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There may be parents of tots who'd fancy the possibility of having telescopic ones so that they can fold them and put them away in their shopping bags when they're too nerve-wracking in front of the supermarket till, for example; alas, this review offers no consolation for them. The German word for tot is Knirps which is also the brand name of the best known telescopic umbrella in this country and the topic of my review.
Considering that it has always rained and that the sun has always shone since human beings have lived on this planet it's surprising that they didn't invent the umbrella as we know it much earlier. We can imagine Fred and Wilma Flintstone (exchange for Adam and Eve if you're a creationalist) putting large rhubarb leaves on their heads when the weather was too extreme either way, but the idea of putting a stick underneath came much later and mankind had to wait even longer for the invention of a collapsible umbrella.
When you think of an umbrella, you think of rain, don't you? The first umbrellas were not meant to keep rain off people's heads, though, the word is derived from the Latin word 'umbra' which comes from the Greek word 'ombros' meaning shade. Another word is parasol which is also of Latin origin meaning literally '(to) shield from the sun'.
To do so was a prerogative of the upper strata of society, reliefs and pictures from Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt show slaves holding an umbrella (I'm going to use only this term from now on) over the monarch's or God's head in a procession. In Ancient Greek and in Rome it had already moved down to the mortals, fashionable ladies sported an umbrella when going for a walk in order to protect their complexion from excessive sunshine (only peasants were sun-tanned then). They didn't always carry the umbrella themselves, it was a post of honour among maidservants to hold it over their mistresses. It was considered effeminate for a man to carry one.
The Chinese had the idea to make the umbrella collapsible, the first specimen dates to the year 21 BC. The first Chinese umbrellas were made of silk and later of paper which was waxed and lacquered to repel water. In that part of the world the use of umbrellas was also confined to the higher classes at first and merely ceremonial, it is known that on one occasion twenty-four umbrellas were carried *in front of* the Emperor when he went hunting.
Can you imagine that the Western world got to know the umbrella only in the 16th century? From the net: At first it was considered only an accessory suitable for women. Then the Persian traveller and writer, Jonas Hanway (1712-86), carried and used an umbrella publicly in England for thirty years, and he popularized umbrella use among men. English gentleman often referred to their umbrellas as a "Hanway". The early European umbrellas were made of wood or whalebone and covered with alpaca or oiled canvas. The artisans made the curved handles for the umbrellas out of hard woods like ebony, and were well paid for their efforts."
Fast forward to the year 1928 when the German Hans Haupt invented the telescopic Knirps umbrella, he found walking with a walking stick *and* holding a long umbrella at the same time rather inconvenient, whereas one can walk well with a walking stick and carry a small folded umbrella under one's arm or in one's pocket. The Knirps firm claims to be one of the biggest and to produce the most famous telescopic umbrellas worldwide.
Nowadays telescopic umbrellas can be bought everywhere for little money, most of them are no-name products made in Asia with a short life span. I've had some of these myself but have been converted to buy the real thing after another one gave up the ghost. In the end many cheap umbrellas are more expensive than one expensive one. The Knirps I've got is the Fiber T1 Manual, it weighs 242 g, is 54 cm ( ~21'') long and 24.5 cm (~ 9.6'') short when folded and 97 cm (~ 38'') in diameter when open. According to the product information by Knirps its handles are rubber-coated, the anodized frame is in silver colour, the Carbon fibre components are hard-wearing, the canopy, which can be got in 24 different colours and patterns, is made of high-quality light polyester and micro fibre and it is storm-proof.
I go to work (school) with a rucksack and usually carry my Knirps with me, it's so light that I've already forgotten about it on several occasions, it has happened that I've taken an umbrella with a long stick with me (we've also got two of those) when I saw that it was raining because I didn't realise I had the Knirps in my rucksack.
I don't treat it very well but it doesn't seem to mind; there are some rules you should follow to extend a Knirps' life span: before opening it you should shake it in order to free the fabric from the ribs and when closing it, you should always push the stick and the handle, never the ribs so that they don't deform. The last advice the Knirps people give is to always leave the umbrella open after use until the canopy is dry and then put it back in the case. Should you ever visit an Italian family at home *do not do this in the flat*, the women will shriek and talk about bad luck !
My Knirps costs 34.50 Euro (~ 27,30 GBP) in its country of origin, I've got a two-year guarantee on it. If you don't find Knirps umbrellas in your local umbrella shop, you can turn to
KNIRPS UK AND EIRE, SKORA LTD.
Tel.: +44 20 7631 4055
Fax: +44 20 7631 4056
53, Chandons Place
London WC2N 4HS
Now let's look forward to the next shower!