Here's one hat that I haven't given away. It was Joyce Grenfell's birdwatching hat, and lived in Norfolk for when she visited her friends there. I think she bought it in the U.S.A.
I used to use it as a work hat, and when I wasn't kicking up dust, it hung on a peg from a beam in my workshop. One Spring, I found that a wren had made a beautiful nest in it, so it stayed on the peg until the chicks had hatched.
I arrived one day to find four fluffy little chicks perched all around me, and they stayed for a few days, watching what I did with bored expressions on their faces until the mother coaxed them outside. They spent about a week watching me from various perches the yard until they went off to forge their own lives. Joyce would have loved that.
I found one of the eggshells the other day, and you would not believe how absolutely tiny it is.
I think that this hat was made for hunting, and since Americans use the word 'hunting' for what we call 'shooting' (at birds with shotguns), Joyce G. put it to almost the correct use, but substituted binoculars for a gun.
Normally, bird-dogs - or hunting dogs - are spaniels, but this Daschund below is so well equipped for the job, that he has been given it anyway.
We are having very strange weather at the moment, and it seems to be set like this until the end of the month.
The day begins crisply with an East wind and brilliant sunshine, then gradually the cockerel swings through 180 degrees, the sky goes dark before sundown and the wind increases in speed by about 30 miles per hour, throwing the rain horizontally at the Christmas street decorations. It has been like that for three nights now.
I cannot help thinking that this has something - if not everything - to do with the ceiling of the Apollo Theatre coming down on the packed house last night. Now they may never know how it finishes.
On the same principle as the butterfly causing a hurricane but wafting its wings in a Brazilian jungle, or the superstitious one of always taking an umbrella out with you when you leave the house, it may be something to do with the fact that - on a whim - I gave my hat away to a pretty girl the other night, just before this weather pattern set in.
All she did was pick it up and put it on her head, but when I saw how much better it looked on her than it did on me, I insisted she take it, and I have been arriving home with a wet head ever since.
This is the hat which was made in Ireland, sent to Chicago, bought by me and flown to England - at far greater expense than it would have been to get one direct from the maker.
Every time I looked in the mirror when wearing it, I just reminded myself of one of the more disturbing Hitchcock characters, but when she put it on, the effect was instantaneously Audrey Hepburn.
This isn't the first time this year that I have altered whole weather patterns by giving a hat away. We were having a very mediocre Summer up until the point that I gave my cherished Panama to my cherished German mate, and watched him drive off home in it and his open-topped M.G. two-seater.
When I put it on, I looked like... well, you can make your own mind up about that, but when he put it on, he looked like an amiable, German archeologist from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
So I spent the whole Summer with the sun beating down on my mercifully hairy head, and I am set to spend the rest of the winter with the rain and snow doing the same thing.
I still have not given up on finding the Rathebone ideal above though, but I know of a website forum of around 50 American people who are all searching for the same hat. That forum was last contributed to around 8 years ago.
After I put up that thing about not blaming your parents for all your inherited foibles which you haven't got around to owning, I remembered reminiscing with my mother in the later years about memorable aspects of my childhood.
Justice - or the lack of it - is very important to children, even - or especially - very small ones who can hardly talk.
Sometimes, when my mother was upset about some secret thing between her and my father, or just cracking under the strain of trying to keep a huge house running on a meagre income, she would often take it out on me. In the later years, it was usually me because - being the youngest by far - I was the only one left at home.
There was one particular event which is still so painful for me to recall, that I truly believe it coloured the way I dealt with my relationships with women for many years to come. I won't dig it up now, but suffice to say that I know that it hurt her to remember it as much as it hurt me at the time, and she was quite shameful about it right up to the end.
Although these outbursts were quite rare, they stuck in my memory for obvious reasons, and when I brought them up in the adult years to come, she would say, "Why is it you only remember the bad things about your upbringing?"
She had a point.
When did you ever hear any successful person who rose from 'nothing', thank their parents for early help along the way that wasn't in the form of finance?
It takes a lot of other people to make a 'self-made man'.
I used to be one of those people who just blurted out whatever I thought about someone, but I am getting a little better these days.
I blamed my mother - who was the queen of insensitive comments - for this trait, but I decided long ago that you cannot go through life - even early adult life - continually blaming your upbringing for your behaviour, let alone as you start to enter old age.
Sometimes saying what you really think does some good, though.
I had a good friend who was having a bit of a crisis aged about 40, and she would come round almost every night and end up weeping all over our kitchen table. She had good reason to blame her mother for the way she turned out, but after a while, her visits became extremely taxing. I discovered that my well of sympathy was not bottomless after all, and we both began to hanker for a normal, peaceful evening after about 2 weeks of her emotional outpourings.
One night, she sobbed and spluttered out the same question one too many times, and so I gave her the correct answer.
"What am I going to do?", she wailed.
"I'll tell you what you are going to do," I said, "You are going to PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!"
She stopped blubbing for a few seconds and looked at us thoughtfully through rheumy eyes before saying, "That's exactly what my psychoanalyst said after my last visit."
And he was being payed for it!
Next time she came round, she was back to her old, cheerful self. I could have saved her a lot of money years ago.
I have just received a notification from my friends and fellow Bathonians, Kirsten Elliot and Andrew Swift, about the Seven Stars pub in Bristol, which played a key role in the abolition of the Slave Trade, upon which Bristol became immensely wealthy - which is why I had never heard of this pub in this context before. (I hope you don't mind me linking it here, K & A).
You can read the entire article by clicking on this link to Awash with Ale, and I won't precise it here because it is not very long, but it is very well written and there would be no point in abbreviating it.
You see, good can come from the habitual drinking of beer.
Weaver reminded me that Alexei Sayle (a British, Russian-Jewish stand-up comedian and actor with a Marxist upbringing) said that all statues of Lenin looked as though he was hailing a taxi. This was part of his routine, and he would stride forward with his hand outstretched to prove the point.
There is that famous story of the British diplomat's little boy who - when in Khartoum - would be taken to the park every day to look at the massive statue of General Gordon riding a camel.
On the day that the family were due to leave because the diplomat had been posted somewhere else, the boy asked to be taken to the park to say goodbye to Gordon for the last time.
His mother took him there, and he said an emotional goodbye. As they were leaving the park, the boy became thoughtful. Eventually he asked his mother, "Mummy, who is that man sitting on Gordon?"
Having survived the outbreak of pox in the 18th century, this house on Barton Street stood too close to The Francis Hotel one night in 1942 and has the scars to prove it. The pink stone around the lower, central window is the effect of the fire which also gutted it that night.
I'm sure you know why six windows are blocked up, but I'll tell you anyway. The government - as keen as ever to milk the populace for revenue - decided to tax properties on the basis of how many windows they had, and the populace - as keen as ever to avoid as much taxation as possible - filled as many as they could with the local stone.
When they abolished 'the light tax' as a bad job, most people unblocked the windows, but a lot still remain, with recesses ready to take wooden sash-boxes. I unblocked a few some years ago, and it felt as though I was destroying a little bit of history.
Just past the woman with the shopping bags, there are three adjoining streets named 'Quiet Street', 'John Street' and 'Wood Street'. John Wood (the foremost architect of Georgian Bath) was at a council meeting one night, and anxious to see the business of the naming of his three new terraces seen out, so shouted, "What are we going to call my three new streets?"
The chairman shouted back, "Quiet, John Wood!"
There is a campaign being fought here right now to name a street in Bath, 'Nelson Mandela Street'. Here we bloody go again.
There is something a bit North Korean about naming streets after heroes, but at least we wait until the hero is dead before we start changing the names of airports and railway stations.
I am so glad that the stupid practice of putting up statues of dignitaries has gone out of fashion. I think the last one to be commissioned here was of Margaret Thatcher, and you would be hard-pressed to find an uglier piece of scrap metal lying around in a public place, waiting to be vandalised or melted down.
I don't think that there has ever been a statue of a human ever put up that does not look instantly ridiculous, especially with a pigeon perched on its head and white shit streaming down its face, and the effect is further enhanced if the hero is sitting upon a prancing horse.
Whenever I have been on horseback, I always felt a bit ridiculous and self-concious, and they were even real horses. The most extreme form of public humiliation used to be being forced to ride a horse through the streets back to front, and I don't know why this little detail should have made it so much more humiliating.
As I write this, I am looking out of the window at a rather fine statue of Queen Victoria, carved out of Portland stone by an Italian man who lived and worked in Bath at the turn of the 19th century. She has the characteristic, stern expression on her chubby, regal face.
A few years ago, some students climbed up and gave her a red plastic clown's nose, and now I cannot look at her in the same light again. Nothing is sacred.