SPAIN:A Tangerine Glow

As I head off to Sunny Australia, I am reminded of my trip early this year. Below is a rant from my diary written during my last trip to Spain:

A mid-summer’s day at the pool in Southern Spain requires a lot of preparation for a person like me.

Although I am a keen swimmer, walker, horserider, explorer and just love summer I haven’t exposed my body to the sun since I was a teenager – with good reason, too. Sunbathing, or sunbaking as we call it ( that it exactly what it is in Australia: baking) is like cooking your flesh in an oven. Of course this was du mode when I was a little one – everyone wanted to be brown and crispy like Farrah Fawcett and Olivia Newton-John. After everyone started to die of cancer, this unnatural fashion trend started to fall out of favour.

“There’s no such thing as a healthy tan” declares the Australian Cancer Council.

“Slip, Slop, Slap” and similar messages are hard to avoid as they are all over billboards, bumper stickers, newspapers and even ads on the teev these days.. Most schools don’t allow children to play without hats on and everyone is very aware of the damaged that can be done by overexposing oneself to the sun.

I never travel without it

I take this message very seriously, as I do with my health in general.The other reason is that I don’t want to have wrinkly elephant skin.

I am the colour of porridge. I haven’t been tanned for more than 12 years, I wear SPF 45+ in winter. Big sunglasses. Floppy hat. Parasol for summer – I am known as La Vampirosa to some of my friends. I like my ivory look:  it’s a natural colour, it’s healthy and it’s who I am. I am not a plantation worker from the sugarcane fields so why should I be expected to look like like a piece of leather because it was in fashion in 1984? Why can’t we just look like ourselves.Even fake tan is ridiculous, isn’t it? I don’t see any of my friends from Ghana painting themselves a pasty white colour either – because it’s MENTAL! Why not just be happy with the skin you are in?

I am bring alabaster back into style. There’s something to be said for Victorian fashions. They didn’t die of skin cancer so much in those days either, did they?

Sunbathers disgust me on every level. It makes me cringe just looking at them and their vanity is just repulsive. Spain and France have the most grotesque specimens of the mindless masses on their rocky beaches popping carrot tablets and greasing themselves up like rotisserie chickens.

I remember having a book called The Saggy Baggy Elephant when I was little. Well, I met him and his whole family on the beach in Antibes, Marbella and Malaga, except the females amongst them also had breasts resembling a couple of grapes in a sock. It’s bad enough in the changerooms without them flaunting their naked orangeness on the beach.Old leather-like grandpas with more hanging out than staying in were there too, striving to get even darker. Red, peeling teenagers of about 13 applying tanning oil. Why can’t you just roll up your stomach/breasts/arse and stuff it into a swimsuit if you must come to the same beach as us?

I didn’t keep my lunch down on that day

Saggy, baggy elephants in Marbella

… and when she stood up, they were down to her knees. I am not referring to her chins.

It’s vile.

So back to my preparation:

Step 1: smear naked body with SPF 50 waterproof suncream

Step 2: put on bikini bottoms and top.

Step 3: put on anti-UV swimming top

Step 4: dress in anti-UV dress (it’s a nice one from Japan, not some embarassing tent from the Cancer Council)

Step 5: Large Sunnies (they are also very cool Chanel ones – style and health can go hand in hand)

Step 6: Hat

Step 7: Parasol up and beach bag in hand

Step 8: Stick some extra waterproof sunblock in bag and ready to go.

Instead of the rocky beach I am going to use the lovely pool today – its shaped like a flower and has palm trees, a waterfall, deck chairs and a bar . It’s a 5 minute walk from the front door in the same compound as the villa.

The reaction to my entrance into the pool was a bit daunting – It was like I was a giant blue rabbit that just made it’s way into the pool area, flirted with all the girls, spread out a towel and ordered a piña colada: every person turned to stare – and I think some people even pointed (it could be my paranoia though, who knows)

What exactly were they staring at me for – my absence of a maroon, peeling nose? The fact that I didn’t have a large, jelly-like brown stomach spilling over my swimsuit bottoms like the rest of them?

The kids were getting burned in the pool. The parents and other adults were lying around with a drink, smoking and sunbaking like big whales in various shades of red, brown and orange – like a large, wobbly sack of precancerous cells.

It’s not like they don’t know about all this skin caner business, word reached Spain about the same time as everywhere else. I realise it gets hotter for a longer period of time in some places within Australia and that our side of the ozone layer is a bit patchy, so we are particularly aware of sun protection but Spain also gets extremely hot in summer – it was in the mid 50s (celsius) in Grenada this August.

Our only hope is to save the children.I went to that pool and a nearby beach several times this summer and I didn’t see one parent smearing their kids with sunscreen. Not once, even after the child had been in the water for hours in the middle of the day.I noticed a lot of people applying sunscreen which is SPF 4 to get a tan rather than to prevent sun damage.

Back to my experience: I did a few lengths of the pool (sans sunglasses, hat and clothing -and even i can’t swim with a parasol. Then I got out after 40 minutes to reapply my suncream and have a smoothie in the shade. I looked around at the carrot people – I wanted to scream at them and dip them in SPF 50+ . I wanted to help. I should’ve just said “You’re 18 now but you already look about 30 and when you need botox at 34 we’ll all be sitting under an umbrella with my big hat and flawless skin laughing like a drain.”

It’s not just about premature wrinkles. Vanity can be deadly if you are a devoted sunbather.

But there was no point in trying to tell them – companies such as Sizlu sell Australian-made sun-safe kids clothing throughout Spain. Solsano is a health education program with an aim to educate young children about the dangers of overexposure to the sun.

If they won’t listen to them, they won’t listen to me.

I went back at about 11.00am to avoid being directly the damaging midday rays.

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