It’s easy to know when Summer arrives  – let’s not quibble about Spring – it’s when you’re not wearing a jumper, T-shirt or trousers, BBQs drift in through the windows (not literally of course) and Boots start 3-for-2 sun cream offers. The television news announces Summer with gratuitous footage of bikini-clad women on Brighton beach – which to be fair makes a pleasant change from reporters standing knee deep in floods while sodden locals flick V-signs in the background.

There can be few nationalities keener on tanning than the Brits, which is probably explained by spending five months a year in damp darkness being sedated by ITV light entertainment while developing type 2 diabetes.

Spending the entire winter in what feels like the gloomier side of the moon means that T-shirts are torn off at the precise moment the sun breaks the clouds. Moaning about the cold and self-inflicted high heating bills are instantly forgotten, as that most pointless, yet hazardous, pastime of tanning begins. It seems an excellent opportunity to consider the different tanning social tribes.-

-One of the initial tans of the season is the Pushchair Tan, which for stay-at-home fathers is the metrosexual version of a trucker’s tan only there are less truck stops and CB radio handles, at least where I live. You also get both arms brown.

-The Office Tan. This involves the careful timing of lunch breaks with the sunniest time of day. This might mean lunching at 4pm, but always means finding a park distance enough from your office so not to alarm your colleagues as your suit gets torn off like Superman late for a mugging before eating your sandwich.

– The Yo-Yo is the tanner who strips to the waist at the barest glimpse of sun, only to find it disappearing behind clouds, slicing an immediate 10 degrees off the temperature, requiring a hurried dash back indoors; at least until the next flash of sunny promise. Ad-finitum until dusk. The Yoyos are often slim and never read more than half a book page at a time.

– The opposite is the Costa. which is the tanning equivalent of a bungie jump, only with the cord cut. These people want you to know they’ve been on holiday. This results in spending the entire holiday sunbathing until they’re a bronzed ebony. Some don’t even read whilst doing so incase this causes book-shadow. What they should probably be working on is a personality, but that’s what reading is for. They are also easily spotted in airport arrivals wearing white suits/dresses.

– However they are not the Amateur. This is the ‘I’m too stupid/young/pissed to put sun lotion on.’ We all once suffered from this – when using any factor higher than 2 was sneered at. If you hadn’t fainted from heat stroke and spent a week lathered in yoghurt or in Spanish A&E, then the holiday was considered a failure.

-The Tanorexic – often appear to work in sun-bed salons and are paid in either free tanning sessions, or in those strange circular eye protectors. They are the Costa only without the anecdotes of having turned over once an hour.

-The Builder tan. This is the tan that sits on the skin with an air of rugged entitlement. The builder’s tan has been a little compromised by EU requirements to wear a hi-viz jackets for any endeavour that involves leaving the house, but it remains a perk, along with shoving the Sun (see what I did there) down a white van’s dashboard.

– the Elizabethan: This is the anti-tan, and is making a comeback, at least in London’s Shoreditch. After all, who wants to look like a sunburnt builder. This look is best suited to a game of arctic hide & seek, and models itself on the chalk men of Kent and Sussex. It’s  best achieved by rolling in white powder, although these days people prefer to inhale white powder and spend the following day in bed, which has the same effect.

–  The Maintainer  Tan: Of the sort that quietly suggests you own a yacht in the south France, but probably  don’t. They come back from holiday looking healthy and yet still appear like this 4 months later. It’s a combo of carefully applied self-tan and the occasional actual blast in the sun.

– The fake . This is for people who are colour blind to orange, and are often friends with the  Tanorexic, or belong to both categories. It’s the healthier version of the sunbed, but you don’t want them sitting on your white sofa.

-The Trump. It seems unfair not to mention a man who might become the next president of USA, yet looks like someone’s asked him to sniff some brown paint, before slamming his face into it and running off.

My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – – 

A farcical road trip around Europe. ‘This is what would happen if the Blues Brothers went on a search for the Holy Grail.’

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –