or, the 46 year old satchel
This satchel is older than most of the people on the planet. I had it made to measure in about 1970. No country on earth has a median age much over 40, and the median age in Uganda is about 15. It cost me £20, and is perhaps a perfect example of "shabby chic", of how something that is well made can withstand wear and tear and still look good.
Obviously it's modelled on a standard school satchel, but I decided to have a strap that went all the way around, instead of being attached to loops at the sides, in the interests of strength and durability. The best part of half a century has proved me right. I also had it made in black leather with chrome buckles: remember, this was effectively the end of the 60s, and that was "trendy".
It needs re-stitching from time to time: I reckon I spend an average of maybe an hour a year repairing it with heavy thread and a carpet needle, repairing stitching that has perished.
Normally I repair only a few inches of perished stitching at a time, and for about the first 20 years I owned it, I didn't even need to do that. I was at university when I had it made, and the way I chose the dimensions was simple. The main body is big enough to hold an A4 folder (note to American readers: A4 is the standard paper size in most of the world) and the two pockets can each hold one screw-mount Leica with collapsible 5cm Elmar lens. I don't think I ever have carried two Leicas in it, but I wanted the pockets to be symmetrical.
And that's it. I last repaired it just before going to Arles in 2016, when I took the pictures above. I don't use screw-mount Leicas any more, and even with a collapsible lens, a film M-series is a tight fit (it'll just go). A digital M is too big, and besides, it won't take the Elmar. Or rather, it won't let it collapse. On the other hand, it's still a very, very useful bag;
The older I get, the more I appreciate things that last and are reparable. It's true that some new things are a marked improvement on what went before, and where the old really does become obsolete: computers are often an excellent example.
Then there are things where you gain on the swings and lose on the roundabouts. The higher fuel efficiency of a new car, for example, is paid for with higher costs (both initially and for maintenance), greater complexity and in most cases less long-term reparability.
Things like this satchel, though, are very hard to improve upon. Nothing new would be better, and when you consider that so far it has cost me well under a penny a week, plus the occasional hour spent re-stitching, it looks like very good value.
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Words and pictures copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2016