A brolly, a brolly, my kingdom for a brolly. With apologies to Shakespeare, I've said this countless times this year as these terrible storms keep sweeping in. In fact, I've been saying it most of my life.
As a weather presenter, I get to examine the latest Met Office charts so I know exactly when I'm going to need an umbrella. But which one? Over the years I've tried them all. I've tried big and small, traditional and high-tech. I've been wooed with lightweight materials, sturdy frames, hard-to-ignore colours and all sorts of other clever new gizmos. But I've never found an umbrella that really suits me. And judging by the veritable brolly graveyard in the nation's gutters at the moment, I'm not alone. Every day, more and more of us seem to give up on blown-out brollies, leaving them littered like dead crows on our wet and windy streets.
So what do we all want from a brolly? Not a lot, really. We girls want to protect our hair - and so do a fair few boys. We want something reliable, that won't blow inside out every time the jet stream comes calling. All my girlfriends agree - they want something that's not too big to stuff into their handbags, but also something that's not so small they'll leave it behind in a taxi, a restaurant or under a cinema seat. For my part, having been buffeted by this winter's ferocious storms on endless weather reports, I just want something that works...
Some people get it right, of course. Mary Poppins certainly did - and pictures of her have done more than most to make the brolly seem such an utterly British accessory. My other umbrella carrying hero is little known philanthropist Sir Sydney Waterlow. There are two statues of him in London - he's holding a brolly in both and they are said to be the only statues in the capital to contain such a modern, realistic accoutrement.
My life-long quest for the perfect brolly hasn't yet involved trying something cast in solid bronze. But I'm getting close. I've read blogs on all the different types that are on offer - and I've been horribly put off by the thought of billionaires wanting their umbrellas made of crocodile skin and paying up to £30,000 for that cruel privilege.
I do think that something like a classic Austin Reed brolly will always turn heads. But some designer umbrellas seem like a bad idea, to be honest. I don't need a fancy label, just a reliable mechanism, something that won't suddenly open like an explosion when it's supposed to be safely stowed in my bag and something that will snap closed quickly if the rain ever stops.
Umbrella etiquette is something worth bearing in mind too. Busy city centre pavements are no place for those vast corporate things that look as if they could cover a golf course, let alone a golfer. But sharing a small brolly is no picnic either - especially if you're the one who's getting half the shelter and all the drips from the side. Approach someone on a narrow street and it's never quite clear who should lift their brolly up and who should pull theirs down. But having had a few near misses in recent weeks I know we've all got to take care not to poke other pedestrians in the face. For umbrellas, as any Russian spy could tell us, can be very dangerous weapons indeed.
Looking ahead and the world of umbrellas might be on the cusp of real change. Apparently there are thousands of new patents applied for each year, as inventors and manufacturers try to modify and improve what we've got. So get ready for umbrellas for dogs, umbrellas with NASA-inspired vents and straps to stop blow-outs and even wi fi and GPS equipped brollys that project maps and directions on to their canopies, so you stay dry and won't ever get lost again. I'm not sure any of those will ever be my ideal umbrella. But I live in hope!Suggest a correction