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Smack My Beach Up II:
Andando en las Playas, Mirando los Molocotones

May 2000

We all have our critics. There are certainly people who think there is something irresponsible about sitting on a beach all day. Some would even say that it’s not good for the soul. One can’t help suspecting them of jealousy but, on the off chance that a man really does need to perform some function of use to society to maintain a sense of self-worth, I have managed to find a steady source of employment very close to home. On the beach itself, in fact.
It was a classic case of spotting a niche, not to say a real need, and getting in there like a well-oiled chorizo.
In fact it was my neighbour, she of the swimming pool eyes, who gave me the idea. During another hard day of study-by-the-sea, she was trying to place herself in the optimum position to get an even tan on those parts of her back not covered by the pieces of turquoise string that stood in for a bikini. While doing so she bemoaned the fact that she had suffered quite bad sunburn on the previous day, due largely to the difficulty of applying sun tan lotion to her dorsal regions.
In order to contribute sensibly to this conversation, it was necessary to study her honey-coloured flesh with great care. Thus I was able to state categorically, thirty minutes later, that there was no sign of recent burning, especially when compared with the week-long cycle of off-white – livid red – peeling mess – off-white that my skin goes through when exposed to the sun’s rays for more than thirty seconds without the protection of factor 97 sun block — or a house, as it’s also known. I didn’t offer to help out, mainly because her friends, la irlandesa and la francesa, were lying beside her, similarly attired and fully equipped with ears, hands and the power of movement. Believe me, the temptation was there …
But so was the germ of an idea. Obviously she was far from being the only person on the beach with such a problem. Perhaps her relationship with her fellow students and the “no such thing as society” culture made the necessary co-operation unlikely. Others might even be out there all alone. Here was the necessary motivation to help me conquer my natural shyness. It was also an opportunity to occupy my time and meet any number of new and interesting people — and a chance to perform a considerable public service into the bargain.
Lest anyone should doubt the altruistic aspect of my self-appointed role, the local paper for tourists, “Sur in English” (“South en Inglés”) reports that “the number of cases of melanoma has increased fivefold in the last twenty five years” in the North of Malaga Province. And that’s inland.
So now my days are spent strolling up and down the beach, carrying a whole range of skin-care products and offering to apply liberal coatings of whatever factor my charming young clients select to all those hard-to-reach places like backs, buttocks, thighs and breasts (well, I find them hard to reach). “Es un trabajo arduo, pero alguien debe hacerle,” as they say around here.
At 250ptas (£1) a time, it’s also pretty good value. Of course some girls charge me more than that, but I’m always open to haggling …

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