Often it is the sideshows of great events that are most revealing about the nature of some of those attending them and so it was last night in Rome: As ecclesiastical history unfolded in the rain, spectators' umbrellas were refolded when they were asked to put them down so that everybody in the crowd could have a chance to see the new Pope. Italians can, at times, be among the most disorderly people in the world but at others, they will comply surprisingly quietly with a reasonable request and thus it was in St Peter's Square while the world looked on.
This got me thinking about umbrellas and I remembered that, when I first came here, it was difficult to actually buy one: they are not normally sold in supermarkets as they are in Britain and, if you couldn't run to a designer one, your choice was very limited. Those that were on sale at a reasonable price were either flimsy or had prongs that did not tuck in at the top, making them a menace to those padded raincoats so beloved of Italian women in winter. Now better specimens are on sale in more shops, though rarely in supermarkets.
I've never really got on with umbrellas, I must admit, preferring a hood or my trusty Cardiffian hat, so when it does rain here I am often asked where my umbrella is. This is a question which only someone addicted to their car would ask on a windy day for, as every Brit knows, rain and umbrellas do not mix. And when hailstones the size of eggs fall, as they did today in Modica, no umbrella would last very long. [Of course, I was the only person out and about in such weather once again.]
A beach parasol is known as an ombrellone or "big umbrella" and in the summer we were treated to the ombrellone strike. As I wrote then, Simi has her own version:
Earlier, I searched for umbrella quotes but the only one I liked, and which rather fits my mood at the moment, is this:
The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella:
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just's umbrella.
- Lord Bowen, quoted in Walter Sichel's Sands of Time.
My favourite Sicilian proverb about rain, by the way, is,
Cca çiovi supra ô vagnatu - Here it rains on the person who is already soaked [the implication being that troubles do not come singly, a premise with which I concur].
Does anyone know if there's still an umbrella repair stall in Cardiff Market?
Flanagan and Allen - The Umbrella Man
My favourite film featuring umbrellas is Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and I cry enough to make an umbrella necessary every time!
As it's nearly Easter, here's an umbrella song from Easter Parade:
Finally, here's a bit of inconsequential fun:
Enzo Jannacci - L'ombrello di mio fratello
If it's raining in your life at the moment, I hope a friend with an umbrella comes along soon!