Hats off to my faithful friend
Ifind myself trawling back through my burgeoning collection of photos from time to time – as often as not in an attempt to find illustrations for this column – and I can’t help but note that in almost every shot of me at the helm, I am wearing a faded green cap and pair of wraparound shades.
Sadly, not for much longer. My boating cap is nearing the end of its life. I am already in mourning. It is my single favourite piece of boating wear, pulled onto my head as soon as there is the merest hint of sun.
It’s been on my bonce so long that it fits me like a, well like a hat. I was going to say ‘like a glove’ but a glove certainly wouldn’t fit on my head nor probably on yours.
I suppose I am still in a state of denial about its imminent demise but that can’t go on. Already my head looks as though it is wearing something that the local scarecrow has rejected.
The peak of the cap is disintegrating and splitting away from the main hat, the colour is faded, the edges are frayed.
And yet, I clap it onto my head; it becomes a part of me, never threatens to blow away and the peak, bent and twisted from being tugged a thousand and one times, shades my eyes from the low morning or evening sun.
‘Stop rambling; just buy another blasted hat,’ I hear you say.
It isn’t that simple, it really it isn’t. My problem (if it is a problem, and I’m not sure that it is) is that I have an unfeasibly large head.
As a schoolboy, the biggest of caps perched on my head like a bird. I’ve tried on so many caps and none of them does any better than wobble on my crown and wait to be blown off by a zephyr.
This cap is different. Maybe the fact that I bought it in the USA, home of big stomachs and, presumably, big heads, helps. I was, in my past life as a motoring hack and over in sunny California, driving a convertible (someone has to).
The sun was a problem though: it was in my eyes. I rushed into a sports shop and rushed out with a Columbia cap. It’s been ever since, which makes it about 25 years old. A geriatric hat – no wonder it’s going a bit weak at the knees.
Hats now have a universal, and universally bad in my opinion, design. Four segments that come together in a silly bobble at the top.
Not my cap: a mesh sides to keep your brain cool, cotton over the top and even a wee pocket above the brim in the front. I’ve never kept anything in it; I can’t imagine what I’d want to store on my head, but it’s nice to have.
I haven’t mentioned the sunglasses, have I. They’re almost as old.
I usually sit on sunglasses and destroy them within weeks but nearly 25 years ago I splashed out on a fancy pair of Raybans and have managed not to park my bum on them ever since. A glass lens has even dropped out once or twice and miraculously not broken so I’ve popped it back in and carried on.
The rubber bits that go over your ears disintegrated but in the spirit of what is now called ‘upcycling’ I replaced them with some from a Poundland pair of specs.
I could buy a new pair but everything is flimsier and shorter lived than its predecessor so I can’t imagine they’d last another 25 years. I guess I’ll stick with these until I finally do sit on them.
As for the hat, I keep looking for a successor. One day I’ll find it but until then my grubby, frayed and ageing cap will continue to serve me well.
‘My boating cap is nearing the end of its life. I am already in mourning’