Damp squib


Some people spend their money on shoes, some on gadgets, some on I dunno vintage railway timetables. I am beginning to spend my money on swimwear. It’s becoming an obsession – and when is an obsession ever healthy? The problem, as ever, lies in the gulf between perception and reality. In perception – all right, stoopid imagination – I am a tanned lovely who wanders uncrumpled from pool to cocktail party with only a silk shift and strappy shoes to mark the transition. In reality, I’m a stocky Celt with peasanty calves and a mauvish tinge. The Esther Williams number, purchased some weeks ago, has yet to be unveiled to a wond’ring world, but we are getting close to jumping-in day at the lido, and for that I need more coverage than 1946 can offer.

Yes, I can cover myself in sunblock, but freckles seem unintimidated by suncream and pop out regardless. And I do so loathe a freckle. Not other people’s, mark you, just mine. Why only last summer I got busted on a train while staring enviously at the gloriously freckled décolleté of a slumbering redhead opposite. Cept she wasn’t slumbering after all and there was an awkward eye-catching moment the memory of which still makes me wriggle and clear my throat.

So, sunblock doesn’t really block the sun, and at the magnitude I require, it acts like the goose fat Channel swimmers used to plaster themselves in before wetsuits stopped being made of oilskin and brass. Observation: Nivea Factor 50 might (mostly) block the ingress of sunlight, but it also blocks the egress of heat. Result: a sealed-in sensation and a spiralling core temperature. Bad.

So I’ve bought myself An Alternative. A short-sleeved, shorty-legged, zip-up thing. FFS, face it, it’s a onesie. And oh dear Lord a-mercy, it’s hideous. The first iteration arrived last week, claiming to be a European size 34 that was so vast it flapped under my arms. That was returned, and its replacement – a jaw-dropping size 32 – arrived yesterday. NB, there’s no way that it’s a UK size 8, it’s about a 12, I’d say, but mislabelling is the least of its (my) problems. Because where once I was 1940s Pinewood Studios starlet, now in that monstrous hovercraft air cushion I’m…I’m…I’m…  there are no words.

Wait. Yes there are: ‘village idiot’, ‘tubby Edwardian gent’, and ‘I don’t think they’re staring because they’re jealous’. See you at the lido!


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