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England has just caught up to the rest of the world and instituted a 5pence charge on plastic carrier bags. This has been going on in Scotland for ages now. Scotland does most of the good things first: they cut out smoking in pubs well before England was dragged, kicking and screaming, into a reasonable pub atmosphere. Same thing with the plastic bags. You’d have been forgiven for thinking the apocalypse was coming what with all the fuss over the bags.

And The Mom is right, having been a regular shopper at most hippie health food stores, I understand that no one is going to give me a plastic bag, so I’ll need to sort myself out.

I, too, have a vast collection of the things. Cloth shopping bags also can double as a purse over here, so you’re never really without one. I have all manner of bookish ones, my current grocery shopping favourite is one from the Eindburgh book festival with a blue bird on it. I have a bunch of other ones I stole from my last office. They’re all branded incorrectly and so were going to be thrown away, which seems counterproductive at best. I took a bunch of them and gave them out to friends. If I’m just bringing home toilet paper and rice, it needn’t be put in a fancy bag.

A friend also gave me one that bunches up into a little pouch with a carabeener on it so you can hook it onto the strap of your purse, lest it risk getting lost.

Anyhow, this is all to say that yes, cloth shopping bags follow me around too.

It’s the ones in the back of The Mom’s car that are troublesome. They multiply so quickly! When you’re not looking and least expect it, they lurch forward into the front seat. Try getting into the passenger seat and you have to wait five minutes for The Mom to herd them all into the back seat. I can imagine Lil Sis shaking her head in disbelief when she cleaned The Mom’s car. Sometimes none of us understands how it is The Mom can be so messy, and we’ve known her since forever. It still comes as a shock.

I had no idea however about her feelings of status brought on by these bags. The Harvard one she was talking about? It’s actually Harvard Press and I was given it from a friend because I’d had to carry a bunch of stuff home from his, and as he was a bookseller, he had it lying around. Had I known The Mom was hell bent on status cloth bags, I could’ve got her a nice one from Oxford University when my friend and I went there recently. Though, now that I do know, I shall endeavour to get her one from all the Russell Group universities here. Russell Group for those of you in North America is kind of like ivy league schools except not quite. It’s for research intensive universities. Basically, any of the universities you’ve heard of over here are probably Russell Group.

It’s funny the way we get attached to things like bags. I remember bringing home a Bag For Life once, which, again for those unfamiliar, is a heavy-duty plastic bag that one used to purchase in England at the supermarket if one felt like being really environmental. They were going for five or ten pence. Anyhow, one year Sainsbury’s I think had a cute bird on theirs. Probably an English robin, so I brought it home for The Mom. Yes, I know that bringing one’s mother a gift should amount to more than a quick dash to Sainsbury’s but the thing is she rather adored it. Sometimes The Mom can be ridiculously easy to shop for.

So this year, for Christmas and her birthday, I feel I’ve got something of an edge. I can just go out in search of cloth shopping bags with intimidating logos. I was going to get her an assortment of ridiculous t-shirts, of which she is also quite fond, but now maybe I can do her a whole look. Harvard cloth shopping bag, with a matching Yale t-shirt maybe. Or an I love London t-shirt and an I love Hackney shopping bag. Maybe something more sinister or ridiculous. The UK’s premiere women’s only sex shop was just down the road from me in London, maybe they have a flashy cloth shopping bag? Perhaps The Mom would care for something from the Tate, to assure fellow shoppers of her arty credentials. I’m fairly confident that the local copy shop place back home could, if pressed, help me to get our own pictures on cloth shopping bags. A picture of The Pig perhaps? Or the parakeet? The mind boggles at the many possibilities. Suffice to say, I think I can ensure The Mom’s collection of cloth shopping bags will outdo any of the neighbours’.