DEBATE MODERATED BY Grant Runyon
ILLUSTRATION Will Bertram
The month of July has seen Jersey experience the kind of heatwave that we’ve prayed for since the 90s. Temperatures steadily crept past “girls in the office wearing flip flops”, zoomed right through taxi drivers saying “It must be hotter than Magaluf” and appear to have just reached “heat exhaustion at family BBQ now a bigger threat than E Coli” at the time of writing.
This brings us onto a controversy that, to be fair, is often more of an academic question in the British climate: is it healthy to take in a lot of sunshine? If you look around our community you’ll see so many tanned people, some bronzed and beautiful, some charred and leathery, that it would seem that sun-worshipping is the people’s choice. Others would argue this is just a surface view, and the silent majority are the unseen masses who preserve themselves from the sun’s rays by suffering invisibly indoors. To settle things we locked people from both extremes in a small room with no air-con and made them wrestle it out. In the pink corner is Poppy Brannigan – lifestyle coach, social media animal trainer and licensed dispenser of kale smoothies. She spends all her free time tanning and aspires to be on Love Island before she retires at thirty. In the dark corner we have Alys Mandrake, a self-styled “thicc goth” who makes silver jewellery, reads Tarot and wears SPF 100 in February. Alys aims to live to 1000 and travel to the moon colony by broomstick.
Health benefits: is sunlight good for your body?
Poppy: Everybody knows that sunshine is good for you? It has vitamin D, healing rays and makes your cells grow and flourish like it would to a banana tree or carrot. A wise man I follow on Instagram said that “the sun is the source of all life on Earth” and so I don’t see how exposing myself to it for ten hours a day could possibly be bad. I’m like a (sexy) lizard! Obviously we need a little protection from harmful UV – so I make sure I use at least factor 5 for the first warm weeks of the year, until I develop my natural immunity from burning. After that I rub myself with organic vegetable oil, and the only downside to that is that seagulls sometimes mistake me for a chip.
Alys: If the mother goddess had intended me to tan she wouldn’t have given me a complexion the colour of an A5 envelope, not to mention superior night vision and the instinctive desire to drink blood-red wine beneath the light of the full moon. I get my vitamin D from moonlight, but also from supplements, which is much healthier than exposing myself to the risk of sunburn, skin cancer and freckles – although I need a parasol just to walk outside and pick up the Amazon parcels. Sunshine actually makes me physically ill; I can feel the wrinkles forming if I forget to go out without a floor-length coat and gloves, as I did this morning to remonstrate with small children who disturbed the tranquility of my restorative noonday slumber with their raucous footballing.
Beach culture: is sun-worshipping part of Jersey’s identity?
Poppy: Absolutely! Loving the sunshine is as traditionally Jersey as roadside vegetable boxes, driving a Range Rover and being forced to live with your parents until you are 28. I was going to say that I don’t know what our Island would be like without beach parties and barbecues, but obviously I do know what that is like – because I cry myself to sleep every night in winter. My soul dies when it gets dark at 3.30 PM. I literally don’t know anybody who doesn’t alternate between the beach, the gym and the sunbed – although it’s getting harder and harder to tell my friends apart, either because they are all so uniformly gorgeous or because of this weird milky spot in the corner of my vision.
Alys: Being forced to endure the sunshine might be part of Jersey identity, but only because throughout history many of us had no choice but to toil like beasts in the fisheries or potato fields, squinting as we slowly turned into leathery bags that would eventually be stuffed and used for cushions in a country pub where everybody has lobster neck and a moustache. Today I’m lucky enough to work entirely indoors, creating emoji fan-fiction on Tumblr and selling pictures of my feet to Japanese businessmen. In my spare time I play Dungeons & Dragons in a candlelit room, and I would argue this is as valid an expression of Jersey culture as mahogany-faced finance drones passing out in their own chunder on St Aubin’s pier. Only last weekend my Eldritch Wizard slew an estate agent and stole the Enchanted Property Ladder of St Peter.
Too sexy for clothes: is a suntan more attractive?
Poppy: I feel naked without a tan, although most of the time I am naked working on my tan, so I guess naked and untanned is the bad kind of naked? I certainly don’t feel myself if I’m not the colour of a latte moccachino (almond milk plz!) and so I don’t see how anybody could find me sexy if I reverted back to my natural skintone. I would be invisible on the beach, instead of turning heads after a four hour “tropical top-up” on the unlicensed sunbed my cousin imported from China. I feel like my tan evens out my features by obscuring all these moles, and gives me a noticeable inner glow which detracts from the crow’s feet and laughter lines I get – from having too much fun! You can tell I am always having fun from my Instagram feed, where I love like I’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching and only occasionally fire up the retouch tool in Photoshop. Add me! No dermatologists.
Alys: When I look in the mirror I see a strong, confident, sexy body looking back at me – one of the advantages of dwelling in perpetual darkness is that your own form comes to resemble the ivory moon on a still winter’s night. Suitors are drawn to me like a bat to the night air, like wolves to the cold tundra, like moths to that pale celestial body – although also like moths they are often bad at finding their destination and get trapped in nearby phone boxes. It’s difficult to meet a partner when in summertime you can only leave the house between 10PM and 4AM. I refuse to compromise and expose myself to the horrid sunlight, instead I wait inside my shadowy lair for my true love, my prince of darkness, to seek me out. I desire romance and companionship, but also somebody to help me stop running out of bread and milk until the clocks go back.