Column: July 13, 2011

THEY pop up during the course of my day unexpectedly, in my bag, or perhaps a coat I haven’t worn for a while. “We are of no use,” they say, “And it is all your fault, you four-eyed idiot.”

I do not even know what they are called, but they are the sheaths which encase all the umbrellas I have lost. They were stuffed in my pocket in a hurry, the element of surprise being essential to the concept of a sudden downpour, and never reunited with the umbrella which provides them with their raison d’etre.

And so they lie there, like gargantuan slugs on a diet, or, more accurately, like something else which I am not going to get into. So to speak. And they mock my basic inability to keep an umbrella long enough for it to be mangled by the wind and then stuffed into a roadside bin. They might as well be made of crepe paper and dreams for all the use I get from them.

I suppose there is a part of my subconscious which thinks: “This umbrella is rubbish. It basically keeps the hair on the top of my head and part of my neck dry, and nothing else.

“If I were Clive Anderson, I would derive absolutely no benefit from this umbrella. Just leave it there, under the bus seat. Go on. Get off the bus and leave it behind. Spite the black sheathy thing in your pocket by depriving it of its single purpose.”

So that is what I do. It is an unsustainable model.

And that is why I invested in a massive black golfing umbrella. When I unfurl this beauty, I thought, nobody in a radius of one American city block is getting wet, that is how good it is.

Admittedly, if I do not pay attention, one gust of wind is going to carry me 200 feet up and three miles away, but that is a risk I am willing to take to keep my tie slightly drier than otherwise.

It was a black day when I took my umbrella out for the first time. Literally. It was last week. The sky was coal and the air was treacle. A hard rain was gonna fall. But not on me, for I had Mega-Brolly.

But Mega-Brolly, while handy in the event of a downpour, does have its faults. I had it gripped in the same hand as my bag as I walked to the bus stop, which was awkward, but no more awkward than carrying a normal umbrella.

However, when I arrived at the bus stop, I decided I would swap hands. And I deftly swished the sharp point of my umbrella an inch away from the naked eyes of the woman standing next to me. Mega-Brolly, so useful when freed of its shackles, is a swine when furled. It can put somebody’s eye out. Combined with my sense of spatial awareness, it becomes a deadly weapon.

The woman used her thankfully intact eyes to regard me coolly. I apologised and sat as far away from her as I could on the bus. And I understood why jousting has fallen out of favour in recent years while other equestrian sports continue to thrive. It is because it is very difficult to travel on a bus with a lance.

I stood up and tried to stow my giant umbrella in the bag stowing area. It would not fit, its silver tip sticking out into the aisle, a bottom-themed accident waiting to happen.

Shamed, I took it back to my seat. The only seat on the bus with no room underneath to stow away an umbrella.

I stood it in the aisle and held it as if it were a staff. I looked like Gandalf the Tax Inspector. This was fine, but the bus was filling up so I had to put Mega-Brolly between my knees.

We hit a pothole. I was chinned by the umbrella handle and I bit my tongue.

In short, it was the least comfortable bus journey I had ever been on. And regular readers will be aware that there is a fair deal of competition for that title.

I stumbled off the bus, into the light. Not blackness. There were no rain clouds in the city centre. In fact, it didn’t rain all day. I had done it all for nothing.

And, in a pocket somewhere, a black sheathy thing laughed.

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