"A handbag?!" must be one of the most recognisable and shortest quotations in our literature; but handbags are not something you associate automatically with Caroline. Now, however, she has a glitzy new one with the label Silvian Heach: it was given her by Carlotta and Virginia, two Italian teenagers who have just arrived from Milan, due to stay for a fortnight while studying English at a local language school.
Today's Guardian carries an obituary of the British TV and film director Jim Goddard: In New York City, in 1983, the obituarist states, he took an hour off from filming... to visit Bloomingdale's to buy his girlfriend a handbag. Dithering at the counter, he was viewed with sympathy by an elderly woman wearing a mackintosh, scarf and dark glasses. "Who," she asked him, "is the handbag for?" Jim explained. "My advice," the woman said with a smile, "is that only the most expensive will do." By now the assistants had fallen silent and were watching in astonishment. "Here," the woman said. "Buy this one." She walked away. Jim bought the handbag. "Jesus," said the sales assistant. "Do you know who that was?" Jim blinked. "I mean," said the assistant, "you don't know? That was Greta Garbo." Jim shrugged his massive bulk. "Strange birds," he said, "often sing to me."