Thursday, January 22, 2009

A gentleman should always have four umbrellas....

I'm quite a fussy bugger when it comes to clothing (I know you wouldn't believe it to look at me!) and I've recently lost an umbrella, which I suppose isn't strictly speaking clothing at all, but I'm going to include it as such. Now you need a good umbrella in a town as wet as Tonbridge seems to be on occasion, one you can rely upon in a down pour. I've been all over the place trying to find the right one; you see I've owned quite a few in the past. Some have blown inside out with the first strong gust of wind and been thrown straight in the bin. "You buy cheap you buy twice!.." as me brother always used to say! Others, like my trusty fold up Fulton with crook handle, lasted somewhat longer and withstood some real down pours on my way to and from the railway station, in the days when I worked in London. I've had golf umbrellas, gentleman's black town umbrellas, full length, short ones, even children's ones have been used when I couldn't find mine. Most have gradually, slowly but surely, been weakened, lost a thread here, snapped a hinge there, until eventually and inevitably they've fallen apart and ended up ruthlessly disgarded in the nearest bin. I've got it into my head that I want an umbrella which will last me the rest of my days and be passed on to future generations of Mr. Books! So over the last month or so, I've been patiently perusing the umbrella racks in Beales where they are pretty much all Fulton. The "Windbreaker" ought to be a good bet with a name like that, and at £15 seems quite reasonably priced, but I'm not sure that I can trust another folding one to last me a lifetime. They are bound to have more weak spots than a full length one if you think about it. I found a sturdy looking one in Cotswold Outdoor shop by Jack Wolfskin, the mountaineering and walking clothing specialist, in Tunbridge Wells the other day, priced £20, it has flaps to allow the wind to get through to prevent it from turning inside out in strong winds; but it looks very plastic and cheap and is probably not much stronger than any number of golfing umbrellas on the market. Also it has a straight handle and I prefer the crook handled variety (I did say that I was a fussy bugger didn't I!) I've even gone to the trouble of finding out the umbrella used by that mad bloke on the Coast and Brittannica TV programmes: if you aren't familiar with Nick Crane his trade mark seems to have inadvertantly become his trusty Bark Ash walking stick umbrella, which I now know came from that amazing establishment in New Oxford Street, London called James Smith and Sons. Now they, I discover, have been making gentleman's umbrellas since about 1850. And they do actually still make them in the basement of their premises, below the shop! I reckon they must make a bloomin fine brolly to have lasted all that time. There's a great article on a web site called Bown's Bespoke, I just stumbled across during the course of this hunt for the perfect rain protector, which extolls the virtues of a good umbrella and indeed goes on to say that a gentleman should own four umbrellas. He goes on "...But a black umbrella with brown shoes… banish such a sartorial solecism!.." I'll leave you to find out the rest of his reasoning on that one. Anyway with all this wet weather in good old Tonbridge I can waste no more time; I must visit James Smith and buy that Ash walking stick brolly so I too can wander around long lost highways and byways with my crook handle poking elegantly out of the top of my rucksack, ever prepared for that sudden soaking. The only snag is that it'll knock me back around 150 squid! Now let me think about that one....

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I bought and expensive umbrella from Gamages of Holborn just before it closed in 1972. No I dont have it now! It broke after only a few weeks and Gamages had closed but I was still able to use it. On one rainy day when I arrived at Tonbridge my good looking umbrella had been taken and there was a tatty one in its place (I think it was an Orpington commuter). That one lasted me for at least 10 years. For the Orpington commuter all that glitters was not gold.

TonbridgeR said...

Umbrellas can be very unreliable no matter how much is paid for them. There's nothing better than a good Gortex jacket with a hood - especially good if the hood has a little 'Pacific Blue' surfy type of peak attached. Beats an umbrella any day

petrolstationvillage said...

I've lost so many umbrellas that I have started to wear hats. I also got fed up with my brollies turning upside down in the wind. I do have a trusty Fulton but I rarely use it, which is a bit odd really but my hats seem to do the trick and it means I still have two hands left. Also a jacket with a hood is a Must if I haven't got a fancy hat.

That shop in New Oxford Street is always closed when I go there but I have been meaning to have a snoop round it. They do some really nice ones.

Matt Harvey said...

I love Smith and Sons I walk past it on the way to work everyday. It's like a piece of victorian London transported to the here and now. If only I could afford to buy one there.

I'd always recommend a folding umbrella, but that's because I'm forgetful and I'm much more likely to leave a full lenght one behind on the train. But go for one in a differnet colour than black just incase you do need to describe it to the lost propery office!