On Umbrellas

When I was studying the sociology of blogging earlier this year, I found that one of the more common criticisms of befriending people through LiveJournal relates to our interests lists. Questions are asked along the lines of: how do these interests really explain who the user is? And how does having a few interests in common justify a befriending?

To half-agree with the point raised by the first question, I don’t think I’m personally represented by my interests. To start with, I’m a fan of the TV sitcom, Red Dwarf and it is included in my interests list. But if you visit any message board dedicated to discussion on this topic, you’ll be confronted with barely legible scrawlings of morons and children with signatures longer then their posts. You get topics along the lines of “iz rimma a smeg head”. I’m not one of those guys am I? Am I??.

An oddity I’ve noticed concerning our interests lists is that we hardly ever discuss the topics, items or people included on them. Our tags seldom correlate with our self-proclaimed interests. In way of rectifying this, I have decided to spend today’s entry talking about one of the more obscure items on my list: umbrellas.

* I like to carry a gentleman’s umbrella. That is a full-length black one with a curved wooden handle. His name is Enrique Henriques Bestiville. I am a firm believer in the fact that, as Leslie S. Klinger puts it in my version of the complete Sherlock Holmes, “all gentlemen carry a cane or else its doppelganger, a tightly wrapped umbrella”. Yes, I am John Steed.

* It doesn’t even matter if its sunny. An umbrella is the ultimate accessory and can be used to poke at dead things or to rattle along railings.

* When it’s up, I like to rest the stem upon my shoulder and spin it around. Doing this allows me to pretend I am a time machine.

* Umbrellas always seem to be used as examples of how words fail us in postmodern texts. There is no word for a broken umbrella in that it ceases to be an umbrella when it can no longer keep off the rain. I think the character, Peter Stillman in Paul Auster’s City of Glass talks about that.

* Wikipedia harbours an insanely comprehensive history of umbrellas. It tells me that “Brolly is a slang word for umbrella, used often in Britain; “bumbershoot” is another.”

* I’m not the only person to have named an umbrella. The protagonist of Stephen Fry’s The Liar has a brolly called (I think) Justin.

* When I see someone else with a lengthy Enrique-like umbrella, we exchange knowing expressions as if to confirm our shared knowledge that superior people carry umbrellas in spite of the absence of rain.

* There is a book called Umbrellas and their history. It’s even available for free online.

* Enrique has directly caused women to flirt with me literally twice.

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