THE JOY OF A SUNTAN

Today was the first day that it was warm enough to sit in the sun and expose flesh and so a girl’s mind turns to tanning. Now I know that it is terribly unfashionable to get a tan the old fashioned way but I am an old fashioned kind of girl and so when the sun is strong enough to cast a reasonable shadow I am usually to be found in it somehow or other. I am, however, more careful then I was in my youth where the closest we got to an SPF was Hawaiian Tropics number 2 and towards the end of the summer neat baby oil was all that we needed. We would lie in the sun, perfectly aligned with its rays ensuring that no stray washing line or other impediment would spoil the tan… and bake.

Now I am older and wiser and far more concerned about wrinkles so I do apply an effective suncream most of the time although I have to confess that this is more to do with the aging process and very little to do with any concern that I may have about skin cancer which troubles me considerably less.

Fortunately, the mahogany tans that we tried in vain to achieve in the 80s are no longer in vogue. This is good because I do not have the type of skin that can achieve that kind of colour and certainly not in the two weeks that I get in the sun a year. For a while, the pale and interesting look was the sought after one. This only lasted a very short season. Let’s face it. Pale and interesting only works if you have skin like porcelain and Titian locks. For the majority of the population, pale and interesting generally equates itself with illness. Not a good look in any one’s book. Think goths and consumptive heroines.

No. It doesn’t matter how it turns out. Deep and rich or golden like me, everyone looks better with a tan. Even those less desirable or wobbly parts of the body, which are usually kept hidden from public view, look better with a bit of colour.

In my twenties I strove for the all over tan, searching out beaches where it was acceptable to bear all in an effort to ensure that I had no white bits. One memorable year I was on a Greek island with a girlfriend. We were both lying on our fronts without a stitch on enjoying our trashy novels. Suddenly someone said hello. It wasn’t the kind of hello that you learn to ignore whilst sunbathing but sounded genuine, the kind of hello that stems from recognition. And indeed, there stood a man that I saw on the train from Ilkley to Leeds every day. Worse still, he had his trunks on. We had a brief and slightly awkward chat about our respective holidays and then he continued his saunter down the beach. I like to think that he hadn’t noticed that I was naked until he spoke and by then it was too late to pretend he hadn’t seen me. It took me a while not to turn puce when I commuted into Leeds with him after then.

These days it’s all about faking it. Sunbeds – even I draw the line at those these days and fake tan. I can’t do fake tan. I once had it applied professionally for a wedding but generally I am way too tight/busy for that. I have, of course, tried to do it myself. Like most of my friends, I seem to have tried dozens of brands following recommendations from people who swear that this brand doesn’t streak, doesn’t smell, doesn’t turn your joints orange, doesn’t stain the bedclothes. But I have given up, defeated. I rarely see a well applied fake tan and of course you know it’s fake as few of us tan overnight in any other way (although I did have a friend at school who could tan in a lunch break).Even if it is streak free it is still clearly fake tan because nobody goes that colour naturally. Suddenly everyone has turned the same hue and that doesn’t suit me. My own golden brown takes an age to achieve but when I get there I love it. It is my colour and it is special to me and when I have a tan I feel like I could conquer the world.

This is my first summer without preschool children and I am certain that it is going to be a belter. I have just taken delivery of my new steamer chair and I have a pile of novels all calling out for my attention. I intend to spend my spare time, such as it is in the sun. Starting tomorrow.

What do you think? I'd love to know...