Six Things I Carry Everywhere
Whenever I travel I spent the hours before my flight in a frenzy of charging-up. It seems that travelling light now involves carrying 10 kgs of tech around, and it all has to be filled with ‘the new electricity’, as my great-grandmother called it. But there are a few essential items I need to keep on me…
A notebook. I buy one almost everywhere I go. They’re inexpensive and always different. My Tokyo notebook has shrine gods on its cover. My India notebook is made from recycled elephant dung (actually very elegant). Each one gets used for a particular idea. They are ritually destroyed once I’ve written up the story because I don’t want anyone seeing how rubbish some of my ideas are. Old school, but more fun than writing on a phone.
A pen. Biros and 2HB pencils for notes, a fountain pen for letters (I still send them occasionally) but a special pen – a Mont Blanc, given to me by the spouse, with brown, black or green ink, never blue – that only gets used for signatures. You develop a superstition about these things. I feel gutted if I go to an event without my special pen and have to borrow one.
Headphones. I’m an aural obsessive, partly because I suffer from tinnitus. EarPods like Beats are great but seem to increase sound damage if I wear them for more than a few minutes. Flat-ear over-the-head earphones are best for travel, and the best I’ve found are Bowers & Wilkins. Great sound quality, comfortable fit. Over-ear ‘phones (fully cupping the ear) are perfect for home listening. I’m looking for good bluetooth EarPods now. It’s a minor compulsion; I can handle it, although I’m not sure my wallet can.
A book. Obvs. Non-readers and teenagers need to be told that books calm nerves and remove panic attacks. Books are a benign drug that turns some of us into lifetime addicts. For waiting rooms and train journeys I take a Kindle because you don’t know how long you’ll be (especially if you’re on South Western trains – you could be days, months, possibly years). Embarrassingly, I will sometimes buy a book because I really like the cover. This dates back to when I was ten and bought the above book without quite knowing why. It took another ten years to figure that bit out. Never take a Kindle to the beach. Best not to ask me how I know, okay?
A spare T. My father hardly passed a day of his life in casual clothes. He was tightly buttoned to the throat in a short and tie, and a grey suit. I only ever had a proper job (copywriter) for the first seven years of my working life, and even that was incredibly louche. We’d turn up when we wanted dressed as clowns. I’ve lived in T-shirts since then. This is as close to disposable clothing as you can get. I carry a spare, and chuck ’em the moment they change shape. This is how clothes should be in the 21st century. We don’t need valets to press our trousers anymore. I always admired Chuck Heston in ‘The Omega Man’ because he tore off his shirt and wiped it under his arms before chucking it in the bin. You don’t get women doing that (I don’t think).
Cash. I know we live in a newly cashless society (hardly anyone uses cash in London now – weeks go by with the same change in your pockets). I always keep some cash in my wallet, and always in two currencies, euros and pounds, with the result that I am forever lending dosh to skint mates who, like the Queen, never carry grubby old notes anywhere and complain when they can’t buy a cortado from a street vendor with a credit card. My best pal taught me to always have a fiver on me. You nearly always need it.
Beyond the items on this list, what’s the item you carry everywhere with you?