Saturday Night: Strike while the suntan is hot, my mother told me

ALMOST 10 years ago, when I was 15, I desperately fancied a boy called Naz, who I had managed to snog at a disco just before I went on holiday to Spain. I spent the whole holiday firming my buttocks, flattening my stomach, toning my upper arms and, following a Jason Donovan fashion tip, putting lemon juice in my hair.

I returned three weeks later with a carefully manicured tan that I had spent the entire trip oiling, creaming and nurturing. Within half an hour of being back in the country, I was flicking my hair and giggling at a party, puckering a pair of pearly lips and sporting something tight and white.

'Strike while the tan is hot,' had been my mother's advice as she drove me to the party, dressed in my Olivia Newtron Bomb leggings.

I did and snogged him again. It was all very exciting and I spent the next few months having crass conversations on the phone and was eventually most unceremoniously chucked for another blonde with a hotter tan at the end of the summer.

But 10 years on and the ethos is still, rather tragically, the same. Feeling rather fab and brown after a trip to Bali, I rushed back to London hot off the plane. Having moisturised and remoisturised throughout the whole of the 15-hour flight, the air conditioning only managed to claim the top layer of skin (I have over the years become a bit of a pro in tan maintenance).

Having heard on the grapevine of a hot night out in Brixton I once more found the essential white top and prepared for an evening of tan sporting. My body could not have felt less like going out and desperately wanted to lie down and watch the England versus Poland football match, but my ego was desperate to show off.

So I came to a compromise, and watched the match until Poland was a goal up. Then, feeling depressed, I peeled myself off the sofa and set off for Brixton. It was raining, but the ego was still on a roll.

The hall in Coldharbour Lane was deserted. The Cooltan acoustic evening had not really kicked off and did not look like it was ever going to. Eight people sat knowledgeably staring at the makeshift stage as a man with a straw stetson tried to plug in the amp. Three women with long tassled maroon skirts were setting up an alternative literature stand.

The hall was cold and empty with a few fluorescent drapes pinned to the ceiling. I wandered around looking for something to drink.

'There's an offie only 10 minutes walk down the road,' explained the long-haired boy lounging half asleep on the door. I poked my head outside; it was still raining.

Despite the Coldharbour Lane disaster I was still hopeful. I had another invitation to a party in the Pool Room in Islington wedged firmly in my back pocket.

Sitting at the traffic lights mournfully watching the car wipers flop backwards and forwards, there was a roar of excitement through the open doors of the pub on the corner. Wright had just scored the equaliser and I, of course, had missed it. The beer bellies cheered and punched the air, danced in circles and threw gestures at the television.

Phil Collins was on the jukebox at the Pool Room in Islington and about 12 people were hunched over the dozen or so pool tables balancing pints on the green felt corners. The neon striplight drained the tan from my face and highlighted the pink patch on the end of my nose. Even my ego was not enjoying this.

The Genesis ballads continued to dribble through the speakers, the tonic water was warm, the ice melted on impact with my drink and they had run out of crisps at the bar.

My ego and I had had enough of tan sporting; no one even asked me where I had been so I could not let slip about my terribly sexy holiday. I decided to return home via the offie and watch the late- night film. But, as luck would have it, the offie had already closed and I inevitably missed the first half of the film.

There was nothing to drink in the house and the heating was broken. As a last resort I made it to McDonald's, just before closing, and ended the evening in the company of a chickenburger. That is the last time, I vowed, that I am going to rush from the airport to show off my bikini line. But then, I am sure I said exactly the same thing last year.

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