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Blog Posted in avatar   Alexander Baron's Blog

The Sad Tale Of An Umbrella

By Alexander Baron
Posted Oct 18, 2012 in Lifestyle
There are two things I never carry on my person: a mobile phone and an umbrella. Mobile phones are small things, including their keypads - they all have these nowadays. I'm not a great fan of typing, but purely on account of my lifestyle, this is something I can't avoid. I can though avoid typing on small keypads, and the very last thing I want to do on the train or anywhere else is something fiddly and delicate in which I am prone to make mistakes. Aside from that, I seldom use or receive phone calls. Almost all my contact with the outside world comes via e-mail and other on-line messaging systems. Except bills.
While most people today seem to be unable to live without their mobiles, umbrellas have been around somewhat longer and have a dedicated purpose. Why would I not carry one when it is wet out? Well, they too tend to be small, but worse than that, they are inconvenient, many being too big to carry on your person, or if they are small enough, who wants to put a soaking wet umbrella in his coat pocket?
So what is wrong with carrying a small object around in your hand? Nothing at all unless you are so scatterbrained that you keep forgetting the bloody thing. I've lost count of the number of umbrellas I have left on trains. Many years ago, I decided to tackle this in a practical way. I bought a big umbrella from a Croydon store that is no longer extant.
Its size meant I was unlikely to forget it, especially if I sat with it across my lap. There was something else about this umbrella, it had a lifetime guarantee, which is probably why it cost an arm and a leg. I can't remember the precise terms, but it was something like if it wears out with natural wear and tear or is turned inside out by a strong wind, we will replace it free of charge. Presumably the strong wind of October 1987 would have been exempted, but the guarantee sounded okay to me. The first time or if not the first time, the second time I used it, as I got off the train at London Bridge station, the handle fell off, or rather the umbrella fell off and left me holding the handle. I couldn't quite believe this, but sent the umbrella back to the company, with the appropriate postage or whatever, and shortly I received either the same umbrella or a replacement through the post.
I think it was the very next time I used it the accident happened. In those days, train fares were a lot less extortionate than they are today, and I still had an income of sorts, so made far more sorties to the British Library and other archives than now. I think I must have been on my way home, and was changing trains at Waterloo, walking from the main line station to Waterloo East, when in the roadway between the two, a teenager ran into me on his bike, and bent the umbrella like a banana. Somehow I didn't think the lifetime guarantee would cover this mishap, so binned it.
The moral of this story? I'm not sure it has one, but it is clear there are some things some of us are not meant to do, indeed there are some things some of us are never meant to do. Using an umbrella may be one tiny thing (except on wet days), but clearly somebody upstairs meant me never to own one, and dropped repeated hints until finally I got the message. Other things have taken me even longer to realise, but best not go there.

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