Wednesday, September 07, 2011


You may remember that last year in Amsterdam I had a close encounter with a pickpocket. I was standing watching the Gay Pride parade and felt someone trying to unzip my handbag. Without any thought, I grabbed his hand and threw it at him as hard as I could. He tapped me twice, on the shoulder, in what I'm sure was a "you escaped me this time" gesture, and melted into the crowd.

I wasn't pleased. For one thing, my handbag is very important to me. I have been told - hard though this is to believe! - that I'm a teensy bit obsessive about it.

Everyone mocks my handbag, its great size and its many contents. They mock me a LOT. Right until the moment when they need a pair of nail scissors, or a tissue, or a wetwipe, or a pair of wellington boots, or a towel, or a 50" plasma tv - - and then they're grateful. Okay, I maybe exaggerate a bit, but in general, if you need it, it's in my handbag.

And, therefore, I prefer the contents to stay in my handbag until I take them out, and not until Mr or Ms Pickpocket takes them out.

I had heard a lot about the street crime in Barcelona and therefore decided to take steps not to become a victim of it if I could possibly avoid it. At the same time, having thought about it a bit, I didn't want to leave my handbag back at the hotel, because, without it, I have a constant "my handbag is missing!" feeling, which I didn't feel would enhance my enjoyment of Barcelona. And if you think that's weird, well, I'm sorry to say that you're entitled to your opinion, but you're wrong. It's not weird, it's COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDABLE, okay?

My current handbag is exactly the same as the one I had last year in Amsterdam. That one finally got old and tatty, which saddened me as it had exactly the right number of pockets and compartments and zips that I like, to fit in money and credit cards and emergency fruit and a road map of Western Europe and a 1974 typewriter and such.

So off I went to the same shop - - and they had another one the same, except a light brown colour, where the previous one was black. Hurrah!

I am very "tuned in" to my handbag and its whereabouts, because it is so important to me.

So, going down the escalator to Barcelona's excellent metro system, I was suddenly aware of something not quite right with my handbag.

I looked to my right, at my bag, and there was a hand inside it. Although I keep lots of things in it, someone else's hand is not usually one of them, and it brought a new and unwelcome meaning to the word "handbag".

He had gone straight for the little pocket that's specially designed to keep a mobile phone in it - - - and this was, luckily, exactly where my mobile wasn't. Because, luckily, everything that was of value I had removed from my bag.

"THAT BASTARD IS TRYING TO STEAL FROM MY HANDBAG!" I said, with more volume than elegance.

But he was already gone - - a train, interestingly, pulled in just as he reached the bottom of the steps and he stepped straight onto it.

I think there were two of them. He didn't look like a Baddie: early twenties, smart casual dress, jeans, jacket, MP3 player. I didn't really see his mate but he looked much the same. Nothing unusual, nothing to attract attention - - just like a thousand other young men wandering round Barcelona that day. Obviously, if you want to succeed as a pickpocket, that's the way to look.

He could, of course, just have been an opportunist - - but the trains are so regular there that I would think you could make a sound pickpocketing career out of going down the escalators just before a train arrives, and then disappearing very fast.

It's one of those crimes that spoils the whole city for everyone. People stealing because they're hungry and desperate - - well, I understand that. But as a kind of career option? It's just WRONG.


Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Having heard so many true life stories about rampant street crime in Barcelona, I have no desire to go there but if I did, my handbag (if I had one)would contain an open gin trap. That would teach one little turd a lesson.

7:44 pm  
Blogger Jennytc said...

A lucky escape, Daphne. You might want to try YP's suggestion next time. ;)

8:18 pm  
Anonymous Risa said...

Having been the victim of a pickpocket way back in 1982, I now have my handbag glued to me at all times. It does get a bit sticky at times, but works a treat. x

8:38 pm  
Anonymous Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Oh, I totally agree with you, and good for you for dealing with those two incidents as you did! I hope the second pickpocket got nothing for his pains? It makes you long for the days of hatpins, doesn't it?

But ...

' ... and a road map of Western Europe and a 1974 typewriter and such."

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! I could pick out more gems which made me laugh, but let's just say you write comedy VERY well. ;)

8:45 pm  
Anonymous Shooting Parrots said...

I'm surprised you hadn't moved your spare bear-trap to the top of your bag instead of keeping it in that special spare bear-trap pocket.

10:18 pm  
Blogger Silverback said...

.........well if you WILL carry that tv around with you, what do you expect ?

I loved Barcelona and no one put their hand in my man bag ! Oh err.

12:07 am  
Blogger Helsie said...

I agree with you, I would hate it. Here in Oz we hear lots of stories of the danger of pickpockets overseas. We are all cautioned about them before we set off, it's one type of thieving we don't seem to have here.
Other than clutching your bag firmly to your chest the whole time - which would be a real pain -I think it might spoil my enjoyment of a place.
Luckily we have escaped any encounter like yours on our travels so far.

8:16 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's the 50" plasma TV they're after. Suggest you leave that at home next time.

Verify: slycesse - the innate 'skill' of a pickpocket.

9:10 am  
Blogger Diz said...

I'm just the same with my handbag. What I do when visiting high risk places is to wear a moneybelt under my clothes containing passport, credit cards and main money, then the handbag just contains tissues, pen, notebook, Freegle cards, sandwiches, medicine, and a purse with a few euros or whatever.
My friend Glenda, being rather buxom, used to pop a slim phone in one cup, and her credit card in the other!

9:18 pm  

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