British summers can be brief and disappointing, with the sun in short supply. It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that a warm, sunny day is met with an almost hysterical lack of inhibition. All over British towns and cities people strip off: builders labour in short shorts, men strip to the waist and office workers litter the parks in states of undress. Everywhere you will see signs of over-exposure to the sun - red strap marks, burnt noses and peeling skin.
It was not always like this: up until the 20th century the British liked their skin pale, and went to considerable lengths to achieve this. Sunburnt skin was stigmatised as a sign of outdoor work and lower social status. But now, in the days of mass tourism, a suntan is highly desirable and, for sun-deprived Britons, exposure to the sun is a great mood-enhancer.
The British are some of the most inveterate - and reckless - sunbathers in Europe. Yet British sun is not safe, malignant melanomas are becoming increasingly common and British people, with their fair colouring, are highly susceptible to skin cancer.
British summers are a notorious rollercoaster, and there is no doubt that months of sun-deprivation turn many people's heads. The safest option would, of course, be to accept that pale skin is pretty, but that would be involve a revolutionary change in Anglo-Saxon attitudes.
In the meantime, follow the golden British rule of ignoring obvious signs of folly in the sun. Don't make personal remarks about the signs of disastrous sunbathing - only comment if you can make a compliment.