Naturism en France: Never mind les bollocks…
Repression is a state of which the British are particularly proud. We do so like to be prim and proper, so much so the phrase ‘No sex, please, we’re British,’ perfectly sums up our puritanical spirit. I mean – why would anyone in their right mind want to take off their clothes, especially in this freezing country, other than to get into bed or step into a hot bath? The relationship the Brits have with their bodies is an offshoot of our Puritanism. Any excuse to keep our clothes on is more to the point. We tend to think we look ghastly in the buff. We have been brainwashed into believing we don’t have big enough muscles, tight enough abs, that our breasts are too small or too big, and our backsides too flabby. Like it or not, most of us do look better with our clothes on, with bellies firmly inside the pants and the love handles concealed by thick belts. But naturism is growing in popularity.
Now, France’s Nudist Federation has begun a drive to spruce up the image of naturism, countering claims that naturists are only there to ogle each other. Naturists say going nude puts people in touch with their bodies, allows them to let it all hang out. As far as activities go, naturism is cheap and offers social interaction for everybody, regardless of who they are.
In the interest of duty, I once bared all myself and have never really recovered from the shock. It happened, one not-so-sunny day on Inchmurrin Island on Loch Lomond. One cold drizzly day in October, I arrived on the island, without an umbrella. I considered that a bit superfluous. I was given a pep talk by an experienced naturist who told me that the first few minutes were the worst. “After that,” he said, “You’ll find you begin to relax. We’ve even got two tennis courts.” Well, the mind positively boggled. Leap about naked on a tennis court? No way. The first time I warmed to the naturists on Inchmurrin was when they decided it was too cold for us to take our clothes off. Joy. Unfortunately, this only meant my editor insisted I repeat the experience elsewhere, in the warmer climes of a swimming pool where the group met during the winter months for a sort of naturists’ happy hour.
Suffice it to say, baring all was one of the most unpleasant experiences I have ever had. One minute I was in the cubicle at the side of the pool, heart pounding against my heaving naked bosom, oh sorry, got a bit carried away there; the next I was standing starkers amid a sea of gawping strangers. Only they weren’t gawping. It was just my imagination. The first few minutes of revealing all is a bit like smashing your car into something. Your whole life flashes before your eyes. To be blunt, the absolute truth is that I wasn’t that worried about exposing my private parts. It was the bits in between I was worried about. How long could I hold my breath?
I eventually sat down among a group of naturists, trying desperately hard to look relaxed, as if I did this sort of thing all the time. I chatted to a friendly man beside me, taking great care to stare straight into his face, afraid my eyes would accidentally drop. This, I can assure you, is an exhausting pose to strike for any length of time. When I spoke, my voice came out all high pitched, like a neutered fairy. Horror of horrors, I suddenly let out a loud snorting noise and the charming man recoiled in fright. There was no way I was going to add to my humiliation by explaining that the effort of holding in my stomach had finally proved too much. God, the air tasted so good. Needless to say naturism was not for me. But each to their own.
Certainly the naked rambler, Steve Gough, was almost driven insane by prudes on his protest tour of Britain. He believes the laws prohibiting nudity in Britain are archaic. To say Steve met with resistance from the public is an understatement. At times it seems people actually sat and waited for him to come moseying into their town, starkers, just so they could phone the police and be offended. Mr Gough, from Hampshire, imagined he was blazing a trail against antiquated British indecency laws and establishment attitudes, wearing nothing but boots, hat and sunscreen; a flag poking out of the top of his rucksack reading “Freedom to be yourself”
Naturism is actually quite a serious pursuit, a way of life. It usually takes place in designated areas. In parts of America, where else, certain communities are naked all the time, everywhere, even in the supermarket. Imagine people’s bits hanging over the frozen food sections? A bit off-putting, I think. At least it’s understandable in places like Florida where the sun is visible most of the time. The sun tends to bring entire neighbourhoods out into their gardens. You have naked sun-worshippers in the all-together having drunken barbecues, bare men mowing their lawns and nudies driving their cars, their sweaty, naked thighs stuck to their hot leather seats.
But if other people want to strip off, why shouldn’t they? Just don’t ask me to join in.
Article focus: naturism