Monsieur So British #21: Case Closed

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

#21 Case Closed

I distinctly remember the conversation. It was November 2004, we had moved out of our house in Crawley and were waiting to make the move to France in January. Money was tight, Christmas was coming up, and we’d lost a fortune as the pound had dipped immediately after agreeing to buy the house in France. We were down about 30 grand, so it was no time to be making off-the-cuff purchases.

‘How much did that cost?’ Natalie asked dubiously, pointing at my new acquisition, a sleek, small-looking black suitcase.

‘£95.’ I told her and received the predictable and justified dressing down, which I couldn’t really complain about as it had actually cost £170. That was 15 years ago, that case has been all over the world with me since, in war zones, jungles and cities, through five star hotel concierge care and budget airline brutality, not to mention thousands of journeys on planes, trains, automobiles and boats in my weekly cross-channel commute. We both started fresh and young, we’re both now battered, bruised and not as capable of regular travel as we once were. But unlike me, it is still a veritable thing of beauty.

You’re probably thinking at this point, blimey, he’s banging on about a bloody suitcase now. He’s either overtired or seriously short of material. But bear with me, this is no ordinary case. This is a Samsonite Tardis. They don’t call it that obviously but they should. It has an expandable main body, two front pockets, a large back pocket and an in-built tri-fold suit carrier that is more discrete than a monarch’s concubine. It’s made of softside polyester, which doesn’t sound sexy, but hasn’t torn in 15 years of heavy use. Almost as importantly it has never fallen foul of fluctuating Ryanair hand luggage rules; it looks like hand luggage despite actually being bigger than a lot of hand luggage allowances. It is perfect, so perfect in fact that Samsonite don’t make that model anymore. Like a football club that retires the shirt number of a legendary player, they have quietly moved on and the replacements are inadequate. Why they can’t just keep remaking the same thing is beyond me, unless of course it was a commercial decision, a cold capitalist argument that goes something like this:

‘Bob, that Samsonite Tardis…’

‘Bloody good case that Trevor, bloody good case.’

‘Yes, yes,’ Trevor nods, ‘too good. Nobody needs to buy a replacement.’

‘Gotcha Trevor, reduce quality, double the sales.’

‘Get rid of it Bob.’

And so the world goes. Apple did the same with the iPod classic. As far as I’m concerned mankind could have reasonably stood still after coming up with the ipod classic, at least taken a few years off to bask in its technological majesty. But oh no, instead they decided to drive users into a phone based music player that needlessly requires upgrading every couple of years, retire the classic and send the world reeling back to the dark ages. Black-hearted, money-grabbing commercialism dressed up as progress, and making us all poorer in so many ways. I’ve started buying up any old ipod classics I can find so that when the world does finally melt into a ball of molten lava from too much air travel, meat eating and ignorance, I’ll be there post-armageddon, nodding away to something in a specially created playlist while everyone else tries to get a signal.

I won’t try and buy up old Samsonite Tardis cases though, when this one goes I go with it I reckon. There’s an argument to suggest that my stubborn refusal to give up on this old-fashioned, over the shoulder case, more often than not weighing upwards of 15kg, may have played a part in my physical decay. I should have changed to a wheel-based luggage system years ago, prolonging perhaps my ability to get about. Well to that I say pah! I’ve written often about how I manage to keep going on my travels, that I envelope myself in the delusion that I am some master of espionage gadding about from city to city, carrying out dangerous, worthy missions. You can’t do that with a wheelie case, you just can’t. James Bond doesn’t arrive in Nassau riding on a Peppa Pig wheelie suitcase. Yes, they’re more convenient, yes, they’re probably better for your back and posture but to paraphrase Ray Liotta in Good Fellas, I don’t want to be an ordinary schnook. I’d have never sneaked more stuff onto countless budget flights with a wheelie case, duping Stasi trained ground staff into thinking I was playing by their rules. One trick I always used when Ryanair and Easyjet went through their ‘one bag and one bag only rule’ was to put a small bag on my shoulder first, then throw my Samsonite over my shoulder to hide it. It never failed, I always made it through. I was sticking it to the man one cabin-sized luggage item at a time and it felt good.

It could even be regarded as unwieldy in an over-crowded world. A few weeks ago on the Paris metro I slung the thing over my shoulder paying, it has to be said, little attention to what was behind me and sent a box of mini cakes flying across the carriage. The owner of said cakes was not impressed. A small, bulldog of a man, he looked up at me and hissed ‘Morti’, Sicilian for death. It was an uncomfortable ride for the next few stops until he got off by trying to push past me. But my case was now between us, I wore it like a shield. He could do nothing therefore and departed muttering threatening imprecations.

So we’ll fade gently out together my friend. Your zips are weaker than they were, your reinforced corners bent. You have kept my suits and smalls pristine and for that I thank you, but we could both do with a little rest I think, we’ve earned it.

This is the last blog for this year, thank you so much for all the comments and the shares. If you’re stuck for late Christmas presents please check out my books, fourth one out next year some time, my audiobooks and so on. Come and see me at a gig next year, or even come for a visit to my B&B – all the information you need is on this website.

Take care and have a safe, merry Christmas x

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  • Marianne says:

    Wishing you, Nathalie and the boys a very peaceful Christmas and a New Year filled with positive surprises, specially less pain for you Ian.
    🥰 🍀🥂 🐷🎄

  • Chris says:

    I think you would enjoy reading page 175-6 of Kitty Flanagans’s book “ 488 Rules for Life” If this sounds weird it’s not meant to be – I ‘d send you a copy of the pages to explain but I don’t know how. Suffice to say I believe you are anonymously featured…😀

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