Saturday, July 05, 2008

List of the month - If I had a man-bag

Man-bags - generally rather tacky clutch-purses made of black pleather - are a de rigueur accessory for the Chinese man-about-town. It is an affectation universally mocked by the expats here, but I think mostly on grounds of poor fashion sense. There's no questioning the utility of the things: in a country where credit cards are only just now starting to become established, a high-roller needs to carry BIG wedges of cash with him at all times. And there are some more stylish versions available, some of them even made of real leather. I think I tend towards a shoulder-strappy satchel type of bag, in well-worn dark brown leather: the kind of thing Indiana Jones carries.

And if I acquired such a characterful and useful piece of kit, what would I keep in it?

Well, let me see......

My mobile phone, of course (In fact, any proper dakuan - 'big shot' - has at least two phones: the business phone and the private phone; or the wife phone and the mistress phone. One's enough for me - for now.)

100,000 RMB (in 100's; a 100 is still the largest denomination note here, which is why a conventional wallet is inadequate)

10,000 RMB in small bills (Because I'm nice like that. The Chinese dakuan delights in inconveniencing the little people, and will break a 100 for even the most trivial purchase. Indeed, he's eagerly looking forward to the day when they finally introduce 500 or 1,000 RMB notes.)

A Swiss Army penknife (Essential! Don't leave home without it!)

My house keys (which are always wearing holes in my trouser pockets, damn it!)

A dictaphone (to record my occasional brilliant - but so easily forgotten - moments of insight; and also, perhaps, to secretly record business conversations for possible court/blackmail use later)

A map of Beijing (A rather good new bilingual one has been given away with one of the expat listings mags for the past couple of months: a very reassuring thing to have, if you find yourself in an unfamiliar part of the city.)

A hip-flask of good whisky (like the map, more for comfort than actual use)

A collapsible umbrella (god, it's been WET recently!)

A pocket camera (There's a photo opportunity around every corner in this city. And a camera-phone just doesn't cut it.)

A copy of one or more of the expat listings magazines (For ease of use and comprehensiveness of events listings, the new kid on the block, the conveniently pocket-sized Agenda, is hard to beat.)

A paperback novel

A volume of poetry (for those - alas, increasingly frequent - occasions when I just don't have the attention span for a novel)

A calendar/diary (My schedule is just so packed these days!)

A notebook (Hmmm, Moleskin!)

At least 6 pens, in a Ziplock bag (Chinese pens have a high failure rate. And even when they are not completely dud on purchase they tend not to last very long. Not very long at all. Oh yes, and they leak something terrible. You really should not ever carry one in a pocket. 6 probably isn't anywhere near enough; let's say 12.)

500 business cards (with assorted 'professions', to maintain the Froog's essential chameleon-like unknowability)

I really don't know how I've got by without a man-bag for so long.

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