Saturday, December 13, 2008

On Umbrellas

London is an umbrella city. Compared to say Seattle, where it also rains a prodigious amount but no one carried an umbrella. In fact, the easiest way to pick out a new Seattleite or a visitor is by their umbrella when it's raining. London has no such pretensions about its foul weather; when things get wet, the umbrellas come out and if you don't have one, you might as well resign yourself to the fact that you're going to look like a drowned rat if you're outside.

In fact, if you have the opportunity to be caught in a sudden rainstorm in London, watch how quickly Londoners can produce their umbrellas - many of them the size of old satellite TV dishes - from their coats, pockets, shoes, or wherever else they might keep them. It's almost like a flash-mob, the sound of dozens or hundreds of umbrellas "shoosh"-ing open around you. And don't you feel dumb for not having one!

Before I moved here, I bought a really nice expensive umbrella. The very first time it was exposed to London rain and wind, the damn thing imploded as though the weight of the rain here was simply too much and it decided suicide was preferable to a lifetime of repelling London wet. I then bought a cheaper but much nicer umbrella from a place in a back street by my office, which I absolutely loved. It was big, automatic, cost me 15 quid and best of all had a hook on the end.

A hook on the end of your umbrella is possibly one of the coolest things you can have. It is infinitely useful. It's clearly a handle so you can adjust your umbrella without moving uncomfortably bending your wrist. Moreover you can use a closed hook-handled umbrella just as if you were carrying your own hook: to open doors, to grab onto railings on the Tube, to reach hard-to-reach objects and pick them up, to slide down clotheslines and to scratch your back. There aren't many ways you wouldn't use the hook!

Alas, I left my awesome hooked umbrella at my office and someone else must have recognized how awesome it was because it is gone. So this morning I ran to Boots and purchased an inexpensive substitute umbrella.


The thing is barely bigger than a dinner platter. It's so small that it looks like I mugged a small child and took his umbrella. The aluminium (that's pronounced Al-Lou-Minn-Ee-Umm here) is so thin and sharp that folding it up is like grabbing a bag of razor blades. As I discovered on my way back to my flat, It will either keep my face, my shoulders, or my back dry, or any combination of the two, but not all three at the same time.

And no hook. That should have been my clue.

On Monday I'll spring for another hook-handled umbrella. Until then, I hope it stops raining.

Photo: Shelter by unrelaxeddad on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

1 comment:

Autolycus said...

I never bother with umbrellas, not since an unfortunate with an automatic that took it into its own head to open itself in a crowded tube train. That and forgetting them all over the place, as you have discovered. Instead, I rely on a so-called waterproof jacket that always turns out either to let the water in or to collect condensed sweat on the inside.

It's being so cheerful as keeps me going.