Let me start at the beginning. I was born. I was naked. There...that wasn't so hard was it! My mum and dad were close by and a few health professionals were milling around. I was crying, and I was trying to cope with this newfangled thing called 'breathing' so being naked wasn't foremost on my mind. Mind you, I don't think that I cared that much. In fact, I didn't care at all. I hadn't 'learnt' anything yet about what it's like to be a human being in the 20th century. I got dressed.
Let me try another beginning. I moved out of my parent's house aged 21. I'd been to university already but always living with other people. There had been drink involved. I was still getting over some pretty serious teenage angst. I was geeky and very self-conscious. I had discovered 'girls' and was seriously busy learning how to be an adult. Being at university made me happy so I went back for another go.
This time I had my own place. Living on my own suited me down to the ground. Some folks get lonely very quickly and so hate living alone, but for me it was like finding a new level in life. I loved it. I've always been very much my own person so living in my own flat didn't phase me one bit. I had free heating, but I had no washing machine. You see the other thing that's intrinsic about me is that I’m unashamedly lazy. Fortunately I found a solution to the conundrum of having no clean clothes.
Folks I’ve told this story to always only semi-believe it. There's always been a hint of “ok, but what's the real reason you became a naturist?” in their reply, but it really did come down to not having any clean clothes and no money to buy any! I took my clothes off. Sort of. I mean I didn't just decide one day that I wasn't going to wear any. There was no 'event that changed my life'. There was no naturist in me fighting to get out overnight. It sort of...evolved...over many months hunched over a keyboard trying to solve the mysteries of the universe (a course in Astrophysics in case you are wondering...which you probably weren't). Before I knew it I was standing in the kitchen making toast wearing nothing. I wasn't a naturist. I am now. I wasn't then. Weird ain't it! Perhaps only I can understand what I mean. Perhaps not even then.
At this point I met my future wife. She rolled her eyes at me. She's been rolling them continuously ever since. My wife is comfortable with no clothes on. She wasn't a naturist. She still isn't.
Time for another beginning. Switch forward twelve years. It's mid-2010 and I’m searching the internet for diving gear. I'm a diver. I haven't been diving since 2010, but I'm still a diver! I caught a glimpse of an article on the front page of Yahoo as I was about to click through to my e-mail. It was the ten best naturist beaches in Britain. One was close to me in Devon. I didn't know that.
The internet is amazing. I love it. It's a huge part of my life. I've made countless friends via the internet; many many more than I’ve called 'friend' in simply meeting in real life. You see I make friends much more easily online because I'm naturally shy in talking to people face-to-face if I don't know them. I dislike small talk. I find it banal and formulaic. I detest 'mingling'. I don't therefore get on well at conferences and other work social stuff. The internet on the other hand, I can just talk at my own pace. I can think of interesting things to say. The internet 'way' of chatting fits my personality so much better. The silences are never awkward. I like that. I always aim to meet people that I've spoken to online in real life. Real life is still important.
So in 2010 I started to talk to people online about naturism. My first chat was with a guy called Tim from Bristol on a forum called Naturist Corner (that I found by following links from that Yahoo article). I don't know Tim any more and never called him a friend, but he knew a thing or two about naturism in the UK. He pointing me at some interesting threads on the forum. I read.
I wasn't a naturist. I'd found out about the word and British Naturism and started to think about meeting others who liked being naked doing day-to-day stuff. I found I could chat to naturists incredibly easily. Naturists are happy. Naturists are positive. Naturists are open and friendly. Naturists generally have the same outlook on life as I do. Naturists were apparently very keen to convert people into naturists! Remember that this is twelve years after my laundry crisis. I found out about a place called Clover Spa, which was imminently due to open in Birmingham. I hatched a plan. In November 2010 I went for a walk in a nature reserve not far from where I live. It was about 12C. Half way around I stripped off and walked for a mile nude. I was happy.
Another beginning, this time not long since the last one. January 2011. Tim Higgs' Clover Spa had just opened. I wanted somewhere social but not too social. I wanted somewhere dedicated to naturism. I wanted somewhere without too much pressure but giving folks a nudge in the right direction. This was it. I drove.
Arriving at Clover Spa I sat in the car, took a deep breath and thought, “...and so starts the next part of your life...” There were a few more deep breaths! Tim was a friend as soon as he said 'hello'. I could tell immediately. I went to my room and 'got ready'. I had signed a card assuring me that it was OK to walk downstairs to the lounge with nothing on. I grabbed a copy of the Guardian anyway....and 'had it to hand' so-to-speak.
I walked downstairs and into the lounge. Everyone was dressed.
Ok ok...now this wasn't the big scare that it could have been. The fact that the lounge contained four staff members and what appeared to be a delivery man might have put other people off. Clover Spa had just opened. Guests were few. Staff were obviously plentiful! This was my ten seconds of terror; the ten seconds that everyone trying social nudity for the first time goes through. A staff member (who's name I can't recall now...shame on me) offered me a coffee and a chocolate brownie. The ten seconds were over. From that point onwards I was completely fine with social nudity and have loved it ever since. I wasn't a naturist.
Naturism is weird. Where does it start and end? What the hell is naturism? Before summer 2011 I hated the word 'naturist' and I said so...both in person to folks and online. In fact in early 2011 I was involved in a heated debate on a forum about the word naturist and I argued vehemently against its use. It's a label. I don't like labels.
OK, last beginning. In June 2011 I went to Nudefest for a weekend with my good friend Matt. Neither of us had been to anything like it before. We knew nobody but thought we would give it a try and see what it was like to get as far into the lifestyle of social nudity as it was possible to get in the UK. I loved it. End of. There are just no more words.
On getting back home, my wife rolled her eyes.