I couldn’t give a monkey’s what I’m going to wear on the beach this summer
Hilary Fannin: My anxiety quota has been used up on my work, my children, and the state of the world
“It must have been nice to snooze in the sun in the 1960s, unconcerned about the balding Amazon rainforest.” Photograph: iStock
I was waiting in line in the petrol station to pay for another fill of planet-polluting diesel for my ageing car. I was wondering if I should risk asking the nice lady at the credit union (the one with the acrylic nails and the pencil skirt) to lend me a bunch of money to buy some eco wheels, when I was drawn to the store’s magazine rack. One publication in particular, which seemed to be aimed at ladies of a particular vintage (my own), seemed to beckon.
“Over 50 and at your wits’ end wondering what to wear on the beach this summer?” – or words to that effect – the cover page asked.
This seemingly benign question struck me as a kind of glossy-magazine code for “what are you planning on doing with your rippling thighs, sweetheart, ’cos it’s getting hot out there?”.
Eh, no, I thought, flicking through the pages, I seriously couldn’t give a monkey’s what I’m going to wear on the beach this summer. My anxiety quota has been used up on my work, my children, the state of the world and the disparaging looks that the rib-thin, milky-eyed cat gives me when I crudely attempt affection at this late stage of our relationship.
On the subject of eco wheels (oh, were we?), I find myself borrowing heavily from my anxiety bank to fund some fundamental questions about the future of the planet, among them whether my fey and paltry attempts to live in a somewhat more environmentally conscious way are actually worth a toss.
Does it make any difference at all that I’m trying to eschew red meat and avoid food packaging, and politely suggesting to representatives from the hospitality industry that they desist from using plastic straws and stirrers?
And is there really any point in my refusing to purchase string beans that have been shipped from Mars, when the climate-change news is so relentlessly dire that walruses are already borrowing each other’s sunblock.
In the absence of any better ideas, I’ll keep faith with my environmentalist mate Mindy O’Brien, who is a resolute believer in the power of one. “Start with yourself,” she tells me, “take responsibility. Your actions are part of a bigger picture.”
I hold on to her words despite feeling pretty hopeless – you have to have some kind of creed.
Anyway, back to the all-consuming question of what to wear on the beach when one’s knees strongly resemble a pair of suet dumplings. (Speak for yourself, I hear you say – yes, well, I am, unfortunately.)
The magazine article that posed the sartorial teaser featured a beach photoshoot with a couple of pale-freckled models posing in the shade under a sun parasol, each draped in a deftly arranged sarong.
I suspect the models may have been Danish. I have no evidence whatsoever to back up this theory, other than that they were lissom and pale, with sleek, well-cut hair, and sported expressions of hard-boiled competence that you wouldn’t necessarily see every day on the beach in, say, Tramore. They seemed to display a northern European indifference to the season that we Irish, despite sharing a similar latitude, somehow lack.
It would be hard to imagine these polished effigies slapping themselves on to the sand as soon as the sun comes out, spread-eagled like amputated starfish to catch the rays before it starts to rain again. Nor, I suspect, do they have beach bags filled with egg sandwiches, the dining-room table and their great-auntie Annie.
I remember, as a child, watching my mother sleeping in the sun in her red and white polka-dot swimsuit and saucer-sized sunglasses, and how the sand used to stick to her legs and arms because of the cooking oil she’d covered herself in to hurry up her tan.
It was in the days when nobody except her nut-brown friend Peggy went anywhere but Sligo for their summer holidays. Peggy, instead, used to fly every year to Majorca, quite possibly in an empty aircraft – she was the one who set the bar for suntans back then.
It must have been nice to snooze in the sun in the 1960s, unconcerned about the suppurating Arctic or the balding Amazon rainforest, or about how many likes your itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny polka-dot bikini is going to get.
It must have been nice to nap under the pulsing sun with nothing much more than a Cuban Missile Crisis and a bit of pesky cloud cover to worry your dreams.