Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Let's talk about clothes! - part 1

I thought i'd blog about clothes!

Enjoying being clothes-free doesn't make this taboo, although I've found it remarkable how some militant or long-time nudies can't seem to bear mentioning them in any context other than the relief felt when they remove them! A hardy few appear to want to go to any length to stay bare.

Stephen Gough, the infamous UK 'naked rambler' I wouldn't include in this category, since he isn't nude for the sake of a chosen lifestyle but as a defender of civil liberty. In fact it has been noted that indoors he is dressed more often than you would suspect. However there are a small number of nudies who seem to want to remain undressed to the very limits of tolerance, both societal and environmental!

One example recently had me out in the garden looking for Geminid meteors. Frost was on the ground and a chill breeze was blowing. The temperature hovered around freezing. I was wrapped up to the nines in fleece, but even then could only stay out for 15 minutes at most. Back indoors I mentioned my tally on an online forum. Almost immediately a reply came back from a man preparing to go out to look, and he was absolutely not going to be dressed. It made me chuckle.

I don't mind clothes. Certain types irk me more than others. I don't like the feeling of waist-bands or belts, but woolly jumpers, loose sweats, t-shirts are just fine. I'm loving the trend toward all-in-one garments. The onesie is a fab idea. When the situation requires clothes, I get dressed. Keeping warm trumps nudity. Common sense trumps all. Sorry militants!

Advocating being clothes-free to me is about promoting freedom of choice. I would happily be unclothed in a room of clothed people if I knew I had the right and respect of all there. Respect is key. One of key benefits of the clothes-free lifestyle community is the respect shown towards each other. However, the respect towards Joe Public needs some work.

Clothing isn't a dirty word. Replacing 'clothed' with 'textile' in clothes-free circles is just daft. It just makes folks appear as though they are scared to say the word! It is self-defeating for those wanting to normalise simply nudity and gain the all-important respect. It exposes the them-and-us situation, the wedge, that keeps the stereotype alive of naturists being anti-clothing, and aloof of society behind their 'hedges'. That the director of the recent documentary at Spielplatz naturist club chose to focus on an individual enforcing a rigid 'no clothes' policy is testament to this.

If there was one bit of lateral thinking that I would offer to naturists wanting to educate others and connect with society in a way that would change Joe Public's stereotype of naturism, it would be to talk about clothes rather than eschew them. It's not going to make naturists 'less of a naturist' by doing so. Perhaps meeting in the middle is a better strategy than British Naturism shouting at people to take all their clothes off in a way that implies little flexibility.

Being a scientific nerdy kind of guy, and a naturist, I thought it would be interesting to look at the history of humans and clothes. The last two thousand years or so during the rise of monotheistic religion is pretty well known. Directed modesty has led to the social convention of being clothed in virtually all circumstances. I want to go back further than that though, to look at when and why clothing arose at all. I'm off to do some reading...and will be back to blog further...

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A Christmas wish list

For Christmas this year I would like when nude:

  • To be able to open my front door to a stranger in full confidence that I am within my right to do so, that the police would support me, and that the stranger would fully respect my state of dress without comment or aversion.
  • To be able to walk freely in an area where the number of stranger encounters numbers less than two dozen or so an hour without fear of adverse reaction or comment.
  • To be able to use my back garden in full knowledge that I act totally within the law and that any report of my state of dress would be dismissed out of hand by any authority.
  • To be able to use any beach or public swimming pool without comment or reaction.
  • To be able to attend organised events that promote nudity as common sense for the event and that are open to everyone to attend or avoid as appropriate to their opinion of them in areas that are open to the public.
For Christmas this year I would like British Naturism:
  • To do better to support the end of discrimination in club naturism.
  • To switch focus from private event organising to public event organising by moving towards organising one of, a clothes-optional bike ride, picnic, or run (perhaps for charity).
  • To vastly broaden the scope of marketing of naturism in the UK whilst preparing and implementing a strategy for targeting the most appropriate demographics.
  • To use video marketing for the first time.
  • To broaden the online community to take away the 100% focus on the forum and implement modern social media.
  • To promote better the making of friendships in naturism by supporting ways of contacting others away from officially sanctioned events and clubs.
  • To prepare a strategy to help promote commercial naturism.
  • To finally define a 'vision statement' for the organisation along with stated aims.
  • To prepare and implement a 'reward and recognition' strategy for volunteers.
  • To instruct all members of the Executive Committee to write regular blogs to update the membership on the work being done by each departmental head.
  • To replace the National Convention with a National Expo broadening the reach of those playing a part in social liberalism in the UK (retaining the exclusion of any sexual element).
What would you like for Christmas?

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Trouble in Nudeville



It's been a few days now since the Naked Village documentary (mockumentary?) was aired on More4. I didn't write anything straight away as I wanted to wait and see what the reaction was going to be. It's been interesting to say the least.

First off, I should say that I've never been to Spielplatz (3 hours drive from me), although I'd like to visit if there's a good reason like a social 'meet up' or a special event. I've visited six naturist clubs in the UK, and having seen the documentary, I can well believe that there are huge parallels between all of them (with the exception of maybe one). I've enjoyed all my visits and I'm keen to keep touring around, but I'm not likely to ever join a club given that it's just too far for me to attend one regularly enough. Distance is key, rather than motivation.

The other thing I decided not to do is to comment specifically about the issues at Spielplatz because it has become clear that the programme editing has been massive. Reels and reels have hit the cutting room floor. Despite what some naturists dreamt of, this show was never going to be a pure 'advert for the lifestyle'. There was always going to be an angle in which the producer would want to hook the viewer until the end. Showing a degree of conflict, some controversy, or some 'on the edge' footage was always going to happen. On top of this, I gather that there have been significant top level changes at the club since the programme footage was taken, and that one figure of controversy (he of the 'you must undress' attitude) has departed.

My reaction to the programme can be summed up by one word - sadness. Some folks have been very angry about it, some ambivalent, a few optimistic, but on watching some of the highlights again I just couldn't help feeling a overwhelming sense of dejection. This was compounded by the objective part of me being satisfied that the programme makers had indeed shown club naturism for what it is. The stereotype is confirmed. Joe Public would feel vindicated to claiming naturism is as eccentric, outdated and outmoded as they initially believed.

I am sad and increasingly frustrated about the general direction organised naturism is headed. British Naturism and club naturism have a great deal in common; understandable given their common history. Injecting the effort needed to change the stereotype of BN and naturist clubs equates to the effort needed to turn an ocean liner...the momentum is great, the time headed in the same direction long....and the world has changed around it.

What's the problem? Well in my opinion it's two-fold. First is a lack of genuine effort. Second is a lack of direction. Many in naturist circles talk a good game. Many openly agree that naturism needs to change to catch up with modern cultural and societal modes. Unfortunately it seems to stop there.

First...effort. Naturist clubs membership numbers are declining, as are those of BN, so there are less hands available. I also think that there's a bit of fibbing going on. Naturists are very quick to talk of change, but underneath I sense that secretly a lot of naturists are just fine with the status quo i.e. on the one hand they will agree that more young people and families are needed, but on the other they love the peace and quiet of the 'retired couple' atmosphere at clubs. One club secretary openly admitted to me that he puts off young people and families with young children from attending his club, whilst writing on online forums that he hopes the club attracts 'new blood' to keep it going for 'the next generation'. Complete contradiction.

BN is similar in this regard. BN has at the top level several 'departments'. One of these is Marketing. Marketing includes managing the brand, educating the public, spread the word on the virtues of nudity, and working with the Campaigns department on the goal of 'normalising nudity'. However the current BN Commercial Director is utterly preoccupied by the internal quarterly magazine and any other kind of marketing past the odd interview on broadcast media is completely absent. It's not helped by his apparent lack of clear accountability in his role which is the only unelected position at the top-end of the organisation. Instead, BN are pushing their events...events for BN members. This doesn't help with bringing newcomers to naturism though. It preaches to the already converted. As with clubs, BN talks a good game, then doesn't go through with it.

The other key point is direction. Even when the effort is available to try and tweak the momentum and bearing of organised naturism, either folks don't know which way to steer or else everyone steers in a different direction! Personally, I find the fascination with trying to attract young people and young families to clubs and BN incredible. I think it plain as the nose on my face that young singles, couples and families have a plethora of reasons why they would not join a club or BN. The world changed...but not enough naturists have realised! Clubs are still dreaming of the 1950s and 60s, where the nuclear family would visit the club every weekend and the children would do a nature trail and sit reading whilst the dad mowed the lawn and the mother helped to set the picnic. It's not like that any more! Clubs and BN are in cloud cuckoo-land continuing to think that those days will return.

The answer to the problem i believe is also very straightforward. BN and clubs are largely composed of singles and couples over 50. BN membership is 85% over-50s and I can well believe that club membership is the same. So why on earth are the two obsessed with young people?!?! Market at the target that will most likely join...market at the over-50s!

The MORI poll in 2011 tells a story. It tells a story that naturism in the UK is alive and well but that the number of folks wanting to join organised naturism is small and falling. BN and clubs would do very well to simply accept the situation rather than continuing to chase a dream. Market to those who are most likely to join you and accept the demographic that is organised naturism right now. There will always be over-50s. I find the concept of 'next generation' very strange. Pass on the club to over-50s. What is the next generation? Keep marketing to the obvious target market and you'll have continuity. Again this is dreaming of the good ol' days; days in which multi-generational families' lives revolved around their club.

All of these thoughts went through my head upon watching the Spielplatz documentary. Yes it was a shame that younger people weren't much in evidence, but there's a reason for that. Clubs and BN can survive. It needs a coherent, definitive, common-sense strategy passed down via BN with everyone working together to make it work. Forget the youngsters and families who won't be interested and entice those who it is shown will still be attracted...the over-50 crowd. Meanwhile there are still plenty of naturists in the UK getting older.


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Exmoor

I love walking, especially in forests, on hills or by rivers. To strip down and just hike with shoes and a rucksack had always been on my mind, even whilst cowering indoors too nervous to go any further. A seminal stroll around a nature reserve 4 years ago was a pivotal moment. I realised I could do it...and it was brilliant.



Being in south-west England, the opportunity for a long naturist walk was limited to a select number of places. I wanted to limit as far as possible the chances to coming into contact with others. I knew there would be a chance. The experience was too nice to ignore though so I settled for Exmoor. Now as it happens this wasn't a bad choice at all. Exmoor has a fantastic variety of walks and the high moor particularly is beautifully remote and wild. It also offers amazing views, and enabled me to see fellow walkers a good distance away so it was a good choice for multiple reasons!



One particular walk starts at Dry Bridges (between Simonsbath and Lynton) and loops down Lank Coombe, up Badgworthy River, through Southern Wood, and back over the moor. 


It's about 8 miles and is perfect for a days hiking. The starting point...


...is as remote as you can realistically get without parking in a bog!


As it turns out though the walk is safe and follows bridle ways and footpaths. Only the wander down Lank Coombe is a slight risk, deviating away from established routes and instead follows the stream eastward towards the river. Being reasonably fit, the walk takes about 6 hours, including stops and skinny-dipping.


This was my first long walk with my shorts and t-shirt in my rucksack rather than on me and I've repeated it several times since. I've tried a few other routes and found them to be either more popular, or more boggy, or both. On this walk i've been able to stay undressed for about 90% of the time. It's been increasing as I've become more confident.


The first walk I was unsure about how to proceed. The big question was and remains...how far do I go in letting others see that I am nude? I've tried to make a little progress every year. I'm still quite cagey and nervous. I'm well aware of the history surrounding naturists and the police. Even with the chances minutely small of anything bad happening (especially given my location!), I remain acutely aware of the effect such a misadventure would have on me; not just with the police, but confidence-wise on having a negative reaction from another member of the public. I'm torn. I want to help normalise nudity and show that I simply want to enjoy the countryside 'my way' within the limits the law sets...but on the other hand I can't risk it. I need to wait until i'm retired to push boundaries any further!

So my walks have always included a pair of shorts instantly to hand, and it's easy to see people coming....unless of course you're trying to take pictures and you get distracted!


Yup...about 30 seconds after this photo, a couple wandered down the valley slope and appeared about 50 yards from me. The mammal flight response built over millions of years of evolution is highly tuned! I struggled with myself, wracked with indecision. In the end, I walked away slightly faster than the 'militant naturist' bit of my mind would have ideally wanted. The confidence to simply smile, 'raise the hat' and say 'Good morning!' is not there yet! Maybe in future I'll concentrate a bit more on enjoying the walk and rather less on taking photos. Twice on the first walk I became caught in the headlights!


The truth is though is that I've never had any bad response. In the last couple of years people have wandered closer. Never close enough to have a conversation but close enough to know. Last year I added skinny-dipping at Badgworthy Pond to the walk. Badgworthy River is stunning. A scenic valley between rolling moor hills. The river sparkles majestically. Springtime is awesome. I make a point of walking there in May/June time. The water is therefore freezing! The things I do for nude-kind! The river is a bit more popular than the rest of the walk and a campsite is placed close to Doone Country, the setting for Lorna Doone, the popular novel and TV period drama. The footpath passes right next to Badgworthy Pond and some other great places to sunbathe and eat picnics. This is over a mile from tea shops, tents and car parks though. The guidance about Joe Public rarely walking a few hundred yards from a car park is very true! 


This year then I stopped and ate lunch, sunbathed, and swam in the river without getting dressed. Folks walked past. Folks had a look over their shoulders at me. Folks walked on. That was it. I always walk in term time and during the main part of the day during the week, so visitors to the area are low, and dog walkers account for the majority.


Of course with Exmoor comes a wonderful selection of wildlife: the famous Exmoor ponies of course, cattle and sheep...the odd goat...numerous bird life. Lank Combe is quite narrow. I'd walked over a mile down the valley only to suddenly come face-to-face with a bull! Again I was wracked with indecision. Self-preservation won that one, and I ended up exhausted having walked up the side of the steep valley to avoid a confrontation. Probably not the confrontation I was expecting wearing just walking shoes, a backpack and sunglasses!


The purpose of this blog is this...Ok so I could have walked this beautiful trail dressed and yes it would have been nice, but it wouldn't have felt the same. To walk naked brings an extra dimension to life, one most people have never tapped into. A connection to nature and to spirit. I won't get too 'new age' but it really is difficult to describe. It's like feeling more alive...energised...fulfilled...happy! Then of course it's more comfortable. No sweat drenched walking-wear! I'm totally sold.


All of these walks are by myself. Walking with a group is great but for different reasons. I prefer walking alone, but walking with a group adds security and camaraderie. I have happily joined the annual walk over Bodmin Moor (in association with Nudefest) for the last three years and will be looking out for the date in 2015. British Naturism has published an excellent guide for naturist walkers; a handy leaflet with guidance if the worst came to the worst. BN also provides wonderful backup and support (like a union!) and simply having a BN membership card can provide some defence against a startled prude assuming the worst.

If I can inspire just one person to make the same leap of faith that I did, I would be so happy. Sitting indoors wondering...reading a ton of information...chatting with others...going for a little 'test walk'...joining BN...all of the build up...all of the things that got my confidence to where it was built enough to make the next step. It was worth it. One of the biggest confidence builders was reading about brilliant life changing walks others had done. This is mine.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Breastfeeding...and where exactly are our morals made?

So Nigel's been at it again with his remarks on breastfeeding following the 'Claridges incident'. I kinda understand why UKIP's become popular; support from all parts of the social and political spectrum. It's simply because he and they are different and new. They're a 'story' so the media love him/them. As Bill Bailey assumingly pointed out in his last stand-up show UKIP are like 'four sozzled upper-class men at the golf club' They seem to have little on no political restaint...they say what they think. That gets points from Joe Public who so hate and see through political spin now that a politician speaking off the cuff seems fantastic.

A shame then that Joe seems to have forgotten exactly how right wing UKIP actually are. Hopefully this will become more and more apparent as we head towads election day. Right now Joe knows hardly anything about them except for migration, europe and err...thats it. Except now we know a little more, because Nigel in classic off the cuff style told us exactly where he sits on the breastfeeding issue brought up front and centre once again by the canny friend of modern society, social media. "Sit in a corner and be discrete" is telling women breastfeeding that their action may disturb some folks. This makes me very angry. Already though thousands have got there before me on Twitter to propose that because Nigel disturbs people then he should sit a corner. This provided an easy backlash, but it was the second part of his comment that really got me thinking.

So it should be up to individual private establishments to set their rules should it? I so want to say "Absolutely not!" but then where should the governance come from? I see the UK as being in a moralistic col. It's too secular these days for religion to pass down its guidance through society, but yet I clearly do not want moral guidance given to us by Claridges....by big business....by capitalism....by Facebook! This is clearly wrong, that morals are served by those who would also take money from us. So it needs government and parents to provide morals for us, and teaching via schools. In which case it must be our duty as a society to maintain and develop morals outside the bounds of religion. Tricky! Tricky because for two thousand years or so religion has been the centre of moral development of almost every culture. Now in the UK though we have a modern secularism that is untried on these islands...a new way of orchestrating society. I laud secularism, but it will take a while for us Brits to get our heads around it.

What does this have to do with breastfeeding? Well the breastfeeding issue has parallels with another big moral maze at the moment...big social media. Social media is largely governed from the US, and Facebook et al. are free to set their rules...enforce their set of morals on us. So if we want Claridges to refrain from setting their own moral guidance ("Please sit in the corner and shroud yourself please madam....") then why should we take moral guidance from Facebook? We are coming to a point where capitalism is becoming bigger than national governments. That's very scary. The ponderance over moral guidance has really hit this home to me.

Nigel....the big threat to your nationalistic ideals isn't the EU....it's the new religion from over the big pond....

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Naturism

“Naturism? That's got to be something to do with nature then?”, my friend asks weakly. I sighed. “Well, kind of”, I replied. “Getting back to nature maybe...”. I feel like I'm on the back foot already.

This slightly exasperating start to a recent conversation down the pub is all too familiar to naturists. It would be far easier if the word or its variant 'nudism' didn't exist. Explaining that it's simply nice not to wear clothes occasionally is fine but 'naturism' seems to open a can of worms. Recalling my conversations with those not accustomed to wearing rather less than the man aboard the Clapham omnibus, most of the time seems to get taken up by explaining the word rather than the action.

Let's have a think for a moment about the word 'naturism'; not what it means, I'll get to that in a while, but the actual word. Nuturism is a label. It's a single word that attempts to describe in a few (slightly baffling) syllables a concept that would otherwise take a paragraph or more to explain. In the modern, ever more digital age it's also a convenient search term, a keyword, and now even a hashtag.

The western world likes labels. The media especially revel in grouping people together with particular characteristics in order to laud its opinion about them to anyone within earshot. In today's fast technology, fast news, fast judgement reality, that means almost everyone...almost immediately. Some people are fine wearing labels. Some people aren't. It very easy and some would say preferable these days to slip into the comfort zone of social convention. Always a part of the majority. A feeling of belonging with the judge rather than the judged. Naturism is not social convention, so who wants to wear the label...?

Well, currently there are near enough ten thousand members of British Naturism in the UK. Ten thousand who are comfortable enough with the label to join and support the national organisation. That's not to say that they are all supportive of the label, but supportive of the goal to 'normalise' nudity i.e. to earn enough respect from society, that the action of wearing nothing cause not a single 'raised eyebrow'.

So there are ten thousands naturists in the UK? Well, no...maybe...sort of. According to a nationwide poll taken in 2011 there are many more than that, a few orders of magnitude more, over 3 million if extrapolation of the result is anywhere near accurate. It's always been odd then that so few are members of the national organisation. Why is that?

Well the first reason is that it obviously costs money, although i don't think that can completely explain the breadth of the difference. The cost of belonging to BN is extremely small compared to other memberships. My union membership at work for example is now £15 a month, seven times the outlay for BN.

A second reason is publicity. Does everyone who wants to know, know about BN?

A third is 'peer anxiety'. Anything not conforming to social convention raises the anxiety of a negative response from others. Living life in the nude can throw up some fairly strong opinions however rarely, but the possibility remains non-negligible and hence many are very wary of disclosing a preference for nudity to others.

A significant reason however is that joining BN bestows the label 'naturist' on the joiner. What difference does that make? Well a good deal I imagine. The thing about labels is that some people are happier wearing them than others. Think for a moment about the goals people have in life and the choices of how we want to live. The older folks get, the more likely it is that they have chosen what they want to do with their life. They are comfortable with their lifestyle and goals. I think this is one of the reasons that older people are more likely to join BN. They have embraced nudity as part of their lifestyle, and hence are happier to wear the label.

On the other hand, younger people in their 20s and 30s are still having a think about their life; still working out how they want to live. Experimenting. Daring. Trying new things. Naturism is a label but it is also a stereotype (whether BN like it or not). Naturism is a lifestyle. Naturism is a choice made. Naturism is not social convention and therefore not 'comfy' in the modern age as described above. Many clubs and societies are struggling for numbers in the 21st Century. I think this is a direct result of a 'swarming towards the centre', a reluctance to break from the mould, a reaction to ever quicker judgements. A reluctance to wear a label. The decrease in union membership is a great example of this effect.

Why do I think this? Because it describes perfectly my own love-hate relationship with 'naturism'. For years I did little more than wear little or nothing around my house/flat. Comfortable and happy but completely cut off from the label 'naturist'. One or two people knew that I didn't wear much indoors, but the vast majority were ignorant. I had no 'naturist' friends, and I had absolutely no motivation to investigate the wider more social aspect to wearing nothing. Suddenly I came across the word and I immediately hated it. I hated the label. I didn't want to pin it on myself. It took a long period of time talking to many people, making friends and attending naturist venues and events before I became close to wanting the badge. Eventually, I took it. I've made my choice. Naturism is part of my life and I want to keep it that way. Many don't want that despite liking the feeling of not wearing anything.

So there are some reasons why there's such a big gap between declared BN naturists and those who admit to practising it; but what is naturism?

“So naturism is like taking your clothes off and stuff?” My conversation down the pub is taking longer than I thought it might! “Well yes”, I said “but....”

But...of course it's never that simple, because labels need definitions. Over to my friend 'www.dictionary.com':

'Naturist:
noun
1. a person who appreciates the beauty and benefits of nature.
2. a nudist. '

Hmm, so (1) there is the source of much confusion it would seem when the definition we want is (2) which itself is entirely unhelpful. At least it provides the confirmation that in the lexicographical sense the two words are interchangeable. So what about looking up (2):

'Nudism:
noun
the practice of going nude, especially in places that allow sexually mixed groups, in the belief that such practice benefits health.'

Right! Now we're getting somewhere. Finally, from our good friends at the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

'Naturism
the practice of going without clothes, generally for reasons of health or comfort. Nudism is a social practice in which the sexes interact freely but commonly without engaging in sexual activities. '

So what do we make of all this? Well naturism certainly involves wearing less than the social norm but there are so many shades of grey around that, that it's difficult to know where naturism starts and ends. Wearing nothing in the bath...social convention...is not thought of as being naturism. What about wearing nothing whilst asleep in bed? Well here it's comes down to state of mind. I personally haven't worn anything in bed since I was 14-ish, yet I wasn't a naturist....was I? One way of putting bounds on naturism is to define it as being 'recreational nudity', but this is also unsatisfactory when we consider those who live life in their homes doing chores, watching TV (occasionally recreation!), putting the washing out etc., without clothing (like me for almost ten years).

As well as the grey areas of what the individual does whilst nude there's other factors to consider. Firstly the stereotype is for the naturist to be completely nude, yet footwear is usually worn...a hat...a sarong...where is the boundary? Some 'bare-footers' call themselves naturist by just removing their footwear! Is a naturist defined by simply uncovering the genitals?

The stereotypical definition also includes an exclusion of any sexual activity whilst nude and in social company. Certainly a clear boundary but even here there are those who call themselves naturists and quite clearly enjoy some kind of sexual connection with it: swingers and such like. Writing that, I recall a conversation with a naturist couple whom I have known for years, telling me about their appearance on a popular TV audience chat show (think similar to Jeremy Kyle) about 'alternative lifestyles' where they were specifically told to sit next to a couple representing swingers.
Notice that the dictionary definitions say nothing about not having a sexual connotation whereas the encyclopaedia definition uses the words 'commonly without'. Yikes!

There's the social aspect. Many conservative naturists whom I have spoken to declare in no uncertain terms that a naturist is only a naturist once they have proven to be comfortable and uncontroversial when nude in a social situation. Some even use the word 'experienced naturist'...like naturism is a hobby that you can gain points at and maybe go 'up a level' once slaying the big boss at the end!

A less person-centred definition concerns respect: a respect in someone's choice to wear as much or as little as they want to. Of course naturism can't be just about that though can it? Else people who stayed dressed all the time but don't mind others getting undressed would be called naturists. So it must be a combination of outward-looking respect and inward-looking choice to dress down.

There's a bottom line here that I'll now come to. At the end of the day, 'naturism' is virtually impossible to define in terms that describe a group of 'naturists' as a discrete set. This brings us all the way back to the start of this article. Naturism is a label. It is a label we used for ourselves before non-naturists used it for us. It is self-imposed. It harks back to a time when the Central Council for British Naturism was originally formed; a time when the definition of a naturist was far more narrow, being a group of people who attended landed naturist clubs and adhered to a strict set of rules. That's not 21st century thinking....in my humble opinion.

So where does that leave us? Well with another opinion, which I know will lead to yet more debate. Naturism is a label and one that does British Naturism no favours. I think therefore it should be abolished. The one thing that everyone reading this will agree on is that it's quite nice to be naked from time-to-time. So why can't we just leave it at that? Well we can't because our media-centred western world needs a hashtag!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Daughter

May 2017: This blog was originally written in 2013. My daughter is now 9 and has been touring the country with me attending naturist events and clubs and generally having a bundle of fun. Abbey House gardens in September 2012 was our first clothes free 'daddy-daughter day out'. Two years on, it looked like the gardens had hosted their last clothes-optional day but they are now alive and well again although spoilt to a small degree by the fact that the lakeside walk is currently out of bounds due to stupid individuals acting inappropriately. This means the waterfall featured in this blog can not currently host the great fun my daughter and I had. One day I hope we can return, but we have no plans to whilst only the formal garden are available.

While it is true that I had always hoped to take my daughter to a naturist event, I never took it for granted. Wife has always been hesitant of social nudity, largely in part because of an understandable suspicion of the motives behind those involved. She has no wish presently to partake in this type of naturism, and for a long time held the opinion that I should pursue it solely for my own enjoyment.

But there was a problem...my daughter began to grow up!

“Mummy, I want to go tooooooo!” came the cry. No nudging or cajoling was needed. There was no secret conspiracy to win over my wife. This was simply my daughter wanting to have a day out with her dad. Secretly though, as you may have guessed, I was rather pleased by this!

The time was September 2012, roughly a year and half after my own first foray into social nudity and slowly but surely wife was beginning to come around to the idea. Just the idea mind, and the fact that social nudity may be just what it says on the tin. Abbey House Gardens were holding one of their clothes-optional days in Malmesbury in Wiltshire. My daughter and I went along.

My daughter at the time was four and a half (when you're four, the 'half' is very important!), and beginning to assert some independence. She has never made any comment about nudity other than the fact that she found it strange that her teachers and carers at school or nursery would keep telling her to keep her clothes on. At home, she was free to be as dressed or as undressed as she wanted to be. How a child of four can possibly be 'alarmed' or 'distressed' by simply nudity I have no idea, but I'll write about that another time.

The day was cloudy but dry and with hardly a breath of wind. The latter was certainly important and the temperature was close to 20C and so nice for a picnic and we took one along. In the car going I wanted to make sure she knew what it was she was going to. “This is a special day out where everyone can wear clothes or take them off”, I said. “OK” came the reply. She stayed silent for a while.... “Can I still wear shoes?” she said.

Parked up and at the top of the steps at the main gates and holding hands we came across a family group reading and remarking on the poster attached to the entrance to the gardens. “I can't believe they would do this!” said one, and they turned to go. They looked at me as I stood waiting to move past them. All ten eyes were watching for my reaction; all of them waiting for my unequivocal agreement. I looked at my daughter and smiled and we walked straight past. I suddenly felt a great feeling of satisfaction that I was doing the right thing. I think society and culture in Britain gets a lot of things right. The attitude to clothing however could do with some improvement!

Once paid and inside it was time to decide what to wear. At the end of the afternoon I observed a split of about 80/20 between those undressed and those dressed. This was my daughter's first naturist event. There was some bewilderment, but only at the fact that suddenly it was OK to get undressed in front of others. “Even my pants?!?” she said. I nodded. What a strange and complicated world she was discovering! We both stripped off without hesitation and started to wander.

At this point I want to wax lyrical about Abbey House Gardens a bit. It's a lovely place to walk and relax, and is exactly the right size in order to see everything in about four hours. This was handy because that's exactly how long we had. The maze-like pathways around both the formal gardens and around the lake were perfect for an excited four-year-old to explore. A few things grabbed her attention.

The first was the gazebo and lawn where we stopped quite swiftly after arriving to eat our picnic. It was certainly picnic weather although the sun stubbornly refused to come out for more than 30 seconds during our visit. My daughter was getting a lot of attention, not only because she was the only child older than two there, but also because of the loud delighted laughter coming from her! Lawn chess for example proved to be a puzzle. A bit beyond a four year old. No matter, she took all the pieces and spread them all over the lawn to make an obstacle course instead! Running up and down whilst getting her audience of twenty or so naturists to time her – priceless entertainment!

The other big hit was the waterfall. It's worth thinking at this point about what a faff it would have been to have dealt with a little girl desperately wanting to splash and shower in a natural waterfall at a regular clothed day at the gardens. “No sorry”, I would have felt compelled to say, “I can't afford to let you get your clothes wet”. I'm sure many a family have said just that. At a clothes-optional day and wearing nothing but 'crocs' however, “Go right ahead”, I said, “I'll join you!”

We probably spent almost an hour at that waterfall, playing races with leaves, splashing each other, getting covered in mud and then washing ourselves again. It was an amazingly happy time; one I will remember for ever. When we were done, the crocs went back on and we dried off as we walked. What could be simpler. Why don't more people do that? It just doesn't make sense.

The final tale to tell of our visit was our stop at the cafe. My daughter was fascinated by the formal rectangular fish pond and kept everyone there on the edge of their seat whilst she perched precariously on the edge of the pond! A young girl full of confidence but not yet alert to the perils of situations! Once safely sat down with ice-cream, it was time to take stock. I didn't need to ask if she had been enjoying it. She hadn't stopped laughing all afternoon. Staying still for five minutes obviously got her mind pondering on things though...

“Daddy....why do some boys have hairy willies?”

Every conversation stopped.

I was prepared for a question. It is in the nature of the daughter to embarrass the parent, however innocently. Remember that this was my daughter's first experience of being in a public place with a few dozen people not wearing anything. I guess it was inevitable!

“Well some people have long hair and some people have short hair. It's up to people to decide how they want to look” I said.

I think I got away with it. She seemed satisfied with the answer.

It was time to go home. I can honestly say that that it was one of the best days of my life. To share my love of naturism with my daughter was a great feeling; a satisfaction that nudity can be shared with others in a perfectly natural and innocent way. Not one problem was encountered. Everyone there was brilliant.

Back home my daughter's reaction to wife's questions was 100% positive, and now she attends events with me up and down the country.

What a great thing.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Why on earth?



I try and be completely open about the lifestyle choice of wearing as little as possible. I think this is the way it should be, although I totally understand why some people may be hesitant or secretive about it. I've therefore fielded the question, "Why on earth would you want to...?" a good few times. I usually offer the questioner two options: a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is "Because it makes my life better!". That's it...and that's I believe all that should matter...for a given value of 'matter'.

The short answer is invariably not good enough for the inquisitive. So on to the long answer....

I wrote the notes below for a very long article on the heres, whys and wherefores that read too much like a diary entry for the purposes of a blog. So...under some broad headings...here's the long answer!

Convenience
i.e. I was lazy! Sometimes I take the lengths of 'not doing work' to extremes. Not wanting to have to faff doing washing at a laundrette, I just didn't wear anything. Although a reason originally, convenience still applies despite me not being quite so lazy these days. It is less work not to bother with clothing quite so much. Less shopping, less washing and less time having to consider what to wear. All good in my book.

Comfort
I'm twice as comfortable nude, especially when the environment is favourable, i.e. warm! I've never liked being restricted. This applies generally to all types of clothing but especially to 'waist bands' whether it be a belt, elastic, buttons etc. Being restricted around my waist is a horrible feeling. Obviously there are many occasions where I simply have to endure it but at home I have only two states of dress, either nude or in my onesie. The onesie is a brilliant idea: baggy and hence not restrictive, warm (I buy the fleece kind) and with no tied waist. Top banana! I know a lot of people worried about being fashion conscious turn their noses up at them but I simply don't give a damn. I note as of late 2013, onesie fans are beginning to venture outside wearing them. That makes me chuckle.

Relaxed and happy
These two go together but I really can't give a complete answer as to why being nude makes me happier. A sense of liberty? Being more 'in touch' with nature? A feeling of stripping away mundane, banal, everyday life? Probably a mixture of all of these. This is where aspiring naturists just need to try it for themselves. I do know however that when walking nude on Exmoor on my own with just the sounds of nature around me with none of the modern world distractions, I am in the most contented state that I have ever experienced.

It makes sense
I am very analytically, logically, and scientifically (geeky!) minded. I like making very objective, independent decisions. I'm not religious. In fact I have in the past described myself as 'Richard Dawkin's right-hand man'. Actually I would call myself a pantheist. God is a metaphor for the wonder and brilliance of the world and universe but I don't agree to any supernatural interpretation. Because of all this, I loathe convention. It makes no sense to me to mindlessly follow society's etiquettes to the letter. I respect the law, follow it and believe in democracy to decide on them, but I hate blindly following fashions and social expectations on how to live my life. Nudity makes sense to me, so I don't wear clothes when it suits. Swimming, sparring, sunbathing, walking in the countryside, and chatting with friends in the sunshine: all of these do not need clothing to be worn and are far nicer nude. Wearing clothes when the environment is suitable to wear none is simply the result of two thousand years of religious and egotistical dogma. I can't be doing with that. Common sense should win every time.

The people
Not an original reason for sure, but the people who are happy to call themselves naturists are just brilliant, wonderful people. Happy, positive, open, sharing, welcoming, and above all they live largely by the same values that I do. That's something that has just blown me away over the last few years once I started to venture beyond my four small walls. I feel like I can strike up a conversation with anyone at a naturist event. In fact it appears everyone has the same view since everyone appears to talk to everyone else! The sense of community and inclusiveness has staggered me. I'm more confident as a result and have made a huge number of friends in a very short space of time. This was unimaginable even five years ago. Mainstream society has so much to learn from the attitudes of the naturist community in terms of communication, empathy and above all friendship.

Non-reasons...but reasons quoted commonly by other naturists...

Health
It's not a reason I'm a naturist but it does make sense that vitamin D levels improve when the skin is exposed to sunshine. It also helps to regulate body temperature far better.

Tanning
I find it quite amusing that a oft-quoted reason naturism is good is that teaches us to 'accept our body as it is'. Yet the same naturists still go 'all out' to achieve a dark all-over tan. Social convention runs very deep.

Body acceptance
I wouldn't say this is a reason I'm a naturist. I've always been completely comfortable with my body at every age, so I didn't need to strip off my clothes to get to that point. I guess I feel lucky that my body has held up against what I've put it through over the years. My body is my 'survival machine' (to quote Dawkins). It in no way defines 'me'. It is simply the machine that carries 'me' around. This plus my attitudes towards convention meant that once I'd decided to socialise without clothes I found it relatively nerveless (except for a slightly surprising moment at Clover Spa on my first attempt).

There are undoubtedly other reasons. I'd be interested in hearing some. By the time i've finished the long answer the questioner is usually looking quite perplexed. There is only one other thing to add if they are still mouthing the word 'why'..."You're just going to have to try it...."

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Beginnings

Let me start at the beginning. I was born. I was naked. There...that wasn't so hard was it! My mum and dad were close by and a few health professionals were milling around. I was crying, and I was trying to cope with this newfangled thing called 'breathing' so being naked wasn't foremost on my mind. Mind you, I don't think that I cared that much. In fact, I didn't care at all. I hadn't 'learnt' anything yet about what it's like to be a human being in the 20th century. I got dressed.

Let me try another beginning. I moved out of my parent's house aged 21. I'd been to university already but always living with other people. There had been drink involved. I was still getting over some pretty serious teenage angst. I was geeky and very self-conscious. I had discovered 'girls' and was seriously busy learning how to be an adult. Being at university made me happy so I went back for another go.

This time I had my own place. Living on my own suited me down to the ground. Some folks get lonely very quickly and so hate living alone, but for me it was like finding a new level in life. I loved it. I've always been very much my own person so living in my own flat didn't phase me one bit. I had free heating, but I had no washing machine. You see the other thing that's intrinsic about me is that I’m unashamedly lazy. Fortunately I found a solution to the conundrum of having no clean clothes.

Folks I’ve told this story to always only semi-believe it. There's always been a hint of “ok, but what's the real reason you became a naturist?” in their reply, but it really did come down to not having any clean clothes and no money to buy any! I took my clothes off. Sort of. I mean I didn't just decide one day that I wasn't going to wear any. There was no 'event that changed my life'. There was no naturist in me fighting to get out overnight. It sort of...evolved...over many months hunched over a keyboard trying to solve the mysteries of the universe (a course in Astrophysics in case you are wondering...which you probably weren't). Before I knew it I was standing in the kitchen making toast wearing nothing. I wasn't a naturist. I am now. I wasn't then. Weird ain't it! Perhaps only I can understand what I mean. Perhaps not even then.

At this point I met my future wife. She rolled her eyes at me. She's been rolling them continuously ever since. My wife is comfortable with no clothes on. She wasn't a naturist. She still isn't.

Time for another beginning. Switch forward twelve years. It's mid-2010 and I’m searching the internet for diving gear. I'm a diver. I haven't been diving since 2010, but I'm still a diver! I caught a glimpse of an article on the front page of Yahoo as I was about to click through to my e-mail. It was the ten best naturist beaches in Britain. One was close to me in Devon. I didn't know that.

The internet is amazing. I love it. It's a huge part of my life. I've made countless friends via the internet; many many more than I’ve called 'friend' in simply meeting in real life. You see I make friends much more easily online because I'm naturally shy in talking to people face-to-face if I don't know them. I dislike small talk. I find it banal and formulaic. I detest 'mingling'. I don't therefore get on well at conferences and other work social stuff. The internet on the other hand, I can just talk at my own pace. I can think of interesting things to say. The internet 'way' of chatting fits my personality so much better. The silences are never awkward. I like that. I always aim to meet people that I've spoken to online in real life. Real life is still important.

So in 2010 I started to talk to people online about naturism. My first chat was with a guy called Tim from Bristol on a forum called Naturist Corner (that I found by following links from that Yahoo article). I don't know Tim any more and never called him a friend, but he knew a thing or two about naturism in the UK. He pointing me at some interesting threads on the forum. I read.

I wasn't a naturist. I'd found out about the word and British Naturism and started to think about meeting others who liked being naked doing day-to-day stuff. I found I could chat to naturists incredibly easily. Naturists are happy. Naturists are positive. Naturists are open and friendly. Naturists generally have the same outlook on life as I do. Naturists were apparently very keen to convert people into naturists! Remember that this is twelve years after my laundry crisis. I found out about a place called Clover Spa, which was imminently due to open in Birmingham. I hatched a plan. In November 2010 I went for a walk in a nature reserve not far from where I live. It was about 12C. Half way around I stripped off and walked for a mile nude. I was happy.

Another beginning, this time not long since the last one. January 2011. Tim Higgs' Clover Spa had just opened. I wanted somewhere social but not too social. I wanted somewhere dedicated to naturism. I wanted somewhere without too much pressure but giving folks a nudge in the right direction. This was it. I drove.

Arriving at Clover Spa I sat in the car, took a deep breath and thought, “...and so starts the next part of your life...” There were a few more deep breaths! Tim was a friend as soon as he said 'hello'. I could tell immediately. I went to my room and 'got ready'. I had signed a card assuring me that it was OK to walk downstairs to the lounge with nothing on. I grabbed a copy of the Guardian anyway....and 'had it to hand' so-to-speak.

I walked downstairs and into the lounge. Everyone was dressed.

Ok ok...now this wasn't the big scare that it could have been. The fact that the lounge contained four staff members and what appeared to be a delivery man might have put other people off. Clover Spa had just opened. Guests were few. Staff were obviously plentiful! This was my ten seconds of terror; the ten seconds that everyone trying social nudity for the first time goes through. A staff member (who's name I can't recall now...shame on me) offered me a coffee and a chocolate brownie. The ten seconds were over. From that point onwards I was completely fine with social nudity and have loved it ever since. I wasn't a naturist.

Naturism is weird. Where does it start and end? What the hell is naturism? Before summer 2011 I hated the word 'naturist' and I said so...both in person to folks and online. In fact in early 2011 I was involved in a heated debate on a forum about the word naturist and I argued vehemently against its use. It's a label. I don't like labels.

OK, last beginning. In June 2011 I went to Nudefest for a weekend with my good friend Matt. Neither of us had been to anything like it before. We knew nobody but thought we would give it a try and see what it was like to get as far into the lifestyle of social nudity as it was possible to get in the UK. I loved it. End of. There are just no more words.

On getting back home, my wife rolled her eyes.