To bare or not to bare – that is the question?

I haven’t visited a nude beach in Tenerife simply because I would worry about sunburn in uncomfortable places and the world is not ready for my chocoholic cellulite. But good luck to those who enjoy it.

Recently we were walking on the large stones at the Arona Gran end of Los Cristianos beach and I was vaguely aware of a low, curved, stone wall facing the sea. I walked towards it with curiosity and my husband grabbed my arm. A man was lying in the buff facing the sea and he put his hat over a certain part of his anatomy when he heard the kafuffle of my approach. My thoughts, after a slight shock, were, well…..why shouldn’t he enjoy the sun and spray all over his body? We do seem to have a real hang-up about nudity.

At school, our art teacher told us “It is far more interesting to draw a naked body than a pencil. It’s the lightplay on the curves you know!”  The nuns did not seem to agree; they blurred the end of term film about Leonardo da Vinci every time a drawing with a figure partly clothed appeared….even the baby in the womb! I’ve always liked the paintings of Lucien Freud. Some may say they are too risqué but ‘The Sleeping Tax Collector revealing her bulkiness on that sofa must fill every ample woman with great relief. The paintings of the enormous Leigh Bowery show many nuances of colour and are such a change from the thin, idealised subjects of many painters.

I answered the job advert in the paper mid-seventies. I was in my early twenties. I had a very strict Catholic upbringing and subconsciously probably wanted to ‘break out’.Swedenappealed because it was ‘away from home’ but in retrospect, maybe a warmer country would have been a better option. I noticed that Mum was somewhat cold on the day of the interview and was later explosive when I got the job! “Do you realise what it’s like inSweden? All that S…E…X! (Latter word spelt, not spoken.) No morals at all!!!” A whole nation was dismissed in two short sentences.

Well I did go and for the first month was placed in a house just outside Malmo, where we had our training course and language lessons. It was all new and the Swedes seemed pleasant, reserved and very respectable. I had less chance of being propositioned there than anywhere in London.

One free morning I walked to the beach having been told that I could seeCopenhagenfrom there. (No bridge fromDenmarkin those days.) It was disappointing, only tiny distant turrets, so I walked the long jetty out to sea for a better camera shot.  As I walked back towards land, a naked man, rather tall and hairy (I only glanced), jumped up at the side of the jetty and proceeded to dry himself. With dogged British spirit, I kept walking steadily, but Mum’s words did cross my mind for an instant!

The fact is, Swedes do not have a hang-up about nudity or sex. There is a famous saying that ‘Sex for the Swede is an exercise, not an entertainment.’ They really don’t worry about it and don’t consider it scary, unpleasant or a matter of conscience but just part of life. They are a very caring, calm and family-orientated people and I maintain my links with the country, in fact, I’m visiting in a few weeks. If the weather is warm, I shall go to the bathhouse, strip off with hundreds of others, have a sauna and jump in the sea. I’ll also strip and change on the beach without worries. It’s so natural there.

When I was little Mum made me a drawstring towelling changing-bag to climb into and I remember rolling around on the hard, unforgiving stones of Brighton beach trying desperately to divest myself modestly of a wet, knitted cossie. Good luck to the man on the stones of Los Cristianos! He should have maintained his nudity!

Thank you Monica for letting everyone know that just because we are getting a bit long in the tooth it takes quite a bit to faze us.

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