I once heard a tale of a Tilley hat going through the digestive system of a large mammal and being recovered. Perhaps it wasn’t true, even the most devoted of Tilley wearers is hardly going to search through elephant dung for their hat, but no-one would deny the enduring strength of the hats. Perhaps there is somewhere that refurbishes them; cleans off the odd extraneous marks; removes the spots of rust that have accumulated over the years; applies some starch to put some shape back into the thing.
If there is a Tilley rehabilitation unit, I would like to know, mine looks battered and weary; so battered and weary that I decided to buy a new hat on Saturday with which to venture into mid-Africa. Two Tilleys would have been excessive, a cheap alternative would suffice.
“Did you get a hat?” asked herself.
“Where is it?”
“In the bag”.
“Let’s see it”.
“To see what it looks like, of course”.
I took out the hat.
“It looks like an old man’s hat.”
“What does an old man’s hat look like?”
“Like the one you are wearing”.
“It’s to keep the sun off; it’s not a fashion accessory”.
“It still looks like an old man’s hat”.
“Well, I am 50 next year”.
“It will do”.
“It will do”.
The trouble with the new hat is that it doesn’t fold flat like the Tilley. It doesn’t crumple into a ball that stuffs into your pocket. It doesn’t have tapes like the Tilley that are good for holding the hat on, or tying things closed as the need arises. It doesn’t have a pocket hidden in the crown in which to secrete a plastic bag holding a US $20 bill, to be used in the event of emergencies. It doesn’t have mysterious dirty marks; souvenirs of odd places.
The new hat looks much smarter than the crumpled cream Tilley, lying amongst the slowly gathering pile of bits for next week, but it hasn’t the same character. And what if I put it down somewhere, or left it behind somewhere, or spilt something on it? Or what if it was eaten by large animal? Or, more likely, eaten by a goat?
There is really only one sensible option; I shall take both hats.