Thursday, 13 December 2012

(don't) burn baby

Not to brag,* but it is the most glorious early summer day here in Tamaki Makaurau today.  Outside my office window buildings are glistening, wavy with reflections from the Waitemata Harbour.  There is a light salt haze on the horizon, where sea meets sky.

Today really is lovely and is a delicious reminder of why we moved back (does it seem to you like I’m still justifying the decision or trying to convince myself?  I thought so.)  The sunburn is not, however, so delicious.  I sat outside for 20 minutes at lunchtime today with my shoulders bared and the heat they’re now generating is astonishing.  The effect is compounded by chilly air conditioning in my office; I’m shiver-y with localised hot spots. 

We have had a sunshine-y spate of summer days over the past week.  Sunday in particular was a cracker - - but when I had lunch with my husband on Monday, the number of women walking past our outdoor table with strips of red up the backs of their legs was beyond belief.  I just don’t think we Kiwis learn, despite the heavy slip-slop-slap messages we are bombarded with.  When P and I were on holiday in Europe, we were really cautious about using plenty of sunscreen.  We were outdoors almost all day, so it was pretty logical.  Here, I use a moisturiser with SPF15 on my face (o glorious recording of the mundanities of my existence for posterity!) but I’ve been less careful otherwise.  That’s pretty stupid, given the burn time here (only 10 minutes in the heat of the day) and the skin cancer rates. 

Also, you’d think I’d have learnt.  I’ve recorded some burn horrendousness here previously (when we were both triple-x sexxxy on our honeymoon after a nuclear burn sitting on the bow of a Thai ferry – honestly, it still makes my shins ache thinking about it).  There is a veritable slideshow of pictures from my childhood recording stupid burn incidents and they all conjure the smell of Mum’s after-sun green aloe jelly.  A few occasions spring immediately to mind:

-     Taupo, New Years’ Day 1990ish: giant red stripes up the back of my legs.  I oh-so-carefully lotioned myself at age 8 or 9ish, then promptly fell asleep on a lilo (inflatable pool bed thing) on the lake…only to discover I’d failed to do the backs of my legs (the bits I couldn’t see).

-     Tamahere, last day of school, 1992: sunstroke.  I could have cared less about the burn as I threw up and saw black spots outside Room 3 on our last day of school.  Can’t remember why I’d been outside for so long; perhaps it was an outdoor assembly?  Yeah, I’m seeking to transfer blame to the teachers…ahem. 

-    Waihi Beach, December 1999: red schnozz of social death.  Age 17, my friends and I went to a campground to pick up boys, peroxide our hair and drink booze on the sly.  The burn on my nose and ears killed my chances with the other sex; I also came home with a spotty bleached pillow from a failure to wash out the peroxide properly.  We also attempted to smoke oregano; which? Don’t.  Crap on a cracker we were cool.

-    Mt Mauganui, 2001: back fat stripe.  You know how belly shirts were kind of a thing? Well, this 19 year old girl forgot that there was a vital strip of flesh between singlet and bikini bottoms as she lay on the beach desperately trying to maintain a nonchalant, devil-may-care, super-hot attitude with her new-ish boyfriend and all of his friends.  My cover was blown; good thing I’d had the foresight to bring a 3L bottle of duty-free Jack Daniels for the boys when I arrived on the trip.  On reflection, I’m not sure they’d remember either the burn or drinking the second half of that bottle.

Burn itself isn’t really a funny topic though.  I look at my English brother-in-law and his careful attempts to protect his rose-leaf complexion and I realise he’s doing the right thing.  My aunt is passionate about wearing cover-ups, using skin protection and wearing a hat.  My mother and two of my close friends have had cancerous and pre-cancerous lumps removed.  It’s the right day to remind myself to take care, a day like this.  Hope you do too. 

*Totally to brag

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