Girls allowed our handbag culture

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When you’re a slip of a thing, your idea of a great girly minibreak destination is somewhere to top up your tan, where the cocktails are cheap and the men even cheaper.

When there are 14 of you and the average age is 60-plus, you have altogether different priorities.

We don’t go in matching pink T-shirts with our nicknames on the back. We don’t take bikinis and shorts. Few of us have owned anything so scarily skimpy for the last 20 years. Lotharios and cheap booze? Frankly, we couldn’t give a fig.

We ARE interested in acquiring a bit of tanning. Though it’s Italy’s butter-soft suede and gleaming leather we’re hungry for. In middle age, the best way to disguise wrinkles is with expensive hide accessories.

Hence the reason we’ve just got back from Florence.

What a city. The art and the ambience, the pasta and the palazzos. The handbags and the shoes.

Those leather market traders must have felt the cobbles tremble as we approached.

A herd of hormonally challenged shopaholics, high on the scent of tannery, we descended like a pack of Berlusconis, nostrils flaring and experienced fingers twitching to touch, to caress... to pluck some crisp notes fresh from the wad we’d picked up at the M&S currency exchange and buy, buy, buy another new bit of skin.

We came back on Sunday night, suitcases crammed with a haul large enough to set up our own leather stall; some 25 handbags, three jackets, 10 scarves, ten pairs of shoes. Oh, and one Italia football, bought by a doting grannie.

I managed four bags (in case Bloke is reading, three are really, really small. Teeny.) But, as usual, I was resoundingly trumped by my BF. Valiantly, she had fought her way through the crowded streets of San Lorenzo and the Mercato Nuovo time and again to bring back no less than eight.

Back in our hotel room, she displayed her haul as proudly as one of those great white hunters showing off his stash of rhinoceros heads and leopard skins. And it did kind of make me wonder how many living creatures had actually gone into the making of them.

Five bags were exactly the same, but in different colours (she hardly dare tell her partner; men think you buy toilet roll in bulk, not handbags).

She now has orange, grey, white, turquoise and indigo. I almost told her a red, a yellow and a green and she could have sung a rainbow, until I remembered we were flying Ryanair.

Bags, when I come to think of it, bags pretty much dominated our trip from start to finish.

The night before we’d set off, most of us had spent hours scrutinising the bags we intended to bring our bags back in. We’d had tape measures out and we’d weighed each case at least three times and taken a mean average, just like we do with ourselves when we’re on a diet. Some even went out and bought new ones.

On the way back, the tape measures and weighing scales came out again, but a scrabble around on the airport floor was inescapable for my eight-bag friend. Her case was almost two kilos over and the excess weight fee would have completely negated the bargain status of her purchases.

Fortunately, though, a code exists among shopaholics; enough space was found in another’s case and there was an air of triumph that we had all managed to beat Ryanair at its own game.

How much did we spend in total? I can’t say; what goes on on a girly minibreak stays on a girly minibreak.