Helen Mirren’s trolls are wrong – you’re never too old for a backpack

PUBLISHED: 22:25 30 September 2018 | UPDATED: 22:29 30 September 2018

Sharon Griffiths agrees with Helen Mirren - backpacks are liberating and you're never too old for one

Sharon Griffiths agrees with Helen Mirren - backpacks are liberating and you're never too old for one

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A backpack is for everyone - and that includes a woman in her 70s, says hands-free Sharon Griffiths

Welcome to the backpack generation – a symbol of women’s liberation.

Dame Helen Mirren has a backpack, a stylish American job costing £395. 
She posted an Instagram pic as she went off to market in Lithuania with it. Inevitably, of course, the witless trolls got active saying that at 73 she was too OLD for a backpack.

No, no, no! She’s the perfect age.

If you look around any city centre, especially tourist cities, you’re likely to find hordes of women over 60 carrying back packs. They’re sauntering along with their hands in their packs, relishing the freedom. They’re visiting galleries, stately homes, doing some serious shopping, walking or just mooching along enjoying themselves.

These are women who spent their childhood staggering under huge satchels and once grown up never had their hands free but had work bags, briefcases, lap tops, shopping bags, prams, buggies, nappy bags.

Dame Helen hasn’t had children but she’s had an image to maintain - the designer handbag, the clutch bag that means you have to do everything with one hand. Plus scripts, shopping and work stuff.

Meanwhile, half the burdens mothers carried – the bags with emergency juice, biscuits, pants – were on behalf of other people. Most of the shopping was too. They are literally weighed down by their responsibilities. And much of the time with a small person hanging on to the other hand.

I once emptied my handbag for a radio programme and as well as the usual clutter of make up and tissues, found a penknife, a corkscrew, some football boot studs and a bike pump…

Many mothers stagger home with a laptop/tablet on one arm, a handbag and the shopping on the other and probably the dry cleaning in there somewhere too.

A day out at the beach needs all the planning and nearly as much equipment as a small military invasion. Mothers in theme parks look like small pack ponies, laden down with bags and picnics, jackets and jumpers so that their children can run free and unencumbered.

Well, eventually it gets to be mother’s turn.

After years of family holidays – packing for other people, lists of other people’s essentials, food for other people – it’s hard to describe the sheer joy of stepping on a plane with just a backpack.

When my friend Lizzie (mother of four) and I did it, we were nearly delirious with the freedom of it all, the lack of encumbrance. Freed of all responsibility we were like teenagers again – which we were the last time we went to Italy together with back packs.

It definitely put a spring in our steps…

When my daughters-in-law were pregnant I gave them two bits of advice (1) paint your toe nails while you can still see them and (2) enjoy walking out of the house with your hands in your pockets – it’ll probably be 30 years before you do it again…

Until you get a backpack.

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