Mary Poppins Syndrome: the curse of our bottomless handbags

The defining feature of Mary Poppins, for me, is not that she was wonderfully chipper or that she could really hold a musical note. It was that she had a bottomless bag, and I could really use one of those.

I have been called Poppins for the very reason that, like Mary, I try to be prepared for every eventuality. My oversized handbag is filled to the brim, packed with my necessities – umbrella (for rain), sunglasses (for rays), tissues (for sniffles), plasters (for scrapes), lipsticks (to transform), water bottle (to avoid dehydration), almonds (to snack on). It also happens to be filled with all sorts of floating debris, from opened, faded packets of gum which may no longer be edible, rogue nuts and half nuts, torn receipts and more.

Many woman understand my plight. I know this because on occasion I have held another friend’s bag and buckled under the weight of it, sighing with relief that I am not the only person to be suffering from what I like to call Mary Poppins syndrome.

I think it is a good thing to be prepared. The Scouts obviously think it’s a good thing to be prepared too. But on occasion I have had to pay the price for this.

Case in point being on a trip to New York when I ended up being labeled “Disabled Poppins” when I injured my leg after attempting to carry around all of the above contents whilst traversing the city day and night for two weeks.

Once my limp became unbearable I sought refuge in the nearest Duane Reade and bought a leg support band. This allowed me to continue to hobble around for a few extra days but I knew then that I needed help. Out with my 24/7 supply of water and any nice to have items, in with the bare necessities – wallet, keys, phone.

I have since discovered that I got off light with a leg injury. Apparently heavy handbags are a major cause of back pain, headaches and muscle stiffness. This is not in any way surprising but is still somewhat alarming given I live in London and must carry a bag when travelling by foot, bus and train.

The good thing is I have changed tack and bought the ultimate utility item for those days when I know that I am going to be pounding the pavement for hours – a backpack. It is medium-sized, black so that it goes with everything, and I can fit everything I need and still have plenty of space. This has been a revelation for me and there can be no turning back.

Here’s to being prepared – without causing grievous bodily injury.

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