'The sun in Australia is really hot you know....make sure you wear suncream'
'A pale person like you, make sure you wear suncream'
'Your skin in so pale....you can get burnt through linen clothes, make sure you wear suncream'
'You can even get burnt through cloud in Australia...'
'hole in the Ozone Layer' .... blah blah blah ....
Before I came here I heard it all, from everyone; as I smiled and nodded I was thinking 'You don't need to tell me, I've been burnt before, I ain't letting it happen again.' In Barcelona several years ago I got (what I used to consider) pretty serious sunburn and ever since have applied suncream bi-hourly with religious zeal; fervently covering every millimetre of exposed skin. I wear suncream on nice days in Spring in the UK; of course I was going to wear tons of the stuff down under.
I remained successful in my war against the sun for almost six months, dedicating myself to the rituals of sun-creaming; wearing it from head to toe (I even put suncream on the part of my scalp exposed in the parting of my hair - no really, I did) - reapplying almost before the previous coat had even been fully absorbed. Victory was currently mine, and I got cocky, one day I let the sun trick me; making me its next victim.
We had had days of cloud, rain, storms and generally chilly weather, or I should probably say chillier weather, for the benefit of those at home currently experiencing four degree days. In Melbourne within the space of a few hours it can go from being 30 degrees and sunny to 20 degrees and raining; for at least part of every day I regret my outfit choice. Anyway, on said day, the clouds dissipated, the sun came out and we rushed to the beach. I was only there a few hours, but I was confused by the weather, tired, hungover, and after a measly application of factor 20 I fell asleep....
It was only when I got home, after dinner out with some friends (where, ironically, we had spent much time scorning the troops of burnt people that traipsed past us in the street), that I began to realise the damage I had done.
Day One - The Burn: One does not appreciate the full force yet.
Day Two - The agonising pain begins. Ability to move starts to decrease.
Day Three - Skin is unbelievably taut; reminiscent of a botched Botox. Sleep impossible. Movement very limited.
Day Four - The Peel. Gross. After shedding a layer of skin not dissimilar to the way a snake does, except that my shell is only half a human (I only burnt the entire back half of my body), the newly exposed skin is also burnt.
Day Five - Bubbling and Blistering. This is worse than it sounds.
Day Six - The Second Peel. Simultaneously satisfied and repulsed I tear and pull and peel myself until flakes of skin litter the floor. I knew that it was too hopeful to think that after peeling I might be super tanned, but after this much pain I hoped that I wouldn't be immediately pale again. I did not, however, expect to be bright red and still burnt after losing two whole layers of skin!
Day Seven - A week has gone by and I have, what I previously would have called bad sun burn, but what I now refer to as an insatiable itch - oh I am sooo itchyyy! - coupled with a deep crimson hue.
It took about two weeks but it's finally over!
I would not recommend this to anyone, it was a truly horrendous experience, but hey at least now I am incredibly tanned .... it's just a shame that it is only on my back, my front is still as a pale as ever, and not only do I have a white bikini etched into my skin, I have also have a line that runs up the entire length of my body on both sides, dividing the white from the brown like some sort of dermatological apartheid...
In short I look like some sort of ridiculous patchwork doll, and I must admit defeat; sun I take my hat off to you (although not really, because I will never again venture outside down under without a full hazmat suit).