It was sometime about three years ago that I became comfortable in a bikini. I like to think that with maturity some confidence came and - despite the fact that I don’t exercise an already naturally curvy body - I too want a tanned tummy and the one piece will come out when I’m good and ready.
When I was in my slightly younger and more self conscious days I set off to Italy to spend a summer au-pairing on the Tuscan coast. In my early twenties, I had just bought my first bikini since the six year old’s 'cropped top' version that my Grandma bought me at Sandbanks, at the age when being buried in the sand was still considered fun- with no foresight about the sand that would remain in cracks for days to come.
So it was flying into Pisa I was armed with the one black M&S bikini that would pass a long hot summer running around after a spoilt four year old bambina on the beach and learning all about Italian beach etiquette.
This was an etiquette that required taking the young Italian devil, sorry, angel for a fresh shower after any toe dip in the sea; looking unashamed as child screamed blue murder under the cold water, holding the wriggling child still to ensure that she was completely dried before putting a new clean dry costume onto her. Repeat all above actions throughout the day and don’t forget that the colour of the towel must match the range of costumes.
It’s now nearly ten years since I passed that hot Tuscan summer, and since then I have enjoyed salty and sandy times on beaches in far flung places including Brazil, Miami, Thailand, Fire Island, Sicily and Cuba. So, I hit the beaches this year in the south of France with several of my bikinis (at least three of them so that if I rotate one a day they won’t wear out too soon), wraps and tunics. This, my Mum noticed with a smile, which I believe she thought hid a smirking memory back to my old pre-Italy bikini days.
I was in the green bikini yesterday, when I noticed that there was an extremely tanned couple with beautiful child laid out on the sand in front of us. I didn’t pay them much attention until I noticed the bronzed mother pulling the child into a white costume and discarding the blue one before she wrapped a towel around herself and switched the black bikini for a turquoise string thing. I settled back into my reclining position and dipping back into my book chuckled, remembering the Italian beach etiquette and the summer it gave me my bikini confidence.