Rachel Agnew, TV Presenter, Loose Woman, Cashier No 3 please, After Dinner Speaker and Columnist

Note to Self (13)

The sun is out, the sky is blue, I’ve got gazpacho in the fridge and millions of people have suddenly lost all sense of reason when it comes to getting dressed – it must be the British summertime!

What is it with this country? Why do people go completely sartorially insane when summer kicks in? In the past few days alone I’ve spotted an octogenarian lady wearing a tangerine sarong in Tesco, several otherwise respectable looking men in socks and sandals, a somewhat Rubenesque mother and daughter in matching hot pants and cropped tops and one lady who was old enough to know better, dressed in a ra-ra skirt and crocs. (I’m sorry and I don’t mean to offend, but I think crocs are the shoes of the devil.)

We all know what the problem is. Years of experiencing the delights of British weather tell us that when we do get some sunshine, it’s unlikely to last too long. So everybody strips down to as few clothes as is legally possible to get away with to carry out their normal daily duties. It’s not big (well certainly not when it comes to the sizes of the pieces of clothing) and it’s not clever.

And unfortunately, it’s the lack of clothing that leads to the absolute summer fashion icing on the cake, the ubiquitous British sunburn mark. The bright red, blistered and charred sunburn, which shows exactly what said wearer had on during yesterday’s scorching temperatures, is a sight predominantly seen on holiday abroad, but now frequently seen in the UK after an uncharacteristically hot weekend. It’s no surprise that we’re not deemed a particularly stylish nation is it?

I have to admit though, I love having a tan. I feel good and think I look a bit better with that healthy glow. But that’s the interesting word in this context - healthy. Because we all now know that however much we might look healthier, sunbathing in excess is not good for us, at all. In the best worst-case our skin ages dramatically and in the worst worst-case, skin cancer could be just around the corner. But still, millions of people ignore all the evidence and go out in the sun (along with the mad dogs) without the appropriate protection. They wonder why their skin ends up looking like a particularly dehydrated prune.

So I do still sunbathe, but not like I used to. When I was a teenager growing up in Brighton, we used to go to the beach with nothing but a bottle of baby oil. We literally used to fry ourselves in the sun. It’s a horrifying thought knowing what we know now, and wondering what damage we did to ourselves. These days, I prefer to go for a sun-cream with nothing less than Factor Balaclava.

I am also a fan of a tan in a bottle, and have spent many summers trying to find one that is idiot proof. I haven’t. (Or maybe I’m more of an idiot than most?) I still find myself ending up with streaky legs that look like they’ve had a whole box of tea bags squeezed over them and hands which seem to indicate decades of smoking 20 Capstan Full Strength a day.

So dear friends – dress coolly (in both senses of the term), but please dress appropriately for your age and stature. Look after your skin, slather yourself in sun-cream and remember, just because summer has arrived, it doesn’t mean it’s brought with it a nationwide competition to see who can expose the largest surface area of bare flesh.

NOTE TO SELF: Don’t blame it on the sunshine.

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Rachel Agnew

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