Thursday, 20 January 2011

A man with a hat

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Oh, there were so many things I was going to write about today. There are peculiar doings in the House of Lords, and The Ugliest Building in the World has just been opened in London (flats from six million quid), and everyone is discussing what exactly President Obama said to the Chinese, and I haven't even talked about the coup in Tunisia. But actually, all I can really say is that: my friend The Man in the Hat came and mended my windscreen wipers.

I see that, as a world event, this does not rank with coups and diplomacy and filibusters, but in my tiny world, it was HUGE.

I don't know why I call people things. My father had a terrible weakness for nicknames; he could never just call a person Jane or John. I have slightly inherited this tendency. My friend is a man, and he favours a hat; so he is The Man in the Hat. The hat has come, in my mind, to indicate mystical powers. You see, this person knows how to Do Things.

I am in great awe of people who can do things. I can type at 80 words a minute, make soda bread, ride a horse, and construct a reasonably decent sentence. That's about it. You know all about the organisational failure, but the thing that almost shames me more is that I have absolutely no capacity mend anything. I can just about darn a sleeve if you stand over me and stare with menaces, but that's it. Any mechanical problems, boiler troubles, dodgy pipes, and I am quite lost. I have to ask someone.

So, my windscreen wipers broke, and I of course did nothing about it, just prayed that it would not rain, which it kindly did not. But this weekend I must go to the Borders, and God knows what weather they might have there. You cannot negotiate the A90 without wipers. I called every garage in the area. It turns out that January is when all cars in Scotland go wrong by law, because no one could fit me in until some time in April. The man at Kwik Fit actually laughed when I asked if he dealt with wipers.

In despair, and feeling quite stupid that I had left it too late, I diffidently called the MITH. Sure, he knew something about windscreens and their wipers. He arrived, with his dog. He gazed at the car. He produced a complete set of spanners and socket wrenches. (At this point I grew slightly hysterical with admiration and had to make jokes to cover up the fact.) There was something about fuses. I am such an idiot I had not even really realised that cars have fuses. A special implement was produced to removed frozen leaves and conkers from the vital area. The socket wrenches were deployed. There was a minor moment of panic when the entire motor seemed to have died, but this was to do with the bonnet and excellent German engineering. And then, like a big fat miracle, the windscreen wipers slowly and elegantly returned to action, as if they had never been away.

Also, do you know what was really nice about this? I did not have to go and get patronised by an official garage man because I am a female who does not know about cars, thus confirming every stupid stereotype about humans with ovaries. The Man in the Hat knows that I do not know about cars because the subject does not interest me enough, not because I have the XX chromosome. It will also be a perfect piece of compound barter: he mends my car, and I shall make him the best loaf of soda bread he ever ate.

But most of all, it was a triumph of determination and optimism. He said: yes, I'll have a look. I thought: it will never work, I shall have to walk to Peebles. He said: there you are, all done. I thought: bloody hell, it's a MIRACLE. It's a bit like someone just gave me a whole new car.

Well, as I keep saying: it really is the little things.

As for pictures of the day: there was sun, and frost. Everything looked ravishing, with the winter light dazzling about the place:











The ladyships, as you know, look divine even on the drabbest day, but with the sun out the beauty reaches a whole other level:


(I think she is doing a sort of Reservoir Dog face today.)


(Whereas this one was going more for the slightly quizzical.)

The Duchess even deigned to do an action shot, because she knows the fans like it:


And then there is the hill, from a slightly different angle than usual:


Talking of the hill: regular readers will know I have become slightly obsessed with taking a picture of it EVERY SINGLE DAY so that the Scottish year may be recorded in hill form. What I did not factor in is that sometimes I have to go away. There will be No Hill for three whole days. I am trying very hard to tell myself that this does not ruin the entire project. Latitude is the thing, I tell myself.

Anyway: there shall now be a break from the blog until Monday. I am going to go away and see old friends and drink things and almost certainly talk far too much, at high speed, and not even look at my computer.

Have a lovely weekend.


  1. My Father used to make names for people just like yours - now the Englishman does the same. I hope this doesn't mean I married my Father (as it were).

    We call a quite famous musical man The Prat in a Hat, but I think we got that from Radio One. The joy of having once had teenagers. I limit myself to things like Doctor Dishy (aren't most male doctors really handsome these days, or is it just my age?)

    I digress.

    No, it will not matter that that the mountain goes un-photographed; I'm sure it'll hold off any seasonal changes until your return.

    Have a great weekend.


  2. I know a Man with a Hat (and a Dog) who lays the most intricately beautiful italianate paving I've ever seen, and a carpenter who makes the most beautiful windows, kitchens and 'proper' beech, cherry, walnut furniture. I'm in awe of them both, and they are both great company and fun to drink red wine with.
    I'm very grateful for them, because I have a house to renovate this year.

    Have a lovely long weekend!

  3. This was so funny I had to read it aloud to my husband.
    Have a lovely week-end.

  4. Dear Tania, I can't believe 1 Hyde Park or 100 Knightsbridge or whatever it's called got planning permission. I think it's an ugly building.

    I love nicknames, much more fun! Have a fabulous break. It sounds just the thing xx

  5. Everyone needs a Man in the Hat and I'm so pleased he was available to get those wipers sorted before your southern adventure. It sounds fun.

    I have to say, I'm falling in love with the countryside around your house. I'm especially smitten with the stone bridge and sentinel-like stand of large trees. Glorious.

  6. Thanks as usual for an interesting start to my day - the dog has vomited all over - and after cleaning that up it was really nice to get to your post! I like the photographs (as usual) especially the dry stone wall. So difficult to find people to do that kind of wall now.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

  7. Whoops, that would be: Man with a Hat.

  8. (a) You can do lots of things, Tania. Most of them involving a sublime control of the English language and your camera. More importantly, you do them. And the rest of us have happier days as a result.

    (b) There are lots of things that I have no interest in but could do if I wanted to. But I don't. One, like you, is The Car. Another is How the Computer Works (as opposed to How to Use It, which I'm rather good at). Another is Gardening. I love having a tidy garden with pretty things in it, but am abysmal at actually DOING it. So Andy-the-garden comes (he was here this morning, pruning a bush that had gone mad, and the robin sat three feet away and GLARED at him.

    (c) My best friend's husband calls me many things, depending on his mood. One of them (an inspired nickname based on where I now live) is The Norfolk Broad; another is that he says I'm a GALMI. It stands for Get A Little Man In. I'm rather proud of that as a moniker.

    PS My husband is usually known as The Rev. It's less his title and more a term of affection.

  9. Resevoir Dog shot is perfection. No hill for three days?? How about a remote controlled camera on a tripod? ;-) L x


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