My mum sounds like Rihanna. Alas not in the singing department, or I'd be blowing my share of the family fortune sniffing a hundredweight of jazz salt off the curvier parts of a lady of easy virtue in a preposterously tariffed hotel rather than writing a blog at 7.25 on a Sunday night while wishing I hadn't finished off that bar of Green and Blacks Butterscotch earlier this afternoon.

The one similarity they share is that they say 'umbrella' with four syllables. A sneaky addition slides in between the b and the r. Alas I haven't a recording of my mum, but here's Rihanna.

Maybe they are both trying to make up for the seemingly shortchanged 'parliament', February' and 'Wednesday' which having had the good grace to provide us with a certain arrangement of letters are rewarded by us routinely skipping past a syllable for the fun of it.

I have, as it goes, something of a fascination for umbrellas. I think it started with the rather spooky story of Georgi Markov. As a young kid I was very much into James Bond and the idea of spies - there was Masterspy on the box and Double Agents in the sweetshop. All was well. But the idea that someone who had defected here from Bulgaria might be killed on the streets of London by having a poison pellet fired into his leg from an umbrella....an umbrella! How marvellous. I didn't make it to 'How awful' for some years.

I never forgot his name, but that may be less to do with umbrellas and more to do with my ludicrously contrary brain - at that time I would absorb any slightly unusual name to be retained for life, whereas these days I have trouble remembering my own middle name. Or perhaps it was that everyone on the news then seemed to have a novel name - Ndabaningi Sithole, and Canaan Banana to name but two.

As with all sensible children, the least likely, most convoluted yet interesting explanation was always the real one. Conspiracies were happily taken on board wholesale, paranormal happenings and other worldly experiences accepted. The very first night a friend and I went UFO watching from his window we stopped after only 3/4 of an hour as we'd already seen a hundred. They were pretty common back then let me tell you. Of the many conspiracies that took my fancy, it seemed pretty obvious even to the very young me that JFKs assassination was mighty fishy. The angle he moved when the first bullet hit, then the second the other way meant it had to be two or more assassins...all the documentaries said so. Then I read an article somewhere about a man with an umbrella and how he must've been involved. This was music to my ears. A dry sunny day, JFKs motorcade sliding slowly through the streets of Dallas, people waving and all that. On this glorious day, captured on film, a detail missed by most eyes, a single man holding up an open umbrella. So peculiar, so strange on this sunniest of days, it must have something to do with the events that unfolded. Hiding his face perhaps, and some speculated that perhaps the umbrella itself had a gun concealed within it, the bullet fired threw the fabric.

The truth is not much less ridiculous. Fascinating. Do watch the lovely film.

And then of course there's Steve McClaren, the once England football manager, who after a particularly dull performance which he watched from the sidelines from under an umbrella, was sacked - many of the papers carrying the rather easy headline of The Wally With the Brolly. Although in his favour you have to say his command of foreign languages is second to known.

Why am I thinking so obsessively about umbrellas you may well ask. Other than the fact that my mum is saying 'umbrella' with a touch more frequency than normal given the almost daily downpours, it is because next week I will be spending each day in the vineyard pruning the vines and I need to find a way to keep my head dry. This is conundrum visits my dim brain regularly.

Much as I like hats, they leave me with a weird after-feeling. I blogged about it years ago. If you can't be arsed to read it, essentially when I come in after wearing a hat, I take it off and for hours afterwards I keep reaching for the hat, to take it off - it still feels like it's there. In the American Civil War those who'd lost a leg or arm had the sense that the missing limb was still there, even experiencing pain from it. This became known as Phantom Limb Syndrome. Unfortunately my own Phantom Hat Syndrome makes me reluctant to wear a hat for too long. I'm not a fan of hoods - I like to be 'in' where I am, and anything that impairs my hearing is most unwelcome. An umbrella would solve all, but it would take up a hand. Unless....I bought one of these.

Clearly this would be preposterous. Although I suspect that all preposterousness is, certainly for the male of the species, simply a matter of time. I bought a very marvellous walking jacket a couple of months ago which served me very well when debuted on a two day walk with Big Stu in the most ridiculous coastal walking weather...

Warm, wind proof, light, deeply unfashionable - it ticked all the boxes. I wear it more days than not at the moment simply because it keeps me warm, even though I look ridiculous. What has become of me. Clearly this is no kind of look for someone so influential*.

And what next, Clarks Movers?

* That noise you can hear is me putting my shoehorn back in the drawer.

Helle (Helen) said...

January 30, 2012 at 8:48 AM  

Sprouts on the "Taste of the Unknown" farm!!! Isn't it a bit like growing spuds? Nice post.

The Constant Gardener said...

January 30, 2012 at 12:06 PM  

When I joined the World Service around 10 years after Markov had been killed the Bulgarian Service was still reeling from the shock. I'm not sure it ever recovered (he was working as head of the Service when he was killed and the umbrella incident happened on the bridge right next to Bush House, so within yards of the front door. A bit like the Aldwych Bus Bomb which happened just as I was finishing my shift, almost right outside Bush House: most inconvenient as they shut the road off. Still have no idea how I got home that evening).

I'm with you on the names, though they weren't only around at that period - I'm rather enjoying it whenever Nigerian president Goodwill Jonathan turns up on the news at the moment :D

lia leendertz said...

January 30, 2012 at 9:01 PM  

You have such a girly laugh! Funny film.
See also vegetable: four syllables in Yorkshire, three everywhere else.

MarkD said...

January 30, 2012 at 9:59 PM  

DW - thank you

Helen - yes but the cabbages on the top are easily my favourite brassica - sweet, nutty, gorgeous texture, hard to overcook...really lovely

CG - What frightening occurences...and Godwill Jonathan is one of the great names of the modern era, thank you. See also Wanderlay Luxemburgo, the ex-coach of the Brazilian football team.

Lia - As ever you are very rude...AND sexist. And as my mother is a Lancastrian we pay little attention to what they get up to over the border.

LP - thank you

Burf said...

January 31, 2012 at 9:02 AM  

Hat problem sorted! -



Jen Mills said...

February 1, 2012 at 1:08 PM  


Martin said...

February 6, 2012 at 11:53 AM  

you are really funny ...(by the way I also love James Bond!)

And also i have read the hat thing blog of yours

MarkD said...

February 6, 2012 at 8:41 PM  

Burf - less great minds think alike

Jen - with a short, staypressed trouser perhaps

Martin - you're very kind

Dawn Isaac said...

February 6, 2012 at 8:45 PM  

I give in. I left a comment days ago. It's not there. Obviously it was immensely witty and would have brought joy into the hearts of your millions of readers. (disclaimer: it wasn't and it wouldn't)

Pah! Technology!

MarkD said...

February 6, 2012 at 8:54 PM  

Dawn - you so didn't did you. Or if you did, I imagine it said something rude

JamesA-S said...

February 7, 2012 at 8:52 AM  

I think I should point out that the curvier parts of a lady of easy virtue are not the best places for jazz salt inhalation. It tends to fall off which is a terrible waste, in future you should concentrate on the plains between the curves.

Lia is right about your laugh.

Jo Thompson said...

February 17, 2012 at 11:00 AM  

Brussel sprouts, in growing mode, always make me smile

investment in farmland said...

February 25, 2012 at 8:03 AM  

I can absolutely relate to your talk about conspiracies. I was also facinated by JFK tragedy. I also went through a phase where I believed Nixon's resignation due to Watergate had something to do with the military undermining him. Needless to say, I ate up the Da Vinci Code!

MarkD said...

February 27, 2012 at 8:37 PM  

JAS - I shall take your advice should I ever come into suitable wealth.

Jo T - you've a warped mind

IIF - it is amazing what we can believe if we want

Suporna Sarkar said...

March 6, 2012 at 6:22 AM  

Nice Blog !
Awesome Video and Photo.
I Like This Very Much.
Methods of Modern Farming

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