27 JANUARY 2001, Page 71

Lugged around

Petronella Wyatt

Luggage. Now there's a conundrum. I was very sorry to read of the trial of the rubbish collector, Mark Oliver, who is accused of handling Posh Spice's stolen luggage — four Louis Vuitton bags containing designer clothes, a lock of her son Brooklyn's hair and a picture of her husband David Beckham, in a silver frame.

Mrs Beckham said the bags disappeared at Heathrow airport after she returned from recording with her fellow Spice Girls in Miami. But maybe Posh's luggage was picked up by someone by mistake. Everyone has Louis Vuitton luggage these days. I had some myself. I speak, of course, of fake Vuitton luggage which is so well made that virtually no one can tell the difference.

I bought mine in Tangier. The shop was recommended by a friend of mine who has a house there, Tessa Wheeler. Last week her husband gave £5 million to William Hague so the family must know something about bargains. This shop was down the main street. I had a row with one of the Arab assistants because he tried to sell me a suitcase as hand luggage when it was far too big ever to be allowed in the cabin by any airline. In order to settle the matter, I marched him down to the British Airways office and asked the woman there to tell him how many centimetres hand luggage is allowed to be. Naturally, he had tried to sell me a case that was 10 cm over regulation width. In the end I bought two squishy bags for about £40.

A few months later I took them to Rome for my summer holiday. I always have trouble with luggage. On one occasion, as my suitcase was moving down the conveyor belt towards me, someone else took it off and put it on their trolley. I could only stand open mouthed before managing to shout, 'Give that back at once.' The man said it looked like his. As mine was blue, and his, when it arrived, was orange, this was implausible. But worse was to come. My fake Vuitton luggage disappeared at Rome airport with all my summer clothes and the manuscript of a book I was writing.

Two days later it still hadn't been found. The airport officials were very solicitous. They offered me money to buy new clothes. I asked if they could buy me a new book. They were nonplussed. Surely I could write it again? I must remember what I had said.

This week the London court heard how the dustbin man had spoken to Mrs Beckham on the telephone and then began a 'farcical pantomime' in which he said he would go to the rubbish dump to see if he could find her belongings. Apparently, he said he may have seen 'something shiny' and then, after making noises imitating someone climbing a wall, announced he had found a silver picture frame. Later, he found some expensive 'designer clothes'.

I had a dissimilar experience. Eventually, an airport official telephoned. He said he had found some things. He may have said 'something shiny' but I think it more likely he said 'something grimy'. 'There is a great bit of material that looks like the thing they tie around the babies,' he said in excellent English. I forbore to say this was an expensive silk sarong. He went back to look again, imitating the noise of someone rummaging through a case. He did this well, presumably because he was rummaging through a case. He then told me he had found some `large pieces of paper they use for hygiene but with writing on it'. This foxed me. Then I guessed he must have meant my manuscript. 'Read it, please,' I asked him.

`Thomasina Cat was very proud of her two little kittens with fur like rainbow fire.' God. No I don't write as crassly as that. I had put in a children's book for a friend's daughter. He went on, 'This was because incest had been a frequent occurrence in the family since mediaeval times.' That was more likely. He had found my manuscript.