Thursday, September 13, 2012

Titfer tat

I do not use an umbrella, I find the gamp to be a very unsympathetic object. I have developed a prejudice against them as I am quite tall which means that when it rains I constantly have to bob my head like a pigeon to avoid being jabbed in the eye by the pointed end of a spoke.

Also I am vaguely unsettled by their arms - there are too many of them and they have too many joints - and by the leathery sound of the shroud when they are flapped dry. There is too much of a distressed bird about it. In addition, they are hard to fold tightly and keep neat. When using one in a high wind there is the attendant danger of looking foolish as the umbrella is blown inside out. No-one can look elegant tangling with an umbrella or chasing one down the street. 

While there is no sympathy for those splashing after a bowling umbrella, there is for anyone who loses their titfer to a strong gust. For that reason I cover my head with a hat during inclement weather. Nothing outre, just a non-descript baseball cap.

In recent weeks my usual hat has been retired in favour of a new one. I was reluctant to swap as the old one and I have been through a lot together and we have grown used to each other. Like many men I prefer clothes that I have grown into and have adapted to my shape and often wear them in preference to anything smarter.

But that old hat was showing its age. The cloth on the lip of its bill was fraying, around its upper slopes was the ragged circle of a tidal sweat mark and the metal logo of its maker had acquired a greenish tinge reminiscent of verdigris. It never lay flat, smelled when damp and was in sore need of a wash.

The hat's prime virtue was that it was impossible to lose. So many times I was convinced it was lost only for it to turn up in a bag, a pocket or beneath a car seat after an absence of days or weeks. Every time I was happy to see it and missed it when it was gone.

During one of those times when it was adventuring on its own I bought another hat to help protect my head during one of the many, many downpours of 2012. Necessity made me use it but it I never felt happy underneath it as it never seemed to lose its shop-fresh stiffness. It made no concessions to my head and seemed intent on keeping its own shape rather than adapting to mine.

Perhaps it picked up on these feelings because that hat has proved almost impossible to keep. Time after time I've had to dash back on to a train, into a shop or scour the house to find it. Rarely was it where I thought I had left it, a situation that only made me resent it more. It was never in my bag, or so it seemed, even when I was sure that was where I had left it. Every time I left the house with it I was sure this would be the time it would escape and every time it came back with me often with me nursing a slight resentment as I had been forced to retrieve it. Again.

Well, that hat has now got the better of me because it is gone. I am sure I left it on a train and it is now sitting with other discarded headgear in a locker somewhere. It may be harsh to say so but I am glad it is gone because it means I can wear my old hat with a happy heart. With autumn and winter coming on I'm sure we'll be spending a lot more time together.

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