Saturday, 23 January 2010

BURN BABY BURN!

CYAN WAVES tickled the golden sand beneath my feet. Shiny grains of beach glinted under the sun, sticking to my damp skin and sea-salty hair. 

‘This is the life,’ I thought, stretching out on a towel. I was 15 and on my first ever holiday.  We were in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight and a week of sunbathing days and disco-filled nights lay ahead.

‘Last one in the sea’s a chicken,’ my best friend Tracey Fermor shrieked, already galloping across the warm sand. ‘Wait for meeeeee,’ her ten-year-old sister Clare wailed, trailing after us.

Soon we were splashing each other, drowning out our laughs with the cool sea until our tummies rumbled.

And then Tracey’s mum and dad were beckoning us back to our windbreaker, where we feasted on sand-sprinkled ham sandwiches and luke-warm lemonade fetched out of the family cooler.

Later that night, I dived under the shower, eager to hit the nightclub and, gulp, boys.

But as I stepped out of the shower my face felt tight, like I’d left a mask on it for too long. ‘Might need to borrow some moisturiser,’ I thought, checking my reflection.

I blinked, not recognising the scarlet-faced teenager staring back with the white bikini-marks seared onto her scorched body.

It was 1981 and I’d never heard of sun cream. The only person I’d ever seen lather anything onto her skin while she sunbathed was my Aunty Maureen who swore by baby oil. She was always a deep mahogany shade, so I’d always longed for my own bottle. But Mum had said we couldn’t afford it.

So I – along with most other kids back then – just hoped for the best while I played in the sun.

‘Oh no,’ I panicked now, my entire body tightening up under it’s raw skin. ‘I can hardly move.’

Tracey and her family had invited me along on their summer holiday as I was always at their house. I was their unofficial third daughter, so it was only natural I’d tag along.

But they’d forgotten I was the complete opposite of them physically. While they all had dark hair and olive skin which turned deep, golden brown the moment the sun kissed it, I was blue-white, and blonde.

They could spend all day on the beach getting a tan. I needed a trip to A & E, or a bath in ice chips with cold fans rehydrating my angry, swollen skin.

‘I think I need help,’ I said, half-crying as I tried to wrap a towel around me and winced as it touched my flesh.

I expected sympathy from this bronzed faux family of mine – or at least a bit of After Sun. Tracey burst out laughing. ‘You look ridiculous,’ she cried, doubling over.

Her little sister was even worse. ‘I’ll help you,’ she said, creeping closer. Slowly, she lifted her arm. I thought she’d fetched some soothing lotion to ease my pain. Instead she whacked me hard on the back, and guffawed when I shot in the air, screeching in agony.

Finally their mum sprayed, spritzed and smothered me in lotions from the resort’s chemist. They dried in pink and white streaks on my hot skin. ‘Come on Lobster Girl,’ Tracey giggled when I was finally able to dress and walk. ‘Time to party.’

I glowed under the disco lights and had to secretly drink cinzano and lemonade to take away the pain. But apart from bronzed Tracey and her Summer Ski family I didn’t look that much different to the other ‘Roast beef’ Brits there.

And at least I was the entertainment for the rest of the holiday. Tracey and her sister would guess what shade of red my body would be every morning and would take it in turns to peel off my tortured skin every night.

I had to wear a T-shirt on the beach and cover my legs with a towel. But what were a few blisters and scabs between best friends?

Tracey went home looking like she’d spent all summer in St Tropez. I resembled a stick of rock – bright pink at the edges with a white stripe down the middle.

I didn’t care though. It was still one of my best holidays ever and I learnt a valuable lesson. Not only do I carry a bottle of Factor 10 with me on every holiday (for the first day at least until I’m brown enough to tolerate baby oil!) but I never tell my friends – or their little sisters – when I’m in pain. A friend in need is a friend to torture indeed.

PS While sun cream might be my new best friend, diamonds are my little girl’s – even though she’s only 20 months old.

Read all about our dream holiday to Dubai – where Anais and my son Deme draped themselves in blingtastic jewels - here on  havealovelytime.com


2 comments:

  1. I remember the days when I used to sit round a pool in a hot country with a bottle of baby oil. These days I rarely sit in the sun at all and if I do it's with a bottle of Factor 10 at least!

    CJ xx

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