Monday, 16 March 2009

Chelsea flowers show

Spring is sprung! As these beautiful blossoms show so clearly. And look at that gorgeous blue sky. It was warmer in London yesterday than it was in Istanbul. Amazing.

The picture was taken in Fulham, west London – but since it was right next to Chelsea Football Club's ground, I'm going to stick with the pun at the top of this post. It's just too good to resist.

Daffodils are out in the park – it gives humble Hackney a Wordsworthian tinge. The weeping willows in the park are taking on their green veil.

If it stays this warm, it won't be long now before we can cast off all those heavy winter clothes and let the sun bathe our skin.

I used to hate the spring and summer – I much preferred to hide away in the shadows of shorter days and longer nights, buried beneath layers and layers of cold-weather clothing.

If there's a mark of how far I've come in the last decade, perhaps it's that I love the sun so much now.

It won't be long now before I can go for a sauna – and wander out into the walled garden to dry off in the altogether. A blissfully liberating feeling. Which isn't very English of me, I'm afraid.

A great many people who go to saunas in the UK insist on wearing a swimming costume. They're so inhibited by their own nakedness, that they do something inherently unhealthy. Wearing a swimming costume – rarely made of natural materials these days – stops the sweat being able to flow away freely, particularly from areas such as the groin and under the breasts. That can bring about fungal infections. But no – nakedness is bad and they continue to sauna in a costume.

I, I'm afraid, go the whole hog – and I really don't care who sees or what they think.

The first steps I took sans clothes came in our tiny back garden on summer days when I wasn't working, and gradually I edged out there, working out how to stay out of any neighbour's sighlines, but enjoying more and more the freedom. The skin is such an extraordinary organ – and so, so sensitive. And then there was one spring day when it rained and I felt an overwhelming urge to stand in the rain with no clothes on. It was the most extraordinary feeling and I stood there, outside the patio door, (probably) just hidden from view, laughing like a giddy child.

I read an anthropologist's explanation recently of our embarrassment about nudity – that humans have evolved to be embarrassed because it's part of what keeps couples together in the monogamous, long-term relationships that are perfect for bringing up children.

Presumably then, for this observer, no family units in the developing world where people are less embarrassed (if at all) by their bodies can provide secure homes for children?

I'm not about to go wandering around Hackney in the altogether – but it seems to me that it's an infantile attitude to be so scared of the naked body; that in part at least, it owes much to Victorianism and the prudery that we still suffer from in the UK (combined with an extreme prurience that's just as unhealthy – and don't they make an unholy combination).

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