By Paul Ainsworth

IN a past life I like to think I was a Viking. Not because of my honed, warrior-like physique, or the huge, braided beard I fully intend to grow some day, but because I think I’m best suited to an icy-cold climate.

For some reason, the sun and me just don’t get on, and no matter how much I bask in its UV glory, I have a stubborn inability to tan. Rather than go a rich, Cadbury brown, I become blotchy red, then full scarlet, onward to a measles-like smattering of sickly amber, before peeling like a python shedding its scales.

If you think that was me revealing a little too much for some delicate stomachs to take, consider the feelings of those of us who have endured a few days of half decent weather in Belfast, which seems to prompt a third of the population to reveal way more skin than they should.

Now I’m no prude, believe me, and I’m all for flaunting it if you’ve got it, but this isn’t California, where leggy blondes have been raised on a diet of Avocado dew and ylang ylang-laced soya salads. It’s Belfast, where many have grown up on Wotsits, pastie suppers and Penguin bars.

This means at the same time every year, when we have our traditional mini-heatwave (essentially our summer, as we get bugger all sun the rest of the year), the pavements of the city are crammed with pasty, pigeon chested blokes striding topless, with their football tops drooping from their tracksuit bottoms’ pocket.

On one day alone last week I counted eight of the scrawny show-offs on a short car journey from West to South, and was almost blinded by the milky-white glow emanating from their concave chests as they dandered on their merry way. Forget healthy eating as a way to boost their appearance, many of these chaps think a menthol Lambert & Butler counts as one of their five-a-day.

Meanwhile, I haven’t forgotten our flashing, female friends who also think a ray of sun is an excuse to waddle around Belfast in skimpy gear. Again, far be it from me to stand in the way of girls showing the skin in summer, but I’m afraid the ones who reveal the most are the often ones with the most to reveal.

Perhaps it’s the sad fact that decent weather is a novelty in Ireland, that forces hordes of locals to strip off like pagan sun-god devotees, and inflict their imperfections on the public. It’s enough to make you thankful that for over 10 months of the year we live under grim, gunmetal grey skies, with UV light available only to those who pump coins into tanning booths above video shops.

I think I’m content to have sun as a foreign, exotic curiosity seen only on TV, as unfamiliar to Belfast as a komodo dragon.

It’s an incentive to cough up for a holiday if you really want to bask in its rays, where at least there’s the chance you won’t feel nauseous at seeing pimply backs, or pocked rolls of flesh everywhere you look.

Belfast just isn’t suited to the sunny weather, and to be frank, many don’t know how to act appropriately in it – last week’s capers in Botanic Gardens being a prime example (see elsewhere in this paper).

Thankfully though, it will soon be May, or as it’s known here ‘the beginning of autumn’ and we can get back to wrapping ourselves up, and those who feel the need to tan can go back to slathering themselves in foul-smelling brown slop, like a proper Belfast girl – or male Cool FM DJ.

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