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....