STEVE CANAVAN: I've never understood the naked truth about taking your clothes off in public
I would never judge people for the hobbies in which they indulge, but one thing I have never understood is naturism.
I say this after a council-run pool in Cambridge announced it was putting on naked mixed-sex swimming sessions, when men and women, sans costumes, can show off their front crawl, or breaststroke in the case of the females.
Asked why it was being introduced, one club member said: ‘Because of the health benefits.’
Pressed on the health benefits of swimming without one’s clobber on, the member – no pun intended – mumbled, ‘er, well, it lets water get to parts it otherwise wouldn’t’, which doesn’t sound like much of a health benefit and, depending on the personal hygiene of who else is in the water, might actually be a health hazard.
The people I most feel sorry for in all this are the lifeguards on duty at these sessions, though I suppose there’s more to grab on to if they have to drag out anyone from the deep end.
Last night, in the interests of research for this column – or at least that’s what I told Mrs C when she unexpectedly entered the lounge – I Googled ‘nude recreation’ and was surprised to find dozens of events that people partial to taking off their clothes can get involved in.
The first Sunday in May is World Naked Gardening Day, when people are encouraged to tend their shrubs in the nude.
While you rush to mark the event on your calendar, let me tell you that under no circumstances will I be partaking and, on the off-chance I do, I’ll be careful with the secateurs.
Why would one garden nude? Imagine the scene. ‘Would you pass me the trowel Derek?’ ‘Yes dear, those daffodils have been good this year haven’t they – oh, and Marjorie, you’ve got some soil on your left breast, just below the nipple.’
In the US every Hallowe’en, there is something called Naked Pumpkin Run, in which folk across the country gallop through the streets holding aloft pumpkins. It’s not only Americans who are nutters – a museum in Vienna recently allowed naked folk to visit an exhibition titled Nude Men From 1800 To Today. On the first day, more than 60 visitors turned up in the buff, though just where they put their change after paying the admission fee hasn’t been clarified.
I’m no prude – I once wore a string vest on holiday in Cleethorpes – but all this nudism seems such an odd thing to do. What’s wrong with a sturdy pair of trousers or an ankle-length skirt? I couldn’t think of anything worse than turning up for work with my bits on show and dangling free, a view probably shared by the students I teach too.
One website I looked at told me ‘many people have their first experience of a clothes-free recreation activity at a nude beach, or at a friend’s place in the woods’. What? I can say with certainty that when I visit my Uncle Brian’s place I have never once got through the front door and whipped off my pants.
I clicked on the home page of the British Naturism Society to be greeted by a huge picture of two women lying casually side-by-side outside, both wearing nothing other than sun-hats – though it strikes me as odd to protect only your face from burning when there are other more sensitive parts to worry about.
On the blurb it said: ‘Naturist children are happy, well-adjusted and safe’. I’d like to see proof of this for if, as a child on one of our annual family holidays in Anglesey, my parents had suddenly told me to remove my under-crackers before we started a game of beach cricket, I’m pretty sure I’d have felt exactly the opposite of safe, happy and well-adjusted.
Membership of the British Naturism Society, I noted, is £42 per year, though there is a good discount for those aged over 80 (£34). I’ve flagged it up to my granddad who said he’d be happy to give it a go but would insist on keeping his flat cap on.
If you’re into this sort of thing then fair enough and good on you. But I shall not be nipping for a swim in Cambridge anytime soon.