Beach life has a special allure. It is the coming together and constant interplay of fire, water, earth and air; an elemental experience that reaches deep within; we feel our hearts resonate with the shifting rhythm patterns of waves breaking on the shore, or gently caressing the sand, spreading like the hands of a masseur, delicate fingers touching our skin, soft kisses with the taste of salt.
I have noted the various stages one goes through in order to enjoy this experience safely, and it is my pleasure to share these insights with the wider world.
We begin with the territorial stage – this is where we mark out our place on the beach using special “markers”. The picture illustrates the main principles, with careful deployment of parasol, flip-flops, towel, sun protection products (see later) – in this case, kept in a plastic bag to protect them from the sand on the beach (they eventually end up getting covered in their own private sand which somehow finds its way into the bag) and beach bag.
The positioning stage consists of calculating the direction of the sun. There are mobile apps that can help with this, but my simple solution is to place a small stick in the ground (you could use your mobile phone if a stick is not available, but this would be a last resort) and align your towel with the shadow. This is just the starting position – be sure to re-orientate yourself as the sun’s position changes over the passing hours. This is important to avoid getting that stripey, zebra look. Unless you are a zebra. But then again, the whole point of looking like a zebra is not to look like a zebra, so you don’t end up as lunch for a lion.
Now we are ready for the sun protection stage – the careful and systematic application of creams, oils and lotions. How to solve the problem of choosing which SPF value to use? Does anyone really understand how SPF30 differs from SPF15? I think the factor value means you can stay in the sun say, 15 times longer than if you didn’t apply the product. But what is the baseline? How long can I stay in the sun unprotected? You may be able to get a mobile app to help with this as well.
Once you have chosen the appropriate SPF value, we move to the second phase of this important stage – namely, the application of the products. I won’t go through the individual steps to ensure you cover your whole body, but remember to include eyelids, nose, ears and the bits just under your beach wear. The area in the middle of your back, between the lower part of yor shoulder blades, can be challenging to reach if you are on your own and are not keen to make new friends quickly on the beach. Younger people and yoga practitioners may have an advantage here. I recommend a mobile phone application called “sun protection applicator application”, available from Sun Systems.
Now you are ready to lie down and enter the relaxation stage – but first you need to remind yourself that the great thing about being here is that you are not at work, but don’t allow thoughts of work to intrude any further than this. A gentle acknowledment and acceptance of the fact, and then let yourself merge into the elements, enjoy the total sensory experience – including the various domestic disputes that may be going on around you – as you find your breathing assumes the rhythm of the waves and your thoughts pass through various stages – from coherent and logical thinking, moving into loosely connected images, fragmentation, and finally entering the driftwood stage where your thoughts are free-floating, barely on the edge of consciousness, lacking form and meaning, very much like being at work.
Oh, and don’t forget the beer!