Iconic ownerships. #1 The Ninth Gate Bag.


How many items do you own that are there for the whole journey? I owned the bag photographed above. And now own a different one which is slightly more deeper khaki olive (See below). I gave the one above to my daughter’s partner. A Musette French Infantryman bag from World War 2. What history? What attached involvement? Am I worthy to look after something that holds  unknown experiences that could rock my senses if I had the full picture of the person and their story that carried this bag through ‘who knows what unimaginable  hardships’? History, all be it named ‘antiques’, but in reality the unknown story inherent. I feel humbled when I carry this bag. I also feel that, just maybe, I can carry peace in it’s presence too. Carry on the ambitions of it’s original owner. A gentler existence that was the dream of the soldiers that put their lives at risk for others.  As a Buddhist there are questions regarding ‘possessions’. I always thought of the philosophy as two camps.

First consideration. The Buddhist monk was allowed minimal belongings. However, would they suffice amongst new ideals? Too complicated to explain survival in the modern world. The 8 possessions of historical emphasis, their robe (3 pieces of fabric), a begging bowl, girdle, water-filter, a needle to repair their robe, and a razor to shave their head, has changed due to new world considerations that is a modern phenomena of daily fast paced technological change. Living in self harmony and separation whilst watching the world evolve in it’s destructive hammering must make the old ways so perfect. The way we Life travel and afford the basics a reverence in that we use them everyday. ‘This is now’. But now? This relentless minute by minute change, and it is exhausting. Which means physical self removal. Akin to a sample of experienced Vision Quest or Soulcraft or equivalent Escapismology (me made up). A few days experimenting with back to basics. Talking to Mother Nature. Not whole choice forever lifestyle in itself, but a little window of time giving greater insight into the basics. Hopefully giving long term answers within a short lived out of your ordinary experience. Sitting out on a hill top whilst Mother Nature smacks your senses akimbo. Like Native American youth to adulthood. Or a Buddhist enlightenment. My reality? I can never stop learning however. Everything harmonious just out of reach?


The second consideration. My basic understanding and yearned for belief of Buddhist philosophy. As a layman, a believer and hoped for follower of lifestyle and keeping just about on the right side of application to Buddhist belief ? Buddhist monks are meant to be. It is their calling. Not mine. But this bag means focus. My wife said ‘Your life is in that bag’. Nail on the head. But a changing ‘daily life needfuls’ nail on the head. Gentle of nature. Not even close to the needs of the soldier that relied on this piece of ‘kit’ to get him through war.

My contribution is that lifelong principles of mental attachment and cravings should not be considered. But every so often some things attach to my psyche. And to everyday needful.  An addition to promotion of well being. A necessity? No. But. My necessity.  Pieces from history which become staple to the day in their attachment which inspire ongoing learning and add quality to life. Music, reading, eating, drinking, written recording experiences.

A VeeDub bus. A Pentax LX camera which houses film. Rolls of said black and white film. A Gaggia coffee maker. A Depose magnifying glass. A hand made leather journal to keep memories within. A 1970’s Eko dreadnought acoustic guitar I can write songs with. Three fountain pens which are a Mont Blanc, Mabie Todd and an old Osmiroid from my school days. Scheaffer black ink. A huge hand thrown stoneware bowl that I could eat every meal from. An old favourite spoon to eat stuff with. A Mercury German shaving razor. A small hand thrown bowl to mix Scottish Fine shaving soap in with a shaving brush. To cook? One Rose Elliot, One Gail Duff recipe book and a Madhur Jaffrey. A couple of pans and a small skillet to cook with. To read? Current read and pass ons or read and keep for life’s. Three, and now Four, Deaf School albums, three T. Rex/Bolan albums and Three Harry Nilsson albums I simply could not live without. The list grows. But. They are one off/three/four off choices. My creme de la creme of what is inherent in my life? Like the Amish. It exists to serve. Shaker in it’s minimalism? Not quite. Would it all house in a VeeDub? Oh yes. (Well…not the electric coffee maker). How to strip back and exist in peace. Creating a larger version of the Altoid tin survival considerations.

DIY: How to Build Your Own Altoids Tin Survival Kit

Altoids Tin Survival Kit DIY

So. How to separate craving or obsession from recognition that a beautiful, life attachment object is just what it is? Or is class timeless? Certain items are so iconic, robust and never wear out that you have to sit back and just accept the fact that items become part of your life and exist alongside you which create comfort. Break down your day. Work for me is a uniform and inherent and ongoing learnt knowledge. It is also….Stressful. Which needs………Relaxation, which is within the arts/hobbies, family/friends meetings or meditation. You meditate with no acquisition adage and simply sit or stand with the wind in your hair and the sound/smell of the sea or forest in your ears. Or you burn candles, joss sticks, resins and/or look at a piece of art, nature or mandala. This then involves attachments. Hobbies…..attachments. Basically you just need attachments. Albeit of a simple and basic nature.

For example….bag choice. And examples of iconic bags from the movies? Mary Poppins and that carpet bag. She brought her life to the wealthy, uptight and materialistic Banks family in that bag. Then sang to a robin-like unreal bird and bought the tuppence a bag to feed the birds to explain the priceless-ness of simplicities. Hermione  Granger’s purple draw string beaded tassel bag. Needed for survival for the trio whilst the Horcrux episode of life existed. And that refugee/seekers  situation leading to life changing realisation of their friendship dynamics. Both Mary and Hermione pull out the most unimaginable survival items from their bags with Tardis like qualities. And this leads to survival of the soul for others. Will Smith’s Belstaff Colonial 556 in ‘I am legend’, Indiana Jones needs his to house antique artefacts (the bag is a heavy canvas World War II-era “MkVII” British gas mask bag with the original cotton web strap replaced by a leather strap with a metal adjustment buckle).


Me? I loved the Johnny Depp bag from the film The Ninth Gate. It was a continual presence in the film. It has become cult. Rare. Like hen’s teeth. So, in many ways I should not have wanted or yearned for it. It was and became a craving. I never thought of it as something to carry everyday. I loved it for its aesthetic value. But then, on receiving it, I remembered David Carradine as  Kwai Chang Caine in Kung Fu. People travel, live day to day in need of housing necessities. So, comfort and practicality are required. This would serve with a purpose. It felt immediately like an old friend. I’ve given that old friend away now to my daughter’s fiancé. Why? Because I saw another on French eBay and due to rarity value, bid for it. I have this latest one now. So, it made me think. If I can give one away then I value not the experience of ownership. But the value of sharing. I used to have two medical folding magnifying glasses from the 18th Century. I gave a good friend who is a doctor/GP one of them. This extends to many things myself and my wife have. We simply give items and time away. Mach Swap Shop, equivalent local ethical sites and charity shops are the eco way. The Green way. The proper way.

Other bags? I have a camera bag (Billingham 550), a Hidesign 1980s canvas, leather and brass travel bag for holidays and the bag for everyday use which I have highlighted for this blog. Why these bags? They’re timeless, robust, practical and I love them. The daily bag? It is a French military mle 35 musette used by infantrymen. Inside it houses my everyday needs as required for particular days or constants. Changes with needs. It has metal clasps on the end of the strap which jingle and jangle in a medium high pleasing sound. If you watch the Ninth Gate in which Johnny Depp has this constantly at his side, you’ll hear what I mean. It’s like a portable wind chime Buddhist put in trees to catch wind music. Not the resonance of continuous singing bowl harmonious notes. Not quite the joy filled tinkling nature of water either. Just a gentle reminder that music can be heard in all things surrounding. The richness of any calming sound, is a wonderful thing. But this bag sound indicates seeking and an ever whirring mind. Which also begs me to ask. Please listen to the Ninth Gate soundtrack. The soundtrack to this movie is exquisite. Wojciech Kilar wrote some deep rich and beautiful thought provoking music over his lifetime. Go on…..YouTube ‘soundtrack Ninth Gate’. Below is a link to some stills from said film. And bag of course.


Currently housed within this bag? I’m looking now. Handmade Indian paper housed inside a burgundy velvet  pouch; three fountain pens; deep black ink housed in an ancient ink bottle which is housed in an aluminium screwed to secure outer ink bottle carrier to avoid spillage; three soft/medium/hard grades of pencils; an 18th century medical folding brass magnifying glass; Filofax for disciplined organisational lifestyle; pipe/tobacco/zippo lighter; a small ‘handmade by myself’ leather booklet/journal tied with an ancient bootlace; a Swiss Army knife; my two pairs of spectacles; a booklet of song lyrics/poetry/thoughts I have written; the ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’ book to re-read; chewing gum, a packet of three Lotus Biscoff biscuits tops covered with Belgian chocolate, a packet of KP salted cashews and Victory V lozenges; an old chemist tin filled with survival kit considerations (needle, thread, buttons, plasters, sudocrem, safety pins, alcohol wipes, small piece of emery cloth, etc…); moisturising hand cream (a Mindfully balanced synergy of clary sage, frankincense, myrrh, patchouli, Rose Otto, rosewood, rosemary and geranium absolute mixed in paraben free cream housed in a small silver lidded 1920s glass pot); a beautiful small Indian hand made wooden perfume pot filled with aromatic sandalwood paste; an old original 1980s MP3 player with decent earphones and hundreds of songs to tap into; a pair of burgundy paisley and plain handkerchiefs to polish my glasses or wipe away tears; photos/messages/cherished memories memorabilia; my lifestyle as possibly related need required. In essence….A man bag. Tomorrow. Maybe my olive Shemagh scarf, my bakersboy hat, a vacuum flask full of espresso, Lotus Biscoff biscuits and the said ‘ZatAoMM’  to read on the beach. The former items from today……chucked into a hessian bag kept in the dining room.

Imagine, sitting on a beach/forest/lakeside delving into the bag to get at a pen/pencil and paper, read a book, fill a pipe, pour a coffee, listen to music, grab a knife to whittle piece of wood, pick out a camera to shoot a few frames of film. Then back to the VeeDub to cook a meal. Brew some coffee. Pick up a current craft/hobby choice. I don’t know. Maybe knit/crochet/sew. Paint a picture. Collect beach flotsam/jetsam and create a piece of driftwood (et al) sculpture with some glue and lots of imagination. Basics. Bliss.

So. Amongst this beautiful positivity? What ‘Negativity’ exists in the form of owning a bag as a simple attachment. Crime. When I’m out and about….no money in it, no iPad, no debit/credit cards, no mobile phone, nothing worth stealing really. Why? I do fear crime and, subsequently, it’s impact on personal loss.  I wear a coat with a few pockets to carry items that thieves may desire. The bag is just a bag carrying essentials and memories. And this brings up something of a conundrum. If anything was stolen. Thieves would target the bag, believing valuables exist inside. How much does ‘it’ have impact on your life? ‘It’ equates to ‘Loss’. An irreplaceable old black and white photograph faded and torn at the seams. A cherished anything inside the bag. Simply, a cherished belonging other than a memory. Modern life. Fear of crime. The moped crimes. Stealing of historic vehicles. Breaking windows into your abode. But it isn’t only physical objects. Nowadays……Stealing your actual identity. You aren’t safe anymore. There’s something to be said about minimalistic ownership to those Buddhist monk 8 items of ownership. And they could fit into a bag. Oh!……..that’s 9 items!


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