7 Days in Croatia - Not Climbing but Snorkelling
Ladies and gentlemen, Croatia is a beautiful place. In the company of some fine climbing people including my dearest darlingest darling I had an incredible time snorkelling in the most exquisite sea I've ever physically occupied. I have but one complaint, and that was this: 37 degrees. Celsius.
Now any Irish person knows that as far as we are concerned 37 degrees is not hot. 18 degrees is hot. 37 degrees is f**k me in my boiling arse I am actually on fire. 37 degrees is a rolling pin - like your Ma used to use to make bread or a bit o' pastry – only made of white hot lead and being passed over your skin 3 times a second. 37 degrees is being dipped directly by the hand of God into the very surface of the sun. 'Tis essentially being put in a microwave filled with magma.
But Ladies and Gentlemen I came prepared. I read the forecasts and in a sweat of profound religious terror at the prospect of such heat, I thought, Jesus, I'll step off the plane and have skin cancer before I'm off the ladder, so I went and bought the most expensive and sophisticated sun cream money could purchase from a licensed vendor. 38 quid for 300cl of a substance that I would advertise thus: This Shit Better Work.
Now was I so foolish as to sunbathe on the pulchritudinous but scorching shores of Hrvatska? Oh no, I went one f**kin better. I decided to strip off save for clown's feet and a transparent Jason mask and get into the sea. This, to the uninitiated land lubber, is the fine business of snorkelling. But in the present context we should understand it as putting a giant prism between the sun and my fair Irish skin so as to split the sunlight from one already hazardous beam into a deadly array of blazing daggers, one for each colour of the rainbow. If you conducted an experiment like this on a small animal they'd lock you away for being an evil bastard.
So I waited for the damage. On day one I arose with trepidation from by bed, expecting to look very much like a lobster that had been slapped and embarrassed in the same minute. I expected to light up the room like a giant red traffic light. But lo, 'twas not so. One small portion of my back was barely pink. I took my bottle of 38 Euro sun lotion and spake unto the skies saying, 'This Shit is F**king Magical'.
One day turned to two and three, and my confidence soared. 'My God', I thought, 'could it be that this magical potion, this lotion worthy of Gandalf, could lift the curse of the pale Irish ginger? Need I never again fear the sun?' I strode about the place, taunting the sun, 'do your worst you big arrogant shiny fecker, you overgrown light bulb, you big glowing eye-ball of a thing, you can't hurt me now!' I felt like I could jump in a f**kin bonfire, sure I was immune to heat at that stage. Give us that halapinio, I'll stick it in me eye and run a feckin mile, gowan to fuck, give it here, I'll show you a thing or two.
It was about day four when fate decided it was time to slap that thick smug Irish smile off my face.
Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a man of forty years. To younger folk, that's a ripe age indeed. I can remember when I was 19 or 20, a forty-year old struck me as someone who should probably be getting on with the business of preparing a suitably sized coffin. A forty-year old was akin to a zombie, some kind of walking dead, a creature best approached with the aid of a crucifix and an aul' bulb of garlic. But older is wiser and there's a few things I'm glad are behind me. One of them is acne. But friends, I'm here to tell you that heat rash is basically sun-induced acne. And four days spent covered head to toe in an unnatural and highly artificial magical sun lotion had the effect of preventing my skin from being able to breathe and allow heat to escape and the result was a rash consisting of things that to you and me look a lot like zits. Some portions of my skin looked as though they'd been attacked by some kind of particularly thorough wasp, some kind of O.C.D. stinging insect inspired by LSD to create a perfectly consistent stencil pattern on my skin, like a bee with a sewing machine. Other parts frankly looked like the f**kin plague. Not zits, not mere spots – more like buboes, the thing the bubonic plague is named after, big giant bastards – werezits, if you like, like werewolves, but they don't just come out in a full moon, instead they stare at you the day f**kin long going, 'burst me, I dare you, I'll explode like a f**kin fountain, gowan, burst me you dirty f**ker!' So I went about my last days ringing a jasus bell so that children and small animals might have a chance to quit the place lest the sight of me give them f**kin nightmares.
So what are we to conclude from all this? Well I'll tell you. Prior to this experience, I was not totally unschooled in the dangers of exposure to the sun. You see, I'm not just Irish, my affliction is twofold, for I am an Irish ginger. That's pronounced ging-er, not 'jinjer', and it is unequivocally a term of abuse. As such, warnings regarding exposure to the sun don't take the usual shape for me. For most, such warnings are something like, 'be careful now, it's noon and it's 25 degrees, better wear a hat on your head'. For me the warnings are more like, 'it's dawn'. People are advised to warn me if their house is equipped with light bulbs of wattage exceeding 60. I burn in heated debates.
But what this experience teaches me is that there is nothing I can do. I can protect myself with the best products of dermatological science and I'm still f**ked! The fact is that as an Irish ginger I am cursed. It's quite fashionable these days to make a joke of the way ginger people are almost treated as a down-trodden minority. Catherine Tate and South Park amongst others have had a good laugh about it. But the fact is that we differ from other persecuted minorities. Their treatment is unfair. We f**kin deserve it! Why? Look at us! We're ugly and we can't go outside! We're ugly and we can't – go – out – side!! You know who else fits that description? Lepers! We're f**kin lepers! Leper outcast unclean! Leper outcast unclean!!
But seriously, Croatia's gorgeous, you must go.