The Umbrella

Saving a Souvenir

Dawn Lumley
April 22, 2010


Three visits to Florence ago, we noticed the Duomo umbrella sellers.  'Oh! We said, how touristy.  We aren't like them. We wouldn't be seen dead with one of them! We are just such sophisticated travellers...'


Then, after we returned home to Melbourne, my umbrella needed replacing. I found myself looking for an interesting umbrella design, but they all seemed so boring. Then we remembered the Duomo umbrella and thought, 'well, at least it would have been an interesting design in Melbourne.' that's when I began to regret not having bought one.


So when we came back to Florence on holiday for five months, while going around the markets in the city, we checked out the umbrellas, but there wasn't a Duomo unbrella in sight! Every one of them seemed to have disappeared, replaced by angels and Davids. We gave up and decided we had learnt a lesson about how quickly fashions change.


We came back to Florence a third time and, to our surprise, we saw a Duomo umbrella seller. Had he always been there selling them or did he just have a big storeroom of them, left over from when they were more trendy?  Maybe they were coming back for winter?  Who knows?


Then, certain facts occurred to me.  Firstly, you are no longer allowed to carry umbrellas on planes; secondly, this umbrella was bigger than my bag. 


We searched for a fold up one, but to no avail.  The Uffizi had one advertised: it was not as nice as the one we bought, but it was a fold-up one. But they were out of stock.  Each time we went to the Uffizi we checked, and eventually, we realised that we would never find a smaller fold-up Duomo umbrella.  So we went back to the full size umbrella seller.


I measured the umbrella (I must be one of the few travellers who carry a tape measure, I think).  I thought about what to do and eventually bought a poster roll.  I put in some posters and I wrapped clothes around the umbrella before putting it in to protect it. I made a slit in the lid for the handle and covered the roll with loads of heavy duty tape. I thought I was incredibly resourceful and clever.


At the airport, they packed it with the odd-shaped luggage.


We arrived in Singapore to discover the poster roll had been damaged.  The lid had come off and the metal bottom end had been lost altogether.  What did we do?  Because the umbrella was tightly wrapped, I left it in place and worked out how to fix the roll. Thinking I was being my usual resourceful self, I cut a plastic drink bottle in half and this fitted exactly into the base of the roll.  The hotel provided sticky tape so we retaped it all up again.


We arrived home and I finally opened the roll properly to find a wreck! At some stage between Italy and Singapore something had actually flattened the roll! It must have been flattened to about a few millimetres. The long round central umbrella rod was flat and bent in the middle. I stupidly tried to open it. It opened, but that was all. It had no shape and I couldn't make it close it again.


For nearly a month, it sat, open and sad, on our back verandah.


I called a friend of my son's. He was an engineering whiz and able to fix anything. He looked at it. He fiddled with it. And then he decided it was beyond him. 'Chuck it,' he said, 'It's impossible to fix.'


Now what to do?  With all the trouble it was to get it home, how could I throw out my Duomo umbrella?


I started wandered around shops that sold umbrellas. I remembered that there are cheap, clear plastic ones that have a rounded shape. 'Maybe I could work out how to fix it using one of them?' I thought. Then I found one.  I bought it and then realized it was smaller than what I thought.  When I tried using its frame for the Duomo, the Duomo looked droopy and crinkled, like it had been through an earthquake. It was not a good look. 


I continued to search for the right size and shape frame.  After a while, however, I gave in. It doesn't exist, I decided. 


Then I had one of those light bulb moments when I realized it isn't the frame but the size of the material that determines the final shape.  This probably makes no sense to anyone but me, but it meant that I could go out a buy a cheap umbrella and dismantle it. I then resewed the little knobs at the end of each spoke and the spokes to the material and, lo and behold, it was a Duomo! Not a Duomo as Brunelleschi would have conceived it, but at least recognisably a Duomo.


And there you have it. I cannot believe I spent so much time on an umbrella! All I can say is it had better rain a lot in Melbourne this winter!

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