I Can’t Look My Best, I Feel Undressed…

If you’re ever wandering around my home town of Castlebar and you see some guy and you wonder to yourself, “Is he that fecker off the Internet?” you could give yourself a clue by looking to see if he’s carrying an umbrella.

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.

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?

Well... no.

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. 


Jena Isle said...

Very well said Ken, I like how you made the connection with relationships. Also, how one can make the umbrella last forever.

It's true that relationships for them to last forever, "repairs" are done and necessary adjustments are made.

Umbrellas and relationships that last in one's lifetime indeed exist. Thanks for an insightful post.

William Gallagher said...

Okay, completely ignoring the real point and the serious angle, I want to focus on the umbrella.

Have you considered a pocket umbrella? A flick umbrella? Something that won't get worn out through daily use but might fool the weather gods, at least while they convene a meeting to discuss it?


Bella7 said...

I have brollies EVERYWHERE. In my handbag, one for walking the dog, several of varying sizes in both cars and spares by the front door. I'm a little obsessed I know. It's a hair thing with me. Pure vanity has lead me to this madness. Only one partner though who has been there through all weathers. Solid and dependable.

Ken Armstrong said...

Jena: Thanks. Nice to see you there. :)

William: I've always been a fairly large golf-umbrella type person but my latest model is indeed a little hand-held 'push the button and it pops out' one. It's great but it's too small a radius and bits of me still get wet. I also get feelings of inadequacy when I meet bigger umbrellas. I may go back to a golf one next.

Bella: One is all we need. Partner... not umbrella. :)

Jim Murdoch said...

One of my oldest possessions—it is in fact a year older than my daughter—is my umbrella. I bought it in BHS in East Kilbride in 1979 and still use it; it has never needed to be repaired. I’ve had numerous collapsible versions over the years and still carry one in my shoulder bag but there is nothing like a real man-sized brolly. Mine has a classic J-shaped handle (although not a whangee handle as sported by John Steed and no sword either) which I used to enjoy immensely. I would let the umbrella hang from my hand and allow it to rotate as I walked about; a most pleasurable experience. Scotland is like Ireland when it comes to rain. The weather forecast for today, according to my wife, is sunshine and showers.

I don’t much care for golf umbrellas. Umbrellas should be black. And, seriously, if I thought I could get away with it I would wear a bowler too. Carrie was all for buying me one we saw in a vintage clothes shop many years ago but it was too small. When I was younger I used to hate getting caught in the rain. It bothers me less these days but then it happens less. As far as some deity using droplets of water to prove his existence I personally think, if the Bible is to be believed, that he’d go with some more dramatic and irrefutable if he really wanted to make people sit up and take note. I know he’s supposed to work in mysterious ways and all that but…

Karen Redman said...

I have umbrellas everywhere. I get wet constantly. What does this say about me?

Emma Barr said...

Such a beautiful blog Ken! So touching, I have a brolly, it's very special it has a little torch on the end to guide me through the dark as it protects me from the elements, very much the way Mr Barr protects me through my life, and like my brolly is with me regardless of the weather. I have other brollies, we don't have the same relationship but they are still there for me when I need them, I gained a lovely bunch of brollies over the last year, but I also lost one I hadn't known for long, but I still miss her & her marmalade x