Last week I awoke to a feeling of absolute delight. I could hear heavy succulent raindrops splattering on my tin roof. This rain would certainly be heavy enough to get through the leaf litter and into the soil. As we lay listening, to ensure he didn’t feel too neglected I enticed my knowledgeable husband into a discussion on the meteorological conditions that influence raindrop size. Scintillating I know, but I am a keen gardener. Enough said.
I love rainy days because they tempt me to bring out my wet weather gear that doesn’t get a lot of wear in our dry climate. The garden skinks and spiders are brushed out of my Wellingtons, the umbrella mechanisms are tested to ensure they haven’t rusted out and my raincoats get aired and the dust shaken from the shoulders.
I think raincoats can be such a fashion statement but here in Brisbane they aren’t commonly used other than by primary-aged school children wandering around in bright high-vis yellow plastic coats Paddington Bear style. We usually have wet weather in summer so wearing a coat just adds to the discomfort of wearing clothes. There is something to be said for living in a nudist colony in the sub-tropics.
As I child I loved dressing up, so it is with glee that at the first sign of rain I slip into my full-length waterproof coat with its pleated hood around me. There is something about an elegant cape that triggers fantasy and imagination in most adults. The reversible coat is forest brown and shiraz red which does tempt Captain A to comment that I look like an ageing Red Riding Hood in camouflage whilst I feel as if I could swish across time zones fighting evil dragons rather than just wolves in the forest. Leaving my childhood I can always turn to another favourite fashion model. I could wear a light trench coat that reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. It is very practical even when riding a bike but the problem occurs when I arrive at my destination because Brisbane hasn’t yet embraced the concept of cloakrooms where wet coats and umbrellas are placed.
I remember as a child walking home from school in the rain, bare foot in the gutter, making dams with my heels, and feeling the cool water surge across my toes. Absolute bliss! Wellies may not be my fashion statement choice but they do serve a purpose. My large yellow boots were a lifesaver when wandering through the flooded streets in Venice during a snowy November. The pavements were so cold it was warmer wading and my only challenge was preventing the bow wave from washing the cigarette buts and rubbish into my boots. Now, in Brisbane these boots have been relegated to the shed where they make a foray into the garden more pleasant after heavy rain and hopefully, are a deterrent to the odd snake. Captain A who feels I am reverting into fantasy, has developed an inclination to spray what he perceives to be escapee caterpillars from Alice in Wonderland. I put up with their discomfort but I have to agree with him that they are cumbersome and inelegant and I shouldn’t be seen out in them. Definitely not car to bar shoes!
Thus, if it continues to rain during the morning will I use an umbrella but which one?
My first choice would be a small flip-up umbrella that inevitably does flip but upside down in any breeze. I cannot count the number of small umbrellas I have left around the world, because I avoid putting a wet item into my handbag which already contains camera, iPad, iPhone as well as lipstick and sunglasses. Small folding umbrellas are workable only in very light showers and once our tropical downpour starts the only option to prevent drowning through inhalation of raindrops is to use the large golf umbrellas that have become corporate billboards. Compromise has been reached in our household with me carrying the small umbrella when on my own, but when sharing the large size, it is Captain A’s responsibility. I am not sure he agrees with me but it is that or we both get wet. I remind him that we once witnessed a discussion in a Gentlemen’s outfitters shop in London where a customer deliberated between two umbrellas each costing over £400. And that was at the lower end of the price range. I really do think a pocket handkerchief and a snazzy umbrella contribute to the male sartorial style and have suggested Captain A consider it his fashion statement or weapon as John Steed did in The Avengers.
A tightly furled umbrellas is particularly useful in claiming space in a crowd in addition to tripping the odd irritating passer-by. When I see a phalanx of umbrellas charging towards me from across the street I am tempted to run in the opposite direction. I am surprised in our risk adverse society that we don’t get issued with a warning and instructions on what not to do with an umbrella. Even when it is a dismal wet day I will wear sunglasses so that the points from someone’s umbrella don’t remove my eyes. I think I should also carry a bucket.
Umbrella sculpture outside BBC4, London.
The water has to run off these umbrellas somewhere but why does it have to be down my back. Recently while I was waiting at the pedestrian lights in the city, minding my own business and keeping dry under my dinky umbrella I felt water trickling down my back and into my shoes. My neighbour was completely oblivious of the damage being done to my attire much less my sense of wellbeing. At least I didn’t have a carry bag full of purchases also getting wet.
My saddest umbrella experience was occurred during a stormy afternoon when along with everyone else I was doing last minute Christmas shopping hoping I could get it all done and meet the next day’s deadline for postage home. I had a cache of bags with all my purchases clutched tightly under one arm to avoid getting wet, a shoulder bag slung over the other arm and with my free hand I was carrying an opened umbrella bent against the wind. I got to my destination, sat down and as I moved the bags containing my gifts out of pedestrian way, I thought they felt very light. I had been totally oblivious that the rain was dripping off my small foldup umbrella into the bottom of the carry bags which being paper, and once damp, tore apart and allowed all my carefully chosen presents to fall out. I think I was more upset about the time wasted than the money.
Umbrellas are an appendage we don’t know what to do with. Next rainy day, watch people shut their brolllies, shake the water off and then look around wondering what to do with them when they enter a shop? The drops make the smart marble floors as slippery as an ice-skating rink and the pile of brollies is very tempting to sort through as they leave and I am sure you won’t mind if I take the one that hasn’t got the broken strut.
We need to encourage more workplaces and shops to install the clever apparatus that encases the wet umbrella in a plastic bag and perhaps we could put the odd damp child in there as well and contain them. That is one thing to be thankful for, I don’t have small children to entertain on wet days. Been there done that!