If you have arrived here after reading the article in January’s issue of H&E Naturist, expecting to read the expanded version then I must disappoint you. This is not the same article; I won’t bore you with an explanation, but I assure it has been lost. This replacement has been written using the same theme however, which is ironic given the original’s subject matter. One other thing, the naturist connection may not be immediate obvious, but bear with me. And lastly, sorry this is so late.
Anyway, to business; one of the things anthropologists tell us is that our ability to imagine things unseen, or to weave stories around those that we have, is a major milestone in human development and a significant difference between chimpanzees – our closest relative – and us. Often we can express ourselves better by turning to the keyboard, paintbrush or camera than by any other means and psychiatrists have used this technique to “release our inner demons” for decades. It is certainly an explanation why so many books were written about the Second World War after 1945, some as historical record while others were fictionalised account of the author’s own experiences. Whatever was produced, whatever medium used, it helped to exorcise the past and allowed them to live normal lives again but in doing so, they drew pictures of many characters, used even more plots to tell their story, but they all drew on the same theme, warfare.
Walk into any branch of Waterstone’s and you will be confronted by a bewildering array of books, fiction and non-fiction in equal number it would seem but try as you might, you will not find any under the heading “Naturist”. Yet we could, if we consider the content in a different light. Under the Philosophy, American history and biography sections we might come across The Nudist Idea by Cec Cinder, which not only covers the philosophical history of naturism in some detail, but also gives an insight into the free beach movement of 1970s California, in which Cinder was a significant participant and through that, we are told his life story – his biography. This book could easily turn up again in the politics, local activism section as it delves into the work needed to obtain the support of local politicians and not just the compromises between activists to achieve the desired common goal. We also learn a good deal about Susan Mayfield’s life through her book Break-out! It tells the stories behind those people who escaped the normal nine-to-five jobs here in the UK to live in France or Spain as full-time naturists, of their triumphs and more importantly perhaps, disasters leading up to and after that final leap. As it was always Mayfield’s plan to follow them, we learn of events in her long search for a little bit of paradise, and permanent move to France; some unconnected with naturism (like packaging a magazine for transvestites, titled Taffeta).
So here we have the biographies of two people who have led very different lives interesting enough to be of interest to others, they just happen to be naturists and so share that as a common theme.
Non-fiction is not everyone’s favourite reading and like many others I have spend the last half-hour or so before turning out the light at night in a world created by another’s imagination: Dumas, Dickens, Rowling, Brookes and Clarke are among my favourites. Another writer I’ve got to ‘know’ is AW Palmer, who wrote The Reluctant Nudist, the story of a couple who has their journey down to a friend’s house in France interrupted because of a murder and Palmer’s protagonists have to turn detective to prove their innocence. The fact that the murder took place on a naturist campsite could just be a co-incidence. If you prefer your crime fiction to be shorter, you could try the Catherine Reynolds stories from the Naturist Fiction Archive, which also houses other (naturist) short stories. If I am brutally honest though, I have to say that all these stories are a bit like a curate’s egg and as long as you are content to take the bad along with good then I believe you will still find something enjoyable to read. The biggest disappointment with the Naturist Fiction Archive though is that although other writers are asked for contributions, only the ‘administrator’ is given as the author and the name of the actual writer is unknown. Also, despite a suggestion that the stories are proofread before submitting, this is the one piece of advice that is constantly ignored. For instance, in one story, Emily became Emilie half way through the narrative.
Naturism is an ideal subject for the visual arts, of course, and we can enjoy the antics of the owners and residents of Koala Bay Naturist Resort as a graphic novel by artist and author, Stephen Crowley. The stories he has produced range from fantasy to crime fiction, and somewhere in between, all tinged with a good dose of humour that might raise a ‘smirk’ or two, if not a ‘belly laugh’, although humour can be very personal. Yet all are bound together through naturism.
Themes are essential to make any story work and when it is carried over a trilogy, the theme takes on more significance. For example, the recent Batman movie-trilogy had the theme of perseverance running through it. In it, we saw the character Bruce Wayne/Batman falling in each episode only to pick himself up again, in each part the protagonist falls deeper but still rises above problems he is facing, giving the viewing public a common theme to refer back to. That is Hollywood however, and it is unlikely that any of the big studios would consider a film like the independently produced Act Naturally as part of its regular offering. Still, as good as Act Naturally is, it still dwells – as does much of the written fiction produced incidentally – on the first encounter between naturists and non-naturists. It is not impossible, however, to create a story line that has naturism in plain sight of the story but not as a plotline. Try these for size and see if you can guess the original non-naturist productions:
1. A dead person found in strange circumstances in a naturist club resort;
2. New members of a naturist club are invited by their neighbours to a ‘get to know you’ party and as the drinks flow the inhibitions loosen;
3. A group of space travellers have grown up naked on a spaceship battle for their lives against computers seeking to control them;
4. Without knowing who the other recipient is, two naturists are sending emails to each other and fall in love, but at their club they are bitter enemies…
While film (video) is increasing in popularity, still photography has been the preferred medium for many naturists to express themselves ever since it became affordable to the masses. Not all that many years ago, of course, H&E published readers’ photographs of their (usually female) partners enjoying the sun, sea and air and British Naturism ran a photographic competition for its members. Competitions and readers’ galleries are less common now, but with the ease that pictures can be posted and/or shared on the Internet, they can illustrate naturism as a lifestyle to be enjoyed rather than a dubious sect to be treated with suspicion. During 2012, photographer Laura Pannack came to prominence following her project using members of YBN, some of which show the young naturists doing such ordinary things as playing a board game; listening to the radio, watching Wimbledon on the big screen. Likewise, Reuter’s photographer Mark Blinch has produced a study of life at Bare Oak Family Naturist Park, again it is the normality of what the park’s members are doing; walking the dog, working in the office, enjoying a beer and mowing the lawn, that belies the fact that everyone is naked. Take any of the pictures created by Pannack or Blinch and put clothes on their subjects and these are interesting, yes, but not so remarkable picture studies of how people live in the 21st century. Without clothes, not only do they show the normality of naturism but that social nudity is as unremarkable as taking a walk in a park in teeshirt and shorts on a hot summer’s day.
1. Any Christie-like murder mystery you care to name;
2. Abigail’s Party, a stage and television play by Mike Leigh;
3. Earthsearch, a classic BBC radio science-fiction drama;
4. You’ve Got Mail (film) or Much Ado About Nothing (play).