Thursday, 26 August 2010


On umbrellas

Surely there is no country where an umbrella is more necessary than rainy England? I ought to know, having spent 22 years there. but once again, I have been foiled by the Land of No Cheese.

Here, the humble brolly has multiple uses. In fact, the wise Hong Konger carries it with him wherever he goes, to be deployed in the event of a number of potential scenarios:

1. Rain

This classic use is epitomised at this time of year, when intense, unannounced showers can catch the unsuspecting pedestrian short. Downpours of the Hong Kong variety invariably require at least a golf umbrella to remain dry below the neck. The flimsy kind people carry around are not much use after about three paces.

2. Sun

A popular usage by girls, umbrellas are preferable to sunscreen when it comes to blocking UV rays, and are manifestly more effective in preserving a ghostly skin tone (doubly so when combined with whitening creams.)

    Tourist 'going native'

3. Miscellaneous

Omnipresent air conditioners suspended above the pavement dribble erratically. The best way to fend off this unpredictable onslaught is with an umbrella.

The umbrella may also offer some protection in the case of a nutter throwing acid from a window into the crowd below (pleasant HK phenomenon which only applies to high-density areas). By the time the acid has eaten through your brolly, the screams of the crowd around you should have alerted you to the presence of poisonous precipitation. Unless everyone else is carrying one, of course.

4. Mysterious

Given that the umbrella can protect from such a wide range of meteorological, urban and criminal assailments, it clearly makes no sense to ever fold it away. Thus, on a dry and cloudy afternoon recently I observed a woman taking this cult of the umbrella to its most extreme lengths. Not only was the slightest hint of rain, sun, or other vaguely offensive manifestations of weather entirely absent, but the woman in question was carrying her umbrella aloft for the entire (not inconsiderable) length of the shady and sheltered walkway below an overhanging tong lau building.

Could she have been shielding herself from her own dazzling laziness?