Sunday, December 1, 2013

Country Mouse travels with her Hat

Country Mouse went to London last week. But this time she went better armed. She wore her Hat. Actually, not only the Hat, but also a black suede coat with a detachable black fox fur collar (bought for 10€ in a brocante) and very shiny black shoes. Sadly, age dictates, these were flatties.

The Hat is a 'Borsalino', bought for heaven knows how much, many years ago in Swaine, Adeney and Briggs, then of St James, London SW1. I bought it after Humphrey Bogart was filmed wearing it and before Harrison Ford gave it world-wide fame in the Indiana Jones films. In the United States these Italian made hats are called 'fedoras'. In TV series they are usually worn by Mafia types, along with the ubiquitous, long camel hair overcoat. (See any episode of 'Law and Order.')

The Hat's influence was first felt at St Astier railway station where Country Mouse, her husand, our daughter/chauffeur and grandson arrived just as the train was drawing in. We were on the bridge over the rails, I waved and blew a kiss at the driver who was already being beseiged by daughter and grandson. The train driver waited for us – most unusual - to board and the conductor did not charge a penalty when we had to buy tickets from him. Indeed we got the standard old age discount which is considerable.

It, (or should I say we?) drew glances for the rest of our journey to London. The Gatwick border control agent asked me to take my Hat off – the Bordeaux agents did not. Obviously leaving is less important than arriving. It made me more conspicuous – without the Hat there were times when I was invisible to taxis, or so it seemed. And it impressed in shops.

But I think the Hat's most important influence was on our return trip. We boarded the dreadful Gatwick Express at Victoria Station and installed ourselves, first class in deference to the Hat, at a table. I nodded at the man with the drinks trolley. He acknowledged my greeting.

Later we bought some drinks from him, there was a confusion about the cost. Then I gave him a pound tip and a handshake. He smiled and disappeared.

Somewhat encumbered by luggage, we got off at Gatwick – only to find the ticket barrier at the top of the escalator, closed. And JP's ticket was on the table in the train carriage. He turned, resigned to going back to find train and carriage. Then we heard a voice, 'sir, sir and madam'! It was the young man from the drinks trolley. Would he have recognised us without my Hat?

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