Generic sunbaking / skin cancer / sun exposure / sun bathing / sun damage / beach / summer . 4/10/04 . Picture: Troy Snook
Generic sunbaking / skin cancer / sun exposure / sun bathing / sun damage / beach / summer . 4/10/04 . Picture: Troy Snook

Carefree days of summer are gone forever

BACK IN the Dark Ages, when I was a kid, we all looked forward to summer.

Well, unless you were a farmer and it hadn't rained for months.

Funnily enough, my father was a farmer but really, what do little kids know, or care?

My older sister and I spent hours every day in a wading pool that, by the end of the school holidays, killed off a perfect circle of grass under the manky canvas thanks to a complete absence of light and air.

Now, I'm not sure if anybody had any idea in the late 60s of the dangers of too much sun.

If it was known by experts, well, none of them lived in my house.

Occasionally my parents would place a striped beach umbrella above the pool that sheltered us for an hour or so until the sun moved beyond its fringed edge.

There was no such thing as SPF lotions; you put zinc cream on your nose and that was only to stop the skin peeling off.

So, aesthetics rather than safety.

Keep in mind that, in the same era, my much-older brother (then already a master builder) carried the equivalent of nylon masonry wall plugs in his mouth on sites.

Back then, they were made from … asbestos.

We had no idea how dangerous our everyday lives were.

Kids regularly suffocated in abandoned refrigerators that had locking handles, there were no seatbelts in cars and children rode in the front seat. It's amazing any of us survived.

Meanwhile, when we were a few years older and had progressed to an in-ground pool tiled like a public lavatory, my sister and I held competitions to see who could achieve the best tan. I used baby oil, so I was, in essence, shallow frying myself on days that frequently topped 32 degrees.

My sibling preferred a mixture of olive oil (then it was purchased from the pharmacy to treat earache) and brown vinegar.

The idea behind that was the oil moisturised her skin, while the brown vinegar helped stain her skin a darker colour.

The fact that she smelled like a bag of fish and chips or hot vinaigrette fazed her not one iota.

We are all paying the price now, sadly.

I've been immensely lucky so far considering the abuse I heaped on my epidermis.

The odd scaly spot gets whisked away by the dermatologist and sent off in a jar to be prodded and pronounced benign.

Those were the days, though. Summer was an endless reverie of no responsibility, no homework, no school. As recently as last year I looked forward to daily swims at the local beach.

After this deadly summer of fire and smoke, I fear those carefree days have gone forever.