Monday, 25 June 2018

One day I met a man... (long)

This blog might be a little long. It's about today and what happened when a naturist (for it was me) emboldened by recent changes to the police-naturism relationship went for a walk around Exmoor. I need to write this down whilst still fresh and words don't get jumbled. I'm sat with a VERY well earned pint back at my B&B after hiking for the last 6 hours. It's going to be very honest. There are things I will quote that I regret saying, but I think it's important to be real and not too righteous. Writing in a way that is clearly bias helps no one and muddies what 'truth' is and thats not a tenet I live by. I'm a realist. I'm a naturist. Life is good but the world is not perfect and neither am I.

So a little scene setting. I've been on hikes around Exmoor in the past. Lots. I love this place. Unlike previous hikes today had some difference with everything that had gone before. I'm staying ON Exmoor for a start in a B&B. First time for that. I'd earned some 'me' time from my brilliant family so decided to stay for a couple of days in a place I love. Then there's the naturist bit. I hike clothesfree and love to do so. This isn't a blog why I love it so much though, so I summarise by saying that I love naturism but until today have only been clothesfree in situations where I have purposely NOT walked straight past someone who is clothed (i.e. a 'textile') without at least trying to cover myself. Now as it happens this very rarely needs to be a conscious decision. Exmoor is so open that I see people coming from a mile off and hence put shorts on in plenty of time. In umpteen walks on Exmoor (mostly during the week...in term time...in the middle of the day, so at its absolute emptiest) I have never walked straight past someone else naked. We're either going in different directions, or I've seen them coming or I've been consciously coy about striving for some ideal 100% nude hike. There's plenty of room for sure.

Today though was slightly different. The new guidance between British Naturism and the police in England and Wales has been published and it now gives naturists greater confidence that the police will not react to passive minding-my-own-business naturism. This gave me greater confidence, encouragement and faith. I also within the last day or two confirmed that the police that cover Exmoor - Devon and Cornwall force, and Avon and Somerset force, have received the guidance and was now in the hands of call handlers and first responders. This was important, as we shall see.

Therefore, I set out this morning with a new mindset; that I would turn a new page and progress to the next level of the real computer game 'clothesfree life in the UK'. I was going to walk straight past people. This is what happened...

Until today I had covered myself but hiking clothesfree CAN result in situations where I am taken by surprise and have to just walk on to the end that I remember a 'reaction' by the person seeing me. Until today I can remember exactly 3. The best was no reaction. The worst were some giggles (previously blogged. see my Exmoor blog from a long time ago now). Today the number of reactions I got was about a dozen! I want to remember them via this blog. So first I'll report the good ones. And then I'll write about 'Victor'.

First the good ones. The first reactions were via me walking down a road and having cars drive past. It's Exmoor so rare but I was more confident today and I just let some cars drive past me. No reactions except for a lady driver smiling. Fine. Next reactions were via walking down to Badgworthy river and staying undressed in an area I know well and know that textiles 'might' be walking. The first reactions were nothing. I walked past a couple picnicking. No reaction. Remember I'd usually have shorts on here as it's not the high moor. Then I see 4 horses and ladies riding. Never walked passed something like this before!! Smiles...2 hellos...awesome! Now we're talking. This is me taking a brave leap of faith! Later on in the day I meet a couple as I climb back toward the moor. Smiles. Dog greeting. Guy says to me, "Getting a little hot?" (It's 22C and sunny all day by the way). I say "Don't worry, I'm still wearing two layers: sun tan lotion and insect repellant!" Laughs all around. I pet the dog and walk on. Brilliant brilliant reaction. Awesome. Then some hikers on the moor. No reactions except one guy dressed to the nines in hiking gear with sticks! He says, "Lovely day" Smile. I felt like saying back "Aren't you hot in all that?" but I decided not to push my luck! All in all the reactions described here were from approximately 15 textiles. Wonderful. Top respect, courtesy and tolerance shown. Everyone having a lovely day. Now for Victor...

I don't know his name but I'm calling him Victor, short for 'Victorian'. After this story was at an end I decided I wanted to write it down. It might put some naturists off from doing what I did today. For that I will say this - We need to be realistic. The world is not perfect. Naturism is a minority 'thing' in the UK whether we like it or not. Folks out there won't like it. Folks out there don't like gay people, ethnic minorities, young people, old people, women, men. You understand I'm sure. People sometimes don't like things that they can not identify with. I hope at least this gives naturism thicker skin and a way of preparing themselves.

More scene setting. I stop for lunch at a place on the Badgworthy river called the 'Pool'. I've stopped there many many times because it's amazing. I watched a mother duck teach 6 ducklings how to deal with babbling little rapids between calm pools. I watched a daddy chaffinch teaching a young son how to catch flies. It's incredible and very grounding. I love being there in a very naturist style way...that connection with what is real. But enough of the philosophy (although I might be returning to it!).

I'm naked and I jump in for a skinnydip. It's awesome. It's freezing, but it's awesome. The sights, smell, sounds. I could get poetic. Then I get out and I dry myself in the sun. The scene is idealic. I'm by the river and there's a path right behind me but I can't see folks walking up and down the path and they can't see me unless they walk right up to the bank. I reach for my book now my hands are dry from the swim, and I glance up and see the following: A man (Victor) aged between 70 and 75 with white hair and a beard, a woman (presumably a partner) slightly younger, and a big German Shepherd dog on a short lead acting docile. About a second later I hear Victor say...

"Put some bloody clothes on!"

Now remember at this point he doesn't know anything about me and naturism. I'm just a hiker who's just had a skinnydip on a hot day and has just climbed out. I say, (because I genuinely wasn't sure I'd heard correctly),

"You want me to dress?"

He says,

"Yes please"

I then pick up my shorts and put them on. As I pull then up (to go with the hat and sunglasses I'm wearing but at that point barefoot) a thought goes through my head - <Here we go>. It could have ended right there but something in his voice tells me he's not done. He's angry. Thinking back later I think it was a mixture of finding me naked AND ALSO finding me in a spot he wanted to stop and sit at too. I was inconvient to him. So rather than stop there, he continued and massively escalated the situation with...

"I don't want no perverts here!"

This is "Threat number 1" (There's more to come...) i.e. name calling. Now I've been called names and have a thick skin. I also know that we can both comfortably coexist without this. I also had a very swift crisis of conscious at this point! There are two fighting emotions. One is 'ignore and end via passiveness. Let him rant.' and the other is 'Defend yourself. You are doing nothing wrong and you are allowed to constructively respond'. In the end the latter kinda won. This is where I want to be brutally honest. It might show a part of me that people will disagree with and maybe dislike, but I want to be very clear - As naturists I think we should defend ourselves in the face of prejudice, and secondly passiveness sends the wrong signal to someone in the wrong who will be emboldened if I just wish him away and cower. So I said,

"I was just swimming in the river. There's plenty of space for everyone" Quote.

At this point the escalation from Victor went stratospheric! He said,

"It's bloddy illegal"

I said,

"As naturist for many years I know that it's not",

and then, and this is GODS HONEST truth, he said,

"Maybe they (inferring the police) can get rid of the bloody p**** as well"

where the p-word is a blatent HOMOPHOBIC remark!!

At first I just say, "Wow!"

I just sit stunned, but my primeval defence is kicking in and I can't think straight because of what I've just heard so I say,

"That's SO rude. Would you like to have a go at black people whilst you're here? You seem to be a very little man who wants me to simply do as you tell me. I'm not a child!"

I probably should be handling this better but for people who don't know me I need to say....sorry...I shouldn't have taken things further but I was SO SO SO angry at his remark especially given that sexuality was NOT EVEN PART OF THE SITUATION! I'm married...to a lovely woman...with a child.

So then he says (still standing above me on the bank with woman and dog. I'm still sat on the riverbank),

"It's bloody illegal and I ain't listening to no ignorant twat"

So that's two ticks on the name calling list and one on the homophobic bigot list.

Now at this point I say something I regret. I do. It's unlike me but I was very angry and shaken. In none of what happened today did I swear or call him names. I SWEAR thats true, but I did say,

"Thank god you're going to die before I do"

Ouch. I'm full of regret. But this is a warts and all blog. It's a REAL blog. We're both now very angry and he retreats back from the bank and takes out his phone, because it's now time for "Threat Number 2" - he calls the police. The call to the police I think is real and not pretend. Remember I'm still in shorts. He tells the call handler about my appearance (with a lovely discription of my hat!), where we are, and what I am doing. I hear him say that I am sat with shorts on now. As the conversation goes on I sit calmly and collect myself. I'm strangely ok. I still have the faith. Here it will be tested. This is something that waiting, reading and experiencing social, open naturism for 9 years now has prepared myself for. I'm ready.

I take my book out and calmly find my page. I look up. They've GONE.

Two threats down and I'm feeling better because I've got a sneaking suspicion that the call handler said EXACTLY WHAT NATURISTS WANT TO HEAR....that there's nothing wrong. I hope and imagine. Because I don't know what happened in that conversation but I SO want to have a transcript!

But....amazingly...this story doesn't end there. Because after 15 minutes I decided to walk on. There are a limited number of directions. I pick the one I was going to go anyway and i've still got my shorts on and now also my rusksack and shoes. I walk for 10 minutes down the river to a spot I need to cross at a ford to walk up the valleyside. I reach the ford....and there they are...sitting by the river. I see the dog first and it barks. I walk towards the river slightly and then I make 'thing I regret error 2'...I turned and said, "I'm sorry for shouting back there". Jeez I'm SUCH a snowflake! I want everyone to be at peace and smile at each other and I'm so naive that I thought I could leave the situation better than I left it. Damn. He was still angry. SO angry that he said as he stood,

"I don't want no bloody apology off you!",

and he visibly started expelling spittle he's that angry. So I said,

"Please don't spit at me"

BIG mistake because here comes 'Threat number 3" - he spits all over me on purpose. I'm still calm but now he's got a German Shepherd on a lead and says to it "Watch 'im Watch 'im" and the dog's barking and Victor says,

"I'll have him bite ye"

Threat number 4! We look at each other and in that instant I know he won't. He's a very angry intolerant bigot, but he's still got one or two marbles upstairs. So I say,

"We both know you won't let him, because then you'd be arrested."

He doesn't let the dog go. I called his bluff and was right. I'm still rediculously calm despite having made a couple of naive errors of judgement. But wait! There's still time for 'Threat number FIVE'. That's right. As I walk towards the ford and take my shoes off to wade across, Victor takes a CAMERA out of his bag and says,

"Turn around. What you afraid of huh?"

I say (my last words to him),

"I feel so sorry for you" and I walk on...

Whilst he's taking a picture of hat rucksack and shorts, I struggle to cross the ford and then have to get around a few cattle that were watering by the river. I get past the cows and walk a little bit before stopping to put my shoes back on.

It goes quiet. I walk on. It's OVER. And the woman...never...made...a...sound...

And that's it. I walk around the moor (stripping off again), back around the route I know well and back to the B&B. It took me about 90 minutes from the end of 'meeting' Victor until I was back and in that time I did a LOT of thinking.

How do I feel now? Educated is the best word. Remember all this took was a man skinnydipping on a hot day at a well know wild swimming spot. It's recommended in books! I also feel sad. Sad for a side of humanity that I have NEVER EVER witnessed up close and personal and directed solely at me. My whole hike today was actually GOOD. It was great for so many reasons and interacted nude with people in a way I have never done before, but I also encountered something new and bad - clear, unashamed, blatant, discrimination and bigotry. I'm a naturist and a minority. The average Jo Bloggs in the street knows little of naturism past a biased stereotype, an incorrect assumption about the state of the law and news reels of the World Naked Bike Ride. I've never been subject to prejudice directly like that, because naturism aside I AM Jo Bloggs. I'm an anglo-saxon white straight male with a job, mortgage, wife and kid. I do know of intolerance, of course I do. I've read and heard personal tales from ethnic minorities (such as my friend at work who is Chinese and has received MANY negative insulting remarks in Devon where he and his lovely family live), homosexuals (many many examples from friends and online), and religious minorities (so many examples that I need not say any more), yet I have never been in a position to FEEL that hatred eminating from someone who does not KNOW me but has judged me and made his mind up within a micro second of chancing upon me, on a river bank, in the blissful, largely empty, moor that sits astride the source of the Ex.

Incredible.

I feel sad and educated but something else....a fire glowing even brighter underneath me. I will NOT give in to these people. I made two big mistakes today, but I have learnt massively from them and I'm sorry for them. I have learnt about what is real when it comes to people in the UK. The vast, huge majority are absolutely amazing and I will never lose sight of that. I will remember gladly my chat with the couple whom I joked with. We were all happy, tolerant and respectful and enjoying the real world, the BEST of the real world together in a brilliant moment. Who cared how we were dressed (the guy had on only shorts by the way).

How will I go on? Eagerly. I know what to expect and I know how I can react calmly to no less than FIVE different threats from this individual. I feel so sorry for him yet in a weird and perverse way I'm actually (bizarrely) thankful. I feel I like I can now see naturism set in a new light where it sits alongside all things misunderstood, where folks get angry simply because it scares them. I also see more clearly that some folks...a tiny minority of folks...genuinely want everyone to do what they want, live like them, obey them, and not talk back. The 'you can do anything I want' politik. Victor's anger was inflamed to such a huge amount not because I went for a skinnydip (although he obviously disapproved), not because I took their spot by the river (although I suspect that didnt help me!), but because he hated me for holding a different opinion, a different lifestyle, to him, and that I then held my ground!

May things have been worse for me? Well if the woman had supported him then maybe I would have felt more insecure. I can handle a 70-y-o angry man. The dog? Shit. Well. I was in some calm place where I was sticking up for myself after being rattled and not thinking through all the possibilities! I certainly messed up donning an ill fitting snowflake hat and 'reaching out for peace'! I learned.

This blog is warts and all. This is real naturism at the forefront of what I would like to look to as a positive future. I wondered about writing all this down at all. Maybe I should keep it to myself else it might put people off. Before today I had in the back of my head a figure of 1 in 100 when it came to people being aggresively negative to nudity in day to day life. At the end of my first day as a full-on naturist in semi-public (on Exmoor at least), the number is about 1 in 17. Hmmm. But the police have my back (in writing at least) and so do the vast majority of Brits I reckon.

Poor Victor. You can't go back a century I'm afraid. Change happens. I know this isn't what you want. I know you want to get angry and bitter and argue and repress and stop new things happening but you just CAN'T my friend.

And I still love this rock in the Atlantic and everyone on it. Snowflake? Fine. Better than the alternative.

The End.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

And then there were two...

Almost exactly 10 years ago, the idea for a British Naturism clothes-free event in the south-west of England was born from an idea to visit one its premier attractions, the Eden project without having to be dressed. Whatever you might think of such an idea, there are still plenty of folks who will jump at the chance. Both lifestyle naturists and adventurous bucket-listers love the idea of both the experience and the chance to say they've visited one of the top UK days out without clothes. There isn't a visitor to the tropical dome (below) who doesn't remark how hot it is and how they wish they could suddenly wear a lot less! Plus it's the 'Eden' project...and folks love irony.

Tropical Dome © Eden Project

To accompany the visit, there was an obvious issue of where people would stay, hence to begin with, 'Nudefest' was a means to an end. The visit to the Eden project was a great success and a feather in the cap for British Naturism. Nudefest went on to become an annual flagship event for the national organisation. I previously blogged about Nudefest at Newperran Holiday Park, near Newquay, Cornwall, here. Newperran continues to be a very fine (and still expanding) 5-star holiday park. My visits to Nudefest after it had been extended to a whole week are one of my favourite holidays and a top opportunity for social, happy, clothes-freedom. I even got to visit the Eden Project in 2011. In 2016, things however changed a bit, and for the benefit of everyone not 'in the BN know', here's how...

© Newperran Holiday Park

The naturist community in the UK can be a very close-knit one, whether it be online, at clothes-free venues, on holidays, or at events. This sense of togetherness is a wonderful thing but it does come at a small price. Events will tend to attract close friendship groups and after a fashion, the same groups to the same events. After 10 years this comes across when talking about Nudefest, and an increasingly common comment is one to the effect of 'been there done that'. Although still a fab event, it is difficult to maintain the same motivation once various local activities have been tried. The result was BN looking to move away from its Nudefest venue of 8 years.

In 2015 BN started to push the angle that it needed a larger venue, but I think underneath there was simply a feeling that something fresh was needed. This was a lot harder in practise to achieve! Despite the success of Nudefest at Newperran and the obvious power of the 'buff pound' there remains a lot of scepticism from regular holiday venues as to the worth of investing time and reputation to host a clothes-free event. Fortunately, in early 2016, a new holiday park took the risk and agreed to host Nudefest in a brand new county, and Nudefest at Thorney Lakes Park in Somerset was born. The contrast between Newperran Holiday Park in Cornwall, and Thorney Lakes in Somerset is quite stark. Newperran, with its bar, restaurant, indoor pool and new skate park feels family orientated and commercial, whereas Thorney Lakes, with fishing lake, wildlife and open countryside, feels more rustic and laid-back. Something appeals to me about both venues, and here's the thing, in 2017 BOTH venues will be holding week-long clothes-free events!

NUDEFEST
Thorney Lakes Camping and Caravanning Park, Langport Nr Taunton, Somerset
Monday 3 July → Monday 10 July
Supported by British Naturism 

GO NAKED
Newperran Holiday Park, nr Newquay, Cornwall
Saturday 24 June → Saturday 1 July
Commercial event

© Thorney Lakes
At this point I reach the reason for this blog. In 2017 we now have not one but TWO week long holiday events and an opportunity to do both if desired. Having been to both locations I can honestly say that I would still be overjoyed to stay at either for a full week, and on top of that, both venues are still putting huge energies into providing great activities and clothes-free visits to local attractions for holiday-makers. Never before has the UK had such a choice for those who enjoy clothes-freedom or who want to give it a try. Both are still 24/7 clothes-optional at the venue for the entire week, and both are tremendously welcoming with excellent facilities. And I want to give both a big big plug!

If you are a BN member you might be blinded to the fact that both are taking place, and it's not difficult to see why. BN regards Nudefest as the week-long holiday for 'naturists' in the south of England and would obviously like to promote its own event. There is a bigger picture though. It's one of promoting ALL clothes-free opportunities and giving power to the arm of commercial venues that may be thinking of holding events in a clothes-optional environment. The 'buff pound' is strong and marketing via our culture of being facinated by any news involving the word 'naked' is easy. So although I see BN's point of view of wanting maximum return for its effort in promoting Nudefest in its lovely new location, I believe it should promoting both events...equally. Commercialism is vitally important, both in creating opportunities for those wanting that all-over tan, and to continue the push to normalise this perfectly natural and sometimes more sensible way to be.

I want to use this blog as a starting point for anyone who might be interested in attending either or both of these events and will happily answer any questions about either venue or what you can expect once there. I'm already looking forward to attending both.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

October (or Preparing for the 'off-season')


For me October for the past few years always means the same things and I’m surprised now at much day-to-day life changes this month. Since clothes-free living is now such a fundamental to my lifestyle, the change in temperature and clocks leads to a startling switch in behaviour. My habits over the course of a year can now be almost precisely divided into two regimens. One set for the clothes-free ‘season’ between approximately April and September, and one for what I’ve come to call the ‘off season’ continuing until March and starting about…well…now as it happens.

So what’s changed? The blog https://www.myclothesfreelife.com/2016/10/the-chill-is-on made me chuckle as finding warmth when you’d also prefer to be without clothing is not so much annoying as frustrating! The temperature in the UK has now dipped below my comfortable clothes-free threshold and living in a relatively old house with limited funds, heating would be too expensive to have the house at a nice enough temperature to keep the clothes in a drawer. So my solution is a onesie. What’s a onesie? See here http://www.the-all-in-one-company.co.uk I don’t like ‘gowns’. They’re good for warmth but a pet peeve of mine is restriction around my middle. I don’t like belts, elastic, buttons, drawstrings, or any other variant. It’s one of my gazillion reasons I like not wearing anything, as anything around my middle feels yuck. So a fleece onesie is my solution. No restriction, no drafts, covers my whole body, toasty and warm. It’s my ‘winter naturism’. It’s so baggy that i’m essentially still clothes-free inside.

October is the month the onesie comes out and I get lots of laughs from visitors to my front wondering what on earth I’m wearing. Funny, but I wonder which would get the more comment….nude or onesie….since they are my only two states of dress in my house through the entire year! I don’t go as far as answering the door nude though….yet.

So the heating’s been tested and scheduled and the onesie’s come out of the cupboard. What else? Exercise. I get bitten by the same bug every year; for the last 5 at any rate. October is the month my body starts to tell me it needs exercise and suddenly my brain gets flooded by motivation. I can’t explain it. It must be weather related. My lazy, sunny, clothes-free existance during the summer is suddenly replaced by an urge to don lycra and tear around my neighbour or do laps in the pool. The thing is I need it, not for fitness or weight loss, but for keeping the black dog away. Exercise is the single best thing I can do to steer away depression which used to affect me a great deal more than it does now but can still strike me down without warning. The off-season is a critical time for me because i know I can get low very quickly. This year I’ve joined a gym so that I can cycle and swim as well as run on the roads. If there’s any other clothes-free advocates who feel the same as me then please say hello. I’d love to feed and receive motivation.

But that’s not all! October also means….US football. My favourite sport is back and the Cowboys will once again drive me crazy and result in nails bitten to the very roots. Back to Wembley Stadium in London in 3 weeks for game 9 (in my lifetime). The time when London gets its own franchise can’t come soon enough. US football means my Sundays and Mondays take on a completely different hue (metallic blue and silver). Until I can’t stand Cowboys performances any more that is, which last year was pretty swift!

Lastly, October means social media. I’ve had a brilliant clothes-free season this year with a huge number of great friends and of course my family. I’ve been to five different naturist clubs for events, been with 7 friends on holiday to Vera Playa in Spain, finally found a nice UK clothes-free beach, walked on the moors and tonnes of other stuff, but October is the month everyone packs up and goes back home and puts the heating on! I bid farewell to friends living at the far reaches of the country and head indoors….to my PC. Here I now sit, and the final thing that changes in October kicks in. I start blogging and chatting online! I’ve got loads to say and will probably have plenty of time to say it. Hibernation is an option….but I think I’ll cope enough to see winter through.

Keep warm everyone. Stay happy. Enjoy your off-season.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A Tale of Two Holidays

I've just returned from a clothes-free holiday in Fuerteventura (Canary Islands) with some great friends. On the plane coming back and loathe to watch the movie offered I spent some time thinking about the atmosphere on the island compared to a previous holiday on mainland Spain, at Vera Playa. Two famously good places for clothes-free fans to take a holiday, but two places different in their 'feel'. I thought about which I preferred and why. I'd been to Fuerteventura before, but only to first a 'textile' hotel, and then in the off season when the weather had been unusually poor. Both the holidays I wanted to compare had at last been similar in that they were both with fellow buffers in private villas under blue skies: Vera Playa in September 2014, and Fuerteventura almost exactly a year later.

First off I should explain the similarities and differences. Both Fuerteventura and Vera Playa have a rich naturist history, where 'naturist' in this case is defined as a respect for people wishing to be simply nude under certain conditions. The key difference is the way those conditions are defined.

On Fuerteventura, the condition is tradition. The island has a very relaxed attitude to nudity and has done for a very long time. It has been a traditional holiday destination for Germans particularly, and this goes a long way to explain its naturist leanings. It could be argued that Fuerteventura is the most tolerant place in the world for simple nudity. I'd be happy to learn of other candidates! Does that mean that everywhere on the island is culturally comfortable with overt nudity? No. Again tradition is king. Tradition says that every beach is OK except for beaches immediately next to towns: Corralejo, Caleta and Morro Jable. Tradition also points to nudity being OK on walks around the remoter areas of the island but not in the towns walking down the streets. Some have argued that nudity is allowed everywhere in accordance with the Spanish constitution, but 'legally allowed' and 'culturally accepted' are two different things. In this blog all my considerations are linked to the difference in culture. The legal situation meanwhile is a constant, both locations being Spanish.

On my recent holiday in Fuerteventura then, our villa and the beaches we chose to visit (all being traditionally 'happy' with nudity) were where we went nude. We didn't cross the traditional 'line' nor even propose to.

Vera Playa is slightly different. Here the condition is spatial. The boundaries of the area in which nudity is accepted is defined by edict (with a small grey area on the north side). The 'feel' is therefore different because the condition of nudity is different. Putting it bluntly, Vera Playa is a nudity ghetto. Nudity is happily accepted culturally within the boundary, and falls back to being only legally accepted outside of the boundary. The status of nudity under freedom of expression in the Spanish constitution since the fall of Franco vis the reality of numbers going nude on Spanish streets goes to show that both cultural and legal acceptance of nudity are required before people are willing to go nude in numbers sufficient to start a 'perpetual effect' i.e. that people willing to go nude triggers others to follow to maintain a persistent presence of 'naturists' and therefore a cultural acceptance and respect. This happens on some Spanish beaches, but not generally elsewhere. Culture and tradition are important, arguably more important, to naturists than legality.

On the Vera holiday then, my friends and I happily went nude in the villa, allocated beach and the surround area within the ghetto, including the streets. We didn't didn't cross the spatial 'line' nor even propose to.

Two clothes-free holidays. Both had great weather and great times. Both included a stay at a private villa where my friends' respect allowed nudity at any time. Both had a great beach to get an all over tan. Both in same country under the same law.

It is weird then how the holidays left a very different impression on me.

Pin-pointing why made up the majority of my thinking time on my recent flight back. Cultural acceptance is key here. Acceptance was brought about in two different ways. On Fuerteventura it was incremental over decades. In Vera it happened almost by accident since the beach was de facto naturist along with the area immediately inland of it before anything was built on the land! The buildings, apartments, streets and pools came later. Vera was not 'created' so that people enjoying way-of-life nudity could happily walk down the street nude.

Walking down the street nude”....that is where I decided the difference in 'feel' came from.

Nudity is a way-of-life for me. In a situation where conditions are favourable I prefer being nude to clothed. That's not the same for everyone who accepts the label of 'naturist'. Doing normal things is important to me. Normality. Here's an example: I'm sat nude in the villa and I want to go out to the car a distance away, get in and drive to another place, where I want to get out and walk a distance to a beach and dive in the water. What's the difference here between the cultural acceptance of this event chain in both locations? Well both locations have a lot going for them, but in Fuerteventura there's not enough acceptance to walk to my car (although some would argue that they have and it's fine....but not from what i've read or experienced). In Vera meanwhile it's OK. In Vera though it means dressing once at the remote beach to get to the sea, whereas in Fuerteventura the beach end of the event chain is fine!

Which matters more?

To me...personally...it's the walking to the car bit. This is where Vera wins out.

What about having a sit-down drink at a café? Vera lets you. Fuerteventura doesn't

I know I know....what about the fact that Vera is a ghetto? What about nudity being freedom of expression where 'freedom' should be the ultimate goal? There's an argument that building fences is the wrong approach. Well my counter-argument is that Fuerteventura can also be viewed as a ghetto....just a island sized one! Over in neighbouring Gran Canaria, Maspalomas beach is segregated like a typical nude beach in the UK and other countries and more generally nudity is not accepted, so it can't be called a Canary Island culture and certainly not a Spanish culture. Or is it simply that there aren't enough clothes-free fans to create the 'perpetual effect' that changes culture? Hmm.

So my flight conclusion was that nudity as a way-of-life, for me, leads to me preferring Vera Playa. In Vera, nudity becomes a normality I love. Vera can be viewed as a ghetto sure, but for me it's a microcosm of what a future acceptance of nudity should be. The only difference right now is that Vera is so rare a place that almost everyone inside the ghetto goes nude despite there not being a rule to the effect that you have to. Can Fuerteventura become the same? Sitting on the beach at El Cotillo - La Concha within a perfect 50:50 split of nude .v. costume I can easily imagine it could be. Maybe it already is. Maybe it goes to show that naturists yearn acceptance and respect more than simply places and opportunities to go nude...

How do we therefore get from Vera Playa to Naturist Utopia? If my line of thinking above is anything to go by, then it's surely about teaching acceptance. Acceptance can only be reached via education, and education must be directed (especially given the previous comments I've made about the struggles surrounding the definition of naturism). Here's where BN and other associations become vital; associations that must put acceptance at the very top. It is the ultimate vision. It's all very well cajoling folks to strip off and enjoy nudity, but if there's no acceptance in the surrounding culture, then small ghettoes are all there will ever be.....and they're shrinking.

If you've read through my ramblings then I thank you and offer you a question. If you like being nude which would you prefer...the perfect nude ghetto (where acceptance is always 100% like Vera Playa), or a limited 'freedom' without boundaries driven by tradition i.e. by the numbers of people willing to go nude (where acceptance can vary between 0% and 100%...like Fuerteventura)?

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Who's the victim?

The impending general election in the UK has led to a flurry of thought. I don't really have an aim for this blog, only that I wanted to write something down. The catalyst was an article published today by the Manifesto Club http://notesonfreedom.com The article has a look at the subject of freedom and how the definition is warped by the recent use of Public Space Protection Orders, a new local 'bi-law' device made available by the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2014. The article got me thinking again about my 'worst-case scenario' as a naturist in the countryside...

The scenario is this. I'm out in the countryside of Exmoor. I've taken every precaution to avoid Joe Public when dressed only in footwear and a backpack. It's a weekday and term-time (so no families). I set out early away from car parks and camping grounds (Joe never walks further than a few hundred yards of either....usually). I'm happily walking along and watching out for fellow walkers so that I can cover up if I need to. Out of the blue, a 'Joe' appears and shouts at me from a direction off to one side. The distance is >100 yards. I get words to the affect of "You're disgusting....I'm going to report you". Before I know it I'm back at my car with a policeman and Joe....

I know this scenario is extraordinarily unlikely to happen in the context I've given...except...this HAS happened to a naturist before in only slightly less extreme circumstances!

Right there...in the car park...in that moment before anyone has spoken...who is the victim?

The law in the UK around nudity in public is covered reasonably well in the guidance notes issued to the police by the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) in 2013. The bottom-line to this guidance is that the only applicable law to be considered in any situation where nudity is encountered vis a naturist going about their lawful business, is section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. In the scenario above, Joe is not alarmed or distressed (the criteria for this law). Joe is surprised, angry and offended, and assumes what I am doing is unlawful. The vast majority of cases brought to court because the police deem there be a case to answer are thrown out. Invariably the police ask a leading question to Joe in order to gain the evidence. Something like "Were you alarmed and distressed at seeing the defendant?". Answer, "Yes". Job done. Fortunately this can be picked apart in court.

Who's the victim?

The problem, and the link to the Manifesto Club article (who doesn't use the word but alludes to it), is the concept of taking offence. When I was growing up, my teachers and parents taught me that we live in a free country whereby we obey the law but otherwise can live the life we want to lead. Fabulous. There's a concept I can shout from the hilltops about. However it turns out that there's an extra clause...an extra footnote that needs consideration before anything else can happen.... "You mustn't offend people!"

OK right...so I can be lawful and live life to the full...but i mustn't offend...EVER!

This came up in gathering opinions from constituency candidates for the election. Purely by chance, a fellow British Naturism member had asked the Conservative candidate for North Devon (that includes Exmoor) what he thought of the rights of naturists going about their way of life. The reply came back, "I have no real opinion on the subject, but although it is legal no offence should be caused". The candidate is ahead in the polls and is likely to win at the election due to the slump in Liberal Democrat support.

What can I do with that advice? This brings home the traditional 'right-wing' concept of freedom...the "You can do anything I want" approach to life. My walking on Exmoor is lawful, yet I'm not allowed to cause offence. Yet that secondary consideration is not written down. It only exists in the minds of those who don't like it, those who don't like seeing a naked body simply walking along....or teenagers congregating in a carpark, or ladies feeding the pigeons, or party goers have fun in a private garden.

The Anti-social Behaviour Act almost watered down the definition of anti-social behaviour to that of an individual causing nuicance and annoyance to anyone else. Wow! My local MP, Jeremy Browne, retiring at the election, former Minister for Crime Prevention at the Home Office and liberal put his name to that bill clause. It was only the intervention of the cross-benchers in the House of Lords (note to my international readers....cross benchers are those Lords who have generally legal/moral backgrounds but who have no official party affiliation) that removed the phrase and put back in the slightly more common-sense 'alarm and distress' that had been written in the existing statute.

British Naturism campaigned feverishly to get rid of 'nuicance and annoyance' else even private naturism would be doomed. That campaigning however was required on multiple fronts, since the Public Space Protection Orders were also due to come into being allowing local councils to ban pretty much anything! BN, needing to focus on individual naturism, simply couldn't do the hard work on every part of the bill, and so PSPOs largely stayed of the radar (although not out of the mind) given that public naturism is very rare. But what of the World Naked Bike Ride in Clacton? (Google the controversy of 2014 for info) How will that be affacted? We shall see.

So back to the election. I asked my local candidates about their views on naturism but I made a mistake. I sent the question from my very obviously naturist Twitter account, and from their point-of-view made it pretty much impossible for them to reply in a way that suited their purposes. I'm therefore not surprised at the silence. I also tweeted the candidate in North Devon. I will send him a link to the Manifesto Club article and ask for a comment. I won't be getting one but I'll do it anyway.

Why are people so intolerant? Why I can't we live life in the way my parents and teachers taught? Why is everything treated with negativity?

The only certainty at the election is that I will vote....and then I'll go for a walk on Exmoor.


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Nudefest

I promised several people I would write about Nudefest, the UK's biggest clothes-optional (but largely clothes-free) festival. It is easy to find out some basic information about the week from the British Naturism website, but from a non-BN member's perspective, in my opinion, it's a little hard to find out what's it's actually like to attend. Experiences are often written up in BN's magazine but this is only available to members once they've joined. Given that I went to Nudefest before joining BN, I feel this is a bit 'wrong way around', so here's my blog where anyone can read it.

This blog got a little long, but was fun to write given that almost everything to do with my time at Nudefest has been a brilliant life experience :)

The Event 

(images ©Newperran 2014)

Nudefest is an annual week-long festival at Newperran Holiday Park near Newquay, Cornwall in July (5-12 July in 2015). Newperran is a regular caravan and camping park, 40 acres in size. For comparison, if Newperran were a fully clothes-optional venue it would be the second biggest such venue in the UK after the Naturist Foundation in Kent. Newperran has all the facilities you would expect of a large holiday park: a large bar that can be converted to include a dance floor and live music, restaurant, shop, large indoor swimming pool, children's play area, multiple bathroom-shower-washing facilities, greens for picnics/games, and static caravans available for rent as well as room for 400+ guests with vans or tents.

Nudefest is a BN event, and as such big discounts are available for BN members BUT Nudefest is open to everyone, whether they be single, couple, or family. Unfortunately, Nudefest week falls outside the school holidays which is a shame but the bottom line is that no-one is excluded or left out. It's only for one week of the year, but statistically it's the best week weather-wise. The second week of July is the warmest week on average. Of course this is the UK, so averages don't mean very much! Chances are good though for decent weather. In 2013 we had not a cloud in the sky all week with temperatures in the mid to high 20s. The year before we had...not such good weather ;) The bad certainly makes you appreciate the good though!

The dress code covers the entire park and is 100% clothes-optional everywhere. Saying this, the majority of folks attending take the clothes-free option primarily because of the event's status as the UK clothes-free summer holiday. This has its good and bad side from a perspective of a first-time visitor to a social naturist event. It's certainly good in that no-one will bat an eyelid at anyone choosing to be clothes-free. In fact you can be so all week if you like! It does make for a very 'full on' experience though. It's not unusual for almost everyone to be nude in the bar in the evening (albeit many sporting wraps or such-like) for example as well as for activities like sun bathing or swimming. This is not the case at some naturist venues. I should also say that the clothes-optional dress code also covers all the activities that take place away from Newperran, be it organised visits to attractions, walks, or beach days. All of these are organised with venues in advance and agreed. The only time at which clothing is absolutely required is in travelling to and from external activities or non-organised personal trips outside Newperran. This includes walking locally. Please don't surprise the locals!

I'll give some examples of activities and trips in a while but I need first to say this...Naturism is naturism, which means this holiday is about having the opportunity to be clothes-free and having the respect of everyone else at the venue. It also means visitors must be comfortable themselves with seeing people nude. That's it. ALL other values we hold are the same. This is NOT an excuse for taking things towards a more 'liberal' extreme. Anything else considered indecent at any other time of the year at Newperran is still indecent at Nudefest. All that changes is the dress code. It's difficult to describe how brilliant that small change makes the holiday...but i'll try...



The Experience

I've previously blogged about my trip to Clover Spa in 2011, my seminal social clothes-free experience. That was an experiment to see if it was for me. Once over I was ready to try something a little bigger. Nudefest in the same year was it. I thought I was under no illusions what I was going to. I was ready for a camping trip with a different dress code, but I hadn't realised how different the experience would be...how much better than a run-of-the-mill camp at your average campsite.

Despite Nudefest being a week-long event, the first year I just went for a couple of nights to see what it was like. Upon driving in, the first thing that struck me was that in relation to regular camping, nothing much was visibly different. A banner was placed at the entrance and a marquee had been erected on the central green area but otherwise everything was very 'normal'. I don't know what I expected to be different...high security fences?...rules everywhere telling you to take your clothes off?...'nudist police' patrolling? Nothing of the sort. The upshot of this was an immediate feeling that the 'pressure' surrounding nudity was definitely off. Common sense presides over the week. The majority walked about nude without a care, but dressed or not I would have felt comfortable. There's certainly enough space so as to not feel like you're surrounded by constant nudity! This put me at ease straight away. There's nothing different about living without clothes except the lack of clothes!

I've written before some reasons why I've fallen into a clothes-free way of life. It makes sense to me when the environment is suitable, so it was no surprise that once pitched and ready to explore the site a bit I quickly decided to strip off and wander without clothing. The sun was out and it was warm. An all-over tan simply from walking around! It goes without saying that swimming and sunbathing are two great reasons for stripping off...convenient, comfortable, common sense, but strangely I got more happiness and well-being from doing more day-to-day things such as going to the shop, having a drink at the bar, sorting out my tent, fixing something to eat or washing up afterwards. This is where simply being nude becomes a true way of life. Some folks would get dressed again after topping up the tan or climbing out of the pool. Horses for courses. For me not having to worry about clothes has become natural.

Then of course there's the issue of the shower block. I can't emphasise enough how brilliant it is not to have to faff with clothes going to take a shower at a campsite! Every time I've been 'regular camping' going to the shower block is a right pain. The cubicles are so small that trying to keep clothing completely clean and dry is nigh-on impossible. The air is always slightly damp so it feels yucky trying to get dry and dressed and clothes feel sticky. Then you need to do a magical 'hop-dance' in order to get the clothes on without them touching the wet floor. Just carrying and keeping your stuff together feels awkward. The whole process feels farcical and....it's completely unnecessary. At Nudefest, take one wash bag...go and shower...and walk outside to dry off in the breeze. Done. Amazing. No faffing...no frustration. This is the kind of common sense thing that makes clothes-free camping so much better. If the weather's just right you don't even need a towel :)

The other big thing I need to write about is the community. Regular camping in the UK with the common stand-offish attitude permeating through our society means everyone stays regimental in their little space. Little or no cross border communication. Isolation. Maybe it's just me! It does seem to be the British way though and it's very sad. Nudefest was a revelation. I don't usually feel confident enough to walk around randomly striking up conversations but for the clear reason that everyone immediately has something in common, at Nudefest this felt less of a problem. The friendliness and approachability of others was strides ahead of any other camping experience I'd had. Within half an hour I felt like I'd made several new friends. There's no sense of isolation. You're immediately welcome and part of a community enjoying a joint holiday. Yet at the same time I felt a kind of over-arching respect; a respect that allowed me to join in or go apart with absolutely no pressure. The festival and the events, trips, activities, games, and music that goes with it is worth the money for sure, but the community and atmosphere is something that felt almost priceless. Very similar to any festival then really!

This leads me on to write about the festival 'bit' itself. A clear reason why Nudefest is definitely worth at least one visit to.

Get Involved

The fantastic thing about the week is that it really is a festival. There's always something going on, whether it be at Newperran itself or a trip to some of the great places to go in Cornwall. External venues have warmed to Nudefest attendees following extremely positive press coverage so it isn't just the small attractions inviting us over for a clothes-free wander. Here's a list of trips around Cornwall from the last four years. Some are annual trips whereas others are booked every few years to keep things fresh and interesting.

Poppy Cottage Gardens   Bodmin Moor Hike     Coastal Walk    Perranporth Beach Day
Skinners Brewery  Ten-pin Bowling     Newquay Zoo  Blue Reef Aquarium 

Maritime Museum, Falmouth (2013)
A couple of these stand out for me. The Eden Project was a top place to visit having the whole place to ourselves. This included being able to wander around the tropical dome in a much more comfortable state. Even the staff were talking about stripping off! The last visit in 2012 was accompanied by live music, food and drinks. The National Maritime Museum in Falmouth is a must see anyway. I particularly homed in on the weather exhibit...no surprise there!
Sitting on top of Bodmin Moor (2012)

My favourite annual trip outside of Newperran is walking on Bodmin Moor. I've done this for the last three years and look forward to as a keen hill walker. There's nothing quite like walking free of clothes in the countryside, made even more satisfying being in a group of like-minded people. Walks are generally 8 to 10 miles with short cuts for those who would like a more gentle stroll. The biggest gotcha in recent walks has been protecting against the sun. Yes there have been moments when Joe Public has seen us, but never a bad word said.

Here's a look at the huge variety of things-to-do at the venue itself. There's always something going on and chances are I've left off an equal number of activities. Some take place every year (I'm very proud of my perfect water polo record!) whilst some are great one-offs that I'm sure will return if the festival goers yell loud enough! The programme is made available very shortly before Nudefest begins and it's always different and always springs a surprise.

The choice of live music caters for everyone whether it be acoustic or classical to accompany a picnic in the sunshine, to folk, pop or even a bit of rock and roll in the evening. Returning visitors to Nudefest include the now famous Billy Bottle and Martine....as seen on BBC's The Voice! A bit of modern dance music in the early hours after the cheesy classics have worn some folks out. A popular finale to the holiday is the final night disco including (optional) body painting. This always turns the bar into a spectacular scene with colour lighting and glow sticks.

Go for it

If you've read down this far and from the UK, then chances are you're already an attendee or would consider coming along. I wholeheartedly recommend it. It was absolutely one of the best decisions I've taken in life. This blog might make it sound a little daunting. It's really not. If you're a single then the community feel to the week will make meeting people and making friends ridiculously easy...probably within minutes of arriving! For couples it's the ideal trip to get used to a clothes-optional environment, particularly where one partner is keen and the other hesitant. The balance of women to men as always close to 50:50 so there's no danger of being outnumbered.

The pricing system means that joining BN is worthwhile if you want to stay for 3 or more nights out of the 7. The cost (except if staying in a static caravan) is pretty much the same as regular camping at a venue of Newperran's size and amount of facilities. Perhaps a little higher...but then you get the benefit of all the trips and activities too! Day visits are also available if you just want to come along for a few hours.

Nudefest in 2015 is 5-12 July and I've included the flier below. Here's to another great week. You coming?



Monday, 9 February 2015

Keep the faith!

I've just got back from Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, often highlighted as being one of the most clothes-free friendly islands in the world. I would now agree wholeheartedly having visited the three best beaches on the island: Corralejo dunes, El Cotillo and (pictured below) Sotavento. I'm definitely sold on the island both for the people and the places.


Unfortunately this time for the most part the weather was cloudy and windy; not the best from the point-of-view of being comfortable without clothes. We did get one 4 hour slot of blue skies at Sotavento beach though so it was at last nice enough to sit, swim and wander without being dressed. It was here that I saw how wonderful Fuerteventura is for clothes-freedom...but also something that made me think long about how us Brits go about it.


Fuerteventura is special for a reason. Unlike almost everywhere else in Europe and including the other Canary Islands, there are no boundaries to being clothes-free. All beaches are clothes-optional. Our hotel owners even remarked how Corralejo itself had been fine for clothes-freedom. The freedom to be naked is enshrined in the Spanish constitution. Additionally the island has a long and peaceful relationship with 'naturists' and a strong reputation for tolerance. It has historically been one of the most popular islands with German tourists which was likely how the reputation had been won.


I was puzzled then by comments written by Brits on a popular online forum about the island. As commercialism increases and more holiday makers are attracted to the island, it's easy to see why some people loving their clothes-freedom might be worried about further development: new beach infrastructure such as water-sports schools and beach bars opening. However what struck me was the degree to which some naturists are so incredibly defeatist about it! Phrases such as being "forced down the beach", considering some beaches as becoming "no-go areas", lamenting the areas that are now "too textile". British naturism is all about fences...and it extends to putting up fences in our own minds!


At Sotavento, I noticed quickly that as well as the beach being quieter than normal, everyone was dressed. There were quite a number of windsurfers and kite surfers taking advantage of the stiff breeze, but I guess the rather yuck weather for the majority of the week had put people off. The sun coming out appeared to be a remarkable stroke of luck and brilliantly timed just as we parked up. Having read up on the island, I quickly decided that having worn a jumper for most of the previous days, there was no chance that I was going to pass up the opportunity to strip off and enjoy the beach. And here's the thing...once I did so...other people stripped off too!!


The point of the blog is this...Keep the faith people! Stop feeling so negative. Some naturists have an inferiority complex to the point where beaches becoming closed to clothes-freedom will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are in a place where nudity is allowed, accepted, and historically normal...GO NAKED. Don't wait to see someone else strip off first. Don't assume that just because a kite surfer walks past that he's going to laugh in your face. Of course he won't. Fuerteventura is an amazing island with beaches I want to go back to time and again. Please let's not lose the island's fabulous clothes-free reputation just because more clothed people have come to the beach. Don't move up the beach. Don't go somewhere else. Don't wear a costume just because you feel 'forced' too. Sit in the middle and strip off! And of course, here's the clincher....they will likely be wanting to try it too and will likely take your lead!