It was only about ten years ago that I became able to admit to possessing a "handbag". Before then, I just couldn't say the word (nor could I admit to wearing "make-up" before the age of 28 - it was always tinted moisturiser; I still can't call shagging "making love", though). This was silly, because, like many women, I have always adored bags and bought far more than need dictated.
There was, however, one handbag I definitely fell in love with some years ago: the Celine Boogie bag. This is the perfect handbag. It's the perfect size and the perfect shape, and the compartments are just perfect: just enough, not too many. And it doesn't have any heavy padlocks, unlike some Marc Jacobs or Chloé bags, each of which can weigh up to 1lb.
I'd wanted a Boogie for years (it's a classic, unlike some Johnny-come-latelies, but the colours change each season). Yet, at £600-plus, it wasn't a purchase I could justify, no matter how many cards I put up in local phone booths. So, as often happens in these cases, I spent years trying to fill the enormous void left by not having one.
Forty pounds went on a Zara bag that I convinced myself would be just as good. Several times, £20-£40 went here and there on baby-cord or floral cotton bags that satisfied a season's whim. I bought a big Circa leather weekend bag - £125 in the sale - in the hope that having a "good" bag for going away would appease the ferocious itch for the Boogie. Nothing satisfied. Then, in August 2005, I was wandering around Selfridges when I saw that, in celebration of Celine being 60 years old, there was 30 per cent off certain colours in the Boogie bag range. My time had come. Although I was dressed like an on-duty plumber, the assistant treated me like Victoria Beckham must surely be treated when her Giacometti frame totters into a designer shop, her wallet heavier than she is and in need of purging.
After 90 minutes of discussion, with us trying to decide whether I should invest in the plum or the olive, it was decided. The assistant called up every plum bag from the stockroom - all five of them - before inspecting and selecting the best one; the grain had to be just right. "If you change your mind," he said, "you can take it back to any Celine boutique in the world." I loved that he presumed it might not be the London one.
Every time I go to meet friends who happen to be fashion editors they all say the same thing - "That's the most perfect bag" - even though they themselves have to be seen carrying the latest thing, which the Boogie no longer (gloriously) is. For this is not an ostentatious bag: no wet-look leather like last year's YSL "must-have" bag, or fake leopard-skin, like Louis Vuitton's Pleated Steamer bag. As my friend Karen says, "Those that know, know. Those that don't know just think it's a great bag." And it is.