Roast Englishman – Sunburn

In London we have this myth, it’s a strange and often told myth of a great time of warmth when the sun will shine and the rain will go away. We even have a name for this myth, we even have a actual time called British Summer Time, when the myth is meant to take place. Foreigners who come to witness this mythical event normally go home with their skin a little greyer, no matter what colour it started, shaking their heads and longing for some sunshine.

The UK does not have a normal summer. Unlike Italy, Spain, Germany, the US and even France, we cannot claim to have what most other countries call a summer. We are lucky if we get three weeks of sun at some point between March and October, which is official when that mythical BST starts and ends. It’s fairly unlikely that those three weeks will be consecutive. It’s almost guaranteed that there will not be two whole weeks of sun during Wimbledon, tennis fans around the world all know this. And it’s virtually guaranteed not to happen for three consecutive days during any of the summer bank holidays. It must rain on one day of the bank holiday, bookies will not even take bets on this not happening.

So, the course of action for the average Englishman (althought that’s oxymoron) when the sun does come out is to sit in it, stand in it, walk in it, lie in it. Whatever we can in it, as long as we are in it. Today I have spent most of the day sitting on my balcony with the sun shining down on me while reading The Sky Roadby Ken MacLeod.

Now it’s starting to get dark and my skin is burning and I look like a cooked lobster that’s still being cooked. You see it is not manly for the Englishman to put on sunscreen, indeed it is virtually a waste of money. England and possibly Greenland and Antarctica are the only countries where sunscreen is sold and is more likely to go out of date than to be used before it’s finished.

The Englishman’s tan is known as the “working-man’s tan” or the “t-shirt tan”, pretty much from the elbows down and the neck up. The rest of an Englishman’s skin sees so little sunlight it is the colour of skimmed (low-fat) milk and almost see-through. Exposing this skin to sunlight is extremely dangerous as the reflection could cause aeroplanes to crash.

Tonight I will have a warm bath and cringe as my burning flesh touches the luke warm water and hisses like a hot iron being cooled. Tomorrow I doubt movement will be possible as the sun-dried skin contracts like that of a mummy’s corpse and restricts even the barest of movements. Even the touch of cotton against the burnt epidermis will cause spasms of pain and the movement of air against the skin will be enough to clench teeth and spit.

But at least after a couple of days of pain I will have a tan for at least a week before it wears off and I again turn into one of the multitude of grey men of England.

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