Little did I know, when Christopher Hampson and I went in search of the rain-mate 8 years ago (see this old entry), that of all the blog topics that might have inflamed the public interest, this would be the one. No less than five people have left comments about the rain-mate which is a massive figure, when you consider that commenters on my pages average about one a year, and that’s usually someone I know being kind.
The most recent comment made me determined to give it another go, and this time, I may have sussed it. It seems that they may not be called Rain Mates any more, though this 2002 painting of the same name suggests that it’s what many of us still call them. I tried every thing in Google – rain hat, rain hood, rainwear, rain friend and so on – without even a glimmer of success. The missing link, I now know, is the word ‘bonnet’. They’re called rain bonnets, even though bonnet isn’t a word that I or anyone I know uses. The makeupshop sells them for 99p, or you could import them from the Shuairimei Rain Gear Factory (website here). Francophones are certainly excited by the bonnet de pluie de grand-maman – “Ce vieux classique ne démord pas, il colle. Le bonnet de pluie se vend encore”, apparently. You could have fooled me. I have to point out that none of these look like the rain mates I remember – strange, concertina like things with strings, which never quite returned to the magical fold-up state that they began life in. As an alternative, I do like the look of this 50s inflatable sun/rain hat.
The reason I can be bothered to search for rain-mates, is because the limits of the web fascinate me. MSN’s recent attempt to get people thinking about MSN rather than Google, the MSN Search Supremo competition is a classic case of web hype – see what MSN and the web can do for you – here’s a question, now go search for the answer. The quizzmaster feeds you a load of football trivia questions which are pretty easy to answer from the web, even if you know nothing about football.
But this conceals the real problem with searching, which is that you need those darned key words to make any sense of the web, and the individual who’s just bought a computer & internet access doesn’t have partial trivia in their head, they have questions like “What was the name of that guy who was in thingy you know that programme that used to be on in the 70s or 80s looked a bit like your mate from work whatsisname?”. So it is with rain mates: even when you have a precise term in your head, if this term is not shared by the collective cybermind, you’re stuffed. I have to confess, most grudgingly, that the site which repels me most in the world, Ask Jeeves actually came up with ‘rain bonnets’ and ‘pleated rain bonnets’ immediately as possibly search refinements for ‘rain mate’. I should learn to be kinder.