On the X19 the other day two very different ideas came together in one space, that space being the seat near the back on the left hand side. I like to sit near the back because for the last year or so as I travel up and down the Dearne Valley on the bus I’ve been conducting an informal survey that I (informally) call ‘What Kind of Hat?’ and I have come to the sad but perhaps inevitable conclusion that the flat cap is on its way out. Not out of the bus window, obviously, although I guess that does happen now and then, but on the way out of history.

You’ll probably recall that years ago all the men in the borough would wear a flat cap whenever they went out and occasionally in the house. Old photographs of matches at Oakwell show a sea of flat caps stretching as far as the eyes can see and if anybody seems to be flatcapless it’s just because their cap blew off just as the shutter clicked.

But now, from the back of the bus, I can report that although there are a number of men on here, none of them are wearing flat caps even though they are of an age, as am I, where a flat cap would once have been deemed a timely titfer. There are woolly caps, perhaps because it’s pretty cold, and there are a couple of bare bonces shining in the winter sun. There are several baseball caps which I always assume blokes wear because they think it makes them look like they’re in Malibu rather than Mapplewell. Oh, and there’s one trilby like my dad sometimes used to wear, although this one isn’t festooned with fishing flies.

As I carried on my Hat Survey, I also pondered on the idea that there’s a continuing epic of loneliness all over the place, not only in this country but across the world. People are increasingly, it’s said, feeling isolated and cut off from each other because much of our life is lived online and despite the heroic efforts of people all across the community to get folks together, folks are not getting together in the same numbers that they did.

Then, just as the bus rolled out of Goldthorpe towards the Aldi at Highgate, an idea struck me with the force of a chucked cricket ball. It’s an idea that is both beautiful in its simplicity and satisfying in its intellectual and cultural depth. I got my notebook out of my backpack and wrote, as the bus bounced and jerked along the road, MULTI PERSON FLAT CAP in huge letters across a blank page.

I know: genius, isn’t it? It’s like when they invented the wheel in Gilroyd and when they invented fire in Dodworth and when they invented the fire extinguisher at the same time because the first wheel rolled down from Gilroyd to Dodworth, bumped into the first fire and burst into the flames. Lucky a very clever person from the Top of Dodworth Bottoms had just invented the fire extinguisher and doused the flames.

Anyway, back to the multi-person flat cap. The reason that this head covering would combat loneliness is that the cap would be big enough, would indeed be of such epic dimensions, that up to five people could shelter under it. Think of a vast golf umbrella or one of those tents that people take to music festivals. Imagine five older people huddled under the multi person cap. Imagine then trying to walk down the road like people taking part in a three-legged race that was actually a ten-legged race.

You’re right: it’s daft, but it’s daft in a good way because one of the things you can combat loneliness and isolation with is a good laugh with other people and there’s nothing that would make you laugh more than walking through town in close proximity with other humans under a flat cap made for five, huddled together and trying to co-ordinate your gait so that you don’t trip each other up. Hopefully, everybody under the cap would have brushed their teeth; maybe there could be a stack of free mints in a pocket under the cap neb.

As you can tell, there are still lots of details to be ironed out in my plan but I think I’m onto awinner here. Loneliness and isolation: let’s put a cap on it!