Um – brella – come rain or shine #rain #sun #tradition #London #history #umbrella

Let me share a quote with you that seems appropriate in the current ‘crazy’ weather climate, affecting a vast number of people across the globe.

Here it is, direct from the Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival, a sometimes quite rainy area of land inhabited by Scots: 

“I like to imagine the guy who invented the umbrella was going to call it ‘brella’ but he hesitated.” 

Um, firstly I think it’s rather presumptive to assume it was a man, but let’s think of the ‘he’ collectively.

The name umbrella evolved from the Latin umbella – a flat-topped rounded flower and the term umbra, meaning shadow or shade. In Italian, Latin’s closest modern-day language, the term for shade is ombra and for umbrella, ombrella.

While we play with names and definitions here are a few more of notable interest:

Un Parasol (French and Spanish) protects against the sun, para means stop or shield and sol is sun.

Un Parapluie (French) is an umbrella, para (shield against) pluie (rain). 

A Parachute (English, French) – para (shield from) a fall.

The oldest reference to a collapsible umbrella is 21AD in Ancient China. Then we follow the umbrella, in all its forms, through the traditions and customs of dynasties such as Ancient India, Siam, the Middle East, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, the Aztecs and Europe.

In The Middle Ages (of Britain) a cloak, not an  umbrella, was often the desired clothing against rainstorms.

In 1768 a Paris magazine stated:

‘Those who do not wish to be mistaken for vulgar people much prefer to take the risk of being soaked rather than be regarded as one who goes on foot; an umbrella is a sure sign of someone who does not own his own carriage.’

It would not be long before umbrellas became a fashionable item; an accessory not only to shelter from the rain but to avoid the heat of the scorching sun (the sunbeams being particularly piercing in India, for example). 

By the 1750s the British people had got over their natural shyness and promoted the umbrella’s general use.

One such character, Jonas Hanway, founder of the Magdalen Hospital, dared the reproach and ridicule – the staring, laughing, jeering, hooting, heckling and bullying – of hackney taxi-cabs, of carrying an umbrella in London, everyday for 30 years, dying, nice and dry, in 1786.

There is a small street in London’s Fitzrovia, leading from Oxford Street winding itself to Tottenham Court Road, called Hanway Street, reputed to be named after our man. His popularisation of the umbrella was more successful than his attempt to introduce stilts into London, keen to avoid the muck and grime of the 18th century streets. 

Clearly he likes the theme of ‘avoidance.’ 

Ironically Umbrellas are the most ‘left’ items in taxi-cabs. 

They are sometimes extremely annoying but desperately useful articles, not everybody wants to ‘sing in the rain’ or have ‘raindrops keep falling on their head’…
Global National Umbrella Day is 10th February.

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The Long run of Winter  #WinterSolstice #winter #dark #light #December #short #Christmas #climate #festive #calendar 

Today, 21st December, is the shortest day of the year in the U.K. – known on the calendar year as The Winter Solstice.

In Hastings, East Sussex the sun will rise wearily at 07.58 and set quickly at 15.53.  

If it is a grey day (& it is) it’ll seem exceptionally short, and the light will be poor and bland, if it is sunny (maybe tomorrow) make the most of the rays as a lack of sunshine, especially around the Christmas period, can make you feel very low. 

On the positive side, the shortest day of the year will now give way to a gradual lengthening of days. This means that the cloudy, misty, oppressive days will become longer ones, so even more reason to grab the sun when it rises and shines. 

A short pre-Christmas day is best spent enjoying the colour of the festive lights, fiddling with wrapping paper and sticky, pretty bits of string, reaching for a spicy, warm mulled wine and filling the house with scents of cinnamon & orange and roast potatoes. There are lovely ways to spend this seasonal month and many pleasures to gain from living the cycle of a temperate climate, even in those darker days.
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Time to rage against the ‘dying of the light’  #solstice #poetry #December #Hastings

In the UK, the 21st December is the shortest day of the year – the ‘winter solstice’.

In Hastings, East Sussex – beside the sea and looking out about 40 miles across the channel to the northern beaches of France – the sun rises at 07.58 and sets at 15.54.

Every day the sun will set exactly one minute later, ‘come rain or shine’ as Sinatra once sang. However sunrise works at a much slower pace increasing (not decreasing yet) by one minute every few days.  

In the first week there is no noticeable difference, but you are happy in the knowledge that ‘the days are getting longer.’ What a great relief!

Naturally the sunset and the sunrise do not determine the weather conditions – these are a whole other phenomenon.

So whatever you are doing – indoors or out – you’ll be gaining priceless light minutes in which to do it, which will add up along the way…!

‘As the blinding shadows fall,

As the rays diminish,

Under the evening’s cloak, they all

Roll away and vanish.’

From ‘Night And Day’ by R.L.Stevenson

‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light…’
Dylan Thomas

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