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Save our nudists! By Alice Cockerell

Blog | By Alice Cockerell | Jun 07, 2024

Alice's family al fresco

German naturists have slumped by nearly half in the last 25 years. Alice Cockerell sings the praises of grinning and baring it

On holiday, we eat lunch naked. Paella is doled out as everything flaps in the breeze.

We are a family of congenital nudists. This genetic strain comes from both sides. Although long divorced, my parents have never stopped sharing one core value: the importance of baring it all.

I haven’t lived with my dad since I was two, but we still have some of our best conversations when he chats to me as I have a bath. It’s not the same when he has a bath. He tends to have his best conversations with himself in the bath. “DO NOT interrupt me when I’m talking to myself,” he bellows from the bubbles if you try to intrude).

The great nudist idyll is most often realised on family holidays. On jaunts, both my mother and father view swimwear as The Enemy. Towels on the other hand are treated with great reverence. The most repeated sentence on a Cockerell outing is, “Yes, you can borrow my towel. But NO CREVICE WORK.” Quickly followed by “Your nipples are about to burn.”

Once you start down the beaten path of naturism, it is hard to retreat. This can be tricky. Marrying into the colony is not for everyone. My stepfather is what is known derisively in family circles as Body Shy. He’s not an Anti-Nudist, though, and is often on hand with the gold-dust commodity ­– towels – when we clamber out of the water.

My stepmother, though, is Nude-by-Nature. This was officially proved four years ago when my little sister turned her into a TikTok sensation. Thousands of viewers around the world noted that second 143 of my sister’s viral video of us swimming in a lake with a deer showcased her full-frontal mum.

My beloved stepmother didn’t bat an eyelid. She might, in fact, have been secretly quite pleased by the exposure.

She was also coolly unfazed when a family friend arrived unannounced at the swimming pool to catch her competing in the finals of Mushrooms. Mushrooms is a game where you have to survive as long as you can, bobbing face down in the water, arms wrapped around knees, other things splayed by the current. As one of the more accomplished players of the game, she bobbed for over three minutes, unaware of her riveted audience.

Lack of apology is an important part of the nudist philosophy. Once you get into the swing of it, there is no room to be bashful. I love this about nudism; no-one is self-conscious or tries to be cutely pert. It’s a prelapsarian way of padding about the place.

Over the years, there have been plenty of converts to the Cause, and nothing matches the zealotry of a new a recruit. Last year, a great friend of ours took to it so whole-heartedly that even we had to gently suggest that she wore knickers when she craned into the dishwasher or when it was her night to man the barbecue.

There will always be refuseniks. The Anti Faction is made up of various different categories which include - but are not limited to – garden variety prudes, sun-challenged redheads and, strangely, the deeply lecherous.

Creeps often don’t see the point of nudism. Roald Dahl (not necessarily a creep, but a man not unpreoccupied with sex) couldn’t bare the sight of his wife, actress Patricia Neal, pottering around their bedroom without clothes on. Unless it was expressly to titillate, he thought a naked woman was a shamefully inappropriate sight.

Last summer, there was a row when workmen, painting a fence by the pond I leap into in Somerset, put in an anxious request that I invest in bathers for the period of their work. They couldn’t unsee what they had seen, was the wounding allegation. I suppose they had a point, there might have to be an element of consent to it all.

The next generation worries me. Though my brother-in-law remains mulishly opposed to conversion he hasn’t yet objected to his eight-month-old son being raised within our belief system. The overwhelming urge I have to take off all my nephew Ludo’s clothes and stretch him out on the lawn, is a fledgling and progressive cult I have dubbed ‘Ludism’. So, far Ludo is a fanatic disciple.

Still, I must confess, perhaps my devotion to the cult might not entirely be the high-minded expression of purity and untainted family values. There might be an element of vanity in the mix.

Might my calling be driven by a pathological fear of returning home after two weeks of dedicated sunbathing with a piglet-pink bikini mark?

I would rather tan my hide than hide my tan.