Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Sunshine

Yesterday afternoon, the weather finally turned warmer. I was caught out on my walk with Ollie, and came home hot and bothered in my heavy coat. I changed into shorts later, and enjoyed watching the sun setting over the back garden. This morning, I woke up thinking about sunshine, with the weather forecasters predicting a steep rise in temperatures next week.

Most of my youthful memories are of being out in the sun. Summer holidays that always seemed to be warm and dry, blue skies, and trips to the beach. School holidays in July and August, always playing in the sunny streets of London, always hot and thirsty. Nobody ever talked about sunscreen, skin cancer, premature ageing, or cataracts in those days. They just got out in the fresh air, and enjoyed the end of winter.

By the time I was in my teens, I had been to the South of France, and experienced some really hot weather. Beaches too hot to walk on the sand, and humid nights that I wasn’t used to. Some people were beginning to move to countries like Australia, in search of better weather, more sun, and longer summers. One of my relatives had discovered Spain, and she was travelling to the sun on cheap holidays where the weather was more or less guaranteed to always be hot and sunny. By the time I had turned 21, I was keen to discover more such places, and a few years later, I went to Greece, with my first wife.

It was there that I first discovered that I could have too much of a good thing. Daytime temperatures in excess of 100 degrees F, and little relief from the heat at night. Sightseeing became a trial, and even resting on a beach soon became uncomfortable. I found myself retreating inside, sitting in the shade, or driving into the mountains to escape the extreme heat. I thought of those people who had flocked to Australia, experiencing their upside-down summers in six months of similar conditions, and wondered how they managed to go about their everyday lives in heat like that.

At least I was lucky in one respect. I had the sort of skin that tanned very well, and quickly too. Little or no sunburn, just a golden glow turning into a mahogany hue very rapidly. People took me for a local, and on returning to England, I was complimented on a suntan that lasted for months afterwards. So I carried on seeking sunshine abroad. Northern Spain, Turkey, Tunisia, Crete, Egypt, and Greece again. My main summer holiday each year supplied me with enough sunshine and heat to last the winter that followed.

Then everything changed. Sunshine was no longer our friend, we were told. Especially in hot countries like those mentioned, we should cover up, wear hats, use oily sunscreen, and avoid the strong sun at midday. Skin cancer was on the increase, and for many people, being out in the sun was actually very dangerous. So I started to visit cities instead of beaches. Amsterdam, with a similar climate to the East of England. Berlin, humid in the summer heat, and Barcelona, with lots of shade available. Bruges and Ghent, with worse weather than England, and Paris of course, with a climate almost identical to the one we left behind in London. Moscow and Leningrad, still snowbound and cold in late spring, and Beijing, with stifling heat, but little direct sunshine.

Over the last few years, we have settled for staying in England. No good weather guaranteed of course, but less danger from the ultraviolet radiation. Despite having that ‘good tanning’ skin, I am also someone who has quite a few moles on my face and body. Fear of them becoming affected by sunshine had me covering up, avoiding strong sun, and the countries where it is found.

So when I woke up to a sunny morning today, I was left thinking about how my perception of that much-desired sunshine has changed in sixty-odd years. I might have been happier never knowing.

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55 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

  1. I think you probably would have been happier not knowing. “Everything in moderation” my mother-in-law always said. I think she was right. So, like you I was a sun lover. Now, I skip the 11 to 3 o’clock sun, wear sunscreen and enjoy. Feels like a good compromise. Best to you, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Having grown up in a hot country with very fair skin I am a sunscreen devotee. I burn within minutes and my Oupa had severe skin cancer. Even my dark skinned father has had malignant moles removed. I’ve never been mad keen on really hot weather. Some people seem to flourish and glow when it gets over 25 degrees. I look like a cake that got left in the sun… sort of bothered, sweaty and half melted.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hurray for sunshine! We are all Vitamin D deficient here in the Pacific Northwest so I never, ever put sunscreen on here. We need all the help we can get. We are currently in a very rainy period (no surprise there) after a fairly mild winter. I can’t wait for summer to start, usually after the 4th of July!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I watched the news today and found out you can get tumors in your ears! wow-something else to fret about=As far as heat goes . . . I am NOT a fan. We have two unbearable months, not fit for man nor beast-but sun with out humidity is desirable to me. I wish you many pleasant days!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was such a sunbather in younger times, even had my own sunbed so I had a year round tan! I just grew out of it I think, and mostly sit in the shade now, though do like being outside. It was nice to get out and about in it yesterday.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree, Pete, that the sun can be very damaging to skin. Even very dark skinned people can get skin cancer although it is rarer. I live in a very hot climate but I still enjoy the sun and beach. We just go earlier or later in the day. It is lovely to walk along the beach in the late afternoon. For me sunscreen and a hat are a basic necessity.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting post, Pete. I have spent most of my life in the northern hemisphere and grew up with bad weather, cold weather, humid in the summer weather. Now that I live in Arizona, that Phoenix heat I’ll pass–but up north here, the weather is pretty perfect for 200 days of the year. I found that I’m less depressed living here which is correlated to the sunshine. It’s hard to be depressed when the sun shines while living in the north I was put into a funk because of gray cloudy days and mist and rain, etc. I’m happy you love living in England.
    Your traveling has made you the interesting man that you are today. There is something to be said for growing older and the “been there, done that” realization brings a different perspective. Not only do we age and look different, we think differently, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that thoughtful comment, Cindy. Living in dark countries, like those in Scandinavia, has been proven to create more depression, alcoholism, and an increased rate of suicide. In an ideal world, we would all be happier somewhere sunny. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete. x

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  8. What’s really bizarre is that during all those years in Missouri, I often had sunburn and peeled. But after more than two decades in Las Vegas, where the Sun King rules sometimes with a harsh hand, I’ve not had a case of sunburn yet! I can’t explain it.

    The worst burn I’ve ever had was subsequent to a visit to the Matterhorn back in the early 1970’s. It was a cool day, but the snow was reflecting the sunlight. I ended up with puss-dripping blisters all over my face, which didn’t make a 3-hour French literature exam (Université de Nice) very much fun upon my return from Zermatt.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post, Pete. I grew up in a city that was overcast 250 days a year, or raining…the sun was a cause of celebration. Now that I get it for at least 250 days a year, it’s easy to take for granted!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even here, Seattle is associated with rain. Probably because of ‘Frazier’, and Grunge Music! 🙂
      I think if you ever moved to Beeltey, you would be rushing back to California before the year was out…
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Funny how we remember the school holidays as being mostly sunny, I wonder if they were? I used to be out all day in my shorts and t-shirt, only popping home for a sandwich at lunch-time, or sometimes taking one with me ‘on a picnic’ to the local green space where we could kick a ball around. I enjoyed living in SA with its guaranteed sunshine from November to March, though I hardly ever lay around on the beach. Life is just the same except offices and shops tend to have air con. But oh, the sunshine makes you feel so much happier!! As a fair-skinned redhead I had to be careful in the sun as I burnt easily and went red and then peeled. Still do. So I am happy to sit in the shade and enjoy the warmth. Give me sun over rain any time – though the folk in Cape Town may not agree at the moment as they are suffering from extreme drought 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have written many times here about how my youthful summers always seemed to be hot and sunny. If others feel the same, then maybe we are all getting it right? Either that, or it is ‘collective deception’. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I love the feeling of the sun soaking through to my bones! When I worked abroad I can honstly say I never once missed the British weather. I do find my skin does not tan as easily as it did when I was young. I know we should be careful and not burn so I do use sun cream but not the very high factors. Rickets are making a comback because people aren’t allowing their bodies to absorb the sun to make Vitamin D.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As I am out 2-3 hours a day with Ollie, whatever the weather, I doubt I will get Rickets, Mary 🙂
      I think we can get used to different weather very quickly. When I went to Singapore, I was initially drained by the humidity, and the constant 33 degree temperature. After being there for less than a week, I stopped noticing it.
      I rarely use any sun cream in hot weather, as I am usually covered in insect repellent!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  12. We have had almost two weeks of uninterrupted sunshine here, with temperatures in the 20s (C) and no rain in sight on the 10 day forecast, all in all near perfect weather for getting on with things. Call me foolish but I still strip off and lap up the sun when its here, maybe the odd bit of sun cream on the bits that burn, but I refuse the believe the science on this one. The feeling of well-being that comes with sun on skin seems to disperse any fears of cancer and the like. Life’s too short 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I like the sun too … and I remember the same kind of sunny youth that you describe here … but these days I am not able to be in the sun too long because of my blood pressure medication (The sun causes evil blackish spots on my skin because of the medicine) — I am old enough to get heat strokes now — so I am a shade person myself nowadays. I also have a tendency to turn into a lobster.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A dear friend of my parents had skin like yours. Two weeks on vacation and he had a deep tan that lasted most of the year. Everyone wanted him to go on the TV show “What’s My Line?” – no one would have guessed that he drove a NYC subway for a living!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I went to work in Australia one year in the 80’s and there they were all saying what a good summer it’s been. I thought yes, it makes a change to wake up to guaranteed sunshine but what they meant was it wasn’t as hot as it normally was. I admit, after a few months of it, I yearned for a few clouds.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. It is always sunny hear except during the rainy months of July to September. You get used to the heat and you always bring an umbrella not because of rain but because of the heat. I’d rather have the sun though than too much rain.

    Liked by 1 person

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