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All I'm Saying Is – a healthy dose of sunshine can't come quickly enough for Kathy Griffiths

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: May 14, 2014

This is what we want ... beach-goers soaking up the sun at Caswell.

This is what we want ... beach-goers soaking up the sun at Caswell.

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I HAVE a dark secret, well quite the opposite of dark actually. More a freckly pink, gradually fading to a light golden hue kind of secret. I love a tan.

In fact, I used to love having a tan so much I was a frequent user of sunbeds. These days to admit you go to any kind of solarium is tantamount to revealing a crystal meth habit, funded by benefit fraud.

I used to be such a fan I would head for a quick top-up in my lunch break. This was back when you had to strip down to your scanties and climb inside a human-sized sandwich toaster for a quick blast.

I liked it so much — particularly on a cold wet South Wales autumn evening — I could happily nod off while I baked. (On one occasion my relaxation was such that in the changing room later, a friend asked if I'd heard the terrible noise that must have been coming from the leisure centre's Jacuzzi. "It was like an awful snuffly grunting sound," she said. I shook my head vigorously, knowing full well I had just woken from a deep dribbly open-mouthed sleep and, judging by my slight hoarseness, knew I had been snoring enough to disturb the over-60s badminton in the sports hall next door.)

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During the long hot summers of my childhood (and I'm talking about 1976, scorchio) I never remember getting sunburned, but then I never actually sunbathed.

We were always playing British bulldog and riding our bikes, and the healthy glow on our arms, legs and faces was just a side-effect of a holiday well spent.

Of course, as you get older you go for it with a bit more dedication (though I was never quite as foolhardy as my fairer-skinned brother who used olive oil while working as a deckchair attendant on Saundersfoot beach — my favourite game then was patting him on his back and running away when he started screaming in pain).

I have always found sunbathing soporific. Grabbing a few rays in the garden, wearing big sunglasses (look, it was the '80s) I dozed off, resulting in enormous white panda eyes which took weeks of fake tan application to disguise.

On my first foreign holiday, I got a proper Mediterranean tan. I didn't realise if you burn yourself badly enough you will blister, have mind-numbing headaches and throw up before you reach the desired pine dresser colour. However, once achieved I felt fantastic. I had assumed this was down to the optical illusion of a decent tan making you look 10lbs thinner.

Turns out that feeling of well-being isn't down to the colour you turn, it's caused by it being sunny.

It's why, when the sun shines people smile a bit more, chat in shops, skip to work on a Monday morning. And it's also why Seasonal Affective Disorder — when our bodies struggle to cope with the cold and gloom we endure for roughly 10 months a year in Swansea — is a recognised condition.

We need the sun because it is the best way of our bodies getting vital vitamin D. Without it we run the risk of getting illnesses as serious as the skin cancers we are striving to avoid by staying indoors. Amazingly 833 children were admitted to hospital suffering from rickets last year, a disease linked to lack of vitamin D, that used to be the scourge of dingy Victorian slums.

It is another of those terrible health dilemmas that science has served us up.

The sun's rays are the main cause of skin cancer so our melanoma fears are justified (tell me abut it, after watching my farmer dad having to have yet another sinister mole blasted from his head after a lifetime of outdoor work) but they could turn out to be positively dangerous if they mean we don't get enough of the sunshine vitamin as a result.

Of course, this is not carte blanche to baste ourselves with a factor 2 for hours, more a gentle reminder that the big shiny yellow thing in the sky set to make a reappearance this week is not our enemy. Responsible sun worship is the name of the game — just be careful out there, soak up the sun — just for a few minutes — and you really will feel better. And if you're confused, think of it like red wine — one glass a night may be beneficial, but five hours lashing it down with whiskey chasers and things are going to end in tears.

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