Written by Various Artists


Pulling it out of the bag

Filled with the essentials for life or crammed with shit no one could possibly need? We take a look inside some of our contributors’ handbags to find out.

Sarah's handbag contentsSarah Millican

I should tell you I cleaned out my handbag a week before I offered to write this piece. But in some ways, that is more telling. Now you’ll know what I CHOSE to put back in after the clearout.

My handbag is my life. Travelling around so much means I need handbag contents that are practical, comforting, even inspiring. The below is what I NEED. I always have tissues which you’d be welcome to. I always have pens which you wouldn’t. Here are the contents of my handbag today:

1 wallet – it’s new and I’m just waiting for the zip to break
2 diaries – this year, battered and next year, pristine but it’ll be the first time I’ve done a week over four pages as opposed to just two and I’m more than a little worried
1 notebook – unused and ready for the beginning of the next show. I currently have a few ideas that need downloading from my brain into this
5 half packets of tissues – the packets keep them usable. Just a wedge of mansize from the house box of tissues gets tatty in no time
1 iPhone charger – which I will plug into any socket I can
1 pair of gloves – brand new as I can’t find my mittens that look like foxes (gutted)
1 small vial of perfume – my sister gave me it. It’s a mood-lifting treatment. To keep me happy on the road
1 pair of glasses and 3 lens wipes – practical
1 set of headphones – but weirdly no iPod. It must be in the car
1 spare tenner – in case of emergencies but clearly quite cheap ones
1 Nakd bar – like a banana that doesn’t go off; notice it’s uneaten. Like a healthy snack condom, always in my bag
1 roll of poo bags – mostly for the dog
1 pad of post-it notes – new and yellow and makes me happy to write lists on
2 sanitary towels – of varying absorbency
1 coin purse – it says, “She works hard for her money” and is full of parking, toll bridge, train station wee money
1 pink digital watch – a comedian’s friend
3 hair bands – self-explanatory
1 Vicks inhaler – my drug of choice
1 tinted lip balm – because I want to look nice but I care about moisture too
1 business card holder – contains Standard Issue cards to help me spread the word
1 small flowery pot – I love storage and bought this with no clue what to put in it. It has general tablets in it now – paracetamol, buscopan, Imodium, day nurse, I’m ready for all minor ailments
27 pens – because I fucking love pens. They’re all sorts of colours, mostly biros and sharpies. There’s only one I can lend you as it’s a stolen hotel one. The rest I’ll pretend I don’t have
1 small knitted poo with a grumpy face – knitted for me by Standard Issue regular, Emma Mitchell and representing both my IBS and my strength. I carry it round with me as I don’t take any shit now (because I already have one with me).


“My handbag has no compartment to put any mobile phone; they weren’t invented when it was made.”

Amanda Wilkie

Twenty years BC (Before Children) my handbag would be a tiny drawstring effort that would hang over my wrist leaving both hands free, usually to hold a glass of booze and a cigarette. These days though I’ve somehow ended up carrying a bag roughly the size of a small village in Belgium on a daily basis. I need EVERYTHING that’s in it though. Obviously.

handbags amanda wilkieContents:
sanitary towels
body spray (rather dubious smelling)
2015 diary and 4 notebooks
travel first aid kit
an umbrella (which I always forget is in there when it inevitably rains on the school run)
multitude of receipts (sadly mainly for bread and milk from Tesco rather than shoes from Louboutin)
carton of strawberry Ribena (out of date – does Ribena even go out of date?!)
pair of tights (denier unknown. Nice thick ones though)
a plastic, purple Minion (haven’t a clue how that bastard got in there)
Subway vouchers (out of date)
Oyster card and old train tickets
cinema tickets (for a kids’ film as the last grown-up film I saw at the cinema was Avatar)
2 packets of Haribo (one of the perks of having kids. You’re never more than six feet away from a packet of Haribo)
fortune cookie (been in there so long that if opened, the fortune would probably read, “Eat me and you’ll die”)
box of raisins (so old that they were probably grapes when I put them in there)
Match Attack cards
portable phone charger (essential when owning an iPhone and you want to be out for longer than 34 minutes before your battery dies)
a Bag For Life
a complimentary comb still in its wrapper from a hotel in Tenerife
various pens (92 per cent of which don’t work)
fresh breath spray
mascara (dried up)
clear nail varnish (good for stopping ladders in tights from getting worse)
tin of Vaseline
various bits of plastic tat that my kids have won out of machines
charity wristband
safety pins (Can you tell I was in the Brownies yet?)
hairbands (as least one guaranteed to have twisted itself into the shape of a penis)
Moshi Monsters ruler
cute ketchups in the shape of paint tubes from Disneyland Paris
my pièce de résistance – luminous green plastic glasses that I threaten to wear on the school run when the kids aren’t brushing their teeth and getting their shoes on quickly enough
and a partridge in a pear tree (Just kidding, RSPB!).


“From my handbag, I have pulled aerogel, one of the least dense materials ever made and one that has helped us to capture space dust – except I think this little chunk has mostly captured what used to be my Emergency Kit Kat.”

Juliette Burton

My handbag has no compartment to put any mobile phone; they weren’t invented when it was made. In the 1970s, long before cell phones, Topshop or I was born, my mother’s elder sister who had moved to Spain gave Mum this beautiful leather number. Mum still regards my Auntie Margaret as an elegant, chic, adventurous, fashionable woman with an eye for style. My mum sees her older sister in a similar way I see mine; as everything she admires and wishes she could be.

I found this sisterly gift at the back of my beautiful, chic, caring mum’s wardrobe about four years ago and fell instantly in love; not only with the bag but the sentiment behind it. Mum hadn’t used it since settling on the farm with my dad in the 1980s. Every year since she has had the same style of handbag – navy, practical, unchangeable.

I asked her if I could give this bag a new lease of life; take it on new adventures. She kindly agreed. This funky little stylish vintage accessory has accompanied me to Edinburgh, London, Brighton, Cardiff, to meetings, auditions, networking and performances. It has lasted far longer and is far stronger than any modern high street tote, clutch or holdall. It, like my mother’s love for her sister and my love for mine, will last longer and is stronger than any of us will ever admit to each other.

juliette's handbag contentsContents:
1 notepad (most important thing – sometimes 2 notepads)
2 pens
1 pencil
loose change
random vintage bracelet I thought I’d lost until writing this… thank you!
half a pack of unused chewing gum
used chewing gum
2 plastic forks (you never know)
2 pepper sachets and 1 salt sachet (you never know)
full makeup bag – benefit – “laughter is the best cosmetic”, so I always know if I’m running out the door to a last-minute meeting or audition I can do my makeup on the train
1 Diet Coke bottle, two-thirds drunk
1 passport (just in case – I always remain hopeful there will be a chance to be whisked away, or whisk myself away. This hasn’t quite happened yet.)
1 network railcard
random hair accessory I thought I’d lost until writing this… thank you!
kirby grip
hair pin
Nurofen packet
old receipts – many
old train tickets – many
sanitary towel (you never know)
ticket to a show I saw last week
glasses case (no glasses… left them on my bedside table as per)
USB stick
nail varnish
Neal’s Yard aromatherapy roll-ball miniature ‘travel’ edition
number 3 tab card I lost in my handbag last night at a bar
car keys
house keys
faux fur snood (grey) – wet.


Claire Goodwin

My handbag has lots of nonsense in it, though this list is inevitably dynamic according to the level of crap I feel I need on a daily basis.

Claire's handbag contentsContents:
psychiatric meds
psoriasis cream
kwells (for my dog, Trevor, who gets carsick)
Imodium – to avoid poo shaming incidents. Not reliable, unfortunately
caffeine-free teabags (nowhere has caffeine-free PG bloody Tips)
corks (I collect them as I am going to be making a cork board)
fondant (for fixing any in-travel damages to cakes)
a range of cake decorating tools
sugar flowers book (for impromptu sugarcraft studying)
Happy by Clinique, because it makes me happy. On posher outings this is replaced by Jo Malone
my husband’s inhaler
double sided sticky tape as I need to channel my inner Bitsa on a daily basis
pens – I fucking love pens. Handbag pens are usually stolen ones: beware, Argos
pencils for sketching
torch (no idea)
Weight Watchers sweets – to exacerbate my depression
earphones – to listen to Radio 4 on dog walks
glasses cleaner
tweezers – for on-the-go removal of rogue chin hairs
purse – containing maxed out credit cards and copper.


Gabby Hutchinson Crouch

I’ve emptied out my old, recently deceased work bag just for you. Contents included:

Gabby's handbag contentszoo map
arts festival programme
many old receipts
several pens (working and non-working)
1 pencil
1 school nativity programme/songsheet
2 zoo wordsearches
£4.01 in coins
2 Euro cent coins
a small, see-through plastic hedgehog filled with colourful sand
many name tags and visitor passes
contact lens case
sanitary towels
hayfever tablets (I don’t get hayfever)
sachet of electrolytes
promotional flyers
2 Legoland maps
theatre programme
deodorant spray
3D glasses
empty crisp packet
small fabric sweetie bag
sachet of golden syrup flavoured instant porridge.


Suze Kundu

My handbag is legendary. Some say for its sheer density (it does weigh rather a lot, most of the time…), but most say it’s because of the things it’s been known to contain. It can be compared to Mary Poppins’ own bag, only I favour Mulberry bags (one of my two weaknesses) over carpet bags and scientific instruments over cough medicine.

As such, I thought I would take this opportunity not to showcase what is currently in my handbag, but the previous adventures of my handbags instead. Note: two of the following items are actually still in there, covered in crushed Belvita biscuits…

Suze's handbag & friendsMatt Taylor, the famous comet-pouncing scientist, can be seen modelling my Daria Hobo, while my boyfriend Karl is looking rather handsome holding my oak leather Bayswater – which is lucky, really, as I have a bladder the size of a pea (‘Thimble-ina’) and he is forever having to hold it for me.

From my handbag, I have pulled aerogel (one of the least dense materials ever made and one that has helped us to capture space dust – except I think this little chunk has mostly captured what used to be my Emergency Kit Kat – it’s a useful thing to have when you’re on the move a lot, although the security lady at a recent Muse gig did confiscate it. Not because I couldn’t take it into the gig, but because it really didn’t resemble a Kit Kat anymore and it was for my own good. The packet was pliable for a start…).

“I’ve somehow ended up carrying a bag roughly the size of a small village in Belgium on a daily basis. I need EVERYTHING that’s in it though.”

I was once off to Manchester for a conference, working on the train in the height of hayfever season and thought that glasses would be better than scratchy contacts – when searching for said glasses, however, I found my very pink blowtorch.

Recent discoveries by my often baffled other half have included a Time Lord (Ten, of course) and a Geiger counter (the thing that people use to measure radioactivity. Useful, no?).

It’s not all work though – alongside the commuter book and the bottle of Evian can be found a bottle of Prosecco and a starry umbrella.

There are other practical things too, mostly confined to the pink sparkly unicorn pencil case (a super tip from my friend Maria who is also constantly rooting around the bottom of her handbag for little things); concealed within the glitter can be found a tiny medicine cabinet, including a range of painkillers and cute plasters with animals and fairies on them, my reason being that nude plasters are never invisible, so why hide a papercut? Cheer yourself up with a roaring lion or a grinning giraffe. Sanitary towels also hide here, rather than with my Prosecco (although putting all of my ‘luxury’ items in the same place would be logical…).

Completing the ensemble, a diary covered in more glitter that managed to shed everywhere and always end up on my face, and a wallet the size of a brick, mostly for its potential use as a weapon, as it certainly never has any cash in it! I do so hope you can’t tell too much about a person based on the contents of their handbag. I dread to think what mine would say about me.


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Written by Various Artists

Some of Standard Issue's brilliant women's carefully crafted words for your reading pleasure.