| A midge too far
A MIDGE TO FAR
The idea of Scottish naturism may raise a titter, but Tom Shields finds a quiet
retreat where home-baking is a more common talking point than sex. Mind
you, the insects and the hot barbecues can cause trouble
IDIDN'T quite now what to expect from my encounters
with members of Scotland's nudist community. There you go right away with
the word member, a synonym (nudge, nudge) for penis. Language tends to the
double-entendre when naked bodies are involved.
I did not anticipate in my meetings with naturists, as they prefer to be
called, was how often home baking would rear its head. An Ayrshire family
-- maw, paw and the bairn naturists -- kindly agreed to talk to me about
their chosen pursuit. Mary, the mother, explained that she had been
somewhat apprehensive about the first time she was to get her kit off.
'There was a woman in her seventies in the group. She sat there calmly
knitting. Then she opened a Tupperware box of her home baking and asked if
I would like a scone. She was so natural. It put me at ease.
realised naturists were just normal people. When I was a girl, I thought
nudists were weird and I never imagined it would be me baring all.' Mary
and her husband Dave first sampled the joys of disporting themselves in the
scud on the beaches of Ibiza and decided to attempt to replicate the
liberating experience in Scotland. It was not quite the same. There were
beaches in Ayrshire, some where going naked was officially sanctioned,
others where it was tolerated.
was the problem of 'dune crawlers'. These are people who frequented the
beaches and pruriently connected naturism with sex. Not all of these dune
crawlers were tabloid journalists and photographers but some were. So it is
not surprising that Scotland's naturists seek secluded and private
locations. The Scottish Outdoor Club is based on an island on Loch Lomond.
They occasionally get buzzed by military helicopters on training missions,
with the pilots coming back at much lower altitudes for a closer look. The
naturists on the loch can often see the cruise boats passing close to their
island retreat and hear the skipper's commentary informing tourists: 'We
are now passing the nudie island. If you're lucky you might see them
swinging naked from the trees.' It is not for nothing that Scotland's
naturists are weary of being perceived and depicted as nutty nudists.
naturists' Loch Lomond island retreat is a small piece of paradise,
especially on a sunny day. It was glorious weather when I visited and, in
the brief time I had my clothes off, I can confirm that it is indeed very
pleasant to let the air get about your bits.
most of the time I was fully clothed, seated on a veranda being served tea
and freshly made pancakes with jam and cream by Jean, a lady of a certain
age from Lanarkshire. What did I tell you about naturism and home-baking?
So what are the advantages of naturism? Mary, the pragmatic Ayrshire lady,
points out: 'There is an awful lot less washing to do. Skin is a wonderful
waterproof material and it is so easy to dry.'
student daughter Sharon, brought up from childhood to appreciate the
benefits of being unencumbered by clothes, says: 'It's great not having to
worry about wearing designer labels.' Sharon recalls idyllic summers on the
Loch Lomond island as a child: 'You didn't have to worry about ripping your
clothes. You could get as dirty as you wanted and it could be sorted with a
describes the whole business of choosing to go naked as being liberating.
This is echoed by Brian, a member of the Loch Lomond club, whose big
interest is sailing. 'There is nothing better,' he says, 'than being on
your yacht in an isolated location in the West Highlands and you are able
to get your clothes off. Actually, I'm lying. It's better in the Greek islands
where the sun is much hotter and there is great relief to be had from
hanging on to the end of the boat as it cuts through the water. It is the
a more mundane level, increasing numbers of naturists are enjoying a naked
swim during closed sessions in baths all over Scotland. The Western Baths
in Glasgow and the pool in Haddington are pioneers in this respect. Our
Ayrshire man Dave says: 'There is nothing more constricting than going for
a swim wearing a cold, sticky pair of swimming trunks.' Healthy outdoor
sport is a leitmotif of the naturist code. Volleyball featured largely in
early movies which purported to illustrate the nudist lifestyle but which
were actually designed merely to cater for a porn market seriously deprived
of quality tits and bums.
naturists' preferred sport is mini-ten, a cut-down version of tennis.
Instead of the highly strung racquet, a bat which looks like a wooden glove
is used. It is a basic tennis game and, as far as I know, there is no
umpire to say to the naked players: 'New balls, please.' (I told you the
naturist linguistic landscape was fraught with the possibility of bad
advantages of being part of a naturist community? All of the people I spoke
to said the salient feature of their involvement was the feeling of calm
and security they experienced. Dave says: 'It is almost as if when people
take off their clothes to reveal themselves, they leave behind aggression
and conflict. People are more courteous, more considerate, more natural,
which is perhaps why we call ourselves naturists.
club is like a big extended family. I remember when there were 36 children
there and they were running about naked. They were in the company of adults
with no clothes on. Yet these children were safer and more secure than kids
appear to be these days in their own streets, even their own homes.' The
life of the Scottish naturist should, therefore, be uncomplicated and
fruitful. But there are disadvantages. Take, for example, the
meteorological and 'moral' climates which pertain in our country.
it has to be said well done to the Sunnybroom naturists of Aberdeen who
divest themselves in weather where even the fish wear fur coats. And to the
Highland Sun club who hie themselves to remote northern locations for a
spot of nakedness.
is, of course, the midges and the clegs who present the major problem to
the Scottish naturist. With the beasts biting, there is a terrible
incentive on a hot and muggy night for the naturist to head off and put on
some clothes. Weatherwise, it is often the case that a Loch Lomond naturist
is not walking around in bare skin but in oil skins. Dave says: 'Some
people are hardier than others and will be naked while others are wearing
woolly jumpers. There is no militant rule about having to go about naked
all the time.'
appear to be very few rules at the naturist club. The main one appears to
be 'Nae bare bums oan seats'. Dave points out: 'This is for hygiene
reasons. When you go visiting someone else's place or go to the communal
hut, it is good manners to take your towel to sit on. Another convention is
that club members may spend all day in the nude but will dress for evening
are some local difficulties about being in the buff which deserve to be
chronicled. Like the barbecue, which is very much a part of the outdoor
life. Brian says: 'The coals can get awful hot and you don't want your wee
sausage burnt. Then there is the splashback effect.' So aprons are de
rigueur whenever there is a barbie at the naturist club.
featured in a photograph in British Naturism magazine, organ (there, I've
done it again) of the movement. He was one of three barbecue chefs wearing
only the aforementioned protective gear. They were pictured from behind and
the snap bore the heading 'Arseholes in aprons'. I had hoped one of the
naturist barbecue chefs might have an apron with the figure of a
fully-clothed person, which would be the antithesis of the naked lady, a
favourite device of your ordinary 'textile' cook.
is the word which naturists use to describe those not of their persuasion.
Brian talks of being 'in uniform' or wearing his one-button suit. The
patter can be quite lively. You might even say the crack is good among the
nudists. A major downside of being a naturist in Scotland is the attitude
of many of the textiles. It is prejudice mixed with prurience. 'In most
European countries, there is a relaxed approach to public nakedness. In
Scotland, the old Presbyterian values conspire to create an atmosphere of
disapproval if not outright hostility,' said a Scottish Outdoor Club
member. He had experienced this at first hand, from his own brother. 'He is
a classic Holy Willie, a banker with a W, a pillar of Newton Mearns society
who was quite scathing when I told him of my hobby. The truth is he would
be the first to take a peek over the fence at some naked flesh. Of course,
he rushed off to tell our mother what I was up to, hoping she would join in
was fantastic about it. She was worried about what the midges might do to
me or that I might catch a cold. Otherwise, she didn't see it as a problem
and even joined me and my wife on visits to the Loch Lomond club.'
naturists are very open about their pursuit and are prepared to put up with
the occasional snigger from neighbours and workmates. But most choose to
keep the information to themselves. Dave, Mary and Sharon prefer the
latter. Mary says: 'When Sharon was still at school, we did worry she might
tell all when she had to write in her news book about what she did at the
weekend. I envisaged her giving full detail, accompanied by full-frontal
drawings in her jotter. But she was quite clever, mentioning the visits to
Loch Lomond, the barbecues and the various activities but without saying it
was all done without clothes.'
realised that her own broad-minded attitudes to whether or not people wear
clothes might not be reflected by her giggling teenage fellow pupils. She
kept her membership of the naturist club to herself. 'The one thing that
used to worry me was going into the showers after PE at school. Obviously
not because of going naked but because I usually had a really good tan with
no white bits, no strap marks.'
like most members of a naturist family, went through a period of teenage
anxiety when she wasn't too keen on taking her clothes off in public. 'At
that age you can be embarrassed enough about yourself without letting everyone
see your body. You worry about being too fat or too thin or whether your
bum is too big.
a few years, I would wear a T-shirt and shorts while others were naked. But
I got over that phase and when I can get the time, I really enjoy getting
away to the tranquillity of Loch Lomond, and getting my clothes off.'
Sharon is one of the few young members at the Loch Lomond club.
people tend to do their nude bathing abroad these days where the weather is
better and the attitudes more relaxed. Brian says: 'My wife and I are just
back from a holiday in Lanzarote at a naturist complex. We could go about
in uniform all day, walking for kilometres without worrying about straying
into textile territory. It wasn't just that the facilities were first
class, the great thing was the laid-back atmosphere.'
some textiles, nudism is inexorably linked with sex. This frame of mind has
no doubt been inculcated over years of Scottish repression aided and
abetted by a kind of Carry on Sniggering mentality. Dave says: 'The last
thing naturism is about is sex. We do get some people who join under the
impression that it's all orgies and frolicking in the bushes. They tend to
leave quickly, when they realise how mundane and ordinary it is.
is nothing very sexy about nudity, especially some of the sights and shapes
and sizes you see. Nature in the raw is not exactly titillating.'
Scottish Outdoor Club is always looking for new recruits for its Loch
Lomond retreat. They have a quota for single male members. The application
and interview process is informal. 'We are a happy extended family and it
is usually quite obvious from the outset whether people will fit in,' says
Dave. What he means is that, unless you try to join for the aforementioned
dodgy reasons, it is unlikely you will be black-balled. If you know what I
information on naturism can be gleaned from the internet, from born-again
Christian evangelical nudity in America to naked bungee jumping in New
Zealand. Details and contact numbers for naturism in Scotland can be found
on the Loch Lomond club is on http://www.scotnaturist.freeservers.com/