‘YOU can tell some people’s character by the way they hold an umbrella.” This claim of insight into human behaviour came unsolicited from 49-year-old Dickie – not Richard; his mother had named him after her favourite crooner of the second half of the 20th century, Dickie Valentine – as we munched our burgers at window seats in Cornmarket Street’s McDonalds. He had studied the subject at Manchester University.
“What – umbrellas?” I asked, a hint of sarcasm all too evident. “Yes, Manchester’s the place for rain.”
He smiled politely. For the next quarter of an hour, he picked out examples. Here’s a few of his pronouncements.
First, a small, late middle-aged woman and her much taller male companion. She held the umbrella close to the top of her head, forcing him to stoop uncomfortably and incline his head to get even modest shelter.
Conclusion: a bossy wife used to getting her own way, and a meek husband. Next, a stout young woman, carrying a springer spaniel (no mean feat) under her left arm and holding a brolly in her right. Her two young daughters trailed behind – somewhat wet.
Conclusion: she prefers dogs to kids.
A small elderly man appeared, barely five feet tall, carrying a large golf umbrella. He made no attempt to raise it as taller people passed causing them to leap aside or barge into others.
Conclusion: “a thoughtless old s**, thinking only of himself.
Suddenly a young woman, smartly dressed in tight-fitting, black business suit and wearing the highest of heels came into view. She strode by as if on the catwalk, elegantly carrying an umbrella bearing the name of a city firm of solicitors.
“What about her?” I asked.
“She gorgeous – let’s leave it at that,” he said. So much for scientific research.
RAIN influenced the decision made by a group of retirement-age visitors in Beaumont Street.
“We might as well go in there. There might be something interesting – and we’ll be out of the wet,” said one woman, clearly the self-appointed leader. She was pointing to the Ashmolean Museum.
A passing academic, well stricken in years as the saying goes, read my expression and raised his eyebrows.
“Pearls before swine; pearls before swine,” he muttered while shaking his drenched hair.
OXFORD’S Story Museum in Pembroke Street beckoned. Three young mothers were enjoying a cuppa after taking their seven-month-old babies to the Ugly Duckling story time. Perhaps a bit young for them but I’m sure the mums loved it.
There was a do-and-don’t notice in the courtyard work area. In conclusion it read: ‘Do not smoke – even if you are a dragon.’ Delightful.