Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Umbrellas and Bumbershoots

To walk down the street, under an umbrella, in the rain, is a decidedly pleasant activity for a human being. There are few more satisfying sounds than the pop and the patter of raindrops on a sheltering umbrella. Of course the choice of umbrella is vital to the enjoyment of a such a walk. No puny popup thing will do. A capacious, old-fashioned creation is required for the ultimate experience and I am indeed fortunate to have the most perfect one imaginable. A gift from the Songwriter years ago, it is big, black and British-crafted, with a carved wooden rabbit head for a handle. Mary Poppins’ talking parrot umbrella would be my sole competition. The only trouble is, I nearly always leave it at home, sedentary and dry, in the umbrella stand in my entry hall. For much like Marianne Dashwood, I always think it won’t rain, and then it always does.

So as usual, I left the house one day last week without my rabbit head umbrella. And, as usual, it rained. All day. Not a deluge, but a soft and constant shower, warm wet silky drops that seemed to melt into the pavement with nary a splatter. It was actually quite refreshing and on more than one occasion as I made my way to and from various shop doors, I lifted my face to the grey sky above just to feel a touch of the falling elixir on my skin.

It is always amusing to watch Americans in the rain, and that day was no exception. There they were, huddled in ovine fashion under store awnings, peering up with furrowed brows, anxious for any sign that this wicked substance descending from the unfriendly sky was subsiding. Women held their handbags over their heads and ran squealing for their cars, while men simply hunched their shoulders, lowered their heads and quick-marched along with a martyred air. One would think battery acid was falling from the sky instead of innocent droplets of water.

One of the many reasons I love to travel in Scotland is the mercurial nature of the weather. While a sunny day is lovely, I do not in the least mind the rain, and I adore the wind, which is ideal because in Scotland one often experiences all of these conditions in the short span of an afternoon. I once sat in my car on Portree square taking in the scene around me as a gentle rain began to fall. There was a fellow perched on a nearby bench reading the newspaper. Hatless, and with no umbrella or raincoat, he calmly continued to read as the rain gathered strength, the wind blew and the skies darkened . Only when his newspaper became so wet that the pages began to shred did he fold it up under his arm and saunter off at a casual pace through the storm.

Of course I once visited Glenfinnan during rain that was akin to being shot full in the face with a fire hose. I was laughing so hard at my predicament that I wasn’t able to run properly for shelter, and of course I had left my umbrella, once again, at home. Which was just as well, for no umbrella would have been up to the task that day.
Perhaps a bumbershoot??