“Sunshine. When we don’t have it, we chase it, and when we get too much of it, we run a mile”. Hans Christian Andersen
I was lucky enough to spend every summer in Italy when I was growing up in London. My Italian father could barely wait for school to be out before he loaded up the car in preparation for the long drive south. He was a typical olive-skinned Mediterranean type who only had to stick his nose in the sun for five minutes before turning a deep chestnut. But my long-suffering English mother, with her pale porcelain skin and auburn hair, couldn’t hack her forced summers on a sweltering beach in southern Europe.
So childhood summer memories for me are about sand, sun and sea and is something so engrained that I don’t feel like I’ve had a holiday unless water and sun play a part - oh and I forgot to mention the scorching plastic seventies car seats and no air conditioning! My English husband, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about the sun having spent far too long in hot, sticky, uncomfortable places for work. He spent his childhood in cottages in the wilds of Ireland with no running water or electricity. I’ve been talking to others to find out more about their attitudes to the sun.
Shelley Marseden is from Northern Ireland, and her partner, Pierpaolo, is from Rome.
‘Grey skies and lack of proper sunshine drives me bonkers,’ says Shelley. ‘I’m from Belfast originally, which is pretty grim weather-wise, but I got the sun bug after stints as a student in Bologna and then living in Turin for a few months. I love nothing more than waking up and knowing that I’ll be kissed by the sun, no matter what.’
For Pierpaolo, though, it’s different. ‘Sun isn’t a priority for me in London. Don’t get me wrong, it gives me a much-needed boost on holiday and, I don’t think I could spend my precious holidays in Norway, lovely as it is! But while I’m in London, my home (and has been for 8 years so I feel I can say I’m a Londoner though I have a dodgy Italian accent!), what’s important is earning a good wage to be able to support my family and do fun things together, to finish work at a humane hour and see my young kids before they go to bed at night. In London things work, it’s exciting, it’s cutting edge and for me if the trade-up for all this is not having sun 24/7 I am happy to do that.’
Shelley though, daydreams of her former life as a journalist/English teacher, zipping about the Eternal City on her black scarabeo scooter in 25 degree heat.
‘The sun fills me with happiness, confidence and keeps me energised - sometimes when it’s a particularly bad day in London I feel like I’m swimming through treacle’.
And, like me, Shelley uses a SAD lamp to help her get through the long and dreary winters.
Tiffany Sherlock lives in Cumbria and grew up with nudist sun worshipping parents. She caught their zest for the sun and began to frazzle in France every summer.
‘I usually got sunburnt,’ she remembers, ‘partly because I loved the revolting pleasure of peeling off great sheets of skin, but I remember all too well the pain of sunburn too’.
Fast forward into adulthood and her father is having an ongoing battle with two different forms of skin cancer… and she and her sister have to visit dermatologists regularly.
‘I’ve had numerous moles chopped off for analysis - none are cancerous yet’, she tells me, ‘but dermatologists always comment on how sun damaged my skin is - it’s been aged almost 20 years by the sun.’
Now she is under strict orders to ‘slip, slop, slap’, and by that I mean cover up, stay out of the sun during the hottest times of day and wear sunscreen always. As a result, Tiffany doesn’t enjoy beach holidays anymore. Which she says is a real shame as she now has a toddler with whom she wants to try and work out a healthy relationship to sun.
‘I want her to enjoy it, without destroying her skin’, she says.
On the other hand, her partner, Brent loves the sun on his skin and is quite dark skinned. He tans very easily and is pretty confident about going out in the sun. But again, he’s also well aware of the dangers so he tries to be sensible about the amount of time he spends in it.
‘However’, says Tiffany, ‘he’s just pointed out that as we live in Cumbria, so his general attitude to the sun is ‘oh wow! Sunshine! Thanks a bunch.