Saturday, 12 June 2010

Tango woman strikes bronze

I love the idea of summer. I have this image of me, slim and tanned, nonchalantly sporting cut-offs and a t-shirt, mucking around in the sea, trip-trapping through the sand-dunes, playing beach volleyball with James and his mates. Or standing, Pimms in hand, looking sultry and sunkissed in a floaty dress with spaghetti straps at summer barbecues. Oh dream on, sunbeam. The reality is that I huddle, under cover of a beach shelter, in jeans and long-sleeved top, laden with Factor 50, nose in book, moaning when sand gets in my ready-mix G&T.
Summer and I don’t get on really. Spaghetti straps and skimpy tees are no-nos when you’re a J cup. But mainly my problem is my uber-white Celtic skin. Skin so white it gleams in the dark. When I was young I thought that, at some point or other, my freckles would simply join up and – hey presto – I’d be tanned. Of course they didn’t – they just turned into age spots.
I went through a phase of trying fake tans but fell victim to the twin miseries of orange streaks and the all-pervasive stench of burnt biscuit. I tried to convince myself that it was fashionable to be pale but pale on an ethereal eighteen-year old and pale on a pudgy middle-aged frump are two quite different things. So I gave up.
Then someone sent me a tube of Xen-Tan. I sniffed – it smelled of vanilla. I rubbed a little on my arm – it felt like a nice body cream. Encouraged, I massaged it into my legs and – hey presto – a few hours later I was brown. I was so excited that I emailed my editor and asked if she wanted a feature on fake tans. True to form she ignored the email for several weeks and then, on Friday, said – ‘Yes! Do it now! Try out every kind you can think of and let me have the copy by Monday.’ She tends to forget that a) I don’t live in London and b) all expenses were cut a couple of years ago. ‘Um, that’s a tall order,’ I said. ‘Wednesday then?’
Dear gods. This reminded me of when part of my job was road-testing hairdressers. I started off with a shoulder-length swathe and ended up with a GI crop. When they couldn’t cut, they coloured and – after a dizzy trip through the rainbow of hair colourants – my hair turned into slime. ‘You’ve killed it,’ said the last one, suggesting a feature on wigs.
Okay, so this isn’t as extreme but how can you test out fake tans when you’ve only got one body? Answer (a touch of brilliance, I thought): try out different ones on different bits. So I’m now a patchwork of tan. And brown, very very very brown.
‘Good god,’ said Adrian, as I walked down the stairs in pedal-pushers and a floaty top (with thick straps). ‘What on earth have you done?’
Don’t you just love the esteem-boosting effect of the average husband?

As I walked over to my friend Rachel’s car, she leaned out the window, staring at my legs. ‘You’ve been St Tropezed,’ she said. Actually, spot-on, the legs were St Tropez. I spent the entire journey to Taunton apologising about the smell; she spent the entire journey apologising for her feet. We had a very funny conversation which I wish I could remember but I was laughing too hard.

We saw Five Soldiers, a piece of contemporary dance which followed five soldiers through training (monotonous drill) into a tight-knit unit (while revealing their individual personalities).  It showed clearly that behind the uniform and discipline are real people, with real passions and pain.  Given feelings about the war in Afghanistan, I was surprised (and saddened) that the audience was so sparse. 

'It's the world cup,' said Rachel. 
Ah yes.  Of course.  Nothing more important.

‘To be honest, I preferred the one with the whirling monks,’ said Rachel. ‘Or the one where they captured members of the audience and put them in bin bags.’
‘Yeah, me too.’  I felt awful saying it but no, it's not a feelgood show.  Not when one of the soldiers ends up losing his legs.  
‘We didn’t laugh at this one,’ I said.
‘No,’ said Rachel, rather sadly. We have spent several productions weeping quietly into our handbags, disguising snorts with bouts of coughing. It’s great for the soul – probably doesn’t work so well for the performers.



We didn't laugh much on the way home.

Yesterday my lovely brown legs and I spent the day attacking the garden with particular verve and vim. Today we shall go and see David Bellamy in the churchyard (no, he’s not dead – just opening our revamped church).
I won’t be wearing a spaghetti-strapped dress but, curiously, I will be feeling happier about my summer self.   Not just because I've found my ideal bronze but because I still have a pair of legs to get brown (one way or another).  And that's simply not a choice for some of those soldiers coming back from Afghanistan.


PS - check out Project Mobility - a great small charity.

22 comments:

Jon Storey said...

I have just noticed that the top of the comments box says,
"Go on - tell me what you really think!"

Well I think that your husband is a real man, one who clearly knows the location of a good chip shop, because he is unlikely to get fed for the next few days!!

As I write this, the eldest daughter will be landing in Greece for a weeks holiday with her God Mother! Is envy still a sin?

On a more serious note, my late friend's son has just gone to Afghanistan with the Marines and I find myself taking even more notice of the news than usual...

Fran said...

I'm trying out a new look this year - all white and pasty. In fact, it's the same look as I tried last year. And the year before. And ...

Fennie said...

I daresay we share the same job lot of
white skin. It seemed desperately unfair when after three weeks on a Spanish beech everyone was beautifully tanned while I looked as though I had just arrived. The only difference was I no longer burned. But I've never had the courage to try a fake tan and these days I am mostly covered up anyway. I am always the last person in town to abandon by winter pullover. In fact I'm still wearing it now. Good luck with the article - at least you've got a deadline!

Rob-bear said...

Well, I'm another with white skin. I started out with white hair, too, which naturally turned brown, then back to white.

Not into tanning. I just burn. Well, I used to, not any more. But I have to be careful.

Legs, and legless soldiers; how paradoxical. We save more lives on the battlefield, but end up with more disabled people.

And who's a pudgy middle-aged frump these days?

elizabethm said...

I sympathise with the white legs, me too. Maybe, after a few years of having given up in despair, I might try the Xentan.
And yes, about legs.

Alison Cross said...

I'm another fair Celt. One that has been shitting herself since listening to the Jeremy Vine show on Skin Cancer last week.

Jeremy - stooooop scaring me!

Anyway - loved this post. I thought the way you linked bronzer and soldiers was very clever ;-)

I'm always very wary of 'entertainment' about war. Seems a bit of an oxymoron. That said, I will probably crawl miles over broken glass to see War Horse.

I went to see a play, years ago, whose name totally escapes me, in the one of the Glasgow shipyards - about soldiers in WWI. might have been called Angel of Mons - certainly the Angel figured in the play. Cried my eyes out.

I really support our troops, but as a mum, you're always aware that these young soldiers are somebody's darling and I just want them all to come home. Now.

Ali xxx

Exmoorjane said...

Jon: ah, my husband is the one who does the feeding... Hey, I'm seriously envious of your daughter.... and understand your anxiety about Afghanistan...

Fran: yup, I'll be joining you again before long, I'm sure.

Fennie: love the word pullover - makes me smile :) Confess I rather like the sunkissed look (but then, it's such a novelty)..

Rob: yup, pale white bears, one and all it seems. ;)

EM: the Xen-Tan is good. Am also quite sold on Murad Firming Bronzer - it's wash-off (and pricey) but darn good.

Ali: you know the funny thing - it wasn't until the end of this post that I even made the connection...weird. I would LOVE to see War Horse. Adored the book.

Tattie Weasle said...

Would love to have brown legs but worry that if I just had brown legs would people wondr why I still had a white face and arms? Or do people not relaly notice if you're not all one colour?
Re the soldiers running in the London Marathon last year I was humbled to see so many running too without legs for those in a worse conditions; Dear God!

Humdrum Mum said...

I am very pale to, but in my more recent years, have had a great fisherman's tan so my arms and chest are brown, but legs still white. I may try this Xen Tan! I echoe a previous post, these soldiers are all of them someone's little boy or girl, please come home safe. - HMx

Glummy Mummy said...

I'm terribly pale too, however hard I try I just can't seem to find a tan that looks real. I'll probably have to resort to lying on beaches all month.

Naomi Devlin said...

I've got pure Irish skin too - although the mystery to me is why my two Irish parents are such different colours? My father is that indescribable shade of pale that the georgians called 'milk in water' and my mother goes a deep mahogany every summer.

I like Darphin fake tan - very even, not orange and medium burnt biscuit. Although I mix some wash off bronzer in with it so that I can see where it's going. Colourless fake tans are a dangerous beast non?

My husband associates the smell of fake tan and cocoa-butter with summer holidays and is therefore wistfully fond. Whenever I've been tanning he claims I smell like cake - could be worse...

x x x

Bluestocking Mum said...

Fabulous blog Jane!

I laughed out loud at, 'I spent the entire journey to Taunton apologising about the smell.'

I've a fair skin too although I do go brown, eventually, after burning a few layers off.

'Someone close' to me has a good range of self tan products if you ever need any...

tee hee
xx

Cait O'Connor said...

I am another pale one Jane with the white than white Irish skin but have resigned myself to it now.I cover up well and wear a hat, I have never used fake tan. I actually love freckles now but I was embarrassed about them as a child. I love red hair too.
Have just read some of your comments and it seems we are all fair Celts - perhaps it's something to do with our shared love of writing as well.

Cait O'Connor said...

PS I shall order your book for the library.

Family Affairs said...

I know this was just a ploy to sneak on to the plane to Florida - you would fit in perfectly over there....

I have been wearing my Mickey ears all week waiting for the call. But no. Are you still shades of orange? Lx

Mud in the City said...

Just as Tattie says, I too saw disabled servicemen running the London marathon last year with great pride and courage and was humbled by them. Especially if you remember that the average age of a soldier is just 19....

dulwich divorcee said...

So with you on the hell of summer. Hot, sticky, sweaty and all that pressure to be hairless and brown - pfft! I shall give your vanilla-flavour faker a go, though xx

GoldenGirl said...

Oh goodness, I can never wait for summer to come...... but then it does and those white trousers never look quite as classy as I imagine them, the pedicure is never as immaculate as it needs to be, you get ridiculous tan lines because you weren't paying attention on the two days that the sun finally came out..... and I have decided I am too lazy for fake tan LOL

rachel said...

I judge a good summer by how brown my feet get. As I get older, they are very reluctant to tan at all, unless I'm wearing sandals, in which case they stripe - rapidly. Then by September, they just look grubby. Nowadays I have an allotmenteer's tan; not a good look, but who cares?

Looking at those youngsters in Afghanistan, I think about my own father, and how many tours of duty he made in dangerous places. But communication home was so poor then, we didn't know much about it till he came back.....In some ways, I wonder if this might have been easier for families to bear than the total news coverage of the front line that exists now?

rachel said...

I judge a good summer by how brown my feet get. As I get older, they are very reluctant to tan at all, unless I'm wearing sandals, in which case they stripe - rapidly. Then by September, they just look grubby. Nowadays I have an allotmenteer's tan; not a good look, but who cares?

Looking at those youngsters in Afghanistan, I think about my own father, and how many tours of duty he made in dangerous places. But communication home was so poor then, we didn't know much about it till he came back.....In some ways, I wonder if this might have been easier for families to bear than the total news coverage of the front line that exists now?

rachel said...

Oops - your word verification kept refusing my comment, and now I see it's appeared twice. Perhaps another two to come then!

CAMILLA said...

I am one of the fair celtic skin Jane, sun and moi do not go hand in hand, if so all there is to see is more freckles.! Thinking back of a friend once who said, why worry about freckles, they are a sign of beauty, I was not convinced I have to admit.!

This body of mine is crying out for a bronze sylph, have tried many tan lotions and bagged the one best I thought of Ambre Solaire and found I don't have any allergy to to it. Will try out that Xen-Tan Jane.

Good luck with the article Jane.!