Finding Fulton

Exactly how do I come to be here, striding towards Pulteney Bridge on what is perhaps the most gloriously bright day that we have enjoyed in a while, carrying, rather awkwardly, in my right hand, an umbrella. Under a spotless blue sky, not a trace of a cloud, not a hint of moisture, not even a whiff of a snowflake, despite it feeling crisp enough to snow; myself, with, as I say, an umbrella. A gentleman’s black umbrella, a robust wooden-handled Fulton Huntsman to be more precise; not as fine a specimen as the one my grandfather used to use, but still decent enough to unfurl and raise with confidence on even the stormiest day. But there is no excuse for carrying an umbrella on a day as fresh and dry as today has proven to be; and showed every sign of being from its outset. Which is probably why I am holding it neither by the handle and swinging it like an officer’s cane, nor by its furled midsection as if it were a deliberate purchase from a charity shop or perhaps a gift intended for a friend or relative. No, I am carrying it upright against my side, as if I am ashamed of it and by extension ashamed of myself; as if with my whole demeanour I am making a clear declaration to all of my fellow pedestrians. Namely: “I didn’t steal it; it does belong to me. I am aware that it’s a cold day, not a damp day. It’s a long story and secretly I’m very pleased to be re-united with my old friend, but I realise that I already look a little odd, a little out of place, out of step with the rest of you, but if I express my gratitude by whistling a tune or stepping out with jauntiness then I would be raising even more eyebrows and perhaps worse.”
So, yes, here is a clue: “re-united with my old friend”; what on earth is going on? Well, to be frank, this is a relationship that goes back a long way and is far more complex and turbulent than one would normally expect from the simple possession of what is essentially a domestic object. I adopted, yes, let’s say “adopted” this umbrella, Fulton, some years ago and have employed him with care for my own comfort and convenience and not a little respectability which I can ill afford to do without, being that my general bearing can be tending more towards vagrancy than decency. The unorthodox start to our relationship caused no concern to either of us initially as I treated him as if he were my own, and had come legitimately into my possession. Last year Fulton and I were separated for the first time by my carelessly leaving him on a bus, but were re-united soon afterwards thanks in large part to the acuity of another chap who appreciated Fulton’s fine quality. He had in fact, secreted him behind a filing cabinet and fully intended to take him home; if he hadn’t overheard me bewailing my loss then he would most certainly have done so. But on Tuesday of this week, it seemed as if we were doomed to be separated forever, and two whole days passed, days in which there was rarely a moment in which I didn’t feel regret for leaving Fulton behind, and worse still, guilt for not returning to retrieve him as soon as I realised that he was not by my side, for I knew exactly where we had parted company. When I returned to Henrietta Park today, I had steeled myself to accept that it was highly unlikely that Fulton would still be where I left him, but as I got closer, as I opened the wrought iron gate of the George V Memorial Garden and walked over to where I had been sitting and eating my lunch on Tuesday, and I saw him hanging from the top inner cross-spar of the pergola that surrounded the pond, I felt ashamed for all my callous rationalisations of the past two days. I gently lowered him from the spar and wiped off the thick layer of frost that had formed over his wooden handle with my gloved hands and, looking around at the benches under the pergola to see if I needed to explain my actions and finding myself alone, I smiled broadly and felt blessed by good fortune. I crossed to the sunny side of the street and proceeded to walk back towards town and the bus that would take us home. Only then ,when I rejoined the main thoroughfare, did I realise how unusual I must appear, being equipped with a full-size gentleman’s umbrella on a day such as this; a day for overcoats and scarves and gloves and the sort of hats that you might only have to don a handful of times in an English year, but certainly not an umbrella. Hence the slight incongruence of my body language, posture, gait and pace: altogether striking a discordant tone with every step in this most civilised of cities. Fulton had every right to withhold the air of respectability which he usually bestowed upon me: I had after all deserted him and left him to the mercy of the elements and the wildlife and the civic authorities, not to mention any passing citizen who might take a shine to Fulton and decide that he deserved a better home, a better and more careful owner. I’m not entirely sure that Fulton has forgiven me; he has assumed a somewhat sullen stance in the hall-stand, and I can’t help feeling that he might be sowing unrest amongst the shoes and coats and hats and scarves that surround him, with his heart-rending tale of abandonment and betrayal. It’s getting harder to squeeze past them all to leave the house; in fact, leaving my room and descending the stairs is almost more than I can manage. The shuffling, the brushing, the stirring: all whispers of plotted revenge I am sure of it.

al 19/01/17

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11 comments on “Finding Fulton”

  1. It was guarded by a robin stuffed with avocado.

    • This is of course very true Jim, but was not included in the story for contextual reasons. There may be a sequel however in which Fulton returns to the park and reacquaints himself with the friends he made whilst he was there. This could be entitled Fulton Alone or Fulton Goes Feral perhaps?

      • I’m a little worried that Fulton is turning into the equivalent of Wilson in Cast Away. It may be that I talk to the animals, but you’re developing a relationship with meteorological accoutrements which suggests you need to get out more, preferably on a day when it’s not raining.

  2. I loved this. This gave me hope for 2017. I would like this to be the year that I am reunited with old friends, blessed by good fortune and at peace with finding myself awkwardly sometimes, all whilst being sure that there are definitely some uncomfortable overtones of the past – I like to think that this is a good omen. Thank you 🙂

    • I am very pleased to hear that you find inspiration in this story. Many of us want 2017 to be so much better than before. Taking responsibility for our actions and working towards a more compassionate society are resolutions that we should never give up on, no matter how many times we fail. Or maybe we should all just be more careful with our umbrellas and not take them so much for granted.

  3. Hurrah for Fulton as without him (it is bound to be a ‘him’ as it is a man’s umbrella) we wouldn’t have such an engaging story! xxx

    • Fulton’s gender alignment may not be quite so straightforward. A future instalment entitled “Fulton takes a walk on the wild side” may surprise you!


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