Hats off to my faith­ful friend

Canal Boat - - Me & My Boats -

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’

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