When did we get so scared? by guest columnist Phillipa
Twenty odd years ago, as a teen, we holidayed at my aunt’s farm in rural Britain, a fairly wild, inaccessible and out of the way place. I set off with the idea that I would hate it terribly. I wanted to be hanging out with my friends for six weeks, not stuck out in the wilds for three of them.
Life on a farm seemed like it would be boring. It also felt scary. No noise at night. No light at night. Dogs….were they dogs? Might they be wolves? 🙂 …howling in the dead of night. (Note: there are no wolves in Britain)
My cousins, twins, a few months older than me, were maybe glad of a new face, but they initially seemed less sophisticated than me, a city girl.
Mobile telephones (cellphones) were in their infancy back then, unaffordable to teens and even if they had been, the idea of getting a signal there (and even now) was unlikely. So I was effectively cut off from civilisation for three weeks.
Around the end of the first week a couple of guys arrived by bicycle. They were the son of the neighbouring farmer and his friend, who lived beyond that. He’d cycled around four miles to get to where we were. I found this to be mind-boggling. Who cycles four miles to socialise? Anyway, for most of the second week we just hung out and a bicycle was found for me to huff and puff my way around country lanes in the wake of four rather fitter cyclists than this city girl.
The weather was glorious, the days long and warm. The five of us convened one day with the intention of climbing the tree covered hills beyond the farm, so we made sandwiches and set off. No drinks? No, they explained, they had mountain streams for that. After a hot morning’s climbing I was kind of surprised to see the others arrive at a stream and go face down into it, drinking the water tumbling off the mountainside. Eeuuuww! It isn’t even clean. My companions simply laughed, saying that it was cooler, fresher and cleaner than anything that came out of the taps at their homes, and definitely at my city home.
So with some trepidation, and hot and thirsty, I followed their lead. Wow! How incredible is it that one of my young life’s experiences was drinking water that had a taste of pure, clean nature to it.
For the rest of the day -I told you I wasn’t as fit as my companions- I ended up taking the lead to drink from streams when we encountered one. The drinks were free, tasted wonderful and refreshed me every time.
Of course, all of that water going in had to come out. I whispered to my cousin that I was dying for a pee and she just shrugged and told me to go where I wanted to. But there were boys there! She laughed. ‘Pee break’, she said, and without any warning dropped her shorts, squatted there and then and did what she needed to do. I was shocked. The boys paid no attention to her, but merely unzipped themselves and began to pee against nearby trees.
One of the guys suggested that we do it again the following week and I was more than ready for that, even as I huffed and puffed my way home on the bicycles we’d left unlocked several hours before and which remained untouched on our return.
Over the course of the next few days the plan developed. We’d set off later in the day, take some sausages and make a fire, then cook our own dinner as night was falling. That sounded like a proper adventure.
We set off, minus one of my cousins who had badly sprained an ankle. We climbed, drank from streams, then climbed some more on a new route, eventually emerging in a fern covered glade beside a pool being fed by a waterfall.
‘Anyone up for a swim?’, my cousin asked no one in particular.
All three of my companions laughed and began shedding clothes rapidly. Oh! My! I didn’t know where to look, but still got an eyeful of the first two naked males I’d ever encountered in my life as they leapt off a rock and into the water. My cousin, having to wrestle with a bra, was a little bit behind them, but already bottomless and fiddling with the clasp.
She leapt into the water too.
‘Come on, join us’ she yelled at me. I….I couldn’t. ‘Chicken!’ said one of the boys. No. No one was for calling me chicken. And so I turned my back to them, stripped and, with one hand covering my breasts, the other my pubic hair, joined them in the water. Once in, it felt free. We splashed in the water for what seemed like ages before one of the boys decided it was time to get a fire going before the sun went down, and make a start on our sausage supper.
My cousin and I continued to swim around or now stand, rather bravely I thought, under the waterfall, while the boys got out and then scurried back and forward, naked, gathering twigs and branches to set a fire. In no time it seemed that a blazing fire was underway in fading light. Sausages were thrust onto thin twigs and then thrust into the fire. ‘Come on girls’, one of the boys said, ‘we aren’t cooking your dinner for you’.
So we emerged from the water to be passed twigs to which sausages had already been skewered, and the four of us sat naked by the heat of the fire slowly revolving the twigs until the meat had cooked. Concentrating on the task of keeping the sausages revolving, and not falling from their skewers, I had forgotten I was naked.
Dinner was eaten and we then got dressed before extinguishing the fire and making our way back down to my aunt’s farm. Did I just dream what happened?
I sometimes wonder just when it was we got scared of nature. Scared of drinking from streams. Scared into thinking the water wasn’t clean, wasn’t chlorinated or anything else. Scared to just grab a moment or an hour and live in nature, experiencing nature fully. Scared to go for a walk and, if circumstances dictated, simply strip off and go for a swim. When did we allow our governments to scare us like that?
It was my only ever skinny dip, I’m sorry to say, but it was an innocent, wonderful thing which was still charged somehow by teenage sexuality. I remember every second of the day vividly. And some day, when opportunity arises, I would love to repeat that mountain waterfall skinny dip if I can.
I’ve never had the opportunity to go on a naturist holiday, but I can relive that day in the context of Second Life. I’m not a particularly avid SL naturist person. Yes, I’ll visit the odd naturist sim but that’s not the main element of my Second Life. But when I’m exploring sims, and I come across a mountain stream or waterfall, I certainly do try to recapture that wonderful RL afternoon of twenty odd years ago.