Startling admission: I’ve never been a sports fan. [Ed: No, really!?] My problem is not just a lack of interest, it’s a dislike that encompasses not only watching sport but also, indeed mainly, partaking in sport.
By “sport”, I’m referring to all those traditional team games involving large expanses of grass and balls of varying shapes, sizes and hardness being kicked or knocked about by two opposing groups of tribal men on a war footing. Most uncivilized and extremely dull! It’s not just that I get bored witless by messing about with a ball but, In England at least, the aforementioned large expanse of grass is usually very wet, frequently muddy and often cold, even to the point of being frozen. I had absolutely no interest in being made to sprawl headlong on cold, muddy turf subsequently to have my hands trampled upon by several sets of rugby boot studs setting off in pursuit of the ball I had just dropped. Hateful!
I’ve always had the same approach to sport, especially at school. Wednesday afternoon was sports afternoon and I would be made to choose between the three abhorrent evils of rugby (stupidly shaped ball), hockey (that’s field hockey to the Amerispeakers – very hard ball) and cross-country running (stultifying, lung-bursting purgatory). All very character-building, I’m sure, but I’d rather have been exercising my brain in a triple maths period. (That’s math, to the Amerispeakers.)
A sick note at school on Wednesdays was like gold dust but was a rare item: “John can’t play rugby today because his gout has flared up again … signed, Mum”, kind of thing. [Ed: maybe she should have kept you off the port.] The traditional schoolboy ruse for getting out of sports afternoon was, of course, to forget one’s kit. This was naturally far too obvious and carried absolutely no weight whatsoever with the irritating sports masters, all of whom remained steadfastly convinced of sport’s beneficial qualities and who would kit out the unfortunate offender with various bits of ill-fitting, abandoned clothing from the school’s lost property collection. Thank you, sir!
Summer sport was a little less hateful ‘cos it was generally warmer though, in England, not necessarily drier. Beyond all our so-called playing fields, now marked out for cricket etc., my school was fortunate enough to have its own open-air swimming pool. The school must have been pretty well-to-do, I imagine. Beyond the pool, we even had a 25-yard rifle range complete with supply of .22 calibre rifles but that’s another story. Anyway, on one occasion, I had arrived at school expecting a gym lesson (yukko!) but was somewhat relieved when, instead, we were marched off to the swimming pool. (Don’t faint – I quite enjoyed swimming in those days.) Relieved, that is, except for the fact that I had no swimming trunks with me. The master made me strip off anyway and dive in naked, finally drying myself on my gym T-shirt (apparently I had no towel either). I should point out at this point that I attended a single-sex school: Watford Grammar School for Boys.
[Aside. Across town was was our single-sex “sister” school, Watford Grammar School for Girls. One day, due to their own facilities being repaired or otherwise out of commission, a group of the girls had been offered the use our swimming pool. We had been forewarned of this planned invasion of bathing belles and told to keep well clear. Naturally, to a bunch of sex-starved teenage boys whose testosterone was kicking in, a group of teenage girls and an open-air changing room was far too tantalizing a subject. Being on the far side of the playing fields, however, the distance to our forbidden fruit was something of a problem though nothing that couldn’t be addressed by a few sets of binoculars smuggled in using briefcases. ]
Stick with me, I’m getting there…
I don’t recall the term “skinny-dipping” in those halcyon days but my point is this: I found the experience of swimming unencumbered by clothing very liberating and most enjoyable.
Likewise, sleeping; other than in hospital where decorum dictates their use, I can’t remember the last time I slept in pyjamas. I suppose night attire of one form or another would maintain one’s modesty if the need arose to escape from a burning building or to give chase to a burglar (whereupon, with our crazy laws, the violated house-owner and pursuer would risk being arrested for using excessive force against a criminal) but tossing and turning in bed wearing any form of clothing simply ties you up in knots as the material gets twisted about the torso. Most uncomfortable! Much better to be naked when you can have a good ol’ scratch and get sorted.
The need to wear continence pads in the post-catheter-removal period following my radical prostatectomy, also requires that I wear close-fitting underwear 24 hours a day to hold my pad in place. Other than brief respites to take a shower, I’m now feeling constantly bundled up and constrained. It’s like wearing a straight-jacket. I’ve been in tight-fitting underpants (not the same pair, don’t panic) with my form-enhancing padding for over five weeks. I’m definitely getting to the point where I’d kill to be able to sleep as nature intended. I want to be able to scratch and squirm against the sheets. Darwin, that would be wonderful!
In the same vein, for the last few years I’ve begun to dislike wearing socks. Even in northern Europe the summers are normally warm enough to make socks unnecessary. When travelling around France for weeks on end, I would originally live mostly in sandals, definitely without socks. More recently, I fell in love with Crocs as my general camping footwear of choice, again without socks. I’d pack trainers and a few pairs of socks/liners (I detest trainers without any lining) as an emergency supply against unexpected inclement weather but would generally manage to avoid using them; the socks would be returned clean and unused. At the end of a summer, after several months of basically bare feet, I grew to resent once again having to don socks against the autumnal chill. I much preferred bare feet. Thinking about it, my mother always said she enjoyed having bare feet, too – nature or nurture?
I’m certainly a naturalist but maybe I’m becoming a naturist as well. In France, opposite one of our favoured campsites there is another which is a naturist campsite and is, a little worryingly, open all year.
Now there’s a thought.