Over time, I have personally owned a variety of umbrellas. While living in the Maldives, I favoured a very large and sturdy umbrella with a distinctive banana leaf design to protect myself from the harsh sun. My umbrella drew many comments from the locals as I sauntered around the various islands I worked on.
I have owned a number of retractable umbrellas, the ones that sit tidily in your bag for those just-in-case times if the weather turns mean. For me, these umbrellas seldom last. The ribs buckle, rendering the umbrella unfit for purpose.
The main problem I have with umbrellas is losing them. I leave them on the back of chairs in cafes or in receptacles at such places as museums and art galleries. My most embarrassing umbrella experience involved smacking into a concrete pole.
In this post, I share two short stories, one completely imaginative and the other, with some truth.
Just Singin’ and Dancin’ In The Rain
I’m not your ordinary run-of-the-mill umbrella. I’m a Fox, from the prestigious Fox establishment founded 1880, patronised by royalty, Presidents and Prime Ministers. A GT3 Malacca Gentleman’s Fox umbrella, to be exact. Sturdy shaft, gleaming maple crook handle and superior nylon taffeta canopy.
My canopy is not adorned with a dreamy arty replica of an impressionist painting, say Seurat’s ‘Sunday Afternoon’ or Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’. Nor does it promote a political party or cigarette brand, those inferior, flimsy brollies, ribs and stretchers bent-buckled. In my opinion, the lowest of the low in the world of brollies. I am solemn black, as black as hovering clouds threatening to burst.
Daily I accompany my human handler, the worthy Mr Selwyn Trilby, chief for the Ministry of Snail Trails (concerned primarily with recording snail slime patterns) as he marches briskly to his office.
The roar of thunder, the crack of lightening exhilarate my very psyche. Pelt me with your hailstones, drench me with a rampant deluge, chuck down a cow-quaker, hurl a monsoon rage, lash me with a torrential tantrum: I’m your brolly!
And yet, my life is not complete. Something is missing. My sensitive, romantic side goes unacknowledged by my laudable handler, the serious Mr Selwyn Trilby.
Although my pedigree dictates functional sobriety, I confess to a yearning. A longing to pirouette my ferrule, to pivot my shaft, to twirl my canopy. A desire to chase the stormy clouds, to have the sun in my heart, to walk down the lane with a happy refrain. Oh, how I hunger for such frivolity!
Had I been conceived in the 1950’s, could I have been Gene Kelly’s dancing partner paying homage to the clouds above in his dizzy song-and-dance routine, Just singin’ and dancin’ in the rain?
The moody-black sky has threatened to rain all day. As I step from the warmth of the school, my coat closely wrapped around my shoulders, the swollen cloud, bursts. I wish I didn’t have to go down the hill to the post-office. It’s pelting down. At a forty-five degree angle, the rain screams into my face, slashing me like sharp kitchen knives. I snap open my umbrella and grip tightly with both hands, struggling against the wind. With the umbrella held in front of my face, I can only see the cracked pavement and the quickly forming puddles as I walk.
Spindly high healed-shoes are not ideal for navigating puddles. I wore them to impress the Inspector who’d been in my class all day and what a disastrous day it’s been. First, Charlie Thompson blurting out what he had during religious instruction and poking his tongue when the Inspector reprimanded him. And poor little Rebecca Cunningham puking all over the Inspectors pin-striped suit. A day best forgotten. It can get no worse. I long for the warmth of my cosy flat.
Waves of slushy, dirty water from passing cars swish onto the foot-path, soaking my legs. A battered yellow town bus stopped across the road is picking up passengers. Lucky devils, wish it were me.
My heavy, cumbersome shoulder bag slips down my arm. I struggle to yank it back onto my shoulder without letting go of the umbrella. Ouch, something stabs my cheek. The bag drops to the pavement. The contents spill out. My umbrella crumples. I have walked into a concrete pole. As I stoop to retrieve my things, the heel on my right shoe snaps. I topple backwards, landing in a large puddle. I scramble for my belongings. I grab my phone and glasses. I gather the sodden papers for marking and stuff them into the bag. My luscious red lipstick floats away in a cascade of water. I stand falteringly. I glance sideways and see the man on the bus. His ugly red mouth open in laughter. He gestures to others on the bus. They turn and stare, joining in with the man’s merriment. Maddened, I poke my tongue at him. He rocks with laughter some more.
Mabel Johnson, you a school teacher and all, I can’t believe what you just did, poking your tongue in public. What were you thinking?
Glad I’m on this bus and not out there, not in this weather. It’s a right shitty day, fair bucketing down out there. Rather like my mood, plain miserable. I can’t stop thinking about the damn fool of a foreman and his insin–you-ations. Him calling me, Tommy Baxter, a no good lazy bludger and saying it was me that took the missing gear from the workshop. That jumped up pimply-faced little prick barely out of nappies, who does he think he is? I’ll show him, mark my words.
All I want is to get home, take a shower, put on my flash gear, my new jeans and chequered shirt brought down in the market. I’ll get myself all flashed up and off down to the local. Have myself a few rounds of pool with the boys. Fred will be there to pay me for the tools I got him. Tommy, he’ll say. You the MAN! And slap me hard on the back the way he does. He’s OK, is Fred.
These damn high-schoolie kids sky-larking ‘round and being cheeky the old folks on this bus, their dumb thump-thump music turned right up loud, need a good walloping. I’d fair give them the bash if they were my kids, I tell you. No respect.
And I’ll have myself a pie and chips and mushy peas at the local.
What’s this woman stumbling along on the other side of the road doing? With her grungy brolly held right in front of her face, she’ll not see the concrete pole she’s about to walk into.
Wham! Sure enuff, she’s hit the pole. The brolly is crumpled. All her stuff has spilt out her bag. She’s teetering on high heels. She crouches down and stuffs her stuff back into her bag. Splat! She’s fallen backwards, landing on her bum in a puddle.
This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long while! What a laugh, I’m nearly splitting me-self it’s such a good laugh. I feel quite cheered up. Now everyone on the bus is gawking at her scrambling around for her stuff. Even the high-schoolie brats have stopped their shenanigans and are laughing and pointing.
She’s standing up, this right proper woman and she’s eyeing me, fixing me with a right steely gaze. She pokes her tongue out. Can you believe it? She pokes her tongue out! I’m fair rollicking with laughter now.
This’ll be a great story to tell the boys at the pub tonight.