Wednesday, 18 July 2012

My Brolly: It's A London Thing

My umbrella. It’s A London Thing.

This post has been inspired by  David's recent Tweet…

I bought my brolly one drizzly Saturday morning at Lillywhites, the historic sporting goods shop at Piccadilly Circus. Lillywhites has been there since 1925 and the Lillywhite “No.5” football was the ball used for many of the early F.A Cup finals.

The umbrella cost cost £3.99 and seemed like a bargain even then. It’s a green and black Dunlop and it saw me through the Suited & Booted History of Men's Fashion walk that very morning.

Since then, through sunshine and shadow (but mainly shadow) it has been my constant companion in Hampstead, Lambeth, Spitalfields, Westminster and Kensington and all points in between.

Dunlop on the Northern Line, yesterday

We've been through a lot together. I've groused and muttered when it gets caught in the gates at tube stations. I've prodded fellow travellers with it on the tube itself – almost always accidentally, of course. And it’s too big for Oxford Street – I have nearly dislodged vertebrae trying to twist and turn in busy streets to avoid a Gloucester-out-of-King-Lear scenario on one of its spokes – vile jelly and all that. Yuk. And I've cursed when having to remember it in the morning when leaving the house.

Having said that, it has rained so often this summer that my cursing has been gradually watered down to a sigh of resignation – and has recently disappeared altogether. This July I would no more have left the house without my brolly than I would without my shoes.

Remembering it WHILE I am out is another matter altogether.

To the extent that I'm considering changing my own name to mirror the cry that rings out in my wake down every street. The cry of:

“Excuseme Yourbrolly.”

In this matter, I’d like to go on record to thank the kind souls who have reunited me with my gamp over the past few weeks. They include (in no particular order)…

The waitress at Barracuda in East Finchley where I was having an espresso. (Good espresso 7-out-of-ten.)

The woman on the train at Warren Street, where I changed on my way home from the Rock’n’Roll London Walk.

The woman on the train at Embankment, where I was getting off to lead the Somewhere Else London walk.

The waitress in Chorak, East Finchley where I was having an espresso. (Great espresso 9/10)

The waitress in Patisserie Valerie at Holborn where I was having an espresso. (7/10)

The chap in Henry Pordes Books on the Charing Cross Road.

The guy in Reckless Records in Berwick Street.

The bloke on the fruit and veg stall also in Berwick Street… this just five minutes after the Reckless Records incident.

The waiter in that new Italian place on Kensington Church Street where I was having an espresso. (8/10)


The chap behind the counter in Boots, High Street Kensington where I was buying cough sweets.

I could go on.

It’s making me think that this might just be that rarest of things: the unloseable umbrella*.

* Yes, I am fully aware that such hubris angers the Gods of Randomness, and as soon as I have pressed “Publish” on this post then the brolly will vanish into thin air. In which case my first port of call would be…

The Lost Property Office in Baker Street is one of the great London institutions. Umbrellas, violins, prosthetic limbs, even stray breast implants have been handed in. The mind boggles.

Should my remarkable brolly fail to end up at Baker Street (their website, by the way, is here), then plan B comes in to action.

Truth be told, plan B is actually my preferred option. It’s to buy a bright, new brolly at…

…James Smith and Sons of New Oxford Street (click here for website). I’ve always wanted a posh brolly from Smiths.

Don’t tell Dunlop. He’d be upset. Yes, like Tom Hanks in Castaway and his volleyball companion Wilson, I call my umbrella by its brand name. And Dunlop can be most mercurial. He has a vicious temper…

I blame the rain. The blasted rain. Does things to a man’s mind…

My brolly. It’s A London Thing.

POST UPDATED 11/5/16This post dates from July 2012 and Dunlop lasted me right up to January 2013! He finally gave up the ghost on a vicious winter day, turned inside out by the wind, shredded and splayed like some monstrous spider. I'm glad he died in action. It's what he would have wanted.

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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