Being a dog owner means that you have to learn a whole new set of etiquette.
I think I’ve done okay so far. It’s things like avoiding stressed-looking owners who have their angry dogs on a very short leashes, carrying spare balls in case your dog steals one, picking up poop at all times and yelling ferociously at your animal as it steals an ice-cream out of a toddler’s hand.
It’s advisable to always carry a bit of spare change for circumstances like this, in case you have to apologise profusely and replenish supplies.
But, what to do in the situation I found myself in last week when taking my dog along the clifftops at Hill Head on a walk to and from Brownwich Pond?
It was fine on the way there. He’d bounded along sniffing the small hedgerows and charging up the muddy path, bowling my children over into wet puddles. All very jolly.
On the way back, however, we decided to walk along the beach.
‘This used to be a nudist hang-out when I was a kid’ I told my children, who marvelled that anyone would want to get their kit off in Hill Head.
That kind of thing, in their eyes, should solely be reserved for exotic-sounding locations.
But as it was so far in the past they marked it up as another of mum’s ‘when I was young’ stories and rolled their eyes.
I refrained from telling them about the reputed goings-on in the bushes as, one, nefarious actions were supposed to take place but I never witnessed any and, two, the thought of explaining people picking each other up for casual clifftop liaisons was a bit too much for a glorious April morning.
The dog ran on ahead. We delved amongst the flotsam and jetsam before I realised the beast had found something mysterious of his own. Yep, he’d discovered that nudism is alive and kicking. Kicking quite furiously as it happens, trying to get the dog’s inquiring muzzle out of unfortunate areas.
So what is the etiquette for approaching nudists? Strip off so you’re on equal terms? Close your eyes tightly and reach in for the dog’s collar in the hope that you grab the right thing? Or just saunter on and pretend the animal isn’t yours?