We Brits are quick to bask in the unseasonal rays
BACK in March, during those heady, warm spring days (before the torrential downpours of April arrived) Brits were quick to bask in the unseasonal rays.
There were the ubiquitous pictures of bathers on South Coast beaches, picking their way across the pebbles in shorts and bikinis. And the headlines about "record" temperatures. As an island nation we are obsessed with our changeable weather. Are we hotter than this time last year? Than Rome or even Cairo?
In March I walked (on one of those rare days when I am able to leave my desk for longer than it takes to grab a sandwich) across Castle Park, sweltering in my heavy winter coat and thick woolly tights.
It was March, remember, not June, and the mornings were still frosty. But across the green-grass beaches of Bristol, people were dressed for the Med, in strappy vests and sandals.
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As is always the case in the UK, the sun shines, the clothes come off, and before you can say "Factor 30", all that pasty, wobbly, winter-worn skin is on show and turning pink.
It's ingrained in me to worry about skin cancer. My skin is so pale in mid-winter it's almost blue, and I merely freckle rather than tan on the hottest of holidays. My mum is darker skinned and spent her youth sunbathing in oil, but I've always slapped on the total block – and am baffled others won't do likewise. Why take the risk with the real thing when fake is just as impressive?
And aside from all that, it's a little incongruous to my eyes to see people sunbathing in next to nothing in the middle of the city. What passes muster in the sun-baked Costas and Canaries does not seem suitable in Cabot Circus or Castle Park.
Now the sun is back (and quite right too, it is almost June), and so the unsightly sunbathers have returned.
Colleagues returning from lunch- hour jaunts into town have returned with incredulous tales of the latest "sightings" in the park or at the waterside. There was the office worker who stripped off his suit, shirt and tie, right down to his boxers, and laid out for all to see on the grass. And there was the "well-built" older lady in a short kaftan-esque sundress and flip flops who was laden down with shopping bags in Broadmead.
And surely swimwear, no matter how attractive the body beneath, should only be worn at the seaside or the pool?
But there are some who welcome the expanse of skin suddenly on show, especially on young, toned and honed bodies. None of the ladies complain when a very fine naked male torso jogs past on a hot day. And men are quite happy to ogle a buxom young woman in a barely-there sundress.
After months swaddled in winter woollies, and knowing the sun will depart as swiftly as it arrives, we're all quick to grab a moment in the sun.