Bare Faced Cheek

Hmm. Sooner or later I had to write something on this topic and go out a little on a limb (or insert your own pun related euphemism). On Thursday I’ll be removing my clothes and running round London Zoo with a few hundred complete strangers in a silly attempt to raise some money for the ZSLs conservation programmes.

Now Zoos are not my favourite thing – animals should not be used for entertainment. However, the best ones are now doing some very interesting work with conservation in the wild as well as the captive breeding and reintroduction programmes people are more familiar with. For example, Cincinnati zoo’s programme to protect lions by preventing clashes between the big cats and the Maasai with their cattle herds by first tracking the lions and getting the livestock to only go to the (shared) water holes at different times – effectively removing the temptation – is a great piece of work and a good way to look at how the solution to a problem might be actually quite simple.

Thankfully the conditions for most species have improved and frankly, you need to look at things species by species. For example I have serious issues with most marine mammals in captivity with the exception of manatees – as when your lifestyle involves mostly sitting on the sea bottom chomping sea grass you might as well be in a huge tank – at least you are safe from motor boats running you over, which is the main threat we present them in the wild.

So anyway – I’ve had a number of facial expressions thrown in my direction on this ranging from a raised eyebrow to incredulous looks of horror. I think the horrified end of the spectrum would rather run the marathon than a brief streak in the altogether. But it is like that, it is literally a very personal and individual thing. I guess for me the challenge is complete lack of body confidence and the need to remind myself occasionally that I should love the skin I’m in. I have had one previous experience of that back in 2011 where I was part of a charity skinny dip in Wales – 413 people of all ages and sizes diving off a freezing beach in the Gower for Marie Curie cancer care. It was hilarious and most people could not stop laughing, because it made you feel like a five year old, silly and very temporarily, care free (until the cold kicks in). At the time it was an official world record too; I have the certificate to prove it from Guinness, although I believe it has been since been overtaken by a bunch of New Zealanders. So it was fun and I’m hoping for a similar atmosphere on Thursday.

But, I don’t think I could ever cope with a naturist beach. I think some friends of mine have thought that odd – nay, inconsistent – but in the end I would find that a bit too weird. Skinny dipping and the like relies in the one off nature of it all and you don’t want to have time to think about it; I do not think I would ever feel entirely comfortable being unclothed all the time, except perhaps with the closest of friends. But even then, the shared awkwardness would probably destroy any element of fun to be derived.

So those who know me well; don’t worry. You can just ignore it and I’m intending to behave as discretely as anyone else outside of events and perhaps secluded swimming places where there is no one there to offend. That’s not acceptable for any reason. I am going to call it rule number one – do not inflict your naked form on anyone who is not a consenting adult.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, the Lovely Wife is not joining me, and would rather gnaw off her own leg. She will be sitting in a cafe drinking tea and steadfastly ignoring everything until I am presentable again. Rule number two… Always ensure you have someone trustworthy to look after your clothes, because, inevitably, someone thinks it funny to run off with them.

And if you do want to help ZSL projects then please do sponsor me.