At the back of the cupboard there’s a small waterproof bag with a drawstring. It’s the sort of stuff sack found in any camping store and is designed to hold a sleeping bag or inflatable mattress. Quite when or why I acquired this I have no idea, as my sleeping bag and mattress both have covers of their own. However, judging by its condition, it was some time ago.
The bag is now a little Aladdin’s cave of travel odds and ends and is the first place I visit before I head away. I would assume that at one time everything in the bulging bag was useful and served a genuine purpose. Unfortunately, not all its contents are quite so valuable today but I am loathe to part with anything because, if it was good once, it just might well be good again!
There are some things that are truly handy like a ziplock bag that holds a couple of wooden pegs, some environmentally-friendly laundry suds and an elastic clothes line with a small metal hook at each end. There is a rather dishevelled money-belt, a rubber all-size sink plug, a small bar of travel soap, a tiny nail brush, assorted carabineers, boot laces, utility gloves, a small mirror, electricity adaptors, spare Velcro, a travel alarm clock, a disposable rain poncho, head-torch, waterproof matches and travel sewing kit.
At the other end of the spectrum of usefulness lie a few other things whose value is a little less clear. There are luggage straps so short that their only possible use could be as tourniquets for injured moles. There’s an unopened packet of flashlight bulbs for a fancy flashlight that I never had and coloured filters that I never used for other flashlights that I no longer own. There are mysterious small batteries for which I don’t believe I ever had a use, and a few loose AAs and AAAs from unknown manufacturers. There’s a combination compass/thermometer that doesn’t serve either function, and a few small plastic travel bottles of indiscernible content. There’s a patch kit for inflatable mattresses in which the adhesive has solidified, and a bunch of luggage locks without keys…and keys without locks. There’s a packet of disposable toilet seat covers that seemed like a good idea at the time except that they’re useless on the long-drop squat toilets for which they were bought, and loose change from countries that no longer exist. And there’s a bottle of insect repellent that I have had for so long that it has since been deemed illegal by virtue of a chemical content so concentrated that it eats through plastic.
It is always my intention to sort through this magical mystery bag but alas, the only time I venture near it is shortly before I depart when I’m packing and in a hurry…and after my return, when I’m unpacking and in a hurry. I suppose I could go in there right now, but part of me knows that the moment I throw away the WMD insect spray or the fancy flashlight bulb will be the same day that someone gives me the fancy flashlight…or Hans Blix knocks on my door looking for his mosquito repellent.
Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan