Tag Archives: rain

The life of an umbrella

Being British I know how useful it can be to have an umbrella in your bag, and though Brazil is a lot hotter than England, São Paulo in the summer gets a lot of tropical rain – it may be warmer, but it is just as wet.

For years I had always purchased umbrellas in an emergency. It rained, I wasn’t carrying one, so I would dive into any shop selling them and grab one – usually at a price that had doubled the instant it started raining. But these emergency umbrellas were never all that good.

So the last time I was in London, I invested over £70 in a nice solid German umbrella with a lovely wooden handle at Smith’s – the store near the British museum that has been selling umbrellas for over 100 years.

It was great, the best umbrella I have ever had, but on Tuesday I was on my way out and checked the umbrella basket on my porch only to find it had been snatched – someone had reached into the porch at the front of my house to steal my umbrella! It was pouring, so I had to grab my wife’s ‘London 2012‘ umbrella and use that to get to my meeting – a very masculine shade of pink…

When my taxi arrived at the meeting venue, I left the London 2012 umbrella in the back of the car – so I had my umbrella stolen and I lost one soon after. My wife bought me a cheap black one the next day just in case I lose it again.

The thing that is really annoying is that the opportunist who stole my umbrella, just because it was raining, probably has no idea that they have a handmade European umbrella costing about 15 times (over R$200 for an umbrella is outrageous) what a regular umbrella in Brazil would cost. At least I had an appreciation of it every time I used it and remembered visiting Smith’s and choosing that particular one.

It’s a good thing I am visiting London again next week. I’ll replace the London 2012 umbrella, but I’m undecided about getting another expensive one. If I bring it back to Brazil with me, I might leave it in the taxi from the airport…

James Smith and Sons - umbrella shop

Brazil Floods

Earlier this week, São Paulo was in complete chaos. Over a dozen people died because of the rain and subsequent flooding of the city. Now Rio de Janeiro has suffered more rain in one day than normally falls in the whole of January and the city has seen over 300 people killed, mainly in mudslides.

It’s an absolute tragedy, but how can so many hundreds of people die all in a day just because of the rain?

Well, most of the people who died in mudslides were not living in the expensive apartments lining Copacabana beach, they were in the mountain towns outside the city. But mountain towns would expect mudslides when heavy rains come, and this area of Brazil usually gets heavy rains around the new year.

So even though these rains are heavier than usual, how can so many people have died in a single day? One of the answers may lie in greater control over planning permission, controlling who can construct homes and where to a greater degree. If planning is left to be just a bit of a free-for-all, once you get away from the major city centres, and building without controls takes place in remote areas with a strong risk of flooding, then these tragedies will be the end result.

But if the government starts cracking down on planning and control over land and building works, then what would happen to the favelas that surround Rio or remote mountain towns where regulations are only lightly applied? Those people didn’t ask permission to erect a shack on the side of a mountain, and they almost certainly don’t pay tax to the federal government, yet the authorities get called in to save them when rain causes their homes to collapse.

It’s a Catch-22 situation. Some people are too poor to engage in the controlled and authorised market for property, yet building without controls leads to this kind of disaster.

The answer lies in greater control of building in flood-prone areas, but that also requires some support and compassion from the government. Social housing programmes that offer cheap, but safe living conditions are needed, but how?
Rain in São Paulo