Thursday, 24 May 2012


Ball! Ball of fire in sky! *beats chest* Come, Ug, look at ball! Worship ball! Ball is good!

This is my usual response when I see the sun in Scotland, an event that takes place once every 3,000 years when the moon is in the seventh house and the mongoose of Aragon doth rise from the swamps of Tylenolle. (Sorry, my husband is reading Game of Thrones and some of it has leaked out of the sides).

Sunny days are also a chance for me to be a total PARANOID LUNATIC when it comes to my child's skin. Never mind that I have a peeling, sun scorched neck that would make Dennis Potter reach for the celestial aqueous cream. Like the worst kind of hippy, overprotective parent, I dread my kid getting sunburn. However unrealistic it is, I want his lovely smooth skin to stay unblemished by sun damage forever. But it's also because I fear terrible consequences - never mind that sunburn can happen in the blink of an eye, somewhere in between hoiking your sandy knickers out of your crack and searching for your sanity in the cool bag. These days, if you let your child burn, you're a terrible parent.

I remember getting sunburn when I was about 4- screeching as my mum tried to cover my shoulders in Germolene. Of course, back then, nobody knew much about the risks, and in summer everyone had skin like a flayed chorizo. The only sun protection a family needed was a slimy brown bottle of Coppertone factor 1, carelessly sealed with a piece of cling film. Sun tan lotion was considered the reserve of international jetsetters, women in Campari adverts and some mysterious bloke called Piz Buin. Not for the likes of us, with our terry towelling and windbreakers, gurning on the beach in Scarborough. You just had a fag and got on with it.

But these days, you must slather your deeply annoyed, wriggling, complaining kid from head to toe in bright blue 'fun' sun block every 10 minutes. If you don't follow this tedious process, you may as well give them a packet of B&H and a plutonium rod and tell them get down to Tan Canaria for a quick sizzle on the hi-definition Burn-o-tron 3000. Why not leave them in the road? Give them a crack pipe? Enter them into a beauty pageant and make them sing 'Happy Birthday, Mr President' in a sexy voice?  Such is our fear of the sun's dangers, our kids are sent out wearing weird caps with flaps on the back, looking like ghostly white pharaohs, unable to move and sweating cobs in full body lycra.

The problem is, protecting children from the sun involves a combination of pain, anxiety and extreme helplessness. Monitoring the possibility of sunburn is a whole lot of hand wringing and squinting with the voice of Lynn Faulds-Wood in your head reeling off cancer statistics and saying 'look at that, it's a death trap.' Putting suncream on them is even worse. I would rather climb in a vat of tripe and have a saucy wrestle with Eric Pickles than put factor 50 on a screaming 2 year old, or have a 10 minute 'conversation' about how they need to wear a hat no-it's-not-too-hot-it'll keep-you-cool-just-put-on-the-FUCKING HAT.

Something has to be done about this dermatological stress. Someone needs to invent a sheep dip style sun-tan lotion dunking system you can take to the beach - in, out, done. One application covers all. No more greasy struggling and indignant tears, no more guilt ridden cold baths. That way Mummy can get on with something more important than worrying about her parenting. Like reading middle aged lady porn and slurping her way through a litre bottle of Asda rose while the kids disappear into the sea.