Recently, a gentleman decided to walk from Land’s End to John O’ Groats, a journey of around a thousand miles. It’s a pleasant enough route, I once did it on a bicycle. The news, of course, isn’t the peregrination of this fellow per se, so much as in the way he was dressed. Or rather, wasn’t. The first time I read about him, in a copy of an unsuccessful magazine called ‘News from Home’, I thought it said that he was a ‘naturalist’ and that he was one of those bearded people who wanders about clutching binoculars and wittering on about the sexual habits of rabbits (which I suspect are pretty straightforward) and followed by a patient, philosophical and faceless cameraman whose main job is to not get noticed, leap-frog in front of our hero, and watch for his shadow in the action shots. However on examining the photograph, and re-reading the piece, I found that the ambler was a rucksack-toting ‘naturist’, or one of those people who enjoys wandering about nude in public.
I once got to know another example of this tendency in Mexico. This chap, mad as a rat, enjoyed diving in the warm Pacific waters in search of lunch. He also favoured relative nudity. He would wear an oxygen tank, a mask, a wheezer, a vest full of handy pockets, a waterproof watch (good to five hundred metres), a weight belt, fins and a large knife strapped to his right leg. Practically the only part of his body visible to the onlooker was his knob.
And here we find the difference between nudists and what are apparently known in Spain as ‘textiles’. A nudist is not interested in ‘going as he was born’, but to leave uncovered the parts which are normally covered.
You can say that someone wearing underpants is dressed, whereas someone who is covered everywhere except for his genitalia is either a pervert or a ‘naturist’. I wouldn’t want to mix the two concepts; perhaps the difference is in the presence or otherwise of a mackintosh.
The consideration of the nude body, away from the sexual angle, offends nobody. In fact, the reverse. Michelangelo’s David is one of the most sublime examples of art in the world. There is no championship of the sexual organs: he’s just young, brave and inspirational. The same effect would not have been reached by the sculptor if he’d chosen a fat old gentleman with a pot.
If you want sex, there’s the incoherent Britney Spears for example. I’m sure that she would be delightful in the nude, but wearing just a pair of white cotton panties would even be preferable, as any girl knows.
Goodness knows, there is nothing wrong with wandering around naked in your own house or in other private places knowing that you are not going to be seen by unknown people. Nudity bothers no one in a controlled environment. But here’s the rub about naturism: the entire group (they insist on wandering about in gangs) knows that they are a herd of people highly conscious of the fact that they disturb the majority of society – not in small part due to the evidence of their small parts. Sadly, few of them look like David or Britney, and rather incline us to think of a brisk session on an ironing board. It’s in your face, but it’s not esthetic.
‘Ah, but we don’t look’, they say.
Naturists say that ‘clothes don’t make the person’ and that they can liberate themselves from the mundane competition of appearance. Unless they’ve forgotten to take off their Cartier or Rolex, it’s true that they can successfully manage to hide their position in society. Like anyone cares.
But, everything in its place, as the saying goes. During the eleven and a half months of the warm season, the shops and banks are filled with half-dressed Englishmen, in socks and y-fronts, standing patiently in queues or pushing trolleys full of beers, whisky and digestive biscuits. I’m usually obliged to pretend that I’m Swedish or from Iceland. That overweight fellow over there sweating into the lettuces isn’t one of ours, and, no Señora, I don’t even speak his language. Actually, he probably feels overdressed, why, just last week he streaked – or at least waddled – across a football game.
But that’s my own particular Calvary. I don’t happen to live in a nudist colony and I certainly can’t imagine, as the joke goes, where they keep their money.
For practical reasons, when the weather is hot, I’ll grant that you have to remove some clothing (with the local social limits in mind), but, when it gets cold, I reach for a sweater. No worries. But them?
A few years ago, my accountant invited me for lunch at a naturist restaurant on the beach. Despite recommendations to the contrary from the specialized magazines on the subject, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable in the beach-bar, clothed and surrounded by naked Germans tucking into their paella and chips. I hadn’t the least desire to take off my apparel. Apart, that is, for my shirt which I had inadvertently stained with tomato sauce. Everybody was staring at me as if I was the nutter. We were sat – or in some cases fastened – to metal chairs. Yes, there were a couple of girls at other tables who weren’t bad, but we were eating, for chrissake (the moment when I first managed to raise my eyes and see them was, coincidentally, the moment I had the accident with the tomato sauce). Two hundred people staring at me like I’m peculiar and I don’t think it was down to the cigarette handily wedged behind my right ear. Then, during the pudding, a man from the next table suddenly rose to his feet in an evident state of excitability. Jaysus, gimme a light...
I changed my accountant the following day for an Argentinean one. A dressed one. I believe he even wore a tie. Perfecto.
Unfortunately, he soon stole everything I owned, including my clothes.
Which explains why I go around this way. It’s not because I like it, see, it’s because I have to.