There were two obvious approaches. One was to look on the Internet for what the big brands were presently offering, either as 'new in' or in a sale. But this could only give me an impression of what a possible bag might be like in real life. It might not be exactly the colour, dimensions or weight expected. Or somehow not be as classy as its depiction onscreen - something about the leather, or the stitching, not being quite right. As with clothing, it was best to handle the goods before seriously thinking of buying. Consulting the internet was however useful for getting a feel for styling and trends - and current prices! I knew I was letting myself in for significant outlay. It wasn't in me to settle for something cheap. You have to pay for quality. But I wasn't looking for a fashion bag. It would be good-looking, but free of unnecessary decoration. Above all, practical and robust - a bag to take a lot of use and last a long time.
Touring the shops was therefore the next step. I was on holiday. I went to Hereford. Nothing meeting my requirements there. Nor at touristy Hay-on-Wye. A lady in a bag shop in Ross-on-Wye suggested that I go to Clarks Village at Street in Somerset. I'd never been there before, so this sounded both interesting and promising.
And it was. I'd imagined that Clarks Village was devoted solely to Clarks products, and catered mainly for coach parties wanting a shoe bargain and a quick coffee. Not at all. It was a comprehensive and sophisticated shopping centre for those wanting leisure apparel and accessories, especially leather goods. Many big brands had their own shops there. In the handbag department I noticed, for instance, Radley and Fiorelli and Osprey. There was Hobbs too. The two shops that were best-stocked with what I was looking for were Radley and a shop called Pittards (whom I'd not heard of before). I liked what I found in Pittards, but as I'd bought Radley bags before and found them good, I concentrated my efforts there. I nearly bought this bag, which Radley named 'Trinity Square':
One thing my visit to Clarks Village had made me reconsider was the colour of whatever bag I ended up buying. I'd thought black would be best. It was not exciting as colours went, but it would go with anything. But at home I already had a glitzy black bag (the Prada), a bright red bag (the Karen Millen), and of course I'd been using the orange bag (bought in Florence) for a very long time. I didn't really want a new bag in one of these colours. That left grey, white, pink, yellow, green, blue and purple. The first four colours would quickly look drab and dingey with intensive use. No to them, then. I disliked purple. That left blue and green. Blue would go with many more things than green would. So I was now leaning towards a blue bag. And on Pittards' website were those small bucket bags - one was blue with a tan strap. The 'full' price was said to be £195, and the online price (with clearly a 40% discount) was £117. The sort of price I knew I'd have to pay for a well-made leather bag from a respected maker.
It looked just right. But of course I'd want to examine it. I noticed that Pittards were based in Somerset, with a factory and shop at Yeovil, just an hour away from Cheddar. It would make a nice trip. And surely the gods were nudging me to go and see. Google Maps gave the precise location, on the A30 Sherborne road, close to Yeovil Pen Mill station.
So yesterday morning I set forth at 10.00am, duly arriving at Pittards ay 11.00am.
The shop was magnificent. Here are various views. Everything you could buy in leather, clothing included. Ladies' bags were just a part of it all.
I found the little blue and tan bag I'd seen on the website. It wasn't a regular blue - more blue-green I thought. That made it interesting. I'd liked a blue bag in the Hobbs shop back at Clarks Village, but it had been an 'ordinary' blue, and had seemed dull. This wasn't in the least dull. The tan straps went with this blue very well. And as it aged, it wouldn't ever look grubby. I took it to the till. The price was £136.50. They gave a 30% discount in the shop. OK, it was acceptable. I paid (using Google Pay), and adjourned to their café to contemplate my exciting purchase over coffee and cake. I immediately transferred most of the things in my orange Florence bag to the new blue Pittards bag. They went in fine.
And here's me in the café loo, wearing the new bag.
It looked good in Fiona, too.
Actually, I was glad that I'd found a suitable small bag without having to trek into a big city or town. Bristol and Bath were obvious places to go bag-hunting, but I hadn't relished the thought of driving to them, trying to park in them, and then tramping their crowded streets. The hassle would have detracted greatly from the bag-buying experience! But I'd avoided all that.
There was more to see at Pittards. They had a section full of leather offcuts, for those wanting to make their own leather goods. Truly an Aladdin's Cave!
What next? I drove off to Shaftesbury, then back to Cheddar, through a series of heavy downpours - it being a day of both sunshine and torrential rain. Somehow I managed to look around Shaftesbury, and return to Fiona, without getting soaked. Similarly at Waitrose at Gillingham on the way back. All the time, the new bag seemed easy to wear, and not impractically small. It swallowed, for instance, an events programme from the Shaftesbury Arts Centre. It didn't actually feel feather-light when loaded up, but then half of that weight was Tigerlily, my large Samsung Galaxy S8+ mobile phone; and if I had the phone in my hand (for photography) it made a difference.
Back at the caravan, a warm, sunny late-afternoon developed. Strangely, the colour of the new bag seemed to change from blue to green. I suppose the warmer light was responsible for that. If it clouded over, and the light became cooler, then the bag reverted to being blue or blue-green again. To a large extent, this could have been just my eyesight. I have always had difficulty in distinguishing some shades of blue from green. Turquoise and aqua are both a problem. This slight flaw in my colour vision isn't often an issue, of course. Tigerlily's camera (which presumaby sees true colour, correctly colour-balanced at the Samsung factory) records a blue bag in my shots, not a green one, even in warm sunlight. I can see this in the photos, even if I can't always see it in real life:
As a footnote, I see that the Pittards' website presently shows my new bag as being 'out of stock'. It wasn't when I first looked two days ago. Did they have a sudden run on them, at least the ones in that colour? Did the higher shop price reflect their restricted availability? Who knows: bag pricing - the price of ladies' fashion items generally - is an arcane science, hardly comprehensible to the lay person. But I suspect the prices do faithfully (and ruthlessly) reflect availablity and customer demand, like the prices of ferry or airline tickets.
And to end, here is my new bag as currently shown and described on Pittards' website: