as are all my belongings, and I’ve no tent to pack up.
In fact, as I sit here now there are probably confused folk all over the world who at some stage drove through the rain past a large orange plastic ball sitting by the roadside. Little did they know that inside lurked a mad scribbler, crouching inside a waterproofed ball, my hand holding the orange bag’s scrunched top to let in some air.
Blue Bag and I have have been through all manner of madness and tribulation, but always it is by my side, and with it I feel safe and complete.
In the Cadillacs of California, the buses of Bali and the 24-wheel rigs that master the English motorways, Blue Bag stood on its end between my legs, taking up no more space that I do myself.
In strange bars Blue Bag’s handles are hooked round my bar stool so that no stray hand might whisk it away. And before the ridiculous limits of carrying of liquids in airports, Blue Bag used to be my hand luggage, allowing me to be off the plane and out into a new country while all the other passengers were left behind, waiting at the baggage carousel.
Metaphorically and practically Blue Bag was my fast track to freedom.
“Charlie? Charlie? You okay?”
Woh! I’m back in the launderette, ripping open the plastic bag to see if my old friend has survived the rigours of the washing machine.
In all those years it never had a wash. Blue Bag bore the dust of 4 continents, the sweat of a quarter million miles hitched to my side. It had been thrown from ten thousand trucks onto the dust, gravel, mud or sand below. It had been infested by giant wood lice in Noumea, and somewhere between Sydney and Melbourne it had come under attack from thousands of bull ants.
Now all that dust, all those grubby souvenirs were gone.
Had it disintegrated into tatty ashes?
Was it now a useless piece of old cotton?
It was not.
Blue Bag looked grand. Clean, yes; not as good as new, but then again, nether am I!
And together with Blue Bag, I still feel ready to take on the world and win!


Paz said...

Nice story

Charlie Adley said...

Thanks Paz - it's been a good friend over an exciting life!

Anonymous said...


Charlie Adley said...

I know exactly how to use a semi-colon.

Anonymous said...

Then stop using it incorrectly.