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I can stand under my own umbrella - ella - eh - eh - eh - eh

At least I have learnt one thing since arriving in the UK - how to use my brolly.

rain 15 °C

Round about lunch time today, I left my flat. Recently, leaving the flat has been a rare occurrence, at least for something other than going to the local Sainsbury’s or the News Agent to pick up the day’s issue of The Times.

One of the problems working from home is that it becomes very easy to find oneself spending all the time in the warm, comfortable cocoon that is one’s home and castle, and ne’er venturing out.

The desire to stay home has doubled of late, as the weather has taken a decidedly more autumnal turn the past week. The t-shirts have gone into storage (i.e. shoved to the back of the closet) and the sweaters brought out (i.e. dug out from the back of the closet, given a quick smell test, and then either washed or worn, depending on how dank and musty they smell). Just as an aside, they call sweaters “jumpers” here. In North America, a jumper is someone who launches themselves off a bridge.

The desire to stay home was give another boost today as well, for I looked outside and to see that London was experiencing some “wet weather.” That’s the Met Office’s euphemism for rain. The weather forecasters seem to use it a lot. “Today the South-east will experience some wet weather.”

IMG_4238_copy.jpg

I’m not sure why they don’t just say rain. Perhaps there is a subtlety that I am missing, the difference between rain and wet weather. Much like the Inuit apparently have half-a-million different words for snow, perhaps the English have developed multiple words for rain. Maybe I just haven’t been here long enough to understand the difference.

Despite the rainy, cool weather and internet access, I had to go out today, for I had an appointment at my local doctor’s office, called a surgery here even though there is little cutting and blood involved. MPs call their local offices surgeries as well, though given the state of the economy I can understand why that makes more sense - lots of cut and boiling blood, no doubt. I should have registered with a local doctor back when I first moved into King’s Cross, but was lazy and just got around to registering with my local surgery last week.

Hopefully this doesn’t start a whole “socialist health-care versus private health care debate,” but the way things work here is that you have to register for a doctor’s office near your home. I can choose any doctor I like, as long as they are within a few miles of my home. Some might claim that is a lack of choice, but according to the NHS website I have over 100 doctors to choose from, so I am not too fused about the lack of choice. What I find more limiting is that you can’t choose a doctor near your work. Obviously it doesn’t make a big difference to me, working from home as I am, but if I went to a regular nine to five job, I probably would be less excited about having to pick a doctor back near where I lived.

So today I had to trudge out and get my introductory consultation, which involves getting weighed, measured, blood-pressured and then lectured on how you are a fat, old, alcoholic with a lousy diet (at least, that’s my experience of it...). To do that, I had to head out into the rain. So I put on a rain coat and got out my brolly.

Now, I haven’t always had great luck with umbrellas. Back in September 2005 I wrote the following after returning from a rainy weekend in Boston:

I’m not positive that I really know how to use an umbrella. I see other people walking around with umbrella held steady and level above them, keeping them dry. I find myself struggling with keeping my umbrella above me as the wind reaches underneath the lip of the umbrella and lifts it up and away from me. I get wet, my arms get tired and the umbrella gets battered. On Saturday night, the wind took its final toll on the umbrella, snapping 3 of the arms of the umbrella, collapsing the umbrella. I deposited the umbrella in a garbage can and calculated its utility to me. I bought it in September, used it perhaps 4 times in France, a couple times in Toronto and twice in Boston. 8 days of use for 10 Euros doesn’t seem like a fantastic deal to me. I think in the future I’ll stick with raincoats.

That was then, though. Now that I have lived in the UK for a year and 3 months, I’ve had a fair amount of practice with my brolly, and I think I’ve got it sorted out. The key thing is to keep the umbrella slightly tilted towards the wind direction. This way the wind harmlessly shots over the umbrella.

F014_Greg_in_Rain.jpg

Now, most people reading this will have probably already known that, or perhaps live in a desert and thus never had reason to learn it. I’m not most people though. It’s taken me a long time (almost 39 years) to figure this umbrella thing out. I like to think I am smarter than your average bear, but it appears that in fact I’m only slightly smarter than bears who never figure out how to use an umbrella.

Now that I have the operation of an umbrella as a weather protection device down pat, I think I’ll start working on the next level of umbrella use... I just have to figure out if it is more impressive to be able to fly like Mary Poppins or to administer a spot of poison in a busy crowd.

Posted by GregW 09:59 Archived in England Tagged tips_and_tricks

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