Umbrellas, a modest proposal

When in London and faced with a bout of ennui I often indulge in an afternoon stroll; a particular favourite is from dusty old Parsons Green, up the Kings Road, to shiny Sloane Square.

Last week, on said saunter, my worries were taken away with the wind, leaving not a jot in my head but the late butterflies and birds of Trinity. The blast was strong and icy but extremely manageable. The rhythmical clip-clop of my favourite shoes accompanied my meditations, the black dogs had run away.

From nowhere in a sudden whip crack I was engulfed in rain. I rapidly went from feeling like the cock of the walk to a startled Mr.Jeremy Fisher without his shiny galoshes!

Not only was wind and rain whooshing up my inside trouser leg, but from all angles 4 inch metal spikes were being jabbed at me!! The marksmen clutching these lethal darts were blindly swarming in a haze of spray.

Most of the offenders were staggeringly oblivious to what was in front and were belligerently pushing through the strong rain; one rather felt Scott of the Antartic would have lost a race through sideways snow against this determined lot.

Finally, with rain stinging my eyes and staining my flat cap, one got me. Boff! high on the left shoulder! I spun and slipped, yet kept my grace.

I waited patiently for an apology. All I received was the frothy spray from a clean set of penny loafers and 100 denier tights.

I repaired to the Chelsea Potter to wait for the sun to return. Alas, this being Britain it took a fair few pints for the rain to subside. That grim lethargic rat-a-tat-tat of a Michaelmas wash that never seems to subside.

The wait got me ruminating on an idea – an umbrella licence. Despite usually shunning a brolly in favour of a hat, from the comfort of the bar stool I looked upon myself as the paragon of skill when it comes to umbrellaring – perhaps even bestowing the moniker of ‘the doyen under the drizzle’ on myself.

At the giddy height of 5’8″ I am forced to be a multi skilled operator, switching between opponents both taller and smaller.

The general rule when two people are about to come nose to nose on the street is; the taller human, usually male, will rise his brolly up and to the left. He will be momentarily exposed to the rain. The smaller, usually female, should take half a step to her left and walk speedily with her vision unimpaired.

Unfortunately due to the lack of licences on show this simple slick operation is a rare sight in modern London. The taller chap usually stumbles and does an awkward jig of uncertainty. The terrified little lady then puts the brolly into the shield position, ruins her hair and nearly impales the nervy man.

This scene is repeated all over London, robbing our urbane walkers of their dignity. A disquisition is needed on this rather serious business – I propose using those ‘Police Support Volunteers’ to enforce the procedures when the rain begins to pour. Limit the whole of London to thin black cane umbrellas, which would increase the aesthetic and relieve us from the noxious half umbrellas and arrogant golf brollies.

My PSVs would be buzzing all over the streets from late September, administering tickets to anyone walking incorrectly – a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ tolerance would be slotted into place. I also hope to open an umbrella walking school in the countryside, perhaps in ever wet Wiltshire, where repeat offenders could go and rehabilitate.

They could begin by adopting the countries’ tried and tested mode – an honest waterproof Barbour jacket and a good quality hat. The bucolic ladies and gents will walk their dogs, in torrential rain, for hours dressed in such garb. There is very rarely a wimpy brolly slung languorously on broad shoulders in the grassy fields of Devon.

Once they have mastered walking without a brolly, will they be allowed to have one returned to their lives.

Rules and rehabilitation are essential if I am to end my life with both my eyes intact and my nose unbroken. Either that or I shall have to move to Dubai, where it is always hot and, in my experience, the populous rarely leave the comfort of air conditioning – rendering the umbrella unavailing.

Rumination completed I slipped on my hat, zipped up my Barbour, and dashed onto the street to dance around the ungoverned umbrellas.

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