I would never judge people for the hobbies in which they indulge- indeed both Mrs Canavan and I are enthusiastic attendees of the local swingers club - but one thing I have never quite understood is naturism.
I say this after a council-run pool in Cambridge announced it is putting on naked mixed-sex swimming sessions, when men and women, sans costumes, can come and show off their best front crawl, or breaststroke in the case of the females.
Asked on the radio about why it was being introduced, one club member said, ‘well, not least because of the health benefits’. Pressed on the actual health benefits of swimming without one’s clobber on, the member - no pun intended - mumbled, ‘erm, well, it lets water get to parts it otherwise wouldn’t’ … which doesn’t sound like much of a health benefit and, depending on the personal hygiene of who else is in the water, might actually be a health hazard.
The people I most feel sorry for in all this are the lifeguards on duty throughout these sessions, though I suppose there’s more to grab on to if they have to drag out anyone floundering in the deep end.
Last night, in the interests of research for this column - or at least that’s what I told Mrs Canavan when she unexpectedly entered the lounge - I googled ‘nude recreation’ and was surprised to find that there are dozens of events that people partial to taking off their clothes can get involved in.
The first Sunday in May, for instance, is World Naked Gardening Day, when people around the globe are encouraged to tend their shrubs in the nude.
While you rush to mark the event on your calendar, let me tell you that under no circumstances will I be partaking and, on the off-chance I do, I’ll certainly be careful with the secateurs.
Why would one garden nude? I mean imagine the scene. ‘Would you pass me the trowel Derek?’ “Yes dear, those daffodils have really bloomed this year haven’t they - oh, and Marjorie, you’ve got some soil on your left breast, just below the nipple.”
In the US every Halloween, there is something called Naked Pumpkin Run, during which folk across the country gallop through the streets holding aloft pumpkins. But it’s not only Americans that are nutters - a museum in Vienna recently allowed naked folk to visit an exhibition titled ‘Nude Men from 1800 to Today’. On the first day, more than 60 visitors turned up in the buff, though just where they put their change after paying the admission fee hasn’t been clarified.
Now I’m no prude – I once wore a string vest on holiday in Cleethorpes - but all this nudism seems, well, such an odd thing to do. I mean what’s wrong with a sturdy pair of trousers or an ankle-length skirt? I couldn’t think of anything worse than turning up for work with my bits on-show and dangling free, a view probably shared by the students I teach too.
One website I looked at informed me that ‘many people have their first experience of a clothes-free recreation activity at a nude beach, or at a friend’s place in the woods’. What? I can say with certainty that whenever I visit my Uncle Brian’s place in the Trough of Bowland I have never once got through the front door and whipped off my pants.
I clicked on to the homepage of the British Naturism Society to be greeted by a huge picture of two women lay casually side-by-side outside, both wearing nothing other than sun-hats - though it strikes me as odd to protect only your face from getting burned when there are other more sensitive parts to worry about.
Among the blurb on the page, it said: ‘Naturist children are happy, well-adjusted and safe’. I’d like to see proof of this for if, as a child, on one of our annual family summer holidays in Angelsey, my mum and dad had suddenly told me to remove my under-crackers before we started a game of beach-cricket, I’m pretty sure I’d have felt exactly the opposite of safe, happy and well-adjusted.
Membership of the British Naturism Society, I noted, is £42 per year, though there is a good discount for those aged over 80 (£34). I’ve flagged it up to my granddad who said he’d be happy to give it a go but would insist on keeping his flat cap on.
If you’re into this sort of thing then fair enough and good on you. But I shall not be nipping for a swim in Cambridge anytime soon.
A problem with football industry in general
Premier League football manager David Moyes has gotten himself into a spot of bother for comments made towards a female BBC reporter.
After she had the tenacity to ask him a slightly challenging question, he told her she might get ‘a slap’ and to be ‘careful’ if she came to interview him again.
Unfortunately for Moyes (pictured), it was caught on tape and, now it’s out in the open, he has had to issue a grovelling apology amid cries of sexism.
For me, it’s not sexism that’s the issue here - it is the football industry in general. It isn’t a pleasant place and managers in particular often treat journalists with intimidation and threats.
I was a football reporter for more than a decade and early in my career had to deal with a boss who was a bully, pure and simple. He held me up against walls, screamed at me, and generally did whatever he could to make life unpleasant.
Granted he was an extreme case but there are many in the game of a similar ilk, who think that they can talk however they like to people, particularly journalists.
Sometimes there is good reason to be annoyed with those in the media but, all too often, even when a journalist has asked a fair and honest question, a manager treats them like dirt (see virtually any Jose Mourinho interview when his team haven’t won).
It’s not a problem that will be solved any time soon because managers aren’t held to account by either their club or the Premier League or the Football Association.
So journalists, male or female, must continue to wear their tin hats and hope that the manager they are speaking to is a decent sort. If not, they’re in for a tough time.