During the recent rather changeable weather, I have been carrying an umbrella with increasing frequency. And not a fold-up black one either; these ALWAYS break, unless you shell out £20 for a posho automatic opening one, which I am loath to do. A long umbrella - ideally not covered in golf or banking brands - is the mark of a gentleman. A curved handle is the masculine portion of a brolly, and makes it surprisingly practical when travelling by tube with your hands full. An umbrella should also have a steel tip for a reassuring clack when walking. This example, purchased from a supermarket in Brittany of all places, is perfect. A lovely chocolate colour with surprisingly smart cherry-coloured pinstripes and a soft-touch black handle. Agreed, it's no James Smith, but it's a pretty good start considering the likelihood of my losing umbrellas, and the distress that misplacing a £100+ brolly would provoke. For the princely sum of 8 euros, I have an umbrella that will smarten any outfit - I once read in the Sunday Times Style supplement that a full-size umbrella provides a "surprise formal element" and I have found this to be true - it not only dignifies even the scruffiest of jeans, but when walking with a baton this size, it forces you to walk properly and with a certain swing in your step. It's also very useful for batting small children, dogs and tourists out of the way on the tube. Some might say that there's certain Freudian element about the size of your umbrella, to whom I say if you had a steel-tipped pinstriped penis, you'd probably want to show it off as well. Anyway, give them a try, man or woman - full-size umbrellas are the only way to combat this vile global-warming induced weather...Other Staples this week:
Rubies' album 'Explode from the Center'
M&S Cheese scones
A day in Brighton with the parents
The Betjeman Arms in St. Pancras station
Andrew Rae's postcards