for KGK

This is actually meant for yesterday, but I was tooooo busy to write.

I hate umbrellas. I know they are very useful, but God did not provide me with a third hand, and I always need my original two for other things. Nevertheless I am rarely without one, especially in the winter. though i find it is in the summer when I usually need one.

I once needed an umbrella in Salamanca in 1974. The weather had turned cold and all the students on their year abroad were totally unprepared. It was freezing, wet, and windy. We were expecting long balmy evenings of warm autumnal sunsets. Not a bit of it. The Americans amongst us had all written home for parents to send them woolly long johns. How do I know this? Well, one of them was complaining that his landlady had put them in the washing machine (yes, all our landladies did our washing for us) and they had shrunk irrevocably. Brilliant for me, as I was much smaller and so I acquired lovely long underwear (with male openings, which was a bit of a hassle, but I coped). Anyway I could meet some of the elements now but not the rain. I was quite unready for the sleet and hail, but one night I had to go out. I remember coming back home about ten at night, glasses blurred, frozen to the core, when a short legged creature sidled up to me bearing an umbrella.

What a gentleman, I thought. (Stranger danger didn’t cross my mind in those days.) He was about my height but I didn’t see his face. I had no idea of his age. Or anything. All I could register was my gratitude for the shelter. We walked a bit and then suddenly i became a bit more cautious. Too late, he wanted to know where I lived. (he’d gathered I was from England and therefore unchaperoned) Oh crumbs, what do I do? I tried to believe he genuinely just wanted to keep me out of the rain, so I let him walk me to the corner. I obviously wasn’t going to let him inside any building – anyway he wasn’t actually expecting that – but he did try to kiss me when I said thank you. And then I saw his face. If I say in need of dental work you will know what I mean. I must have looked quite horrified as luckily he didn’t pursue his reward, but he walked off a trifle annoyed.

I bought an umbrella of my own the very next day.

On a more positive note, back in England, about ten years later I was, with one hand, pushing the pram which was laden with shipping on the handlebars in a most precarious way; with the other I was holding Kasia’s little fist. We were going home and it wasn’t far. But all at once the heavens opened.

The cataract which soaked us within a few seconds was thrilling in a way. I needed to keep the children’s spirits up because they were in a somewhat perplexed state of shock, so I began to laugh and explain what fun we were having. I have no idea if my efforts fell on deaf ears or not because at that moment a woman came up to me and handed me an umbrella. it was an old one she said. she had just bought a new one, and was about to throw it away when she saw us. She pressed it into my hand and went off. Somehow i managed to hold it, the pram and Kasia or maybe Kasia held the pram while i manoeuvred the brolly. The details escape me.

Wow- the kindness of strangers. Minor miracle. Coincidence. Whatever you like to call it. That umbrella kept the worst of the rest of the rain off until we got home. I packed one into my bag immediately I was dry.

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