I wish I could say that I grew up in a naturist household, spending my summer holidays running round naked in the sun. But I can’t. I grew up in the East Midlands in the UK in the 1970’s (I was born in 1968), with a perfectly normal childhood. I only ever saw my parents naked once or twice, and I don’t think they’ve seen me naked since I was about 10.
So, I grew up with all of the normal British reservations about showing my body in public.
I think that my first “exposure” to naturism came on holiday in the south of France with my parents when I was (I think) about 17 – my last holiday with them before I became a student and then left home. We stayed near Port Grimaud, and one day I decided to see what was on the other side of a large stony breakwater. Imagine my surprise when I saw a beach full of naked people! I’d love to say that I went and stripped off and joined them, but I didn’t. Remember, this was a time when I didn’t even want my parents to see me without a shirt on!
Anyway, when I was a student (living at home), I picked up a copy of Health and Efficiency from a shop that had it as one of its “top shelf” magazines (a phrase that will no doubt be familiar to British readers, but may be less so to those from overseas. Just remember that Playboy is a “top shelf” magazine!). It was interesting to discover a magazine full of nude photos of what I came to think of as “normal” people doing normal things – not models who seem to be auditioning for a gynaecological textbook. At this time, I also started to spend time around the house nude when everyone else was out, but this was more from the “illicit thrill” point of view. However, my opinion started to change, and I found that I really enjoyed being naked, and envied people who were able to go on naturist holidays. I did manage a couple of afternoons sunbathing nude in the back garden in a very rare time when my parents were on holiday and my brother was still away at college in another town.
And that was it for several years. In 1992 or 1993, my girlfriend and I went to stay with a friend who lived in Poole, on the south coast. On the Saturday we went to their local beach for a walk, and my friend warned us that there was a nudist section. It was Studland Bay, somewhere I had heard of in H&E (which I had long stopped buying, mainly because I had moved in with my girlfriend). So there I was, walking along Studland, surrounded by nudists, but I didn’t dare do anything. I mean, I used to work with my (female) friend (and did again a few years later) and couldn’t imagine telling her “hey, I’d love to strip off here”. For all I know, her and her husband might have been regulars, but that wasn’t going to happen!
My girlfriend and I went back to Studland on our last day as the weather was nice, and I somehow plucked up the courage to suggest to her that we went to the nudist beach because I fancied stripping off. She was pretty amazed, but agreed on the understanding that she didn’t have to. I really enjoyed it, much to her bemusement. I even swam naked in the sea, which was just superb (if a little cool).
Over the next few years, my girlfriend indulged me and we visited Studland once or twice a year and I also stripped off once or twice on a beach in France, but that was pretty much it.
For the last 3-4 years however, we have been on holiday in French cottages, and we’ve always managed to be remote enough for me (and occasionally my girlfriend) to strip off by the pool.
Over the last couple of years, I have been doing a series of photography courses (I’m a very keen amateur), and the last one, in 2003, was “social documentary”. I struggled for a long time to think of a subject, and from somewhere deep down I came up with the idea of doing something on naturism. I hunted round the internet and found a club in Marlborough (which is about 50 miles from Bristol where I now live) who surprisingly enough were agreeable for me to take some photos and invited me to come along and see them – even though I would be on my own as my girlfriend would not be joining me.
So, I somewhat nervously went to see them so they could meet me and I could see what the photographic possibilities were. They were most welcoming, and I spent a thoroughly pleasant evening swimming and playing badminton in the nude.
There were some delays in getting permission from the sports centre they use, and in the end they said “no”. By this time, I had been 2 or 3 times and was getting to enjoy it. So, even though my project was killed off before I had taken any pictures, the club asked me if I wanted to join, and I did. I now go along once a month or so, and love it. The main problem is that the club meets on Saturday evenings, and I feel guilty about leaving my girlfriend on her own at home when I go. I’d love for her to come as well, but she isn’t confident enough at present, although she hasn’t ruled out the possibility entirely.
More recently, I have been starting to think about making contact with one of the clubs not too far from Bristol – one that has its own land – so I could possibly have somewhere outdoors to visit regularly.