You are your umbrella

If you want to know if you should marry him – study his umbrella.

More exactly, study the way he handles his umbrella.

Or her. Umbrellas are not gender specific. There are umbrella thugs in both sexes.

I met one yesterday. A short woman, of Asian extraction, I think (umbrellas are not race specific either). Boadicea had a chariot, with blades fixed to the wheels, with which she cut down the Roman hordes. This small, angry lady simply poked their eyes out with an umbrella the size of a conservatory.

Had she been a driver she would have been in a ute, with big wheels and bull bars like tree trunks. It would have had eight aerials and a muffler that stood up over the cab.

The really sad part is that it worked. I tried to stand my ground, with my neat little collapsible number, that springs into action when you press the button, but I was out-classed, out-gunned, out-personalitied, if you get my meaning.

I mean, she had guts and arrogance. She had determination, and an unerring sense that the powerful inherit the earth, or at least the footpath for the five metres in front of them.

Then there’s me. Small, compact, unimposing little brolly that I wield (though I doubt that’s the right word) apologetically.

When a crowd bears down on me I move to one side; I tip my brolly so no one is blinded; if the footpath narrows, or the crowd is big I have even been known to close it, and get wet, while a host of determined umbrellas sweep past me like a Frisbee carnival.

How come it’s me that gives ground? How come they never do?

But that’s not fair. There are others meeker than I. Every morning I pass a gentleman whose umbrella is dying. One side of it has collapsed, like facial muscles after a stroke. He doesn’t just move to one side – he hides! He ducks behind trees and handy scaffolding not – I suspect – because he is ashamed of his brolly, but because he doesn’t want to be a nuisance. I think his wife is probably big; or possibly Asian, with an umbrella the size of a conservatory.

I don’t think the authorities take enough notice of umbrellas. The public needs educating in umbrella etiquette. We’re given lessons on TV adverts and on posters about polite ways to drive and ways to cycle that will make you popular, but where are the slogans that say “Golf umbrellas belong on golf courses” or the rules that say umbrellas cannot travel two abreast when passing other umbrellas in restricted areas?

Where is the legislation that says umbrellas should ring a little bell when they are passing other, unsuspecting umbrellas, or even people with no umbrellas? If we can have fishing regulations that dictate the size fish you’re allowed to catch, why can’t we have umbrella regulations that forbid umbrellas that don’t pass through a circle of modest size?

I passed an umbrella last week that I nearly fell in love with. I felt my own umbrella leaning provocatively towards it. I think they even kissed, momentarily. It was one of those 1970s jobs, that are bowl shaped and transparent, from which the user can look out, like a goldfish in a bowl. The sharp bits all point downwards and its radius is so reduced that your head can be dry while your shoulders are saturated. It was quite cute, in its way.

But I suspect its owner drove a Mini with an ” I ♥ NY” sticker in the windscreen, and probably wore knee-length boots. Not my style.

As I said, my style is functional. Is that my personality? Who am I to say? But it fits in my briefcase, it is not ostentatious, and when I’ve had a particularly bad day I can press the little button and maim people, even if the sun is shining.

But I want to make it clear I no longer have the little nylon sleeve that fits over it like a condom. I lost that on the first day. Take my advice … if  the umbrella walking towards you looks like the eligible type – don’t commit yourself! Not until you know whether it still has that little nylon sleeve and (more importantly) whether it uses it!

Anyone who does will also carry a purse, keep receipts, and drive a Ford Anglia because they’re good on fuel.

And they’d be shredded in seconds at the first brush with the short lady who drives the ute and has an umbrella the size of a conservatory