Posted in Events, Personal life, Writing

My Quest for the Perfect Handbag

For as long as I can remember, I have been on a quest to find the perfect handbag. Until a few weeks ago, I seemed as likely to discover the Holy Grail. But unlike the Holy Grail, the object of my mission has changed as I aged.

When I was very young, all I needed was what my mum called a “peggy purse”, a piece of plain leather folded in the shape of an envelope sealed with a snap fastener and hung across my body on a long narrow strap.

It was just big enough for the essentials for a day at school: a hankie, a sixpence to buy sweets on the way home, and a tiny “pocket dolly” for comfort.

At secondary school, a traditional leather satchel was de rigueur, conker-brown, stiff and unyielding, softening only after a few terms’ use. When, aged 14, I moved to an American-style school in Frankfurt with no uniform requirements, I fashioned a funkier schoolbag from an old pair of jeans.

In early adulthood, there followed a string of bags of all shapes and sizes. In the days before mobile phones and multiple loyalty cards, they could be very small indeed.

Then along came my daughter, and as any mother knows, the smaller the child, the larger the baggage.

Just when I’d passed the stage of needing to carry nappies and bottles, life dealt my daughter Type 1 diabetes. Until she was old enough to manage her own medical care, my huge handbag was like a First Aid kit that happened to include a purse and a phone.

I thought I’d cracked it for both style and capacity when I invested in an early Cath Kidston bucket bag. Then the impact of rheumatoid arthritis on my hands and wrists dictated the need for a hands-free, cross-body bag. What I needed now was one that was large enough without getting in the way.

Then this summer I realised I’d got my priorities wrong.

When I watched HM The Queen graciously accept Paddington’s gift of a marmalade sandwich and stow it in her classic clip-top bag “for later”, I knew that was The One.

It might not be practical, and I might not use it every day, but I longed for a bag like the Queen’s to display on my bedroom shelf for decoration and inspiration, a symbol of her grace, dignity, goodness, poise, and, above all, her sense of fun. I knew it would make me smile every time I saw it. A couple of weeks later, I snapped up a vintage bag just like hers in a charity shop.

As I write this column four days after the Queen’s death, this handbag has acquired a new purpose. It’s now my personal tribute to her, displayed in my bedroom window against the backdrop of a Union flag. It will stay there until after her funeral. Thank you, Your Majesty. My quest is at an end.

photo of handbag against Union flag

This article was originally written for the October edition of the Tetbury Advertiser


While I work hard at finishing my next novel for Boldwood Books, the eighth adventure in my Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series (to be launched next spring), I’m also busily preparing for two special events. If you’re within reach of my home turf of Hawkesbury Upton in the Cotswolds (postcode GL9 1AS), you might like to attend either of both of these.

Saturday 29th October, 2-5pm
HULF Talk: The World at War

photo of Svitlana Rotayenko
Our special guest from Ukraine, Svitlana Rotayenko

A fascinating afternoon with six authors of fiction and non-fiction inspired and informed by the First and Second World Wars, plus a special guest speaker from Ukraine on the topic of the war with Russia. Tickets cost £5 and include tea, coffee, cake and a £2 book voucher valid at the event.

Click this link for more information and to book tickets: 

array of author photos

Thursday 3rd November, 7-9pm
An Evening with Debbie Young

The wonderful Cotswold Book Room in Wotton-under-Edge, just a few miles from Hawkesbury, has invited me to spend the evening talking about my books and my writing life at their beautiful shop. I’ll also be giving a reading from my next book, the all-new Wicked Whispers at St Bride’s, which launches officially on 14th November.Free to attend, but space is limited, so places must be booked in advance via the bookshop’s website. Complimentary refreshments provided.

Click this link to reserve your place:


English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

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