Legends from our own lunchtimes

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ultra Violet

We live in a country where it's possible to get sunburnt sitting in the shade.

It's a foolhardy Australian who ventures outside for more than a few minutes without at least donning a hat, and some protective cream.

The international scale for measuring UV levels is an index which ranges from one to and extreme of 11+, and where we live, dangerously high readings of 12 and more are not uncommon. People in the north instinctively find places in the shade to lean while conducting a conversation. I've even seen people standing in a line in the shade of a telegraph pole.

We are bemused when Europeans visit, and have no understanding of what lying naked in this environment can do to skin cells. The darker complexions turn even darker, but the fair ones very quickly adopt a similarity to freshly boiled lobsters, sometimes with a lot less than an hour's exposure. If they are lucky, they won't blister for a few days, but they will still have a few days of pain and angst till that happens anyway.

So when we found ourselves in Barcelona, under a cloudless blue sky and touring on the top deck of a topless bus, we didn't understand the askance stares from our fellow passengers, as we slathered the white cream on the exposed parts of our bodies. Having not been over endowed with follicles at the peak of my person, and having left my hat back on the boat in Narbonne, I became a little concerned for the shiny bits on my scone, which these days comprise the major portion.

It was only then we realised that no one, that is NO ONE in Barcelona was wearing a hat. The shops didn't even sell them. The closest I could get to a fair dinkum hat was a souvenir Bullfight sombrero which was intended for hanging on a wall, not for wearing, and that wasn't going to happen.

Strangely my head didn't seem to be getting burnt, although occasionally it did feel a little hot, so I wrapped a spare jumper round it, turban style, and forgot about the whole thing.

Forgot about it that is, until I was looking at some photos, and noticed that not only did people in Barcelona not wear hats, a great many of them, like myself, did not actually wear any hair.

How could it be, I thought, that these people haven't shrivelled up into foul little black dots? From our experience they should look something like a prune would if it were roadkill.

So I did some investigation: Barcelona - UV Index 0 (minimum).

I'd never seen a "0" UV Index before.

I doubt whether we'd get that at midnight in winter under four layers of bedclothes.

The Australian Tourist wearing the Akubra stands out in Europe like a sore thumb, not because of the Akubra, but simply because they are wearing a hat.

The European Tourist in Australia on the other hand, stands out because they are wearing nothing.

I think I'll head off to the beach now to find a European Tourist, (to warn them of the folly of their ways)!


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