Miles Kington: The revenge of the green canvas holdall

'Cover any small splits with BA luggage tags. They have the strongest glue known to man'
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Today I want to talk to you about luggage. That's right! Luggage. That canvas and leather stuff we keep just for the few occasions when we go travelling.

Has it ever occurred to you that it's out of sight, out of mind with luggage? That when we don't need it, we just chuck it all in some dusty dark cupboard until such time as we need it, and get it out again?

Honestly, is that any way to treat a vital piece of equipment? We wouldn't treat our clothes or shoes so cavalierly. No wonder our luggage occasionally takes its revenge by letting us down sensationally!

Remember the time when the straps burst at just the wrong moment, sending underwear all over Athens airport concourse?

Remember when that green canvas bag finally split and alerted the attention of the customs man at Pittsburgh?

And do you remember when you were wheeling that big suitcase along the platform at Amsterdam central railway station, and it swerved off course and ran over that Dutch lady's leg, and it turned out she had only just come out of hospital after the varicose vein operation, so no wonder she screamed fit to bring the house down?

And do you remember how each time you blamed the piece of luggage for the mishap?


It was all because you hadn't looked after them.

So here are the top tips on luggage care, a six-point plan which will make sure that you need never suffer luggage shame again.

1. Every month or so, give the wheels on your luggage a discreet oiling. At the most, it will stop them seizing up; at the very least, you will avoid embarrassing airport squeaking.

2. Buy an old secondhand luggage trolley, pile your luggage on it from time to time and give it a drive round the neighbourhood – get your luggage used to wild trips across the tarmac.

3. Find any small tears and splits starting to open up? Cover them up with sticky British Airways luggage tags. They have the toughest glue known to man.

4. Kick your luggage at regular intervals. Hard. It's going to happen to it in real life. At the airport. Give it a good going over now. Get your luggage used to the idea that even its owner can be vicious. Then when strangers do it, it won't be too surprised.

5. If any of your luggage is made of nice real leather, give it a good scuffing and scratching treatment. It won't do the leather a much good, but nobody will be tempted to steal it any more.

6. Fit a small modern satellite-linked navigation chip in each suitcase. That way, when the lady at the airport says: "I'm sorry, we have not been able to locate your luggage yet," just look at your equipment and say: "It's in Istanbul airport, actually. Terminal Two, as a matter of fact."

Just follow this simple luggage care programme and with luck your luggage will serve you for many a long year.

However, all suitcases and bags eventually come to the end of their useful life, and then they get thrown out. And that's where we come in.

Here at the Lady Peacock Home for Unwanted Luggage, down in rural Surrey, we try to give a good home to portmanteaus and portfolios, briefcases and carpet bags which are no longer strong enough to go abroad but which, with a bit of twine and string, could do a few short trips yet.

It's immensely satisfying to give a home to an ancient Gladstone bag or a faithful old seaman's chest and to see them glow in the last days of their lives. Alas, this work takes money. We receive no subsidy of any kind and depend entirely on voluntary contributions, so please, please send something, however small, to the Lady Peacock Home For Unwanted Luggage, Rural Surrey.

WARNING: Unscrupulous sums of money have been made by a charity purporting to be a retirement home for unwanted luggage. If an appeal is made to you by any such organisation, please inform the police immediately. Thank you.

A reader writes: Dear Mr Kington, What on earth is going on here? Is this a piece about luggage care or not?

Miles Kington writes: No, it's not. It's the result of a bet I had with a friend that I couldn't get the word "sesquipedalian" into an article.

A reader writes: And did you?

Miles Kington writes: Yes, just in time.

Normal service will resume tomorrow