Aunty knew best when it came to sun protection.
Aunty knew best when it came to sun protection. Paul Braven GLA250615LARCOM

Paying the price of a fashion blooper

FOLKS, as a lad my summer uniform was a pair of shorts and a towelling hat, which is why my skin now has the texture, and elasticity, of a battered leather wallet.

By the way, towelling hats were small, floppy, cotton hats basically made from the same material as bath towels. They were only wide enough to cover your eyebrows and the tips of your ears and were about as useful for protecting your face from burns as an umbrella in a volcanic blast.

Still, towelling hats were brilliant for catching tadpoles and mopping up spills. Also, a wet, scrunched-up towelling hat was the subtropical equivalent of a snowball. Anyone copping a direct hit to the scone from a well-aimed towelling hat would spend the next few hours talking like Forrest Gump.

Anyway, at the other end of the solar safety spectrum was my aunt, who wouldn't leave her house during daylight hours without dressing up like the Invisible Man.

Covered from head to toe in a long-sleeved shirt, cotton slacks, wide-brimmed hat, large sunglasses and elbow-length gloves, she would dash from the shade to collect the mail, or hang out the washing, then sprint back to the house.

Oh, how we sniggered! But, now in her 80s, this neurotic pioneer of sun protection has ivory skin that is blemish-free and never had a single sunspot cut out, or burnt off. Meanwhile, my skin resembles a patchwork quilt of scars and blotches that would make Frankenstein's monster raise his eyebrows in surprise. All three of them.

Who's laughing now? Well, obviously my aunt is.

So you can imagine how I feel nowadays when I see kids playing in the blazing sunlight without a hat or sunscreen. I'd love to show them my spotty back and shoulders in the hope of scaring them into being more sun safe, but I'd probably end up getting chopped across the throat by some panicking mother.

Still, I hope for their sake that, by time they're my age, skin cancer will have gone the way of typewriters, VCRs and towelling hats.

Greg Bray blogs at

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