I rarely go anywhere without my umbrella. It’s a source of amusement to quite a few people, this sight of Ken wandering up the main street in the blazing sunshine with his umbrella in hand. People sometimes stop me and berate me about it, suggesting that my umbrella-toting in such good weather is somehow detrimental to the likelihood of the good weather persisting. I smile and move on.
All I know is this: if I ever leave the house without my umbrella, it is very likely to rain on me. It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing, sunshine or snow, without my umbrella I will get drenched. And, in an existence where I find it hard to keep any faith that there actually is a God, this umbrella-thing allows me a small glimmer of hope. It just seems rather planned, this ‘let’s rain on Ken if he forgets his umbrella’ thing. It allows me to cling to the wonderful possibility that there might be some godly figure looking down and (even more fun) that he has a rather devilish sense of humour. “Look, bright-boy’s forgotten his thingie again… just watch this…”
The video clip I’ve included here, in place of the customary photo, is Leon Redbone singing about his walking stick. His sentiments can equally be applied to me and my umbrella. Have a listen, if you have time to dally. I love Leon and the song is good and not half as long as the video length implies.
One of the troubles with constantly using an umbrella is that you wear them out quite quickly. Ireland is blustery at times and umbrella technology becomes tired and worn. Thus is it that my time with any given umbrella usually ends on a rainy, high-wind, day with my companion broken and torn and pulled inside-out then angrily dumped in the nearest litter bin, swore-at, and then abandoned.
This is not always easy. I get quite close to each of my umbrellas. Perhaps, in a ‘Third Policeman’ sort of way, my constant contact with the handle means that molecules of me are swapped with molecules of the umbrella and we pick up some of each other’s traits. For my part, I can sometimes be found standing in the corners of pubs and the umbrella may simply tend to open up to people at inopportune moments.
After an umbrella and me have finally parted company, there is inevitably a difficult time. There will be a gap period before I get a new one and I will invariably get pissed-down-on on every single day that this period lasts. Then the new one… well, it just won’t be the old one, will it? It will have its own quirks and foibles and it will take time for me to get know it. It’s a tentative moment.
Still I value my umbrella and would be lost without it.
Reading this back, I can see that it is just as I thought. It is quite easy to draw parallels between a person’s relationship with their umbrella and with their partner. Think about it for a moment. You get close, you come to depend on each other, you inherit foibles from each other, you shelter and support each other. Then, when it breaks down, it is usually in some tumultuous moment, one partner will get sworn-at and chucked in the bin and the other will stagger off, no longer protected from the storm.
Umbrellas and Friends, eh?
But wait, if there really is an effective umbrella metaphor to describe friendship and even romance then surely it is a rather depressing one. An umbrella, after all, will always eventually break down beneath the unbearable weight of the elements. Does this mean that any relationship must inevitably do the same? Is the only hope for unending friendship some vain aspiration towards some mythic indestructible umbrella?
Because friendships do sometimes go on for ever. Loving relationships do sometimes go on for ever. There is hope and possibility of never-ending friendship. So what of our umbrella-metaphor then? Where is this everlasting umbrella than will make everything right?
Well, there isn’t one, obviously.
But there is something…
When we find that umbrella, the perfect one, the one we want to keep forever… yes, it will break, dent, buckle, tear, turn inside-out…
… but, if we care enough about it, we can repair it.