Beware: Umbrellas at Large

Has someone out there been doing a rain dance? The sun is a distant memory, the brollies are out in force, and it’s pretty clear it’s not all Mary Poppins and Singin’ in the Rain.

I know, beach parasols aren’t entirely innocent. A sudden gust can give your sunshade wings, and propel it at speed into the chest or brain

But rain umbrellas are in another class of spikiness altogether, with sharp edges and points just where you least want them. It’s hard to protect yourself on crowded pavements in the rain when’s everyone’s scurrying about brandishing their weapons as they dodge the puddles.

In Cambridge’s narrow streets, there’s the added danger of tourists stopping without warning to take selfies, and tour leaders waving extra umbrellas around to show their group where they are.

From their origins centuries ago (nobody seems sure how many) as protection for the privileged, umbrellas are now as common as muck. Hundreds of millions of brollies are sold every year, and often break just as quickly, making them even more hazardous.

My husband negotiated the last downpour uninjured, but his thumb took a hit when closing his brolly. After all, everyone knows it’s bad luck to leave it open inside the house, right?

I escaped unscathed that rainy afternoon, possibly because I kept reminding the OH not to stab me in the eye. Nearly a fifth of umbrella-related accidents affect the eye, many of these being conjunctival tears. Spokes are the main cause, but even the rubber end of a rainshade can lead to eye injuries, according to a review from Monash University in Australia.

Their review concludes that umbrellas shouldn’t be used as toys. Sound advice, especially if you’ve read about the 11-year old who impaled his little brother with a piece of wire ribbing poked through the keyhole. The 5-year old was taken to the doctor but lost his eye, shortly followed by his life. 

Swans shun brollies. Unfurl yours and you may find yourself at the wrong end of a powerful beak.

The most high profile umbrella-linked death was that of Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian writer and dissident murdered in September 1978 by a ricin pellet concealed in the tip of his assassin’s umbrella. Forty years on, the suspect is still at large. I’m told the case has links to the KGB. Obviously, I couldn’t possibly comment.

Please let me know your best umbrella stories. I’m really hoping one of you has an uplifting tale to share in this rainy season. If not, I’ll just have to stay in and listen to the Hollies’ Bus Stop one more time.

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Spreading a Little Sunshine

There’s nothing January can do to redeem itself in my eyes, other than apologise and segue into February without delay.  Thirty-one days of it are just too much, especially in the UK where the weather is dismal and it doesn’t even have the decency to snow any more.  But I had to grin from ear to ear and reach for my shades when I got a Sunshine Award from Mr Don Charisma himself.sunshineaward

Thank you very much for this, Don.

Naturally no man gives a woman anything without there being strings attached.   Unfortunately I can’t display the badge on my blog in any permanent fashion as I am too damn stupid at WordPress.  This may be rectified later.  I won’t be any less stupid, but I will have asked someone.

Not all bloggers like accepting awards so let’s just call my list the blogs that light up my screen and my life. They fit the bill because, to use Don’s words, they positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.  Here are my 10 bloggers who deserve an award:

Don Charisma for his great charm and good humour.  I loved Whose Blog Is It Anyway? and I suspect everyone else did too.

Ellen Arnison of In a Bun Dance.  She’s almost invariably  cheery, with the happy knack of seeing the beauty in all manner of things.  OK, her post on murdered 3 year old Mikaeel Kular wasn’t quite in that mould, but it contained great good sense and a warning to those who don’t understand what sub judice means.  For some reason I’m unable to post comments on her blog so this award will have to do.

Debbie Young at her personal blog Young By Name. Debbie is an accomplished author and blogger writer whose posts are brimming with life and crammed with unexpected little treasures.  I can’t do her blog justice so you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

Catherine Ryan Howard for Catherine, Caffeinated which is famed for its humorous encouragement. Without her guidance many writers would have stalled.  Catherine is truly the AA and RAC of self-publishing.

Time Thief from One Cool Site.  It is the go-to place for WordPress tips and inspiration as well as being, well, one cool site.

Suz Jones of It Goes On.  Suz blogs about depression and much more, and turns out it’s really uplifting stuff.  A worthy recipient of Blog of the Year 2013.

Seif Salama Karem.  His posts are often dark and can be political, so they’re not always easy reading, but they have a lyrical quality reminiscent of Khalil Gibran, whose work we both love.

The team at Chick Lit Club who deal with all things chick-lit.  Respect to head honcho Steph who sanctioned a review of my novel  despite one of my characters being incredibly rude about her home town.  She clearly has a sunny and forgiving nature.

The bloggers at Varsity newspaper.  Their contributions shine with enthusiasm for student life in all its forms.  Guaranteed to make you feel 18 again, especially if like me the Fen Poly is your alma mater.

Yes, I know. There are only 9, because one of my favourite bloggers has stopped blogging. So I’m sulking.   But in life there are things even jollier than blogs, like my family, friends and cat. And look at this fella sitting in the middle of the road, probably because it’s as wet as the river.  Any nearer those yellow lines and he’d have got points on his license.

Swan in Ely

One day I may list 10 of those kinds of things, just for fun.

Now there’s something else I’m meant to do in accepting the Sunshine Award: tell you 10 interesting things about myself.  As you’re busy people and I’m not that interesting, you’re only getting 7.

1 My cat is a ginger female called Mishmish, which is ‘apricot’ in Arabic and in Hebrew.

2 My idol is Martin Luther King.

3 A long time ago I actually saw the Beatles. Not that I heard them, because everyone was screaming.

4 I don’t need sat nav as my sense of direction is excellent.  Besides, there’s a map in the back of the car.

5 At school I did Russian O-level.

6 Some of my oldest childhood friends are still my closest.

7 I love writing.  It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Though you can also do it with your clothes off if you want.typewriter