Julbo Dolgan Sunglasses

[Short of time? Read the Haiku review instead]

Julbo Dolgan - a pair of clunky words that appear to owe no affiliation to any language set. They don't sound Germanic, are too rounded to be Austro-Asiatic, and they certainly aren't Romantic. Mind you, I could imagine a husky Slavic tongue whispering that in my ear on a starlit night: "Julbo Dolgan, darling". And what of their meaning? Could it be a formal Martian greeting? An inedible root found only on the Siberian steppe? An incurable Kx'a disease? Had I not owned several I would never have guessed that the words describe a pair of sunglasses, and a good pair at that. Julbo is the brand, French no less, and Dolgan the frame style. A third descriptor is to assign a particular lens e.g. category 3, category 4, polarised etc. The Dolgans are designed for mountaineering, but Julbo also make riding-, running- and sailing-specific models, as well as the usual add-on lifestyle stuff. The lenses can be polarised, photochromic, reflective, anti-fog, x-ray, death ray or bulletproof. You think I'm joking? The NXT polymer they use was originally developed for US military helicopter bulletproof windscreens, although if I had a bulletproof, windproof screen, I'd probably call it a windproof bulletscreen to emphasise its most impressive aspects.

They may not crack under fire from a 9mm slug, but they do still scratch. My first pair ended up so scratched I could have worn them DJ-ing dance festivals as my alter ego - DJ Scratch. They'd had a hard life though, until I left them on an aeroplane on Reunion Island. I recall leaping (athletically) over a ditch once while trail running in Cape Town. The heavy landing jolted them off my head to fall directly underneath my next footstep, the force of which popped the lens out like an unfortunate mobster with his head in a vice (see Martin Scorsese's Casino). However, I just snapped it back in (would Joe Pesci's victim have been so fortunate) and they were right as rain. Try that with your Police Aviators. I'll stop short of claiming they restore lost sight, but that puts me in mind of an incident on Stromboli, in the Aeolian Islands off the north coast of Sicily. Stromboli is an active volcano, the tip of which rises from the Tyrrhenian Sea to produce a beautifully conical exploding island with a population of around 500 hardy souls. My girlfriend and I found a crooked guesthouse with oodles of 'character', and a short exchange with the wizened crone at reception revealed three things: she was blind, she was drunk, and she was blind drunk. I couldn't tell whether the blindness was congenital or the result of drinking neat ethanol (so would I if I lived on a live volcano) but either way it meant my hand-gestures were redundant and I had to rely on my pidgin Italian. The old Signora was keen to help, fumbling round for a key before walking unsteadly across the floor and up the stairs to a room, the door of which she opened with a flourish. The room inside had obviously been lately vacated and had not been remade. I felt bad pointing this out but to her credit she felt her way to a linen cupboard on the landing and proceeded to remake the bed, a process of several awkward minutes, but all was then well.

That night we walked up the cone to watch glowing rocks shooting from the crater like so much popcorn, and in the morning the real owners still hadn't returned from their business trip in Palermo - an assumption on my part as I refused to believe this wretched old sot could profitably run the place on her own. When we came to leave though I realised how this was possible because, slurring stylishly, she quoted us a figure so preposterous that I felt the bottom drop out of my wallet. My girlfriend and I looked at one another and came to a silent agreement. I handed the hag some crumpled lira notes which she felt over and tucked into her apron, and we made good our escape. We did feel a twinge of guilt of course, but I'd given her a fair amount based on recent pricing, location and off-season weighting, and if she's going to charge like the Light Brigade she has to expect some collateral damage. She probably ended up as julbo as a dolgan anyway.

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