Tag Archives: rain-mates

Rain-mates! At last!

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For all the many hundreds of people who’ve come across my site because of my posts about rain-mates this is for you:  Bubble Betty™, “a vintage product brought back to life for you, the 21st century gal, straight from the darkest corner of your Grandmothers shopping trolley.”

If you don’t know what I’m on about, I’ll explain: over the last few years, more people have come across my site through the search term ‘rain-mate’ than any other route (see posts about  rain-mates here). I probably get a hit via rain-mates every day. Sometimes I have fantasies of giving up my job and importing rain-mates or getting them manufactured, because if my blog hits are anything to go buy, there’s a world waiting for the re-appearance of the rain-mate out there.

Good luck Betty!

Snow and rainmates

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Since installing some site-stats software on my blog, I’ve been able to see how and why people end up at my site: by checking out the stats page, I can see what magical collection of search terms someone put into Google (or whatever search engine) to arrive at a page on my site. Some of the searches are real Googlewhacks, since I write about such arcane stuff most of the time.

But now that I’ve been looking at the stats for a month, it amazes me that in all the five-and-a-half years that I’ve been blogging, the only topic that has consistently caused any interest, if you judge ‘interest’ by people leaving comments, or searching regularly for a particular term, it’s rain-mates, and snow.

Believe it or not, over the last month, someone has visited my site every day to read about rain-mates. I am considering giving up music and becoming a rain-mate importer.

Rainmates and Coconut Scrapers revisited

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rain_small.jpgNot a lot of people leave comments on my site; in fact, hardly anyone. So I know that I must have hit on a topic of real concern to the public out there when I get more than two comments on the same thing. The only items to have drawn such attention are
a) Where can you buy a rainmate? and
b) How do you scrape a coconut?
As someone has just posted another comment to the coconut thread, I thought it might be a good opportunity to (belatedly) show the latest sighting of a rainmate-like hood. This was in Woolworth’s in Wimbledon, on Boxing Day 2006.

Meanwhile, more sightings of coconut scrapers are needed, so if you’ve seen one, please post details.

The Rain-mate revisited

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bonnetdepluie.jpg 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.

Who makes rain-mates?

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This rain-mate business (see below) is beginning to really bother me. How could something that helped define a generation just disappear, or rather, not appear at all on the net? Interesting that the web-searcher’s bible, the tutorial at Berkeley on finding things on the net, has been updated to include a recommendation to use Teoma as a ‘second opinion’ search enginge (after Google). As it happens, Teoma did bring up more relevant sites on the rain-mate than Google, including one which tells me that it was invented in 1950.

As with kazoos, please let me know (via comments) if your local shop sells rainmates. The next shoppoleth is the eyebath. Those included with Optrex products don’t count – it has to be an off-the-shelf, stand-alone eyebath.

Theremins and Shoppoleths

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I am the first person to celebrate the wonderfulness of the web, and the fact that you can buy almost anything from anywhere at the touch of a button, but I wonder sometimes if shopping in the real world is suffering as a result.

Way back in 1997, Chris Hampson and I wondered where old ladies buy rain-mates (scroll down the page to find the answer), and now Daniel Jones and I have a similar problem with the Kazoo. You can forgive the wonderful Macari’s in Charing Cross Road for being fresh out of them, because a) they sell everything else including three types of theremin [cherubim, seraphim and theremin?], b) their shop is as much fun as their website, and c) one of the guys behind the counter is in the Return of the Jingleberries. Likewise, Foote’s in Golden Square get my vote for having an Acme Siren Whistle in stock, and the two guys in the percussion department have an endearingly postmodern attitude to music and salesmanship which worked a treat on me (who else would ask you if you’re sure you wouldn’t like a duck-warbler to go with that siren whistle?).

Harrods: No Kazoos There
But what do you make of the fact that you can’t get a kazoo in the whole of Denmark Street, where po-faced guitar-snobs tell you you need to go to Chalk Farm for ‘that comedy stuff’? Or that Harrods, once famous for stocking everything you could ever want, not only don’t sell them (in music or toys), but can’t tell you where to get one either?

Hunting the shoppoleth
Hence, I’m coining the word ‘shoppoleth‘, (from shop and shibboleth), meaning any item whose disappearance from your local shop signifies the rise of the virtual world at the expense of the real one. Likewise, if you can buy a shoppoleth near you, it signifies that everything is all right with the world for a bit. An extreme example would be the cobbler’s last that I saw in Woolworths (of all places) in Berlin in 1993. If you can buy a last at your local shop, rejoice.

Kazoo Watch
Meanwhile, if you live in the UK and your local shop sells kazoos, please add their name to the roll of honour (comments) below. Likewise, any more sites like Miserable Melodies which features such things as the Temple City Kazoo Orchestra playing Whole Lotta Love are welcomed.