The amusing quotation posted by baralbion strikes a chord. We British, after all, are known for our close affair with umbrellas.
In London, on any day when a few drops of water fall from the sky, umbrellas spring up like mushrooms in response. There is such a wide variety from the sober city black, through the cheapie Japanese folding brolly to the fully fledged golfing umbrella with its impressive colourful span and stout handle.
The trouble with umbrellas is that they are so easy to lose. I have lost many. Some I regret, most I hardly remember. My current rainshield came from that strange chain called Nauticalia. Perhaps it was once a genuine ships’ chandlers’ but these days its more a gift shop for amateur sailors and poseurs. The umbrellas are quite good, though.
Being tall, I need a big umbrella. If I use a small one, my legs get soaked. On the other hand, a big umbrella is an encumbrance. I used to buy mine from that temple of umbrellas, without a mention of whom no article on the subject is complete, James Smith in New Oxford Street, close to Centre Point. Into every life a little James Smith protection should fall.
My James Smith was the largest size of folding umbrella. It had coloured panels, red, yellow, green and blue, and folded small enough to be put in my rucksack except that the robust wooden handle protruded, leading nervous people to wonder if I was carrying a sawn-off shotgun. In the end, one too many gale force winds did for this paragon of brollies. Hence the Nauticalia. It belongs to a new generation of “wind-proof” umbrellas. Clever, eh? The canopy contains vents designed to open whenever the wind comes at the umbrella from underneath. Moreover, it is an umbrella for two people and thus just about big enough for me.
The above controlled lyricism might lead you to believe I love my umbrella or am at least fond of it, like the chap in baralbion‘s quotation. Not a bit of it. In fact, I rather dislike the damn things. It’s bad enough carrying the thing around with you when it’s dry but even worse once it gets wet. Carrying a folded wet umbrella on the bus or the tube is uncomfortable and irritating. It usually ends up dripping all over my trousers. If you go into some premises or other, there is usually nowhere for wet umbrellas or only token facilities. When you get home, you feel obliged to open the thing and stand it in the bath to dry.
Then there is the business of furling it, bad enough in the case of a fixed brolly, much worse in a folding one, especially with extra panels for wind protection. If you don’t carefully pull out the folds and dispose it neatly it soon gets creased and eventually torn. I have been known to walk through a rainstorm without opening my umbrella just to avoid the nuisance resulting from doing so.
But, drought or no drought, Britain is a land of rains (though not as much as Ireland, to judge from our last holiday there), and the umbrella will continue to be familiar outdoor equipment for a long time to come, perhaps until we finally learn how to control the weather and weather forecasts, instead being nothing more than meteorological horoscopes, will become statements of fact.