It was raining when we set out for the Friday Night Pub Quiz last night so I took one of my hats with me. I have a large collection of hats not because I am eccentric .... On reflection, let me rephrase that. I have a large collection of hats not just because I am eccentric, but because I always fear that if my cochlear implant gets wet I might short or spark or something. So off I went wearing my large brown trilby : a hat with a brim wide enough to keep a small garden-party dry. When I got settled with my pint (for those who care about such things it was a pint of Sam Smith's Sovereign) in our usual cozy corner I had cause to examine my hat only to discover a slight dusting of fine sawdust on the inside! Was something leaking? What other explanation could there be? The last time I did any joinering was in woodwork classes some half a century ago.
In my search for an explanation of this strange phenomenon I remembered a story I had been told many years ago. It concerned a group of friends who worked in a city office. This was way back in the 1960s and one of the friends still came to work each day in a bowler hat. His friends thought this was slightly pretentious behaviour for the swinging sixties and decided to teach him a lesson. They clubbed together and bought two new bowler hats, each one exactly the same as that worn by the friend, except one was a size smaller and one was a size bigger. One day whilst the poor chap was out of the office, they substituted the smaller hat for the one he had arrived in that morning. At the end of the day they watched carefully as he put on the hat, seemed to pause a moment, and with some effort pull it down onto the crown of his head.
The next day they substituted the smaller hat for his normal one and thought they detected a slight look of relief when he came to put it on that evening. The next day they introduced the larger hat and were rewarded by a concerned look on the face of their friend which, of course, was slightly hidden by a low-slung hat. Over the following days they substituted the hats at will and by the end of the week the chap was a nervous wreck, fully believing that he had a dreadful disease that was causing his head to alternately swell and contract. They were all prepared to continue the treatment the next week but their friend never turned up for week : he was on sick leave suffering from "nervous exhaustion".
As I examined the inner lining of my hat and brushed off the small dusting of sawdust I looked around at my friends. Was Dave watching a little too carefully? Did Graham exchange a carefully disguised grin with Jimmy? I am still not sure, but from now on I will keep a careful watch of my head and my friends ... looking for leaks.