COLUMN: November 17, 2016

rihanna
SOMEBODY needs to check her umbrella privilege
AT THIS time of year, I mostly find myself angry with myself for not understanding how seasons work.

I should know by now that in November I need to be suitably prepared for those blustery, sunny, windy, rainy, warm, and snowy days we have, but I just assume a non-waterproof coat will see me through. I am like one of those people who express surprise at the shorter days in winter or those who are rescued from Snowdon in their flip-flops.

Allied to my unpreparedness for predictably unpredictable weather is my inability to keep an umbrella for more than a few days. My record for the shortest time between buying an umbrella and losing it is one and a half days.

I don’t know why it should be umbrellas which I single out for this treatment. Everything else I accumulate I seem to be incapable of ditching.

I still own clothing with St Michael labels. Some of it might even come back into fashion again, which will be great as I rock a Six Million Dollar Man T-shirt and Black Watch slack. Essentially I am half man, half Velcro.

As I left my chosen form of public transport, I was aware that it was raining, owing to the fact that water was falling from the sky and it was wetting me. I won’t lie, this disappointed me.

“What I need,” I thought, “is an umbrella, such as we know Rihanna would have.” Why I was thinking of Rihanna, we will never know for sure, but it was probably to help whoever has to think of a picture to place on this column.

I scrabbled in my bag for an umbrella, but, of course, there was no umbrella there.

All that was left were two black sheathy things which covered umbrellas I had previously owned, ghosts mocking me for my placing of wet umbrellas on the floor of buses, and subsequent alighting from the buses without them.

The rain was splattering the pavement, leaving dinner plate-sized impressions on the stone. I needed shelter, or when I got to the office somebody would say, “Oh, is it raining?” as I dripped everywhere, like an ice statue left near the radiator, and I would have to commit murder.

Then I remembered there was a key-cutting and shoe-repair shop nearby which sold umbrellas. I am not sure why a key-cutting and shoe-repair shop would diversify into umbrellas, but I suppose if you have chosen to put two random and unconnected things together under one roof, you might as well add a third.

I stumbled into the shop, as the rain lashed the street behind me, setting off car alarms and exciting ark builders. I pulled an umbrella off its hook and took it to the counter. “That’s £4,” the shopkeeper said. “Will you be using it now?”

I looked at him as a drop of water rolled off my eyebrow. “Yeah, you will,” he said, and he pulled the tag off the umbrella.

I handed him my card. “Oh,” he said, “we don’t take cards.”

“But you’re a shop,” I thought. “I could understand it if you were a homeless person or a carol singer, but this is 2016, for heaven’s sake.”

“Oh,” I said. I did not have £4 on me. In other circumstances, I might have left and searched for umbrellas elsewhere.

But the shop assistant had pulled off the tag. I had basically bought the umbrella at that point. That is the rule of buying umbrellas.

“Where’s the nearest cash point?” I asked. “Ooh, just down the road,” said the shopkeeper.

“Right,” I said. “I’ll be back.”

It was not “just down the road”. It was a considerable distance down the road. The wind whipped up, flinging rain somehow inside my shirt sleeves, as I trudged down the road.

I joined the back of the ATM queue, withdrew the cash from the machine, and walked back, the wind now depositing the rain on my previously dry back. I handed over the money, keenly aware that had I just gone to work I would be steaming dry by now.

He gave me the brolly and I stepped out of the shop. Putting up the umbrella was now a futile gesture. I looked as if I had dived for a rubber brick. But I did it anyway.

The wind caught it, turning it inside out and mangling it for good. On the plus side, I now have a new record.
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